A letter on behalf of Sue Agee:
“Do something. Just do something.”
-Dr. Maya Angelou
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.
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.
Much love to you,
Sue Agee, RN, E-RYT500
PYR Ambassador, former Board Member, Yoga Teacher, and Volunteer
Because the ability of yoga to unite and heal is what we need most today, and always. Thanks for all that you guys do.
2. Practicing yoga makes people feel better and in turn lifts the whole community.
3. PYR changed my life. Yoga changed my life. I am now shining my light. The ripple effect is beautiful. #bethemovement
5. In honor of Arlene Bjork, who introduced me to yoga and for Dana Walters’ vision for changing a community through service
6. Because yoga has the power to heal both self and the community in which we live.
7. Taking care of yourself takes care of others!
8. PYR provides our community a source of support, connection, and empowerment!
9. Project Yoga supports the kids at our center (The Founders Center at West Grace) by doing yoga with them and donating their time, and we appreciate it very much!
10. I think all people should be able to enjoy the benefits of yoga, regardless of age, physical ability, or financial situation. Thank you for making yoga accessible to all!
11. Mindfulness is nothing less than the salvation of the planet.
12. Yoga has made a big difference in my life.
13. I see the positive affect that it has
14. Because yoga=love
15. J Miles introduced me to the cause when I lived in VA, you all do amazing work!!
16. I believe it’s essential to self-care and should be accessible for all.
17. Because I’ve experienced yoga’s power to heal at the individual and community level
18. My wife is an ambassador at PYR . Her stories of taking yoga into the community are very uplifting.
19. Project Yoga has given me and my community more than I could ever gain from any other yoga studio. PYR is the only pay what you can studio in town and all proceeds go towards making my city a better place to live. Every time I go to PYR I feel like I always get back more than I give. I cannot say enough about how important I believe yoga and PYR is to myself and my community. I do not want to imagine what our lives would be like without it and I hope I never have to.
You and the reasons you give inspire us. Our first ever annual fundraising campaign has been a great success and we are so close to reaching our goal to ensure that yoga will remain accessible to all for years to come through PYR.
If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to make a donation to Project Yoga Richmond today. All donations are tax deductible, so make your gift before the start of 2017!
Written by PYR Ambassador Jena Morrison
It’s no secret that for many of us the holidays are stressful. Kids are home from school for a few weeks. There’s shopping and errands to be done amidst all the traffic. And, a lot of us spend time on the road traveling to be with family and friends. If that’s not stressful enough, the change in seasons to cold, dreary days makes even getting out of bed sound that much more unappealing. This often means that stress is at its peak during this time of year.
So, how do we deal with stress? There are several ways to deal with stress, but not all of them are necessarily “healthy”. Some of these less than healthy ways might include resorting to our favorite comfort foods, excessive shopping, or eyeing that bowl of egg nog. While these are not on their own negative things to do, taking them to extremes can end up making us feel worse while not actually addressing the stress itself. Luckily, there are a ton of other options that we can choose from to bring our stress levels down. These include things like exercise, journaling, reaching out to our support network of family and friends, and meditation.
Meditation, personally one of my favorites, is all about mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply defined as bringing one’s attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way (1). This notion has been around for centuries; however, only recently has science decided to take a closer look at the practice of mindfulness. This includes a number of studies showing that mindfulness can be helpful in reducing perceived stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can be exacerbated by the busy holiday season (2) (3) (4). If you’re intimidated by all of this, don’t be. Being mindful is really quite simple.
Being mindful doesn’t have to be anything overly formal or done in a specific pose. It can be as easy as taking a few moments to fully listen and appreciate your favorite song on the radio. It can be taking a few deep breaths and taking the time to appreciate the smell of your morning cup of coffee or cocoa. Or even taking 10 minutes to go outside, breathe in the crisp air, and focus on nothing but the coolness and nature around you. Taking even a moment or two here and there can add up. So whether you follow a formal seated practice 20 minutes a day or simply take a few moments here and there, it is still the same. And, mindfulness doesn’t even have to be still. Yoga is a way of making your meditation an active meditation since it requires you to focus solely on what is on your mat and your own experience.
So take a few moments over the next few weeks to catch your breath. And, if you want a more formal practice or want to learn more about meditation, come join us in the studio! Any of the Ambassadors would be happy to help you start your own practice or grow one that you already have.
(1) Kabat-Zinn, J. (2016). ‘This is not McMindfulness’. Psychologist, 29(2), 124-125
Lengacher, C., Shelton, M., Reich, R., Barta, M., Johnson-Mallard, V., Moscoso, M., & … Kip, K. (2014). Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR(BC)) in breast cancer: evaluating fear of recurrence (FOR) as a mediator of psychological and physical symptoms in a randomized control trial (RCT). Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37(2), 185-195. doi:10.1007/s10865-012-9473-6
(2) Cordon, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Gibson, P. R. (2009). The Role of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Perceived Stress: Preliminary Evidence for the Moderating Role of Attachment Style. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), 258-269. doi:10.1891/0889-8322.214.171.1248
(3) Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83-91. doi:10.1037/a0018441
(4) Song, Y., & Lindquist, R. (2015). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on depression, anxiety, stress and mindfulness in Korean nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 3586-90. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2014.06.010
Starting January 1st, join Jena Morrison for Mediation Wednesdays fro 6-6:30pm and join JaVonne Bowles on Fridays from 11-11:30 am!
Bring peace to your holiday season by practicing at Project Yoga Richmond!
*Christmas Eve Class: December 24, 9:30-11 am
Bhakti Flow with Elizabeth Shurte
*Closed Christmas Day, regular class schedule resumes Dec 26
*New Year’s Eve Class: Dec 31, 9:30-11am
Gentle Yoga and Meditation with Billie Southworth Carroll
* New Years Day Class: Jan 1, 3-5pm
Inside Out: Presence in Motion with Michele Nierle and Slash Coleman
Join the event on Facebook or visit our class schedule for more info!
“In honor of Arlene” are the words that many supporters wrote alongside their donations to PYR this season. Many of you may know who Arlene is and her history behind Project Yoga Richmond, however, many may not. This post by PYR Ambassador Kim Catley highlights Arlene Bjork, the woman who inspired so many, and brought PYR’s co-founders together with the desire to give the gifts of yoga to everyone.
Written by: Kim Catley
Photography by: Becky Eschenroeder
In the last six years, thousands of you have opened Project Yoga Richmond’s door, walked down the hall, and settled onto a mat in the main studio. On your way in, you might have noticed a small, framed photo on the altar, showing a tall, slender woman in a white tank top and pants, back arched in urdhva dhanurasana.
The woman in the photo, Arlene Bjork, was a yoga teacher in Richmond. In the late 2000s, she approached several of her private and studio students, hoping to drum up interest in her new teacher training program.
Arlene pushed her students. Every class began with 30 minutes of vinyasa. She insisted that good teachers have to be practitioners.
She taught them to be prepared for anything their students might need. Pam Cline, one of her students, remembers a cueing lesson where everyone was blindfolded. They had to guide the class from asana to asana without the help of demonstrating a pose. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first time Pam taught at a local gym, in walked a woman, holding the hand of her blind husband.
Arlene also taught them that everyone has a responsibility to give back. Before graduating from the training program, every student had to teach 50 hours without pay.
“Her biggest thing was yoga is not about the poses; yoga is a lifestyle,” says Pam Cline, one of Arlene’s students. “It’s the way you treat people and animals and your body. She taught us all of that.”
When she opened Grace Yoga, a studio in downtown Richmond, she saw it as a place where anyone could teach in service to the community, and where they could bring yoga to those who needed it.
“We had a lot of people that walked into Grace Yoga who barely had clean clothes, let alone a mat or yoga pants,” Pam says. “She said, there’s a need and there’s a community out there that would benefit from it, but it’s expensive.”
In October 2009, Arlene passed away suddenly. In the wake of her death, her family of students felt lost without their leader at the helm. “We didn’t know what to do, or where to go,” Pam says.
Then one day an idea started to take shape. It wasn’t another yoga studio, exactly; there were already plenty in Richmond. It was a place for community, with yoga at its core.
The early days weren’t easy. But gradually, a movement started to take root, and people started to come. In a nondescript building, tucked just out of sight from a busy stretch of Broad Street, a new energy was born.
“Arlene said to all of us, ‘you were born to serve and when you’re giving, you’ll be in the best place you can possibly be,’” Pam says. “She showed the community what a real yoga teacher could be, and what a really good person can be.”
Though she is no longer physically with us, Arlene continues to inspire our community. Her teachings planted powerful seeds in her students, which have grown into Project Yoga Richmond. We work hard to carry Arlene’s dedication to giving each and every day through our pay-what-you-can studio and yoga and mindfulness outreach programs in the community, making yoga accessible to all. For those who have given in honor of Arlene, we thank you and will continue to work hard to honor Arlene through PYR.
…to Project Yoga Richmond
(6 Reasons for 6 Years!)
Written by Communications and Studio Associate, Holly Zajur
1. You create community
“The best thing about volunteering for Saturday Salutations is getting to meet all of the students who may be totally new to yoga, new to PYR, experiencing their first outdoor practice or their first time at the VMFA or maybe even they are just visiting Richmond and we get to gush about our awesome city!
Once you make it back to your mat, you are truly ready for practice and enjoy the ability to lay back and stare at the clouds, hear the sounds and enjoy your practice with the strangers all around you who, after a morning of gathering around a common cause, somehow feel like family.”
– PYR Volunteer, Sara Anderson
When you donate your time, dollar, or practice with PYR, you are a part of our family!
2. You unroll the mat for someone else at our pay-what-you-can studio
“I came to Project Yoga Richmond for the first time in need of a safe space. I was beyond comforted by the space and the people that I shared class with.”
-First time Project Yoga Richmond Student
Donating any amount helps us unroll the mat for someone else 7 days a week at our pay-what-you-can studio so that all people have the opportunity to experience the power of yoga.
3. You help support our outreach programs
“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 Outreach Teen Student
Did you know one of the primary things that we do at Project Yoga Richmond is bring yoga to communities across the Greater Richmond Region? We currently provide twenty-two outreach programs and offer services from incarcerated youth to elderly populations!
4. You create inner peace
“Our world can feel, at times, very scheduled and device dependent – it’s very easy to find ourselves overextended and overcommitted. I think yoga resonates because the practice allows us to hit the pause button to recharge, to bring awareness and connection. It creates a space to look inwardly – to feel it out, listen to our bodies and offer ourselves some time for self-care.”
– PYR Operations Manager, Nadia Gooray
By supporting PYR, you create the space for yourself and others to pause and recharge. When we are able to take time for self-care, we are more likely to act kinder to ourselves and others.
5. You help yourself, and someone else, recognize their potential
“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
Our outreach does more than offer a place for physical movement. We help people realize how much they can achieve. Every time we unroll the mat, transformation takes place, we can see it on our students’ faces.
6. You stimulate lasting change
“Teaching yoga and mindfulness is like teaching people to fish: they learn a lifetime skill that enables them to nourish themselves over and over. That means the impact of every dollar you contribute to support the delivery of trained yoga instruction through PYR is amplified since people own those skills forever. You are the key to unlocking the power of yoga to transform our community.”
– PYR President of the Board, Rebekah Holbrook
By donating to Project Yoga Richmond, you plant the seeds of self-care in someone’s life that will continue to grow throughout their lifetime!
G I V I N G
This six letter word has been very important to us over the last six years of our organization. Giving takes place in many ways, shapes, and forms. From our students to our volunteers, ambassadors, board members, community partners, and staff, our community is possible because of giving. These people in our community generously give their time, share their skills, unroll their mats, and donate their dollars because they believe in PYR and the impact we are making.
This year, in place of the AmazingRaise, we are participating in GivingTuesday, the global day of giving, on November 29. We need your support on GivingTuesday to increase access to yoga. As an organization, we give back to our community by making yoga accessible to everyone. As we give our services, we also give thanks for the support we constantly receive from our community. We give thanks for the transformations we see in our students. We give thanks for impact we have seen, and continue to see in the Great Richmond area. We give thanks for the growth we have experienced so far, and the growth to come. We give thanks to you and your giving for making all of this possible.
How to participate:
- Donate any amount to PYR on our website
- Share on social media why you support PYR and how yoga improves your life on social media and tag Project Yoga Richmond (@ProjectYogaRichmond) on Facebook and Instagram
- Practice at our pay-what-you-can studio for special classes, juice from Ginger Juice, T-shirt screen printing (BYOT), and more!
- 8am Birthday Yoga with Jonathan “J” Miles
- 12:15 Mindful Meditation with Javonne Bowles
- 5:30pm Live Your Yoga with Sue Agee
- 5:30 pm Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) with Billie Carroll
- 7pm Vin/Yin with Alec Abbott