Maybe non-judgement is a tough one for her job, but she makes up for it on her mat. Every last Friday of the month, a Florida judge drops the robe and gavel to lead a free and public yoga class on the lawn right outside the courthouse.


Duval County Court Judge Eleni Derke started yoga a few years ago as a way to help her Crohn’s disease and has credited the practice with changing her life. Now she’s taking what she’s learned and sharing it with others.

Talk about staying balanced, right? Who could need it more than a judge?

Maybe everyone she works with, even if they’re kinda jerks about it. According to Derke, the bailiffs tease her about yoga.

“It’s kind of hard to convince people to do it, and that it’s good for you,” Derke told The Florida Times-Union.

Still, Derke is not shy about inviting the jury to stand up for a stretch and some deep breaths during long trials. And several of her students who do show up for the Friday lunchtime classes are lawyers and paralegals. “This is the No. 1 stress reliever, right here, right now,” says Jodi Seitlin, an attorney and yoga student, via the Times-Union.

Derke—an accidental immigrant who was basically stranded in the U.S. with her family after Turkey invaded her native Cyprus in 1974 and destroyed her hometown—began a new American life at the age of 12 with little more than a suitcase. She’s visited Cyprus since, but has never been able to see her hometown because it’s fenced off and dilapidated. Derke eventually became an American citizen, then in 1994 she became a judge. And since 2014 she’s been teaching yoga. Derke currently leads the free yoga class the last Friday of every month.

How awesome is it that a judge offers to teach yoga? We think that more should follow suit. Let’s get the whole judicial system taking a few long. deep. breaths.


Here is Eleni Derke digging out spare yoga mats from the trunk of her car in case any of her students need them. | photo: Bob Self/Florida Times-Union