To Haiti With Love: From My Heart To Theirs

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a special yoga class entitled ‘Coming Home to Your Heart: A Benefit Class with Naomi Gottlieb Miller’ at Capitol Hill Yoga in support of To Haiti with Love.  There was so much sweetness encapsulated in that 90-minute class. I was truly awed by the extraordinary seva (Sanskrit for selfless service) of Kristin Adair, DC-area yogini and yoga teacher, and her exemplification of living her yoga off the mat. Kristin left her full-time job as a lawyer to take yoga into community and be a leader in sustainable change. Her project is To Haiti with Love and her goal is to raise $20,000 by December 15th to support relief efforts in Haiti, a country still struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake in January 2010. In particular, the funds raised will support Haitian organizations that create sustainable solutions, including community infrastructure projects, education programs, jobs, and financial stability. Kristin’s unwavering commitment has demonstrated to me how one person can make such a huge and far-reaching difference.

Supporting Kristin’s project and the people of Haiti is what brought me to the mat yesterday afternoon for this special event, but it was Naomi’s seva of teaching that brought me to my heart. As far as I am concerned, it just doesn’t get any better than being able to practice yoga on and off my mat simultaneously. I smiled brightly yesterday (and again now as I am thinking about it) when Naomi said to us that the practice of yoga on the mat teaches us to live yoga off the mat and that ‘doing anything different than that just doesn’t even make sense.’ I couldn’t agree more. After all, it was the off the mat goal that led me to step onto my mat for yesterday’s benefit class.

Naomi and I have been friends and colleagues for years. In fact we even did our Anusara Immersion and Teacher Training programs together. Just as much as I consider Naomi to be my friend and colleague, I also embrace her as one of my teachers. Most of the time when I take Naomi’s class I am still wearing the hat of the teacher – meaning I pay attention to how she sequences, how she gets us into and out of poses, how she describes detailed alignment principles, etc. with the aim of becoming a more effective teacher myself by learning from and emulating successful methods employed by such amazing teachers. I can count on Naomi’s classes to challenge me and provide me with a strong physical practice, and often through her skillful teaching I am able to get deeper into poses than I generally do on my own. But yesterday something else (well really, something ‘in addition to that’) happened. Through Naomi’s sweet offering I was able to get out of my head (out of teacher mode) and into my heart (into student mode). This is not an easy accomplishment for me – remember that my other gig is as an analytical scientist. Yesterday Naomi’s teaching focused on bringing us into our hearts with a special emphasis on sustainability, nourishment, and health. It was a great practice with plenty of challenging poses, including a pinnacle pose that was like a hybrid between wild thing and Brighid’s cross – what was that called Naomi? Whatever it was called, it was an offering from my heart all the way to Haiti. And I am pleased to report that 24 hours later, I am still at home in my heart, I feel nourished from the inside out, and I know that the healing process that occurred for me on my mat during those 90-minutes will continue to sustain me.

At the end of the benefit class I further supported To Haiti with Love by purchasing new mala beads (shown in the photo above) from Kristin. These hand-knotted mala beads are made with creamy natural calcite beads (symbolizing healing energy and stress reduction) and intense red garnet beads (symbolizing vitality, strength and courage). The mala beads have a To Haiti with Love bird charm to symbolize the peace and promise for Haiti. The mala beads will serve as a reminder to me of the people in Haiti whose lives will be enhanced through Kristin’s seva as well as the sweet teachings by Naomi that brought me home to my own heart so that I could more easily connect to the hearts of others. To Haiti with Love, from my heart to theirs.

About Stacey

Stacey DeGrasse, CHY co-owner and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 500, E-RYT 200), teaches a style of hatha yoga that has been largely influenced by her extensive training in the Anusara method. She emphasizes optimal physical alignment, breath-linked movement, and inspiring heart-oriented themes with the goal of motivating students to discover their fullest potential both on and off the mat. Stacey began practicing yoga in 1997, graduated from the Willow Street Yoga Center teacher training program in 2005, and has been sharing the traditional yet timeless teachings of yoga on Capitol Hill since 2005. Stacey’s approach to training yoga teachers has also been greatly informed by knowledge and skills of general teaching methodologies she has gained through her rigorous training and experience as a PhD level scientist. Currently, Stacey’s most influential teachers include Noah Maze, Christina Sell, her students, and herself. Stacey and her budding-yogi husband Jeff, along with their wide range of freshwater and seawater critters, live in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood and love being a part of such an invigorating community, which is located just steps away from Capitol Hill.

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