Prison Yoga Project Receives $50,000 Grant from lululemon

Friends and supporters, we’re overjoyed to share with you that Prison Yoga Project was named as a 2022 recipient of the Here to Be Grant from the lululemon Centre for Social Impact. And we want to let you know about how these funds will help us further our mission to support incarcerated people with trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices—and how you can help!

Launched in 2021, the lululemon Centre for Social Impact and its grants support non-profit organizations and registered charities that provide inclusive access to movement, mindfulness, and connection to strengthen their respective communities.

“We’ve been applying for and receiving grants from lululemon for several years as they’ve evolved in their offering,” says PYP’s Assistant Director Nicole Hellthaler. “It began with grants for books and scholarships for our training and has evolved into flexible funding to support our resilience as an organization.”

When applying for the 2022 Here to Be Grant, PYP requested and was awarded, $50,000 to support Core Team salaries, which Hellthaler explains will directly impact the number of yoga programs and trainings we can deliver and the number of people we serve.

“We’re currently only scratching the surface of reaching the amount of incarcerated folx who are interested in practicing yoga and mindfulness,” she says, adding that “we are just at the beginning of the creation of tools for correctional staff and are working tirelessly to meet the compassionate demand of new facilitators who are eager to start programs. We can’t do any of this without our Core Team, and we have to expand our Core Team to meet demand.”

Hellthaler became involved with PYP after learning about restorative and transformative justice while writing a paper for a program planning class at the Clinton School of Public Service. “I was a burnt-out Teach for America alum seeking a different approach to social justice,” she shares. “I was also—and still am—an avid yogi. I don’t quite remember when it came to me, but I had a hunch to Google the phrase “prison yoga.” That led to connecting with Prison Yoga Project and deciding to work with them for my Capstone project.

With a stipend from her school, she attended a PYP training in Amsterdam in 2018, where she met PYP founder James Fox. After, she flew to California to visit prisons and jails in San Diego and met current Executive Director Bill Brown. “This led to my first role as the national program manager,” she says. “During this time, I also completed my 200-hour yoga teacher certification and started programs at local jails in Little Rock, Arkansas, [where] I also provided weekly yoga classes.”

Today, as PYP’s Assistant Director, Hellthaler supports ongoing programs and program development, grants, monitoring and evaluation of programs, and strategic planning and works to grow PYP’s capacity and infrastructure. As such, she played a key role in applying for, receiving, and utilizing the Here to Be Grant. 

“We’re very grateful for the growing support from lululemon and proud to be included in their cohort of organizations committed to this work. Knowing this was a global grant application, I was hopeful but feared we might not be selected this year. There were over 700 applications for this grant, and 71 organizations were granted from over 13 countries.” (You can view a list of all recipients here.)

But as Hellthaler reminds us, we still have a long way to go. “We’re fortunate to have added a Program Director to our Core Team at the start of this year, but to truly support our growing program list and demand for services, we still need to expand our team over the next few years to include regional coordinators, additional training staff, and other critical roles for a growing organization, such as HR and administrative positions. Therefore, we are in need of increased financial support from individuals, grants, and private philanthropy to meet our annual growth goals and increase the number of people we serve each year.”

Hellthaler adds that “because there’s always the chance in the future that we may not receive grants that we currently rely on, it’s [important] to diversify our revenue.

If you’re in a position to give to Prison Yoga Project, it’s always appreciated (you can do so here). Hellthaler mentions that recurring monthly donations are especially helpful if they’re within someone’s means.

However, she clarifies that financial giving is not the only way to help. “Engaging with our community resources, such as trainings, webinars, and podcasts is a great way to show support. And sharing these with your community helps us spread awareness of our mission and grow our movement!”

If you’re interested in enrolling in one of our trainings, you can do so here.

We’re energized for what’s on the horizon for 2023, and we are grateful for you—our community—and your continued support!

This blog was a contribution from Kat Heagberg.

Kat Heagberg Rebar (eRYT-500) (she/her/they/them) is the Department Chair of Yoga Studies at Pacific College of Health and Science, author of Yoga Inversions: Your Guide to Going Upside Down (Shambhala, 2023), co-author of co-author of Yoga Where You Are with Dianne Bondy (Shambhala, 2020), co-editor of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition’s anthology Embodied Resilience Through Yoga (Llewellyn, 2022) and the former editor in chief of Yoga International. Kat currently teaches yoga, ballet, and barre classes in Los Angeles and co-hosts the yoga true crime podcast Dark Side of the Mat with Justine Mastin. She will happily sacrifice a night of sleep to perform in an improv or variety show with her spouse Kyle any day of the week. Visit her at or on Instagram at @katheagberglar