There’s a lot to love about Yoga District, but the main attraction that drew me in and kept me coming back is their awesome mission to bring yoga to the people—all people. Not only are the donation-based classes super affordable, the donations directly support yoga outreach programs for trauma survivors and other communities in need, including the homeless, incarcerated persons, asylees, etc. This mission is so ingrained into operation of the organization that the teacher training program at Yoga District requires its students to provide 5 free classes to a community that would benefit from yoga and would otherwise have very limited access.
To complete this assignment, I set off for a two week trip to teach yoga to a community of menopausal women in a small western Maryland town, about 75 miles outside of the city. I chose this community because they live in a place where no yoga studios exist, and their only experience with yoga has been from video recordings. If yoga helps restore balance, then there are probably very few times in a woman’s life when she could use it more than during menopause, as her entire being is shifting in every way imaginable—physically, emotionally, mentally, hormonally, energetically, and spiritually. Integrating my two passions – yoga and natural health – I was excited to design a therapeutic yoga program, specifically tailored for women who are experiencing menopause.
I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. All the times I had previously taught and/or practiced yoga with a group had been among experienced yogis. Even beginner classes almost always include a few somewhat advanced students, who generally know the ropes and understand the protocols, and new students tend to look to them for guidance. Most of the women in my outreach classes, on the other hand, had never been to a yoga studio, chanted OM, meditated, or met Downward Facing Dog.
All of my preconceptions of what a yoga class is supposed to be were totally knocked down during this first yoga outreach experience. For example, I always thought the number one “rule” was to show up on time, and if you are late, by all means do not disrupt the centering meditation at the beginning of class. Ha! Not so in this situation. In fact, this was when the majority of the class trickled in, and all the other students stopped to greet each other and catch up with the latest gossip around town. That broke the second “rule” — no talking during class. There was plenty of giggling and chatting, but it actually turned out to be really fun! Toward the end of one of the classes, I was excited to teach “legs up the wall” pose, Viparita Karani, because during my training I had learned all about the therapeutic benefits from the pose. I looked around and miraculously everyone finally had their legs stretched up a wall and appeared to be experiencing total bliss… so much that when I gave them the option to move into the final resting pose, Savasana, a few minutes later, no one even budged. They loved it!
Teaching this group of fabulous women, I would not be surprised if I learned more from them than they learned from me. They taught me how to let go of all expectations, have fun with yoga, and truly live in the moment. It is true that our students are some of our best teachers.