Yoga is mostly known in our western world as a physical practice, and while it is great for toning the body, Yoga is so much more than that. Yoga is a lifestyle, and an extraordinary way to see the world. The deeper into the practice we delve, the more human we become.
We generally practice Yoga to improve ourselves, feeling the multitude of benefits it brings on the physical, emotional and spiritual level. But what if we could take our Yoga practices further than this? To strengthen communities? To heal the world?
I would like to introduce three incredible Yoginis who are doing just that. They have found the humanity in this ancient practice, and are using it to help others live purposefully. Having followed their dharma to bring healing to others, these women have become lights in their communities.
Dana Marion, founder of New Roots Yoga, Lehigh Valley USA
Dana is the founder of a non-profit organization, bringing free Yoga classes to trauma survivors of both domestic and sexual violence. Her classes find their participants living in treatment facilities, transitional living shelters or making use of outpatient mental health treatment.
Dana uses Yoga to help transform the lives of the women she works with. She says that «Yoga is a beautiful and special compliment to those suffering from trauma or addiction recovery because it provides a predictable, and safe space for the student to come every week. The only expectation is that you show up to class and breathe» She sees that as her students come along, they begin to feel more able to listen to their bodies. This allows for a process of discovery and transformation. Their bodies, which were once something they were ashamed of, begin to change and these women find themselves capable, strong and beautiful. Dana says «The ultimate gift to give these women is the ability to reclaim their bodies as their own». She has discovered that Yoga is an integral part of the rehabilitation process. Yoga has the ability to tackle major issues without direct confrontation. Skills such as finding a healthy balance in all things Life, creating boundaries, setting goals and the importance of self care can be subtly learnt on the mat, to create a dramatic impact in our lives.
Find out more about Dana and her project, on her gofundme page.
Pamela Scarborough, Physiotherapist and Yoga Teacher for Life and Breath, London, UK
Pamela is an experienced Physiotherapist, who works in the specialized field of Cystic Fibrosis.
To understand the amazing work Pam does, let me give you a quick insight into life with cystic fibrosis. For all of us who value our breath, and know the power of it, you can imagine just how scary is it to feel you can't breath. CF is a genetic disorder that mainly affects the lungs, targeting children and adults alike. Sufferers often experience ongoing infections, with a build up of thick mucus, making breathing difficult and every day activities, like showering or getting dressed, a challenge. Those with CF spend a lot of their time on antibiotics, and in and out of hospital, working with teams of health professionals to stay well. CF is so serious that if poorly managed, it can result in serious debilitation or even death.
Pam had experienced the powerful benefits of Yoga in her own life, with regular asana practice and meditation. She made the connection that Yoga could be powerful for her patients at the hospital too. Pam now teaches YogaPhysio classes and says that «integrating Yoga into my Physiotherapy practice has completely changed the way I approach clients. I am more holistic and mindful in my work and when setting goals with clients. Teaching Yoga to people with chronic health conditions enables me to better care for their physical and emotional needs, and empower them to do the same for themselves».
Pam now presents at international conferences regarding complementary therapies in health, recognizing her duty to share her patients insights with others.
Learn more about Pamela on her website.
Lizza Jacobs Nelson, PriZEN, Virginia, USA
Yoga might not be what you think of when you imagine a day in a Women's Penitentiary. What Lizza discovered when she joined the PriZEN team, was nothing short of extraordinary. The goal of PriZEN is inmate transformation, awareness and growth through movement, mindfulness and teachings of the Dharma. This initiative has not only improved the conditions of incarceration but also been linked to reduced re-admittance to prison and more successful adjustment to life outside the walls.
The teachers of PriZEN lead classes on Yoga asanas, non-violent communication, meditation and spirituality, finding that as the inmates learn to quieten the mind, they begin to heal and grow. The women leave more grounded and centered, with a new found confidence in themselves.
Even more wonderfully, the PriZEN project has a flow-on effect. Lizza says of her work with the inmates, «So many are ready to live from the heart. Even if they're in prison, they will be released one day. They will get to go home empowered to change their communities and their families».
For more information about PriZEN, click here.
The beauty of Yoga, as evident in each of these projects, is that it is truly for everyone. The postures are just vehicles of change. A way to connect to your true self.
Do you feel called?
cover image: Dayne Topkin