RACHELLE KNOWLES, FOUNDER
Teacher trainings and certification courses, though enriching and life-changing, can also be prohibitively expensive. The Atlanta-based nonprofit Cultivate Union provides financial assistance to local yoga teachers who want to deepen their practice through specialized courses. The hope is to create a larger, more diverse community of instructors who bring a variety of perspectives to their practice. With a broader range of socioeconomic positions represented within the yoga community, the community itself becomes more inclusive and equitable.
Q & A
YOGA JOURNAL: What has been an important lesson you’ve learned in running this organization?
RACHELLE KNOWLES: If you want to make change, you just have to get out there and start taking action. I didn’t wait until I had tens of thousands of dollars in financial assistance to get Cultivate Union off the ground. I started with a $2,500 grant and within two months, Cultivate Union was awarded its first $500 in financial assistance. It was almost like using motion to generate motion.
YJ: How has the organization grown and evolved since you started it?
RK: Initially, we focused on assisting only current instructors, but recently, we’ve moved toward putting aspiring teachers through their first teacher trainings, providing up to half of their tuition. We’re also looking into more strategic partnerships with the aim of making an impact in other cities.
YJ: Can you tell us about someone you’ve helped with financial assistance?
RK: This year we granted a student $1,800 to help him complete his 200-hour training. One thing we ask of large-grant recipients is that they create some sort of community-based project as a way of reciprocating the offerings. This young man is forming a workshop for queer people of color and anchoring it with spiritual practices from the African diaspora. That was just so moving for me.