Fire only burns as bright as there are flames to continue keeping it alive. Our Blissology Yoga Teacher’s Collective is burning bright and we are so excited to share the first of our Bliss Blogs on some of the amazing spirits and shining lights who are continuing to speak, connect and inspire their Bliss.
Donna Williams (more commonly known in blissology circles as Donna Prana!)
Where in the world you can find me?
At the Canadian Club in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where I’ve just arrived; at Innercityoga (www.innercityoga.com) when in Geneva; and always at Emergencyoga (https://emergencyoga.wordpress.com) on vimeo and soundcloud wherever you are!
What originally drew me to yoga?
Meditation. I meditated for years before I even knew what an asana was. I think I liked the idea that I could enjoy my mind more, be a more peaceful person. Then I took a yoga asana course at a local buddhist centre when I was working a job where it felt like I fired someone every day. I really did just turn up for the savasana in those days.
Blissology to me is…
Family, it’s also peeling away the layers to really, deeply connect with each other and with our planet, it’s the place, the way I feel “the most me” version of me
My life mission is…
World peace, one love at a time. I believe it to the very depths of my being that every moment we increase the amount of love in the universe, whether that be with ourselves or with any other living thing, we take a step towards world peace.
The most important thing yoga has taught me is…
That the still place inside me is always there, unchanging, untouchable by others, waiting for me whenever I need it.
When I’m not on the yoga mat, I’m…
Outside as much as possible enjoying whatever our planet has to offer wherever I am. I’m also spending my days as a humanitarian working for the Red Cross.
The cause/project I am most passionate about is…
Two things: Emergencyoga which is a project I started with my friend Nicola to bring free yoga classes to humanitarians working in tough places. You can take these classes online and I’m just about to try live streaming a class from Sri Lanka with my Red Cross colleagues working in Central African Republic, Gaza, Yemen, Myanmar and Syria.
I’m also a big advocate for women’s safety and our right as women to walk the streets confidently without fear of being harassed, catcalled or worse. My two favourite organisations right now are ihollaback.org where you can report street harassment and Rape Crisis Counselling which is a start up developing an app to teach people how to support others immediately after they have been raped or sexually assaulted.
Given your work in humanitarianism, what has been the more unlikely location you have taught a yoga class?
The thing about teaching yoga with humanitarians is you have to be willing as a teacher to offer bite size, accessible yoga whenever you have a chance. Generally humanitarians are a group of people who are too busy helping others to look after themselves and so you have to take your chance to inject some yoga whenever the opportunity arises. This has included pranayama in Malaysian meetings, mindfulness moments in Jordan, asanas in Sudaese living rooms and out in the Israeli desert, pool side yoga classes in Thailand and roof top yoga in Sri Lanka. One of my favourite moments was when I ran a yoga ‘team building’ session for United Nations colleagues. Let’s just say that the Blissology dance party was more than welcome. Giving people that space to let go and be free and vulnerable is crucial in a world where you spend your days being strong for everyone else around you 24/7.
How does yoga benefit those in your profession?
In so so many ways. Working in the humanitarian sector usually means we are experts at serving others. Yoga offers a time and space for us to serve ourselves in a way that is accepted in our humanitarian world. It’s ok to tell someone you’re heading out to see your yoga teacher, less cool to tell colleagues you’re going to your therapist. We know it shouldn’t be taboo to seek help from clinical professionals but the reality is that admitting you need support is still not widely accepted in the humanitarian world. Yet how can we be there for the world’s most hurt and vulnerable people if we never take the time to look after ourselves? Yoga provides a safe space to look after our bodies, minds and souls and a place where we can create community and connection when we are away from home and family.
I am learning to…..
Live in a new place and the tropics again after many years in Europe. Hello frizzy hair and mosquito bites!
What I want to teach others (through yoga)…
Is to love and accept ourselves more so that we can feel more confident and capable of spreading that love and the peace that goes with it across the planet
Most inspiring yoga related experience…..
When someone I don’t know walks up to me in my humanitarian (work) world and says ‘thank you for being my yoga teacher in ….(insert crazy war torn place here)’ It’s incredible and humbling and yet inspiring to think that people feel such a connection with you and the yoga you offer even when you’ve never met.
Favorite yoga pose?
Usually meditation is my favourite yoga ‘pose’ but I just found a new yin prep for getting into grasshopper so all of a sudden this complex arm balance has become more accessible to me and it feels like so much fun, like being a kid again – kinda how handstands always make me feel, like I’m 8 years old and back in the school yard
Best way to fuel up after yoga?
Post morning yoga is fruits, eggs and a real Italian coffee, post evening yoga is quinoa, greens with toasted seeds and coconut oil
Yoga and music are…
What will together bring you to a high level of consciousness and connection that you never thought possible
I create community with Blissology by….
Hugging my students and making space for them to hug or connect with each other and by deliberately incorporating nature’s cycles and seasons into my classes and how we practice together.
I am most grateful for…
Life. I had a moment once where I thought it would be taken from me. Every day I wake up grateful to be alive, for all that life brings me, the people I share it with, the choices I have, the planet for supporting me.
What advice do you have for aspiring yoga teachers?
In the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken’. And on a more practical note nail your asana sequencing so people feel awesome and finish your class on time. Oh and finally—you are perfect just as you are.
More about Donna and how to connect with her on her Bliss Army teacher profile.