The Seva Yoga Project
Coming Full Circle
Written by Leah Carey of the Caledonian Record
"When major catastrophes like the recent hurricanes in the southern United States and Puerto Rico hit, it can be hard to know how to help from afar. One local young woman is introducing a new option to the Northeast Kingdom: help others while also helping yourself.
Molly Murphy Moran grew up in Danville and graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 2010 before moving to Missoula, Montana. She became certified as a health coach and yoga teacher. This year she moved back to St. Johnsbury to finish a degree focusing on integrative health care at Goddard College.
While she’s back in the area, she is putting all of her learning into practice at Catamount Arts with a Donation Yoga Class.
“There are so many studies that have shown how beneficial and healing yoga is, and I”m really interested in the community aspect of it,” Moran said. “I’ve been dubbing it a weekly reset.”
What makes this yoga class different from most is that it is entirely by donation (no one is turned away for inability to pay) and the proceeds are going to a different charity each month.
Moran began the class in September and all proceeds went to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy specifically to support people affected by Hurricane Harvey. Classes in October are being dedicated to Unidos Por Puerto Rico, a charity to support recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
Moran hopes that people will take part both for the personal health benefits of the yoga class and to help others who are in need.
She said the idea is based on the Sanskrit word seva. “It loosely translates to selfless service,” she explained. “The whole concept of this class is flowing for a cause and being able to show up not expecting anything in return. But the catch-22 of that is that you’re benefiting yourself and you’re able to reap major health benefits through being present in a healthy community.”
She is pleased to be giving back to a community that has given her so much. She started her own yoga practice at Heart Space in St. Johnsbury when she was in high school.
“In current times we’re just in need of a deeper connection with our community … and to not be living in fear in a scary time,” she said. “I’m providing time and energy and [the students are] providing their own time and energy, and then all of that time and energy gets recycled through an hour of time and breath and intention, and it gets balled up and packaged and sent to a specific charity for that month. It’s a total collection of giving.”
In addition to the yoga class, Moran is also planning a retreat to be held in Vermont next summer. “It’s focused around relieving stress that’s been lodged in the body through intention movement, bringing community together, and food,” she said. “This is a micro-community that I wanted to test drive in the Northeast Kingdom and see if people feel a need for it.”
Until then, she’s getting as much out of the yoga class as she’s giving. “In a more personal sense, it’s something that I crave - to be able to come together once a week. Whether people are struggling with our political climate, or holding onto stressors or tension in their physical selves, or just want to connect, or just want to bring more awareness to their breath for an hour.”
The class is held on Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Cabaret space at Catamount Arts. It is open to people of all abilities, including complete yoga newbies.
“I’ve definitely had some folks come in who have hardly any yoga experience and that’s great,” Moran said. “It’s not a very physically demanding class. It’s more about just coming together and setting aside all the junk in our minds for an hour.”
A few St. J Academy student-athletes, cross country runners and soccer players among them, were part of the class members taking yoga training at the session on Sunday and they were focused on the aspect of helping improve their personal fitness.
“I just wanted to come and give it a try,” said Hilltoppers senior Jack Moran, a goalie for the soccer team and Molly’s younger brother. “My back is sore all the time from diving for saves.” With all the various contortions and stretching of the limbs and core muscles that yoga entails, it isn’t too different from being in the net, with its leaps to knock shots over the crossbar and the diving that he mentioned.
Runners could benefit too, said SJA senior and cross country runner Annie Cunningham. “I’ve never done yoga in St. J before, there haven’t been too many opportunities,” she noted. Keeping stretched out and limber from doing yoga couldn’t help but aid a runner, she said. Cramping, something runners sometimes encounter during competitions, would be less of an issue with regular yoga training, Molly later pointed out."
Please see our Events Calendar or the 'Yoga Community' link at the bottom of this page to learn more about this class!