Sometimes you just want to press the pause button in life.
It's not a novel idea that this millennial age is a minefield of too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Between work, family, friends, and the general struggles of trying to get by, life can get pretty overwhelming and before you know it, you forget to take care of yourself.
No one knows this better than Erika Ellis, the Old Town District Manager. The neighborhood in her charge is a Portland diamond in the rough, forgotten by many as the rest of the city grew. As a Portland native who has deep-rooted Rose City love (she grew up in the Southeast Numbers and then worked in the nightlife circuit in Northwest), Ellis sees some serious promise in the beauty of Old Town, and her role is meant to highlight why this neighborhood is so great. But meeting the demands and needs of the epicenter of Portland's waterfront can get pretty taxing pretty fast.
That's why Ellis is organizing Wellness on the Waterfront. On June 21, the public is welcome to gather for four yoga classes happening throughout the day at the Japanese American Historical Plaza. It'll be an event to take a break from the daily grind to come enjoy some sun and zen in Old Town and return to state of mindfulness on the Summer Solstice.
We talked with Ellis about her work for Old Town and why WOW is part of the the neighborhood's revitalization.
What do you do exactly?
As Old Town's District Manager, my key role is community engagement and support. I do my best to support people who live, work, and play in Old Town. Meaning, I'm a conductor and conduit of energy between the businesses, residents (housed and unhoused), and The City of Portland. I'm something like a micro-mayor without any political slant.
What is Wellness on the Waterfront?
Wellness on the Waterfront is a partnership between Old Town Community Association and Lululemon designed to honor Summer Solstice and International Day of Yoga on Thursday June 21st, 2018. The event is free and open to the public at the Japanese American Historical Plaza (at Northwest Couch Street on the waterfront) with classes offered at 7am, 12pm, 5:30pm, and 7pm.
What made you decide to do a yoga event in Old Town?
I'm pretty new to this role and wanted my first neighborhood activation to be centered in connectedness and mindfulness. I love how yoga has the ability to offer that to us no matter who we are and where we come from. So, I took great care in seeking ways to remove or limit the obstacles that prevent people from practicing yoga.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
Mindfulness to me is taking responsibility for the energy you bring into a space. It's a practice but one that can be a great source of power and liberation.
How does mindfulness impact your work in Old Town?
Old Town is very diverse. It's not unusual to connect with people who are just like me: black, femme, queer moms with afros that listen to disco. But often times I am around people who are very different from me. That could be in gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, age, social economics, and the list goes on to infinity. Mindfulness is showing up exactly as I am while simultaneously honoring and respecting who someone else is without judgement. Ultimately, we're all people sharing the same goal of wanting Old Town to thrive.
How do you plan to foster community in Old Town beyond Wellness on the Waterfront?
I'm here to learn how I can help make Old Town a more connected neighborhood. With that, active listening goes a long way. In listening I'll learn which ways to best support unlikely pairings and foster unique collaborations. There's no shortage of style, creativity, and culture in Old Town. And if there's any neighborhood that can handle a strong dose of eccentricity, it's Old Town.
Attend Wellness on the Waterfront on June 21. Yoga classes will be at 7 am, 12 pm, 5.30 pm, and 7 pm. See the full event schedule here.