by: Willow Clerici, Unbreakable & Social Impact Training Graduate
To me, Baptiste Yoga is about community. There is an environment of warmth, love, trust, accountability, opportunity, and possibility in the studios.
In the spring of 2019 my yoga studio announced Unbreakable. This program, at the time, was geared towards people bringing yoga to First Responders, Veterans, and the Military community. My interest was immediately peaked since one of my brothers is a police officer, one was a firefighter, and my husband is an Air Force Veteran. I loved the possibility of serving and connecting with those who have served, especially my family.
I had no expectations for the Unbreakable training. I was eager to listen and learn! What surprised me the most was the use of yoga practice to “roll play” those we were hoping to serve. To put myself in the mindset of an amputee or a green beret shifted my perspective. I became tangibly aware of how the First Responder community could benefit from the tools of yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry. By the end of the training my willingness to serve, developed into a program to offer.
I knew I could take this Unbreakable program and create workshops to serve my community. I spent time thinking about how I could make connections with local agencies, and I realized I already had the connection. My connection was my brother, Albie. He was an Atlantic City Firefighter who took his life on June 26, 2017. The brotherhood of firemen he left behind were tremendously impacted by the loss.
Fueled by my new training, a few months after Unbreakable, I enrolled in the Grace & Glory Teacher Leader Development Program, Summer Immersion 2019. It was there that I developed my skills of deep listening, yoga, and meditation. I continued to feel called to serve the First Responder community- so I enrolled in the first-ever Social Impact Training 2019 through the Baptiste Foundation. As I completed my training, I became clear on how to actionably be of service. It was as simple as getting involved. I purposefully began to make small connections through social media, volunteering at charity events, and making cookies for them around the holidays. I spent time getting to know my community better.
Nine months after Unbreakable, I created a program in coordination with a Suicide Awareness Training for Albie’s platoon, and the entire Atlantic City Fire Fighter community. My intention was to develop conversations around Suicide Prevention as we created an awareness and understanding toward Mental Health and Self-Care.
I shared how our loss of Albie sent me into depression, and how through the Baptiste programs, Yoga, Meditation, Self-Awareness, and Counseling- I was able to feel and process the grief, find freedom from my thoughts and feelings, and again see the power of the light within me.
My programs with the Baptiste Institute and the Baptiste Foundation gave me clarity and focus so that I could grow the calling to serve into putting my “boots on the ground.”