Meet The Yoga Program That's Offering Hope To Homeless Women

At Boston's Brookview House, residents are introduced to yoga—and all the healing benefits that come with it.

December 22, 2016
hands on knees
Randy H. Goodman

When Carmen Bones walked into her first yoga class, she wasn’t sure what to expect. Having never practiced before, she didn’t know the difference between Warrior 1 and Warrior 2. Or more importantly, that a series of simple stretches could be such an emotionally restorative experience.

Bones is a resident at Boston’s Brookview House, a nonprofit that aims to provide a safe, comforting home for mothers and their children while they acquire the skills they need to thrive on their own. The goal of Brookview House is to help these families maintain housing permanently—something they’ve done for 92% of their residents—which means providing access to basics like education and job training, but that’s not all. “Homelessness and instability are traumatic experiences that often go unaddressed. Many homeless women are also survivors of domestic violence,” says executive director Deborah Hughes. Addressing this trauma is crucial for helping moms and children build up their self-esteem—and achieve success within the community.


Enter yoga.

When Hughes met Susan Lovett, the director of Hands to Heart Yoga, a volunteer-run organization that offers yoga classes to underserved populations in Boston, at a fundraiser last year, the two decided to join forces. They realized that hosting Hands to Heart yoga classes at Brookview House would give residents another avenue for coping with feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.  

While plenty of the residents were eager to try something new, some were hesitant at first. Still, the women were encouraged to try a class and see how they liked it. “Our purpose at Brookview is to give residents the opportunity to experience something they may not have tried before,” Hughes says. “They practice new skills, which helps them incorporate the skills learned into their lives once they leave Brookview.”

Related: 5 Things I Learned From Taking Yoga In A Foreign Language For A Month

The free classes quickly caught on. Weekly sessions are held in the evenings at Brookview House. “It’s a nice, tranquil transition to the family bedtime routine,” Hughes says. Soft lighting, LED candles, essential oils, eye pillows, and mats and blocks transform the space into a studio environment.

Randy H. Goodman


Related: I Did Yoga Every Day For A Month And This Is What Happened

And it's not just the grown-up residents who are reaping the benefits. During the classes, children spend time in an adjoining room where they can play while their moms practice. “They're attracted to the calm in the moms’ space, and start to mimic the routines,” Hughes says. “We had children’s yoga classes in the past, and this reminded us that we should resume them.”

Attending the classes has helped Bones learn to improve her posture and focus on her breathing. But even more, she’s gotten better at managing her stress. “It’s helped me learn how to relax my body and my mind,” she says. “I would recommend yoga to women, men, and children so they could have the same experience I had.”