Photo-Journalism Project at South Bend’s Center for the Homeless

It is commonly believed among yogis that yoga strengthens the body, the mind, and the spirit. For all people, yoga helps to relax the mind. Relaxing the mind helps it to develop clarity, which in turn allows one to better enter into each and every moment. Opportunity arises in the present moment, and if one lives in this moment with a clear mind, it becomes much easier to capitalize on opportunity. Growth happens when the mind and body are relaxed.

Modern yoga studios have all sorts of bells and whistles to help facilitate the monumental task of quieting the mind. The following pictures were captured with my Canon PowerShot ELPH300HS and edited using iPhoto.

Locker rooms, like the one shown above, provide a safe place to store belongings during practice and showers to clean-up afterwards.
Locker rooms, like the one shown above, provide a safe place to store belongings during practice and showers to clean-up afterwards.
Yoga studios feature sound-proof walls, dim-able lighting, and mirrors.
Yoga studios feature sound-proof walls and dim-able lights to aid relaxation.  Mirrors help yogis check their alignment throughout the practice.
Most studios also have a variety of props, including: blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets.
Most studios also have a variety of props, including: blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets.
Props are an integral part of relaxing into one's yoga practice. In this picture, the strap is used in the case where the hands cannot meet the foot.
Props are an integral part of relaxing into one’s yoga practice. In this picture, the strap is used in the case where the hands cannot meet the foot.

Yoga studios are wonderful for those who can afford them, but unfortunately not all can. Since January, I have begun teaching yoga at the Center for The Homeless in South Bend, IN. Though I initially expected and hoped to primarily benefit the guests, the journey has become one of growth for myself. Throughout the past few months, I have gotten to know several of the guests, have heard their incredible stories, and have gained a deeper understanding of homelessness.

Yoga not only informs us of ourselves (including how the body feels during moments of stillness and of movement) but affirms us of ourselves—reminds us of the wholeness of the self. By studying the self, one comes to know the self, develops compassion for the self, and sees the truth behind the self. This allows one to shed the extraneous layers built up over life that weigh one down and prevent the spirit from being light and true.

I try to incorporate this philosophy into the yoga sessions held at the Center. The following pictures aim to illustrate the space in which we gather, the people whose paths have crossed mine, and the potential for serenity in the midst of chaos:

The 3rd Floor Community Room functions as our yoga studio. The Center provides the mats, though we are without any props. Our lighting is whatever the sun offers, in addition to a row of lights on the opposite end of the room.
The 3rd Floor Community Room functions as our yoga studio. The Center provides the mats, though we are without any props. Our lighting is whatever the sun offers, in addition to a row of lights on the opposite end of the room.
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Alan*, shown here in Sukhasana (Easy Pose), suffers from PTSD, COPD, and SCZD. He reports feelings of calmness, of being centered, and of greater focus from practicing yoga. He hopes to teach yoga to his son and step-daughter soon.
Alan relaxes into Balasana (Child's Pose).
Alan relaxes into Balasana (Child’s Pose).
Daniel, a 24 year-old South Bend native, stands firmly rooted in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
Justin*, a 24 year-old South Bend native, stands firmly rooted in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
Justin grows his roots and lengthens his branches in Vriksasana (Tree Pose).
Justin grows his roots and extends his branches in Vriksasana (Tree Pose).
Justin plays with balance as he flows from his tip toes to his heels.
Justin plays with balance as he flows from his tip toes to his heels.
Alan is challenged by the guest-yoga instructor, as he maintains strength and stability in Utkatasana (Chair Pose).
Alan is challenged by the guest-yoga instructor, as he maintains strength and stability in Utkatasana (Chair Pose).
Relaxing into Savasana (Corpse Pose), calming music plays through the JamBox as incense fills the air.
Relaxing into Savasana (Corpse Pose), calming music plays through the JamBox as incense fills the air.

Yoga etherealizes the human spirit as it simultaneously stretches the body, strengthens the muscles, detoxifies the organs, and stills the patterning of consciousness. The guests at the Center for The Homeless have undoubtedly experienced enough to weigh them down, and yoga has infinite potential to work with the non-physical aspects of their being. Yoga improves one’s ability to combat stress, to tap into consciousness, to achieve a greater sense of worth and well-being, and to mentally transport oneself out of his or her predicaments and into a better environment—a process that may, in effect, inspire tangible results in the effort to lift oneself out of poverty. Luckily, yoga requires no capital assets, and invites all to come as they naturally are.

*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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