Brooklyn resident Stefanie Joshua teaches yoga classes for New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and Shape Up NYC, a program that offers free fitness classes throughout the boroughs. Each of Joshua’s classes is Brooklyn-based and, this Sunday from noon – 2pm, she leads Breathe Brownsville Yoga Festival, an outdoor yoga session in the heart of the neighborhood, on the athletic field at Brownsville Recreation Center.
The class is introductory level and incorporates movement and meditation. On site, Joshua will provide give-away bags with yoga mats, listings of free health resources in the community, and more. As Joshua tells us, Brownsville has the highest rates of diabetes and mental health hospitalizations in Brooklyn. Through yoga, she combats this trend with an accessible and free tool that promotes healthy habits. “My hope is that, with this outdoor event, we’ll promote and empower the community to take a class and take charge of their health,” says Joshua, who also teaches regular free classes, open to the public, in Brownsville. Below, Joshua discusses her own relationship with yoga, and why, specifically, it provides such an effective and practical path toward wellness.
Where did you grow up, and how did you first become involved in yoga?
I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I grew up with childhood asthma in my early life and therefore was not involved in a lot of physical fitness activities. But as I began to explore fitness as an adult, I became drawn to yoga after exploring a number of other activities and fitness disciplines.
What mindset/goals do you try to emphasize most when you teach?
My philosophy for teaching sometimes varies according to the community and the class. But my overarching specialty is the integration of, not only meditative qualities of yoga through yogi breathing, but also varying intensities in the yoga sequence, for those who may be looking to use their yoga practice to improve cardiovascular and physical fitness.
If someone is curious about yoga, do you have practical suggestions for how to get them started?
My recommendations for someone who my be curious about yoga is to preview a class. You can often ask to observe a class before taking it. So many people get turned off by a discipline because they try a class for the first time and feel lost. By previewing a class, you know what to expect by watching others practice. I would also recommend trying different classes with different teachers, until a new practitioner finds a comfortable fit.
How do you believe yoga benefits people most?
I believe that yoga benefits people for many reasons. It is accessible and requires little equipment. Through its meditative aspects, you can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and reduce stress. And, when you find the right teacher and class to meet your needs (whether it’s stress reduction, weight loss, increased flexibility, or healing an injury) you can ultimately begin to practice on your own when you are more experienced. It’s a win-win.
Individuals can sign up to participate in the Breathe Brownsville Yoga Festival on the Eventbrite page found here.