Celebrating 10 years of providing yoga and mindfulness classes to the greater Richmond area, the wellness nonprofit continues to uphold its mission of affordability and accessibility.
Project Yoga Richmond celebrated its tenth birthday this past month doing what it does best — offering free yoga and meditation classes for the greater Richmond area community.
The wellness nonprofit organization stands out in the field of traditional yoga studios as it strives to be inclusive to all people of all abilities. Since its inception, Project Yoga Richmond has grown to provide accessible and affordable yoga classes through its pay-what-you-can model and outreach programs.
“PYR really broke ground there by saying you didn’t have to be able to pay for an expensive studio membership,” said Rebecca Schinsky, president of Project Yoga Richmond’s board of directors. “You don’t have to be able to pay for fancy yoga equipment; we’ve always provided mats and props to anyone who needed them during classes. And you actually don’t even have to be able to pay at all.”
Whatever one may pay for these classes helps fund Project Yoga Richmond’s community outreach programs, which help to bring yoga to all Richmonders. Project Yoga Richmond began with a few outreach programs but have expanded to more than 15 programs. It has programs dedicated to youth, seniors, people with various abilities, people who are in recovery from addiction, and incarcerated people, to name a few.
“Our goal is to make yoga accessible and affordable to practitioners of all abilities,” said Nitika Achalam, Project Yoga Richmond’s executive director.
Reflecting on the past 10 years of Project Yoga Richmond, Schinsky the organization has expanded on its goal of accessibility. It aims to provide services to those who are often excluded from the yoga scene such as communities of color, specifically Richmond’s Black and Indigenous communities, as well as Richmond’s LGBTQ population.
Schinsky, who first became involved in the organization by attending its Saturday Salutations, said Project Yoga Richmond, over the years, has reexamined its accessibility efforts, “not just in terms of financial access, but thinking about having programs in neighborhoods where yoga studios don’t exist, or where people might not just come in contact with the practice in their everyday lives.”
Achalam, who has been involved in yoga since she was child, echoes Schinsky’s statement that Project Yoga Richmond’s mission is to provide yoga services to everyone. The organization has ambassadors and volunteers from other local yoga studios to make this mission possible.
As with many organizations and businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought Project Yoga Richmond’s in-person operations at a halt. Nevertheless, the nonprofit is dedicated to continuing providing yoga classes, and Richmonders are currently able to stretch it out through virtual classes the nonprofit holds online.
The virtual classes further the organization’s vision of yoga accessibility to all. “It makes it more accessible for some who might have a hard time getting out of the house,” Acalam said, “who might not have transportation, who might be differently abled… We can bring yoga to you.”
In their effort to go virtual during the pandemic, Project Yoga Richmond added their videos collection to Patreon, an online subscription-based service. Subscribers have access to over 150 offerings of mindfulness and yoga classes.
Project Yoga Richmond tries to extend its pay-what-you-can model to Patreon by providing three membership monthly subscription levels — $17, $25, and $50. Acalam said if an individual cannot pay the lowest tier, they can contact Project Yoga Richmond for further assistance.
“We will make our offering accessible to you in a way that’s specific to the individual,” she said. “We don’t want to turn anyone away. We want the teachings to be available to you and we’ll help you get there.”
The wellness nonprofit organization recently celebrated their tenth year with a weeklong “10th Birthday Bash,” featuring online classes, auctions, raffles, and musical performances available free to the public. During this celebration, Project Yoga Richmond encouraged the community to share memories from the past ten years.
What does the next ten years look like for Project Yoga Richmond? Both Achalam and Schinsky hope for the organization to expand its yoga services and to continue providing classes to those who may not have easy access to them, but often need them most.
“We want to continue to work to support traditionally marginalized communities,” Achalam said, “people who might have been forgotten about when the yoga conversation first started.”
All Photos courtesy Project Yoga Richmond