Transformation Yoga Project serves people impacted by trauma, addiction and incarceration through trauma-sensitive, mindfulness-based yoga. Participants develop skills to heal and navigate life with comfort and ease.
We believe in healing through empowerment. Transformation Yoga Project was founded on the belief that yoga is a tool for reengaging people with their bodies to restore the connection between mind, heart and body. We use a trauma-sensitive yoga practice to develop the whole person, increase sensitivity towards oneself and empathy towards others. We provide tools that allow individuals to embrace life in healthy ways, as they work through difficult situations. Our instructors are trained to understand and respect the culture of each population that we serve, in order to compassionately address the specific needs of that community.
- Expand our programs to serve additional at-risk populations
- Train yoga teachers and therapists to provide mindfulness programs for populations dealing with acute or chronic trauma
- Develop and implement programs to address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Create mechanisms to track the outcomes of mindfulness programs
- Raise awareness and create communities where participants can have access to safe, supportive and healthy mindfulness programs
In 2009, a guilty plea to a misdemeanor landed Mike Huggins in prison for nine months. It was hardly the outcome anyone would have anticipated for a man whose squeaky-clean reputation had earned him the nickname “St. Michael.”
Born into a middle-class Irish Catholic family, Mike knew the importance of family, a strong work ethic and a good education. After graduating from Villanova University, he earned his CPA and then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. With these credentials and an entrepreneurial spirit, Mike’s business career took off, and he quickly climbed the ranks into the C-suite.
However, in 2011, more than five years after the company he previously worked for had become embroiled in an investigation concerning a medical device that led to Mike’s misdemeanor conviction, Mike and three fellow executives were sentenced to prison. The high-profile case drew national media attention, and Mike’s world unraveled in the blink of an eye. He was whisked to the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia and later Lewisburg Federal Prison Camp.
As he marked the slow passage of time within the confines of prison, Mike struggled to cope mentally, physically and emotionally. Little did he know the yoga he had practiced and taught some years before would turn out to be his salvation. Mike tapped into yoga with a passion and discovered it provided a vehicle for growth in the most unlikely place. It was a tangible way to find comfort in an uncomfortable situation and enabled him to clearly see the best and worst of the human spirit. Most importantly, it gave him the opportunity to return to his core, to his true self, and follow the direction of his heart. That’s when Mike started a grassroots effort that evolved into a comprehensive yoga program within the prison.
Mike first introduced basic exercise and poses, and ultimately meditation, inward reflection, emotional intelligence and men’s discussion groups. At first some inmates were resistant to yoga and the self-reflection it entailed, but then many experienced the benefits it offered, including impulse control, as well as coping mechanisms for the aggression, antisocial behavior and substance abuse problems commonly reported among incarcerated populations. The common yoga themes of self-acceptance and self-compassion were embraced.
Upon his release in 2012, Mike declined some lucrative offers to return to the corporate world and instead founded the Transformation Yoga Project. Today, the non-profit focuses on “Healing through Empowerment” by teaching yoga to people facing difficult circumstances, and teaching others how to help bring the meditative practice of yoga to prisoners, veterans and those struggling with addiction.
Mike has dedicated his time and passion to demystifying yoga by breaking down the powerful and positive aspects of the practice in a straightforward manner that at-risk populations can relate to. Specially trained in applying yoga practices for addiction recovery and trauma-related issues, Mike is a frequent speaker in both the yoga and business community presenting tools for self-empowerment and the power of yoga as tool for rediscovering your true self. A registered yoga instructor (200 E-RYT) who has been practicing since 2003, He has studied yoga and meditation extensively with highly respected teachers at Kripalu, Omega and other notable organizations. He remains active in teaching yoga in prisons, as seen in the Huffington Post, as well as CBS, FOX and NBC News affiliates. He is also a contributor to several books focused on best practices for teaching trauma informed yoga and mindfulness to under-served populations. Mike has been on the board of several non-profits in the greater Philadelphia area, as well as Liberation Prison Yoga in New York City.
Transformation Yoga Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose activities are funded through contributions from individuals and organizations.
We have active programs running concurrently in numerous facilities throughout the greater Philadelphia area including addiction treatment centers, prisons and VA hospitals, as well as, community programs hosted at local yoga studios and community centers. Each program is tailored to the specific needs of the participants and staffed by instructors trained to teach trauma-sensitive yoga. We also provide special training for yoga teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in working with people who have been impacted by trauma.