I met Henry Cross at the 3rd Annual Yoga Service Conference at the Omega Institute. Henry is the Assistant Executive Director of Hosh Yoga, a donation-based, not-for-profit yoga studio that promotes health and wellness as a right of life rather than a luxury. Henry is also the executive director of Hosh Kids, a nonprofit that offers yoga-based enrichment education for kids. This interview is his offering to help others successfully navigate the rewards and challenges of yoga service work.
Rob: What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you? How, if at all, has that motivation changed over time?
Henry: Yoga was part of a personal healing process; along the way I became fascinated by yoga as a vehicle for social change. Certain thinkers have influenced my yoga service work; for instance, you can view yoga service through the lens and power of voluntary associations as suggested by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, and its application in the living culture of your immediate community. There are plenty of like-minded people around that you can collaborate with to make a difference in your community: find the courage to start the community yourself.
Is there a standout moment from your work with your community?
Yes, it was realizing yoga service nonprofits can be as effective as any private business. Hosh Yoga and Hosh Kids in New York make yoga accessible regardless of skill or income. We have never refused service to any person, school, or parent for lack of financial resources. We build yoga communities by delivering a bold and strong message to all our stakeholders. This does not mean that you can’t build a business that can grow financially solvent and sustainable while developing a brand that is mission- and values-driven. Therefore, the power of our nonprofit story, brand message, and dedicated team can only make our bottom line stronger. You can put good information to action making your organization better.
What did you know about the population you are working with before you began teaching?
When I became a public school teacher, I knew I wanted to make a difference. I’m sure every classroom teacher and teaching artist can relate. However, it takes much more than just your will to make a difference and change the lives of our school students. I’ve seen too many of my peers and colleagues teaching in very stressful environments as classroom and yoga teachers in schools. I developed and directed a staff development program for an enrichment vendor in NYC with over 50 teachers, and I realized you had to teach teachers about the context of a learning environment before they could effectively deliver content. I’ve visited thousands of classrooms and I rarely meet a teacher who doesn’t understand what he or she is teaching. Teachers teach as they know how. Therefore, the sooner a kids yoga teacher develops an education philosophy and an understanding of human motivation, praise, self-esteem and discipline, the sooner that teacher can deliver content. I’ve shared our message with principals, political leaders, and superintendents, most of whom still know very little about yoga as a health and wellness option in schools. Continue reading >>