Sometimes inspiration strikes in the middle of the night. Or when you’re daydreaming in the shower. But sometimes it strikes when you’re in the middle of a yoga class by the ocean.
That was the case for Tricia Thomas, an Excelsior yoga instructor who has introduced donation-based yoga to the Lake Minnetonka scene.
While Thomas is an active member of the local yoga community, she’s only recently started teaching. After doing yoga sporadically for a few years, she renewed her practice when her health club began to offer yoga classes and teacher training.
“I just decided to go through the training for my own benefit, with no intention of teaching,” she says. “After I went through the course, I realized that I loved to teach, so I started teaching and subbing in for some local classes.”
After teaching for a few months, Thomas and her husband took a trip to Florida in early 2018. She decided to take advantage of the yoga scene and went to a donation yoga class on the beach. As you might guess, at a donation yoga class, participants can attend for free and contribute an optional donation. Half of the proceeds of this class went to local nonprofits.
“I thought it was the best thing—and we had a gorgeous view of the Gulf of Mexico and dolphins swimming in the ocean,” Thomas says. “I kept thinking, I want to do this on Lake Minnetonka! So that’s where the idea came about.”
Once they returned home, Thomas went to the Excelsior city council and presented the concept of teaching a donation yoga class in the park. They approved six sessions of donation yoga for the summer of 2018 with half of the proceeds going to Community for the Commons, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to improving Excelsior Commons Park.
“It was the perfect combination: I was going to be teaching in the park and the money would go toward improving it,” says Thomas. Her classes raised more than $500 last summer.
As she looks toward 2019, Thomas is planning to continue teaching in the Commons. “If there are other local non-profits that are interested in hosting donation yoga, I would be interested in partnering with them," she says.
“I’m doing it because I love yoga, and I want to make it accessible to everybody, whether they can pay or not,” she says. “I love the idea of introducing it to people, and making it available and affordable. It’s sharing something I love with others.” She says, “A large part of my motivation … was having a coworker at the Excelsior library [where Thomas volunteers] who loved yoga but didn’t have a budget for yoga classes.” Thomas says her friend passed away unexpectedly in October.
“I want to honor her role in this program,” she explains.
Anyone interested in participating in one of Thomas’ donation yoga classes next summer can watch for updates on the Donation Yoga Excelsior Facebook page. Participants don’t need to sign up in advance and should bring a yoga mat or towel and water for the hourlong classes.
Thomas hopes that by opening up her yoga classes to the public, she’ll help people break through some of the misconceptions that might prevent them from joining. “The biggest hesitation people have about it is that they’re not flexible enough, or not young enough, or ‘I’m not in shape,’” she says. “Yoga is for everybody and there’s a different type of yoga for every body. It’s all about finding the right one that works for you.”