Changing the world in memory of a daughter:
Zina Greene started going to yoga classes for a very important reason: She was being a supportive mom.
"When my daughter Rachel started teaching one of the first gentle yoga classes in the Washington, D.C. area, she asked me to come so she'd have a critical mass," Zina recalls. "I wouldn't be into yoga if it weren't for Rachel."
For Zina, those classes grew into a committed practice and, for both women, a deep connection to Kripalu, where Rachel received her training. Zina even bought a second home in the Berkshires, and Rachel visited frequently from Washington, D.C. When Rachel's father died, she planted a willow tree for him on the Kripalu grounds.
That's why, when Rachel died in May 2006 as a result of heart damage from radiation therapy for childhood cancer, Zina knew that she wanted to create something in her daughter's memory that would embrace what Rachel cared about most. Rachel taught yoga and stress management to heart patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and had created a yoga nidra program for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. She was actively and creatively involved in healing.
"I knew it had to be about yoga and healing, and I realized it could also be about something I care about," Zina said. "I have served for many years as a volunteer tutor in the D.C. elementary schools and I've become more and more disheartened by the students' lack of awareness and lack of attention. I had a nagging feeling that they, and their teachers, really needed something healing, something that would calm them and prepare them for learning."
Kripalu gave Zina an advance article for a Kripalu catalog about KYTA member Christine Fantini and the work she was doing with at-risk children in inner-city schools, funded by a grant from the Teaching for Diversity program. The pieces fell into place: Zina knew that bringing yoga to children was the mission that she wanted Rachel's memorial to support.
Today the Rachel Greene Memorial Fund provides scholarships for trainings that prepare yoga instructors to teach yoga to children in disadvantaged public schools (Title I schools or the equivalent) and to train classroom teachers in these schools to take yoga to their students. Members of KYTA and of IABYT (the International Association of Black Yoga Teachers) are eligible for scholarships.
"Rachel liked to create change, and this is something that makes a real difference," Zina says. "These men and women will truly change the lives of these children."
Teacher trainings like those developed by the California-based Yoga Ed. provide instructors with a manual and tools, such as visualization, games, and breath and movement sequences, to help students feel more attentive, energized, and calm. Yoga Ed. also teaches yoga instructors how to train classroom teachers in delivering a yoga experience to children, thus creating more harmonious, focused environments in the classroom.
"As a yoga teacher and mother of three, I've had a vision for many years of yoga being part of the daily curriculum in school," says Vandita Kate Marchesiello, Director of KYTA. "With the creation of the Rachel Greene Memorial Fund, that vision is becoming a reality. This scholarship program will create opportunities for great change in the world by helping teachers bring the transformative benefits of yoga to children, who are our future."
Scholarships are available for two upcoming Yoga Ed. trainings at Kripalu, Instructor Training for K-8, June 29-July 6, and Yoga Ed. Tools for Teachers Training, October 8-11. Yoga teachers who complete the Instructor Training are certified to teach a 36-week, K-8 curriculum to students as physical education, enrichment, or after-school programs, and to teach Yoga Tools for Teachers to classroom teachers. Yoga teachers who complete the Tools for Teachers Training will receive materials and support for marketing and teaching Yoga Ed.'s Tools for Teachers Professional Development Program, in the form of two-hour, four-hour, and full-day professional development programs for classroom teachers.
"I had to do something that I felt passionate about in Rachel's memory, guided by her passions," says Zina, who is also working with the Samueli Institute to develop a yoga program for use in military and public schools in Washington, D.C. "It has made dealing with her death so much easier to have these two wonderful projects in my life. To give the money and to participate in the process has been very healing."
For a scholarship application, write to firstname.lastname@example.org with "RGMF Scholarship" in the subject line. For more information about Yoga Ed.'s trainings, visit www.yogaed.com or www.kripalu.org. To donate to the Rachel Greene Memorial Fund, contact the Kripalu Development Office at 413-448-3222.