This sneak-peek into our monthly Freedom Yoga: Yoga for Special Needs demonstrates the ways yoga develops a positive sense of self and builds confidence in students. Unroll your mat with us the second Saturday of every month at 12:30pm at PYR’s studio for Freedom Yoga to be a part of this impactful class and/or make a donation online today to support the benefits of our programs!
6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism according to Autism Parenting Magazine:
- Increased Social-Communication Skills
- Awareness and Expression of Emotions
- Reduced Anxiety
- Reduction in Challenging Behaviors
- Increased Body Awareness
- Positive Sense of Self
Bring these benefits to your community by practicing for Freedom Yoga on Saturday to support yoga for everyone in your community!
Support Yoga for Special Needs
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
Tis’ the season for reflection and gratitude. Will you reflect with me for a moment?
Did you know that Project Yoga Richmond is on track to provide over 20,000 unique yoga experiences in 2017? Did you know that PYR partners with 10 organizations to provide yoga and mindfulness programs to children and youth across the Greater Richmond region? Did you know that PYR has served 4,893 children and youth so far this year?
These might just seem like numbers, but each number represents an individual who has felt the enormous impact of Project Yoga Richmond this year. I am one of those numbers. You can increase these numbers and impact the lives they represent, like mine, by making a gift today.
I know first-hand the benefits that PYR can provide to children and youth, and in this season of giving, I want to share with you how grateful I am for Project Yoga Richmond and the impact it has had on my life.
I have been challenged with brain development issues since birth. I have a formal diagnosis of Dyslexia and I’ve had a dozen major surgical procedures. These are just a few obstacles that have come my way.
I was in the sixth grade when I took my first yoga class at Brook Road Academy at St. Joseph’s Villa. I remember those Friday afternoon classes with Liz being playful and upbeat, but also opportunities for me to slow down and connect my body, brain, and breath.
Practicing Yoga with PYR gives me time and space to pause.
Your donation will make it possible for more young people like me to discover the benefits of yoga.
On the mat in those early years, I was admittedly a little loud and excitable, often falling out of poses, trying to fold myself into a pretzel, and attempting to leap into crow pose from plank. The teachers from PYR, as well my goofy classmates, were always supportive, forgiving, and patient. They put a smile on my face and made me feel welcome to be myself.
Everyone deserves to feel as supported and welcome to be themselves as I do when I practice, and Project Yoga Richmond does that as they make yoga accessible and affordable to all regardless of physical or financial ability.
When you make a gift to Project Yoga Richmond, you make yoga and mindfulness programs across the Greater Richmond region possible, including Yoga for ESOL Students, Yoga for Special Needs, Yoga for Recovery, and Yoga for Juvenile Justice, and more.
Now, as a senior, my mindset has shifted a bit. The guidance of Javonne, our current Project Yoga teacher, continues to be therapeutic and calming. I appreciate the softer qualities of my practice. I enjoy meditation and setting intentions and the stress release that regular practice brings. What I love most though is the way I feel afterwards—well rested in a way that only pausing in time and space among friends can offer.
Will you join me in giving back to Project Yoga Richmond by making a gift that impacts lives like mine?
Brook Road Academy Student
Project Yoga Richmond Programs Student
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
PYR Ambassador Ashley Williams at the ACE Summit 2016 leading a Trauma-Informed Movement and Breathing Techniques with a demo by PYR Ambassador Morgan Howell.
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!