Reflection within Pandemic 

PYR Ambassador Syd Collier

Maurice McNeil Photography


By Syd Collier, PYR Ambassador 

I hope this message finds you healthy & safe, may you feel the love that is woven inside waiting for you. 

In an effort to find some clarity & understanding around current events I began to read old journal entries. I stumbled upon one that I wrote last year while sitting underneath a large outstretched tree in autumn, as it released its leaves to the 80 degree breeze, uncharacteristic to the season. 

“9.10.2019 This [past summer] has been one of the most fiery summers that I have ever experienced. It has felt like a tire spinning at 90 miles an hour against scorched asphalt. I often feel that we are all moving so fast, that we are quite literally speeding up time. It is whirling past us, and we are so busy working to propel momentum forward that we are missing the experience of what we are creating along the way” 

Always striving for maximum productivity, each of us racing to continuously produce so as to not be left behind. This way of living has created problems at a rate faster than we can recognize them, much less solve them. From this perspective I am able to see why we are in the situation we are in.

The current Pandemic has introduced Quarantines, Social Distancing and Stay in Place, to our way of life, which are all practices that are forcing us to slow down. In my own living experience I can feel the resistance to such practices that have felt like a restriction of movement. I am aware of my flight or fight response going off, this urge to move and act without having anything to immediately move or respond to. I recognize this resistance as a symptom of functioning in a society that values productivity and profits over wellbeing and sanity.

However, this does not discourage me, I am beginning to see this time as an opportunity to reprogram my way of being in the world to one that is more mindful, by moving in a slower, more intentional way. I feel motivated to take the time to deeply listen to myself, my intuition and my ancestors. I believe that the presence cultivated through mindful living will be critical to our survival. By developing the ability to direct our awareness, so that we may remember what if feels like to be fully embodied. 

There seems to be this conditioned belief that the type of listening that requires one to slow down and feel is a “luxury” that there is rarely time for, especially when navigating the fast pace that we have demanded our world to move at. Acknowledging this conditioned belief brings to mind a quote by Audre Lorde where she argues against such conditioning.

“But giving into the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies”  

We are being given an opportunity to reevaluate our way of living. An invitation to move beyond fear & anxiety so that we may begin to use our deepest feelings to inform the visions we have for our future, and so we may become more intentional in our movements to actualize them.

In the words of Octavia Butler….

“Most of all, our tomorrow is the child of our today. Through thought and deed, we exert a great deal of influence over this child, even though we can’t control it absolutely. Best to think about it, though. Best to try to shape it into something good. Best to do that for any child.” 

An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans

Below is a poem that I wanted to share in this time of uncertainty. As trying as these times are for people around the world, there is good that can come from our endurance together and the connection we cultivate with ourselves and the earth that continues to sustain us. We are all in this together and I hope you are all safe and well.
Emily Martin
PYR Volunteer & Friend

An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans


Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa,China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.
Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.
Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.


by Kristin Flyntz


What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.


― Hafiz, I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy

I first heard this poem years ago when my yoga teacher read it before class and again before shivasana. I was moved by its simple yet profound message then, and am moved by it still, whenever I come across it.

Clearly if these words move me so much, I must be the person who still thinks, “I have a thousand serious moves.” Even writing this, I have a rueful smile on my lips.

A regular yoga practice allows us to cultivate becoming expert observers of our minds; the patterns of thought we are mired in, the meanings we ascribe to circumstances, the beliefs we grip tenaciously. Through the consistency of returning to our mats, and “being in” our bodies, it becomes simpler to recognize we are persons with thoughts but we are not our thoughts, thus creating more space for “tripping over joy.”

We may take our yoga practice somewhat seriously, but we don’t necessarily need to take ourselves so seriously.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP
PYR Board of Directors

Yoga and Recovery: A Practitioner’s Perspective

Project Yoga Richmond offers Y12SR, classes that combine yoga with 12-step recovery programs, as well as the latest research on trauma healing and neurobiology.


I have worked in the field of addiction medicine for a long time. Over the years, as I have grown in my knowledge of this field, I have also grown in my knowledge of yoga.

Depending on where my patients—who mostly find our clinic to detox off opioids, heroin, methadone, or alcohol—are in their stage of change, I offer yoga as an integral tool.

I have to be a little savvy about bringing up yoga. While it has clearly infiltrated western culture, many of the people with whom I work have ideas about yoga and do not see themselves wearing spandex and inhabiting a rubber mat for an hour.

But, I offer a nibble.

I introduce, for instance, the idea of becoming a witness to one’s experience or taking the risk of staying present for momentary discomfort. Or noticing the relentless and repetitive messages that appear on the movie screen of the mind, noticing the habitual reactions that accompany these messages, and the fierce impulse to escape the pain.

This is indeed the practice of yoga. As the 2nd Sutra of Patanjali states, “Yoga is the stilling of the modifications of the mind.” Or, in Sanskrit, “Yogas citta vrtti nirodha.”

Addiction has a lot to do with avoiding discomfort. Guiding a person to be at home with their own thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings is an imperative step for any successful recovery. A regular practice of yoga postures helps people bring presence to TEAMS (thoughts, emotions, associations, memories, and sensations) while staying rooted in the reality of intentional movements.

Project Yoga Richmond offers Y12SR, classes that combine yoga with 12-step recovery programs, as well as the latest research on trauma healing and neurobiology. This program serves people recovering from all manifestations of addiction, from behavioral addictions to substance abuse, and creates a safe place on the mat. Family members of people with addictions are also welcome. Teachers of this program receive certification to teach after completing proper training.

This aspect of programming for people with behavioral and substance use disorders is how I first became aware of PYR’s presence in Richmond. I have recommended it to my patients for years.

If you or a loved one is looking for another tool for your recovery toolbox, I heartily endorse the powerful programming offered at Project Yoga Richmond. The staff or any of the Board Members would be more than happy to answer your questions. Spandex not required.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP
PYR Board of Directors

Richmond Magazine Volunteer Feature: Sara Anderson

Do you ever wonder how non-profits work? We have to admit, one of the primary factors that keep our organization and community thriving is the hard work and dedication of our volunteers.

Our volunteers pour their hearts, talents, and time into making the benefits of yoga accessible. Without volunteers, we can honestly say that Project Yoga Richmond would not be where it is today. We are thrilled to see that Richmond Magazine values the impact volunteers are making across the Greater Richmond region, and in particular honoring one of PYR’s very own beloved volunteers, Sara Anderson.

Sara has been supporting PYR as a volunteer for over four years. You can most likely find her during the summertime in the early mornings greeting the community at Saturday Salutations at the VMFA to help us unroll mats across RVA.


Be sure to check out this special Richmond Magazine feature about Sara and the volunteers across RVA that keep our community thriving!

Become a Volunteer

How Does Yoga Support Students with Special Needs?

This sneak-peek into our monthly Freedom Yoga: Yoga for Special Needs demonstrates the ways yoga develops a positive sense of self and builds confidence in students. Unroll your mat with us the second Saturday of every month at 12:30pm at PYR’s studio for Freedom Yoga to be a part of this impactful class and/or make a donation online today to support the benefits of our programs!

6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism according to Autism Parenting Magazine:
  1. Increased Social-Communication Skills
  2. Awareness and Expression of Emotions
  3. Reduced Anxiety
  4. Reduction in Challenging Behaviors
  5. Increased Body Awareness
  6. Positive Sense of Self

Bring these benefits to your community by practicing for Freedom Yoga on Saturday to support yoga for everyone in your community!

Support Yoga for Special Needs

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