Being of Service
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
My name is Jane and I am part of the Halifax Yoga Outreach Program. I have had the privilege of teaching Yoga once a week at Laing House, a peer support organization for youth living with mental illness.
The minute I walked through the door I felt welcomed by the staff and Laing House members. I immediately felt the energy and enthusiasm of youth. Music being played in the front room, people rushing up and down the stairs, food cooking in the kitchen downstairs…there is always activity and positive intentions set for the day.
Arriving for my weekly Yoga class at Laing House is always about staying present and not having any expectations. I never know how many members will be there. Sometimes several people show up to try it out…sometimes one person arrives. One class I taught a beautiful young woman who spoke very little. I had a sense her young life had been full of struggle. That day my class was about creating and holding safe space. We did a lot of breath work.
Other classes have been full of humor and laughter. It amazes me how adaptable these youth are; always open and willing to try whatever style of Yoga is being offered – Restorative, Yin, Flow. They take it all in.
The house has a very open atmosphere and people are encouraged to come and go as they please. They may show up in jeans to practice or ask someone if they have something they can wear. I enjoy this casual atmosphere and adapting to whatever presents itself that day. One day a young man came shaking and seemed to be having a difficult time. After we chatted he decided to stay, on the condition he would have the option to leave at the halfway mark if necessary. I told him that was fine and I would keep track of time. He made it half way through and I think that was a huge accomplishment for him that day.
There is one member who comes almost every week who is a true inspiration to me. She lets me know that no matter how bad her day is, she always feels better when she leaves the room. One day after class she said, “I don’t know what it is about this room, but it seems like magic happens here.”
I see the members of Laing house as very brave individuals who talk openly about their mental illness and setbacks in their lives. I’m grateful to have landed at Laing and I feel like I receive more than I give. I’m constantly inspired by these young souls, and it has truly been an honor to guide their Yoga practice. I realize how important it is to break the stigma of mental illness. I have a cousin who lives with mental illness, and I wish there was a Laing House where he lives…a place with community where he feels comfortable and at home.
Working at Laing House has shown me that Yoga truly is universal and can help people from all walks of life. Being of service by teaching Karma Yoga has been a life changing experience for me. I’m excited to continue on this journey!