Chelsea Roff: Recognizing the Interconnections — Interview with Jennifer Cohen Harper

I just returned from an inspiring week at the Yoga Service Council Conference at the Omega Institute in New York, where I had the opportunity to speak with Jennifer Harper Cohen, founder of Little Flower Yoga and board member of the Yoga Service Council. Jennifer was absolutely indispensable in putting together this conference, which gathered together yoga service organizations from around the United States to share best practices, resources, and visions for moving forward.

I spoke with Jenn about her own experience using yoga to serve her community, and especially how that’s shown up in her work with children.

What does service mean to you?

To me, service is about recognizing the tremendous inter-connections between people and doing my best to act in a way that honors those connections. When we act from that place, service helps everyone become the best version of themselves (including me!)

Who and how do you serve?

Little Flower Yoga works with schools in the New York metro area. We serve kids rom pre-kindergarten through high school.

Can you tell me a little bit more about Little Flower’s programs?

Little Flower Yoga specializes in creating unique and engaging classes that develop students’ mental, physical and emotional wellness. We incorporate education and youth development Best Practices into all of our classes, and we create customized yoga programs that empower students to make healthy choices.

Our work is rooted in the desire to see all children embrace their potential, and to help children live their lives with joy, secure in the knowledge that the world holds great wonders for them and that they have great gifts to share with the world.

How did you get started in using yoga to empower children? 

While I was teaching a kindergarten class with Harlem Children’s Zone in 2005, I realized that things were going much much better in my classroom when I took the time to practice yoga with my students. I was happier, they were happier, and the entire day was much more productive. I realized that this was all I wanted to do, and Little Flower Yoga was born shortly after in 2006.

What have you found to be the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of service?

The most rewarding aspects of service are definitely the days when you get the positive feedback from the kids or letters from parents. The challenging times are when you know how hard a situation is for someone, and feel like there is very little you can do to help. The tools that we are working to give our students are mostly work over the long term (not short-term fixes). Even when you know that you are doing all you can, when you see someone you care about struggling or suffering it’s always hard.

What is your intent in being at the Yoga Service Conference ?

My intent is to meet other people in the yoga service field and form a greater sense of community. I hope to learn more about what is working in others’ programs and hopefully to come back home on Monday full of fresh ideas and inspiration to make our work stronger and more effective.