Last month, we hosted a search for inspiring women who are making a positive impact in her community while pursuing a health-related goal as part of our 2nd Unbreakable Awards. This year, we’re proud to have awarded Nicole Cardoza, Founder of Yoga Foster with the award. Learn more about her and Yoga Foster below, as well as how you can get involved in bringing mindfulness techniques to a public school near you!
Q: You gave a TedX Talk, and spoke about how you struggled to focus in a classroom setting. And part of that was because you outplaced your peers—in the kindergarten you were learning at a third grade level—but when you got to college, you started thinking that maybe the problem wasn’t that kids couldn’t pay attention, it was that no one had ever taught them how.
Can you elaborate on that moment, or moments, and how that lead to the beginning of Yoga Foster?
A: I’m inspired by the opportunity to empower children with tools for self-awareness. Through mindfulness and yoga in schools, students learn to look inwards and be more present in the everyday – which is especially important in a high-stress, high-stimuli learning environment.
Q: How does the Yoga Foster program help teach kids to be mindful? And why is the movement, or practice, of yoga so important to the ability to be mindful?
A: Our programs are focused on empowering educators with tools to effectively deliver movement and mindfulness into the classroom. Through their instruction, students learn that this practice isn’t just something that people do, but a way people can be. The practice of yoga is powerful because it gives us a space to practice being ourselves, to listen to our bodies, and dive inwards.
Q: In an article published in Self magazine in 2015, it says you’d helped around 2,500 kids. And in a recent article, where you were named one of Forbes 2017 “30 under 30” in Education, it said you’d helped around 20,000 students in 39 states.
That’s a huge accomplishment to have made in just two short years. How did you prioritize growing Yoga Foster in those years?
A: Our intention has been to grow with intention and learn along the way. As our program expands, we can gather more data on our program’s effectiveness in diverse school communities, which teaches us how to be more flexible and responsive to teacher needs at scale.
Q: You teach children how to stay mindful, but running Yoga Foster has to be stressful or overwhelming at times. How do you stay mindful?
A: I return back to my practice, stay patient with myself and integrate breaks into the day for myself and my team.
Q: In your TedX Talk, you said of children, “What they need to do is have the opportunity to go home and remind themselves that they can become what they deserve to be and not what other people think that they can achieve.” As a woman of color, who is also a founder, how important is that message to the Yoga Foster program? Why?
A: There’s plenty of people who think they can decide our destiny, but that’s always – always – our choice alone. Through introspection and self-awareness, we can strengthen that muscle to speak for ourselves in a positive, optimistic sense.
Q: What is your hope or plan for Yoga Foster? What will growth and success look like to you?
A: Our goal is to fully connect the 50+ million people that practice wellness with the 50+million public school students in the U.S. who can’t. That means local support from communities in every state in the country, more teachers practicing with their students, and an evolved definition of the power of mindful practice.
Q: Do you have any quick tips for anyone—any moms—who might be reading this article and wondering how they can help their child learn mindfulness through yoga? (homework time can be stressful for kids and parents). Or maybe you have some tips for how they might get the Yoga Foster program into their child’s school?
A: Parents that are interested in bringing this to their children’s school should recommend their teacher to enroll here: yogafoster.org/recommend
Watch Nicole’s TEDx talk: