Inhale, exhale. Jasmine Cintron is the Program Manager at Bent on Learning, a nonprofit that brings yoga to students as part of their school day. The New York City native worked as a Bent on Learning yoga instructor before becoming Program Manager. Bent on Learning has brought yoga to over 22,000 kids across New York City since its 2001 founding.
Can you tell us about the youth that you work with?
Normally we operate in 16 schools, but everything has transitioned to virtual learning because of the pandemic. We work with students ages pre-K through 12th grade right in the classroom with them. Bent on Learning is unique in that yoga is incorporated into the school day and serves as a critical part of their education. It’s so great to bring yoga and mindfulness into so many different communities and classrooms. Seeing students’ eyes light up when they learn a new pose is a really beautiful experience. In 2021, we are starting a teacher training program for teenagers so that they can teach the younger grades and be leaders for their communities.
How do you think yoga transforms young lives?
I have seen children become more resilient, more confident, and more concentrated as a result of yoga. Yoga improves kids’ socioemotional learning, which in turn helps to improve academic performance. I’ve been able to see the benefits of yoga in so many small, beautiful ways. Kids are able to learn breathing techniques to calm themselves down and are able to use yoga as a way to be imaginative and playful. They learn how to be in tune with their emotions to identify and verbalize how they’re feeling instead of acting out. When I was a teacher, I worked mainly in the Bronx which is my hometown. Being able to teach yoga in my own community allowed me to see the true difference yoga makes in people’s lives.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love talking to new people, and I love talking to them about yoga, and this job lets me do both of those things. I’m able to connect with teachers, parents, kids, and families to share how yoga and mindfulness can be beneficial. Bringing this joy to my own community in the Bronx and in other inner city schools allows me to share the message that yoga is for everyone, regardless of their background. Experiencing both the teacher side and the programming side has helped me to expand the work we do and grow into new areas. Change is able to happen when students, teachers, administrators, and community members all come together, and that is able to happen through yoga.
What advice do you have for young professionals who want to make a difference in the world?
More than anything, it’s important to stay true to yourself. What are your values? What issues do you care about? If you want to make lasting change, you have to determine the mission, organization, and community you want to support. Be curious so that you can learn anything and everything possible, each stepping stone can be a learning stage if you let it. Ask a lot of questions, follow your intuition, and speak your mind. At the end of the day, what matters most is being confident in yourself and your values, not your titles or your money. Being yourself and knowing your values so that you can stand your ground to speak up is a beneficial skill regardless of what community you’re helping.