An Interview with Connection Coalition’s Executive Director, Jodi Weiner

Connection Coalition is a Miami-based non-profit organization with the mission to help at-risk youths through the power of yoga. Connection Coalition is currently on a 4-month tour, known as their CoCo Tour 2016, touring through 18 cities as they offer weekend certification and specialty workshops.

Jodi Weiner, who has been with Connection Coalition since 2012, is teaching at Green Locus Yoga. This includes a public Connection Flow class, and a Connection Coalition training session. Jodi Weiner has been Connection Coalition’s Executive Director since 2013, and loves teaching new yoga teachers or developing yoga studios that assist local communities that are nonprofit. I talked with Jodi to get a better grasp of what Connection Coalition is really about!

What exactly is Connection Coalition (Yoga Gangsters)?
Connection Coalition (CoCo for short) is a national non-profit providing free yoga to marginalized communities that don’t have access to the practice. We are in poverty schools, alternative schools, incarcerated youth, post incarcerated, homeless, foster domestic violence shelters and many LGBTQ centers as well.

What was the reason for the name change? (From Yoga Gangsters to Connection Coalition)
The name change is a result of growth and awareness that the world is in a very divisive state. We wanted to spend time talking about healing and tools to support that as opposed to defending our “Gangster” name. And, we are a mainly white faced organization walking into minority populations with a name that accentuates a mentality we no longer embody as a mission. It was a controversial point of connection with youth that we no longer need. We decided to focus on the healing and open doors to connection instead!

What can yoga do for people that we often may overlook, especially as opposed to more traditional sports?
Great question and one of my favorites!!! Yoga changes our brain patterns. Science has shown this – we use movement and breath to move into the neo cortex of the brain and create new patterns of self-regulation. With yoga we learn tools to be less reactive and make wiser decisions that lead us to more grounded self-control and self-awareness.

How did you end up joining this program?
I was on a path of recreating my professional path and was looking to gain access to my “dream job” and giving back. I had created a business plan and needed a yoga teacher. So while in my training and post training I continued to hear of this organization doing similar work I was interested in providing my community. Once I spent the 15 hours learning all about the organization I threw myself into it and have not looked back since 2012!

What are some results from past clients? Do you keep in touch? How are their students?

All past clients ask us back as a result of witnessing the connections we create. The centers are onsite while with the kids and see the journey one hour makes each week. They see the results, we see the openings, the awakenings and the energy shift form class one to class 6. It’s an incredible heart expanding experience leaving you wanting more of it.

How is teaching yoga to victims of trauma/abuse different from traditional classes?
Post training, we are very aware of trauma and how it shows up in daily life as well as the body. The training leaves us understanding SO MUCH that when we see our students we know better how to resource and to CONNECT with them with no judgment and only COMPASSION. Traditional classes don’t usually offer material about touching students and how to NOT trigger or have a trauma informed lens of language, approach and how to resource trauma with yoga tools.

What if someone feels they do not know enough about yoga to take the certification? What would you say to them?
This training is a life training on how to create connection with ANYONE regardless of yoga teacher or yoga enthusiast. The information is vital for healing and understanding, for moving away from blame, shame and judgment leaving space for healing and connections, with or without yoga.

What has been your favorite part about teaching this certification?
I get the honor of witnessing the “AHA” moments register in the eyes of adults and see the journey of awakening unfold before me. There is very little else that compares to this except watching traumatized youth have a similar experience of opening and learning to trust, if only for a moment.

It has been a pleasure, any final thoughts Jodi?

Yoga is a powerful tool that can really help everyone it touches, and should be open to everyone! People like Jodi Weiner, or the others who are apart of Connection Coalition, continue to make a big difference to kids and crisis and others. Yoga is a great tool to connect to those in need, and you do not need a traditional yoga teaching course to reach out and help someone in your community!

At Green Locus Yoga, Jodi Weiner will be teaching a CoCo Trauma Informed Outreach Certification October 14th, from 6-9 p.m. (sign up online!)

On October 15th, Jodi will then be teaching a Connection Flow class from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

To learn more about Connection Coalition, visit them at Connection Coalition.


About Meredith Schneider

Meredith Schneider is a junior Mass Communications Public Relations major at the University of South Florida. Currently interning with Green Locus Yoga, Meredith gets to combine her love for writing with her love of yoga! You can follow Meredith on Twitter.


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