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

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