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Radha’s Youth Outreach

March 10, 2010 by Rachel Barrett

Rachel Barrett, a regular writer for Lightwaves and a Radha teacher in Ottawa with the Radha Yoga Youth Outreach (RYYO) Program, shares her experience of teaching yoga to a large group of youngsters living in a temporary shelter. This outreach effort is in its 5th year and currently partners with 35 social service agencies offering programs and support to marginalized youth. The continuation of RYYO is dependent on donations from a variety of sources including their Yogathon fundraiser to be held March 14-20th.

Last night I taught a yoga class at a family shelter in Ottawa. The families are for the most part recent immigrants to Canada who are in the shelter until they can find more permanent housing.  Teaching here has been both the most challenging and inspiring out of all the classes I have taught since starting with Radha Yoga Youth Outreach in September 2009.

I arrive to 16 children, ages 4-11, eagerly awaiting yoga class. We start with introductions, name, age and one word about their day.
 Today we are exploring the Tree and Eagle poses together, followed by creative time when the children with markers and paper, draw themselves in either pose. 
I also ask them once they have completed their drawings to think of one colour that would describe who they are today and why.
 Their responses were incredible. One young girl told me that she would be a mix of blue, green and white.. “blue because I am sad that my friends are moving, green because I feel calm and white because I feel peaceful.”

A few weeks ago I started bringing my guitar to the shelter. I realized after discussing music and sound in one class that most of them had only heard music on TV or the internet. Music has been such a powerful and inspiring force in my life, enabling me to easily connect to myself and others, so I knew that I needed to share this. 

Tonight we decide to make a song together using their colours. In the past we have sung about how yoga helps us to feel but tonight I want to create something new together.

 After the children shared their Tree/Eagle drawing and their colour for the day, they thought of something positive and beautiful to represent their colour and began to weave them together in a song.

“I am red, just like a red rose and I am orange like a delicious carrot. I am yellow like the shining sun and I am green like the tall grass. I am blue like the endless sky and I am purple like a bunch of grapes… I am all the colours of the rainbow, all the colours of the rainbow live in me.”

As they rolled up their mats at the end of the class they continued singing while I continued to play. I felt happy knowing that these kids were going back to their rooms that they share with anywhere from 4-10 other family members, with a song they can sing to lift themselves above their current situation. As 

I leave here tonight my heart is shining. Nothing brings me more joy than sharing what I love most with children who are so receptive to expressing their inner creativity.

 Each class is so different, challenging, fun, engaging and tiring! I leave longing to fall into bed and at the same time looking forward to my next opportunity to share different forms of yoga with such brilliant young minds.


Radha Yoga Youth Outreach (RYYO) is having its annual Yogathon from March 14th-20th. For more information on how you can get involved you can check out their website at www.ryyo.org.  Support the youth outreach initiative and smile knowing that your donation went to bringing yoga to youth at risk.


  1. What a wonderful gift of Light you are giving these kids that they can also share with and lighten up their families too. What a wonderful way to give back.

    Comment by Lizabeth Harrison — March 11, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  2. Great!!

    Comment by Danuta Karpinska — March 14, 2010 @ 5:54 am

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