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New nonprofit in Las Vegas brings yoga to homeless youth, other vulnerable populations

Posted at 12:35 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 16:55:40-04

For many, yoga is only available to those who can afford it.

But what about homeless youth? How can they access yoga when the young women and men just want a roof over their heads?

Yoga Haven, a new nonprofit in Las Vegas, seeks to change that, not just for homeless youth but organizations who serve victims of sexual, physical or psychological abuse with free yoga classes.

"It helps build that confidence and aid in that healing process," said Natalie Lim, one of the co-founders of Yoga Haven.

After launching in the July 2016, Yoga Haven founders Lim and Honey Tejero set up its first partnership with  Crossings Supportive Housing, part of St. Jude's Ranch for Children. The program serves homeless youth 18 to 25 years old with a place to live as they go to school or work toward making themselves self-sufficient.

"Their life has value, regardless what trauma they came from, what colorful background they came from," Tejero said. "... They're important human beings, just like us."

Three times a week, Lucy Shalvoy, a teacher affiliated with Yoga Haven, comes to the Crossings Supportive Housing facility in Las Vegas to teach yoga to the young adults, bringing a consistent practice to the residents.

"Having that commitment and discipline, they'll be able to take that off the mat and apply it to their lives," Tejero said.

Shalvoy first got involved through her personal practice with Tejero and thought it was "such a great concept Yoga Haven was developing."

She has enjoyed getting to know the students through the practice.

"They teach me as much as I teach them," Shalvoy said. "I think they're wonderful people. I'm grateful for them."

She said the class helps break the misconception that people have to be flexible to practice yoga and it's about working within your limitations.

"Making it on your mat is half the battle," Shalvoy said.

She has noticed a change in the students who have regularly been attending the classes the past two months, including Alva Simon and Mariana Robles, both 21 years old.

"I just like being able to channel my energy better and it really helps me get the steps I need to do that," Simon said.

He doesn't feel as tense throughout the day when he starts his day with yoga. Simon has gone to just about every class offered in the past two months.

Simon would like to continue practicing yoga once he leaves Crossings -- if he can afford it, he said.

While Simon wasn't a yoga practitioner before living at Crossings, Robles had done yoga in high school but fell out of practice until Crossings.

"Since I've been here, I've been going through a lot of family issues," she said. "It helped me to deal with the pain and everything that I've been feeling."

Like Simon, Robles said it helps her get through the day.

Myesha Wilson, the executive director of St. Jude's Ranch for Children, knew Yoga Haven's program would be the perfect fit for Crossings Supportive Housing.

"Our youth and our families have been through traumatized situations. They've experienced a lot of trauma, a lot of hardship and what better way to give them other coping mechanisms than yoga," Wilson said. "So usually, yoga, people in more fortunate backgrounds are able to afford it. So we're so excited Yoga Haven is here to help us with our children and our young adults."

Tejero and Lim are working on additional partnerships with other organizations that serve women, at-risk youth and young adults.

Their key fundraising tool has been the Practice with A Cause yoga events, where practitioners donate money directly to Yoga Haven by taking a class. Yoga Haven will also have a community outreach event in June.

For information on the latest events, check out their website or Facebook page.