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
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!
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
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!
My yoga story started at an unlikely place named ClubFit in Mechanicsville, Virginia. I had long wanted to try yoga but was hindered by the overarching view of my mom that it was some sort of off-balance religion disguised as exercise and of course my own fear of the unknown. I don’t remember what I wore to that first class but I recall that the instructor was very kind and was a true champion of proper alignment. I recall feeling very pleased with myself post class and ready to keep my practice going. Hurricane Isabel and the tornado had other plans so it took a few weeks before I could get back to the studio. It has become my go-to for life because when I fall out of practice my mood goes south and it’s not the good kind of south.
My go-to studio now is Project Yoga Richmond. I love that the studio is a living outreach to the community every time I practice there. I love that when I have a job and feel that I can donate the market rate, it’s okay, and when I’m unemployed and don’t have much income to spare, it’s okay. I recently started volunteering at PYR as well and the best part of this process is the weekly conversations with the staff and yogis who inhabit the space. If you haven’t volunteered yet at your favorite place, it is worth the time to give some volunteer love.
Anyway, back to when I first started practicing yoga. There are so many reasons to love yoga but the initial takeaway for me was the awareness of my body and the tension held in places that could be relieved by the practice of pranayama. I loved the audible breathing practiced by a couple who regularly came to class and I felt at home there. I love that even now I’m learning new poses that I have never heard of before. I love the community of being in a class with other people.I was not the kind of kid who reveled in competitive sports. I preferred to play in the woods or near the creek and dance to disco music played on our turntable. I was a free spirit kind of child. In some ways, yoga is like being in the forest because there is a sacred silence in the studio so the people are like little trees I suppose. Kind little trees that give us life support. Support for the week ahead and life every day.
Dawn Williamson, PYR Student and Volunteer
Check out the programs you will be helping us highlight and support by donating to #ampitup!
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