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Yoga program positioned as Chicago crime fighter

Tameka Lawson, right, executive director of a local non-profit group called 'I Grow Chicago' leads a yoga class along the streets of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. (photo courtesy of AP/M. Spencer Green)

Tameka Lawson, right, executive director of a local nonprofit group called ‘I Grow Chicago’ leads a yoga class along the streets of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. (photo courtesy of AP/M. Spencer Green)

Tameka Lawson, executive director of I Grow Chicago has started a new yoga program in an unconventional area.

Located on the streets of a rough south side Chicago neighborhood, Englewood, the yoga classes were started by Lawson to curb violence in the city this summer and attempt to create a new perspective despite negative and defeating surroundings. The calming effect of yoga in an urban environment creates an escape for young people that often carry around a lot in their hearts and minds.

According to the Associated Press, Lawson taught yoga at area schools for three years before bringing it to an Englewood street earlier in the year. She knew gangs in the area might pose a threat. So before the sessions began, security guard Andres Brown, approached gang members who live nearby to assure them that the group posed no threat and sought their OK.

Yoga provides a sense of calmness and clarity you can’t really get from other forms of exercise — the breathing-focused element requires deep concentration. The quality of the breath reflects the quality of the mind. There is a connection between our mental, emotional and psychological states and the pace and depth of our breath. The breath also helps individuals stay connected to the present moment. We learn to accept ourselves as we are and others as they are currently. 

There’s an emphasis on getting young men and teens involved with Lawson’s yoga classes. She remains hopeful on continued progress.

“Look at the sky, look at the beauty of nature and breathe in … they’re bowing to the beauty of [their] Englewood community.”