Chelsea Roff: Meet Paulie — The First Member of the Yoga Service Council

We’re back with another interview from the Yoga Service Council Conference, a gathering that transpired last weekend at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. This inaugural conference brought together individuals from around the country who are either actively engaged or interested in using yoga to serve their communities. I can’t begin to tell you how inspired and grateful I felt leaving Omega… I met so many amazing leaders, teachers, and caregivers, I only wish I’d had a chance to interview them all!

But fortunately I did get a chance to interview Paul (Paulie) Miller, the very first member of the YSC… ever. I was introduced to Paulie over dinner with the Give Back Yoga Foundation team, and immediately one of the people sitting next to me said, “Oh Chelsea, you have to interview Paulie!” Now I understand why.

Here’s our interview:

What brought you to the Yoga Service Council Conference? What was your intent in being here?

I came to support the Veteran’s Yoga Project and Give Back Yoga Foundation. I also wanted to see the inspiring work being done by so many people. The passion and dedication was so moving. I was very humbled by what I saw and heard.

Word on the streets is you are the very first member of the Yoga Service Council. What made you want to join?

Beryl Bender Birch is my teacher, mentor and friend. She introduced me to the Give Back Yoga Foundation. Of which I am a huge fan. Through Give Back I got involved in the Veteran’s Yoga Project. Suzanne Manafort and Dr. Dan Libby are doing great work with the Veterans. I also had the opportunity to meet James Fox and I am amazed by the work he does with the Prison Yoga Project. He is such a caring person.

Thursday night I was at a benefit for Give Back Yoga. While there I was talking with Laura Berland and she told me she was the first donor to the Give Back Yoga Foundation. Beryl, Rob Schware, Ann Richardson, Suzanne Manafort and I were at Dinner. We were discussing the membership program. Rob said they didn’t have any members signed up. Inspired by Laura I gave Rob $50 and said I wanted to be the first member. I have the means to pay and it is the least I could do to help. So many talented and dedicated people doing such wonderful things, I hope I can help them all in whatever way I can.

Are you engaged in service in your own community?

Yes, I am an ambassador for the Veteran’s Yoga Project. I went through the training with Suzanne Manafort and Dr. Dan Libby a couple of years ago, and I was so moved by their work that I offered to help in any way I could. I assist them at Teacher Trainings, and I also helped them record a CD for the Veteran’s to take the practice with them. I have helped with fund raising by teaching Asana and Philosophy classes. I hope to help produce an Asana Video and more CDs.

Why do you think it’s important to offer veterans yoga?

Veterans have earned our support. They serve this country and sacrifice so much. We owe it to veterans to help them lead a normal and productive life. We have been at war for over 10 years. Many men and women are serving multiple years of duty. While in combat, the brain becomes almost hardwired to be in a vigilant state, when they return they can’t go back to normal. The practice of Yoga helps our veterans get to a point where they can function in society. This practice has helped me so much, and I want to pass it along to the service men and women. It’s an amazing toolset to support people in living healthy lives.

What was the most valuable tool or learning you’re taking away from the conference? And what do you hope to receive from being involved in the YSC moving forward?

I walked away from conference inspired and humbled. I know that I need to do more to help. I am so grateful to everyone at the conference for all of their fine work. Their desire to share and the selflessness is beautiful.

For me personally, I have had a charmed life. I am a very lucky person. I hope to help the Yoga Service Council grow and flourish. I hope that the gifts of Yoga can bring joy and peace to as many people as possible. I imagine a world where we all practiced Yoga.

Finally, Beryl said in her opening speech that our greatest responsibility to those we serve is simply to be happy. What brings you joy in life? 

I feel that helping others gives me purpose. I love teaching yoga, and I would like to teach more Yoga Philosophy classes. All the proceeds of the philosophy classes I teach go to charities like Give Back Yoga and the Veteran’s Yoga Project. I think it is so important to pass along the 8-limbed practice of yoga. Asana is just the beginning. This is a powerful practice. With all of these yogis working together, maybe we can transform the world.

Photo Credit: Veterans Yoga Project