Photo by Ash Daniel
Students at the George Wythe High School Health Fair giggle and tease each other as J Miles leads them through their first sun salutation on a drizzly April afternoon. The abridged yoga lesson, held in the middle of a high school gymnasium, does not resemble the serene atmosphere of a typical yoga class, but Miles, co-founder of Project Yoga Richmond, never intended to create a typical yoga studio.
"For the students in the schools, I want yoga to be demystified," Miles says. "I want people to feel like yoga is for everyone." The 40-year-old instructor co-founded Project Yoga Richmond with Dana Walters in November 2010. The nonprofit studio aims to spread the benefits of the practice to those with the least access and to create a stronger, more unified yoga community in Richmond.
"Yoga is a human activity," Walters, 38, says. "It's not dependent on how much you can pay for a class."
Located in an automotive industrial park near Willow Lawn, the studio has been hosting donation-based yoga classes for more than a year. Instructors from studios such as Ashtanga Yoga Richmond, Yoga Source, Om On Yoga, Synergy Yoga Studio and 4025 Yoga lead the weekly classes in a variety of traditions. In addition to the classes, the studio hosts fee-based partner yoga workshops called Acro-yoga, hula-hoop dance classes, training sessions for teachers and more. The money from the studio offerings helps to augment the community-service projects.
"Our model is that the things we do at the studio help us be able to turn around and give it back out," Walters says. The studio donates supplies to the ashtanga yoga program for inmates at the Richmond City Jail, teaches free classes with St. Joseph's Villa, Girls Can and Girls Rock!, and has donated more than $1,000 in class proceeds to charities and local causes since November 2010. In December, yoga therapist Nikki Myers led a weekend-long addiction-recovery yoga workshop called Y12SR, Yoga and 12-Step Recovery at the studio. Project Yoga Richmond plans to start yoga and 12-step recovery yoga classes in Chesterfield County this summer. "You can take something like yoga, which a lot of people see as exercise, and use it as a tool for changing your life," Walters says.
For more information, call 432-0409 or visit projectyogarichmond.org .