The Little Yellow School House

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My hubby M and I just got back from a week in sunny Mexico with our nearly three-year-old peanut Max. It was a trip to celebrate M’s birthday and escape winter in New Jersey.

We spent most of our time strolling through town, lounging on the beach (well, lounging as much as possible with a toddler…) and eating an excess of chips and salsa.

However, I knew that I really wanted to do something to connect with locals. Before we left I searched online for ways to volunteer in Isla Mujeres. I can’t find the original link, but reading through a few pages of travelers’ comments led me to the Little Yellow School House.

It’s a school supported entirely by donations that offers education to children with special needs including autism, down’s syndrome and other disabilities.

I emailed to ask if I could visit with Max. They said yes. I packed my yoga breathing ball and asked a Spanish-speaking friend to help me translate Rub Your Hands (Om song). We made a small donation through their paypal link.

On the day of the visit I was a little bit nervous about bringing Max. He can be a bit ahem…rowdy with other children. I told him we needed to be extra careful and nice because the kids were welcoming us into their school.

We toured the school and met all of the students. Max warmed up and played with the children in the youngest class.

He showed them how to breathe with the breathing ball and shared it freely. I didn’t tell him that the students had disabilities and that day was one of my proudest days as a mama. When his new friend jumped on him (normal behavior from toddlers…Max usually pushes or hits back) he laughed and rolled over. He left happy and worn out.

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I used to think that volunteering had to be some grand gesture. When I didn’t live up to my own expectations I felt disappointed in myself. I’ve since shifted my perspective. I now believe that cultivating connection in small ways leads to living a life of service.

How do you cultivate connection? How are you of service?

I want to hear from you, regardless of how small your actions are!

P.S. I am always looking for ways to volunteer/help others WITH my toddler. Suggestions welcome…

P.S.S. This was Max’s second trip involving a school visit. Read about Costa Rica here.

A Year of Joy

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Photo by Emmaleigh Jeanne Photography

Today I’m celebrating a year of joy!

Finding my joy took some work. I set the intention at the start of 2015 and stuck with it. By the way, sticking with JOY was a lot more fun than trying to lose 10 pounds.

I’m not sharing to brag, but to push you to acknowledge and celebrate your own accomplishments. Because life is worth celebrating!

This year I…

Drastically reduced my alcohol consumption. I used to drink 2-3 times per week, now it’s that frequency per month.

Had the courage to ask for support. Thank you to all of my loved ones who lifted me up when I couldn’t do it myself.

Conquered my fear of teaching a busy class in a real yoga studio. Found my inner power yoga teacher. Really found my inner power.

Gained acceptance. Faced illness head-on and accepted it.

Shared the power of acceptance by teaching yin yoga and loving every moment of it. I cherish the feedback from my peers that’s allowed me to grow and create a yin teacher training.

Most of all I was vulnerable by being authentic, open and honest.

What are you celebrating? What does authenticity look like for you? What intention will you set for 2016?

I choose CONNECTION for 2016. Connection to people, the present moment, and to my breath.

Presence not Presents

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Happy December! I love the holidays and all of the goodwill that this time of year can inspire. I love Christmas music and snuggling under a warm fuzzy blanket with a classic holiday movie.

But I’ve noticed that I’m already starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed. Maybe it’s the recovering perfectionist in me. Maybe it’s my desire to not let anyone down. The lesson that life keeps presenting to me is that I can’t be the brightest, fullest version of myself if I don’t fill my own cup first. For me, that means practicing yoga every day.

For the past week my yoga practice has consisted of sneaking in a few poses while my two year old is watching Sesame Street in the same room. It’s something, but it’s not exactly restorative. There are still plenty of demands for coconut water and attention. My levels of patience and joy have suffered. Just because I know I need to carve out time doesn’t mean I always do it.

Starting today I (along with my yogini friend Ashley) am committing to 25 days of yoga. For her, that’s 25 studio classes. For me, it’s 20 studio classes with home practices on the other days (preferably without Sesame Street). A daily yoga practice keeps me happy and calm. And that’s the person I want to be for others.

Making it to 20 classes will be a challenge. I might even have to sneak out to a 6am class here and there. But it’s worth it.

How will you stay present during the holidays?

Cultivate Love

Have you tried a loving kindness meditation?

Here’s one method I have found to be powerful in my own life:

Inhale: Blessings to

Exhale: Person’s Name

One breath = One person

Start with the people you love. Build those warm fuzzy feelings. I can’t help but smile during this part! Gradually work your way out of your inner circle to the other people in your life. Make your way to those that you generally tolerate.

Try to your best to keep your body relaxed as you silently send blessings to everyone else you know. Consider the rest of the world and those that need more love and kindness.

Keep going for a specific amount of time or until you feel complete.

Turn this into a yin yoga practice by setting up in a supported reclined bound angle pose. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. I like to use a thick couch cushion or a stack of bed pillows under my spine. This pose feels sooooo good everywhere in my body!

For the cherry on top, end your practice with legs-up-the-wall while listening to one of these mantra songs:

Lokah Samastah by Bonnie Argo

Bless the Good by Sirgun Kaur & Darshan Singh

In case you need extra motivation:

18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation

Have you practiced loving-kindness meditation? How has it affected you? How else do you practice love and kindness toward others?

30 Ways to Nurture Yourself

Are you ready to refill your cup?

The goal: Carve out whatever time you can for yourself. Pick from the list below or choose your own way to nurture yourself.

Post your pics and tag me on instagram or facebook @veggievinyasa. Each week I’ll pick a winner to receive amazing organic skincare products from Pangea! The more you post, the better your chance to win.

30 Ways to Nurture Yourself

  1. Take a nap
  2. Choose a delicious, healthy snack
  3. Relax with your legs up the wall
  4. Say no
  5. Spontaneously dance to an amazing song
  6. Take five deep breaths
  7. Walk in nature
  8. Take a break from technology
  9. Journal
  10. Pamper yourself with a home spa day
  11. Take a (yin) yoga class
  12. Snuggle under a cozy blanket
  13. Create or admire art
  14. Meditate
  15. Slowly savor a warm beverage
  16. Break a sweat
  17. Take a bath with a few drops of essential oil
  18. Laugh
  19. Do nothing
  20. Forgive
  21. Read an inspirational book
  22. Go for a bike ride
  23. Be your authentic self without any apologies
  24. Burn a candle
  25. Get crafty
  26. Create a daily ritual around an otherwise mundane task
  27. Be a tourist in your own town
  28. Lie in a hammock
  29. Wake up slowly
  30. Simplify

What would you add to the list? Post in the comments section. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

30 Days of Self Care

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”  ~Buddha

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Please Join Me!

What: 30 Days of Self Care

When: September 1-30, 2015. Spend five minutes or an afternoon to nurture yourself.

Where: Your everyday life

How: Snap a daily pic and post on Facebook or Instagram. Tag me @veggievinyasa for chances to win amazing Pangea Organics products in weekly giveaways!

Why: To refill your own cup. To cultivate inner peace. To create healthy boundaries. To nurture the best version of yourself to share with others. To be a part of a supportive community.

Facebook: veggievinyasa

Instagram: veggievinyasa

***Stay tuned for an upcoming post with HOW you can nurture yourself!

Intentions vs. Goals

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An intention is a thing intended; an aim or a plan.

A goal is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

I believe there is a subtle difference between the two. I look at intention as a way of being and a goal as something with an end result.

For example, I have the goal to practice at least 15 minutes of yoga every single day. It’s measurable and I can easily hold myself accountable.

During a recent yoga class I set the intention of ease. Ease is not something that can be measured. Rather, it is a way of being. During that class I was sweating my tush off in utkatasana (chair pose) when I started mentally complaining about burning thighs and achy hips. I reminded myself that my intention was to find ease in every single pose. Just the thought caused me to relax. Although the pose was still difficult, I did actually find ease.

If I can find ease in 90 degrees, then what else is possible?

I’ve been playing with setting intentions in my everyday life.

The other morning I had the goal to be out the door with my toddler at 7:15 a.m. I’m usually stressed by this type of goal but I decided to set the intention of creating a calm morning. He still smeared cream cheese all over his face and refused to wear his shoes, but instead of getting worked up I laughed, snapped a pic and tossed his shoes in my purse.

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Goals can be powerful catalysts for change. 

This year I set a goal to become a confident and knowledgeable yoga teacher with four scheduled classes per week. I worked my way there by participating in Grow’s Yoga Teacher Training program, registering as a 500-hour teacher with Yoga Alliance, and teaching my first workshops: Prenatal Yoga with Tarin and Yin Yoga 101. I was scared to teach at a busy studio, but my goal pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.

Intentions can be powerful catalysts for personal transformation. 

My intention for this year was to create joy in every aspect of my life. When I set this intention, I felt grief about my health.

Since I was nowhere near joy, I started with the intention of acceptance. I cultivated acceptance by talking with a therapist, opening up to friends, blogging and practicing yoga every day. Through acceptance I lost the grief.

Goals vs. Intentions

As a yoga teacher, I have the following goals:

  • safety. My goal is that no one gets hurt. I work toward this goal by teaching and checking for correct alignment.
  • empowerment. My goal is that each student cultivates their own practice. I work toward this goal by offering choices, asking meaningful questions & lovingly nudging my students to step out of their comfort zones. This also means continuously stepping out of my own comfort zone.

As a yoga teacher, I have the following intention:

  •  to share what I love. With this intention I can let go of self-doubt: Do they like my class? Are they bored? Do they think what I’m saying is dumb? None of that matters because my intention is to share what I love. This intention also fits my purpose in blogging.

I spent the first half of 2015 empowering myself. Now my intention is to share empowerment with you. You have the power to create anything you want in your life.

Go ahead… what are your wildest dreams? What goals have you/will you set? What is your intention for today? This month? How will you cultivate your intention?

How have goals and/or intentions shaped your life?

Interview: Hannah Gorman of the Grow Collective

Meet Hannah Gorman, Director of Finances and HR at Grow Yoga, CFO of the Grow Collective, dream chaser, inspiring yogini and all around amazing woman!

Hannah is the first interview in a forthcoming series of people living wholehearted lives.

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Photo by Magi @ MKCaptures

 What drew you to yoga initially?

This is going to sound so cheesy! Honestly, people on Instagram and them posting their pretty poses. I’m like “I want to be able to do this” but… I didn’t feel like I matched what yoga was supposed to be.

Hannah followed Beach Girl Yoga for inspiration, but it wasn’t until she saw a friend’s wife, Stephanie, posting yoga pics that she started to believe she might actually be able to do yoga herself.

Suburban Gypsy’s covered in tattoos. I got to see her family and I got to see how yoga was shaping not only her body, but her life. She didn’t really fit what I thought yoga looked like. That’s what inspired me to be myself and practice this.

Yoga wasn’t just the pretty poses and the beach lifestyle but it was about being the best version of myself and how that can translate off the yoga mat.

How has yoga changed your life?

I really think yoga makes me a nicer person. I didn’t realize that I was a bitch before, but (my husband) Shawn says I’m different now that I practice. I’m definitely less reactive. In that regard our relationship has grown and we’re much stronger. After years of begging, he finally took his first class at Grow. I think he actually practices more than I do.

I’m always really concerned that I am authentic and practice what I preach. If I tell other people how it’s benefited my life but then I’m not being that way than that’s kind of being a fraud. I really try to practice what I do on my mat in other aspects of my life like forgiveness, compassion and self-care.

It’s been really, really good and I’m enjoying the journey so far.

What are your passions?

Obviously yoga! Being of service, people that are in service, and inspirational leaders… anyone that’s passionate about what they’re doing. I really feed off that type of energy. Also, people that take amazing photographs, draw, create mosaics…

I believe that we are pretty fortunate and if I can do anything to help someone else I will try my best to do that.

What is the Grow Collective?

The Grow Collective has three components.

Grow Your Goals: Grow Your Goals helps inspiring business owners to create a business plan, seek out funding and become a legitimate business in the state of New Jersey. We give them the stepping stools to help them do something they love, which I love. It’s passing that love to someone else.

The Bright Light Yoga Project: The BLYP works with survivors of sexual violence in Bolivia. The statistics in the United States say that one out of every four people will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, while the statistic in Bolivia are one in every two. It’s mainly children that are experiencing this type of abuse and violence.

Hannah leaves tomorrow, June 27, 2015 for a service trip to Bolivia.

I will be teaching yoga every day to children in Spanish, trying to create a safe space for them to be able to comfortably move their bodies and make them stronger, more consciousness people. Our hope is that we can pass our love on to the survivors and empower them to carry on our message in Bolivia when we’re not there. Our goal is to create powerful people to stand up and fight against the sexual violence.

Youth Yoga Initiative:

Initially we (Tara and I) developed the Teen Empowerment Program (a program offering teens free yoga at the studio in exchange for a volunteer internship at a community location).

The only two kids that showed up for the Teen Empowerment Program were two boys who were unable to volunteer on their own. I set up their internship at Seashore Gardens Living Center in Galloway and went with them once a week to volunteer with senior citizens.

The Youth Yoga Initiative has since evolved to include several projects.

I wrote a grant for Absegami High School. Other schools have asked us to attend their health fairs and then that became “Hey, we want you to teach yoga here.”

The Covenant House yoga program is part of the Youth Yoga Initiative.

At risk and homeless youth…these are children that have either run away, been kicked out or have been homeless on and off for an extended period of time. The Covenant House provides residency for them. It (The Grow Yoga program) is mainly teenagers and young adults doing yoga because they want to. We strive to create a safe place.

How did you become involved in grant writing?

I went to school for criminal justice and public administration. I took a couple of grant writing classes. Follow-up depends on the company. It’s really about knowing who your potential funder is and developing a relationship with them, even prior to submitting an application. That’s why I reached out to Vans first and then they invited me to apply.

I had photos done (as part of Grow’s Yoga Teacher Training) wearing my Vans, which I wear pretty much daily. I sent my picture to Vans to let them know who I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going. As a grant writer by trade, I’m always looking for opportunities for funding.

Several other places in the community have reached out to Hannah with an interest in yoga. Hannah has begun developing a team of volunteer yoga teachers to meet the needs of the community. She continues to apply for grants through various companies so that the Grow Yoga Youth Yoga Initiative can pay yoga teachers for their time and provide yoga students with supplies such as workout clothing and mats. Gaiam has donated yoga mats. Hannah applied for a significant grant from Lululemon. She is currently waiting to hear back about a $3000 grant from Vans and $3000 worth of Vans workout clothing.

I can see my position as CFO merging into a volunteer coordinator, corporate partnership manager…just to be able to keep track of everything we have going on in the community. It’s really nice these places have reached out to us.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be of service but doesn’t know how?

My advice would be to identify your skills and reach out to an organization that directly aligns with what you feel strongly about.

There may not be an opportunity already present, but it doesn’t hurt to put yourself out there and ask, “Can I offer some type of services?” Worse case scenario they’ll say no, but you can always go somewhere else.

What would you like to share about your life?

I’ve had a traumatic past. I grew up in a very abusive household where I was physically and emotionally abused for a very long time. It (the abuse) doesn’t have to shape who I am today. I don’t need to continue that violence or abuse, or place blame on myself. I’m working on forgiving myself on my mat and learning to forgive my parents.

Harboring anger creates more anger and frustration and I’m not allowing myself to heal. I should forgive them because it would be beneficial to me, not because I’m going to develop a relationship with them.

What would you like to share about your health?

I feel strongly with women’s reproductive health because I have had issues since I was 16. That’s part of my self-care.

I need to speak up about how my treatment is going. I get Lupron injections for a uterine tumor. I also have pretty aggressive endometriosis. For a long time it was very painful and I have received countless surgeries at this point. Really it’s about sharing my experiences and frustrations with the health care system. Maybe by sharing my story I can be relatable and give someone else the push to speak for themselves and be an advocate for their own self-care and health.

The Lupron injections can cause osteoporosis. They may me very sick, my whole body hurts, and my bones hurt for a week. The injection puts me in a menopausal state so that the endometriosis stops growing.

Hannah would like a hysterectomy, which would remove the tumor and endometriosis. A hysterectomy would ultimately be cheaper than injections long term, but her insurance will not cover it because of her age. She currently continues her injection treatments.

What advice do you have about self-care and the health?

Have great open dialog with your healthcare professional and really speak about what your health goals and objectives are.

What’s your favorite yoga pose?

I love Utkatasana! I feel beautiful, powerful and at the same time it’s a real release to twist it out and open up. It’s not just a physical pose, it’s mental as well. I’m opening myself up and exploring what I thought I couldn’t do. There’s room for an advanced pose like side crow. I really like the playfulness and how the pose makes me expand. I’m opening myself up to possibility and creating that in my practice.

I chose to interview Hannah because of her selfless dedication to service. She does not let her past or her health issues shape her life. She is a constant source of inspiration for me!

Click on the following links to learn more about the Bright Light Yoga Project and it’s partnering organization A Breeze of Hope.

A Recovering Perfectionist

Hello, my name is Angela and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I recently learned this about myself while reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Before this book I had no idea that my strive for perfection was hurting me. It stopped me from sharing myself with my friends and my community.

I used to think that if I wore the right clothes, exercised enough, smiled enough, kept to myself enough that I could present the best version of myself. But inside I still felt like I wasn’t good enough.

I call myself a recovering perfectionist (as Brene calls herself) because I am in the process of shifting my perspective. I have reread the book, listened to her Ted Talks, and really allowed this new information to sink in.

I also took the following steps to shift my self-perspective:

  • I set the intention for joy in all areas of my life as a new year’s resolution for 2015. I follow through by (sporadically) journaling moments from my day that bring me joy, setting an intention for joy & ease during my yoga practice, and creating a life that I love to live.
  • I enrolled in Baptiste Power Yoga teacher training to become a more confident yoga teacher and make friends. Surprise! I had no idea that self inquiry would be a large part of my training.
  • I went to a therapist for the first time in my life because of the sadness I felt over my health diagnosis. Although I knew I was lucky that my problems weren’t more serious, I still couldn’t shake the grief without help. The therapist asked me where I got my support from. When I didn’t answer her, she said that was my main problem. She encouraged my to share my story with my friends. I discovered that I worry too much about what others think.
  • I hit publish and told everyone I know to read it. Vulnerability!
  • I receive feedback after every yoga class that I teach. I am constantly offered ways to improve my teaching. I don’t fear criticism (as much) anymore.
  • I’ve embraced simplicity and minimalism. The less I care about getting things right, the lighter I feel.

I can honestly say that a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders!

Are you a recovering perfectionist? What steps have you taken to shift your perspective?

What are your tips for self acceptance?

 

 

 

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Organic Love

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I’m crazy about yoga, veggies and natural health. I’ve spent hours researching where to buy the least toxic foods, home products and skincare items. I’ve tried dozens of  facial cleansers and even more natural deodorants. My quest has led me to some pretty amazing companies and products that are healthy and way more effective than yucky chemical-laden stuff. Here are my all-time favorites and where to find them:

Food

I buy milk and eggs from an organic farmer that I have personally visited. Click here to read about our trip to Amish Country. Miller’s Biodiversity Farm is located in Pennsylvania with monthly deliveries to New Jersey and New York.

I get my vegetables from Bonterra Market (a local health food store), farmers’ markets and a weekly delivery from Door to Door Organics. Although I’m currently not a CSA member I support Jah’s Creation Organic Farm.

Home

I love Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap. My favorite scent is Lemon Verbena. I use Seventh Generation Free & Clear laundry soap. Both brands are sold at Target. I also like Method for cleaning products.

Skincare

I use Pangea’s Normal to Combo Face Ritual Set. The Australian Wild Plum & Willow Facial Cleanser and Green Mandarin with Sweet Lime Facial Toner smell amazing! I have three other essential products from Pangea: the facial scrub, mask and balancing oil. I really love their lip balm and body oil too.

I started using Pangea products recently, but I fell in love immediately. The Colorado-based company uses organic, fair trade and responsibly-sourced ingredients. Pangea is committed to transparency. An ingredient list is posted on the website. Pangea also uses environmentally-responsible packaging and has won many beauty and environmental-related awards.

Pangea is only sold through independent business owners. Part of my dream is to someday lead wellness retreats. To me, it makes sense to be part of a company with the same beliefs that I do, so I became an Independent Pangea Business Owner. I’m excited to start throwing mini spa parties & Pangea happy hours! Please email me if you have any questions about Pangea products or would like to host a happy hour (veggievinyasa@gmail.com).

Deodorant

This subject gets its own category because I have spent years testing out every brand I could find. I now have a combo that holds up through back-to-back 90 degree power yoga classes and weekend yoga teacher trainings!

I use 4-5 sprays of Thai Chrystal Mist Pump Spray topped with a few swipes of Philly-based Duross & Langel violet deodorant.

The salt spray kills bacteria, but does not neutralize odor. The stick does not prevent odor (for me) on its own. Together they are a magical nontoxic combo that keep me fresh. I reapply the violet stick as needed throughout the day.

What’s in my purse:

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What are your favorite organic brands? Which companies align with your values?