Step Inside Chicago's Yoga Gardens, An Oasis Of Healing And Fun
People who have received gifts and kindnesses in their lives pay it forward in different ways. Compassion begets compassion. That was the thinking that drove Indigo Monae, a child of Chicago's public housing projects, to establish a tranquil gathering place called Yoga Gardens in the same neighborhood where her emotional, intense childhood years took place.
"This is my karma project, my yogi gift," said Indigo. "It's my way of sharing something I know will help the community."
Indigo remembers a moment when she knew that her mission had succeeded: she was hanging out at Yoga Gardens when she noticed that a girl named Maya, who lives next door, had walked in and lay down on the yoga platform; soon Maya was napping peacefully in the center of it all.
"That's exactly what we're here for," Indigo explained. "You get to be outside, and you can still be safe."
In some parts of Chicago, being outside comes with dangers. This is true of the neighborhood where Yoga Gardens is located, and where a couple of Indigo's students have been killed or injured by gunfire in recent months. But Yoga Gardens is a safe haven, a place where young kids can come to tend to the plants, talk with one another, and practice both yoga and meditation under Indigo's watchful and trained eye.
All you need to do to understand the impact that Yoga Gardens has had on the students who attend classes there is to ask them about it.
One five-year member named Antone'shia Palmer, who first started coming to Yoga Gardens when she was 13 and is now 18, likens the experience to an escape, where she has been able to transform herself.
"You come in here, and it's like a whole different universe," she said. "I learned self-control. Tricks for how to calm myself. To count to 10. I guess I would call them self-re-evaluations."