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.

 

The latest on classes and special events, plus an inside look at how practicing with PYR helps our community. Sign up here.