Started in 2012 by Corey Wainer the program is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to alleviating Stereotype Threat Anxiety and inspiring personal freedom in its students.
I consider myself a feminist; a strong and capable woman who doesn’t shy from her power to positively impact her world. This trait has also made me aware that society can sometimes appear a battlefield where my ideas, opinions, passion, and contributions are either diminished or overall ignored on the basis of my reproductive organs. I’m also a firm proponent for single-sex education for girls. I believe that a learning environment absent immature sexual tensions is beneficial to both genders in the formative years leading to adulthood.
Add to that a history of notoriously inadequate public education in low income areas, and the necessity of programs like YoGirls becomes amplified. If the children are the future, adults at present must act as squires and accept responsibility for improving all opportunities for knowledge.
Corey was motivated to develop YoGirls Program based on the results of an independent study at Harvard University which substantiated yogic philosophy as a plausible cure for academic and culture insecurities, her own personal and professional knowledge of anxiety, and her experiences teaching in Miami Dade’s roughest schools. She relocated to New York City with expectations of a more progressive educational environment, only to find that test-heavy politics were still stifling student creativity and perpetuating outdated stereotypes. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” Wainer says. The realization proved a turning point, and with the support of Elena Brower the program found a weekly home at Virayoga Studios in SoHo.
Next year classes will be held in The Bronx and New Jersey. In the meantime Wainer continues research and fundraising with her team toward the opening of their own space – SHAKTI Brooklyn, a women’s yoga collective. Corey’s goal is to extend the success of the YoGirls’ model into a diverse community of adult women. The program accepts donations all year long through their official website at www.yogirlsprogram.org.
Ruth Nineke: In your own words what is YoGirls?
Corey Wainer: YoGirls is a lit-therapy course designed to use Eastern teachings and writings to reframe the thinking of young girls towards their self-confidence, social awareness, and academic abilities. Psychologically speaking, the girls come full circle when they co-teach incoming cohorts using the tools they acquire over the year.
RN: How do girls become a part of it?
CW: Girls become a part of YoGirls through an application process to which they must show strong affiliations with three main aspects: Clinical or performance-related anxiety, cultural or socioeconomic disadvantage, and a willingness to learn. YoGirls does in fact help transform the minds of girls from even the hardest places, but it is more an honor than a punishment so that curiosity has to be evident from day one.
RN: What/When was your first introduction to yoga, and Eastern philosophy?
CW: I first took up yoga to de-stress my body as an overworked athlete, and also to control my own anxieties related mainly to rejection and abandonment. There was a time where I didn’t want to extend such gorgeous knowledge to my students because I had encountered a solid handful of teachers and “yogalebrities” if you will who seemed to be somewhat imperialist in their insistence on going into underprivileged environments and trying to “change” the people there through yoga. I had to sit with yoga a while on my own to consider how I could use it as more of an option or offering than philanthropic disservice.
RN: What’s your ultimate hope for the program, and your girls?
CW: My ultimate hope for the girls is that their lives are healthier and happier by the time they finish the program, while always keeping in mind that yes I measure their growth in relation to Constructive Developmental Theory, but no I will never attempt to define or judge what personal health and happiness means to them. This mentality of true community and support backed by integrity is the sounding board for SHAKTI.
RN: The moment I met you I knew I wanted to be a part of this and lend my gifts to your work any way I could. I know lots of amazing women who will surely feel the same. What do yo want them to know? And how would you like others to assist the vision?
CW: What interested women should know most importantly is that YoGirls is not just another place to run from your problems, because ultimately this approach will manifest in even the students observing said individual as flaky and distracted. Many people of all ages are attracted to our work because it has proven results and also dramatically shuns the growing elitist consumer classism in the yoga world today, but they need to know that ultimately it is a program for young girls that deserve healthy and committed role-models.
RN: Can you share with me some of your most memorable moments since founding YoGirls?
CW: There are too many memorable moments this year alone, but I’d say it’s the things that my students share with me and no one else that I hold in highest regard both in my responsibility to give them appropriate healing tools as well as how many hours of sweat and tears it takes to show them that yes, there is at least one person in the world they can trust.