Connect
To Top

Meet JoAnn Jaffe of OG Yoga

Today we’d like to introduce you to JoAnn Jaffe.

Thanks for sharing your story with us JoAnn. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was working in social services and noticed that there were lots of good programs yet none included a personal transformation teaching to support resilience, healing, self-development and positive social change. Yoga was handed down over 5,000 years ago in response to human suffering. I became passionate and then obsessed with bringing this practice to those in our community most in need- those who cannot access a yoga studio- those who have suffered from TRAUMA.

I created a non-profit project in the Fall of 2015 specializing in yoga for people who may benefit greatly from its practice but know nothing about yoga, are suspicious of yoga, or have no way to access yoga instruction either because of its accessibility or expense or their lack of freedom- for those facing daunting challenges in their lives – poverty, incarceration, homeless, on probation, low-vision/blind, living in a foster home, dealing with mental illness, battling a serious disease, or recovering from a traumatic injury/event. To bring a gentle step-by-step compassionate practice to those facing unimaginable stress which in turn is taking a toll on their physical, mental and emotional health.

I was personally touched by watching poverty, homelessness, violence, substance abuse and incarceration rates accelerate knowing that the root of the problem is TRAUMA. If programs are not working to fix the trauma they are not working on the right thing. We need to fix the hole in the soul as Oprah Winfrey states!

With my previous corporate MBA experience in business followed by my experience in working in the field helping our most vulnerable and marginalized communities find housing, jobs and supportive services, combined with my own personal healing through yoga, I saw a need – A big need.

What if I started a non-profit project, with the mission to deliver trauma-informed mindfulness-based yoga through partnerships with non-profit organizations and correctional facilities with the belief in the power of yoga and knowing that specially trained instructors make a positive difference in many lives?

What if we recruited, vetted and compensated experienced yoga instructors who embody compassion, patience and tolerance and provided specialized training with the goal of empowering those who have experienced trauma to reconnect with their bodies. Their Original Greatness- their OG- their special gifts and talents that they have been experienced and habituated away from?

As a matter of fact- aren’t the Buddha and BKS Iyengar original OG’s of yoga? Bringing the best personal transformational system, resulting in peace, joy and internal liberation to the masses- to everyone who hoped for a better life even when it was not politically correct?

Going against the stream of politics, status and wealth to make a healing system available to all? All roads led me to start OG Yoga- my education, my experience, my healing. My need to stop being a silent spectator watching homelessness, violence, substance abuse and incarceration rise and rise and rise.

What if by partnering with the systems serving at-risk populations OG Yoga could improve program graduation outcomes and reduce recidivism back into the systems. What if OG Yoga could reach and teach those in need, in a compassionate and invitational way, the tools to self-regulate and self-love?

This is why I am obsessed. OG Yoga is working and they want more!

Has it been a smooth road?
1. Partnering with the organizations serving our most needy populations is easy given my background, however, creating Fee for Service Agreements has been a challenge. All non-profit organizations are continually challenged with fundraising. As we complete our 3 year anniversary I am pleased to report we are making headway with bringing on new partnerships on a fee for service basis. Research is substantiating that trauma can be overcome through yoga.

OG Yoga recruits, vets, compensates and trains highly experienced instructors. We are not a volunteer organization because the needs of those we serve are extremely complex. OG Yoga is a non-profit project fiscally sponsored by Mission Edge Tax ID#27-2938491 with an annual operating budget that must be raised each and every year.

2. Advocating awareness for trauma-informed mindfulness-based yoga training and instruction to have the skills and knowledge to enhance and deepen ability to truly help those in need. With nearly 3 years under our belt of direct services with 25 partnerships, 2,000 students and 500 classes we are getting there!

3. Fundraising- Fundraising- Fundraising! Generating the funding needed for operations is on-going and we continue to gain momentum. We are the proud recipients of annual here to be corporate gifts from Lululemon and Lululemon hosted yoga event series to benefit OG Yoga.

OG Yoga is launching an innovative 200-Hour Service Yoga Teacher Training School (SYTTS) that will improve the quality of its services and increase its capacity to deliver these services. The goal of the Service Yoga Teacher Training School (SYTTS) is to train and sustain the delivery of trauma-­informed yoga through the systems that serve those in need. SYTTS will address two needs: 1) cultivate and sustain an experienced and educated workforce of trauma-­informed yoga instructors.

Many yoga instructors wish to facilitate trauma-­sensitive yoga as an adjunctive treatment for trauma survivors and SYTTS will provide them with a framework for modifying yoga to meet the needs of survivors of trauma. SYTTS will also provide an earned revenue source to support OG Yoga’s non­profit work.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with OG Yoga – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
OG Yoga is not a regular yoga studio. Its emphasis is on bringing a practice that has been helping people for more than 5,000 years to at-risk individuals. It seeks opportunities to work with challenging populations, believing in the power of yoga and knowing that its specially trained instructors can make a positive difference in many lives.

One example of our work is that immediately following the horrific shootings in Las Vegas, OG Yoga was asked to lead a 2-hour Trauma Workshop for victims to provide tools to begin healing from suffering, depression, isolation and PTSD. There are many people of all ages who face challenges in their lives that cause physical, mental and emotional problems. Many of these people can be helped through the practice of yoga.

OG Yoga collaborates with numerous organizations that work with at-risk individuals.

For example, OG Yoga’s collaboration with Integrity Charter School and the Boys & Girls Clubs Payne Family Branch is helping to change the status quo through trauma-informed and mindfulness-based yoga for children. Adverse childhood experiences, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders are significant risk factors for substance abuse and can impact prevention efforts. They are strongly related to the development of physical and mental health problems throughout a person’s lifespan.

When someone is exposed to chronic stressful events, neuro-development can be disrupted. As a result, cognitive functioning or ability to cope with negative or disruptive emotions may be impaired. Over time, people may adopt negative coping mechanisms.

Eventually, these unhealthy coping mechanisms can contribute to disease, disability, and social problems, as well as premature mortality. OG Yoga teaches at The Braille Institute weekly and has partnered with the California Association of Orientation and Mobility Specialist to deliver a special two-hour workshop on Yoga for the blind and visually-impaired.

OG Yoga’s goals are to:
• Introduce people of all ages to the practice of yoga, its history and potential benefits;
• Engage men, women and children in the practice of yoga to reduce stress and increase resilience;
• Provide positive role models to those who have had few in their personal lives;
• Improve the physical, emotional and mental health of at-risk individuals so that they are better able to deal with the challenges they face every day;
• Advocate for the use of trauma-informed and mindfulness-based yoga;
• Educate the public about the value of yoga as a stress-reducing, health-improving practice.

To address the needs of at-risk people, trauma-sensitive yoga is supportive and self-paced for students to make choices. OG Instructors minimize triggers, use compassionate language, adapt poses, and incorporate meditation and mindfulness. Yoga can reduce violence, homelessness, substance abuse, and incarceration. 

OG Yoga programs are taught by Yoga Alliance certified instructors with 200+ hours of teaching experience.

They receive specialized training for at-risk populations in many areas, including trauma-informed programming for low-vision/blind, youth, seniors and adults facing homelessness, poverty, abuse, addiction, behavioral challenges, incarceration, and reentry.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
What I like best about San Diego is how awesome of a city it has grown up to be. The downtown community is vibrant and diverse with walkable surrounding neighborhoods.

San Diego is spectacularly beautiful with its harbors and beaches. Within one mile you could be on top of a mountain, or hiking in a desert, or traveling in Mexico! I love the neighborhood restaurants, Petco Park, the Downtown Library, the symphony, Balboa Park and our Theatres. The Coaster Train and Uber make traveling around San Diego and up the coast great fun.

What I dislike about San Diego is its lack of accessible public transportation throughout all of San Diego. The crowded highways and timing must always be considered when driving from one area of San Diego to another. Oh, how I wish we had a transit system that could enable us to commute publicly.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Michele Zousmer, Sean O’Connell, Cara Polis

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Madeline Reynolds

    August 10, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Inspiring and wonderful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in