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.

Can Acro Yoga Help Build Trust?

We believe yoga has the power to heal and strengthen individuals and in turn, transform whole communities. We work hard to increase access to yoga because we see this transformation on a daily basis through our students. We are honored that one of our student’s, Julia Bardof, took the time to share a part of her story with us and reflected on the ways acro yoga has changed her life.

“To say yoga has changed my life is an understatement. Yoga, Acro Yoga, and Thai medicine are now intertwined parts of my being. They have all played an integral part of my healing process on so many levels. Yoga has physically helped my symptoms from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, while mentally and emotionally helping me find more balance and peace.

When reflecting on the ways Acro Yoga has transformed my life, trust is one of the first words that come to mind. Acro Yoga provides a space for me to trust myself to get out of my own head and allow movement to happen. To trust another human to suspend me in the air, to fully support another human-being them safely to the ground, trusting the spotter has your back, should something go awry.

The initial trusting of each other’s strengths is one thing, but trusting another human on a deeper level, that takes time to cultivate. To truly connect with another human in that moment to create a fluid movement together. To know that you are not alone. This is where Acro changes lives. To me, this practice goes much deeper than the physical. Unfortunate trauma in my earlier years, left me quite guarded, especially regarding physical touch and overall social anxiety. This practice just continues to help breakdown barriers.

None of these amazing things could happen without a group of loving, welcoming, individuals who’ve also gone through their struggles, who have experienced the medicine of physical touch and true connection.  Individuals who have chosen to open up and allow for change and healing to occur together. The Acro Yoga Richmond community sparks so much love, joy, and compassion. I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Through acro yoga, we hope to provide a place for you to heal, trust, and support one another. Join us this Sunday, February 19 and Acro Yoga 101 with Kim Catley from 2-4:30 pm! If this practice is new to you, do not fear, all are welcome and we have this blog post for you to help answer any questions!


Photography: Kaiya Healing Arts

Love YOUR Body

Love YOUR Body

Written by PYR Student Erin Jenkins

Can I be honest with you? When I saw this photo for the first time, over a year ago, I thought “Wow, I look horrible, my god.” But I immediately caught myself and remembered the love that was exchanged that day, in the middle of a parking lot. My body-type may not be what you picture when you think of a yogi, but don’t be fooled. Here’s my story of inclusion and discovering that yoga is for all bodies.

I started doing yoga at PYR in the winter. By the time Spring came around I was feeling pretty confident in my practice. Around this time, I heard about the Yoga Flash Mob PYR was holding in Manchester. I, pretty reluctantly, talked myself into doing yoga in front of hundreds of strangers. The “class” was led by Alec Abbott, and he was so kind and funny that I felt compelled to sit up front.

I talked myself into it, and I’m so happy I did, that this photo exists, and that it will inspire people to do yoga. I couldn’t hold the pose, so my yoga teacher grabbed my hand to stabilize me, and we all ended up grabbing hands. It was a beautiful gesture and I’ll never, ever forget it.

At this moment, I knew that PYR was a special place. This gesture has had a huge impact on me, it has inspired me to continue my path of self-care through movement, it opened me up to try new things, and has always reminded me of the power of inclusion and safe spaces. Yoga is for all bodies, yoga is for all abilities, and sharing your practice is powerful.

Big bodies are often erased from the yoga scene, and that is a terrible thing. Bodies need movement, minds need challenges, and our hearts need new experiences. I’m challenging you to get out there and put yourself in a new experience, and don’t ever, ever feel limited by your size.



Show your body some love by joining us at our pay-what-you-can studio for Love Your Body: Yoga for Women on select Sundays each month. Visit our class schedule for details!

Special thank you to McAbbott Studios for sharing their fantastic photography with us!

Yoga for Juvenile Justice

Every day we are reminded of how amazing our Ambassadors are and the life-changing ways in which they are impacting our community. Today, it was a pleasure to wake up and read this wonderful testimonial written by PYR Ambassador, Ashley Williams, who is currently getting her MS in Yoga Therapy at the Maryland Institue of Integrative Health.Take a moment to read what she has to say, and hear why this week’s Saturday Salutations at the VMFA is so close to her heart!

“In 2013, as an employee at the VA Department of Juvenile Justice, I reached out to Project Yoga Richmond to teach the young men and women at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center (BAJCC). The request was enthusiastically welcomed and PYR placed two Ambassadors and yoga props at BAJCC to teach two weekly classes. After becoming a yoga teacher in 2014, I began to offer yoga alongside PYR. In 2015, I became a PYR Ambassador and began to teach at BAJCC every week and it is undoubtedly one of the things that I look forward to doing. Each week, I am honored to teach the young men and women at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, and each week I am amazed and humbled by their strength, resilience, curiosity and authenticity as they show up on their mat to breathe, move and release.

Last week, I ran into one of my BAJCC students at the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Community Resilience Summit, and she immediately introduced me to her counselor, stating, “This is Ms. Ashley, the one that I told you taught me yoga and meditation at Bon Air. She taught me how to breathe through my anger.” Once again, I was reminded of the power of yoga.

Join me on this Saturday, August 13 at 9:00 am for Saturday Salutations at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) as I lead a practice and highlight PYR’s community outreach program at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. It’s an honor to serve as a PYR Ambassador and be a part of this LOVE movement! See you on Saturday! Much Love, Folks! ‪#‎ProjectYogaRichmond‬‪#‎saturdaysalutations‬ ‪#‎yoga‬ ‪#‎community‬ ‪#‎meditation‬ ‪#‎rvayoga‬‪#‎outdooryoga‬ ✌️❤️☀️ “

Ashley, it is an honor to know you and to share your wisdom and knowledge with the community. When you save your spot and sign up for Saturday Salutations at the VMFA, you are supporting PYR’s movement to create access to yoga in our community. So come, unroll your mat, move with us, and see the ways your practice is stimulating change in our community!


What is Trauma Informed Yoga?

Written by Holly Zajur

Trauma is evident worldwide and takes place in many different forms. As trauma has become increasingly apparent in society, it is essential to understand how to best support individuals who have experienced trauma, in turn helping to heal communities.

How does trauma impact us?

Left unresolved emotional trauma creates “issues in our tissues”, leaving a physical imprint on our bodies (1).  This can affect many of our core functions like sleep, digestion, breathing, and chemical balances.

How can yoga help?

Yoga emphasizes connecting with your body and your breath. Bringing awareness to the breath decreases stimulus in the brain, enhancing relaxation. The physical exercise of yoga combined with breath work helps to re-establish regular sleep patterns and can have a positive effect the other core functions impacted as well.

After trauma, individuals may feel lost and unable to trust. Yoga can help students re-establish a sense of control of their body and experiences, providing the opportunity for individuals to be physically in sync with others and re-establishing both internal and external trust (1). These results demonstrate the capacity of individual self-care as a uniting force that can transform not only individuals but those around you as well.

How can we help?

The best way to get involved is by educating yourself and working with others. When we heard that Connection Coalition (CoCo) was traveling around the country to offer a Trauma Informed Yoga Training, we knew that working together would create a more powerful impact. As a result, Project Yoga Richmond will be one of the first stops hosting CoCo’s Trauma Informed Outreach Certification Training on August 20-21st.

Who can attend?

We are so grateful to offer this training to help raise awareness and promote healing in our community. Having an understanding of Trauma Informed Yoga is not only something of increasing value to yoga instructors, but its lessons are applicable to anyone, especially teachers, social workers, and anyone else who might be interacting with individuals who have been impacted by trauma.

Why is this particular training special?

CoCo Community Leader and Workshop Facilitator, Claire Santos, knows the power of trauma-informed yoga from first-hand experiences. She believes in the power of yoga so much that she has been working tirelessly to bring this special training to as many people as possible. Over the next four months, Claire will be on a cross-country road trip teaching this training in eight-teen different cities. Despite her busy schedule, Claire took the time to share a bit more about CoCo and her training with us in a special interview.

Why is Trauma Informed Yoga Training important?

Trauma Informed Yoga Training is important because if we are to be of service then we need to have some understanding of those we wish to serve, how to show up in service rather than sympathy, what trauma looks like, and how to hold that space in a way that allows awareness, self-esteem, and self-control to awaken and begin to develop. If we don’t have this understanding then creating additional trauma is much more prone to occur which is ultimately a disservice.

Why is this training so close to your heart?

This work is particularly close to my heart because I am these kids. I grew up in poverty and had a number of traumatic experiences in my youth. My life could have ended up very differently. What I also had was yoga. I didn’t understand how or even necessarily that, it was helping but it did and does, and now that I know that and understand why I feel compelled to share with as many people as I can.

With so many traumatic events in society, why is this training important now more than ever? 

We are in a place of collective and individual trauma globally. This training provides tools and awareness to address some of that. Practices that allow one to self-regulate the central nervous system are absolutely key to moving through trauma – and this is where yoga and meditation come in. It is a piece of a larger puzzle. There are so many brilliant people out doing the work and sharing these and other practices. And this is another aspect of our mission to build and grow the connections between those of us doing the work so we can multiply exponentially the effect of our efforts over time.


Think this sounds great, but can’t make it to the training?

Don’t worry, we understand! Even if you cannot be physically present, you can still support Trauma Informed Yoga in our community in many ways. Whether you practice with us, volunteer with us, share this article, start a conversation with a friend about this, or donate to Project Yoga Richmond, you are an essential part of our movement to create access to yoga in our community.


“The Journey to Heal: Understanding Trauma-Sensitive Yoga.” The Breathe Network. N.p., 05 Jan. 2013. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

How do Yogi’s Handle Stress?

How do Yogi’s Handle Stress?

Written by Holly Zajur, PYR’s Communications and Studio Associate

Life lessons arise in many unexpected ways. Yesterday, we hosted Saturday Salutations in support of our yoga programs for ESL Children and Youth. The sun was shining, Sue was singing, and the sculpture deck was full of yearning yogis. But somewhere in between the Sun Salutations, the speakers stopped working.

The sound went out and students had a hard time hearing and understanding what was going on in the class. Not being able to hear or understand the instructions can be incredibly stressful. While it is incomparable to what migrant communities face coming to the United States, for a short thirty-minute span, students experienced a teeny tiny glimpse of what ESL students in schools might feel like.

If you were practicing with us on Saturday, take a moment to reflect:

What did it feel like when you could not hear what Sue was saying?

Did you feel lost?

Did you feel like you could not succeed?

What would you do if you felt this way in daily life?

And how did your practice help you deal with that stress and get past these barriers?

Here is how our PYR community handles life’s hiccups:

  • Patience and Perseverance (Tapas / Dedication)

So there is Sue standing on a deck teaching a class to over 160 people, and there is no sound. She could have panicked or been agitated. The class could have stopped. But Sue pushed through. Not only was she already facing her fears by using cues in Spanish, a second language to her, she continued teaching through all of the obstacles. She even played the banjo at the end to show how to embrace uncertainty with grace.



  • Support (Seva / Selfless Service)

Our Superhero Sound Team, Matt and Slash, jumped off of their mats and raced to our rescue. They took not only the time out of their early Saturday morning to help us set up, but they went above and beyond the call of duty, interrupting their practice and doing everything they could to get the speakers working. Our ambassadors moved their mats to the areas that were more distanced from Sue to repeat her cues and demo for the group to follow. Students had to look around and rely on each other to follow what others were doing visually. We had to support one another and collaborate to get through class. We are continually inspired by the selfless service of our amazing students, volunteers, ambassadors, and our board as they share so much of their sacred time with us to support all parts of PYR.


  • Let Go (Aparigraha / Non-Attachment)

You, our wonderful students, took what could have been an annoyance, and turned it into bliss.  You let go of what you expected going into class and embraced the situation and found beauty in what it was. You took the unexpected of life and turned it into something special.


  • Laugh (Santosha / Contentment)

Our staff, board, and ambassadors could have been upset that today that did not go as planned. But do you know what we decided to do instead? We danced. We laughed. And we celebrated the ways our practice helps us to deal with the inevitable hiccups of life.


  • Rest and Recharge (Brahmacharya / Moderation)

The speakers stopped working today because the outlet was not working and our batteries ran out of power. While this is a common technology issue, it is also something each of us face in daily life. We keep going, and going, but if we are not plugged into a reliable power source, we stop working. We need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves and tuning into our internal power source. It is important to moderate our energy and make sure that we recharge regularly in order to sustain ourselves and our impact in the world.


These are a few, among the many, messages that yoga teaches us each and every day. The ways the entire PYR community dealt with the unexpected demonstrate the skillsets that yoga brings to our students. Thank you to all who practiced with us this Saturday, for not only embracing life with a yogi state of mind but providing opportunities to share these life lessons with ESL youth in our community through your practice.

The latest on classes and special events, plus an inside look at how practicing with PYR helps our community. Sign up here.