Donna Davidge, Founder of Sewall House, shares with MysticMag her passion for yoga, her experience as both a teacher and student and why yoga is ultimately her life calling.
How and when did yoga first find you?
Almost 50 years ago, when I was 18, I was in college and was sent to a therapist because I was severely anorexic. He told me to do child’s pose. I thought he was crazy, but this was my introduction to yoga.
I then took my first yoga class when I was at University, and this out of simple curiosity. Later, in my twenties, when I married and entered the workforce, I started practicing yoga intermittently until I was about thirty. After leaving my marriage and career in my late twenties I lived in Europe for a few years. I later moved back to New York City and this is where I got into yoga very heavily.
How does yoga resonate with you on a spiritual level?
When I moved to New York at the age of thirty, I didn’t seek out Hatha yoga which I had previously practiced. At the time Vinyasa and other yoga practices were not so popular. I discovered Kundalini yoga, and I feel that for me this was my spiritual path.
I became deeply involved with Kundalini for about 14 years. I later then started branching out into Ashtanga, Dharma and Iyengar yoga, which became my major influences. The spiritual side really resides in all the teachers that I study with. This is a really important component for me.
What can you tell us about Sewall House yoga retreat and what it has to offer?
Sewall House is a very different kind of yoga retreat to others that are now common worldwide. I started it 25 years ago because somebody that knew me knew that I loved yoga. I believed in the healing attributes of nature and I also believed that the home that I had bought emanated a very embracing healing energy, that it consequently proved itself to be.
Sewall House was for me an absolute labor of love. It is not a commercial endeavor but a healing space for both our staff and guests. It is a constantly evolving journey. My path of purchasing & creation of Sewall House – my ancestral home where a young TR was healed from asthma and made lifelong friends with my nature guide great grandfather william Sewall – has been recounted in my memoir Balancing with Bunions, found in print and audiobook on Amazon.
How much of a role does meditation play in the practice of yoga?
When I started with Kundalini yoga meditation was a huge part of this. I would get up at 3.30 am and do a two and a half hour practice which involves a good hour of breathing meditations and Chanting, which is a form of pranayama (breathing). This was life changing to me.
At Sewall House, everyday at 7.30 am, we do half an hour of silent meditation and here I count my breath. I am a pretty fast talker, worker and mover so breathwork has been a very important meditational tool in my life.
What would you describe the most enlightening moments to be while learning and practicing yoga?
I think the tough ones have been the most memorable. When you are going through a difficult time and are needing an emotional release or self-study, this is where we have the most enlightenment once we are through the storm. I stopped using crutches many years ago to get me through the hard times – wine or recreational drugs – I am clearer and more pure in my lifestyle. I use the breath, chanting and self-reflection. This is where the enlightenment takes place.
Yoga itself is a lifelong practice, whether you are doing it simply for physical purposes – which is already great. None of us are perfect as we pursue our life journey, but everyday is an opportunity to be the best we can, do the best we can and learn from the things that we could have done better.
Want to find out more Donna Davidge and Sewall House, visit http://www.donnadavidgeyoga.com/ and https://sewallhouse.com/ or follow on https://www.facebook.com/sewallhouseyogaretreat/