Juquille Johnston was six years old when his father was shot and killed in the streets of New York City. It’s frightening to imagine how such horrific violence could affect this young man’s life. Will he be forever shackled to fear, anger, and pain? There are certain experiences and realities of life that, already tragic, seem particularly cruel when thrust on a person so young. But this is the reality facing so many young people around the world, including scores of young Americans confronted daily with gun violence, gang activity, poverty, and abuse.
In the premiere episode of The Chopra Well’s new show, URBAN YOGIS, we document Juquille’s powerful story, and the healing he experiences through yoga and meditation. Though it is often portrayed in media as a luxury, yoga can be much, much more. As practiced by instructor Eddie Stern and a group of teenagers in New York City’s LIFE Camp, yoga is meditation, therapy, exercise, and creative expression all in one.
Erica Ford co-founded LIFE Camp in 2002 in response to growing violence in New York City. As she witnessed the effect of violence on the community – particularly on black and Latino youth already at the mercy of discrimination and disenfranchisement – Erica knew it was time to take a stand. Through mentoring, media literacy, service, and more, teenagers involved in LIFE Camp become empowered to invest in their futures and their communities. Yoga is one of the powerful tools these teenagers engage with, and the practice has a profound effect.
Even more impressive than the power of yoga in this story is the fierce resiliency of these teens’ spirits. Perhaps yoga and meditation awaken something in the human spirit that was always there, but which we lose sight of or neglect. It comes alive again in the silence and focused breath on the mat, in the strength that fosters softness, so characteristic of yoga. Thirteen years after his father’s death, Juquille finds inspiration to slow down and face the challenges that come his way with compassion instead of anger.
We are ever grateful for these young people who so bravely shared their stories with us and with you. If you are inspired by Juquille’s story, share this video and keep the message of transformation alive.
Why not start your own yoga practice? Click here to watch a “one on one” yoga lesson with Eddie Stern. You can also find a link to the video at the end of the “LIFE Camp” episode. Eddie is a one of a kind instructor – so enjoy!
Subscribe to The Chopra Well and stay tuned for more amazing stories and inspiration, every week on URBAN YOGIS.