Yoga Journal - - 2018 GOOD KARMA AWARDS -

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.

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