Rev. Dr. Shelley D. Best * The Joyful Yogini
I am the "Joyful Yogini" and I believe the benefits of yoga should be available and accessible to everyone regardless of age, ability, body type, income and economic status. I want you to know I am delighted to have discovered the benefits of yoga in my life and I would consider it an honor to share what I have learned with you.
For the last 26 years I have been a faithful-practicing Christian Minister as part of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. At a tender-young age, I fell in love with Jesus Christ and have pursued this thing called "faith" with "holy-boldness." I am so much better then I used to be having come through childhood pain and trauma, and adult wear and tear. It's just that after a couple of decades on the journey of being a community organizer, pastor, change-maker and transformational leader, serving people in profoundly hard situations -- I got tired of listening to my own personal grumbling. Yes, even with faith, burnout and despair is a real possibility. In pursuit of the "something" I was looking for, I changed my diet and gave up meat, entered into a period of deeper prayer, started going to the gym and working out my stress. Then -- with the support of friends, [and some free passes] I accepted an invitation to study yoga at a local "exclusive" yoga studio. It was not easy to walk into the space as a round-brown-woman, but I'm a seeker and wanted to find out what yoga was about.
In pursuit of the "something" I was looking for, I changed my diet and gave up meat, entered into a period of deeper prayer, and started going to the gym and working out my stress. Then -- with the support of friends, [and some free passes] I accepted an invitation to study yoga at a local "exclusive" yoga studio. It was not easy to walk into the space as a round-brown-woman, but I'm a seeker and wanted to find out what yoga was about.
My fiftieth birthday was approaching and I wanted to mark the occasion of my half-century in a significant way. I thought I would take a long vacation to Martha's Vineyard but that was changed by a middle of the night audible "Divine Encounter" -- calling me to pursue a "yoga-vacation-in-India." Two and a half weeks later, I was in the ashram of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also known as “Amma the Hugging Saint” to study Amrita yoga in Kerala, India.
When I returned to the U.S. my perspective had shifted in ways I had not anticipated. I thought God was big before -- but I experienced the vastness and awesomeness of God in new ways. I went back to India the following year to continue my study with the determination to find a place to practice yoga in Connecticut that affirmed what I had learned in India so I could ultimately create a yoga community of my own. Four years later I walked into Samadhi's Yoga Studio in Manchester, Connecticut under the direction of Anne Falkowski. I enrolled in her Yoga Alliance 200-hour, certified Hatha yoga-teacher training program. Samadhi's studio has a culture of acceptance and welcome that has made all the difference. It gave me a place to be affirmed, transformed and grow. I am currently expanding my practice by studying with Diane Bondy the founder of Yoga for All -- a Body positive yoga teacher training.
Yoga has given me a new set of tools to use in my work as a change-maker. In addition to yoga, I am a visual artist and the founder of The 224 EcoSpace in Hartford,Connecticut, a place where “change makers work, create and lead.” In The 224 EcoSpace we have three core social enterprises and EcoSpace Entrepreneurs employing themselves and changing the world around them. You can learn more about The 224 EcoSpace by checking out the website.
I am also an ordained minister and the pastor of Redeemer's A.M.E. Zion Church in Plainville, CT. Redeemer's Church is a community of spiritual seekers with a heart for God and personal transformation. Our services are on Sunday Mornings at 10:00 a.m. and everyone is welcome to join us. We have a faith community where each of usgain strength for the journey and look for ways to become all God is calling us to be in our minds, in our bodies and in our souls.
I am continuously looking for ways to expand my spiritual awareness so I remain a continual student. I have an M.A. in Religious Leadership and a Doctorate in Ministry from Hartford Seminary and an M.Div from Yale University. My SoulYoga Experience classes are designed especially for changemakers and people looking for increased flexibility; stress reduction and self-care. I offer classes regularly at The 224 EcoSpace and I teach on and off the mat at retreats and in private sessions.