A group of Prince George yoga teachers has come together to offer free yoga classes to people struggling with homelessness in the city.
The program will be offered weekly at lunchtime in Wood Innovation Square Park and specifically targeted at people who are under-housed or unhoused.
“We are aiming to have a place where people can be safe, where they can relax and they can feel comfortable and confident to move their bodies and really just enjoy recreation,” says Cynthia Andal, a yoga instructor and one of the organizers of the program.
Andal says recreation for people who are unhoused is often overlooked and after doing some research found pilot projects in Canada and around the world that offered recreation opportunities for people who are unhoused.
“It has really been shown as a gateway and a connection and just something that's really lacking,” says Andal. “They are not getting the downtime and time to just enjoy being.”
After putting the idea out there to friends, Andal says there are now 10 yoga teachers in the city involved and about 20 other people who have offered their support.
“People are so excited to be a part of a project that is an actual tangible way of working with the community, building ties, and forging relationships and it has been really wonderful.”
Andal says she is aiming to have two yoga teachers at each session plus people on hand to help anyone struggling and help make everyone feel confident and happy.
Although the plan was to have the program up and running in May, it has been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions but organizers are hoping they can start it by the end of June.
“A lot of people are getting vaccinated and they're feeling more confident about being out and about, but we need the go-ahead from the government and then we need people to feel like they are happy to be close to other people.”
Andal says they are also working with social service organizations like the Firepit, Two Doors Down, Carrier Sekani Youth Services and the New Hope Society who work in the downtown area to get the word out about the program.
In the meantime, they are looking to build upon a $500 community grant through GoFundMe to be able to provide fresh food including fruit and vegetables during the yoga sessions.
Andal says if they raise enough money they’d also like to give out Farmer’s Market Food Dollars so participants could also buy fresh fruits and vegetables on the weekends.
“We want to be able to provide food for the people who are there and then if we are able to we would like to do that outreach bit to provide farmers market money.”
As of May 18, the fundraiser has already earned more than $670 of its $1000 goal, not including the $500 community grant.
“I'm hoping we can just keep that ball rolling and see this community as humans. They are human beings with the same needs of every other human being.”
Andal notes the yoga sessions will be open to the larger community as well, because the sessions are specifically targeted at the unhoused population it may be different than a typical studio yoga class.