Meditation practice at Covenant House Alaska, led by yoga and meditation instructor David Westlake, helps our direct care staff to stay centered in the moments when it matters most.
David Westlake, co-owner & co-founder of Turiyah Yoga, has made a huge impact on Covenant House Alaska (CHA) and the Anchorage community. Turiyah provides services to people who are incarcerated, and to those experiencing trauma, and also works to bring mediation tools to companies and their employees. We are the first organization who hired David to teach our staff consistently. Now, Turiyah is also providing services to the Rasmuson Foundation, McLaughlin Youth Center, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, and others.
For 9 months now, he has been a very regular and familiar face in our Youth Engagement Center. Two times a week, he provides meditation sessions for program and office staff, who have learned invaluable tools to help them manage the stress and heartache that often comes with our line of work, and also how to tune into the present moment. These tools enable our staff to better respond to difficult situations, which happen so often when you work with youth who are in crisis. In the near future, we hope to extend relaxation classes to our youth!
During David’s 20s and 30s, he worked in several mental health facilities as floor staff, which gives him great insight into the type of work we do. He even worked at Covenant House for a short while when it was still located where Williwaw is now. After several years in social work, he began doing yoga. He dived deep into his personal yoga and meditation practice during that time, and he began his journey in teaching yoga and meditation. “I started to realize that when I was doing the social work, I often felt hindered by my mind, my desires—my own story. I never felt still. I began to see that I was taking things out on my loved ones and was being passive-aggressive towards my coworkers”. Eventually, he reevaluated his life and thought, “the whole 9-5 job for profit just never really appealed to me. I always wanted meaning and experience; I wanted to feel like I was making a difference. So I started teaching yoga and meditation full time.”
David found himself living a yoga teacher’s dream, he was able to travel and take his studio on the road. He was living a comfortable lifestyle. But he found himself not fulfilled, and identified what was missing from his life. That thing was service. He shifted gears, and that was the moment Turiyah sprouted. Through Turiyah, David works with a very wide range of people—people who are in various levels of stress and/or trauma from a variety of backgrounds. He has about 10 teachers who teach at different programs.
At Covenant House, David began teaching meditation as a volunteer. When we saw how effective his presence was, we hired him to continue to provide consistent meditative tools to our staff. We saw that meditation and restorative yoga helped reconnect individuals to a source of joy and self; broken people have found themselves feeling strong again. David testifies, “the gift of yoga is that it opens you to the possibilities in life. Yoga has helped me reach acceptance and learn how to breathe; everyone can benefit from those two things, and I want to help people reach that. It is so important to break the stereotypes of what yoga and yogis look like, or what they should look like. It’s my goal to show people that yoga and meditation are for everyone.”