Naropa University Student Moriah Arnold Believes That Yoga Can Be a Community Service

Jun 08, 2011

Many students feel pressed for time, but it's not impossible to balance schoolwork with a desire to do good for your community. One great example of this is Moriah Arnold, who organized a successful charity event in her junior year at Naropa University. In this inspiring interview, we talk with Moriah about her work at school and as a volunteer with the Boulder County foster care program.

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By Sarah Wright

Moriah Arnold Yoga

Moriah Arnold is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. She became involved with the Boulder County foster care program as a volunteer in 2010. Her work with the foster care program focuses on raising awareness for the program and recruiting new foster parents. As part of her efforts to raise awareness for the program, Moriah worked with Boulder County foster care staff and volunteers to arrange a Yogathon.

Q: Please tell me about your work as a student, and if it relates to your involvement with the foster care program.

A: I am going into my final year at Naropa University as a yoga student. Initially, I was double majoring in peace studies and yoga, but as my studies of yoga began to deepen, I realized I was being redundant. Yoga is the art of uncovering internal peace, which, when practiced en masse, can ultimately be the catalyst for global peace. Therefore, I decided to drop my peace major and focus on making yoga as widely accessible as possible. Yoga and community building work, such as what I do with the foster care program, are perfect complements to one another. They both encourage the stability and well being of community through love and compassion that fills the self and ultimately spreads to all of those who surround you.

Q: What made you think of yoga as a good way to raise awareness for an important issue?

A: I immediately thought of yoga because it is my passion in this moment. I also think it is logically a good activity to pair with community activism as it literally and metaphorically opens the heart to be receptive towards the world around us and open to aiding those in need. Yoga teaches the interconnectedness of all beings, emphasizing the importance of each of our offerings in making a strong community, perfectly paralleling our need for the talents of all people to form a strong foster care program.

Q: The Yogathon happened on April 30. Please describe the event for us and tell us how it felt to see your plan in action.

A: The Yogathon was great! We ended up doing nearly 200 sun salutations as a group, raising a huge amount of awareness and support for the Boulder County foster care program. It was great to see so many passionate people come together and practice something they love for the greater good of the community and kids in Boulder County. We had an incredible speaker named Mel join us and describe the importance of what the foster care program is doing for kids in Boulder County, and the response by the crowd was so inspiring. Everyone pledged to join in our efforts to create a safe and healthy space for the kids in the program in their own unique way.

Q: A unique event like this can attract a lot of attention, helping to raise awareness for a cause. Was raising awareness of the foster care program a major goal of organizing the Yogathon?

A: Absolutely. Awareness was the main goal. We just want everyone to know that wherever they are in life, no matter how old they are or how much money they make, they can play a significant role in changing the lives of Boulder County kids.

Q: How did you engage the community for this event? What were the different ways people could participate?

A: Participants could either choose to come to the Yogathon and do sun salutations while learning about foster care, or they could choose to sponsor a yogi. Sponsors pledged to commit a certain number of hours in volunteer time based on of the number of sun salutations their yogi did. For example, a sponsor could pledge to volunteer with the foster care program for one hour for every ten sun salutations their yogi did. Then, if their yogi did 60 sun salutations at the Yogathon, the sponsor would join us at the next event for six hours of volunteer time. We also involved the community by receiving prize donations from local stores to use as raffle items. We received donations from places such as Avery Beer, Plato's Closet and Core Power Yoga.

Q: As a student, how do you balance philanthropy with schoolwork?

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A: Luckily, I now go to Naropa, where I feel philanthropy is my schoolwork. Our university mission is 'Meeting the world as it is and changing it for the better.' I feel an obligation to not only go out in the community and help in whatever external way I am able, but also to strive for inner peace so that I am engaging in philanthropy from a place of stability, compassion and effortlessness.

We often feel that we may not have time for philanthropy or community work because we are too busy with school or working to pay the rent, which I understand, but if you can find peace within yourself and allow yourself to become filled with compassion, it overflows effortlessly into an abundance of community involvement and love for others. I have noticed that when I put all of my energy into good works such as the foster care program, everything becomes much easier and the necessities of life, such as getting food, rent and finishing schoolwork, simply fall into place.

Q: Do you have any advice for readers who might be inspired to put on a similar event?

A: Go for it! Dream big but don't have any expectations. Keep a positive attitude, have a good support network and everything will come together. But remember, if you don't think it will work, it won't, so keep your hopes high and put a ton of heart into it no matter what unexpected obstacles come your way.

Q: What do you think yoga can teach people?

A: The most important thing yoga can teach us is how to breathe. Truly, without breath, there is no experience, no embrace of the present moment and so much of the vibrancy of life is lost to the wind of anxiety. Through yoga we learn how to be content in every moment and to embrace sensation, releasing all of the knots in our mind just as we release knots in our physical body, becoming simultaneously flexible in body, mind and spirit.

Q: What are your plans for the future? Do you hope to use yoga to do any other good deeds?

A: Absolutely! I plan to become a yoga therapist so I can introduce people to yoga as a means of reducing anxiety and depression. I feel that yoga can be utilized to aid with any social issue. I recently finished my teaching certification, so I am spending the summer offering free classes to the community. They are open to all levels of practice and in each class we feature a musician on sitar, drums or didgeridoo! In this way I hope to introduce yoga to a wide variety of people who otherwise may not be able to experience all of its benefits. My summer schedule is below. To join my email list and be notified of upcoming free classes, please email me at marnold@students.naropa.edu or find 'Team Asana' on Facebook.

Naropa Classes:

Wednesday 10:30-11:50 AM (2130 Arapahoe). Located in Shambhala Hall upstairs in main building.

Thursday 4-5 PM (2130 Arapahoe). Located in Shambhala Hall upstairs in main building.

Prana:

Wednesday 6:30-7:30. Located in the basement of Prana on the Pearl Street mall.

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