Project Yoga Richmond believes that yoga has the power to transform lives and, in turn, whole communities, even online. That’s why we started our Om at Home initiative.
Access pay-what-you-can classes from your beloved PYR Ambassadors in two ways:
We’re working hard to provide virtual opportunities for our community to stay connected, both outwardly with one another and inwardly with ourselves. This new territory comes with increased technology costs, just as we experienced significant income reduction after closing our studio. When you pay what you can for your virtual class, become a Patreon subscriber, make a donation or purchase a shirt, you support our Om at Home initiative and outreach programs during this disorienting season.
If you have a sec, watch this video. We’re grateful to be able to continue this outreach program for middle school students online while they shelter at home. YOU make this possible. Your practice really does have power.
Namaste and THANK YOU.
1. Mindful Breathing
Intentional breathing is one of the most accessible ways to soothe anxious and fearful thoughts. One activity you might try is counting the breath.
While you breathe in, mentally state, “I am breathing in, five.” While you breathe out mentally state, “I am breathing out, four.”
Next breath in, “I am breathing in, four.” With the breath out, “I am breathing out, four.” Continue until you reach 1.
(You can do this from 5-1, 10-1 or maybe even 20-1!)
2. Move the Body
Moving the body is a wonderful way to reduce stress and ease anxiety. You can go for a walk, take an online movement class, or my favorite lately has been dancing! My challenge for you this week is to pick a song and dance for its entirety, don’t worry about what you look like, just let your body move!
3. Sip Some Tea
Tea can be an excellent tool for drawing the mind back into the present moment. Grab your favorite cup of tea and try my one minute tea meditation to guide you at home.
4. Mindful Eating
Try slowing things down by practicing mindfulness during your meals. Eat with the TV off, keeping awareness on the flavors, textures and smells, savoring each bite.
5. Legs Up the Wall
Legs up the wall is a restorative yoga pose that you can do on the floor or on your bed. The objective is to get close to a wall while lying down on your back, so that you can swing your legs up onto the wall, resting your feet above your heart. This position helps tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, the relaxation center of your body.
By Joan R. Shepherd, FNP
PYR Board Member
For being something invisible to the eye, SARS-CoV-2 is impacting all of us enormously. Our minds have so much grist for our overloaded mills…and rightly so, as it is the mind’s job is to judge, decipher, clarify, choose. It’s a busy time for that industrious organ, with volumes of predictions and ominous data to sift through and from which to draw conclusions and make decisions.
In a unique way, we are called to practice Ahisma as never before.
Ahisma, the first of Patanjali’s Yamas, or observations for living, is to do no harm, an intent toward universal benevolence.
Just a few short weeks ago, in what we all perceived to be a judicious response to Covid-19, yoga studios encouraged students to wash their hands, their mats, and their props. Many who historically borrowed the studio’s props, went above and beyond by buying/bringing their own proppage. Anti-disinfectant wipes became widely available. Students spaced themselves apart from each other…
But the specifics of practicing Ahisma have morphed as the profile of this virus continues to reveal itself.
We are called to isolate at home, and possibly keep space from those with whom we live. We may be carriers, but, of course, there is no readily available test (at this writing) to tell us if we are one of the symptomless-affected. So we wash our hands, disinfect our doorknobs, our electronics, our grocery bags, our delivered packages and mail, we wear gloves and masks, and we assume SARS-CoV-2 is imminently surrounding us.
Most of us are on lock down. Only essential personnel are allowed to work, and thankfully—again, at this writing, in Virginia—we are able to take advantage of this magnificent spring season, and exercise outside.
In my day job as a medical professional working with people who have substance use disorders (SUD), I often refer to a concept popularized by Johann Hari in his TED talk: Everything You Know About Addiction is Wrong. In a video with over 15 million views he posits: The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.
How much self-harm is happening as we isolate at home and become unwitting victims of our own addictive and frenetic thoughts? Have you found yourself fusing with urgent, in-your-face, fearful thoughts which vie with the pesky but persistent smaller ones?
Using our minds to make responsible decisions and plans is essential; being caught in a mind loop of fear, anger, and anxiety creates harm to self and others.
When I was a mom at home with young children, I either rose by 5 to practice yoga before the whirlwind days began, or else attempted to practice in their presence while they crawled below my down dog like a tunnel, riding me in table top, and emulating me as best they could in triangle. A very different kind of yoga than the serene setting of a studio.
While I cannot know the specific complexities of others’ lives during the Pandemic of 2020, I do believe that most of us can carve out at least a little time for yoga. Not only is yoga intended to quiet the fluctuations of the mind, it provides essential connection to a larger consciousness. We are able to step back from our minds and notice our thoughts from the observer perspective: we have thoughts, but we are not our thoughts. This is a powerful way to practice Ahisma.
Project Yoga Richmond is now using Patreon for people who wish to join at a very reasonable rate. They are building a portfolio of high quality classes, with excellent video quality. The sense of connection is real as we practice at home with the wonderful PYR ambassadors-on our schedules.
If we can entertain the idea that everything happens for us, not to us, we will find many opportunities to build our practice of Ahisma.
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.”
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.
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 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.
Stop. Just stop.
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