All great cultures have traditions and teachings that offer truth for our lives today. Whether these traditions and teachings are spiritual, philosophical, or physical, they all serve to connect present generations with the ancient wisdom of past generations.
Sometimes the traditions of two different cultures can come together beautifully and respectfully and bring truth and healing in their wake.
At least that's what many Native Americans are experiencing when they learn the practice of yoga, a system of well being that originated in India thousands of years ago.
Keep reading to learn more about how Native Americans are integrating traditional Native spirituality and culture with the practice of yoga in order to bring healing and mindfulness to themselves and others.
Finding Avenues for Healing
Our Native American communities are societies that can benefit from healing practices. Generations of Native Americans are troubled by trauma passed on through older generations.
For many Native Americans, it is crucial to find avenues of healing, whether that healing comes through culturally appropriate counseling, exercise, life in community, or practices like yoga or personal meditation. Healing practices, including yoga, helps these negative cycles of abuse, addiction, and dysfunction to slow, allowing positive lifestyles to emerge in their place.
Here at Native Hope, we have shared the stories of Native Americans who found healing through many different avenues. For Dirk Whitebreast and Waylon Pahona, it is running. For Dennis, it is through art. For Ria Thundercloud, it is through dance.
For some Native Americans, it is the practice of yoga.
Bringing Yoga to Native Youth: Alexis Estes' Outreach
Alexis Estes is a Native woman bringing healthy living and healing to Native communities through yoga instruction.
(Alexis is also a Native Hope team member! Check out her story of traveling to the UN to talk about healing through art and her experience running the Dakota 38 Memorial to learn more about her.)
Alexis shared with us about why she is passionate about yoga instrucation:
"Yoga offers an opportunity for healing from difficult experiences because it increases awareness and peace in the present moment. There are breathing exercises to offer grounding from anxiety, and affirmations that become positive insights linked to the muscle memory of chosen asanas (yoga poses). I share these techniques with intention as they were techniques that once supported my growth and healing from trauma experienced while pursuing my undergraduate degree."
In the last few months, Alexis has been bringing yoga instruction to local schools on Native reservations in South Dakota and seeing great fruit from these efforts.
Below, Alexis explains what it's like to bring yoga and Lakota spirituality to elementary and high school students.
"The students’ response to my yoga class was amazing. The students were attentive and engaged. Even the students who had been sitting along the wall for misbehavior turned their attention to the practice and sat relaxed and quiet.
I guided the elementary students through a visualization that included a virtual journey of leaving earth on a rocketship. The students sat in meditation and took home valuable insights of a change in perspective. The younger the students were, the more accepting they were of using their imaginations to visualize. I smiled at the thought of them being closer to Creator, the spirit plane, and the stars, since they are at the start of their life journey on this plane of earth.
In Lakota spirituality, the spirit of children is said to come from constellations that look like a turtle-keya, and a salamander-agleshka. The girl spirits comes from the constellation that looks like a turtle, and the boy spirits come the constellation that looks like a salamander.
This aspect of being closer to the Creator and the spirits of the stars give children a more open perspective than older children and adults, whose perspectives have been skewed by societal and familial opinions and discipline.
It was a pleasure to tie our traditional Lakota spirituality into these classes."
Introducing a New Native Yoga Teacher Training Program
Now, Alexis is offering an opportunity for healing and an opportunity for career and skill building to Native Americans who want to become certified yoga instructors. This yoga teacher training program is offered in partnership with Native Hope and the Healing Lotus Center.
Over the course of three intensive weeks, students will learn everything they need in order to lead their own yoga classes and will receive certification through the National Yoga Alliance upon completion of the program. This certification allows people to teach yoga nationally and internationally.
The program includes lodging at the Lower Brule Wildlife, Fish, and Recreation cabins from July 22nd-August 9th, 2019.
The exciting news is that Native Hope is sponsoring scholarship opportunities! This includes a full-coverage scholarship for one applicant, and partial scholarships for all applicants that qualify.
Here is our FAQ document with all the information you need about this one of a kind program.
For those who are interested in supporting this cause and increasing our scholarship capacity, we could use your help! Please go here to donate and support.
All of Us Must Help Spread the Gift of Healing
This summer is an opportunity to ensure that the practice of yoga will continue to provide healing to our Native American relatives in South Dakota. Whether you want to participate in the training, want to help by spreading the word to your community, or want to help provide scholarships through your financial support, we are all needed in this journey toward greater hope and healing.
As Alexis concludes every yoga class, “the divinity within me sees and honors the divinity within you. Mitakuye Oyasin. Namaste.”
Native Hope is delighted to partner with Native Americans like Alexis who are working to bring healing to their communities. Can you help support these programs and initiatives? Join the healing movement by giving today!