There is a belief in yoga that the practice is for everyone. After all, the essence of yoga is all about strength, healing, and peace – and who couldn’t use a bit more of those, right? Unfortunately, as yoga becomes more and more synonymous with upscale gear, boutique gyms, and the likes of handstand pigeons and chakra bonds, the universality of yoga can get a bit lost in the mix from time to time. But with her new platform BoHo Yogo, actress (you may have seen her on Law and Order: SVU) and yogi Tabitha Holbert has found a new way to bring the transformative power of yoga to those who might need it the most – making good on yoga’s promise of inclusivity.
The Yoga Bug
A Texas native, Tabitha first started practicing yoga back in 2006, when her main goal in taking up the practice was slimming down her “pudgy” physique.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to get fit and sexy,’ and literally just started,” says Tabitha. At the time, she didn’t know much about yoga besides the vinyasa flow, something she suspects most people can relate to. But the more she got into the form of exercise, the more she learned about the practice.
About three years into doing yoga, Tabitha began practicing recuperative yoga after her therapist recommended the form of yoga as a way to deal with some personal struggles. As a form of yoga, recuperative yoga is way more about recovery than anything else.
“You still have the asana and the regular poses,” says Tabitha, “but it’s way more gentle. The poses are slow, there’s a lot of mantra work and meditation, you’re connecting the breath with stillness. It’s a much more mindful meditative practice.”
Yoga for PTSD
It didn’t take long before Tabitha began to feel the positive effects of recuperative yoga. As someone who came from a tumultuous, abusive childhood where she and her sister were shuffled from house to house and brought up in conditions of extreme poverty, Tabitha had come to the practice with her fair share of demons. And incredibly, she began to feel the healing effects of the practice almost instantly, a process that really started with her own realization of the weight she was carrying around.
“I remember it was my second class, and the teacher was just giving me a slight adjustment and I realized that I held my breath because she put her hands on me,” says Tabitha. “And then I realized in a flash that every time somebody touches me, I stop breathing. That’s just how afraid I was. And that’s PTSD. People would get too close and I would hold my breath. I used to think that would make me invisible.”
Slowly from there, Tabitha felt herself begin to open up with each recuperative yoga session. But it wasn’t really until she attended a PTSD group meeting with a friend who had suffered a traumatic experience that the wheels began turning and Tabitha began seeing not just the potential, but the need, to help PTSD sufferers through recuperative yoga.
“I had done recuperative yoga and I knew it worked for me,” she says. “Then in this meeting with my friend, I saw myself in the war veterans there who had horrific stories. I saw myself in the other women there, and I was like, ‘Wow, these women can’t afford something that I know can work. I just kept thinking how I could get it to these women, and I realized that there was no program for that.”
Having come to that realization, Tabitha decided that with no program in place, she’d be the one to bring it to fruition.
One for One
Tabitha’s concept, which she dubbed BoHo Yogo, was to create something that would give recuperative yoga classes to individuals in shelters or suffering from PTSD free of charge. In her mind, it was all about creating access to yoga where it was lacking.
With the idea in place, Tabitha went about making the concept a reality, a process which involved a lot of self-instruction and how-to videos given Tabitha’s lack of experience in the tech field.
“I decided I was going to build a website,” says Tabitha, “but then I didn’t know how to build a website, so I watched a YouTube video, and went online and found places that teach coding. Then I was like, ‘I’m going to make an app, too.’”
As she worked on the site and the app though, Tabitha began realizing that there was a bit of a missing piece in BoHo Yogo’s puzzle.
“My idea was based on recuperative yoga teachers volunteering their time,” she says. “But then I was like, ‘These teachers need to make money.’ And something in my mind shifted.”
Tabitha began looking for a way to build BoHo Yogo on a concept that was more sustainable. Her fear was that depending on volunteering would make it difficult for teachers who may want to volunteer their time but not always be able to do it. With that in mind, she began thinking about creating something that prescribed to the one-for-one business model, by which BoHo Yogo would offer paid, easy-to-schedule on demand yoga classes, each session of which would essentially pay for the teacher to instruct a free class for someone at a partner shelter, as well.
“That’s why the classes are $125,” says Tabitha, who knows that each BoHo Yogo class comes with a bit of a hefty price tag, but stands by it because of what that money actually covers. “It literally pays for your class, and it pays to send a teacher over to a shelter.”
A Visible Change
As BoHo Yogo takes off, Tabitha hopes that the app can give those who need it most the transformative help of recuperative yoga that she has experienced herself. For her, in addition to building physical and mental strength, the practice is really about reminding those with PTSD or who have suffered abuse of their own worth, an affirmation that is often lost through the experiences that many of these individuals have had to face. That’s why one of the biggest focuses of BoHo Yogo is on helping people recognize and assess their inner monologue; to acknowledge how they speak to themselves, and to change that voice for the better.
“Are you gentle with yourself?” says Tabitha. “Do you encourage yourself? A lot of us, if you think about it, don’t do that. But that inner monologue is just so important to propel yourself forward. That, ‘do what you can do today’ idea is very important.”
And already, Tabitha has had the pleasure of seeing BoHo Yogo touch and transform lives in exactly the way she continues to hope it can.
“There’s a woman who came up to me in our second week of bookings and she was like, ‘I just want you to know that this is the first time that I’ve ever felt strong in my life,’” says Tabitha. “And it’s true, you do feel strong.”
“One of the mantras is, ‘My body is my temple and my home, so wherever I go I am home.’ That is so important here because when women are abused or end up in shelters, they end up going home because they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s my home. I have to go home.’ Or like, ‘Oh, I’m from Manhattan so I can’t leave,’ or ‘I’m from the Bronx, I can’t leave the Bronx.’ So you learn to be safe in your own skin. Like – you’re safe here. You’re home.”