JUPITER, Fla. — Yoga, means different things to different people.
Inside the doors of Hamsa Power Yoga in Jupiter, studio co-owner Brittany McKay says for her it’s about healing— something she experienced while recovering from back surgery.
“What became a sometime hobby, became my life," said McKay, "and I would say that yoga saved my life.”
It’s also what got her into teaching and tapping into the South Florida community.
“Not because of the physical postures, not because of sweating or burning calories,” she said. “Yoga saved my life, because of the friends I made, because of the community that embraced me, while I was healing from a surgery that left me in a severe depression.”
Part of the village she built can be seen through people like Kiana Rivera.
"Brittany has a heart to serve and she is probably one of the most kind people I’ve met here,” said Rivera.
Rivera is one of McKay’s students and a volunteer at Hospitality Helping Hands— a nonprofit bringing essential aid to underprivileged groups including the homeless.
“Bringing awareness to the homeless community is really important and they feel almost invisible sometimes," Rivera emphasized, "and if we could just have a conversation with them and share with them that we’re here for them.”
Three years ago, McKay had a life-changing conversation after she ran into childhood friend James Moore in the most unexpected way.
“I was homeless on Palm Beach Lakes and I was holding a sign on I-95,” said Moore via FaceTime.
Moore said his life was derailed by addiction, and while McKay hasn’t experienced homelessness personally, she said she can identify with needing help.
“I know what it feels like to know you’re just hanging on by a thread and it takes one person to throw you a line and say I got you,” said McKay.
She gave Moore a hot meal and said she was shocked that only other things he asked for were toiletries.
That was the light bulb moment for her to create the Welcome Mat, a partnership with Hospitality Helping Hands.
As part of the program, the first Friday of every month instead of paying for your yoga class at Hamsa, you can donate toiletries, the donations then go on to help Hospitality Helping Hands.
Moore said what McKay saw as a small gesture, was enough for him to get his life back on track.
Three years later he’s sober, and employed as a construction foreman— from homeless to making homes.
“She’s amazing,” said Moore. “She’s the reason why I am where I am today. Without her, and few other friends, I probably wouldn’t be alive in this moment.”
McKay said she is just as grateful.
“Giving someone that sense of dignity through feeling clean by being able to shave that day or comb their hair," is just as much or more so yoga than being able to do a handstand.”
Making a difference on and off the mat.