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Interview with a Yogi…Dana Walters

Dana Walters is 2016 Board Vice President and Co-Founder of Project Yoga Richmond, a non-profit Yoga studio in Richmond, Virginia. Project Yoga Richmond not only holds a variety of Yoga classes and trainings in their studio space, but also offers classes all over Richmond, specifically for underserved communities where Yoga classes are not available. Dana has been practicing yoga for over 20 years and continues to volunteer and teach at Project Yoga Richmond as well as work privately with students through her business Up Dog Yoga.

What do you think makes PYR unique as a place to practice Yoga?
It’s definitely unique, whether we’re talking about the space itself (black and white, funky, with a bar!), the people who attend (highly diverse as compared with most other venues where I’ve attended classes), the way we operate (we never turn anyone away based on their inability to pay), and the places we serve outside the studio (senior centers, juvenile corrections, schools for autism, adult day programs)– PYR is one of a kind and I’m so honored to be a part of it.

What inspired your interest in Yoga? 

Honestly, it was curiosity in the beginning– then came the awareness I could have a physical practice that affected me on every level and that suggested some deeper knowing that I had been seeking all my life. Yoga has helped me through some tough times, such as healing past traumas including the death of my mother, and a fall I had that resulted in brain injury; and later, the stress associated with changing careers and starting multiple businesses. It continues to be my constant through whatever challenges seem to come along.

What’s your favorite Yoga pose and why? 

It changes, but I’m drawn to standing strength and balance poses (like warrior, lunge, chair, and goddess) these days, because I am quite flexible by nature, and I find that the stabilizing nature of these poses really helps balance out all that flexibility. They empower and ground me, give the opportunity to practice healthy alignment, and require both inner and outer energetic effort. In addition, I’m in my 40’s and definitely see the value of staying strong and balanced!

What’s your advice to first time yogis? 

Be curious.

What’s your advice to experienced yogis? 

Be curious.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance? 

By changing my attitude and whenever possible, seeing everything I’m called to do as an opportunity, a chance to learn something new. Also, by not isolating: ask for help! Most people love to help when asked. And goodness knows I don’t know it all!

What is your life motto? 

Don’t quit before the miracle.

How do you maintain a home Yoga practice? 

By remembering it’s progress, not perfection– and that a little Yoga, done often, can be more valuable than a lot done rarely. Also, remembering that Yoga is much more than the poses I’m creating on a mat. It’s a way of being, an awareness, an internal orientation toward truth and stillness. When that truth and that stillness are established inside, it can radiate out into everything I do, if I remember to let it.

What 3 yoga related books would you recommend to yogi’s? 

Only 3? That’s tough. Here’s 4! Meditations From The Mat and Meditations on Intention and Being by Rolf Gates. The Bhagavad Gita as translated by Stephen Mitchell. Prayers to the Infinite: New Yoga Poems by Danna Faulds.

How do you think more people could get inspired to try Yoga? 

When I started practicing, in the mid-1990’s, I didn’t have all the images available to me that are out there now. I didn’t know what a “yogi” (one who practices and studies Yoga) looked like. Now there are all sorts of images, many of them depicting fit, young, caucasian females. That’s certainly one type of practitioner, but I imagine that seeing people who look like yourself practicing would be a huge encouragement. I’m glad there are examples of those images out there and that there appears to be a growing movement to increase the availability of Yoga to everyone (a movement in which I’m obviously grateful to play a small part!)

What was the best advice you ever received? 

“Don’t let your duties be a burden.” When I remember this, everything seems a little easier. My teacher Rolf used to say this to us. Our attitudes influence so much of our experience. So what do I need to do to not let my duties be a burden? I need to put myself in the company of those who support what I am doing. Again, I can reach out for help. I can try harder when I need to, or back off when I’m overwhelmed. I can adjust my approach based on what’s really going on. I can practice self-care, remember that sometimes the best thing to do is to say “no thank you” when the time is not right for something. Yoga has really taught me to trust my intuition and to change my outlook so that life’s challenges don’t seem so difficult.

Check out Dana’s article in Yoga Journal!

Photo Credit: Stacy Abbott –Mc Abbott Studios

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