By Dixie Champness

A Town Small In Size, But Big In Heart

I grew up in a rural town in Northeastern Kentucky—a town small in size, but big in heart. Maysville is a place where everyone knows your name and your business. A place where, if you find yourself in need, you can always count on the community to be there to help. When I was a teen, it was also a place that I couldn’t wait to escape. I wanted to find more exciting places and things to experience. As soon as I could, I fled my small town life, and vowed never to return…. Then, life handed me some challenges, which forced me to go back.

A State of Disarray and Depression

When I returned, the charming town had undergone changes similar to those which many small towns experienced in the late 80s and 90s. The quaint downtown had been abandoned when big box stores opened up “on the hill.” Industry had fled to countries with cheaper labor. Buildings that had once been a beautiful reminder of days of abundance were falling into disarray. The people of the area—who had once been hard at work and proud—were depressed and out of work. The early rise of addiction, which continues to plague the region, had begun.

From Adversity to Ambition

When I returned, I too felt defeated. I felt like I had failed, because I had to return to a place I had spent the last five years trying to escape. Instead of giving up, I vowed to create in Maysville what I was looking for when I left. I wanted to introduce alternative life choices to those who were suffering, including myself. I wanted to teach yoga.

There was one problem: I had never even taken a yoga class. The closest yoga studio was at least an hour away, and they did not offer yoga teacher trainings at the time. In the early days of the internet, I found the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago. Their yoga teacher training program included four in-person training sessions in Chicago, and an intense home study curriculum to be completed throughout the year. I signed up immediately.

I Found In Yoga What I Had Been Looking For

My first trip to Chicago was my first ever yoga class, and I fell in love. I found in yoga what I had been looking for. I began to realize that you can’t run away from yourself; you can only find happiness within. I once again left my hometown to move to the beautiful mountains of Colorado. This time, however, I left with a sense of love for my roots, an unbreakable connection to my hometown.

Giving Back to a Community That Gave So Much

A couple of years ago, an old friend contacted me and asked whether I would lead a yoga teacher training in Maysville. There were a couple of yoga teachers in the area, she explained. However, the need for more teachers was starkly apparent.

For those of us who live in areas where yoga studios are plentiful, it can be difficult to imagine that there are areas of the country in which yoga is almost nonexistent. These areas could benefit so greatly from the mindful and physical practices of yoga. Despite this, availability is limited at best, if not non-existent.

I saw my friend’s request as a way to give back to a community that gave me so much. Furthermore, I recognized the opportunity to take this same program to other small rural areas across the country, which could also benefit from the practices of yoga.

The Seva Yoga Project

The mission of The Seva Yoga Project is to provide a high quality yoga teacher training to areas in which access to yoga is currently limited. As we see yoga spread across cities and towns, we must also pay attention to the areas which do not have access to quality yoga programs or teachers. Oftentimes, these are also areas in which physical (as well as spiritual) suffering is at an all-time high.

The purpose of this project is to create access to yoga for those that need it the most. We provide a high quality yoga teacher training program, which is rooted in the physical as well as the philosophical teachings of the practice. We offer this training in previously underserved areas, as a means to healing and, eventually, the cessation of suffering.

Selfless Acts for the Betterment of the Community

At the heart of our teacher training is a seva project. Each teacher training group will choose a community action project—an area within their our community where they feel the healing power of yoga can bring relief from suffering. Through the development of this project, each student will participate in the act of Seva; that is, they will work selflessly and collectively for the betterment of their own community and, through this, evolve their own spiritual growth.

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