Q&A With Maria Powell: Yoga, Mindfulness, and Kids
We sat down with Trinity Athletics' board member, Maria Powell, to discuss her yoga practice, the importance of mindfulness, and why it matters for the kids we serve.
Q: What does the practice of yoga mean to you?
A: The practice of yoga is a tool and a lifestyle that allows me to create space within my life so I have the utmost intention with everything I do. So much of what we do is learned behavior–learned from our environment, social structure, societal structure. We do so many things “just because.” To fill space and fill a void because that's what everyone else is doing. That’s how we end up in situations that don't align with who we are or allow us to live our whole truth or with a sense of peace. We’re constantly pushing forward to the future and creating anxiety and other symptoms like depression. Yoga allows me to live a more intentioned life. Stay in the present moment, stay invested, and know that the things I'm saying and doing are not just feeding me but also the community around me.
Q: How can yoga impact physical, mental, and spiritual health?
A: Yoga has been around for 5,000 years and been represented in tons of different forms. But at its purest, most indigenous form, it was always about unifying–unifying the body, mind, and spirit. Without that connection, you’re not here for this part of your journey. Yoga literally means “to unify, to yolk.” To bring yourself to fullest alignment. The practice has changed and been colonized over the years. But you can become unified not just within yourself, but within everything.
Q: Why is Trinity Athletics’ mission important to you?
A: Because I had the privilege of being raised in a lower middle class family, I wasn't always operating in a survival state. I know that's not the case for other people that look like me or look darker than me. I'm really tired of watching those communities get left behind. My kids, my communities. It’s too raw and real to ignore anymore. As soon as I met Daniel, I thought, if you really are about to make change, I want to be part of it. Our program is a tangible resource to make lives better.
Q: How do yoga and breathing practices benefit Trinity Athletics kids?
A: It’s important on the spiritual AND scientific side. People who live in communities that are financially and systematically suppressed live in a survival state, always in fight or flight. From the scientific perspective, that flight or fight stimulus sends an emotional signal to the body. The body just responds. Bringing in mindfulness, yoga, meditation, breath work, gives them time to process. They’re able to completely remove themselves from low road functioning and move to high road functioning. It allows people to be more intentional, more in control. It even changes the way their perception of the world works. Autonomy over their emotional capacity. Autonomy over their own body. When they’re facing oppression from the world, it will allow them to take in more information of how.
I always struggled with depression and anxiety growing up and saw a myriad of counselors. I was always into sports and movement, which helped but was temporary. That emotional component was always there when the response of my body went away. When I stopped playing sports, I still needed movement and started yoga. I ended up studying psychology and neuropsychology.
Q: What is your hope for every Trinity Athletics kid in regards to their future physical, mental, and spiritual health?
A: My hope is to instill in elementary kids the tools that they need to face the world as they continue to grow. We can't give a 10 year old a job opportunity or a college scholarship. But what we can do is instill them with the tools they need to survive the rest of the world. Not just survive, but truly live in it. When I interacted with kids before the pandemic, I always left teary-eyed. There are kids who are forgotten, written off. One of my first days there, a 7 year old told me about cells in the body. The next week, a 9 year old told me she placed 9th in the state in robotics. I met other kids with all A’s who excelled in class. And I was thinking, nobody would even look at them twice. When we went virtual, we had to ask, how do we still support them? That’s why we’re consistently providing virtual mindfulness and movement opportunities–to stay connected with brilliant kids who need to be championed.
Join us at our Yoga in the Groves event on June 20th to support Trinity Athletics' efforts like this!