Exhale Chapter 3: Shifting Focus to stay Mission-Aligned

Exhale is my new series at Yoga Foster on navigating the landscape of education and wellness as a nonprofit during COVID-19. In this week’s recap, I’m sharing how we’re changing what we do to stay aligned with why we’re here. Thanks for reading and supporting our community! This was originally sent to our entire email list.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve created a firm handle on the immediate needs of our educators and students by creating an ongoing series where educators can connect, hosting live yoga and mindfulness sessions daily to break up monotonous days of remote learning, building a free and public library of classes online, and nurturing a subscription app for parents.

And now, like many of us, we’re looking ahead. At first, COVID-19 felt like a short-term situation that required short-term pivots. Remember those hopeful moments where it felt like it was “just a couple weeks,” and after “things will go back to normal”? Ha!

The impact of COVID-19 will fundamentally transform the industries we work closely in (wellness and education). But the time of COVID-19 isn’t a few weeks, or even a few months. We’ll be living in this age for at least another 18–24 months.

For a small nonprofit — that’s a lifetime! Our sixth birthday just passed without fanfare. The difference between six and eight as a small company is a lot like a child at that age. We’ll be much more mature and developed. These two years will make a lasting impression on how we show up in the world.

I spent the past couple weeks reflecting on our purpose. Our work is centered on the notion of making wellness elementary in education. This has always been the driving force of our work. But what does this even mean when studios and schools are closed indefinitely? If the teachers we support can’t practice with their students in-person?

Here’s some key positioning that will drive our work for the next two years:

1. Parents are the new teachers.
Part of the way we make wellness elementary during the school day is by encouraging teachers to use transitional time to reduce anxiety and stress. This transitional time is no longer happening in classrooms, but at home. Students are transitioning between activities by themselves, and perhaps with the guidance of parents and guardians. It is up to us to provide these homes with resources that matter.

2. Wellness is digital.
We’ve always been a digital-first company and train the school staff we work with virtually. But now we have to expect that they are teaching virtually, too. This means that our programming has to shift to account for teaching people how to teach online. It also means the free resources we’ve provided (like yoga mats) might have to shift to other tools that make teaching remotely more accessible (like cameras).

3. The wellness gap will be more invisible — but all the more present.
We built this company off of the core insight that the wellbeing gap leaves lower-income schools and communities behind. And this is apparent when you walk down the streets of New York City and see public schools with limited infrastructure for movement next to glossy yoga studios with a $28 drop-in rate.

But as yoga studios close and at-home workouts become more popular, practitioners won’t have to see the discrepancies anymore. It might not be as apparent that only certain people have had access to this practice when we’re practicing from the comforts of our home. As we grow in this era, it’s critical that we continue to share stories that are necessary for understanding the challenges our communities face to stay well.

Join the movement.

We received Payroll Protection Funding which means that funds raised now help us make it through the holiday months. We could use your help to get there.

Subscribe to our YouTube, which is our new studio to support parents and teachers.

Help us raise $5,000 to offset one month’s expenses.

Contact me (nicole@yogafoster.org) to make a larger gift towards operations this year.

Thanks for listening, and being a part of this powerful community.

Next week we’ll focus on Chapter 4: Summer

Next week we’ll talk about how we’re directly addressing the summer slide through new programming.

Executive Director of Yoga Foster, founder of Reclamation Ventures. Passionate about making wellness accessible for all. Follow me on IG @nicoleacardoza.