photo by @vitasocial
It is hard to believe that this little non profit started because of the people Christina enjoys serving. A community that quickly embraced her as much as she embraced them as family.
Instructor Christina Andrini had no idea that her passion to share the gift of yoga would become a platform to deliver a service that so many needed. Beyond yoga, came family, support, community, spiritual growth, and acceptance. The journey of Jai Bhakti Yoga Foundation was a not all rainbows and unicorns. It had a very bumpy beginning...
Christina is a one woman show. From marketing, to teaching, to running 2 businesses, being a wife, a step-mom, and a pug mom, overcoming the loss of her companion of 18yrs, almost loosing her life in a near fatal accident in 2015, and having her entire life change before her very eyes, yoga became her only outlet, both personally and professionally.
She had been teaching on and off since 2011 in Florida, when her husband brought her and the kids over to New Orleans based on a military relocation. She didn't realize how drastically this move would impact her. Life in New Orleans was very different from what she was accustomed to in Florida. Not knowing anyone, and starting from scratch was a challenge for her and the kids, but "we made it work"... two days after her first experience of Mardi Gras, she was in a car accident on I-10 that nearly took her life. Her car was totaled, and by the grace of God she only suffered a concussion and knee injury. Looking at the vehicle, one would have thought otherwise. She has since never been behind the wheel of a car again. This accident became the biggest blessing in her life.
She soon lost her high paying job for not being able to make it to work anymore, and a few other painful losses. However, something inside her told her to never give up. She started to learn the bus system and the streetcar routes, which quickly woke her up to the lifestyle and culture of the New Orleanian way of life. She befriended the bus drivers and passengers and started to learn the ways of how people live and what their needs are. She began to see the poverty, homelessness, sick, hurting, and disadvantaged people that would share their stories with her.
Her first friend was a yoga teacher at her favorite yoga studio, Wild Lotus Yoga in Uptown, who encouraged her to take the teacher training there, which she did after a little time settling in to the city. Here, is where she met her new life long friends and received her 2nd 200hr TT Certification. To get herself back on track with teaching, after taking a year off, she decided to start a random Tuesday night class in beautiful City Park after her day job at 6pm. Little did she know, this would be the beginning of the company she now lives and breathes for.
She packed her little zebra bag of a few spare yoga mats, put a little facebook event and meet up event together, jumped on the bus and headed to the park to teach her class. 17 people showed up to her first class and she was completely surprised. Soon it turned into 36, 42, 55, and she had to move the class to a bigger space. Christina led this class week after week for Free until one of her students said she needs to start charging for this gift of helping people. So he gave her the first donation, which soon turned into many more donations weekly. Students started telling her about other needs and what her gifts would be able to help, and soon, she began teaching at a multitude of different places to honor the voices of the people.
Jai Bhakti Yoga soon formed because of the people and their needs and she was eager and willing to help out wherever she could. Her passion for yoga and seeing the lives of these individuals touched, inspired her to do more. Through the midst of the growth of JBY, she lost her love of 18yrs, her cat, that kept her alive, as Christina dealt with severe bouts of bipolar depression and suicide throughout her life. Her cat Boo, was her anchor, and loosing him was the most painful event in her life. Thankfully, the community she had been teaching too surrounded her with so much love, that she knew taking her life would be selfish and not worth it, when she was helping so many others overcome the same struggles she had been battling with beneath the skin.
Jai Bhakti Yoga Foundation became her new baby. She gave her heart and soul to it as she can relate with so many that suffer in silence and was able to be an anchor for them as Boo was for her. Yoga is a medicine for many and the students that come to her class mean everything to her. She makes it a point to meet and greet each student, learn about their lives, and genuinely finds a way to support them, even if its only through a smile or a kind word. Her love for community and her students is the driving force behind what she does.
In a world of so many non profit organizations in New Orleans, about 1.8million nationally, where does hers fit in? Christina's passion to restore lives, one mat, one person, one mission at a time stands out because she is a mobile service provider. She brings the practice to the under served and minority communities that other yoga studios aren't able to reach. She ensures that the practice of yoga is accessible to all bodies, all walks of life, from trauma, to veterans, to troubled teens, to forgotten elderly. She may not realize it, but she is creating a legacy in enriching the lives of the many people, thousands of people, she has touched, inspired, and hugged, along the way.
Her little nonprofit, is a 501c3 that she worked very hard to keep afloat, mostly with the little income she has made, sometimes sacrificing feeding herself, to make sure she is able to bring this practice to those who are hurting, or can't afford it. "As long as Boo can eat, I'm fine." is what she has said and now "As long as the people have their yoga, I am fine." Her commitment and sacrifice to ensuring that she keeps true to the mission of making yoga accessible through her mobile service, is what drives her each day to roll out her mat, and connect to a community that she too knows the dark shadows of thanks to her great losses and the people she has met along the way.
"From great ruin, comes great strength."- Eat, Pray, Love. This quote hits home as the city she gives her heart and soul too have been impacted by the great devastation of hurricane Katrina , and still cope with the trauma of that storm. With unshakable faith, they were able to overcome with great strength and rise above the rest, as she has overcome her personal traumas and devastation.
Jai Bhakti Yoga Foundation is a light in the storm. The horizon for some. It is the space where they feel supported and loved through the practice of yoga that helps get their minds right, bodies strong, and spirits lifted. "your class is my church." - Janice a student of hers has said, she continues... "I travel from the Northshore, just to take your class. I love you."
JBYF may be one of the millions of non-profits that pop up in New Orleans and beyond, but what makes her nonprofit different isn't just the powerful message and class she offers or the restorations and transformation that come out of the classes. What makes this little non profit different, yet fit in to the gumbo of New Orleans is as her husband and Board of Directors says...."it's her."