As a trauma-informed yoga teacher, studio owner (Zen Loft Yoga in Coconut Creek), activist and educator, Jodi Weiner is no stranger to helping others. Beginning with fundraising as a child, Weiner says she was naturally drawn to volunteering andt helping the community through her career, working toward an ultimate goal of starting a fitness and wellness-based nonprofit that would serve children in Broward county. With that goal in mind, Weiner took one of The Connection Coalition’s trainings with organization founder Teri Cooper Space. “It rocked my foundation, as I knew within two hours that my plan and focus had shifted,” she says. “I began volunteering as a yoga teacher at SOS Foster Village early 2011 and never looked back. As the Development Director and sometime Executive Director, I fully stepped into leadership with the organization in 2012.”
Formerly known as Yoga Gangsters, The Connection Coalition works nationally in collaboration with nonprofit youth organizations to “provide access to tools for resiliency with trauma informed practices that help calm the nervous system and allow better decision making with yoga, mindfulness and meditation.” That means matching their specially-trained instructors with schools, shelters, jails, foster homes, rehabs and more to create yoga programs for the residents and/or students. Though Weiner says it’s not easy, the program is now 15 years old, has connected with more than 17,000 kids and has trained more than 3,200 volunteer teachers across the US. “Annually, we connect with more youth on a tiny budget than many large-budget organizations do in five years,” she says.
Finding the Calm
Kupferman, too, has felt the power of their outreach when it comes to their young students. Recently, Kupferman taught a group of young girls at The Lodge, a local nonprofit that offers shelter to victims of domestic violence. Though they entered the room “full of energy” Kupferman says the girls did not once stop their yoga practice or leave the room for the entirety of the class. “At the end of the class, as we use ‘savasana’ to help them rest and relax and one little girl said ‘’This is my favorite part. I get to go to my happy place.’,” she says. “ It is moments like this when I know I am exactly where I need to be… staying present and grounded for the kids.” Weiner agrees and notes that children aren’t the only ones benefiting from CoCo’s teachings. “Since the epidemic of fatal shootings in our schools has plagued our local community, we have been sought out to support our school teachers with tools on how to help youth regulate after drills, alarms, anxiety and PTSD.”
An Organization In Need
Volunteers don’t need to be a registered or trained yoga instructor to be a part of the organization, as CoCo provides 15-hour Trauma Informed Outreach Training as well as an optional Level 2 four-week online training for those looking to lead classes. In the southern region, CoCo has worked with everyone from Lotus House and Big Brothers, Big Sisters to Miami-Dade Public Schools and AMI Kids. They are also always looking for new partners and relationships, says Weiner, including those who can help with Board leadership and on-the-ground volunteering.