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!
Click Here to Become a Volunteer

 

 

 

Class of the Month: True North

Have you unrolled you mat with us on Thursday nights? Our Class of the Month is True North: Thursdays at 5:30-6:45 pm with rotating instructors, Sara Lovelace and Michele Nierle!

Here is a special interview with Michele on what the practice means to her:

What first brought you to the practice?

A deep desire to connect with my body in relationship with my heart.

Yoga returns me to truth and possibilities. It doesn’t sugar-coat my experience, yet it offers choice, lets me know that it is all workable and relational. I am shown again and again that I can receive life when I open myself up to it.

How do you think yoga benefits the world today?

Mindfulness on our mats connects us with our own hearts, becoming friends with both our own barriers to love and seeing our great capacity for love, and that love is here for us always. As we become friends with all of our Being, we are compassionately more available in life.  Yoga offers the world compassion.

When and Why did you first start practicing at PYR?

What drew me to PYR is its community programs, to help empower individuals by making yoga accessible to so many.

Why do you practice and/or teach at PYR?

Because it doesn’t exclude anyone, plus it just plain feels good to be among so many supportive and whole-hearted people. Through PYR’s continued altruism, I am nudged and inspired to show up for life and go where I am needed. That’s pretty big.

What impacts do you see PYR making in the community?

I see PYR continuing to offer accessible yoga to so many who may not have access to it.  I see how they partner with other organizations to widen the scope of opportunity for so many to experience the transformational power of yoga. I see how they continue to learn and grow as an organization, which includes offering workshops to enhance our aspiration for true inclusivity.

What has been one of your favorite moments teaching True North at PYR?

There is not a specific moment, but I love noise in class once in a while:  the occasional yawn, a deep sigh of letting go, laughter! That people can have a place to release through the body, including through the mouth, is something I cherish.

What is special about the community that comes to this class?   

The participants’ courage is so inspiring!  They come through that door not knowing what they’re going to get, and they are willing to open their hearts to be with whatever arises physically and emotionally and move with it and through it.   

We can’t wait for it to be Thursday again to unroll our mat during this special class with Michele and Sara! More about True North:

True North with Michele and Sara is an all-levels hatha class with opportunities to slow down, center, and explore creatively! 

Thursdays 5:30-6:45 pm at PYR
Rotating Instructors: Sara Lovelace and Michele Nierle
Sara teaches the 1st and 3rd Thursday every month
Michele teaches the 2nd & 4th Thursday of every month
Michele and Sara co-teach the 5th Thursday of every month

Class Schedule
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New Class/April Class of the Month: Vin/Yin with Shannon!

We are thrilled to be adding long-time PYR Ambassador, Shannon Somogyi, to our weekly studio schedule for Vin/Yin every Tuesday evening at 7-8pm!

Here is a bit about Shannon and her relationship with yoga and Project Yoga Richmond:

The opportunity to find stillness and calm first brought me to yoga. Meditation was my first initial draw and from there I got into asana as well.

Every time I come back to the mat is an opportunity to reconnect with my highest self. My practice forces me to slow down and work on ME. As a wife, mother, daughter, friend, yoga therapist, and small business owner, I cannot give the best of me unless I have it to give. So that’s why I practice. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Our practice teaches us to slow down and listen. Not only to ourselves but others too. This pause allows more connection to our authentic selves and our communities.

PYR allows me to give back to my community. I love how much our team, volunteers, and supporters give back as well. We really do have an amazing group of yogis!  I see PYR  helping to bring yoga to everyone in the community. By doing so, we are showing our community how to heal, grow, and thrive.

Shannon first got involved with PYR 6 years ago when she attended Y12SR training with Nikki Myers. In that training, Shannon met PYR Co-founder, Dana Walters, over a love of yoga and paddleboarding and loved the vibe of PYR. It wasn’t long after that Shannon started attending regular events, classes, and volunteering whenever she could. 

She has taught a number of our programs in the community, including Yoga for Autism at the Founders Center of Commonwealth Autism and Yoga for Youth at Albert Hill Middle School.

What can YOU expect on the mat during Vin/Yin with Shannon?

Class will start with a gentle warm up, and move to a Vinyasa sequence to link breath and movement. This Vinyasa portion will allow participants to focus on breath and awareness while building internal heat. From there we will move on to the Yin portion, slowing down the pace with poses to focus on the fascia. Holding poses anywhere from 2-5 minutes each.

Check it out for yourself! Don’t miss Vin/Yin with Shannon every Tuesday from 7-8pm!

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

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