Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Budding World: Yoga With Inner City Kids

In the capoeira class I attended today, I met a woman named Emily who teaches yoga to high school students at Emiliano Zapato Street Academy in downtown Oakland. According to Emily, the students carry some emotional challenges, and she teaches them techniques to deal with these through yoga. How beautiful! Another bright spot of hope in Oakland, and in our budding world.

Emily's work at the academy is organized by the Niroga Institute, which is a nonprofit local organization teaching what they call "Transformative Life Skills to students, vulnerable youth, cancer survivors, seniors and people battling addiction." By Transformative Life Skills they mean yoga, breathing techniques, and meditation. They cite research that teaching these techniques helps increase self-control and resilience. The Niroga Institute has an interesting "pay-it-forward" model, in which they invest in training yoga teachers with the idea that they will then offer their skills through community service to communities in need of it.

What a breath of fresh air. As someone who has attended yoga classes for years, I love the idea of that yoga is not a skill for the elite only, but is meant to be shared with all in need.

According to the Institute:
Niroga has trained over 200 Yoga Teachers, including many of color, to serve vulnerable populations with cultural congruence and linguistic sensitivity. We have also trained over 100 adult providers, such as educators and mental health professionals, who work with youth in structured settings such as schools and juvenile halls. In a few hours, we can train anyone in these transformative skills, which can be used for personal stress management and self-care, as well in professional settings with students and clients.

Our programs are part of a cost-effective front-line prevention and intervention strategy for violence reduction, education and mental health, and positive youth development. Niroga also trains minority young adults to become Certified Yoga teachers, prepared to serve their own communities with cultural competence and linguistic sensitivity.
See a video on Niroga's amazing work with inner city kids (I cried!)

Friday, December 2, 2011

If Walmart Were A Country: Playing Monopoly

Here is some accidental poetry from Christopher Petrella in Nation of Change (comparisons via Business Insider's June 2011 report):
If Wal-Mart were a country
Its revenues would exceed the GDP of Norway,
World's 25th largest economy.
Yahoo is bigger than Mongolia,
Visa is bigger than Zimbabwe,
Nike is bigger than Paraguay,
McDonalds is bigger than Latvia, is bigger than Kenya,
Apple is bigger than Ecuador,
Ford is bigger than Morocco,
Bank of America is bigger than Vietnam,
General Electric is bigger than New Zealand,
Exxon- Mobil is bigger than Thailand,
Chevron is bigger than the Czech Republic.

Though capitalism seems to be based on a foundation of free competition, Petrella argues that it quickly leads to monopoly, which has negative effects on democratic functioning. And how quickly monopoly has risen in the financial section just in the past twenty years! He states, "In 1990, the ten largest domestic financial institutions held only 10% of total financial assets. Today they own 70%. The largest five U.S. banks now hold $11 trillion in assets."

His suggestion? We ought to divide up big banks, taking as our model the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which divided up the railroad companies not only to diminish their economic might, but also to prevent companies from "becoming so large that their political power would undermine the democratic process."
Read Christopher's article here