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Black Mats Not Allowed

Posted By Vanderbilt Magazine On November 23, 2009 @ 9:59 pm In Fall 2009, The Classes | 1 Comment

Sarah Pohlmann Johnson, BS’97

Sarah Pohlmann Johnson, BS’97

SARAH POHLMANN JOHNSON, BS’97

When a woman leaves an abusive relationship for the protection of a domestic violence shelter, she has already made a courageous and often difficult first step. But how does she regain the power and control over her life that’s been stripped away by her abuser?

Sarah Pohlmann Johnson believes yoga is a great place to start.

An attorney who currently serves as general counsel for a small liberal-arts college, Johnson has founded a nonprofit organization based in Iowa called YogaG, whose purpose is to mobilize the resources, volunteers and corporate partners necessary to offer yoga instruction exclusively in domestic violence shelters.

“These women have come to a place where they’re ready to start changing their lives, to start healing,” Johnson says. “Yoga is especially beneficial to people who are looking for healing, strength and renewal.”

Two pilot sites—in Davenport, Iowa, and a suburb of Denver—are up and running, and at least 10 others are in the planning stages. Johnson hopes to expand nationwide as she continues to match volunteer yoga instructors with shelters who want the program. Brightly colored yoga mats, donated primarily from manufacturers, are given to all participants to symbolize a “vibrant new beginning.” Black mats are not allowed.

“With YogaG,” says Johnson, “my ultimate goal is for all women who come into domestic violence shelters to be offered the chance to explore yoga as part of their empowerment process—and that the offering of this service eventually will be a given.”


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