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Nurturing Mental Health: The Power of Yoga, Mindfulness, and Community Connection

Updated: May 1

Each May, the calendar in the U.S. turns its focus to an issue that affects millions of lives: mental health. Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has served as a vital platform for advocates, practitioners, families, and communities to come together and shed light on the importance of mental wellbeing.

In a world that doesn’t always prioritize robust health, in general, and when it does, often prioritizes physical health over mental and spiritual wellbeing, this month serves as a reminder that mental health is not only essential, but deserving of our collective attention and action. Additionally, historically and still today, this month has served as a catalyst for raising awareness, proliferating information and educational perspectives and materials, generating meaningful dialogue, compelling compassionate action and transformative change, and seeding a movement with a vision of a world where mental health is not just an afterthought, but a cornerstone of human flourishing.

Within and through these ongoing conversations and calls to action, yoga asana, pranayam (breathing techniques), mindfulness, and the profound impact of community connection and belonging continue to be researched and recognized as powerful tools and practices that fortify mental resilience and foster a sense of inner peace.

This month, we are highlighting ways that individual and community wellbeing in general, and mental health in particular, are supported and stewarded both implicitly and explicitly by Namaspa Yoga Community (NYC) and the Namaspa Foundation. Many of the things shared below are, of course, things you perhaps already know as a member of the community; but through listing them here, within the context of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are hoping to shine new and expansive light on the crucial role yoga studios play in fostering supportive environments that nurture mental, emotional, and physical well-being in and across communities. This then also highlights, as individuals, the importance, value, and beauty of being a part of a community like NYC.

Diverse Weekly Classes at Multiple Locations

At NYC, yoga practitioners have the opportunity to explore and practice a wide variety of styles of yoga (not to mention classes instructed by a team of incredible and highly trained teachers!) in two communities: Bend and Redmond. Class styles include: power flow, healing flow, soulful flow, restorative, yin, vin/yin, and kids yoga. Beyond the physical postures (asanas), yoga encompasses breathwork (pranayam) and mindfulness and meditation, offering practitioners a comprehensive toolkit to nurture both body and mind. Ultimately, the significance of diverse class offerings and a variety of yoga styles across two locations is that yoga becomes more accessible by meeting different needs and preferences and meeting people where they are – ensuring that community members, from beginners to seasoned yogis, can find a practice that resonates with them. The diverse and full weekly schedule NYC offers is also supportive of creating and building a consistent practice, which is what leads to profound and cumulative physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits over time. 

Massage & Bodywork, Energy Healing, & Sound Therapy

Yoga is one way to care deeply for the body, mind, and spirit, and bodywork is another. The name Namaspa (nah-ma-spa) is an original word that signifies NYC’s dual heritage of yoga and massage. The gesture namaste is shared by instructors and students at the end of yoga classes, and means, “the light within me honors the light within you.” The word spa, today, is commonly recognized as an establishment that provides services for improved health, beauty, and relaxation. Namaspa, therefore, brings these concepts together. With the team of certified bodywork professionals and healers at NYC, you can experience such ancient and modern therapeutic modalities as: aromatherapy massage, deep tissue/therapeutic massage, pregnancy massage, sports massage and active isolated stretching, Thai massage, Ayurvedic treatments, cupping, energy healing (e.g., Reiki), and sound therapy. These techniques are revered not only for their ability to alleviate physical ailments — such as muscle tension, chronic pain, and fatigue — but also for their profound effects on supporting mental and emotional health. Engaging in regular sessions has the possibility of contributing to decreased stress, anxiety, and depression; of bringing balance and harmony into and for the physical and energetic bodies and both physical and non-physical energy flows; and of enhancing overall wellbeing through promotion of inner peace and vitality.

Workshops and Trainings

Similar to why NYC offers diverse weekly classes, we also promote and share holistic health and wellness through diverse and specialized workshops and trainings on traditional yoga philosophy and practices; different approaches to mindfulness and meditation across traditions; energy medicine; Ayurveda; sobriety and recovery; astrology and tarot; trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed perspectives; various levels of yoga teachers trainings; and much more. The instructors and facilitators who offer specialized workshops and trainings at NYC are highly-qualified – having studied, practiced, and developed their knowledge and skills in unique, meaningful, and powerful ways. Through NYC’s 200-hour, 300-hour, Advanced, and Kids Yoga Teacher Training Programs, NYC is offering experiences where individuals can be empowered to deepen their personal practice, or become qualified and prepared to teach and inspire others in the community as yoga instructors. Moreover, NYC and the Namaspa Foundation’s commitment to accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity in the wellness and yoga industries is paramount. For workshops and trainings, we make great efforts to reduce or remove financial barriers through providing discounts, flexible payment plans, and scholarships. Through the collaborative partnership between NYC and the Namaspa Foundation, 5-10 BIPOC and financial aid scholarships are awarded each year toward NYC’s 200-hour yoga teacher training program. To date, over 40 individuals have received such scholarships since 2018.

Namaspa Foundation

Sharing the path and benefits of yoga has always been a passion of Namaspa Founder, Suzie Newcome, and a core intention and commitment of NYC. Since Namaspa launched in 2007, Suzie and her teams have been dedicated to finding creative and meaningful ways to share the transformative practice and path of yoga with individuals, families, and communities across Central Oregon. And over these last sixteen years, Suzie and her teams have gone above and beyond in their efforts to bring yoga and other resources to those in need. In August 2018, Suzie formally founded the Namaspa Foundation – a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation focused offering yoga and mindfulness classes, as well as yoga teacher training scholarships, to underserved, under-resourced, and socially stigmatized communities. The Foundation embraces a trauma-informed, culturally-responsive, and strengths-based approach with the goal of fostering health, self-awareness, emotional literacy, resilience, and community connection – empowering individuals to create positive impact in their own lives, families, and the greater community. The Foundation currently delivers 12 weekly classes and one bi-weekly class at 9 partner agency sites, including: jails and correctional institutions; schools; homeless shelters; intimate partner violence shelters; affordable housing developments; and addiction recovery programs.

The Healing Power of Community Connection & Belonging Just as much as any of the specific things listed above, NYC is a place of and for practicing and being together in community. In our increasingly fast-paced and digitalized world, genuine human connection has become both more rare, and therefore, even more precious. The importance of community and belonging – of feeling seen, heard, and valued by others – cannot be overstated in its impact on mental health. Community connection and finding a sense of belonging foster resilience in the face of adversity and provide a buffer against the isolating effects of mental health challenges. In community, it is possible to discover a safe space to share and be witnessed in our struggles, seek support, and celebrate accomplishments and life together. Additionally, the act of giving back to community – whether through small but meaningful acts of kindness, volunteering, or advocacy – has the potential to imbue life with a sense of purpose and meaning beyond ourselves.

In addition to the ways NYC and the Namaspa Foundation contribute to individual and community mental health and overall wellbeing, below are links to a broad range of community resources and resource lists:

This month, and always, we hope you’ll join us to deepen your practice, to be together in community, or to seek support through attending a class or workshop or scheduling a bodywork session. Or, join us in taking a stand for mental health within and for underserved and under-resourced communities in Central Oregon by making a donation to support the Namaspa Foundation's community yoga classes and scholarship programs.

And some reminders: you are enough and you matter. Your health and welling is important. You, as a human, are valuable and valued. Your life matters.

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