Give Big and Yoga in the Park Wrap-up, Summer Rest, and Big News

Dear SKY Community:

WOW! We have been simply blown away by what we've done together for this year's fund drive. As of today, the total we've raised is $38,300, exceeding our goal of $35,000! THANK YOU to all who gave of time, talent, and resources. We are humbled, grateful, and overwhelmed (in the good way). 

And now, beginning Sunday, we rest. We'll be taking our annual summer week of recharging and renewing from Sunday July 30th - Saturday August 5th. We'll be back in the studio Sunday August 6th (with special guest Michaela Cooley on cello for the 11am All Levels class). You may or may not know that most yoga teachers work multiple jobs, do a lot of running around to get to those jobs, and very rarely get paid time off. One of the things that we are very proud of here at SKY is our ability (due to your generosity) to give everyone some time off with pay. Thank you, for supporting our efforts to nurture ourselves so we can hold space for others from a place of fullness.

And now, some big news: I (Vania) will be leaving my position here at SKY at the end of August because my family is moving to Germany. This has unfolded in a very surprising and unexpected way (as surprises do). As I'm sure you can all imagine the feelings swirling through me are intense, conflicting, and complicated. Underneath the anxiety and heartache of which I am most aware, I'm feeling grateful for the opportunity to rest deeply, to engage with my calling in a new way, and to be curious about what's next. But mostly, right now,  I feel sad. To say that I love you all doesn't even come close to expressing the depths of my feelings for this community.  

Beyond my sadness for me, I am excited for this community and confident that SKY will continue to thrive under new leadership. Our new Board President, Alisa O'Hanlon, has hit the ground running, connecting with our community partners and imagining new ways to bring what we do beyond these walls. Our former Board President, Michelle Kucera-Jewell, has taken one of the open co-director positions, and brings with her an incredible wealth of knowledge, skill, compassion, and leadership experience as well as a broad understanding of this organism we call SKY,  a unique perspective given by serving as Board President for a few years. Current teacher, Tawni Bell, will be filling my position. She brings her passionate, open, grounded heart (and qualifications upon qualifications). And, as you may have seen, we're hiring! Our plan is to fill the third co-director position by September 1st, and the fourth position by January 1st, as budget allows.  

For now, I'll be spending the next month handing off duties, bringing everyone up to speed, and pausing for ample tears of gratitude/sadness breaks. When Pamela and I opened SKY we were very intentional about wanting to create something that existed beyond each of us. We've had several conversations in the last few weeks about how satisfying it is to see that happening. 

So, to sum up: Wow. Thank you. All is well. The best is yet to come. 

Endless love,


Job Announcement

TITLE: Co-Director (part-time)

COMPANY: Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Nonprofit Healing Arts Center




HOURS: 10 hours of management/administrative work + 3-5 hours of teaching weekly or equivalent additional management/administration work (will vary with teaching schedule and co-director agreement)


LEAVE: paid at employee’s discretion and in coordination with other co-directors


The co-director position will be one of four. Each co-director will assume equal responsibility for the day-to-day operations of Samdhana-Karana Yoga (SKY) as well as long-term planning, budgeting, staff management, organizational vision, marketing and fundraising. It is the intent that each co-director will be capable of managing all aspects of studio management, but that the co-directors will decide by consensus how to divide particular duties.

Minimum Qualifications:

•200 hr CYT or RYT or commensurate experience

•Trauma-informed training or commensurate experience

•Previous experience in business management

•Ability to demonstrate good interpersonal and communication skills

•Ability to pass a background check that may be done by partnering organizations

The ideal candidate:

We are a social profit 501c3 with a vision to empower people of all incomes and abilities towards lives of peace, purpose, and joy through the connection, love, and mutual healing that yoga inspires. The ideal co-director will be passionate about this vision, have a commitment to and understanding of SKY’s beneficiaries, and will recognize that, rather than being separate from, we are one and the same with the people we serve.

We seek people whose own values align with our organizational core values:


•Commitment to Service






• Trustworthiness

• Respect

• Compassion

• Fun/Joy/Laughter/Spaciousness of Being/Levity

• Collaboration/Partnership

• Reciprocity


The ideal candidates will be expected to demonstrate skill in the following competencies:


Managerial courage

Drive for results


Integrity and trust

Ethics and values

Managing Vision and Purpose


Self Knowledge


Priority setting

Action Oriented

Command Skills

Conflict Management

Customer focus

As a nonprofit institution, we rely heavily on fundraising to support our work. As such, the ideal co-directors will have both the willingness and the necessary skills for fundraising. This may include building relationships within the community with individuals and organizations, representing the studio at events, sharing our mission and values whenever appropriate, event planning, and grant writing.

Interested folks should email cover letter and resume by 5pm on 15 August 2017 to info (at) samdhanakaranayoga (dot) org. 

*Folks with under-represented identities within the yoga industry are encouraged to apply.


Dreaming Big (Repairers of the Breach, Part 4)

This is part four of a multi-part series that is being written to share ALL the work that we’re up to, beyond the obvious affordable and accessible drop-in yoga classes. You can read part one herepart two here, and part three here

I’ll never forget the first conversations Pamela and I had with folks as we were opening the doors to SKY nearly seven years ago. They mostly went something like this (I’m paraphrasing): “Wow! What a great idea. Can it/will it work?.”  Since SKY has been around for nearly 7 years now, we feel confident that we (as a collective community) have indeed “made it work”.

When we first opened we had a sliding scale pricing structure and people paid for class according to their self-declared income. This system was complicated on the bookkeeping end but it made explicit our belief that everyone’s needs can be met when those who have more pay more so those that have little can benefit from the same services.

Of course, our big dream absolutely requires community buy-in. We need folks to buy-in to the idea that yoga should be affordable AND teachers should be paid well. And in the absence of the sliding-scale system, we need the folks who can afford to pay more than $10 per class, or $50/month for unlimited yoga, to answer the call when asked. Like right now.

We are an organization with a budget of just under $200,000. The $35,000 we are raising during Give Big Month and Yoga in the park bridges the gap between the income we generate through our yoga classes, workshops, and other events and what it costs to keep this place going. This includes not just the stuff you surely know about – our outreach programs, our trauma-aware programs, our free weekly classes – but also the stuff you may not realize we’re doing.

To name a few:

A Youth Empowerment Camp for girls aged 13-16 who are in the Pierce County Juvenile Court system. (happening in August)

An internship program for youth in the Pierce County Juvenile Court system. (currently happening)

A 3-hour workshop as part of the upcoming Tacoma Girls Rock camp.

A partnership with Love Your Brain for folks living with Traumatic Brain Injury.

Scholarships for folks of color to attend yoga teacher training as part of our race equity initiative, which I wrote about here.

And we’ve got more big dreams that answer a question we have had since we opened: How can we continue to evolve to best serve this community?

One of the dreams we are holding is that of an educational program for kids that provides a “radical education for future humanist leaders”. Tawni Bell, a passionate and wise educator, has been incubating this dream in her being for some time and is trusting us to hold it with her; a non-cohersive, student directed, democratic/free school style school with a special focus on social/emotional development, social justice and activism, community building, and leadership.

A radical school connected to a yoga space? Yes! Because we firmly believe that social change happens when we are engaging from every angle and at every age.

So, nearly seven years later, our dreams continue to grow and evolve just like this space. And what was true then is true now – we need community buy-in.  We are asking those of us who have more than we need, to share what we have, so everyone can benefit from what’s happening here, and these dreams we are holding can come to fruition. 

We’re about a week away from Yoga in the Park with a lot of room to go to reach our goal. I am inviting you to dream big with us! To buy-in! To believe! As my friend Felicia Parazaider (who will be here in September to help us celebrate our 7th anniversary) recently reminded me: It takes more courage and realism to believe than it does to lose in despair.

I believe. Do you?

Go here to Give Big. (Friday July 14th we have a donor who is matching ALL donations up to $2000!)

Go here to register for Yoga in the Park.

Big Love,







We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest (Repairers of the Breach, Part 3)

This is part three of a multi-part series that is being written to share ALL the work that we’re up to, beyond the obvious affordable and accessible drop-in yoga classes. You can read part one here and part two here.

I found myself describing the 4th of July to my young child the other day as the day we celebrate an intention that was made, a declaration of liberty and freedom that was not the work in and of itself, but the announcement of work that was to come. As if he’d declared his room clean, set an intention to clean it every day, and we celebrated that day each year, whether he’d actually cleaned his room or not. He thought about this a while and then wondered aloud if that made any sense. “But wouldn’t I actually have to clean my room, not just say I was going to?” he asked.

July 4, 1776 was a day of aspirations. It’s important to say that the men who declared this nation independent – who aspired to be the land of the free - did so without the consent of the natives whom they’d colonized, murdered (and would continue to erase) and on the backs of slaves. Saying, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." while continuing to slaughter, imprison, and exploit any person who was not a male colonist is, well, problematic.

All this to say: this is a complicated holiday. Liberty, freedom, and equality: these things don’t happen on they’re own or just because we declare that they will. They happen through a willingness to do the work. They happen through deep listening, amends making, and the intensive work of repair. Repairing the breach between who we say we are and who we actually are.

When we talk about freedom, what exactly are we talking about? Liberty for whom and from what?  Abraham Heschel wrote in his book The Sabbath: "Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people.” We cannot be free as long as we are being dominated OR participating in the domination of others. Liberty is not real until it extends to all, both the oppressors and the oppressed.

Most people who’ve practiced Yoga have encountered the Mangala Mantra or at least this part: lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, which is often translated may all beings be happy and free. Repeating this mantra, powerful as it is, is not the same thing as doing the work of peace, freedom, justice, and liberty. Setting an intention for liberation is not the same as acknowledging the ways we participate in structures of oppression. May all beings be happy and free is not just a wish, but rather a reminder to ourselves of why we do this. We don’t practice only for our own liberation, but for the liberation of all. We don’t practice only for our own health and wellbeing, but so that we can be active participants in the health and wellbeing of everyone.

The title of this post is from Ella’s Song. Here is a link to it, performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  As has often been the case, the prophetic voices of women of color have been putting words to what is required if we are to move forward and create freedom and liberty for all. The lyrics come from the words of Ella Baker, a powerful figure in the Civil Rights struggle, and highlight themes of compassion, empathy, deep listening, accountability, and hard work. The hard work of freedom.

Here at SKY it has been our aim to create space for opportunities for this work to happen both within the framework of what is often considered “yoga practice” and also beyond. This is why we hosted a Humanities Washington talk on White Privilege and why we are hosting workshops such as Dharma and Love: Exploring the Central Themes of the Bhagavad Gita and How to Deeply Engage with a World in Crisis  with Sitaram Dass and So You Want a Revolution? An Initiation into Spiritual Activism with Felicia Parazaider, as well as inviting The People’s Assembly to hold space for storytelling and deep listening with a Takeback event, among other planned workshops and events all with the goal of inviting each of us to participate in the work  - not just the intention - of helping all beings to be happy and free.

If you think that what we’re up to is worthwhile and a benefit to this community, please consider Giving Big!

And stay tuned for part 4.


Go here to Give Big

Go here to register for Yoga in the Park




Compassionate Community Days (Repairers of the Breach, Part 2)

This is part two of a multi-part series that is being written to share ALL the work that we’re up to, beyond the obvious affordable and accessible drop-in yoga classes. You can read part one here.

Compassion is a word that is thrown around rather easily these days, but like so many other words, we don’t always mean the same thing. His Holiness the Dalai Lama describes it this way: “Compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering”.

Linking compassion and suffering is key, because in order to act compassionately, we need to first bear witness to suffering and it is the empathetic – not sympathetic – response to this suffering that IS compassion.

Of course, bearing witness to suffering is hard. Bearing witness to suffering without trying to fix it or change it is hard.  Bearing witness to suffering, holding space for what hurts, without choosing sides but with a commitment to naming injustice is hard. It takes practice. It requires community to both hold us accountable and to inspire us.

Our Board President and long-time community member, Alisa O’Hanlon, has taken the lead on a project we’re calling Compassionate Community Days. The goals are to invite and support Tacoma residents to exercise and practice compassion toward one another; to encourage community members to be courageous to move out of their comfort zones to discover the experience of another community member; to connect the singular events of compassion organized in Tacoma to activate the synergy of their collective effect. It’ll look like a month of activities, conversations, and practices all over Tacoma with many community partners to meet these goals.

She was inspired to dream this up after attending the US Conference of Mayors 85th Winter Meeting. There, surgeon general of the United States, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy said: “Addiction and many of the other illnesses we’re concerned about are diseases of despair, driven by deficits of hope. Everyone I have talked to who’s emerged into recovery has had one common thread in their stories that had it not been there, would have made their journey impossible…compassion.”

As an organization that is committed to creating love, connection, and mutual healing, the hard work of cultivating empathy and compassion is central. Alisa writes, “…being compassionate always includes being aware of suffering and taking action to alleviate it. Without awareness, no other steps happen; without action, no other steps matter.”

Yoga is a powerful tool precisely because it fosters the awareness and the courage that is needed to move through the world in this way. And yet, the industry and the consumerist culture of Yoga has been such that this incredible tool can be easily used to justify the opposite.  We can use it as a tool to avoid the suffering of others (and our own) rather than to face it.

When we talk about the SKY Community we are of course referring to the folks who come through our doors, as well as the folks we visit through our outreach classes, but we’re also referring to the wider community of Tacoma. We don’t want the magic that happens within our walls and in our outreach classes to stay there, bottled up. Our commitments as an organization are not only to our students, but to our city and beyond. We believe that Yoga is one of many tools and practices that can serve to help us face the heartache of the world with courage, clarity, and compassion so we can move beyond platitudes of love and peace and actually do the work of justice in the world. These times are calling for nothing less.

So, keep an eye out for the Compassionate Community Days calendar (launching soon!) and the many opportunities for listening deeply to cultivate empathy and compassion.  And if you think that what we’re up to is worthwhile and a benefit to this community, please consider Giving Big!

And stay tuned for part 3.


Go here to Give Big

Go here to register for Yoga in the Park


The Tip of the Iceberg (Repairers of the Breach, Part 1)

A few years ago a dear friend gave me a beautiful print of a couple standing atop an iceberg. Shortly after I’d started dating my partner, I described him to her as “an iceberg… there’s a lot more going on under the surface”. If you’ve ever met my partner, you know I described him accurately. He is quiet, perhaps reserved, and it takes a while to get to know him. 

Of course, we’re all icebergs to some extent, and if we feel safe and secure, we spend our lives slowly revealing our true depths, the fullness of who and what we are. The desire to hold space for folks to do this work lies at the heart of everything we do here at SKY.

This organization/organism is itself an iceberg. The studio space and our menu of drop-in classes are just the very tip of what we’re up to here.  And this is a very important thing to name as we are in the midst of our fundraising season, #GiveBigMonth which culminates in Yoga in the Park.

A lot of people can get behind our drop-in classes being affordable and accessible. Free weekly drop-in classes, trauma-aware yoga, injury-aware yoga – these are all things that people value and know are important. But they don’t necessarily answer the question: Why? Why might you consider giving to SKY during this fund drive? Especially in today’s political and social climate, when our collective attention and resources and energy are being drawn in all directions the question looms: Why give to SKY?

Over the next several weeks I plan to answer that question, knowing that the response from some may not be to #GiveBig. And that’s ok. My hope is to provide clarity, to show the iceberg beneath the surface, to illuminate ALL our work, not just what you see on the schedule or in the studio so that each person can decide if what we’re up to is in line with your values and something that you want to support.

The phrase “repairers of the breach” has been rattling around in my head since listening to Rev. William Barber speak at last summer’s DNC.  (Perhaps more accurately, since I was a child, listening to my mother read scripture.) I think it is a phrase that encapsulates what all faith traditions, all philosophies, and all frameworks of ethics teach: we are meant to help each other; to acknowledge when there has been a rupture in relationship, intentional or unintentional neglect, or a violation of each other’s dignity; and to commit to doing the work of repair.

One of the opportunities of living in this time is that we are more aware than ever before of the need for repair. The breaches - of trust, of dignity, of humanity – that have been hidden from view, festering and growing under the surface (there’s that helpful iceberg analogy again!), are being exposed. And we all have a choice about how to respond. Will we look away or will we do the work of repair?

This work of repair doesn’t have to look one way, and in fact will be most effective if it looks many ways. Some of us will need to begin the work of repair by going deep within, and addressing our wounded and broken places. Some of us will be called to speak up and speak out, shedding further light on what needs to be addressed. Some of us will begin to model and live into new ways of being, ways that are rooted in repair and renewal. Some of us will work within the existing systems to facilitate courageous conversations that can lead to understanding and repair. Most of us will move between and among these different ways our entire lives.

So what does this work of “repairing the breach” look like at SKY, beyond the obvious affordable accessible drop-in yoga? That is what I plan to tell you about in these coming weeks. And I’ll begin by telling you about our Race Equity Initiative.  

We’ve been seeking (and have secured some) funding for the implementation of an initiative to address the ways that white supremacy shows up in our organization, in the yoga industry, and in the nonprofit industry. We have to thank the folks of color and the organizations, such as The People’s Assembly, who have shared their experiences and thoughts with us, met with us, and have let us know when we’ve messed up. Those conversations have deeply informed how we are moving forward.

The beginning phases of this initiative have already begun and we are committed to finding resourceful ways to implement even if we do not secure funding. All to say: we’re doing this. We can’t not do this.

So far we’ve begun equity training for our staff, we’ve committed to building relationships with and listening deeply to individuals and communities of color, and we're leveraging some of the funding we have received to offer full scholarships to people of color for Pamela Higley Yoga’s upcoming yoga teacher training. Additionally we are dreaming of ways to fund and support a people-of-color-led yoga teacher training that is free for people of color. As the yoga industry regularly laments its lack of diversity, wondering aloud how to get more people of color to practice, we notice that few questions are being asked about how the fact that most yoga teachers are white correlates to this “diversity problem”.  (It's important to say that making diversity the goal over liberation is problematic.)

For white folks who see ourselves reflected in every ad, every image, and in most teachers, we simply don’t know the impact of never seeing yourself reflected, or the message that it sends about whether or not you are actually invited into the practice.  We can use inviting language and say we’re about inclusion, but words are just and only that: words. Direct reparative action is needed. For organizations and systems to change, leadership has to change. And that means that those with influence and power must be willing to nurture teachers and leaders of color, AND be willing to step aside, to make space.

This is the reality we are moving towards here at SKY, and it’s one reason why we ask those with resources to #GiveBig. Give to support an organization committed to the work of being “repairers of the breach”; acknowledging how the experiences, bodies, and voices of people of color have been marginalized within this industry, and to taking direct action to include, listen to, and cede space to folks of color.

Stay tuned for part two.


Click here to Give Big

Click here to register for Yoga in the Park