A Practice for New Parents

A Practice for New Parents

By: Kim Catley

There’s a Zen proverb that tells us to let go or be dragged.

Parenthood is one of the great lessons in proving that statement. At a time when your life changes overnight, it’s hard to let go of the comfort and routine you found in your practice.

While juggling kids and groceries and work, I sat down with PYR ambassador Izzy Shurte to talk about how our practices have changed since bring babies on board.

Be patient.

First of all, moms, your body is probably going to need time before it’s ready to flow. You spent months growing a human, you went through labor, you’re struggling with crazy sleep and wake schedules. Don’t expect to hop back on your mat and dive into a power flow (but that’s awesome if you do!).

Izzy had diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles, and had to avoid core work for a year after giving birth. The demands of breastfeeding also left her craving a slower flow. So she traded her typical sweaty, aggressive practice for whatever aligned with her body that day.

“Just roll out your mat and don’t have any expectations,” she says. “Do what feels good. Maybe it’s holding a lunge for 10 minutes. Maybe it’s starting slow and then leaning in a bit. Whatever happens is fine. Don’t make it stressful; make it organic.”


Be creative.

The schedule of a new parent doesn’t always align with a studio schedule. You might not be ready for practice until 9:30 p.m., after dinner is made, dishes put away, and kids are bathed and in bed. Or you’ll try to squeeze in a home flow during naptime, only for your baby to wake up after just 15 minutes.

Having a home practice gives you flexibility to squeeze in a quick session when you find a small pocket of time, even if it means getting up a little early before your house comes to life. Have 10 minutes? Find mountain pose, connect with your breath, go through a few sun salutations, and pause in a brief savasana. Even that small practice can help you feel grounded.

I love getting lost in someone else’s sequences, so I’ll pull up an online class. I can find a length that fits my schedule, and choose a focus area or style that matches what I need.

I also remind myself that yoga is much more than poses, and I can find other ways to incorporate the practice in my daily life. For instance, every night, I sit with my son until he falls asleep in my arms. I hold him close and deepen my breathing, gradually feeling him do the same. He relaxes, letting go of his fidgets and squirms. I take the time to really be with him, undistracted, and notice the subtle changes that are happening every day. It’s my new daily meditation.

Be with your baby.

Don’t have someone to leave your baby with while you head to the studio? Bring her along!

Several Richmond studios offer mom and baby yoga classes, including one at Project Yoga Richmond. It’s hosted by Nurture RVA, a local pre- and post-natal resource, so check their website for a schedule and details.

Nurture’s Baby and Me Yoga class is shaped by the babies in attendance. If everyone is awake and active, you’ll move and sing and play with your baby. If they’re having a snoozy day, you might sneak in a little flow. Bonus: you’ll get to connect with other parents and postnatal experts who can help you navigate the challenges of early parenthood (I learned how bouncing on an exercise ball calmed and soothed a crying infant when nothing else seemed to work).

When the weather turns warm, you also might be able to take advantage of some open-air classes, like Project Yoga Richmond’s Saturday Salutations at the VMFA. I showed up a few times with baby in tow and set up in the grass where he had room to wiggle, and I could quietly sneak out if things took a turn.

This can also apply at home. At first, Izzy wanted to get back to her serious and regimented practice. “I thought I had to have 90 minutes alone in a closed room while my husband watched her.” Now she’s learned that having her daughter nearby — sometimes watching Elmo, sometimes climbing all over her — has made her practice more playful. “It’s our joint self-care routine.”

Be with others.

Wherever your practice takes you, try to find your tribe.

Maybe that’s chatting up the mom sitting next to you in Baby and Me Yoga. Or maybe you meet a friend for class and grab dinner after. Just like you need to find balance in your practice, you need to find balance in life — and sometimes that means a little time on your own.


Thank you to all the amazing people who support our efforts to make yoga accessible to all, regardless of age, income, or financial ability! Visit us 7 days a week and pay-what-you-can at our studio and/or give online to make magic moments like this possible for everyone in your community through our yoga and mindfulness outreach programs!

Why should I Meditate?

Often, it can be intimidating to start a meditation practice. We might fear that we cannot do it “correctly”, that we are unable, or the thought of simply sitting with ourselves can be too much. But meditation takes many shapes and forms. One of our lovely meditation teacher’s, JaVonne Bowles is here to help you break down those barriers and fears. Read what JaVonne has to say about getting passed the initial hurdles of meditation and the ways your life may change.

When and why did you start meditating?

My first form of meditation was through journaling, but on January 1, 2016, after volunteering for the first time at PYR and being cued into a Gratitude Meditation, I was invited to check-in the weekly Mindful Meditation Sessions. The yogis that lead these sessions were indispensable.

They made it extremely easy for me when seated meditation was the topic of discussion in my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) around March 2016. Originally it was a requirement that I kind of dreaded of my YTT, however meditating quickly turned into a “why not” instead of a “why” (if that makes sense). I will have been practicing meditation for 3 years in June :)

What changes have you noticed in your life since practicing meditation?

Journaling took place out of a need to express myself, I’ve always had ideas and thoughts that seemed close, yet still out of reach. Once I began to clear my mental path of where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there life seemed limitless. Even when I forget that I am capable of accessing this ready-to-go tool, I become slightly frantic and even a little anxious. Meditating constantly reminds me that I am not my thoughts, nor just a physical being – stepping out of the cycle of life truly grounds me. When I think (after a meditation session) or speak from a mindful place, it is not as rough as it used to be. People have told me that I speak with clarity and I owe this to my meditation practice.

What tips do you have for someone looking to start a meditation practice?

There is never a wrong way. We are sometimes conditioned to think that if you are not seated or breathing properly then it is not meditation, I implore you to find what you already enjoy doing and simply change your perspective. For example, if you are a cook and over the years cooking has become second nature, it takes almost nothing of you to prepare a fine meal. Stop and (using the words I’ve recently read in Holly Z’s blog post) “become a novice”. Allow yourself to really think about what it is that you are doing and why. Why choose those spices over the other, why the method you choose, say sauteing, instead of steaming? Enjoy the flow of your breath as you continue to do your regular task. Begin there then practice patience with yourself as you move into the more subtle ways of meditating, for example, a seated practice. Keep a journal and invite random chatter as you place pen onto paper, let the rougher edges of your thoughts, the ones that appear to always be there, to come out.

Why do you enjoy teaching meditation?

I enjoy creating safer spaces. I believe that I have a general understanding of what pressure feels like and the desire to be perfect in every aspect. When I lead meditation, the level of pressure and perfection is placed in your hands – accessible if you wish to delve into it yet first accepting and loving where you currently are.

Have you noticed any changes in your students? If so, what?

When I first started leading, I would always hold space (as my teachers had done for me) for any questions, comments or concerns. Usually it was I that occupied that space alone. The students seemed timid to share and not necessarily content. As I’ve continued to deepen my personal practice, conversations that take place both before and after are full of life and the wonders it has. Perspective has changed.

Join Javonne Bowles and Jena Morrison for meditation weekly at our pay-what-you-can studio! We offer weekly meditation on Wednesdays with Jena at 6pm and Fridays with JaVonne at 11am! Visit our class schedule for more info!

How is my Adventure to Kripalu helping you?

How is my Adventure to Kripalu helping you?

Written by PYR Ambassador Carolyn Keller

It all began with an email from Dana Walters, co-founder of Project Yoga Richmond (PYR), inviting the PYR ambassadors to apply for a scholarship to attend the Kripalu Yoga In Schools (KYIS) teacher training. Being able to train at such a prestigious Yoga School as Kripalu was a wonderful opportunity for those of us that have already been able to provide yoga for PYR’s outreach programs.

Kripalu School for Yoga and Ayurveda is located in Stockbridge, MA. After applying for scholarships and grants. I waited. Not sure if I was going to be given a grant or scholarship and knowing that I could only go if I did get a full scholarship or grant. I was very surprised when I received an email stating that I had been awarded a full grant from the Sharon Greene Memorial Fund. I was very fortunate to meet Sharon’s mother along with 4 others that received Grant money from this very special fund.

Then, reality set in! I would be away for ten days. Away from my loving husband, our two kitties, our new German Shepherd Puppy, and our many koi and goldfish, along with missing my home, family, and friends. But this opportunity was too great to pass up, even though I really wanted to bring my husband and puppy with me.

I made it safely to Kripalu on Friday, July 1, 2016. Excited and a little bit nervous, not knowing what to expect. We all (35+) came into a large room and sat in a big circle. Quick introductions, a fun way to connect with each person receiving an index card with a topic, place, etc. written on it. We had to find the others that had a similar topic to find our group. My card had Maryland written on it and I finally found a few others with states on their cards. We had about 5 people per group with our very own mentor. This mentor was available to us for anything we needed over the next ten days. Lisa was my mentor and she was so very sweet and kind. We got to know each person in our group and then wrote on a shape of paper our intention for this training. Mine was “Learn More to Serve More” and later these were placed on the wall.

This Kripalu Yoga In Schools (KYIS) teacher training is one of the best trainings that I have been to! Iona and Janna did a great job putting together a curriculum that has been scientifically tested by Harvard and is evidence based for bringing Yoga to adolescence in Middle and High Schools, along with College and Universities.

I learned many new things about the adolescence brain and how it is still developing during the years from about 12 to 25.  This explained a lot as I looked back on my past teen years! As we all continued this in-depth training, we were encouraged to return in our minds to when we were just 15 years old. For some of us that was a very long time ago! As I went back to try and remember what things were like for me at this age, I found myself feeling insecure, concerned about what others thought of me, my looks, my hair, etc. It was very interesting to play being a teenager again. Some of us enjoyed this more than others. And some really got into being a teen again!

We completed this training with a wealth of information, a fantastic curriculum to offer private and public school systems, and an abundance of great friendships! I look forward to sharing this program in the Richmond and surrounding counties. Thank you once again Project Yoga Richmond for the connections.

As the saying is “Be the Movement”, I feel that I am part of being the Movement of bringing Yoga to more young people and their caregivers, helping them to feel and experience peacefulness, self-regulation, and harmony with themselves and others.


Be The Movement of bringing peace to all!


Written by PYR Ambassador, Becky Eschenroeder

I truly believe that everyone comes into your life for a reason. Call it cliché, but I do believe. Even when we don’t understand the behavior, thoughts, or actions of another, if we open our eyes (and our hearts) and look past the very top layer; there is always something to learn.

So often we spend so much time on that top surface area and fixate on what is right or wrong that we don’t allow ourselves to move past it. Think about any type of plant coming up from our sweet mother. It may look beautiful on top; it may look quite pitiful, but the thing is, is that there is so much more going on down below and so much work being done at the roots.

Often time we don’t give each other recognition or acknowledgment for all of that hard work. No matter what the plant looks like; all of them have something in common; that tiny seed. Perhaps at one point you are growing somewhere or towards something right alongside many common seeds. You look around and see yourself in all those growing around you and it feels good. At other times you might feel uprooted and surrounded by others who look and feel nothing like yourself; perhaps even threatened. Again, this is on the surface, but we all come from that common starting place; the seed. We have so much to learn from each other, but we have to open ourselves to it. We can help each other grow by working together as we celebrate our differences. Consider the beauty of a field of wildflowers, everyone looks different; free and wild. They are not competing or judging; they are just being the beautiful, unique flowers they are; unapologetically so. They more diversity, the more sharing of space; the more growth together, the more beautiful the field.
Why do we bring each other down? Why do we fight and argue? We come from the same starting place; we return to the same earth. Our time of growth is the most glorious…together…our seeds…together…I learn from you and you learn from me. Please, can we grow and learn from each other; I see you in me; our roots share this earth. Grow tiny seed; grow into you as we create a field of wildflowers.
As the seasons change, we hope you recognize your potential to stimulate change as well. This October we want to encourage you to think of what changes you would like to see in your life and our community. We have been planting the seeds, will you help us water them? When you share your dollar or your practice 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 today and help all of the wildflowers in our garden grow.


Special thank you to Rob Choi for sharing is photography with us!
 Photographs feature Root&Renew, July 2015.
How I became a Yoga Teacher with M.S.

How I became a Yoga Teacher with M.S.

Written by PYR Ambassador Sarah Humphries

Featured by National MS Society Virginia-West Virginia Chapter

Last week we came across this amazing testimonial from one of our wonderful Ambassadors since 2012, Sarah Humphries. Yoga has been an outlet for Sarah to overcome many of the challenges of Multiple Sclerosis. Her practice makes her stronger, and she shares her strength through teaching. Join Sarah at our Pay-What-You-Can-Studio on Saturdays at 10:30am for EnJOYoga!

How Yoga Impacted Sarah’s Life:

I received my Registered Yoga Teacher 200 (RYT200) certification after leaving my corporate job due to cognitive difficulties brought on by Multiple Sclerosis. I was diagnosed with M.S. More than 20 years ago. I began practicing yoga sometime after my diagnosis with CDs and DVDs. I don’t remember how long it has been since I began this home practice. Very quickly my balance, coordination, and strength began to improve. These changes brought on a confidence that I hadn’t seen since learning that I have M.S. Because I saw this improvement I was hooked!! With my renewed self-confidence I wanted to share what the practice of yoga had done for me with anyone who would listen.


Photo by: McAbbott Studios

The next phase of this journey began when the company that I had worked for 18 years went out of business. I had been working from home for 14 of the 18 years that I was with them. When that job ended and I had to get a more conventional job, it quickly became evident that I wasn’t performing as I had been in the quiet of my own home. The outside noise and various other distractions made it hard to concentrate. My bosses began having talks with me about ending my employment. I spoke to my neurologist and after some testing and it was determined that I did, in fact, have some cognitive loss and would need to apply for disability.

When it came time for me to leave my job I knew that I wanted to take my newly found “free” time to speak to M.S. Support groups about the benefits of yoga. I also knew I wanted to have my RYT certification before I started to do that. At this time I had only taken a few yoga classes in a studio. I was too concerned about what people would think when I would begin to wobble and not look like what I thought a real yogi looked like. Now I help people understand that yoga is for everyone.

I was also intimidated by going back into a school environment and was afraid of not being able to retain the information. I found a studio that had a summer long intensive course and enrolled right away. I am proud to say I was to first one to complete the course which included many hours of different styles of yoga classes. Upon graduation I had one person ask me to help her with yoga. She lives with M.S. like I do and wanted to enjoy the benefits. I began teaching her weekly.

How Sarah and PYR Connected:

Shortly after that, I learned about Project Yoga Richmond and they asked if I would be interested in teaching chair yoga to a group of seniors. I have been with that group for four years now and so enjoy watching their practice grow. This fall I will have 15 classes a week on my calendar. I teach a group of mentally and physically challenged adults twice a week, additional classes for seniors, those who live with chronic disease and even yoga in the pool! I also teach a gentle beginner level class once a week at Project Yoga Richmond. As the community began to hear about the chair yoga classes that I was offering more requests for classes came in. I have private clients where we can personally adapt yoga to their individual needs.


I am now an ERYT 200 that means I have taught over 1000 hours.

Take THAT M.S.!!

Yoga for Juvenile Justice

Every day we are reminded of how amazing our Ambassadors are and the life-changing ways in which they are impacting our community. Today, it was a pleasure to wake up and read this wonderful testimonial written by PYR Ambassador, Ashley Williams, who is currently getting her MS in Yoga Therapy at the Maryland Institue of Integrative Health.Take a moment to read what she has to say, and hear why this week’s Saturday Salutations at the VMFA is so close to her heart!

“In 2013, as an employee at the VA Department of Juvenile Justice, I reached out to Project Yoga Richmond to teach the young men and women at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center (BAJCC). The request was enthusiastically welcomed and PYR placed two Ambassadors and yoga props at BAJCC to teach two weekly classes. After becoming a yoga teacher in 2014, I began to offer yoga alongside PYR. In 2015, I became a PYR Ambassador and began to teach at BAJCC every week and it is undoubtedly one of the things that I look forward to doing. Each week, I am honored to teach the young men and women at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, and each week I am amazed and humbled by their strength, resilience, curiosity and authenticity as they show up on their mat to breathe, move and release.

Last week, I ran into one of my BAJCC students at the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Community Resilience Summit, and she immediately introduced me to her counselor, stating, “This is Ms. Ashley, the one that I told you taught me yoga and meditation at Bon Air. She taught me how to breathe through my anger.” Once again, I was reminded of the power of yoga.

Join me on this Saturday, August 13 at 9:00 am for Saturday Salutations at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) as I lead a practice and highlight PYR’s community outreach program at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. It’s an honor to serve as a PYR Ambassador and be a part of this LOVE movement! See you on Saturday! Much Love, Folks! ‪#‎ProjectYogaRichmond‬‪#‎saturdaysalutations‬ ‪#‎yoga‬ ‪#‎community‬ ‪#‎meditation‬ ‪#‎rvayoga‬‪#‎outdooryoga‬ ✌️❤️☀️ “

Ashley, it is an honor to know you and to share your wisdom and knowledge with the community. When you save your spot and sign up for Saturday Salutations at the VMFA, you are supporting PYR’s movement to create access to yoga in our community. So come, unroll your mat, move with us, and see the ways your practice is stimulating change in our community!


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