Can Acro Yoga Help Build Trust?

We believe yoga has the power to heal and strengthen individuals and in turn, transform whole communities. We work hard to increase access to yoga because we see this transformation on a daily basis through our students. We are honored that one of our student’s, Julia Bardof, took the time to share a part of her story with us and reflected on the ways acro yoga has changed her life.

“To say yoga has changed my life is an understatement. Yoga, Acro Yoga, and Thai medicine are now intertwined parts of my being. They have all played an integral part of my healing process on so many levels. Yoga has physically helped my symptoms from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, while mentally and emotionally helping me find more balance and peace.

When reflecting on the ways Acro Yoga has transformed my life, trust is one of the first words that come to mind. Acro Yoga provides a space for me to trust myself to get out of my own head and allow movement to happen. To trust another human to suspend me in the air, to fully support another human-being them safely to the ground, trusting the spotter has your back, should something go awry.

The initial trusting of each other’s strengths is one thing, but trusting another human on a deeper level, that takes time to cultivate. To truly connect with another human in that moment to create a fluid movement together. To know that you are not alone. This is where Acro changes lives. To me, this practice goes much deeper than the physical. Unfortunate trauma in my earlier years, left me quite guarded, especially regarding physical touch and overall social anxiety. This practice just continues to help breakdown barriers.

None of these amazing things could happen without a group of loving, welcoming, individuals who’ve also gone through their struggles, who have experienced the medicine of physical touch and true connection.  Individuals who have chosen to open up and allow for change and healing to occur together. The Acro Yoga Richmond community sparks so much love, joy, and compassion. I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Through acro yoga, we hope to provide a place for you to heal, trust, and support one another. Join us this Sunday, February 19 and Acro Yoga 101 with Kim Catley from 2-4:30 pm! If this practice is new to you, do not fear, all are welcome and we have this blog post for you to help answer any questions!

 

Photography: Kaiya Healing Arts

Your Power: Social Sharing

Who would have thought that a life changing organization would have started through a Facebook post? But that is exactly how Project Yoga Richmond emerged. The idea grew from the beloved Arlene Bjork’s desire to take yoga to the people in their communities and make it accessible to everyone who wanted it. It wasn’t another yoga studio, exactly; it was a place for community, with yoga at its core. After Arlene passed away in 2009, a group of her students came together and reflected on her life and teachings. Then, PYR Co-Founder Jonathan “J” Miles put his idea into words and posted on Facebook. 6 years later, Project Yoga Richmond is thriving and lives are changing.

While social media has its point to be cautious of, we know how powerful it can be. There are a lot of ways you can support your community through Project Yoga Richmond. Some choose to support us through practicing at our pay-what-you-can studio. Some volunteer. Some donate. In addition to these and the many other ways that you make our community stronger, we want to highlight one of the simplest, yet most powerful ways that you can help us increase access to yoga in the Greater Richmond region. Social sharing.

Here are a few simple ways you can increase access to yoga from the comfort of your couch through social media!
1. Like our Facebook page and invite your friends to do the same
  • The more people that like and follow our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages, the more people we reach! The more people we reach, the more people we can serve!
  • From 2016 to 2017 we went from 4,726 Facebook followers to over 5,850! Thanks to this increase we were able to reach over 1,000 new people that we were able to reach and share the benefits of yoga with! We also provided 19,999 yoga experiences in 2016, our highest number yet!

 

2. Sign up for our newsletter
  • We promise to respect your privacy and to provide engaging content, plus then you get the inside scoop on what is happening in our community! You can sign up now by clicking here! (Sign up is at the bottom of the page)
3. Like, comment, and share the content on our Facebook, Instagram, and email that you enjoy!
  • The more you like, share, and comment on our posts, the more others will see it as well. The more engagement a post receives, the more people it will reach! Plus this shows us what you like so we can create more of the information you want to see!
4. Post your own pictures at our studio and events on your own social media accounts!
  • Don’t forget to tag us! @projectyogarichmond
5. Participate in social media challenges
  • Follow our Instagram account and participate in challenges to win PYR prizes as your increase access to yoga!!
6. Invite friends to events that are interesting to you
  • The more, the merrier! Share events and workshops with friends and encourage them to come by inviting them on Facebook. This also creates ways for you to connect with people you care about at our studio as you support your community!

 

7. If you volunteer or teach at Project Yoga Richmond, share it on your LinkedIn!

 

8. Share with friends in person about Project Yoga Richmond
  • Nothing beats hearing about something special from someone you care about. Inspire others by sharing your experience with them!
9. Connect at our studio
  • Bring all of those social media connections to life and walk through our pay-what-you-can studio doors with a friend!
  • Try making a Facebook status before attending a class and extending and open invitation for anyone to come!

Feel free to participate and share in whatever ways you feel best for you. Thank you for all that you do to support us as we increase access to yoga. We are constantly reminded of the many ways in which you bring yoga to your community through your service and dedication to Project Yoga Richmond.

How can Yoga help Arthritis and Chronic Pain?

How can Yoga help Arthritis and Chronic Pain?

We are dedicated to making yoga accessible to everyone. To address the needs for those who experience arthritis and other kinds of chronic pain, we are hosting a special 8-week series with Nitika Achalam, one of PYR’s Board Members and one of our newest Ambassadors.

Nitika has experienced chronic pain throughout her life. Despite her pain, she has been able sustain a healthy lifestyle and experienced healing through yoga. Not only has Nitika found yoga to be a powerful way to enhance her quality of life, but she is able to share these tools with others.  Nitika has her RYT-500 hr, been teaching yoga for over 16 years and has a background in Yoga for Arthritis. Hear what she has to say about yoga and chronic pain and the ways it can enhance your quality of life. We hope you leave with some tools that are useful to you!

How and when did you first begin practicing yoga?

From a young age I was learning principles that would support me in developing a yoga practice as an adult. I remember rolling around on the floor and making animal shapes with my body in the first grade. It all seemed like play and exploration at the time, but I later realized that I was mirroring what my mom had learned in her yoga classes and own personal study.

How has yoga impacted your life?

Yoga extends beyond the mat and impacts my life by providing core tenets to support daily living. The study of the science is the basis by which I choose to live. In times of stress or pain the most fundamental thing I ask is if my thoughts will help me to: Do Good and Be Good? Will my actions assist me to Serve All and Love All?

What is chronic pain?

Chronic Pain is a physical limitation, which causes damage and disrupts a person’s quality of life. In my personal experience and that of people I’ve worked with, chronic pain makes it challenging to carry out simple daily tasks, earn a living, and even maintain healthy physical movement.

How has chronic pain impacted your life?

Both of my parents suffer from Arthritis, as do many family members. I’ve watched them navigate life with these aches and pains as they struggle to keep going. I’ve been involved in car accidents and sports injuries, which have resulted in severe lower back pain and limited range of motion in some joints. In addition, I’ve suffered from endometriosis and PCOS all of my life. Until recently, I’ve kept from telling many people about what I experience for a number of reasons. Sometimes I’ve refrained from sharing because I have not wanted to appear weak, out of wanting to feel like “normal” people my age, and wondering how effective of a health care professional can I be if I can’t manage my own health. People don’t understand unless they deal with something similar, others tend to downplay my reality by saying “it could always be worse”.

Chronic Pain has kept me from social engagements and away from work for extended periods of time. In the past, I’d kept the truth about my chronic pain a secret from employers. Holding those secrets led to a loss of work, which in turn led to isolation and depression. Being honest with myself and then with others about how I feel is far more beneficial. It’s ok for me to feel poorly, it’s ok to listen to my body and back off, it’s ok to say no to social engagements or accepting more work than I can reasonably handle, it’s okay to be honest that I am not perfect.

What methods have you tried for coping with chronic pain?

Like so many others, I’ve tried prescription medications to help relieve severe symptoms of pain. While the meds can help, I’ve found that they are not always the complete answer. Yoga for Arthritis (YFA) has been a big help to me and many of my clients by imparting physical and psychological benefits. Through the research of Dr. Steffany Moonaz, creator of YFA, we know that yoga is a safe and effective way for patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis to discover freedom of movement and empowerment. These principles extend to those suffering from other types of chronic pain as well.

The food and drink I choose to put in my body plays a big role in overall health so I stay away from things that trigger. The conditions I experience personally are not curable but they are manageable. I’ve found that even when we are doing “all the right things” our bodies have flair ups and at times feel out of control. Yoga has helped tremendously with managing expectations around having a perfect life at all times. I am now able to find a source of strength in the adversity and use it to assist others in experiencing life beyond pain.

What changes did you notice when you first started practicing Yoga for Arthritis?

When I met Dr. Steffany Moonaz, the creator of Yoga for Arthritis, my understanding of empathy in supporting those living with chronic disease was redefined. People of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds suffer in very similar ways. The yoga community creates a space, free from shame and judgment, to unify all people as we share our experiences and learn how to adapt to the ever-changing demands of our lives.

Did you ever find it challenging to be in yoga classes while dealing with chronic pain?

Yes it can be a challenge to attend “regular” yoga classes at times. Most teachers ask if anyone is working through an injury, but I’ve had many clients feel nervous about disclosing their ailments or health status in a room full of “able-bodied” yogis. Some clients express embarrassment about the lack of support around modifications or adaptations so that they too can participate fully in a yoga class. Transitioning from pose to pose swiftly and feeling the need to keep up a certain pace can be a source of discomfort. The purpose of this 8-week series is to address these concerns and more. We explore topics on how to build a home practice appropriate for all ranges of motion and levels of pain as well as how to safely attend general focus group classes.

Has yoga helped ease your chronic pain?

Yoga has had life changing impact on minds and bodies for thousands of years. The 8-week series I will be teaching addresses chronic pain physically and mentally. The physical stretches of the program are a great relief for tension and assist in building strength, stamina, and flexibility. The breathing and guided meditation practices are effective in stress relief and for the psychological trials of living with pain. I’ve learned that it may not be possible to feel 100% relief from pain at all times but I can use the tools in my yoga kit to shift my perception and attitude in dealing with it.

What is one thing you recommend to someone experiencing chronic pain?

Often times it may seem impossible to even get out of the bed when dealing with Arthritis and Chronic Pain flare ups, much less think about manipulating those parts of the body in any way. The breath is a tool that we all can use no matter the level of pain.

Begin by exhaling slowly and deeply, followed by a long, slow inhalation.
Use the exhale to soften the tension around the joints.
Use the inhale to replace that feeling with a sense of ease.

Breathing in a deliberate way has the power to transform our feelings around a sensation and offers relief by reducing stress. Almost as importantly as breath is seeking out things that make you smile. I like comedy, plants, and creating things from found objects. Even pasting on an artificial smile can be a springboard to real happiness.

What is one of your favorite yoga postures for chronic pain?

It’s tough to make a general statement about what works for all people with chronic pain since that looks different for everyone. A pose that feels good for one person’s neck may hurt another’s back or knees.

My favorite pose is one that does not cause any strain or pain. YFA advocates the use of props to support the physical body to execute poses with ease. Yoga for Arthritis supports practitioners in finding as much comfort as possible in a pose and shifting the focus away from the symptoms to an easeful peaceful experience. My personal favorite relaxation pose is laying on my back with a cushion under my hips while resting my legs up the wall. Then drawing a blanket across my torso and arms. After 10 minutes of deep breathing in this position my back feels a lot less pressure.

Join Nitika every Thursday from 6-7:30 pm from February 16- April 6 for this special 8-week series that will facilitate a space and provide tools for you to find ease within your chronic pain. Space is limited to 8 participants and pre-registration is required, so be sure to save your spot. And remember, when you practice at Project Yoga Richmond, you help make yoga accessible to your community!

Special thank you to Mc Abbott Photography for sharing the talents with us!

Top 19 Reasons People Give to Project Yoga Richmond

Top 19 Reasons People Give to Project Yoga Richmond

  1. Because the ability of yoga to unite and heal is what we need most today, and always. Thanks for all that you guys do.
2. Practicing yoga makes people feel better and in turn lifts the whole community.
3. PYR changed my life. Yoga changed my life. I am now shining my light. The ripple effect is beautiful. #bethemovement
5. In honor of Arlene Bjork, who introduced me to yoga and for Dana Walters’ vision for changing a community through service
6. Because yoga has the power to heal both self and the community in which we live.
7. Taking care of yourself takes care of others!
8. PYR provides our community a source of support, connection, and empowerment!
9. Project Yoga supports the kids at our center (The Founders Center at West Grace) by doing yoga with them and donating their time, and we appreciate it very much!
10. I think all people should be able to enjoy the benefits of yoga, regardless of age, physical ability, or financial situation. Thank you for making yoga accessible to all!
11. Mindfulness is nothing less than the salvation of the planet.
12. Yoga has made a big difference in my life.
13. I see the positive affect that it has
14. Because yoga=love
15. J Miles introduced me to the cause when I lived in VA, you all do amazing work!!
16. I believe it’s essential to self-care and should be accessible for all.
17. Because I’ve experienced yoga’s power to heal at the individual and community level
18. My wife is an ambassador at PYR . Her stories of taking yoga into the community are very uplifting.
19. Project Yoga has given me and my community more than I could ever gain from any other yoga studio. PYR is the only pay what you can studio in town and all proceeds go towards making my city a better place to live. Every time I go to PYR I feel like I always get back more than I give. I cannot say enough about how important I believe yoga and PYR is to myself and my community. I do not want to imagine what our lives would be like without it and I hope I never have to.

You and the reasons you give inspire us. Our first ever annual fundraising campaign has been a great success and we are so close to reaching our goal to ensure that yoga will remain accessible to all for years to come through PYR.

If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to make a donation to Project Yoga Richmond today. All donations are tax deductible, so make your gift before the start of 2017!

Meditation & Holiday Stress

Meditation & Holiday Stress

Written by PYR Ambassador Jena Morrison

It’s no secret that for many of us the holidays are stressful. Kids are home from school for a few weeks. There’s shopping and errands to be done amidst all the traffic. And, a lot of us spend time on the road traveling to be with family and friends. If that’s not stressful enough, the change in seasons to cold, dreary days makes even getting out of bed sound that much more unappealing. This often means that stress is at its peak during this time of year.

So, how do we deal with stress? There are several ways to deal with stress, but not all of them are necessarily “healthy”. Some of these less than healthy ways might include resorting to our favorite comfort foods, excessive shopping, or eyeing that bowl of egg nog. While these are not on their own negative things to do, taking them to extremes can end up making us feel worse while not actually addressing the stress itself. Luckily, there are a ton of other options that we can choose from to bring our stress levels down. These include things like exercise, journaling, reaching out to our support network of family and friends, and meditation.

Meditation, personally one of my favorites, is all about mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply defined as bringing one’s attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way (1). This notion has been around for centuries; however, only recently has science decided to take a closer look at the practice of mindfulness. This includes a number of studies showing that mindfulness can be helpful in reducing perceived stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can be exacerbated by the busy holiday season (2) (3) (4). If you’re intimidated by all of this, don’t be. Being mindful is really quite simple.

Being mindful doesn’t have to be anything overly formal or done in a specific pose. It can be as easy as taking a few moments to fully listen and appreciate your favorite song on the radio. It can be taking a few deep breaths and taking the time to appreciate the smell of your morning cup of coffee or cocoa. Or even taking 10 minutes to go outside, breathe in the crisp air, and focus on nothing but the coolness and nature around you. Taking even a moment or two here and there can add up. So whether you follow a formal seated practice 20 minutes a day or simply take a few moments here and there, it is still the same. And, mindfulness doesn’t even have to be still. Yoga is a way of making your meditation an active meditation since it requires you to focus solely on what is on your mat and your own experience.

So take a few moments over the next few weeks to catch your breath. And, if you want a more formal practice or want to learn more about meditation, come join us in the studio! Any of the Ambassadors would be happy to help you start your own practice or grow one that you already have.

References

(1) Kabat-Zinn, J. (2016). ‘This is not McMindfulness’. Psychologist, 29(2), 124-125

Lengacher, C., Shelton, M., Reich, R., Barta, M., Johnson-Mallard, V., Moscoso, M., & … Kip, K. (2014). Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR(BC)) in breast cancer: evaluating fear of recurrence (FOR) as a mediator of psychological and physical symptoms in a randomized control trial (RCT). Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37(2), 185-195. doi:10.1007/s10865-012-9473-6

(2) Cordon, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Gibson, P. R. (2009). The Role of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Perceived Stress: Preliminary Evidence for the Moderating Role of Attachment Style. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), 258-269. doi:10.1891/0889-8391.23.3.258

(3) Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83-91. doi:10.1037/a0018441

(4) Song, Y., & Lindquist, R. (2015). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on depression, anxiety, stress and mindfulness in Korean nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 3586-90. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2014.06.010

 

Starting January 1st, join Jena Morrison for Mediation Wednesdays fro 6-6:30pm and join JaVonne Bowles on Fridays from 11-11:30 am!
Bring peace to your holiday season by practicing at Project Yoga Richmond!

*Christmas Eve Class: December 24, 9:30-11 am
Bhakti Flow with Elizabeth Shurte

*Closed Christmas Day, regular class schedule resumes Dec 26

*New Year’s Eve Class: Dec 31, 9:30-11am
Gentle Yoga and Meditation with Billie Southworth Carroll

* New Years Day Class: Jan 1, 3-5pm
Inside Out: Presence in Motion with Michele Nierle and Slash Coleman

Join the event on Facebook or visit our class schedule for more info!
Serving With Grace: In Honor of Arlene

Serving With Grace: In Honor of Arlene

“In honor of Arlene” are the words that many supporters wrote alongside their donations to PYR this season. Many of you may know who Arlene is and her history behind Project Yoga Richmond, however, many may not. This post by PYR Ambassador Kim Catley highlights Arlene Bjork, the woman who inspired so many, and brought PYR’s co-founders together with the desire to give the gifts of yoga to everyone.

Written by: Kim Catley

Photography by: Becky Eschenroeder

In the last six years, thousands of you have opened Project Yoga Richmond’s door, walked down the hall, and settled onto a mat in the main studio. On your way in, you might have noticed a small, framed photo on the altar, showing a tall, slender woman in a white tank top and pants, back arched in urdhva dhanurasana.

The woman in the photo, Arlene Bjork, was a yoga teacher in Richmond. In the late 2000s, she approached several of her private and studio students, hoping to drum up interest in her new teacher training program.

Arlene pushed her students. Every class began with 30 minutes of vinyasa. She insisted that good teachers have to be practitioners.

She taught them to be prepared for anything their students might need. Pam Cline, one of her students, remembers a cueing lesson where everyone was blindfolded. They had to guide the class from asana to asana without the help of demonstrating a pose. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first time Pam taught at a local gym, in walked a woman, holding the hand of her blind husband.

Arlene also taught them that everyone has a responsibility to give back. Before graduating from the training program, every student had to teach 50 hours without pay.

“Her biggest thing was yoga is not about the poses; yoga is a lifestyle,” says Pam Cline, one of Arlene’s students. “It’s the way you treat people and animals and your body. She taught us all of that.”

When she opened Grace Yoga, a studio in downtown Richmond, she saw it as a place where anyone could teach in service to the community, and where they could bring yoga to those who needed it.

“We had a lot of people that walked into Grace Yoga who barely had clean clothes, let alone a mat or yoga pants,” Pam says. “She said, there’s a need and there’s a community out there that would benefit from it, but it’s expensive.”

In October 2009, Arlene passed away suddenly. In the wake of her death, her family of students felt lost without their leader at the helm. “We didn’t know what to do, or where to go,” Pam says.

Then one day an idea started to take shape. It wasn’t another yoga studio, exactly; there were already plenty in Richmond. It was a place for community, with yoga at its core.

The early days weren’t easy. But gradually, a movement started to take root, and people started to come. In a nondescript building, tucked just out of sight from a busy stretch of Broad Street, a new energy was born.

“Arlene said to all of us, ‘you were born to serve and when you’re giving, you’ll be in the best place you can possibly be,’” Pam says. “She showed the community what a real yoga teacher could be, and what a really good person can be.”

Though she is no longer physically with us, Arlene continues to inspire our community. Her teachings planted powerful seeds in her students, which have grown into Project Yoga Richmond. We work hard to carry Arlene’s dedication to giving each and every day through our pay-what-you-can studio and yoga and mindfulness outreach programs in the community, making yoga accessible to all. For those who have given in honor of Arlene, we thank you and will continue to work hard to honor Arlene through PYR.

 

6 Things that Happen When you Give

6 Things that Happen When you Give

…to Project Yoga Richmond

(6 Reasons for 6 Years!)

Written by Communications and Studio Associate, Holly Zajur

1. You create community

“The best thing about volunteering for Saturday Salutations is getting to meet all of the students who may be totally new to yoga, new to PYR, experiencing their first outdoor practice or their first time at the VMFA or maybe even they are just visiting Richmond and we get to gush about our awesome city! 
Once you make it back to your mat, you are truly ready for practice and enjoy the ability to lay back and stare at the clouds, hear the sounds and enjoy your practice with the strangers all around you who, after a morning of gathering around a common cause, somehow feel like family.” 

– PYR Volunteer, Sara Anderson

When you donate your time, dollar, or practice with PYR, you are a part of our family!

2. You unroll the mat for someone else at our pay-what-you-can studio

“I came to Project Yoga Richmond for the first time in need of a safe space. I was beyond comforted by the space and the people that I shared class with.”
-First time Project Yoga Richmond Student

Donating any amount helps us unroll the mat for someone else 7 days a week at our pay-what-you-can studio so that all people have the opportunity to experience the power of yoga.

3. You help support our outreach programs

“For those moments when I feel scared, sad, joyful, disgusted, accepting, ashamed, loving, gentle, or anything and everything else, there is immaculate calm inside me. It’s beautiful. It’s imperfect. It is why I do yoga.”
-PYR Outreach Teen Student

Did you know one of the primary things that we do at Project Yoga Richmond is bring yoga to communities across the Greater Richmond Region? We currently provide twenty-two outreach programs and offer services from incarcerated youth to elderly populations!

4. You create inner peace

“Our world can feel, at times, very scheduled and device dependent – it’s very easy to find ourselves overextended and overcommitted. I think yoga resonates because the practice allows us to hit the pause button to recharge, to bring awareness and connection. It creates a space to look inwardly – to feel it out, listen to our bodies and offer ourselves some time for self-care.”
– PYR Operations Manager, Nadia Gooray

By supporting PYR, you create the space for yourself and others to pause and recharge. When we are able to take time for self-care, we are more likely to act kinder to ourselves and others.

5. You help yourself, and someone else, recognize their potential

“Freedom Yoga was a doorway to yoga for us because there weren’t any other places we could go that were calm, relaxing, enveloping, and welcoming to yoga students with special needs, and now we even go to a gentle yoga class together on the regular schedule with all the other students! … It has opened up a whole world of opportunity.”
-Parent of a Freedom Yoga Student

Our outreach does more than offer a place for physical movement. We help people realize how much they can achieve. Every time we unroll the mat, transformation takes place, we can see it on our students’ faces.

6. You stimulate lasting change

“Teaching yoga and mindfulness is like teaching people to fish: they learn a lifetime skill that enables them to nourish themselves over and over. That means the impact of every dollar you contribute to support the delivery of trained yoga instruction through PYR is amplified since people own those skills forever. You are the key to unlocking the power of yoga to transform our community.”
– PYR President of the Board, Rebekah Holbrook

By donating to Project Yoga Richmond, you plant the seeds of self-care in someone’s life that will continue to grow throughout their lifetime!

G I V I N G

This six letter word has been very important to us over the last six years of our organization. Giving takes place in many ways, shapes, and forms. From our students to our volunteers, ambassadors, board members, community partners, and staff, our community is possible because of giving. These people in our community generously give their time, share their skills, unroll their mats, and donate their dollars because they believe in PYR and the impact we are making.

This year, in place of the AmazingRaise, we are participating in GivingTuesday, the global day of giving, on November 29. We need your support on GivingTuesday to increase access to yoga. As an organization, we give back to our community by making yoga accessible to everyone. As we give our services, we also give thanks for the support we constantly receive from our community. We give thanks for the transformations we see in our students. We give thanks for impact we have seen, and continue to see in the Great Richmond area. We give thanks for the growth we have experienced so far, and the growth to come. We give thanks to you and your giving for making all of this possible.   

When you share your dollar with us, we use it to share yoga with our community. Give the gift that keeps on giving by making a donation to Project Yoga Richmond on GivingTuesday.

How to participate:

  • Donate any amount to PYR on our website
    • First $3,000 raised will be matched!
    • First 25 people to donate $50 or more: enter to win a limited edition PYR T-Shirt and a Yoga Mat!
    • First 15 people Donate $100 or more: enter to win a free ticket to our Birthday Party on Dec 3 and a limited edition PYR T-Shirt!
  • Share on social media why you support PYR and how yoga improves your life on social media and tag Project Yoga Richmond (@ProjectYogaRichmond) on Facebook and Instagram
  • Practice at our pay-what-you-can studio for special classes, juice from Ginger Juice, T-shirt screen printing (BYOT), and more!
    • 8am Birthday Yoga with Jonathan “J” Miles
    • 12:15 Mindful Meditation with Javonne Bowles
    • 5:30pm Live Your Yoga with Sue Agee
    • 5:30 pm Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) with Billie Carroll
    • 7pm Vin/Yin with Alec Abbott
GivingTuesday: Yoga for Every Body

GivingTuesday: Yoga for Every Body

We are thrilled to be featured on the official GivingTuesday blog to raise awareness about our movement to increase access to yoga! Learn more about why you should support Project Yoga Richmond on November 29 for GivingTuesday, the global day of giving by clicking the link!

We make transformations happen by increasing access to yoga in our community through our pay-what-you-can studio with classes seven days a week as well our twenty-outreach programs in the Greater Richmond Region. A few months, ago we posted this photograph on our Instagram and the women in the photograph moved us by sharing her story and how her life has been impacted ever since she came to Project Yoga Richmond.

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Thank you Erin Jenkins for the amazing testimonial that moved so many and to Mc Abbott Studios for capturing this magic moment on camera!

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Check out our #GivingTuesday plans and sign up to join us for events on the Global Day of Giving, November 29!

  • Special yoga classes and juice for sale at our pay-what-you-can studio
    • 5% of Proceeds from Ginger Juice will we donated to PYR (you can pre-order juices until 11/26 and write #PYR or #GivingTuesday in the notes)
    • T-shirt Screen printing available at the studio all day!
  • Online donations and “Share your story” videos from PYR friends on Facebook and Instagram (Participate by clicking here or posting on social media and tagging us @ProjectYogaRichmond)
  • Donations will be matched by a donor (TBA)

On December 3, we are hosting a post-#GivingTuesday / PYR Birthday Celebration, with live music, food, and an auction at our studio! Get your ticket now!

6 Years at Project Yoga Richmond!

6 Years at Project Yoga Richmond!

Written by PYR Ambassador Kim Catley

Six years ago.

That’s when a Facebook post brought together a group of people who believed in the power of yoga, and Project Yoga Richmond was born.

Anniversaries give us a chance to reflect, on simple moments and major milestones, on big wins and tough decisions. Today, some of the people who were here from the very beginning look back on PYR’s history and remind us just how far we’ve come.

“Those words became real”

I remember J throwing this idea at me, one of his, “hey sis, I was thinking …” moments.

It was a wonderful idea that grew from Arlene’s desire to take yoga to the people in their communities and make it accessible to everyone who wanted it. We chatted about it. I moved on with my day.

Then J put his idea into words and posted on Facebook.

Those words became real. So many people within the yoga and movement communities all started chiming in: “Great idea! We need this! Who’s in?!”

Those words drew Dana in. She had a love for yoga, a love for people, a love for community. She wanted to build a community centered around yoga — not just a studio, but a true space for healing — and she had a building!

Then Michelle came on board and we had a website.

Then Pam joined in to assist with building matters.

With Michelle came her husband Zane, who got all of our thoughts and ideas on a bunch of sticky notes on their dining room wall to determine our mission, and from there, PYR was born.

—Wendy Warren, co-founder

“A headquarters for community action through yoga”

I remember the first time Dana brought me to 6517 Dickens Place. We walked into a time machine — the space was right out of the disco era — and asked me what I thought. I said, “This needs to be our headquarters.”

And then she set about transforming this retro, disco, man cave into the PYR we all know and love.

It will always and forever be my yoga home, a headquarters for community action through yoga.

—J Miles, co-founder

“You could not deny the energy and love in the room”

Our first year was a miracle in action. I saw an organization created from nothing become a breathing living thing, a body of hope. I believe the universe conspired with all its power to bring the idea, the people, the teachers, and the place together at one time, with a synchronicity that cannot be explained.

Yogis are very strong, positive, and passionate people, but to make this work we needed to believe that there was a need for yoga in our community. We needed to believe that it could heal people and give them something to count on, regardless of their ability to pay for it. When that first anniversary came, we realized that not only were we right to do this, but that success was on its way.

People poured into our anniversary class that night. Arm to arm, mat to mat, you could barely see the floor and you could not deny the energy and love in the room. We practiced together, sipped tea, listened to music, and heard from many that were grateful to be there and part of this movement.

I knew that day, without any doubt, that PYR was going to be a special gift to Richmond. With every outreach program and with every class taught, it continues to grow and blossom into a place of servant leaders who believe in giving more than they take. I am honored to be a witness to this and grateful for this time in my life.

—Pam Cline, co-founder

“We were sitting on the top of a rising tide”

It was a bright, sunny, breezy spring morning in 2011 in Richmond, and PYR was hosting its first-ever outdoor class at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Belvedere Deck had just opened to the public not long before, and the VMFA was eager to invite Richmonders up to enjoy the space.

Jonathan Miles and I co-taught the class, which surprisingly at the time, brought out about 60 people. We had no volunteers, no mic, nothing but us and the class. I think that was the first time I knew, at a deeply felt level, that we were sitting on the top of a rising tide — a giant swell of energy around what we were trying to do, even in those very early days.

Our work has deepened and yet become easier, somehow, as we have grown in our supporters and students, and over the years we have begun to make great impact in our community. Starting with only two studio classes and one outreach program, we now have 19 regular pay-what-you-can studio classes, numerous monthly and bi-monthly events, and nearly two dozen weekly recurring and seasonal outreach programs happening throughout the year. And we offer between 1,200 and 1,600 monthly experiences of yoga to underserved individuals and groups in our community.

I feel we are still riding high on that tide. It’s been an amazing thing to be a part of, and I’m just so grateful to each and every one of our PYR family: ambassadors, staff, volunteers, board members, donors, and students.

—Dana Walters, co-founder

“I remember feeling this swell of support”

Heading into the final stretch of our very first Amazing Raise 36-hour YogaThon, back in September 2013, I remember going in to co-teach the last class knowing we were in the running to not only reach, but exceed our goal of $20,000.

I couldn’t believe it. We had set our inaugural goal high, and here we were, about to crush it. Our class was set to end after the close of the giving window, so we would not know the total until we had finished.

As the class proceeded, I tried to temper my excitement with steadiness — a skill we learn in yoga — staying focused as best I could on the task at hand. I remember feeling this swell of support around me, this great energy and love for the community we had created together and what our success would mean we’d be able to do in the future.

As I finished leading my portion of the class, and stood aside to assist J, who was teaching the second part, Natalie slipped in with a note that had our final total on it.

We had done it.

I was overcome with emotion and stood there weeping with joy. I don’t know if the class had any idea what was going on until we finished! It was a major turning point for PYR, and your ongoing support since that time continues to ensure our ability to serve our community with yoga and mindfulness practices for a very long time.

—Dana Walters, co-founder

“We were striving for organizational balance”

One pivotal hour remains with me always because it signaled that a season of growth and change was at our doorstep. It took place not on a yoga mat, but around the table in the company of my fellow board members. We were bathed in golden October sunshine at a board retreat about three years ago — a time when we were still an all-volunteer organization. We were celebrating because we had just completed our first successful Amazing Raise, which brought PYR space to spread our programmatic wings in the next year, and we were dreaming of the new partnerships and classes that we could offer.

But we were also grappling with the great organizational challenges that growth brings. Administrative tasks now needed to be completed steadily, frequently, and consistently. Inquiries from potential new partners were streaming in daily. Donations needed to be logged and acknowledged. The studio, with its expanded traffic, needed reliable monitoring. Our devoted and enthusiastic ambassadors deserved more frequent updates.

Volunteers could no longer complete these tasks within a few generous hours per week, and we all felt that a paid, part-time staff member was necessary. We crunched budget numbers. We asked ourselves hard questions. Can we take on the responsibility of someone’s livelihood? Or, more basically, what W-2 paperwork is required and do we have the right financial structure in place to build a payroll? We were electrified as we weighed risk against potential reward, knowing that our decisions would deeply affect PYR’s organizational health.

Today, PYR sustains three staff members and nourishes an even larger population than it did that day four years ago. When I view this moment with the gift of hindsight, I see now that we were seeking what we seek daily on our mats: Sattva. We were striving for organizational balance and it required us to stretch a teensy bit in one direction to evenly redistribute the frenetic energy of our passion and mission against the weight of our responsibilities. The leaders of PYR do this every day, year after year, as they transform the organization into a stronger, more accessible, and more impactful resource in Richmond.

—Jillian Jones, former board chair

Project Yoga Richmond has thrived over the last six years as a tribute to our community and the support you all provide. From our founders and donors to our volunteers, you are the reason so many people in our community are able to experience the benefits of yoga. Up until this point, our primary fundraiser was the AmazingRaise. We have grown as an organization and the AmazingRaise is no longer there, so we are shifting our fundraising efforts to GivingTuesday on November 29th and our 6th birthday celebrations!

Join us for a series of Birthday classes:
1. Yoga and Gong Bath Meditation: Monday, November 28, 5:30pm at Diversity Richmond
2. GivingTuesday Yoga Celebration: Tuesday, November 29, 8am at Project Yoga Richmond
3. Birthday Yoga and Gratitude: Wednesday, November 30, 7am at Robinson Theater

Birthday Bash: Saturday, December 3, 7pm at Project Yoga Richmond

Celebrate with us on November 29th for GivingTuesday:

  1. Donate any amount to PYR on our website
  2. Like our Facebook page post why you support PYR and how yoga improves your life and tag us to be entered into a drawing for a ticket to our birthday party on December 3rd!
  3. Join us at the studio for special classes, juice from Ginger Juice, and more!
    • 8am Birthday Yoga with Jonathan “J” Miles
    • 12:15 Mindful Meditation with Javonne Bowles
    • 5:30pm Live Your Yoga with Sue Agee
    • 5:30 pm Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) with Billie Carroll
    • 7pm Vin/Yin with Alec Abbott
Running Secret to Success: Yoga!

Running Secret to Success: Yoga!

Interview with Runner’s Love Yoga founder, Ann Mazur

Here at Project Yoga Richmond, we believe that taking care of yourself, takes care of your community. This fall, we are thrilled to be partnering with SportBackers for the Richmond Marathon on November 12th as we celebrate our 6th Birthday! As you cross the finish line, we’ll be offering 15 min cool down sessions on Brown’s Island throughout the day to help runners recover! While you take care of your body and cool down properly through slow movement during these sessions, you become and important part of our movement to increase access to yoga in our community!

To show just how powerful your practice can be and the powerful benefits that incorporating yoga into your running routine can have on your body and mind, we interviewed running and yoga expert, Ann Mazur! Ann was a walk on to Notre Dame’s running team and one of their fastest runners by the time she graduated. Ann began practicing yoga in 2005 and received her 200hr RYT in 2009. Since then, Ann has gotten even faster, beating her college PR’s.

Ann has experienced the power of yoga and the benefits of running. She believes in it so much that she started her own company, Runners Love Yoga, to support runners and yogis and help them bring balance to their practices. Ann is also an official blogger of the Richmond Half Marathon this year, and we could not be happier to have a chance to soak in her insight and knowledge to help you recover on race day!

What similarities do you see between running and yoga?

Both running and yoga require a great deal of mental strength. Yoga probably feels mentally challenging in a different way to beginning yogis–it can be difficult to lie still in savasana, for example, or really let your mind relax, but with practice, this becomes much easier. Yoga is actually quite similar to running in how it is both physically and mentally challenging; I think people tend to underestimate how vigorous yoga can be as a physical activity, but probably also underestimate how much of running is actually very mental. In both, you can really find yourself in a sort of effortless “zone”–whether you are running a race and just keep knocking your miles off at the right pace, or are practicing a flow of poses and just seeing where it takes you.

What differences do you see between the two?

Yoga is a little different in that you have to be okay with where you are. There are always going to be poses you can’t do or that aren’t maybe particularly comfortable for your body. Yoga teaches you patience; you quickly learn to be okay with where you are right at that particular moment. This doesn’t mean that you don’t want to grow, but that you know if you practice, you’ll get there when it’s meant to happen. With running, though, you tend to want to be as fast as possible, as quickly as possible–I think this is also probably why runners (especially those who don’t stretch) generally are prone to a lot of overuse injuries. Yoga teaches you that, as a runner, it’s totally okay to allow yourself time to recover, and that’s actually how you improve. Yoga really just makes you nicer to yourself!

A lot of runners come to yoga thinking it will only help their flexibility, but the mental side is just as important. In running, the emphasis is on pushing yourself, while yoga is all about doing what is right for you right then. I think a balance of both–pushing yourself but also listening to your body is where you want to end up. Yoga has probably helped me be more chill overall in a way that has definitely helped with running. There is no perfect race day scenario, or training, or nutrition plan, or way to hydrate, so just do the best you can and otherwise relax, because that last “relax” part will get you further than perfection would have anyways.

Both running and yoga appear to be “individual” practices, yet both have a strong community component and impact. How and why do you believe this emerges?

I think that for a lot of people who are currently runners, their high school or college cross country and track teams were one of the very first teams that they were on. I know my college team at Notre Dame was so, so important to me; this was really a second family. So, I think a lot of lifelong runners come to the sport of running through those teams that they were on when they were younger, and camaraderie is just such a natural part of running, period. There’s just no way to go through a grueling 10 mile practice, let alone four years’ worth of grueling practices, without forming some tremendous bonds with the other people working out with you. Even though I’m not on a formal team now, every weekend I race I find a sense of community–you tend to see the same people at races, but you also end up bonding with people who end up running near you, something which is especially true for the longer races like the marathon.

Yoga feels like a community especially in the regulars in my classes. In addition to teaching English, I also teach yoga at UVa, and I’ve seen some yoga students go through all four years of college while coming to my yoga classes! I love getting to see these same people week after week. Social media actually really adds to my sense of yoga as a community–Instagram is actually a huge yoga community, and teachers share advice and tips, and everyone cheers on everyone else’s individual practices and breakthroughs. I think Instagram sometimes gets a bad rap, but that’s only if you’re approaching it with a negative mindset! There’s so much inspiration and joy shared in ways that we otherwise could not.

What advice do you have for someone who practices yoga to start running?
    1. Don’t increase mileage by more than 10% a week.
    2. Find ways to make running work with your yoga. When I can, I run to and from teaching yoga since this makes my whole workout more efficient. Of course, this might not work for everyone, depending upon where you live, but the whole idea of stacking your workouts in a row has been very helpful for me time-wise.
    3. Have some sort of variety to your daily schedule. Don’t do the same thing at the same intensity every day. Have harder days, recovery days, and something in between. Vary both intensity and duration. Experiment until you find the right mix of whatever works for you. I literally draw a 7 day chart and extend it week by week so I get a clear “at a glance” map of my training, and can see further in advance when I might need to have one type of day or another, or can plan my training week in a way that makes sense with the rest of my life.
What is one primary lesson you have learned from running?

Honestly, with running, persistence. There have been so many times where I could have very easily given up on running, and just stopped–there are almost too many to list here. Anyone who knew me in grade school would not have believed I would end up even running for Notre Dame or that I would still be running now. I was literally picked last in gym class for the entirely of grade school, and made fun of relentlessly for being slow, and neither of my parents thought I had any aptitude for sports whatsoever. But, I always wanted to be a fast runner. At Notre Dame, I was a walk-on–by the time it was all said and done, I was the last walk-on from my entering class who was left, and had had some great races where I was all Big East. There are plenty of challenges particular to being a walk-on where it would have been easy to just quit, but this was honestly never even a remote possibility–nothing was going to stop me from being able to contribute to that team. Post-collegiately, running can be quite challenging to balance with regular life, let alone earning a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, or teaching and writing and running a small business. If I am anything, I am persistent! Don’t give up on your dreams because that’s what makes you a real human.

What is one primary lesson you have learned from yoga?

I think with yoga, it really is what I said earlier about being okay with you are. While there are some complex poses I can do, it can still be very intimidating when you see some of the more crazy poses, even as a yoga teacher. But you don’t have to be able to do the hardest poses to be a great teacher! That’s also part of the fun of yoga, knowing that you always have somewhere new to go and learn, but also understanding your limits in the moment. I love showing my yoga students that yoga is this never ending journey. It truly is a lifelong journey of continued growth, and no matter the pose it will may feel totally different from one day to another.

Why are running and yoga so successfully paired together?

In the past 3-4 years or so, I drastically cut down on my running mileage and upped the yoga time each day with great results. I essentially cut my mileage in half from about 50-60 miles per week to somewhere right around 30–this includes the training for my sub-3:00 marathon which included I think maybe 2 weeks where I hit 40 on the nose, but nothing more than that. I also have a possible insane but definitely unconventional training method which involves pretty much no workouts but races nearly every weekend. Somewhere along the line I discovered this plan accidentally–I really just had no time for specific running workouts during the school week, but I really really love to compete, so I just did what I enjoyed the most and it’s worked out better than what’s generally prescribed. I’ve beaten a lot of my old college PRs that I thought I’d never come close to again.

Yoga aids running performance because it corrects imbalances in your body that you otherwise probably would never have even known that you had (until you got injured), and generally makes you more aware of how well your body is doing, so that you can fine-tune a run or a race in a way that you couldn’t before. Yoga also strengthens your core, helps you move more fluidly and efficiently, and prevents a lot of common runner problems like IT band tightness (which is actually what got me hooked on yoga to begin with). With yoga, you can train more consistently. I can’t remember the last time I was injured (knock on wood). I’ve always been a natural endurance athlete, but I would swear that yoga has helped my speed somehow too!

Yoga and running do more than impact the individual, these self-care practices transform entire communities. While both involve moving your individual body, these self-care practices create a community movement towards health. As you run your race and unroll your mat with us after crossing the finish line, know that you are a part of our movement to increase wellness in the Greater Richmond region. We cannot wait to unroll the mat with you and help you recover after crossing the finish line this weekend! #bethemovement

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