Anne-Marie, a former higher education administrator, began practicing at PYR shortly after retirement when she found herself with more time for a regular yoga practice. She recently shared why she chooses to devote her time and resources to PYR.
Why did you decide to practice at PYR?
Practicing yoga has fundamentally affected how I go about my day-to-day life. I like to think it’s in a kinder, gentler way. It soon became apparent to me that such a practice, such an outcome, just for yourself, is kind of selfish. There is no group, no person who can’t derive the benefits that yoga can give. I can afford a gym membership, and I can afford the time. But what about those who cannot?
How does PYR’s mission come into play?
Learning about PYR during this personal journey resonated with my sense of what I needed to give back from my own practice. I attend Mindful Movement on Thursdays. The class is made up of people with a wide range of physical and developmental abilities. While I participate in that class in a traditional way, every other person there is practicing in a way that benefits them. Their postures may look different, but there is no one who doesn’t come out feeling better about themselves in the world.
Why do you support PYR financially in addition to practice at the studio?
I support PYR through practice in the studio and at Saturday Salutations but that doesn’t adequately compensate the organization for what it’s doing to benefit other groups in the community. So as I looked at my ability to give above and beyond, it quickly became one of my preferred community organizations. An organization can have a wonderful mission and purpose but if beautiful staff and volunteers don’t center it, it won’t be genuine. You can’t help but love everyone at PYR. There’s a basic goodness and love that emanates.
Meet our May Volunteer of the Month, Carolyn Henao!
Here is a quick interview with Carolyn:
“I love Project Yoga Richmond because it is so inclusive and creates a strong sense of community.
At every class, there is such a strong mix of different types of people, both men and women of all different backgrounds, that come together in order to practice yoga and meditation.
PYR offers not only a clean and beautiful physical environment for our practice, but also amazing and welcoming energy from all of the teachers, employees, and volunteers I have met.
My favorite yoga pose is One-Legged King Pigeon or “Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.” This is my favorite because when you grab the foot from overhead and lean back it offers such a nice backbend/heart opener and it also stretches the legs and opens the hips. Opening the hips and the heart releases stagnant emotions and helps with physical as well as emotional flexibility! :)”
We are so grateful to have Carolyn as a part of our PYR family!
Be sure to give her a big thank you next time you see her at PYR class or event!
Have you met Jenny? She’s one of our MVP Volunteers at the studio. Catch her Sunday mornings volunteering for Bhakti Flow!
When did you start volunteering with PYR?
Early last year, my boyfriend and I made a major life change. We quit our jobs in DC, sold our things, traveled, and eventually decided to make Richmond our new home. It was an uprooted time to say the least! I began volunteering at PYR in June and immediately felt like I had found a welcoming community and place to grow my roots in Richmond.
What is your favorite yoga class?
Bhakti Flow with Izzy every Sunday morning… sigh. This class is like my weekly reset button. Not only does my body feel rejuvenated, but I leave with some nugget or an intention to carry with me into the rest of the week.
Favorite hobby (other than yoga)?
I love to write! My major in college was creative writing with a concentration in poetry. I’m pretty casual about it these days, but I do push myself to read at open mic nights throughout the city on occasion. It’s so inspiring to hear and share with other local writers! In the same vein, I’m also a voracious reader; you’ll find me swapping books from the Little Free Library outside of the PYR studio pretty often.
When I was young, wanted so badly to live in the rainforest and be the next Jane Goodall. I would stay inside during recess to study primate flashcards. I decorated my bedroom like the jungle, and I would even fall asleep to this CD of rainforest noises my parents brought back from Costa Rica. While I don’t think I’ll go live with the chimps anytime soon, I still consider Jane Goodall to be one of my role models in life. I love her quote: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” That’s something I try to remind myself every day!
We Love our Volunteers!
If you are interested in volunteering with us this summer during our outdoor yoga series, sign up here!
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!
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
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!