May 28, 2012

How Dare We?


How dare we not use the blessing of our yoga practice to serve others?

This was one of the many powerful challenges posed to those of us participating in the First Annual Yoga Service Conference weekend at the Omega Institute May 18-20, 2012.

I had the tremendous fortune of attending this inaugural public event presented by Jade Yoga, which brought together hundreds of yoga enthusiasts who share a passion to serve. Throughout the weekend, the challenge of how we in the yoga community can meet our ambitions skillfully, while widening critical circles of support, was explored in a host of empowering panel discussions and seminars.

While many of the Service Conference participants work on the front lines providing direct services to under-served populations, others aspire to share their talents in support. Whether raising funds or helping to tell the stories, awareness broadens impact. This is where I come in.

As a yoga instructor, I was naturally struck and touched by many aspects of the weekend. As a writer and photographer, what was most compelling were the gripping experiences verbally and (in some cases) visually shared by bold pioneers. Tale after unscripted tale, I sat in awe of these folks and the huge differences they are making using yoga in service. Among those in my company:

Hillary, from Brooklyn, discovered yoga after many years of formal training as a dancer. The 26-year-old put her college education on hold and is taking her passion to the housing projects of Harlem. She spearheads a program which offers yoga to youths in search of a positive outlet.

Melissa from Dallas, a probation worker and yoga instructor, determined to get her colleagues to think outside of the box. Yoga can be incorporated into the rehabilitation process. She volunteers her time bringing yoga to populations in detention centers who are intent to get their lives back on track.

Laura, from Chicago, a social worker and full-time graduate student is committed to bringing her passion for yoga to those lost in the system. Tears filled her eyes as she shared the tales of those who lives fell through the cracks.

B.K., from Berkeley, CA whose Niroga Institute is changing the way we motivate kids. Employs yoga and meditation to help students stay in school and make better life choices.

Suzanne, from Newington, CT, a yoga instructor and co-founder of the Veteran’s Yoga Project developed Mindful Yoga Therapy for veterans with PTSD. The program trains other yoga therapists to effectively use the art to help veterans. Her trainings are now offered nationwide.

Despite our best intentions, complacency always has a way of surfacing. We all benefit from wake up calls. From its dramatic kick-off lead by Beryl Bender Birch, straight through to its closing challenge from Seane Corn boldly asking each of us:


“How will you use the blessings of your practice in service?”

The First Annual Yoga Service Conference weekend offered just that alarm.

Are you searching your soul in thanks, wondering how to translate this gratitude into action?

The 2013 conference will be hosted once again at the Omega Institute June 7th – 9th.

As we look into our ongoing personal continuing education and training perhaps we might all benefit much from thinking beyond the asana workshops at times. I encourage you to grab a friend and be part of this empowering weekend of insight and initiative. It has the potential to inform your teaching and service in ways you never imagined. Just as Goethe suggested:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to drawback—Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Susan Currie recruited and captured with her camera all of the subjects in this project. She has been photographing children, families and life in and around Andover, MA for nearly 15 years. Her images have been featured in the Boston Globe, the Lawrence Eagle Tribune, the Andover Townsman, and the Huffington Post. She has authored and self-published two books, “make it last” and “wide awake” which both celebrate the wonder of early childhood. She has been a certified yoga instructor since 2005.


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Editor: ShaMecha Simms

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