I soon came to realize that yoga was a unique activity that increases one's flexibility and strength while, at the same time, reuniting the mind and body by, for example, a focus on the breath. I had been a shallow breather for years, and I learned that I could calm myself and achieve greater relaxation, awareness and centering by simply deepening my breath.
Where did the idea for Grounded for Good come from?
One day in late 2010 I was having lunch with a former paralegal of mine and she mentioned that she was working with Street Grace, a faith-based organization composed of over 60 churches in metro Atlanta. Their goal is to address the serious problem of child sex trafficking in Georgia. It immediately clicked with me that yoga and mindfulness training could be a wonderful resource to calm, focus and heal young people who are facing the trauma and stress associated with abuse and homelessness.
How did you go from that to the yoga project?
It was like a jigsaw puzzle that took 18 months to put together. I started by calling social service agencies to see if there was any interest. Out of the blue I got a call from a woman connected to the Governor's Office on Families and Children. She said that she heard that I was interested in the problem of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and asked if I would be interested in volunteering to help the Governor's CSEC Task Force develop a civil legal remedy for CSEC victims.
I agreed to do that, thinking that I could use my civil litigation background to assist the CSEC Task Force, and also because I would come into contact with social service agencies that might be interested in a yoga/mindfulness program for CSEC victims and other at-risk youth.
At the same time, I did what I could to learn about trauma-informed yoga and took a workshop from Mark Lilly of Street Yoga.
I needed to locate an appropriate, willing venue for the program, but I also needed teachers, since I am not a certified yoga teacher and don't want to be a lead teacher. I figure that a 63-year-old white male is probably not the best teacher for CSEC victims.
How did you wind up at Covenant House?
One of the things I thought would be important for this program was to have it at a facility that had a residential element. I believed that having some youths who would come back week after week would help legitimize it for new youths coming into the facility.
It was difficult to find an agency that had both a residential element and was open to the idea of yoga and mindfulness training. I found that a lot of people in the religious community are suspicious that yoga is some sort of anti-religious cult.
In any event, I finally contacted the Covenant House, which has a wonderful program for homeless youths between the ages of 17 and 22. The Covenant House provides shelter for up to 45 days and if the youth is making educational or vocational progress they have additional support and residential options. They were very receptive.
So, at that point, early in 2012, I had a place for the program, but there were no teachers yet.