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Chester County Press

Seven laws of the OmGirl:

07/13/2016 09:40AM ● By J. Chambless

Anna Dorwart of the Yoga Barn. (Photo by Amy Kramer)

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Fifty-three years ago, Anna McBride Dorwart, the owner of the Yoga Barn in Unionville, was born into a collision of culture and expectations, and for many years, she lived her life deprived of an identity, drifting somewhere in between.
She grew up as one of 11 children, in a large home at the corner of 17th Street and Greenhill Avenue in Wilmington. Whether by circumstance or intention, the upbringing of the McBride siblings seemed tethered to the Catholic Church, to the rich and honored Guatemalan heritage of their mother, and to the firmness of their father -- first an attorney and then a successful businessman -- who sought the best education possible for his children.
The grooming of the McBride children was evident: At dinner every night, they were expected to give oral presentations on something that happened to them that day, or about a topic that their father had asked them to read up on. It was a family where newspapers were everywhere, and politics served as the subject of common discourse. It was never quiet.
From an early age, Dorwart began to quietly acknowledge that that her mind and body were a receptacle for reflection and inner peace, but there was no room for it. She was the middle child -- number five -- and it seemed that her identity had been erased, as if the beauty of knowing that truth about herself was choking on the chasm of what was expected of her back home. At night, she would leave the house and go for long walks in a nearby city park at night, alone.
“I was running from the chaos and not liking myself in the process,” she said from the studio of the Yoga Barn in Unionville, which she has operated for the past two years. “We were never really allowed to be alone. We always had to take care of somebody. I was chasing who I was, because maybe I didn't know who I was.
“Children always look at their lives as if it's about them, and that's where I was coming from. I used to ask myself, 'What's wrong with me?'”
By the age of 12, Dorwart developed bulimia, a disease that lasted for the next 25 years. Through the pain, she pushed to stand out in a large family by carving out some sense of herself. She became a competitive swimmer at St. Mark's and the University of Delaware, but by her sophomore year in Newark, she emotionally shut down. The bulimia and the pressure to succeed -- real or imagined -- had consumed her. She dropped out of college, an act that was considered unthinkable in the McBride home, and for the next two years, she took off to California to live with relatives.
By the time she was 26, Dorwart was married with twin daughters, and her son arrived four years later. Her husband was promoted constantly in his career, so the family criss-crossed the country a dozen times. It was a constantly changing spin of support systems, friends and places, so she clung to her husband and her children. Again, she sought refuge in athletics, running in marathons and triathlons. She began to take yoga classes. Everywhere she moved, her bulimia went with her.
Throughout her life, Dorwart has been guided by heightened moments -- signs -- that have helped transcend conflict and provide glimpses of clarity. It was in Wichita, yet another stopping point, where she saw one.
“I went to a yoga class, practically crawling to the mat,” she said. “Basically, my entire foundation had shut down. There, I found a teacher who was 72 years old, and filled with lightness. I thought, 'I want to be her when I grow up.'”
She received another sign a year later in Dallas. After a yoga class, someone handed her a book called “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” by Deepak Chopra. She read it, and over time, she began to apply the seven laws to her life, one for each day of the week: The law of pure potentiality; the law of giving; the law of Karma; the law of least effort; the law of intention and desire; the law of detachment; and the law of Dharma.
“They really helped me to begin my road to healing,” Dorwart said. “It's been an interesting process to want to find true healing, and how to get there. I learned that it's all about what we choose and how we set the direction of our course. These were little seeds of knowledge that were given to me, at a time when I wasn't fully ready to accept them.”
Dorwart received yet another sign 12 years ago, when she told her husband that she was tired of living the transient life. She needed to be back home, in the Brandywine Valley. After a long search for a home, they found a 325-year-old house in Unionville that had once served as King's Ranch, a cattle farm. In addition to the house, there was a cottage and a barn on the property.
By then, yoga was not merely an activity for Dorwart, but a calling. She studied with several teachers, including Chopra. She received an advanced degree in counseling from West Chester University. Seven years ago, she enrolled in a 200-hour teacher training certification at One Yoga in Wilmington. At the end of her training, guest lecturer John Gillespie of Empowered Yoga asked each of his students what they intended to do with their yoga practice. 
“I said to the class, 'I live on a farm in Unionville,'” Dorwart said. “'I have a barn and a cottage. In the barn, I am going to start my yoga studio, and I'm going to call it the Yoga Barn. In the cottage, I am going to do counseling. I will help people heal, and help them find their way back home to themselves.' I didn't know it at the time, but I was speaking my future.”
During the next year, Dorwart converted the barn into a yoga studio, and the cottage into a comfortable office. In 2014, OmGirlLiving was born. The Yoga Barn is a warm, welcoming space to facilitate healing through yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, Reiki, cooking and other wellness workshops.
Classes are taught by highly trained teachers who have certification in various areas of healing, yoga, meditation, vinyasa, and Reiki. Cara Lehmann teaches a class that incorporates Reiki, movement, meditation and music, as well as classes in gentle yoga and yin yoga with Reiki.
Kelliann Dougherty and Rick Fountas teach Power Vinyasa on both the intermediate and advanced levels. Nora Fitzgerald teaches introductory classes in vinyasa, as well as a monthly class called "Let Your Yoga Dance," which combines yoga, the breath and user-friendly dancing.
Tom Burke teaches "Soul Unfolding Yoga," which focuses on awareness and spirituality through yoga poses and breath. Diana Suchodolski teahces classes in moksha yoga, designed to liberate practioners from old habits; and Susan Smith teaches "Law of Potentiality Yoga," a vinyasa-based yoga designed to explore, expand and enlighten through breath and poses and community. 
The curriculum is structured in five, eight-week semesters, and there are flexible packages available to suit everyone's needs and schedules. Walk-in practitioners are also welcome.
The Cottage, facilitated by Dorwart, provides a nurturing environment for anyone in need of emotional support in areas such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, spiritual coaching, shame resilience and crisis counseling.
“The Yoga Barn at the Cottage are not easy to get to, but when you get here, you don't want to go anywhere else,” Dorwart said. “We're not the convenience. We're the choice. It's a big part of what adds to the healing, and the community. We're a home, a safe place to land.”
The wide parameters of Chopak's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success have served as a guidepost for Dorwart to get to this point in her journey. One such law, Tuesday's the law of Karma, states that every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in kind, and that choosing actions that bring happiness and success to others ensures the flow of happiness and success to you.
“The only way to be authentic in anything is to be teaching right from where I know, not from where I pretend to know, or trained to know,” Dorwart said. “It has to be real, from my life, or it doesn't flow. If it doesn't flow, then you're just pretending.”
The Yoga Barn and the Cottage are currently on summer break, and will resume classes after Labor Day. To learn more about Anna M. Dorwart, the Yoga Barn and the Cottage, visit www.omgirlliving.com. The Yoga Barn is at 313B Upland Road, in Kennett Square.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.



Classes in yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, Reiki, cooking and other wellness workshops are held in a converted barn. (Photo by Amy Kramer)

 



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