Get to know Transformation Yoga Project's amazing Director of Yoga for Justice! Bri shares a little about what led her to working with TYP, why yoga service is so important, and her own personal practices. We are so grateful for your passion and commitment to those we seek to serve!
How long have you been working for TYP?
I’ve been working with TYP since February of 2015. I met everyone from TYP in 2013 at a double booked, sold out training in NYC for Prison Yoga Project… A training I had planned to attend two years prior. As we introduced ourselves around a room filled with people from all over the place, across from me sat folks from my hometown, who I would later come to know as the founding forces behind TYP. To me it was affirmation of this deep knowing that I felt. I ended up working with another individual from that training for a few years but always kept in touch. As TYP grew and positions developed I jumped at the opportunity to be an official part of this.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and brought you to work with TYP?
Without the intention to do so, I became a religious studies and visual anthropology major during undergrad. I focused on Buddhism and was fortunate enough to have a professor mentor me in beginning to practice meditation during a critical time of anxiety and depression. As I began to see the shifts, I knew that I wanted to be a small part in making the practices that so deeply impacted me accessible in spaces that it was not currently. At the same time I became actively involved in campus organizing and Philly was alive with protest. I realized from those experiences that though I truly hope to see the evolution of consciousness embodied through every system in our country and world, that some folks will live the rest of their days in prison, and will never see that change. I work for them.
What do you love the most about your work?
The people. Being able to see them for the highest capacity… but also the gift that is having people let you in enough to see that part of themselves. It truly is an incredible gift that time and time again makes me want to be better, and inspires me to try as hard as I can to see people more often. There’s also raw energy in being in community with people who are so enthusiastic to learn more about themselves, this practice, our connectivity, and how we can be of impact. I can’t help but be uplifted by that. I want to say it’s magic, but I think it’s just how powerful we can be together. There are several people who are now a part of my family, we’ve chosen to support each other and this mission. That is something that I could never fully express… just how fortunate I feel for that.
What inspired you to become involved in yoga service?
We are so quick to disconnect. I am so quick to disconnect. We are tough on our bodies and on each other, often times our bodies aren’t even seen as our own. I believe that the same healing connection that we can make with our own bodies and mind connect us with our communities and those around us. Yoga teaches me that our body/mind, our community, our planet… this life is sacred. I want to always be in conscious relationship with that. And I need the community of folks in yoga service, so that I can continue to find the strength to deconstruct those things that deny love as our foundation, and the unlimited capacity of human beings and life in general.
What keeps you coming back to serve?
I can’t imagine not. In part because of the TYP team, who help keep me grounded and moved to continue this work. In part, because the world is unlimited as we see everyone as limited. We don’t have to live out a story that we’ve been sold about who we are and who we can be, we can shift it and write our own.
What do you do for self-care?
I spend times with animals. I do my best to meditate. I try to be outside and be in space where I put work down. But really I lean on the incredible people around me who allow me to be messy (emotionally and literally) and colorful. I lean on people who uplift me and permit me to be on the full spectrum of being. There are people in my life that I would be lost without. Again, I don’t think I could ever fully express what that’s meant for me.
What has your yoga practice taught you or what tools do you use regularly in your life?
I’ve “managed” my own mental health for years through mantra and conscious breathing. It hasn’t always been a smooth go of it, but those two things have been solid anchors in a fairly tumultuous mind. Most importantly this practice taught me that we are not the contents of our thoughts and they do not diminish our value. Ever.
Any inspiration to share?
“When you do everything to serve your life is yoga.”
“There is suffering and you have the remedy to eliminate suffering. You get to illuminate the world.”
Reverend Jaganath Carrera
Thank you Bri for sharing with us! You can hear Bri speak about the Intersection of Yoga & Justice on July 3rd at Eastern State Penitentiary. Bri will be joined by Kempis Songster, a former juvenile lifer and TYP Yoga Teacher Training Graduate at SCI Graterford, and Colleen DeVirgiliis, our Director for Training!