Yoga in the Hood

Green Tea Yoga Meditation Foundation is located on Western Ave. and hoping to make a change in the community

Yoga has been found to be an excellent source for body toning, weight loss and overall health.

Photos courtesy of Eva Allen

Green Tea Yoga Meditation Foundation is helping Crenshaw zen out.

When Green Tea Yoga Meditation Foundation set their eyes on a site for their new business, the overlooked community of South Los Angeles was their target.

Located at 8227 S. Western Avenue in Los Angeles, GTYMF feels that because other places are so far away, they can make a difference because the studio is within walking distance for the residences and is donation-based.

“I looked on Google to see what the area offered and there was one on Crenshaw and 54th Street and one in Inglewood,” said founder and executive director, Raja Michelle.  “But in Santa Monica, Hollywood and Silverlake, you have a good twenty different options.”

Despite the bad rap and negative happenings in the area, Michelle believes that being in the heart of the hood is what makes it special.

“You look outside and see the cops or people high on something, but I feel like I was guided,” said Michelle.  “I heard a voice and it made sense.”

Michelle stated that while it was difficult deciding to do a non-profit because of the paperwork, it became clear that she has an obligation to help others by sharing her experience of yoga and meditation and to make it financially accessible.

“I didn’t have the capital and there was no way I could have gotten a loan,” said Michelle.  “Since most business is about money or profit, a non-profit has to be heartfelt.  It’s not about money, but what I term ‘heart movement.'”

“We’re not here to enable anyone,” said Jen Deraspe, president of the board.  “The thing about what we’re offering is that we can help others help themselves.”  Furthermore, Deraspe said it makes her uncomfortable when people don’t contribute or think it’s free because GTYMF doesn’t want to enable that attitude.

Since opening their doors in March 2013, GTYMF is seeing a slow but consistent growth in attendance from residents who have long desired to take classes and who have been encouraged to do so for health reasons.

“My blood pressure readings have dropped twenty points and my cholesterol has gone way down,” said local resident, Valerie Merical.

Toya Hackett said her doctor suggested she try yoga to reduce her stress and to help her with her Multiple Sclerosis.

“My blood pressure is always about 175 and on the verge of stroke,” said Hackett.  “I don’t believe in a lot of pharmaceutical drugs so my doctor recommended yoga.”

Deraspe said the type of yoga they teach is more of a mindful concept.  “Hatha is a general term for physical yoga,” she said.

Green Tree also offers children’s camp programs and women’s dance and hopes to be the seed money for future outreach programs such as health care clinics and organic food farming.

“Our mission,” said Michelle, is to offer yoga and meditation to the South Los Angeles community and beyond regardless of income allowing that which connects us to flourish and to dissolve that which separates us.”

For more information, visit or call: 310-710-0744.

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