Yoga Gangsters pose new path for at-risk youths

On Sept. 28, more than 150 people got together at the DavidBartonGym in Suite 200 at Tivoli Village, 410 S. Rampart Blvd., and performed 108 sun salutation yoga positions. Their goal was to raise money for and awareness of Yoga Gangsters, a charitable organization with branches across the country that bring yoga to at-risk youths.

“One hundred and eight is an auspicious number,” said Sin City Yoga owner Angelica Govaert, who organized the event. “There are 108 beads on a mala.”

A mala is an accessory used by Hindus or Buddhists for prayer.

Sin City Yoga is at 515 Rose St., and Govaert brought the charity here 18 months ago from Miami, where she had lived and worked. The charity was formed there, and the Las Vegas branch is already the second-largest.

“We have 21 volunteer instructors, and we’re getting ready to have certification classes that should bring in more,” Govaert said “We offer the programs to students for free to different at-risk groups.”

Govaert said the venues that host Yoga Gangsters classes include the Shannon West Homeless Youth Center, 1417 Las Vegas Blvd. North, local high schools, The Center and the Miley Achievement Center, 245 N. Pecos Road.

“We may be at the Juvenile Detention Center soon,” Govaert said. “We’re working on the paperwork.”

Govaert believes that Yoga Gangsters helps people learn new life skills that might lead them away from paths that are destructive to themselves and society.

“They learn how to control their mind and therefore their body,” Govaert said. “The kids enjoy it. It’s exercise, and there’s a little bit of a spiritual aspect to it.”

Steven Lubarsky, regional manager for several DavidBartonGym locations on the West Coast, Hawaii and Las Vegas, attended the Sept. 28 event and was struck by the positive energy and enthusiasm. After 108 sun salutations, participants didn’t appear tired but seemed invigorated, he said.

“They let out a big whoop when they were through,” Lubarsky said. “They were a great group, and we were happy to have them here, and we look forward to this being an annual event.”

Last year, the fundraising event raised $3,000 and drew about 60 people. This year, the event raised more than $14,000, according to a preliminary tally. Yoga studios from across the valley formed teams to participate in the sun salutations and to raise money for the charity. The top fundraisers were awarded vacation packages.

“The event helps the kids, which is great, but it also brings people together from the yoga community all across the valley.” Govaert said. “There’s lots of competition between yoga studios, but the event allows them to come together and make new connections and new friends and realize we’re all one.”

People interested in volunteering with Yoga Gangsters must attend a three-day outreach and at-risk certification course. The next session is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct 25 and 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 26 and 27 at Sin City Yoga. The tuition is $299. For more information, visit yogagangsters.com.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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