4 Ways Yoga Supports Youth

Did you know that 50% of Project Yoga Richmond’s outreach programs work with children and youth? We are dedicated to serving youth for a number of reasons! Here are just a few of the many benefits yoga and mindfulness provide for youth in your community!

1. Promotes social-emotional learning

Social-emotional learning develops 5 core competencies in students: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Yoga and meditation foster these core competencies.

Through a yoga and meditation practice, students first learn to bring awareness to their breath and physical body. By focusing on this connection, student become more able to feel and experience what is happening within the mind and bodies, developing stronger self-awareness.

As self-awareness emerges, students become more able to manage their emotions. When a thought or experience that would have formerly elicited an impulse reaction, students become more able to approach the situation by connecting to the breath and recognizing the emotion before acting. In turn, students are able to make more responsible decisions as they become less reactive and approach situations with more clarity.

With a newfound self-awareness and self-management skills, students are able to recognize not only what is happening within them, but what is happening around them as well, demonstrating improved social awareness and developed relationship skills.

2. Improves self-esteem and body image

As students practice and become more connected to their breath and their body, they can become more accepting and demonstrate self-compassion in a safe environment rooted in non-judgement.

Testimonial from outreach student at Boushall Middle School

3. Improves focus and school performance

Yoga may reduce classroom disturbances and enhance cognitive performance.

4. Improves physical health

Yoga improves respiratory functions, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and reduces obesity risk factors

So, how do we teach our Yoga for Youth outreach programs?

Each one of our outreach programs is unique, depending on the population that we are working with and the Ambassador that is teaching. But, we do like to keep a few key elements in mind!

1. Engage students in a variety of accessible physical postures
  • The physical posture sequences progress from week to week to build trust, confidence, and competency, while inviting creativity and playful exploration

2. Introduce breathing exercises, relaxation, and visualization techniques
  • This helps students cope with and reduce stress, improve focus/concentration and self-regulation, and promote a general sense of health and emotional well-being

3. Incorporate reflection activities and partner or group sharing
  • Many of our yoga classes include philosophy, journaling to offer a space for inquiry and sharing of voice and enhance communication skills

Currently, over 50% of Project Yoga Richmond’s outreach programs serve children and youth, particularly youth in Title 1 schools where 51% of students eligible for free and reduced lunch in Richmond City and Chesterfield County. In 2016 PYR led 226 classes specifically for children and youth, providing 1,648 yoga experiences, in both school and community center/agency settings through our outreach programs.

Over the past 6 years, Project Yoga Richmond has developed and implemented yoga programming for youth to provide these benefits throughout Greater Richmond. Currently, PYR offers recurring programming at the following Title 1 schools:

  • Binford Middle School (Partnership with Higher Achievement)
  • Falling Creek Middle School (Working with ESOL students)
  • Greene Elementary and Salem Church Middle School (Working with ESOL students, Partnership with Pasaporte a la Educacion of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce)
  • Thomas Jefferson High School  
  • Henderson Middle School (Partnership with NextUp RVA)
  • T.C. Boushall Middle School (Partnership with NextUp RVA)

Project Yoga Richmond also partners with SwimRVA to offer yoga programming to youth from Peter Paul Development Center and with Robinson Theater Community Arts Center in the East End, working with George Mason Elementary youth.

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

Unroll your mat with us at our pay-what-you-can studio and Saturday Salutations to support our yoga and mindfulness outreach programs and make transformations like this possible. You can support our outreach programs by paying-what-you-can when you pre-register for this event! And know that anytime you pay-what-you-can for class at our studio 7-days a week, you are supporting outreach like this!

Make an impact. Unroll your mat. Sign up for Saturday Salutations at the VMFA today to learn more about and support Yoga for Youth!

If you would like to learn more about how to support Yoga for youth or to sponsor one of our outreach programs, you can make a donation by clicking here 365 days a year or contact holly@projectyogarichmond.org for more information!

Works Cited

Wei, Marlynn. “7 Ways Yoga Helps Children and Teens.”Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 22 May 2015. Web. 20 June 2017.

“Yoga 4 Classrooms®.” Scientific Evidence for Yoga and Mindfulness in Schools: How and Why Does It Work? N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2017.

3 Ways Yoga Helps Direct Support Staff

In order to take care of others, we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. By offering trauma-informed yoga for staff who support populations in need, we were able to provide self-care and self-regulation tools to support building resilience in our community. This not only offers the tools to staff but provides them with the skill sets to offer basic self-care practices to the populations they work with as well. 

Safe Harbor Shelter provides support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence to overcome their crisis and to transform their lives. Staff who directly work with those who have experienced trauma have an increased likelihood of:

  • Secondary traumatic stress, also known as compassion fatigue
    • Compassion fatigue can lead to vicarious traumatization which can be common among caregivers after constant exposure to the trauma of others
  • Burnout
    • Enhanced by the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion due to chronic work-related stress

These effects make it challenging to provide high-quality care to patients and may result in a high level of staff turnover. In order to prevent this from happening, Safe Harbor reached out to Project Yoga Richmond to provide meditation and self-care practices for staff. Project Yoga Richmond began offering yoga to the Direct Support Staff at Safe Harbour in September of 2015.Safe Harbor had a few goals for offering yoga and meditation to the staff in order to provide the best care possible. Each month, Project Yoga Richmond provides the space to encourage self-care and the tools to develop sensory awareness and self-regulation and to ground and center the team.  

Working with members of the community who have experienced and/or witnessed significant trauma, direct staff are especially at risk for compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burn out.  It’s the organization’s goal to be intentional and proactive to avoid said issues by implementing a yoga and meditation program into the work week.

Two tips for teaching direct support staff:
  1. Gentle, trauma-sensitive movement using the support of the chair
    • This teaching style offers staff the tools to use these techniques at their desks when needed, making yoga and meditation accessible in a hectic work environment.
  2. Breathing techniques and meditation for staff to ground and center
    • The techniques develop self-regulation and build resilience.
 “The sessions really impact our day and get us in a good headspace, especially since Wednesday tend to be hectic around here.”
– Safe Harbor Staff Member
3 Ways Self-Care Practices Benefits Staff at Safe Harbor:
  1. General Wellness is provided as staff are empowered to practice yoga and meditation techniques and directly experience the benefits
  2. Organizational Wellness is demonstrated as staff is encouraged to create time and space for self-care practices during their work day and providing a community of support at work for those practices
  3. Education around the impacts of working with people who have experienced trauma is provided, as a well as a means of coping with the impacts

Help us support those who support others in your community by signing up and paying-what-you-can for Saturday Salutations at the VMFA highlighting Yoga for Direct Support Staff with Amy Taylor on June 10!

Pay-what-you-can for Saturday Salutations to help us make $900 to support yoga and mindfulness outreach programs like this across the Greater Richmond Region!
Works Cited

Menschner, Center Christopher, and Alexandra Maul. “Strategies for Encouraging Staff Wellness in Trauma-Informed Organizations.” Strategies for Encouraging Staff Wellness in Trauma-Informed Organizations (n.d.): n. pag. Center for Health Care Strategies. Web.

A Practice for New Parents

A Practice for New Parents

By: Kim Catley

There’s a Zen proverb that tells us to let go or be dragged.

Parenthood is one of the great lessons in proving that statement. At a time when your life changes overnight, it’s hard to let go of the comfort and routine you found in your practice.

While juggling kids and groceries and work, I sat down with PYR ambassador Izzy Shurte to talk about how our practices have changed since bring babies on board.

Be patient.

First of all, moms, your body is probably going to need time before it’s ready to flow. You spent months growing a human, you went through labor, you’re struggling with crazy sleep and wake schedules. Don’t expect to hop back on your mat and dive into a power flow (but that’s awesome if you do!).

Izzy had diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles, and had to avoid core work for a year after giving birth. The demands of breastfeeding also left her craving a slower flow. So she traded her typical sweaty, aggressive practice for whatever aligned with her body that day.

“Just roll out your mat and don’t have any expectations,” she says. “Do what feels good. Maybe it’s holding a lunge for 10 minutes. Maybe it’s starting slow and then leaning in a bit. Whatever happens is fine. Don’t make it stressful; make it organic.”

 

Be creative.

The schedule of a new parent doesn’t always align with a studio schedule. You might not be ready for practice until 9:30 p.m., after dinner is made, dishes put away, and kids are bathed and in bed. Or you’ll try to squeeze in a home flow during naptime, only for your baby to wake up after just 15 minutes.

Having a home practice gives you flexibility to squeeze in a quick session when you find a small pocket of time, even if it means getting up a little early before your house comes to life. Have 10 minutes? Find mountain pose, connect with your breath, go through a few sun salutations, and pause in a brief savasana. Even that small practice can help you feel grounded.

I love getting lost in someone else’s sequences, so I’ll pull up an online class. I can find a length that fits my schedule, and choose a focus area or style that matches what I need.

I also remind myself that yoga is much more than poses, and I can find other ways to incorporate the practice in my daily life. For instance, every night, I sit with my son until he falls asleep in my arms. I hold him close and deepen my breathing, gradually feeling him do the same. He relaxes, letting go of his fidgets and squirms. I take the time to really be with him, undistracted, and notice the subtle changes that are happening every day. It’s my new daily meditation.

Be with your baby.

Don’t have someone to leave your baby with while you head to the studio? Bring her along!

Several Richmond studios offer mom and baby yoga classes, including one at Project Yoga Richmond. It’s hosted by Nurture RVA, a local pre- and post-natal resource, so check their website for a schedule and details.

Nurture’s Baby and Me Yoga class is shaped by the babies in attendance. If everyone is awake and active, you’ll move and sing and play with your baby. If they’re having a snoozy day, you might sneak in a little flow. Bonus: you’ll get to connect with other parents and postnatal experts who can help you navigate the challenges of early parenthood (I learned how bouncing on an exercise ball calmed and soothed a crying infant when nothing else seemed to work).

When the weather turns warm, you also might be able to take advantage of some open-air classes, like Project Yoga Richmond’s Saturday Salutations at the VMFA. I showed up a few times with baby in tow and set up in the grass where he had room to wiggle, and I could quietly sneak out if things took a turn.

This can also apply at home. At first, Izzy wanted to get back to her serious and regimented practice. “I thought I had to have 90 minutes alone in a closed room while my husband watched her.” Now she’s learned that having her daughter nearby — sometimes watching Elmo, sometimes climbing all over her — has made her practice more playful. “It’s our joint self-care routine.”

Be with others.

Wherever your practice takes you, try to find your tribe.

Maybe that’s chatting up the mom sitting next to you in Baby and Me Yoga. Or maybe you meet a friend for class and grab dinner after. Just like you need to find balance in your practice, you need to find balance in life — and sometimes that means a little time on your own.

 

Thank you to all the amazing people who support our efforts to make yoga accessible to all, regardless of age, income, or financial ability! Visit us 7 days a week and pay-what-you-can at our studio and/or give online to make magic moments like this possible for everyone in your community through our yoga and mindfulness outreach programs!

Why should I Meditate?

Often, it can be intimidating to start a meditation practice. We might fear that we cannot do it “correctly”, that we are unable, or the thought of simply sitting with ourselves can be too much. But meditation takes many shapes and forms. One of our lovely meditation teacher’s, JaVonne Bowles is here to help you break down those barriers and fears. Read what JaVonne has to say about getting passed the initial hurdles of meditation and the ways your life may change.

When and why did you start meditating?

My first form of meditation was through journaling, but on January 1, 2016, after volunteering for the first time at PYR and being cued into a Gratitude Meditation, I was invited to check-in the weekly Mindful Meditation Sessions. The yogis that lead these sessions were indispensable.

They made it extremely easy for me when seated meditation was the topic of discussion in my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) around March 2016. Originally it was a requirement that I kind of dreaded of my YTT, however meditating quickly turned into a “why not” instead of a “why” (if that makes sense). I will have been practicing meditation for 3 years in June :)

What changes have you noticed in your life since practicing meditation?

Journaling took place out of a need to express myself, I’ve always had ideas and thoughts that seemed close, yet still out of reach. Once I began to clear my mental path of where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there life seemed limitless. Even when I forget that I am capable of accessing this ready-to-go tool, I become slightly frantic and even a little anxious. Meditating constantly reminds me that I am not my thoughts, nor just a physical being – stepping out of the cycle of life truly grounds me. When I think (after a meditation session) or speak from a mindful place, it is not as rough as it used to be. People have told me that I speak with clarity and I owe this to my meditation practice.

What tips do you have for someone looking to start a meditation practice?

There is never a wrong way. We are sometimes conditioned to think that if you are not seated or breathing properly then it is not meditation, I implore you to find what you already enjoy doing and simply change your perspective. For example, if you are a cook and over the years cooking has become second nature, it takes almost nothing of you to prepare a fine meal. Stop and (using the words I’ve recently read in Holly Z’s blog post) “become a novice”. Allow yourself to really think about what it is that you are doing and why. Why choose those spices over the other, why the method you choose, say sauteing, instead of steaming? Enjoy the flow of your breath as you continue to do your regular task. Begin there then practice patience with yourself as you move into the more subtle ways of meditating, for example, a seated practice. Keep a journal and invite random chatter as you place pen onto paper, let the rougher edges of your thoughts, the ones that appear to always be there, to come out.

Why do you enjoy teaching meditation?

I enjoy creating safer spaces. I believe that I have a general understanding of what pressure feels like and the desire to be perfect in every aspect. When I lead meditation, the level of pressure and perfection is placed in your hands – accessible if you wish to delve into it yet first accepting and loving where you currently are.

Have you noticed any changes in your students? If so, what?

When I first started leading, I would always hold space (as my teachers had done for me) for any questions, comments or concerns. Usually it was I that occupied that space alone. The students seemed timid to share and not necessarily content. As I’ve continued to deepen my personal practice, conversations that take place both before and after are full of life and the wonders it has. Perspective has changed.

Join Javonne Bowles and Jena Morrison for meditation weekly at our pay-what-you-can studio! We offer weekly meditation on Wednesdays with Jena at 6pm and Fridays with JaVonne at 11am! Visit our class schedule for more info!

Top 19 Reasons People Give to Project Yoga Richmond

Top 19 Reasons People Give to Project Yoga Richmond

  1. 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!

Serving With Grace: In Honor of Arlene

Serving With Grace: In Honor of Arlene

“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.

 

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