Changing a Life and Generational Transformation: The Real Value of Niroga

Every week, the Niroga Institute directly uplifts thousands of lives in the Bay Area through outreach and yoga classes. Less apparent, though, is the extent to which Niroga's work is an investment: positive change can propagate through the generations in a way that results in huge long-term savings to society.

Take Shelly Smith*. She has just finished Niroga's Integral Health Fellowship Certified Yoga Teacher Training, and this fall, she will be attending U.C. Berkeley—the first out of both sides of her family to go to college. When Shelly was 16, though, doing Ecstasy and other drugs, and failing most of her classes, she never thought she would live past 18, not to mention finishing high school or the future.

That, however, was before she began taking the "Transformative Life Skills" (TLS) classes offered by Niroga at her high school. TLS combines breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga into a program that improves students' personal well-being as well as their self-control and stress levels.

"It was one of the best things I ever did," she told Viji Sundaram, the Health Editor from New America Media, in a conversation they had last January.

Professor Cecilia Rouse of Princeton University estimated in 2007 that the average cost of a high school dropout to society is $260,000.  This is stark contrast to the relatively low cost of providing Shelly with the Niroga classes that changed her life. Between her TLS classes at the high school and the 2-year yoga teacher training, the total Niroga dollars invested in Shelly was $5000.  The upper bound on Social Return On Investment for engaging Shelly alone in Niroga's TLS comes out to 52 ($260,000/$5000), or 5200%.

Economic benefits to society do not stop there: Shelly, as the first to attend college in her family, has begun to break the cycle of disappointment and incarceration in her family—she told Sundaram last year, "My mom hated me […] and my dad was constantly in and out of jail." Shelly, along with others like her who have had their lives transformed by TLS, will in turn change the course of their children's lives, and their children's children's lives.

*Not her real name