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The Problem 


"Using geo-mapping software, we superimposed the distribution of yoga studios on a map of Boston showing income levels by zip code. With few exceptions, yoga studios were predominantly located in neighborhoods where mean resident income was greater [dark green] then the city average and absent in [light green] areas where income was lower than the median." With few exceptions, yoga studioes were predominant located in neighborhoods where mean resident income was greater than the city average and absent in areas where income was lower than the median." - Robert Saper, MD, Mph Integrative Medicine and Health Disparities, January 1, 2016.

The target communities for future hosts of Mandela Yoga include areas with chronic disease prevalence and poverty. Included are geographic concentration of public housing, homeless shelters, medical clinics, senior center, houses of worship, and also the absence of services such as banking, healthy food sources, well-maintained public parks, and yoga. 


We envision a world where those affected by the American public health crisis of racism are empowered to heal their own communities with the proven integrative health benefits and emotional wellbeing of yoga that is offered - without regard to income - where they live, work, worship, and play.

MYP is an early-stage systems design approach centering the lived experience of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, (BIPOC). We are gathering practitioners and healers of color along with researchers, public health experts, and medical professionals to design a new, evidence-based system of yoga - Mandela Yoga - and a new teacher training program for residents of public health crisis communities. To deliver Mandela Yoga, we will build a national network of independent, affiliated, free yoga classes that will be taught by a cadre of well-trained, well compensated, and well-supported teachers of color. 

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Created for people like the founder's late sister - a curvy black woman who died of complications from diabetes - and named for Nelson Mandela (who transcended his circumstances), Mandela Yoga project was launched in 2018 by Jeffrey Thomas after he found yoga helped him achieve a 50-pound weight loss and control of his own diabetes and hypertension.  

Born in 1960s Mississippi to Civil Rights activists (a preacher and a teacher) he recalls the way his community, grounded in the church, gathered resources and cared for each other through difficult times. This model of neighbors finding solutions for neighbors inspired the MYP model - one that centers black, indigenous, and people of color a healers of the stressors of poverty, racialized trauma and racism that result in disproportionate burdens of chronic disease and mortality.

What is a Mandala?


A Mandala is a spiritual symbol of self reconciliation, through self exploration and forgiveness we can return back to our center, our whole self. 


What is a Mandela Mandala?


A Mandela Mandala — named for Nelson Mandela — represents unity, a collective of leaders committed to providing brave spaces for people of color and others of courage to heal through mindful movement.  It is through the practice of coming back to wholeness that we become empowered to transcend all circumstances — including racism and white supremacy



Regardless of income, people

affected by the American public

health crisis of racism have access

to the health and wellness benefits

of yoga offered by teachers with whom they can relate in the

places where they live, work,

worship, and play. 

Increased Community Resilience

through greater self-efficacy 

around better health and well


Improved physical health, 

particularly the chronic conditions

that predispose people of color to

higher morbidity and mortality

from diseases like COVID-19. 

Improved opportunity for community residents. 

Improved mental health and 

emotional wellbeing over well-

documented challenges

stemming from Adverse Childhood 

Experiences, racism, and poverty.

Lower health care costs for providers and residents. 

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