Melissa Smith

Executive Director


Certified Yoga Teacher

A Note:

"I often work with teens who deal with the darkest sides of life. These adolescent men and women are often subjected to complicated traumas daily.These students can suffer because of their environments, causing them to be or feel angry, grieved, depressed, sorrowful, longing, heartbroken, hungry, neglected, etc. My job as a yoga teacher is to hold space for my students to really tune in and feel what they are experiencing--how their emotions feel in their nervous system and the way they are interacting with the world around them. The tools of yoga, mindfulness, and self-inquiry provide our students with the awareness and ability to identify how they react to their experience and if those reactions truly serve them. Yoga also equips students with the ability to ground themselves, self-regulate, and create the space to choose a response that will serve them better. Yoga can help provide a pathway to healing from the traumas our students experience--one breath, one choice, one response at a time. I hope that through the skills they learn on their mat, they are able to better connect with themselves; and therefore, are better able to make positive connections in the world around them. As we grow individually, we grow collectively.”

The Challenges:

“We are told that we have a guaranteed right to the pursuit of happiness, but not everyone has equal access to that. It is hard when our students don’t have the same opportunity to succeed. It's not fair, and it's not just. Our students face so many obstacles, most often through no fault of their own. When you have no example of what a healthy, successful existence looks like, how do you create that for yourself? Our job as yoga teachers is to give our students the resources they need and model healthy behaviors and relationships for them. By giving our students  the resources and tools they need, we help them cultivate a sense of power and take back control over their lives. By empowering those with meager power, we make the future a little brighter for all of us."

Our Yoga Teachers:

“As yoga teachers, we have a big job, a huge job to reach down and give our students the support to create hope and resiliency. It’s really a human responsibility to instill these things in one another. Honestly, it is hard to look at the hopelessness in the world and not look away from it. But we can't look away and we shouldn’t take it lightly. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' We have a duty to help pull everyone up and rise together. We teach our students that they have an inherent beauty and worthiness. We go into these spaces (maybe a jail, alternative school, or drug treatment facility), and our job is to help instill a sense of worthiness and enough-ness in our students that the world has told them they don’t have. But they do--they are enough and worthy as they are because we all are. They have a purpose. Once they can visualize that purpose--where they want to go, what their goals are, what unique gift they have to give to the world--it’s easier to overcome the obstacles that get in the way. Hope happens, and when there is hope, anything is possible.”

The Vision We See:

“We want to increase our impact. We want to expand our programming into more facilities that serve under-resourced populations. I'd love for every high school and junior high to have a Humble Warrior Collective mindful movement class. I really believe that we will be a stronger society and happier overall when all members of our community have the tools and resources they need to succeed and thrive. To begin, we plan on hosting summer camps for teens that focus on yoga, mindfulness, and life skills (healthy eating, financial literacy, nature education). We envisage staff self-care classes in detention centers, jails, mental health hospitals, counseling centers, schools, and rehabilitation facilities; a time for the staff members who empty out so much of themselves for everyone else to ‘refill their cups.' HWC is going to do more work in our community by getting the community to work. In the works is a conscious activism project that will create more opportunities for our community to come together and create the change we want to see. Another way I'd like to see us expanding our reach is to help increase diversity in the yoga community. I would love to have some students who benefited from our program, come back and serve as a member of the HWC. We have some beautiful stories of overcoming adversity, but we long for so many more.”