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!
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
Interview with Runner’s Love Yoga founder, Ann Mazur
Here at Project Yoga Richmond, we believe that taking care of yourself, takes care of your community. This fall, we are thrilled to be partnering with SportBackers for the Richmond Marathon on November 12th as we celebrate our 6th Birthday! As you cross the finish line, we’ll be offering 15 min cool down sessions on Brown’s Island throughout the day to help runners recover! While you take care of your body and cool down properly through slow movement during these sessions, you become and important part of our movement to increase access to yoga in our community!
To show just how powerful your practice can be and the powerful benefits that incorporating yoga into your running routine can have on your body and mind, we interviewed running and yoga expert, Ann Mazur! Ann was a walk on to Notre Dame’s running team and one of their fastest runners by the time she graduated. Ann began practicing yoga in 2005 and received her 200hr RYT in 2009. Since then, Ann has gotten even faster, beating her college PR’s.
Ann has experienced the power of yoga and the benefits of running. She believes in it so much that she started her own company, Runners Love Yoga, to support runners and yogis and help them bring balance to their practices. Ann is also an official blogger of the Richmond Half Marathon this year, and we could not be happier to have a chance to soak in her insight and knowledge to help you recover on race day!
What similarities do you see between running and yoga?
Both running and yoga require a great deal of mental strength. Yoga probably feels mentally challenging in a different way to beginning yogis–it can be difficult to lie still in savasana, for example, or really let your mind relax, but with practice, this becomes much easier. Yoga is actually quite similar to running in how it is both physically and mentally challenging; I think people tend to underestimate how vigorous yoga can be as a physical activity, but probably also underestimate how much of running is actually very mental. In both, you can really find yourself in a sort of effortless “zone”–whether you are running a race and just keep knocking your miles off at the right pace, or are practicing a flow of poses and just seeing where it takes you.
What differences do you see between the two?
Yoga is a little different in that you have to be okay with where you are. There are always going to be poses you can’t do or that aren’t maybe particularly comfortable for your body. Yoga teaches you patience; you quickly learn to be okay with where you are right at that particular moment. This doesn’t mean that you don’t want to grow, but that you know if you practice, you’ll get there when it’s meant to happen. With running, though, you tend to want to be as fast as possible, as quickly as possible–I think this is also probably why runners (especially those who don’t stretch) generally are prone to a lot of overuse injuries. Yoga teaches you that, as a runner, it’s totally okay to allow yourself time to recover, and that’s actually how you improve. Yoga really just makes you nicer to yourself!
A lot of runners come to yoga thinking it will only help their flexibility, but the mental side is just as important. In running, the emphasis is on pushing yourself, while yoga is all about doing what is right for you right then. I think a balance of both–pushing yourself but also listening to your body is where you want to end up. Yoga has probably helped me be more chill overall in a way that has definitely helped with running. There is no perfect race day scenario, or training, or nutrition plan, or way to hydrate, so just do the best you can and otherwise relax, because that last “relax” part will get you further than perfection would have anyways.
Both running and yoga appear to be “individual” practices, yet both have a strong community component and impact. How and why do you believe this emerges?
I think that for a lot of people who are currently runners, their high school or college cross country and track teams were one of the very first teams that they were on. I know my college team at Notre Dame was so, so important to me; this was really a second family. So, I think a lot of lifelong runners come to the sport of running through those teams that they were on when they were younger, and camaraderie is just such a natural part of running, period. There’s just no way to go through a grueling 10 mile practice, let alone four years’ worth of grueling practices, without forming some tremendous bonds with the other people working out with you. Even though I’m not on a formal team now, every weekend I race I find a sense of community–you tend to see the same people at races, but you also end up bonding with people who end up running near you, something which is especially true for the longer races like the marathon.
Yoga feels like a community especially in the regulars in my classes. In addition to teaching English, I also teach yoga at UVa, and I’ve seen some yoga students go through all four years of college while coming to my yoga classes! I love getting to see these same people week after week. Social media actually really adds to my sense of yoga as a community–Instagram is actually a huge yoga community, and teachers share advice and tips, and everyone cheers on everyone else’s individual practices and breakthroughs. I think Instagram sometimes gets a bad rap, but that’s only if you’re approaching it with a negative mindset! There’s so much inspiration and joy shared in ways that we otherwise could not.
What advice do you have for someone who practices yoga to start running?
- Don’t increase mileage by more than 10% a week.
- Find ways to make running work with your yoga. When I can, I run to and from teaching yoga since this makes my whole workout more efficient. Of course, this might not work for everyone, depending upon where you live, but the whole idea of stacking your workouts in a row has been very helpful for me time-wise.
- Have some sort of variety to your daily schedule. Don’t do the same thing at the same intensity every day. Have harder days, recovery days, and something in between. Vary both intensity and duration. Experiment until you find the right mix of whatever works for you. I literally draw a 7 day chart and extend it week by week so I get a clear “at a glance” map of my training, and can see further in advance when I might need to have one type of day or another, or can plan my training week in a way that makes sense with the rest of my life.
What is one primary lesson you have learned from running?
Honestly, with running, persistence. There have been so many times where I could have very easily given up on running, and just stopped–there are almost too many to list here. Anyone who knew me in grade school would not have believed I would end up even running for Notre Dame or that I would still be running now. I was literally picked last in gym class for the entirely of grade school, and made fun of relentlessly for being slow, and neither of my parents thought I had any aptitude for sports whatsoever. But, I always wanted to be a fast runner. At Notre Dame, I was a walk-on–by the time it was all said and done, I was the last walk-on from my entering class who was left, and had had some great races where I was all Big East. There are plenty of challenges particular to being a walk-on where it would have been easy to just quit, but this was honestly never even a remote possibility–nothing was going to stop me from being able to contribute to that team. Post-collegiately, running can be quite challenging to balance with regular life, let alone earning a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, or teaching and writing and running a small business. If I am anything, I am persistent! Don’t give up on your dreams because that’s what makes you a real human.
What is one primary lesson you have learned from yoga?
I think with yoga, it really is what I said earlier about being okay with you are. While there are some complex poses I can do, it can still be very intimidating when you see some of the more crazy poses, even as a yoga teacher. But you don’t have to be able to do the hardest poses to be a great teacher! That’s also part of the fun of yoga, knowing that you always have somewhere new to go and learn, but also understanding your limits in the moment. I love showing my yoga students that yoga is this never ending journey. It truly is a lifelong journey of continued growth, and no matter the pose it will may feel totally different from one day to another.
Why are running and yoga so successfully paired together?
In the past 3-4 years or so, I drastically cut down on my running mileage and upped the yoga time each day with great results. I essentially cut my mileage in half from about 50-60 miles per week to somewhere right around 30–this includes the training for my sub-3:00 marathon which included I think maybe 2 weeks where I hit 40 on the nose, but nothing more than that. I also have a possible insane but definitely unconventional training method which involves pretty much no workouts but races nearly every weekend. Somewhere along the line I discovered this plan accidentally–I really just had no time for specific running workouts during the school week, but I really really love to compete, so I just did what I enjoyed the most and it’s worked out better than what’s generally prescribed. I’ve beaten a lot of my old college PRs that I thought I’d never come close to again.
Yoga aids running performance because it corrects imbalances in your body that you otherwise probably would never have even known that you had (until you got injured), and generally makes you more aware of how well your body is doing, so that you can fine-tune a run or a race in a way that you couldn’t before. Yoga also strengthens your core, helps you move more fluidly and efficiently, and prevents a lot of common runner problems like IT band tightness (which is actually what got me hooked on yoga to begin with). With yoga, you can train more consistently. I can’t remember the last time I was injured (knock on wood). I’ve always been a natural endurance athlete, but I would swear that yoga has helped my speed somehow too!
Yoga and running do more than impact the individual, these self-care practices transform entire communities. While both involve moving your individual body, these self-care practices create a community movement towards health. As you run your race and unroll your mat with us after crossing the finish line, know that you are a part of our movement to increase wellness in the Greater Richmond region. We cannot wait to unroll the mat with you and help you recover after crossing the finish line this weekend! #bethemovement
Written by Holly Zajur
Trauma is evident worldwide and takes place in many different forms. As trauma has become increasingly apparent in society, it is essential to understand how to best support individuals who have experienced trauma, in turn helping to heal communities.
How does trauma impact us?
Left unresolved emotional trauma creates “issues in our tissues”, leaving a physical imprint on our bodies (1). This can affect many of our core functions like sleep, digestion, breathing, and chemical balances.
How can yoga help?
Photo from Connection Coalition
Yoga emphasizes connecting with your body and your breath. Bringing awareness to the breath decreases stimulus in the brain, enhancing relaxation. The physical exercise of yoga combined with breath work helps to re-establish regular sleep patterns and can have a positive effect the other core functions impacted as well.
After trauma, individuals may feel lost and unable to trust. Yoga can help students re-establish a sense of control of their body and experiences, providing the opportunity for individuals to be physically in sync with others and re-establishing both internal and external trust (1). These results demonstrate the capacity of individual self-care as a uniting force that can transform not only individuals but those around you as well.
How can we help?
The best way to get involved is by educating yourself and working with others. When we heard that Connection Coalition (CoCo) was traveling around the country to offer a Trauma Informed Yoga Training, we knew that working together would create a more powerful impact. As a result, Project Yoga Richmond will be one of the first stops hosting CoCo’s Trauma Informed Outreach Certification Training on August 20-21st.
Who can attend?
We are so grateful to offer this training to help raise awareness and promote healing in our community. Having an understanding of Trauma Informed Yoga is not only something of increasing value to yoga instructors, but its lessons are applicable to anyone, especially teachers, social workers, and anyone else who might be interacting with individuals who have been impacted by trauma.
Why is this particular training special?
CoCo Community Leader and Workshop Facilitator, Claire Santos, knows the power of trauma-informed yoga from first-hand experiences. She believes in the power of yoga so much that she has been working tirelessly to bring this special training to as many people as possible. Over the next four months, Claire will be on a cross-country road trip teaching this training in eight-teen different cities. Despite her busy schedule, Claire took the time to share a bit more about CoCo and her training with us in a special interview.
CoCo’s Claire Santos
Why is Trauma Informed Yoga Training important?
Trauma Informed Yoga Training is important because if we are to be of service then we need to have some understanding of those we wish to serve, how to show up in service rather than sympathy, what trauma looks like, and how to hold that space in a way that allows awareness, self-esteem, and self-control to awaken and begin to develop. If we don’t have this understanding then creating additional trauma is much more prone to occur which is ultimately a disservice.
Why is this training so close to your heart?
This work is particularly close to my heart because I am these kids. I grew up in poverty and had a number of traumatic experiences in my youth. My life could have ended up very differently. What I also had was yoga. I didn’t understand how or even necessarily that, it was helping but it did and does, and now that I know that and understand why I feel compelled to share with as many people as I can.
With so many traumatic events in society, why is this training important now more than ever?
We are in a place of collective and individual trauma globally. This training provides tools and awareness to address some of that. Practices that allow one to self-regulate the central nervous system are absolutely key to moving through trauma – and this is where yoga and meditation come in. It is a piece of a larger puzzle. There are so many brilliant people out doing the work and sharing these and other practices. And this is another aspect of our mission to build and grow the connections between those of us doing the work so we can multiply exponentially the effect of our efforts over time.
Think this sounds great, but can’t make it to the training?
Don’t worry, we understand! Even if you cannot be physically present, you can still support Trauma Informed Yoga in our community in many ways. Whether you practice with us, volunteer with us, share this article, start a conversation with a friend about this, or donate to Project Yoga Richmond, you are an essential part of our movement to create access to yoga in our community.
“The Journey to Heal: Understanding Trauma-Sensitive Yoga.” The Breathe Network. N.p., 05 Jan. 2013. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.
Bi-weekly, on Tuesday and Friday nights, Project Yoga Richmond offers the Yoga of 12 Step Recovery, also known as Y12SR. Modeled from the meetings of 12-step programs, Y12SR is a group sharing circle followed by an intentional, themed meditation and/or breath-work, in addition to a yoga class. Y12SR is for anyone dealing with their own maladaptive or addictive behaviors or affected by those behaviors in others. It will deepen any work that participants may be currently doing or jumpstart the journey of self-discovery. Y12SR meetings are available all over country and the curriculum is quickly becoming a feature of addiction recovery treatment centers across the United States.
Ambassador Jason Spicer leads the Y12SR program on Friday nights from 6:15-7:45pm. We were thrilled when Jason agreed to answer a few questions for us and share his experience as a yoga student and teacher. Thanks for you service and dedication, Jason!
Q: At PYR, we believe that yoga is for everyone. Can you share what Y12SR means to you?
A: To me, Yoga for 12 Step Recovery is all about service. Like Nikki Myers (Founder of Y12SR) says, “We can’t keep what we have without giving it away.” Y12SR is an opportunity for me to give back to others what yoga and recovery has given to me; a chance at a happier and healthier life.
Q: As a teacher, what do you look forward to sharing from week to week?
A: Each week I am excited to share my own experiences and insight but most of all I look forward to just being present and available to each student. I seek to hold a space that is safe and encourages each person to release, both physically and emotionally, the “issues in their tissues.” If I can create an environment that fosters self-acceptance and self-love then I feel I have done my part to help them during their own process of healing.
Q: What have you learned from the students?
A: The students are amazing. The amount of courage and dedication it takes to keep coming back each week leaves me in awe.They have developed an enthusiasm for the practice, they have demonstrated a willingness to trust and let go, and they continually impress me with their desire to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle. Each and every student truly inspires me to be and do my very best, on and off the mat.
Q: Why do you practice yoga?
A: Like most people, Yoga found me when I needed it the most. Prior to that, I had continuously searched outside of myself to feel whole and be happy. It didn’t work. Yoga gave me the wisdom and ability to heal, and continues to give me happiness, from the inside out.
Q: For anyone who is new to yoga or new to the Y12SR experience, unrolling your mat for the first time can feel very overwhelming or intimating. What would you share to someone who is brand new to the mat and is thinking about trying yoga and attending Y12SR for the first time?
A: I would say stop in and give it a try. Only you will know if it’s right for you. I would also encourage you to take a look in the mirror and smile back at yourself. Yoga, like life, doesn’t have to always be serious. There’s a really great quote that says “Yoga is the journey of the self, back to the Self, through the self.” Let’s have a little fun on the way there. And besides, when you can learn to smile at the world, and yourself, the world will always be smiling back at you.
Meet Claudine Varesi. She recently joined our team as one of PYR’s newest ambassadors.Her background is inspiring and far reaching. She has an extensive experience in serving Hispanic and Latino communities, providing translation services in multiple languages across a variety of fields, and teaching ESL classes to adult learners. She also has owned a yoga studio and provides coaching and meditation services at Lucid Yogi.
With a willingness to serve and connect, especially in the Hispanic community, we matched her with our yoga program at Falling Creek Middle School, serving ESOL students. Starting in November, the yoga and mindfulness program will incorporate stories in Spanish to link with literacy instruction and bring movement and breathwork to help the students find some peace and calm within.
We were thrilled to chat with Claudine as she embarks on a new program in the community and brings her own real life experiences to the mat. Get #insPYRed! Read more about Claudine and the power of partnership on the blog.
Q: What does this program with the Falling Creek Middle School students mean to you?
A: This program has several elements that interest me. The opportunity to include all of them into one project makes it very appealing to me. This is a group of children who have endured great challenges and hardship. In order to grow into healthy adults, they need attention and care. Teaching them some Yoga, breath awareness, and mindfulness will hopefully give them something practical they can apply right away to feel better, and more centered. They might even learn to love it and continue to practice it one day.
Being able to teach this class in Spanish is quite phenomenal. We want these kids to adjust to their new environment and our culture, and at the same time, we want them know we care and respect where they came from. Their country and their culture is something they can be proud of – it makes them special. I want them to have something that feels familiar, so they can start to build a bridge and walk with ease into a much better future. While they are learning English, it is really important they continue to speak Spanish. There are many wonderful things that await these children once they understand that being bilingual, and bi-cultural, is really a good thing!
Q: Why are you looking forward to this particular opportunity to connect and serve?
A: Because it feels right. We always have choices, and mine are to always try to be sync with everything I do. Head and heart in the same direction. Life is about relationships and putting our best into conscious actions.
The Hispanic community has a special place in my heart. It is the culture I was raised in, and where I learned to love. This opportunity is a way to give back to all the wonderful human beings along my path who have contributed to who I am today… a grateful human being.
Q: What are you looking forward to sharing with the students?
A: I look forward to sharing my own experience as an immigrant, and hope. Hope for better times, new friends, and great education. I’ve learned to love this country through people who’ve been very supportive during difficult times and have become great friends.
Q: What are you looking forward to learning?
A: I love to teach. I’m always searching for ways to make the learning process easier, more comprehensive, and joyful.
Q: You have a rich life filled with friends, family, hobbies, creativity, and hard work. How do you remain centered when life gets too busy?
A: By constantly reminding myself why I am here. I spend a fair amount of time writing, doing research, and interpreting. The nature of my translation work allows me to spend time in solitude, and I meditate quite a bit. I love quality time with my daughter, friends, and pets. I have a passion for dance, music, and art. The time I spend for study and contemplation… I cherish just as much. The balance of both allows me to stay present.
Q: Why do you practice yoga?
A: I practice Yoga because Yoga answers some very fundamental questions. In order to understand who we are and why we are here, we need to train our body and mind so that we may experience the stillness, beauty, love and wisdom that is at the very core of our essential self.
In order to cope and move ourselves through the havoc of the world, through all the uncertainties and changes we face on a daily basis, we must learn to recognize and master the divine power that’s within, which each one of us has been granted.
Thank you for your service and incredible spirit, Claudine. We look forward to our work together. If you are interested in learning more about Claudine read her full bio here.
Claudine also teaches From Stillness to Movement, Wednesdays at 5:30 PM, at the Project Yoga Richmond studio, where she infuses gentle movement with meditative moments. Class is open to all levels and your suggested $10 amount supports our outreach programs in the community, like the program at Falling Creek Middle School.