I have a usual method to the way that I teach, though I am always prepared to throw the plan out and improvise based on who is in front of me and what they need in that moment.
Generally, I start with a centering and quiet grounding time, then we work up energetically and physically before coming back down to end with a guided meditation. Recently I substituted at one of the facilities that I used to teach in weekly, a residential treatment facility for young adults dealing with homelessness and mental illness. When I arrived for class the students were visibly anxious and could barely sit, so I clearly had to come up with plan B. We did some vigorous standing poses right away, before working ourselves down to do some “grounding.” Eventually, I observed a shift in the energy of the class and we were able to get down to the mat to end with the breath and meditation practice. It was a real “think on your feet” situation for me, but I was pleased to be able to leave my students in a more calm and peaceful state.
As I was tidying up the room and getting ready to leave, one of the students came up to me and shyly thanked me for the class. She told me she had a job interview that afternoon. She had really been stressed and nervous about it before class, but said now she felt calm and ready for it. I was reminded instantly of why I work so hard to keep bringing these practices to places like this. If this yoga class helped this young woman to get a job, and ultimately helped her out of homelessness, then the entire year’s work has been worth it.
Sea Change Yoga began as just an idea, then a discussion, then a concept and mission statement. My Co-Founder and I then brought this idea to a founding group of yogis. I began teaching in places where yoga was desperately needed but not accessible. I have been really proud to watch the organization grow as we bring yoga to more and more people who would not normally have access and who benefit greatly from the emotional regulation and stress management skills that yoga and meditation offer. What started as a dream of yoga service is now a reality.
Most of my time these days is spent emailing with Sea Change teachers, meeting with interested donors and partners, or discussing our yoga program with the facilities that would like our services. In the early days of Sea Change, I taught eight classes weekly at various facilities to different populations. Today that has shrunk to just one class a week, when I get to teach yoga and meditation to women on the threshold of being released from prison. I have passed the other seven classes on to several amazing trauma informed teachers, but I hold on to this one. It is wonderful to be able to experience firsthand the healing benefits that this trauma informed practice brings to folks. Teaching this class keeps me in touch with why we do what we do.
Science has made huge strides in the past ten years, catching up to what the wise yogis of long ago knew without brain imaging technology-- yoga is therapeutic. We ground our yoga service work in the belief that the nervous system can be well-regulated with regular practice of yoga and meditation--real tools that we offer to our students. We believe that yoga is for everybody.
Sea Change Yoga has grown immensely in this founding year. We received our 501©(3) non-profit status this spring, we have begun to raise money to sustain our work, we’ve trained many local teachers in how to teach using trauma sensitive yoga principals, our mission film was shared at Maine YogaFest (where we were honored to be the charitable recipient), and we’ve been featured in The Press Herald and Maine Women’s Magazine. We’re now teaching twenty-two classes each week in fourteen facilities to over 200 students. We’re reaching incarcerated youth and adults, people in addiction recovery, mothers of special needs children, veterans, and homeless youth and adults. I would like to thank all of you for your support, your advice, your friendship. We could not have done this without the yoga community.