A New Voice Sharing the Benefits of Yoga

Introducing Michele Vinbury, the new program coordinator for the Yoga on High Foundation. She came to us asking for volunteer opportunities that would marry her skills as a yoga teacher and her life-long commitment to helping those in need. And she became central to furthering the Foundation’s volunteer efforts in general. Please welcome her.

It is an honor to be able to work with Linda, Marcia, Martha and Jasmine contributing to the Yoga On High Foundation (YHF); something that combines two of my greatest passions – yoga and volunteerism.

I began volunteering in high school—making dinners for the local homeless shelter, helping at an annual fundraiser to feed the hungry, answering the hotline at a suicide prevention program, writing letters through Amnesty International. Lest you get the wrong idea, I was not a straight-A student (not even straight-B’s,) nor trying to fill my college entrance paperwork. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to college… I believe my interest in volunteerism stemmed from my parents and also from their friends, a close-knit group of bohemian artist types and activist, whom I have always considered an extended family of sorts.

Where to begin? At the beginning of course, the very beginning. I was born in the Andean mountains of Peru to hippie parents. My mother had spent 6 or 7 years in the Peace Corps and my father was a wandering surfer and quasi-missionary, looking for truth and an escape from his stuffy and painful middle-class upbringing.

We spent the first few years of my life living communally in Peru and Brazil. When I was 3, my father, mother, younger brother and I moved to San Diego, where my mother had grown up, and then to Rhode Island where my father was raised. Once in RI, my mother went back to school to become a nurse, and my father found work as a carpenter. It wasn’t long after that they separated and divorced.

In South America, my parents had seen the extremes of developing world poverty. My father especially was affected by this global worldview. In the years after returning from Brazil, though we were poor by American standards, my parents knew that we were rich compared to so many others. This knowledge was something instilled in me from a young age—we are rich in love, we are rich in community. We have food, shelter, education, and we are so lucky to be able to share what we have with those who have less.

The years passed. In the beginning there was no car. My father would ride his bicycle to work and pick us up after school. He would ride us home, me on the long bar and my brother in a milk crate box on the back, down wooded streets and over the train tracks until we reached the house he shared with 3 others. I remember so vividly the day he told us he had built us a house – it was better than being told we were going to Disney. I grew up in the house that my father built. In the winters, the woodstove was always burning, and in the summers, the garden was large and bountiful. There were hard times, but there was always love.

In my late teens and early twenties, I hit a rough patch. Things seemed bleak and I seemed to make a habit out of making bad choices, opting for self-destruction rather than growth. In short, I was a mess. But I was a mess with family and resources. When I needed help, it was given to me, by friends, by family, by strangers and by yoga.

I am exceedingly grateful for the help I received along the way, and the love I continue to receive to this day. Now, in my mid-30s, I have a supportive family, a wonderful husband, healthy and happy children. I am safe. I choose growth, I choose bounty, I choose life. I have found my way, and I believe very strongly that my good fortune should be shared. I have done a lot of work in my life, but I also have been very lucky, some might even say blessed. I have a debt of gratitude for these blessings that I very willingly repay though my volunteerism and seva yoga. It is my joy to be able to give back when I have received so very much.

Through the years I have volunteered in a number of different ways with a number of different organizations. I have volunteered teaching philosophy to male inmates at a medium security prison in Maryland. While living in Maryland, I also did work on a Maryland Coastal Bays project as an intern for an organization called PACE (Institute for Public and Civic Engagement). I have volunteered at a domestic violence agency outside of Chicago. I’ve volunteered with voter registration drives and doing voter canvassing. I’ve volunteered here in Columbus with SARNCO (Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio), and then supported and volunteered at my mother’s non-profit, an organization which has given over 60,000 quilts to wounded soldiers over the past 9 years. Most recently, I have completed a training to be a speaker for a local anti-human trafficking organization, and will begin a training to volunteer with their street outreach, bringing services to woman victims of human trafficking in our area.

On the yoga front, I am teaching a class at Yoga on High for volunteers at a local crisis center and assisting in Yoga on High Foundation’s Yoga in Schools program. I have a few other yoga seva projects in various stages of viability and look forward to sharing them with you in the coming months.

I am very excited and inspired by the opportunities Yoga on High can, and does, bring to our community: Yoga in Schools, Yoga for Vets, an upcoming Cancer Retreat and the impending return of Yoga for Diabetics. In order to fund these programs, and to start new ones, the Foundation, along with the generous help and support of Richard Hillis, is hosting a “Moroccan Nights” summer soiree fund raiser this July 14th from 6:30 to 8:30. It’s bound to be a good time with food, dancing, live music, henna artists and much more. Tickets go on sale soon, you can check this link for updated information: http://yogaonhigh.com/community/community-events-groups/summer-soiree-fundraiser.

I would love to hear from you. Do you have a program you’d like to develop or one you’d like to fund? Feel free to get in touch with me at Michele@YogaOnHigh.com, and let’s bring aid, comfort and relief through yoga to those in need in our community!

4 Responses to A New Voice Sharing the Benefits of Yoga
  1. Jennifer Gebhart

    Michele, your story is so very inspiring! I can’t wait to meet you and work with you! Welcome!

  2. Hannah

    Michele I’m so proud of you. Keep doing amazing things!

  3. Cherie

    You are so inspiring, Michele! Great work, keep it up. So proud that you are my friend 🙂

  4. Pam Drake

    Thanks for sharing your story Michele! Your passion is palpable. Best of luck as you GROW forward.