PYR’s First Executive Director

The Project Yoga Richmond Board of Directors is excited to announce the appointment of Nadia Gooray as the organization’s first Executive Director, effective immediately.

The hiring of an Executive Director marks an important transition for PYR, as we begin to lay the strategic groundwork that will guide our organization for years to come. As Nadia notes, “The coming year will be about strengthening and refinement. PYR is uniquely positioned in Richmond to offer affordable trauma-informed yoga trainings for instructors as well as for other professionals and community members who wish to understand how yoga can support healing and build resilience. We are developing the framework of a training model to continue our impact in offering spaces for yoga, inquiry, and community building.”

Nadia joined PYR in 2015, first as the Outreach and Volunteer Manager, and most recently serving as the organization’s Program Director.  She believes that the tools of yoga and meditation create conscious, positive change on an individual and community level, and is passionate about working with PYR to make the benefits of yoga accessible to all.  After attending Brown University, and working in development at Garth Fagan Dance, Nadia came to PYR and Richmond from Rochester, New York, where she worked for 8 years in program development and community engagement at Breathe Yoga.  She completed her 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher certification through Yoga Works in March 2017. In June 2018, Nadia completed the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program.  When she’s not on her mat, Nadia can be found exploring her Church Hill neighborhood, listening (and singing) to ‘90s R&B, and discovering a new favorite Richmond restaurant.  

Upon her appointment, Nadia noted, “I’m thrilled to be part of an organization whose call to action is to increase access to the health and social benefits of yoga to communities across greater Richmond.  Since its founding in 2010, PYR has built a deep, vibrant network, with the purpose of supporting and creating a more just and connected community. I am honored to tap into this energy and leverage our strengths as we set out to grow PYR’s impact and reach in the coming years!”

Project Yoga Richmond is a 501 (c3) non-profit founded in 2010 by five dedicated yogis and students of Arlene Bjork: Jonathan Miles, Dana Walters, Michelle Martello, Pam Cline, and Wendy Warren. Upon the sudden death of their beloved teacher, these five yogis created PYR as a way to make the benefits of yoga accessible and affordable to all, through a pay- what-you-can studio and community partnership programs across the Greater Richmond Region. In 2017, PYR provided 23,824 yoga experiences to individuals of all ages, abilities, and income levels.

Please join us in congratulating Nadia on her new position as the Executive Director of Project Yoga Richmond!

Meet Kisha!

What first brought you to the practice?

Fitness. I was a 12-year-old who loved to dance and be active, but I was also self-conscious about being overweight. My favorite dance workout video was made by MTV’s The Grind (a 90s dance show) and it had a sample yoga practice at the end. That was the beginning of my love affair with yoga.

Why do you continue to practice?

I continue to practice because yoga has taught me so much about myself and how I walk in the world. While my physical practice is great for building strength and flexibility, the rest of my practice (meditation, mantra, pranayama) has allowed me to cultivate flexibility and strength in my spirit.

Yoga has taught me to pause. When I’m having a bad day and I want to lash out, I remember my breath and remember that I get to choose. Sometimes I still choose wrong, but I always have the opportunity to think about how I want to react instead of just reacting. Yoga has also created a place for me to go when I need to reconnect with myself or encourage myself to reconnect with others. I’ve learned how strong I can be in body and spirit. I have tools that help me deal with anxiety and depression. Yoga has helped me engage with my body in a different way that reminds me to love it and appreciate it.

How do you think yoga benefits the world today?

Yoga benefits the world by showing people that there is always another way to be. There is always the opportunity to find peace in their hearts and spirits. There is a way to be compassionate and wish others well. Yoga benefits people by helping them find who they are, which encourages self-love, which then encourages us to share that love with others.

When and Why did you first start practicing at PYR?

I began practicing at PYR in 2012. I was first introduced to PYR at a yoga event by the river. I came to PYR to practice at a time when I was trying to get back into my personal yoga practice. I was having a hard time finding a place that felt comfortable and safe. PYR was that place for me.

I practice at PYR because I love the sense of community. I adore the teachers and volunteers that I’ve met. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and kind. PYR embodies what I believe we seek when we practice yoga: loving-kindness, growth, and community.

How has PYR impacted you and your life?

PYR has given me the basis for my belief in what a yoga community can be. When I first started practicing at PYR, I was interested in growing my personal practice, but the more I took class there, the more I felt called to teach. I didn’t even know that was something I wanted to do, but I wanted to encourage and support others the way I felt encouraged and supported.

What impacts do you see PYR making in the community?

I see PYR inviting people to the practice of yoga for the first time or the 50th time. Our community is so diverse and when I go to a PYR event I see that; I see the curiosity and the melting away of fear that yoga is supposed to be just one way. PYR brings people in!

Aside from Asana, what other things do you like to practice or do?

I’m a great big nerd. I love to read (fiction mainly, but I’m beginning to branch out), I enjoy podcasts, cooking, and knitting. I’m working on gardening: I can keep things alive if they’re outdoors…usually

Practice with Kisha during Ebb and Flow – Slow Flow Yoga every Wednesday at 5:30-6:30pm at PYR’s studio starting September 5th!

Two New PYR Ambassadors!

We are excited to announce that two powerful yoga instructors have joined PYR’s family!
Meet Sherida Kemp and Kisha Hughes, long time PYR students and advocates, and now PYR Ambassadors!

Sherida began her yoga journey here at PYR 5 years ago by attending PYR’s Breathe. Bend. Be. class with Sara Lovelace.  She has remained a Thursday night regular and has been teaching yoga for two years, with a passion for creating adaptive, playful yoga classes for seniors and individuals with limited mobility, and at churches.

 

Kisha was introduced to yoga as a teenager.  When she moved to RVA in 2011, she discovered PYR at a Living Social event and then attended her first PYR class shortly after (Live Your Yoga with Sue Agee).  She, too, has remained a PYR regular.  Kisha is passionate about teaching yoga to beginners, women,  LGBTQAI+ communities, and anyone who finds themselves on the fringes of traditional yoga spaces.

 

You will see Sherida and Kisha subbing at the studio as we work to integrate them into the regular schedule – either at the studio and/or out in the community as the join us in making yoga spaces more accessible and equitable!

Class of the Month: Finding Stillness Through Meditation

Have you heard of the ways meditation can improve your day? Join us every Wednesday at 6pm for one of our weekly meditation classes: Finding Stillness Through Meditation with Jena Morrison, PhD.

This class is a 20-minute guided meditation done in the style of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR meditation (mindfulness-based stress relief).  It’s perfect for anyone wishing to start a meditation practice or for a more experienced practitioner to revive their existing practice.

Here is a bit more about this special meditation class from Jena!
What has been one of your favorite moments during this class?

One of my favorite moments during class is when everyone is reluctant to leave after the class has finished.  The lingering, slow-moving, relaxed movement is the embodiment of what it means to be mindful. And, it’s exciting to see students who have attended a session return the following week with a friend or family member in town.  They’re so excited to share this feeling of mindfulness with others that they care about.

What first brought you to the practice?

I’d been curious about meditation for a while, but it was finally my own anxiety that led me to my practice.  Finding some quiet for my monkey mind has been a blessing. And, while I still struggle with my own practice, the struggle is a lesson in itself.  The brain is like a muscle – you just need to continue to work it out to see the results.

How do you think meditation benefits the world today?

Mindfulness is immensely useful.  Research shows that it helps with mental clarity and focus, handling strong emotions, treating mental illness, and improving memory. It also improves your relationships with those around you by allowing you to respond rather than react to a situation.  Some research even shows that it grows grey matter in your brain! My personal research links mindfulness to overcoming the effects of stereotypes in society and improving test grades. These are just a few of the things a regular meditation practice can do.  But, my favorite is improving your quality of sleep. I find that I sleep a great deal better and fall asleep faster when I maintain a regular practice.

How has PYR impacted you and your life?

I first found PYR back in October of 2014.  Jim Temple used to lead meditation during the days there and suggested I check it out.  That December I finally got brave enough to try a yoga class. I went to Sarah Humphries’ Saturday morning EnJoy yoga and have been hooked ever since!  I love that PYR welcomes everyone from all stages and backgrounds of life and has such a deep appreciation for both diversity and service to others. And, PYR emphasizes the importance of self-care.  This really appeals to me as both a sociologist and a psychologist. It’s also important to me to serve others in some fashion, and PYR gives me the opportunity to do so. I love the chance to pay it forward by providing meditation to others at the same place where I first learned to practice.

We love practicing meditation with Jena every Wednesday at 6pm and we hope to practice with you soon!

Finding Stillness Through Meditation, Wednesdays 6-6:30 pm at Project Yoga Richmond

Volunteer Feature: Gina Larsen

Have you met Gina Larsen?

How can one “yoga studio” offer 23,824 yoga experiences in one year? Trust us, it certainly isn’t done alone. It takes a lot of loving, hardworking, compassionate souls to make the benefits of yoga accessible across RVA. The core of our community, the people behind it who make it all possible, are our dedicated volunteers. They keep our community thriving.

So, we need to brag about them a little bit… One of the many volunteers we are over the moon about is Gina Larsen. Gina has gone above and beyond the call of Volunteer Duty to support Project Yoga Richmond. Every time Gina walks into the room, she brightens it, carrying a sense of laughter and ease that we all need.

Learn more about Gina through this special interview:

What first brought you to the practice?

Curiosity. There was a free yoga class offered through a former employer, and I thought: “Hey, I’m in!” My Golden Rule is, I’ll try (just about) anything once; twice if I like it. (This one may have exceeded those general guidelines, as I am approximately 7 years into my practice)

Why do you continue to practice?

Why on Earth wouldn’t anyone??! Yoga has provided me with so many fantastic life tools and coping mechanisms. I am constantly learning new things about myself and my abilities as my practice reaches new levels.

What are some of the benefits that the practice has had in your life?

One major element is breathing correctly. As many others, I was surprised to learn that I had not truly been doing that. Seemed so rudimentary of a concept. I also really cherish the physical flexibility I have gained. My body is now able to contort into shapes and angles it has not previously been.   

How do you think yoga benefits the world today?

Yoga promotes inclusion, tolerance, and compassion. I see this behavior blooming first-hand as all walks of life come together practicing side-by-side. I made a conscious observation and mental note of this in Byrd Park during Michelle Lee Landon’s class last summer. I always arrive early, so I can sit and appreciate my surroundings for a bit. As I  looked around, I saw all genders, ages, body shapes, races, and abilities. Participants from all socioeconomic backgrounds on various levels of practice. It…was….breathtaking!

When and Why did you first start practicing at PYR?

I was introduced to PYR through Alec Abbott when he was teaching at the Robinson Theater in Church Hill about three years ago. Of all the studios I have visited, it quickly became quite clear that PYR was in a league of its own.

Why do you practice with PYR?

Because PYR is in a league of its own!

I absolutely love the personal interactions PYR facilitates! I have met the most amazing beings and likely established life-long friendships here. As mentioned, I have also gained a ton of valuable insight into my own motivation and priorities.

What is your favorite PYR program?

I could not possibly pick just one! PYR offers so many fantastic, all-inclusive programs reaching the hearts of so many diverse members of our community. I am partial to Saturday Salutations at the VMFA, which offer interaction with new, curious yogis in a beautiful, serene setting, but I proudly speak of and advocate all our other community partnership programs.

What impacts do you see PYR making in the community?

I do not want to make assumptions, but I’m going to guess, my experiences are likely similar to those of many other PYR yogis. The comradery and bonds formed through PYR are unrivaled, sincere, and precious. PYR has provided so many healing gifts to so many people through community partnership programs and just plain being awesome! Namaste indeed, PYR <3  

What PYR Class or Event can you typically be found at?: VinYin and Feel Good Friday Flow

Aside from Asana, what other things do you like to practice or do?

Martial Arts! Absolutely my Yin to my Yang. My life-philosophy of doing anything once has introduced me to a slew of other pursuits such as SCUBA diving, roller derby, traveling, alpaca hugging, Salsa dancing, learning new languages, preparing delicious meals, camping, throwing darts at unsuspecting bullseyes, and many, many other invigorating, mind-bending activities.

When you aren’t at PYR, where can we find you?

Outside! Or traveling. Or on the town turning up with amazing people. Or sitting around my fireplace with amazing people enjoying great conversation in true Danish “hygge” style. Most likely at a festival somewhere….outside.

What is your favorite place in RVA?

Anywhere is a favorite, when you are in great company. Definitely outside on a sunny, warm day.

 

Come see Gina and thank her for all of hardwork every Friday before Feel Good Friday Flow with Elisa Hayden at 6pm!
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