Yoga Brings Peace to Women in Transition

In one of the least likely places, the chapel of the Lighthouse Mission, women temporarily forget the harsh realities of their daily struggles while yoga instructor Sarah Willett, face aglow, shares a different set of life skills—ones that involve stretches, breathing, and expansion.

While there are no lithe bodies dressed in Lululemon active wear here, yoga instructors have been doing their community time (usually funded by grants) at prisons, women’s shelters, and other venues that focus upon improving the human condition.

While we associate yoga with the Hindu tradition, Willett bases her practice on another religion—she teaches Christian-inspired yoga at the Lighthouse Mission and at the Hillcrest Chapel in Fairhaven. Willett includes Bible passages as inspiration as her students strike a Warrior Pose and stretch their arms up to the ceiling while their fingers reach for the sky.

Prior to 2012, Willett was a college student and soccer mom who found yoga as a way to relieve the stress of raising teens. At first, she found restorative yoga relaxed her. Then later, she experienced a vision.

While working full-time in wellness industry sales, completing her bachelor’s degree and crisscrossing the state for youth soccer, she realized yoga was a gift her mind, body and spirit craved.

“It was soul food,” she said in an email interview.

Her academic studies propelled her to help others and she returned to active volunteering.

“I call it ‘up-serving,’” she said. “Others had given to my success, and I could lean in and serve forward.”

At the time of this interview, Willett taught yoga at the Agape House (Lighthouse Mission Chapel), and Lydia Place as part of her community outreach.

Willett already had extensive yoga and community service training under her belt, including Yoga Behind Bars, a program where yoga instructors teach at prisons.

Lydia Place program coordinator Cherish Larson said Willett made a good impression in just one class. Participants said they felt relaxed and centered.

“Many reported that this was their favorite life skill class of the past six months,” Larson said by phone.

Back at the Lighthouse Mission Chapel, Willett focused on the change of season. Despite the wind and rain lingering outside, a tranquil ambiance resonated inside. The students struck a warrior pose as Willett said softly, “This is the standing pose that makes us warriors for a day.”

Willett gently reminded the women of their courage to show up for no one but themselves. As the class concluded with the Dead Man Pose—everyone reclining on their mats—Willett’s voice was soothing. “It is the shelter of each other that people live,” she said.

Class complete, the women ambled from the chapel wearing tranquil expressions. Peace felt palatable even in the dismal setting of white tiled concrete floors, banks of lockers, and a giant wooden cross dangling from a wall across the chapel. For these women, yoga provided a temporary respite.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Willett has lived in the U.S. for 28 years. At 42, she has carved a niche for herself that revolves around community leadership and yoga, also teaching spiritual and secular yoga classes throughout Whatcom.

“I am profoundly in awe of the tenacity, bravery, and beautiful raw spirit of humanity that each woman brings to her yoga mat and out into her life’s journey. We are energetically and community interconnected, yet often we disappear into the crowd,” says Willett. With restorative yoga, Willett hopes these women keep reaching.

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"Willett includes Bible passages as inspiration as her students strike a Warrior Pose and stretch their arms up to the ceiling while their fingers reach for the sky. "