Transforming a Tough Chicago Neighborhood Through Yoga | Omega

Driving through the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, you would not expect to see a group of kids and adults doing sun salutations in a vacant lot. But these outdoor yoga classes—complete with someone standing guard for security—are one way I Grow Chicago is trying to bring hope to this battered community.

Englewood was ranked the 6th most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago in April 2016, and 42.2% of its residents live below the poverty level. But thanks to I Grow Chicago, community members can attend more than 19 yoga classes each month, and the neighborhood has hope that it can begin to redefine their community.

This year I Grow Chicago will be sharing their successes and challenges with others at the annual Yoga Service Conference at Omega. 

Started by Robin Carroll, who says following her heart led her to see how she might help the community of Englewood, I Grow Chicago’s mission is to provide a safe, inter-generational haven to children and at-risk community members. “We have an obligation to humanity, to society...we don’t have to do too much to make a difference,” said Carroll.

From their headquarters at the Peace House—which was scheduled for demolition but bought by I Grow Chicago and rebuilt by members of the community—the organization offers programs in sustainable farming, nutrition, movement, yoga, and the arts.

Since 2011, more than 1,200 kids have taken yoga classes through I Grow Chicago—more than 250 of them in school—and the organization has sponsored more than 1,100 hours of yoga teacher training. Currently an average of 300 children and 30 adults participate in yoga classes each week.

The Yoga Service Council awarded four tuition scholarships and Omega awarded housing to five participants from I Grow Chicago to attend this year’s Yoga Service Conference. “The Yoga Service Council and Omega are invested in organizations sending teams to the conference together, as we feel it maximizes the potential for learning and the usefulness of the experience once everyone gets home,” said Jennifer Cohen Harper, vice president of the Yoga Service Council.

Carroll says, "These scholarships are such a gift. We're thrilled for our team to have exposure to the educational opportunities and fabulous environment at Omega Institute. We look forward to sharing skills with other service-based yoga leaders. With so many team members going, we can have a greater impact coming back."

© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies