Have you unrolled you mat with us on Thursday nights? Our Class of the Month is True North: Thursdays at 5:30-6:45 pm with rotating instructors, Sara Lovelace and Michele Nierle!
Here is a special interview with Michele on what the practice means to her:
What first brought you to the practice?
A deep desire to connect with my body in relationship with my heart.
Yoga returns me to truth and possibilities. It doesn’t sugar-coat my experience, yet it offers choice, lets me know that it is all workable and relational. I am shown again and again that I can receive life when I open myself up to it.
How do you think yoga benefits the world today?
Mindfulness on our mats connects us with our own hearts, becoming friends with both our own barriers to love and seeing our great capacity for love, and that love is here for us always. As we become friends with all of our Being, we are compassionately more available in life. Yoga offers the world compassion.
When and Why did you first start practicing at PYR?
What drew me to PYR is its community programs, to help empower individuals by making yoga accessible to so many.
Why do you practice and/or teach at PYR?
Because it doesn’t exclude anyone, plus it just plain feels good to be among so many supportive and whole-hearted people. Through PYR’s continued altruism, I am nudged and inspired to show up for life and go where I am needed. That’s pretty big.
What impacts do you see PYR making in the community?
I see PYR continuing to offer accessible yoga to so many who may not have access to it. I see how they partner with other organizations to widen the scope of opportunity for so many to experience the transformational power of yoga. I see how they continue to learn and grow as an organization, which includes offering workshops to enhance our aspiration for true inclusivity.
What has been one of your favorite moments teaching True North at PYR?
There is not a specific moment, but I love noise in class once in a while: the occasional yawn, a deep sigh of letting go, laughter! That people can have a place to release through the body, including through the mouth, is something I cherish.
What is special about the community that comes to this class?
The participants’ courage is so inspiring! They come through that door not knowing what they’re going to get, and they are willing to open their hearts to be with whatever arises physically and emotionally and move with it and through it.
We can’t wait for it to be Thursday again to unroll our mat during this special class with Michele and Sara! More about True North:
True North with Michele and Sara is an all-levels hatha class with opportunities to slow down, center, and explore creatively!
Thursdays 5:30-6:45 pm at PYR
Rotating Instructors: Sara Lovelace and Michele Nierle
Sara teaches the 1st and 3rd Thursday every month
Michele teaches the 2nd & 4th Thursday of every month
Michele and Sara co-teach the 5th Thursday of every month
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!
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
Support Yoga for Youth
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!
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