Yoga at the White House

yoga white house kids

Yoga at the White House

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It turns out that rolling decorated eggs is an international tradition that goes back—way back. The English have been doing it for centuries. Germans, Danes, even Egyptians have a version of egg rolling. In the United States, official Easter egg rolling at the White House kicked off in 1814, but in 2009, when the Obamas hosted their first Easter Egg Roll for families, they threw in a twist; they threw in some yoga.

This year, 27 yogis—including nine lululemon ambassadors—will be part of the White House Yoga Garden program. We asked Leah Cullis and Claudia Cavazza, two of our ambassadors who have been part of the event since its inaugural year, to weigh in on what makes it such a special day and how they’re taking the concept across America.

Kate: Thirty-five thousand people doing yoga together. How on earth do you pull this off?
Leah: It started off with 10 teachers. We had no idea what we were in for the first time around. Now we do 10-minute practices for each group. We learned teamwork through bringing in more teachers each year and giving everyone an opportunity to teach and share and bring their unique gifts.
Kate: What makes this event a repeated success?
Claudia: Its simplicity. Yoga is front and centre in our nation’s capital. That’s pretty unique. We share a simple practice with ordinary people in an extraordinary place.
Kate: Many people who read this won’t be American, but most of us can picture the White House. Where does the yoga actually happen?
Leah: The backdrop for the Yoga Garden is the actual White House. There are kids of all ages, families from all over, all having fun and being active. As a yoga teacher, to share yoga in the most powerful place on earth is just incredible.
Kate: What’s your favourite part of the event each year?
Claudia: It’s the same moment every year, and it happens several times throughout the day. It’s when I see someone who has never stepped on a mat before—a grandparent, a parent, a little kid—finally relax and experience yoga in their own body for the very first time.
Leah: For me the beauty of the event is kicking out the structure. It doesn’t matter if you mostly practice Yin or Vinyasa or Kundalini, it matters how you bring it to life with every person you connect with and meet. We’re sharing the playful side, and the body mind experience. We’ve loosened up a bit, bringing in more ease, more joy, more simplicity.
Kate: How much preparation goes into making this event a success?
Claudia: Each year we begin assessing our learnings right after the event and set new goals and expectations for the following year. Four to six months prior to the event date, that’s when the creative energy skyrockets and we start making things happen; selecting the team, establishing collaborations, figuring out logistics and planning our communication strategy. The night before the event we set a unified intention together as a team, choose our outfits together, and get ready to walk out on the South Lawn of the White House as one. It’s an exhilarating process.”
Kate: How are people chosen to attend this event?
Leah: It’s all volunteer for the teachers, and a national ticket lottery for the actual event.
Kate: This is the first year you’ll be taking the White House Yoga Garden concept beyond the White House, yes?
Leah: Yes, we are sharing the inspiration from the White House event and working with [our active girls’ brand] ivviva in having 35 events across the country. We’ll roll this out through April. It will be yoga led by local teachers in green spaces in the communities.
Claudia: America’s “backyard” is a powerful stage for reaching a much broader audience. On the South Lawn of the White House our yogis create the experience that yoga can be done anywhere, at any time, with anyone. It’s a simple yet pretty powerful message that can elevate the lives of many people.
Kate: As people deeply involved in this event, what’s the biggest takeaway?
Leah: I’ve learned from the White House Yoga Garden that life is a playful dance. Life’s fun when you can take off your shoes, stand on your head, smile and laugh. I want to share what yoga’s done for me, which is to deepen my experience of life, and the White House is a big stage. Yoga is affecting public schools and summer camps and someone in the military and someone in the White House. It’s cool to see how big it is today and how effective it is. It’s such an honour to be sharing the teachings and practices that have informed each of our lives.
Claudia: Leah’s vision and passion bring together some amazing human beings, and for one day we all hold a very special place for each other and the people around us. I grow and learn something new about myself every year by being part of this experience. I can’t believe this is my job. #joblove

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