Elegantly dressed in a long, white lace dress, international yoga teacher Jennelle Gordon sat alongside former NFL player Keith Mitchell as they joined guests in a conference room at Pelican Hill Resort on June 24th, waiting to spread their knowledge and experiences in meditation, building connections, and yoga of the mind.
“We’re doing this event to really create an awareness about connection—there are a lot of things that our society has shaped us,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been through a lot of traumatic situations…it takes practice to open these things up, heal these wounds. This is an opportunity to really go into what connection feels like.”
Most of those in attendance had taken yoga in many forms and were looking to dig deeper into their practice. With this workshop, called “Unveiling the Mask,” its focus was to learn how to fully reveal and surrender themselves to their partner. This relationship-based workshop was not restricted to couples; all were welcome to participate because the ultimate goal was for guests to feel closer to people on a deeper level.
“The whole reason for this event is just to bring the community together,” Gordon said. “We really feel the most important thing of this evening is just uniting, and that’s why our workshop is called ‘Unveiling the Mask’; that speaks about uniting, being authentic, and just connecting each other because we truly are connected.”
The first exercise focused on one’s sexuality. People were divided into groups of three, and each person told two truthful things about themselves and made up one, with others in the group guessing which statement was a lie. It was interesting to watch as the individuals struggled to think of what to say. This type of yoga teaches one to be open with such things in a safe environment.
The evening continued with Mitchell and Gordon sharing some of their life stories and teaching those in attendance how to get in better touch with their counterparts, explaining the different flows of a man and woman: “Everything comes from the woman, that’s the creative flow.” As they moved into more yoga exercises done in pairs and practiced matching each other’s breathing, attendees gained further closeness with their partner.
“I had heard that it had some stuff to do with David Deida’s work and I’m a big fan of what he’s done for me in my life,” said yoga participant Tydus Queiroz. “So I’m actually hoping for a heightened sense of my divine masculine and feminine.”
Mitchell says he and Gordon plan to host this workshop more often. Mitchell has practiced yoga for almost twelve years, ever since he was diagnosed with a spinal contusion from that football injury. As he spent six months in the hospital, conscious breathing became part of his recovery, and he embraced yoga so much that he eventually became an instructor.
“Teaching is like a concept of connecting,” Mitchell said. “As an athlete, everyone is kind of away from you. You have security keeping people away from you. Right here, we’re really engaging with people, and it’s really a whole different feel.”
Gordon’s path started slightly different. She began practicing physical yoga for anxiety and back pain at 19, but it wasn’t until she found herself on an island in Thailand three years ago, studying in a yoga community, that she fully immersed herself into it. “I got introduced to a type of yoga that deals a lot with self-love, connection, authenticity, and embracing every form of energy that there is,” she said. “Basically every aspect of your life and so for me. That was when everything that I had learned just made sense.”
The two have hosted “Unveiling the Mask” in Bali, Thailand, the Netherlands, and beyond, with proceeds benefitting the non-profit Light It Up Foundation. Mitchell’s charity focuses on raising awareness and support for at-risk youth and adults, veterans, athletes and families in need.
“We have created programs with the LAPD, this is how we created programs with the military, this is how we’ve created programs with other football athletes people wouldn’t typically be open to the practice,” he said. “But because I’ve come from this background that they can relate to, we’ve created an openness to allow people to give themselves the opportunity to transform, grow and develop.”
Mitchell and Gordon are hosting another event at the end of July in Fashion Island in Newport Beach. That workshop will be more about getting people to tap into their greatest potential and focused on the corporate world, but all are invited. “Anyone can stand up and talk,” Gordon said. “But it’s about having that connection with someone and having them feel it so much you empower them to want to go and apply some of what you say or what you’ve shared into their own life and that’s when you create change.”