Our Interview with Yoga Foster’s Nicole Cardoza

In case you haven’t heard of Yoga Foster now is the time to get acquainted.  This is one of the yoga-driven organizations that makes New York City an amazing place to grow up.  Here’s what they’re all about:

Yoga Foster is a non-profit initiative that fosters creativity through the children’s yoga practice. We empower yoga volunteers to teach creativity-based children’s yoga classes at schools and community centers for no charge.

It basically doesn’t get any better does it?  We know the City’s public schools’ budgets are always being trimmed, after school and arts programs often being the first to get cut.  Yoga Foster is stepping in with a helping hand to recreate those lost environments of creativity, safety and fun for the children who need it most!  We got a chance to speak with Nicole Cardoza for details on what YF is doing now and where it’s going.  Read the interview and don’t skip the video beneath it.  By watching you’ll get to know the inspiration that helped birth one of the most promising, socially conscious non-profits for NYC kids.  Of course, do your part by spreading the word!

  • Hi Nicole! You are the lovely creator behind Yoga Foster, a non-profit that provides yoga to children here in NYC. You’re also a yoga teacher.  Can you share with us your experiences with yoga and what lead you to become a teacher?

Why thank you! It’s funny, I was a teacher before I started teaching yoga. I taught piano to children for a couple years, then got involved in yoga. As my practice developed, I really wanted to find a way to share it with others, so I became a volunteer yoga instructor through New York Cares and worked in schools around the city.

  • We love the idea of children benefiting on so many levels from a yoga practice of their own! What is the age range in your programs and how did you first identify the need for yoga specifically for children?

Currently our programs range from kindergarten to 8th grade, with hopes to expand to high schools as early as next semester.

I found the need for yoga specifically for children from my experience teaching through New York Cares. The responses from the students was astounding, and it was so heartwarming hearing that their experiences on the mat had a positive effect on their attention, mood and enthusiasm during the rest of their time in school. Yoga Foster is my way of creating more classes that can make a positive impact on students, while empowering volunteer yoga instructors with the resources they need to give back.

  • I see there’s a “Yoga for Grownups” section to your site.  Are there plans for expanding your programing to adults as well?  If so, with which demographic will you start?

Currently no, although I do think everyone can use a good dose of creative yoga! Someday, it would be interesting to provide classes for parents/guardians and children, or senior citizens – but that’s far in the future.

For the “grownups” we offer tons of resources that will help them become better teachers, regardless if they’re teaching through Yoga Foster or not. All our courses will be available to any adult interested in learning more about children’s yoga, education, or creativity. We also hold donation-based yoga classes for grownups when space and time allow for.

  • Going back to the programs you have right now, it seems as though you are targeting public schools.  How do you select which ones to approach or are they mainly coming to you?

We’re thrilled to have support from various after-school administrators and teachers around the city. There have been a lot of requests from schools looking to work with us, which is great – especially since it’s our first semester! My goal is to work with public schools that are looking to establish creative programs, but may not have the resources to do so – these are the schools that need it most.

  • What’s been the reaction from the children?  I’m sure it’s a bit of a process, maybe convincing them at first to try it.  But are there dedicated young practitioners coming forward?  Maybe some children have shared stories of how yoga has helped them?

It may be surprising, but children are often excited to participate in yoga when it’s presented in a way that sounds creative and imaginative rather than restful and mindful. Naturally, we know the multifaceted benefits of yoga classes, but by positioning it in the right way for children – especially in the school environment – helps them to accept it, or at least give it a shot.

We really got to see this in our Yoga Foster in the Park series this summer, where we held outdoor yoga classes in parks around the city. Many of our participants came because of press, but others were passersby that were really interested in getting involved, because we were having fun, silly energetic classes that matched the mood of an outdoor space. How can you say no to a make-believe day at the zoo?

  • What’s your dream for the future of Yoga Foster?  How big would you like it to be? Do you want to go nationwide?

I hope to have Yoga Foster grow naturally. As long as it continues to spark creativity in passion in students, while empowering volunteer instructors to give back, the mission of Yoga Foster can spread worldwide. For now, I’m most concerned about building our core – from courses to class structures to volunteer base – before exploring other cities.

  • What does Y.F. need most right now in terms of support?

Our biggest challenge right now is space! We have a large group of volunteer instructors, helping hands, and supporters, and would love to use inexpensive space to hold meetings and events.

  • If teachers want to volunteer what do they need in terms of certifications or insurance? Or is it as simple as contacting you?

It’s as simple as reaching out! Certification and insurance is not necessary for all of our current initiatives, so we recommend anyone interested in getting involved to email us at nicole@yogafoster.com

NBC “School Pride” Feature from Nicole Cardoza on Vimeo.

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