Philadelphia Yoga Teacher Brings Yoga to the Slums of Central America

A La Limonada student runs to hug Gina Stickney goodbye at the completion of her last trip. // Photograph by Rebecca Grant.

This summer, yoga instructor Gina Stickney is taking her skills as a teacher beyond Philadelphia. Stickney will be taking her fifth trip to Guatemala’s La Limonada, one of the largest urban slums in Central America, where she will be piloting a three-month yoga program as part of Lemonade International.

“Being able to see the impact that my volunteer work has made in the lives and relationships of the children is invaluable and life affirming for me,” says Stickney, who will be working with a group of kids in the area. “Whether it be walking through the streets and being greeted by locals, or toppled over by hugs from children, there is a warm, vibrant energy of gratitude and need that pulls me there.”

Lemonade International is a U.S. non-profit with a soul purpose to educate and empower the people of La Limonada. The organization works with two schools in the area, where Stickney will be teaching children ages 5-14. Their mission is to rescue the children from the gang culture, along with providing food, good hygiene, respect, love and scholarships for formal school, giving these children further opportunities they would not otherwise have.

“For La Limonada children, yoga is a passage to refuge from the slum’s destructive environment,” explains Stickney. “Yoga can be used for trauma, anxiety and restorative health. More than 80 percent of the children in the La Limonada schools suffer from trauma and extreme abuse, along with compromised space for safe play or relaxation. These children live in survival mode and are constantly on guard.”

The program, which Stickney named ‘Reach Up, Reach Out,’ will run from May 22 through August 19 of this summer. Until then, Stickney is reaching out to fellow Philadelphians and asking for support. She’ll be hosting a series of fundraisers, such as the upcoming donation-based evening yoga class this Friday at Dhanya Yoga of Rittenhouse. An event schedule, including a silent auction, for the fundraisers can be found here.

Stickney’s goal for the summer: “To create a refuge of peace, community empowerment, and sustainable relief and wellness for the children and teachers at the schools in La Limonada.”