Hands to Heart Center – Yoga for the People is a non-profit yoga service organization that shares the healing practice of yoga with people affected by addiction, poverty and trauma through connecting yoga teachers with volunteer opportunities in low-income, under-served neighborhoods of Boston. Hands to Heart Center was created by Susan Lovett, in April, 2014. Susan is a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed K-8 teacher and a registered yoga teacher who has worked with urban, low-income youth and families in the greater Boston area for over 20 years. In 2012, she received the Distinguished Contribution to Human Services Award from UMass Boston and in 2013, she received the Hubie Jones Urban Service Award from the Boston University School of Social Work. Susan is a member of the Yoga Service Council, has been designated an Accessible Yoga Ambassador and is a partner of the Yoga & Body Image Coalition. She’s also featured on the national Yoga Activist website for her work with Hands to Heart Center. Susan is a full time social worker at a high-poverty Boston Public School where she works with youth and families with trauma. In addition, Susan teaches part-time at the Boston University School of Social Work and is a board member of both Girls Rock Campaign Boston and the Frederick School. She’s a member of the Boston Public Schools’ District Wellness Committee and a co-founder of Boston’s Socially Engaged Yoga Network (BSEYN).
During her 9-month yoga teacher training with Open Doors in 2013 and 2014, Susan began offering yoga classes and workshops to the students at a high-poverty school in the neighborhood of Boston with highest incidence of community violence. The students really enjoyed their yoga experiences and Susan began receiving more and more requests from classroom teachers and school social workers to provide yoga for their students. Through word of mouth, staff members at local community-based social service organizations and other schools heard about this, and requests came in from those sites. Susan reached out to other Boston-area yoga teachers to fill the requests for classes and was happily surprised that every yoga teacher she asked enthusiastically responded “yes!”
As a yoga student, social worker and yoga teacher, Susan has both experienced and witnessed the many beneficial and transformative effects of yoga. The motivation for creating Hands to Heart Center came from the understanding that yoga is generally inaccessible in many neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan that have the most low-income families, the highest community and domestic violence rates and the highest rates of asthma, obesity and trauma in the state of Massachusetts. Yoga is an effective and enjoyable practice, but also an expensive one. The primary goals of Hands to Heart Center are to remove obstacles to learning yoga and to mobilize yoga teachers as volunteers.
Yoga teachers and teachers-in-training who are interested in volunteering to teach yoga classes on a one-time, quarterly, monthly, bi-weekly or weekly basis can apply to become Hands to Heart Center Community Yoga Teachers through this website on the Next Steps page. Community Yoga Teachers receive monthly updates and newsletters with information about teaching opportunities, resources and HTHC special events. Community Yoga Teachers can select their preferred dates, times and locations and HTHC will share all of the details about the sites (address, directions, parking and public transportation information, a description of the room that will be used and relevant information about the student population) and answer any questions teachers may have. Staff from non-profit organizations and high-poverty schools in Boston can request an 8-week, 10-week or 12-week yoga class series through this website on the Next Steps page. Our Community Yoga Teachers receive free HTHC trainings in Trauma-Informed Yoga, Yoga for Youth and Yoga for Beginners as well as invitations to social events and social justice actions.
Since Hands to Heart Center was founded in 2014, our Community Yoga Teachers have provided over 1,000 free, customized yoga classes in branch libraries, community centers, detention units, domestic violence shelters, high-poverty schools, homeless shelters, public housing developments and residential treatment programs in Boston. Our classes include Beginner Yoga for Adults, Chair Yoga, Family Yoga, Gentle Yoga for Seniors, Kids Yoga, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, Yoga en Espanol, Yoga for Recovery and Yoga for Students with Special Needs. With YOUR hands and YOUR heart, we’ll continue sharing the healing practice of yoga with those most in-need. Yoga for the People!