Reflection from PYR Ambassador, Elisa Hayden: Mindfulness on the Mat at Boushall Middle School.
“Twice a week, my co-leader, Sara Lovelace, and I would walk into a middle school gym not sure what to expect. Each week, we introduced intentionally planned yoga practices, in hopes that these students, ages 11-13, would feel some relief from the everyday stress of life.
We worked a lot on self-reflection; on who we are as individuals, what makes us unique, how we react to situations, and how we can find calm in those moments. I was constantly amazed by how receptive the students were to this.
“Lay down and close your eyes. Think about something special in your life. Breathe in (1..2..3..) And breathe out. Then, (gong), then think about something you want to do in the future. – Mindfulness on the Mat Student
Sometimes, at the end of sessions, we don’t really know what impact the work will have on our students. We hope, as teachers, that they take the tools that they have learned and apply them to their lives every day. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s normal. However, this time around, we had the students write their own meditations based on their favorite parts of class and we were blown away. They ARE listening. They ARE getting it.
“Get in a comfortable area or position. Then relax your entire body. Dream that your back in your house or castle and then you see snow outside. You wish you can go outside but you have no winter clothes. So then you try to create your own winter clothes. You go outside and you breath the winter air.”- Mindfulness on the Mat Student
These small practices that seem simple to us as yogis have a much greater effect on our lives than I think any of us will ever know. I am so glad that I can share this with youth since their days bring more stress now than ever before. It is an honor and a privilege.
Mindfulness on the Mat Students, Boushall Middle School 2017
It is hard for me to find words that describe how my heart felt after this past session of Mindfulness on the Mat at NextUp Boushall. I have always felt something pulling me towards working with youth and this session just proved why PYR is doing the work that it does.
I think one of the most vital parts of PYR is it’s heart, and the hearts of the ambassadors who make up the studio and outreach programs. It is incredibly powerful working with someone who has the exact same passion for this work, along with the same desire to make people, especially pre-teens, feel seen, valued, and heard.” – Elisa Hayden
“OK everybody start taking deep breaths…Then start to think about the best time ever. It might be a birthday party, it could be your friend came over. Whatever it is think about what made it the best time ever. Take deep breaths. Inhale…Exhale… Think about where the best time ever took place. It might have been at home, at school, at the park. Think about who was there with you. Take a deep breath…inhale…exhale. It might have been your mom, your dad, friend, enemy. Then start to think of what you did. It might have been played video games, ate pizza, played tag. Take deep breath…Inhale…exhale. Wiggle your finger and toes. Now stretch. Whenever you ready you can get up.” -Mindfulness on the Mat Student
Thank you to all who have supported us by sharing your time, practice, talents, and donations to make 2017 an impactful year at Project Yoga Richmond! We are blown away by the impact you have made and hope you take some time to pause and celebrate the great things you supported in 2017. Enjoy this reflection of our 15 highlights of 2017! Keep the goodness going by making a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year so we can keep the goodness going in 2018!
1. Provided over 21,200 yoga experiences so far in 2017!
2. Voted Richmond Magazine’s Best Yoga Studio in RVA!!
3. Unrolled 2,432 mats on the VMFA deck during Saturday Salutations to support our community yoga and mindfulness programs!
Photo: Chad Williams of Creative Visual Designs
4. Celebrated 7 years of making yoga accessible across the Greater Richmond Region!
- Our first community partnership program was at Brook Road Academy in 2011, today kicked off our 7th year of our yoga and mindfulness program there!
5. Started 3 new community programs for Children and Youth this Summer
- SwimRVA with youth from Peter Paul Development Center
- Robinson Theater Community Arts Center in the East End
- Higher Achievement at Binford Middle School
6. Brought back the Yogathon for #GivingTuesday & surpassed our goal, supporting 12 community programs!
- 160 people unrolled their mats and donated to support 12 Yoga and Mindfulness Programs for one quarter
- Our students from Brook Road Academy unrolled their mats at our studio during our Yogathon!
7. Started a new program for Adults with Special Needs in partnership with the Special Olympics
- Partnered with Special Olympic Virginia SO FIT 8-week summer program, which consists of fitness training and nutritional workshops to learn healthy eating habits, PYR is offering yoga to help develop mind-body awareness and connection.
8. Worked with local artists to enhance our community space:
9. PYR hosted leaders in the yoga community for workshops at our studio
- Nikki Myers, founder of Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery)
- Melody Moore, founder of Embody Love Movement.
- Dr. Ariele Foster of Yoga Anatomy Academy for 2 yoga and anatomy workshops
- Hari Kirtana Das, author, speaker, yoga teacher, led a yoga philosophy and yoga nidra workshop.
10. Provided 25 reoccurring community yoga and mindfulness partnership programs across the Greater Richmond region!
11. Piloted a yoga and mindfulness program at Chesterfield County Jail
- Offering Yoga of 12 Step Recovery (Y12SR) for participants of The Bridge program at Chesterfield County Jail to support recovery and personal development.
12. Expanded our partnership with NextUp and offered yoga + mindfulness at Lucille Brown and Boushall Middle Schools this fall
13. Started a Trauma-Informed Yoga pilot program in November, offering therapeutic yoga to adults at Crisis Stabilization Unit at RBHA
14. New Class of the Year: Gong Meditation & Yoga Nidra every Monday at 7pm with Stacy Abbott
15. Moved Acro Yoga 101 to the VMFA Sculpture Garden during the warmer months! (You can still jam with us the second Sunday of every month at our studio at 2pm!)
Thank you for your support! We can’t wait to see the impact you make in 2018!
Tis’ the season for reflection and gratitude. Will you reflect with me for a moment?
Did you know that Project Yoga Richmond is on track to provide over 20,000 unique yoga experiences in 2017? Did you know that PYR partners with 10 organizations to provide yoga and mindfulness programs to children and youth across the Greater Richmond region? Did you know that PYR has served 4,893 children and youth so far this year?
These might just seem like numbers, but each number represents an individual who has felt the enormous impact of Project Yoga Richmond this year. I am one of those numbers. You can increase these numbers and impact the lives they represent, like mine, by making a gift today.
I know first-hand the benefits that PYR can provide to children and youth, and in this season of giving, I want to share with you how grateful I am for Project Yoga Richmond and the impact it has had on my life.
I have been challenged with brain development issues since birth. I have a formal diagnosis of Dyslexia and I’ve had a dozen major surgical procedures. These are just a few obstacles that have come my way.
I was in the sixth grade when I took my first yoga class at Brook Road Academy at St. Joseph’s Villa. I remember those Friday afternoon classes with Liz being playful and upbeat, but also opportunities for me to slow down and connect my body, brain, and breath.
Practicing Yoga with PYR gives me time and space to pause.
Your donation will make it possible for more young people like me to discover the benefits of yoga.
On the mat in those early years, I was admittedly a little loud and excitable, often falling out of poses, trying to fold myself into a pretzel, and attempting to leap into crow pose from plank. The teachers from PYR, as well my goofy classmates, were always supportive, forgiving, and patient. They put a smile on my face and made me feel welcome to be myself.
Everyone deserves to feel as supported and welcome to be themselves as I do when I practice, and Project Yoga Richmond does that as they make yoga accessible and affordable to all regardless of physical or financial ability.
When you make a gift to Project Yoga Richmond, you make yoga and mindfulness programs across the Greater Richmond region possible, including Yoga for ESOL Students, Yoga for Special Needs, Yoga for Recovery, and Yoga for Juvenile Justice, and more.
Now, as a senior, my mindset has shifted a bit. The guidance of Javonne, our current Project Yoga teacher, continues to be therapeutic and calming. I appreciate the softer qualities of my practice. I enjoy meditation and setting intentions and the stress release that regular practice brings. What I love most though is the way I feel afterwards—well rested in a way that only pausing in time and space among friends can offer.
Will you join me in giving back to Project Yoga Richmond by making a gift that impacts lives like mine?
Brook Road Academy Student
Project Yoga Richmond Programs Student
Are you wondering what programs you will be supporting during our GivingTuesday Yogathon on November 28? Here is a list of 10 of the programs you will be supporting as we raise $10,000 on #GivingTuesday!
1. Brooke Road Academy
- PYR launched its first community partnership at Brook Road Academy at St. Joseph’s Villa in March 2011, offering yoga and mindfulness to middle and high schoolers, including those facing extraordinary challenges. Drawing from the program’s success, PYR has developed and implemented yoga and mindfulness partnerships for individuals and communities of all abilities and ages.
“Project Yoga Richmond has given members of the Brook Road Academy community opportunities to better understand the dynamic interactions among the body, brain, and breath – an integral part of learning that fosters critical reflections and self awareness.” – Ben Walters, English Dept. Chair, Brook Road Academy
2. The Founder’s Center for Commonwealth Autism
- We offer yoga as a part of The Founders Center of Commonwealth Autism‘s Transition Program each week! Yoga has been a great way for students to engage in physical activity at their own level! And we love having the chance to visit our friends as we share the benefits of the practice with Commonwealth Autism!
- The physical sequences are similar from week to week (or class to class) to build confidence, encourage exploration, gain a sense of empowerment and independence, and ultimately increase mobility, strength, and balance.
“Our Transition Program has an adapted yoga class with teachers from Project Yoga Richmond once a week. It has been a great way for our students to engage in physical activity at their own level.” – The Founder’s Center of Commonwealth Autism
3. Freedom Yoga: Yoga for Special Needs
- Offered the first Saturday of each month from 12:30-1:30pm at PYR’s studio.
- This class is tailored toward students with intellectual disabilities, everyone in the community is welcome to join!
“Freedom Yoga was a doorway to yoga for us because there weren’t any other places we could go that were calm, relaxing, enveloping, and welcoming to yoga students with special needs, and now we even go to a gentle yoga class together on the regular schedule with all the other students! … It has opened up a whole world of opportunity.”
-Parent of a Freedom Yoga Student
4. ESOL Yoga with the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Passport to Education at Greene Elementary and Salem Church Middle
- Many ESOL students have shared stories of separations and reunifications due to migration, interrupted schooling, difficult, and border detentions. These experiences often have a traumatic impact on students, which manifests in the classroom and in daily life.
- PYR has studied Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, conducted by Kaiser Permanante and the CDC, and uses yoga, meditation, and mindfulness as a community resource for serving youth and helping to build resilience. These trauma-informed classes have supported students as they heal trauma and build resilience.
- Yoga provides a fully integrated experience by which a connection is made to one’s own body and to others.
- Through breath, movement, and experience in the present moment, yoga creates rhythms that aid in regulation.
- Yoga is a structured, supported, self-paced way for students to make small, manageable choices with respects to their bodies – and the shapes they make – that are kind and compassionate. In making these safe, healthy choices, students can start developing skills around acting rather than reacting
- Yoga supports ESOL learners to develop language skills and resiliency and fosters community and connection.
“I feel very calm and I can forget about the things that I do not like to think about. I calm down and then don’t need to be so upset anymore. I am grateful because you have taught me to control myself, thank you for your teachings, to be able to control my breath”. – PYR Programs Student
5. Boushall Middle School and Lucille Brown Middle School with Next Up RVA
- Half of PYR’s Community Partnerships engage children & youth!
- We introduce breathing exercises, relaxation, and visualization techniques as a support to cope with and reduce stress, improve focus/concentration and self-regulation, and promote a general sense of health and emotional well-being.
“For those moments when I feel scared, sad, joyful, disgusted, accepting, ashamed, loving, gentle, or anything and everything else, there is immaculate calm inside me. It’s beautiful. It’s imperfect. It is why I do yoga.” -PYR Programs Student
6. Aspree Adult Day Services
- This program engages adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
- These adaptive yoga classes are focused on building strength, developing regulation skills through breathing, improving mobility and maintaining/improving overall health and emotional well-being. Additionally, these classes provide a sense of belonging and community.
7. Senior Center East at Peter Paul Development Center
- Yoga for seniors supports health benefits, increases mobility and strength, and provides a sense of belonging and community. We have noticed that seniors are able to balance and hold poses for longer, extend their legs and arms higher, and remain in seated savasana/meditation for longer
- We offer yoga for seniors at Senior Center EAST at Peter Paul Development Center and Marywood Court Senior Apartments
- Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) supports people recovering from all manifestations of addiction, from behavioral addictions to substance abuse – creating a safe place on the mat where trauma can be released. It also supports those who are impacted by a loved one’s addiction.
- We offer Y12SR at our studio every Tuesday 5:30-7pm and the first Friday of each month from 5:30-7 pm.
9. Trauma-Informed Yoga for Women
- Yoga provides a supportive space to reconnect with the body, as a mind-body disconnect is often a result of traumatic experiences. Yoga is grounding and allows practitioners a framework to practice making space from traumatic thoughts, all the while exposing folks to their present moment experience.
- Join us every other Sunday from 12:30-1:30 pm for Love Your Body: Yoga for Women to experience trauma-informed techniques for yourself!
10. Binford Middle School with Higher Achievement
- Project Yoga Richmond receives evaluations from program participants, yoga instructors, and partner organization staff ton the impact of the yoga and mindfulness classes. Many of them cite positive effects of yoga for adolescents, including:
- Less anxiety
- A greater sense of self and belonging
- Developed the ability to self-monitor
- Better focus
- Felt less reactive
A letter on behalf of Sue Agee:
“Do something. Just do something.”
-Dr. Maya Angelou
Join me today by making a gift to Project Yoga Richmond.
I may not be able to change the world by myself, but I can certainly start with myself, my family, and my community here in Richmond. Yoga and mindfulness practices provide a way to make a difference within myself and my community. You, too, can make a difference.
As a nurse, a yoga teacher, and a perpetual student of yoga, I have seen and experienced the impact the practice makes in my life and in so many others. It is called yoga “practice” to encourage applying the practice beyond the yoga mat and into your daily life. When applying the principles of yoga into your life, you truly see the gifts yoga offers.
Over the years, I have served in almost every role at Project Yoga Richmond: student, volunteer, ambassador, and board member. I have remained dedicated to PYR because I believe everyone deserves access to these timeless teachings of yoga. Project Yoga Richmond opens the door to everyone. We enable folks who would not be able to have a budget for Yoga and Mindfulness classes to have low cost or no cost yoga available to them. Join me in creating greater access to yoga by making a gift to Project Yoga Richmond today.
PYR Program for ESOL Students
We teach ancient and simple techniques to help ease stress, calm the mind, strengthen the body, increase flexibility, reclaim balance, and improve focus. Calming breathing techniques and guided movement remind us that we are capable of great kindness and have more to offer fellow humankind. You can offer kindness to yourself and your community by giving the gift of yoga today.
Project Yoga Richmond supports these benefits for all through our pay-what-you-can studio and community partnership programs across the Greater Richmond Region. PYR provides real tools for real practice to real lives. There are so many ways that you can help – donate, take a workshop, join an ongoing class, help support our work in the community, share your talents, ease your mind and body, feel the love. Today I am asking you to consider making a gift to Project Yoga Richmond. With your help we can increase access to yoga for all.
Be kind to yourself and kind to others. Do something, just do something.
Much love to you,
Sue Agee, RN, E-RYT500
PYR Ambassador, former Board Member, Yoga Teacher, and Volunteer
Yoga for special needs classes provide a sense of belonging and community. These adaptive yoga classes focus on building strength, developing regulation skills through breathing, improving mobility and maintaining/improving overall health and emotional well-being.The physical sequences are similar from week to week (or class to class) to build confidence, encourage exploration, gain a sense of empowerment and independence, as well as increasing mobility, strength and balance.
PYR offers 4 Yoga for Special Needs programs:
Aspree Adult Day Services
Running weekly since Spring 2013
Instructors: Sarah Humphries and Dan Weiseman
Population Served: Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Founders Center of Commonwealth Autism
Running weekly since October 2012
Instructor: Carrie Puryear
Population Served: Teens with Autism (we work with the Upper School)
Running monthly since Spring 2013 at PYR
Instructor: Carrie Puryear
Population Served: Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, their friends and family, and is also open to the entire community
“This was a doorway to yoga for us because there weren’t any other places we could go that was calm and relaxing and enveloping and welcoming and now we even go to a gentle yoga class on the regular schedule with all the other students. It has opened up a whole world that I never thought we would have the opportunity.” – Parent of a Freedom Yoga Student
Transitions Day Support Services
Running weekly since April 2015
Instructor: Natasha Foreman
Population Served: Adults with Intellectual Disabilities
“My brother and I wanted to thank you and Special Olympics for the So-Fit program and share with you all the difference it has made in his health. He really took the program very seriously and actively participated in the Yoga and Exercise programs.
I must say the coaches at Yoga and JCC were excellent! They gave individual attention to each member, which really made him try harder to accomplish especially the Yoga positions.
In July, we went to see his primary care physician, Dr. David Taminger, with results that were remarkable. Not only had he lost a total of 14 pounds, but also had the best lab results this year. For his diabetes the results of his HbA1C, which is a measure of your average blood glucose levels was 1.2 points lower. His fasting glucose level was also within normal limits. His cholesterol levels was also so much lower. Overall he showed remarkable improvements. His doctor sent us a note saying, ” Whatever you are doing, please keep up the good work.”
This program really worked and I am so glad that we were participants. Not only was it fun and gave him an opportunity to see old friends at the program, it has made a substantial difference in his health. My only wish is to have a continuation of this program on a more permanent basis.”
–Testimonial from a sister of a participant
Each time you practice with and support Project Yoga Richmond, you make programs and impacts like this possible. Provide the benefits of yoga to all, make a donation today!