Dear Manduka,

Project Peaceful Warriors just received 30 new yoga mats!!

With them, we are looking forward to enjoying the moments that make our students feel empowered, connected, and unstoppable.

Yoga teaches me and my students to cope with really hard things.

In New Orleans our students experience trauma at a shockingly disproportionate rate compared the rest of the country. 54 percent have lost someone close to murder, 40 percent have seen someone shot, 38 percent have witnessed domestic violence, and 30 percent worry about not being loved. The PTSD rate in NOLA youth is four times the rate of the national average. As their educators, we cannot change the circumstances or violent communities that they live in, but we can give them tools so they can change how they handle them. Our job is to give them the tools to grow as impactful members of the community so we can all find empowerment through peace.

Yoga and mindfulness teach my students simple and highly accessible tools and coping skills that can make an immediate impact both physically and emotionally.

It gives them a way to reconnect with their bodies and emotions. It provides a safe space and outlet to explore and try new things that are often new, uncomfortable, and a little weird. Yoga teaches my students they have the power of choice in their actions, reactions, thoughts, and words. Yoga helps me and my students achieve self awareness, self respect, self assurance, and navigate challenges with confidence both on and off the mat.

In my most challenging moments I look to my students, my breath, and those who have walked the path before me.

My students are resilient warriors. They have conquered more in their youth than many will in a lifetime. They have taught me that no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get back up and try again. They’ve also taught me that dancing solves just about anything. I look to my breath as my guide. I have been practicing yoga since middle school and had a steady power yoga practice for the last 12 years. My breath is my rock. It is strong, it is steady, it is super loud, and reconnects me to my infinite being when I feel I have broken into scattered pieces. And those who have walked the path before me, the educators, the leaders, the mover and shakers that have all paved the way. They are inspiring when you are at your highs and your lows and a steady reassurance that no challenge is too great to act on.

The positive shifts and changes I see in my students on a daily basis inspire me to continue to do the work.

Teaching them to breathe, move, and create space for themselves and watch how that cultivates into a unique practice and experience for each of them is an unequivocal experience. Each day is a new challenge, another chance to lead with gratitude and grace, and an opportunity to live out the change you want to see.

–Chelsea Hylton

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