Although Piedmont Yoga Community is an independent nonprofit organization, the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, CA played a very important part in its creation.
In 1996 Rodney Yee, who owned the Piedmont Yoga Studio at that time, offered his teacher training class the opportunity to teach yoga classes at the Cerebral Palsy Center in Oakland, CA. JoAnn Lyons volunteered, along with a couple of other people. Armed with some props donated by the yoga studio, they showed up each week and did their best to teach yoga to people with significant disabilities. At the end of the year the other teachers went their separate ways, but JoAnn couldn't leave. She saw changes in some of the students that she believed were due to the yoga class.
JoAnn and a couple of volunteers continued to teach the classes as well as add an additional women's disability class taught in a storefront room in downtown Oakland.
In 2002 Rodney Yee and Donna Fone purchased a building on Piedmont Avenue and turned it into a world-class yoga facility with a totally accessible downstairs studio and bathrooms. The women's class moved to the new studio and was soon followed by a second class for people with special needs. JoAnn was also able to have teacher trainings to teach other yoga teachers and caregivers how to teach people with disabilities.
In 2006 Richard Rosen stepped in to become the director of the studio and soon urged JoAnn to ask the Yoga Dana Foundation for a grant to help supplement the amount of money being brought in by her students. No one is ever turned away for lack of funds and so teachers and assistants were mostly volunteering their time.
The same situation was soon to happen with Cheryl Fenner Brown who began teaching a Living with Cancer class in 2008. Piedmont Yoga was contacted by a local organization that matched cancer patients with yoga studios willing to allow the patients to attend free classes. Piedmont Yoga had Cheryl Fenner Brown on staff who had begun her training as a yoga therapist and decided to create a class around this need. The Yoga for People Living with Cancer program was born in July of 2008 at Piedmont Yoga in Oakland. Additional classes were added at 4th Street Yoga in Berkeley from May 2009 until November 2009 and at Alameda Yoga Station from January 2010 to December 2010. Classes continued at Piedmont Yoga in Oakland until December of 2010. After a brief hiatus, classes resumed at the Cancer Support Community of the San Francisco Bay Area in September of 2011 and Cheryl continues to teach two weekly classes as well as a monthly Yoga Nidra class at this facility. Since 2012, programs have been developed at the Cancer Support Community studying how yoga reduces cancer treatment side-effects and in 2014 we will be conducting a fully-funded research project.
Yoga Dana generously agreed to grant an amount that would help pay the teachers, assistants, and a small amount of rent to the host studio. The one hitch was that Yoga Dana was bound by law to distribute their grants only to non-profit corporations. And so, in July of 2009, Piedmont Yoga Community was incorporated. On November 22, 2009 Piedmont Yoga Community became a 501(c)(3) organization.
In January 2012, Piedmont Yoga Community began providing yoga classes at Clausen House, a day program for people with development disabilities, located in Oakland. Lin Maxwell teaches weekly classes there. Clausen House would love to add a second class, but funding remains an issue.
Continuous generous grants from Yoga Dana Foundation have supported our ongoing classes for people with disabilities and special needs and people living with cancer. In 2014 PYC was awarded another grant from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation to allow JoAnn to do her teacher trainings for people with disabilities around the country as well as fund a research project that Cheryl is conducting around the benefits of yoga during cancer treatments. We are very excited about these new projects. Another grant has been awarded to PYC from the Glenview Woman's Club. We continue to seek out more grants to help us support and expand the work that PYC is committed to.