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.

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!

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?

 

 

 

IMG_4106Early morning makeup-free selfie

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? 

My Health Story: Part Two

I strive to appreciate life and generally don’t like to focus on the negative. However, I feel compelled to write about this topic because I know there are many people that feel alone in what they are going through. My intention and hope in sharing these personal details is that they reach anyone who feels alone or stuck with their health issues. If that is you, please know you aren’t the only one. You don’t have to believe everything doctors tell you and you don’t have to blindly accept what’s been handed to you. You can take charge of your own health.

I am one of many people who has been told they have an illness for which there is no cure and there is no other option than to sit back and wait. I refuse to accept this fate.

I have found great support in blogs, Facebook groups, books and internet forums focused on natural health. They provide valuable tools, inspiration and suggestions. I have learned so much through these resources that I joke with friends that I’m practically a doctor now. This is just a joke of course.

In November 2014 I posted my personal health story here. At the time it was too painful to get into the details of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). But time has since passed and I am eager to connect with a support network about this condition.

PSC is an autoimmune disease of the liver. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body attacks itself. In my case, my body is attacking the bile ducts in my liver. The purpose of the bile ducts is to drain bile (and toxins) out. When they are damaged the liver is not able to flush out toxins. This can cause a buildup and damage the liver. PSC usually results in a liver transplant.

I’ve known that I have PSC since 2005ish. As I wrote in my personal health story, it was a shock at first, but since then I have been living symptom-free so it was something that did not affect my everyday life.

This past October I had a routine MRI test. The next day my doctor scheduled an appointment for me to meet with a surgeon. They found new damage to my liver and suspected the possibility of cancer. This rocked me to my core.

After two visits to new specialists and a procedure where a tube with a camera was placed down my throat to inspect the area, it was determined that it is probably not cancer, but the natural progression of the disease.

I asked my gastro doctor about a diet to reduce inflammation. He suggested a vegan diet. I asked the liver specialist about natural remedies. The only thing he suggested was to stay a healthy weight. I contacted a naturopathic who suggested a gluten free diet.

I’ve scoured the internet for alternative treatments for PSC, but haven’t found much. This is what I’ve got thus far:

The Liver Doctor: Dr. Sandra Cabot

More information from Dr. Cabot

Survivor of “incurable” cancer Kris Carr

Blogger and PSC transplant survivor Emily from She Chooses Joy

Another blogger with PSC: Journeys into Wild Health

Gluten Sensitivity and Liver Disease

Living with PSC Discussion Forum

PSC isn’t common and I’ve never met another person that has it. For the person that’s just been diagnosed, I want to share that it is possible to live a healthy, full life with PSC. For the person struggling with unpleasant symptoms, there is a whole world of possibility with holistic health (in conjunction with traditional doctors). In less than four months I was able to wean off prescription drugs (for ulcerative colitis) that I had been taking for ten years by following the GAPS diet. Don’t try it without checking with your doctor first. Mine was apprehensive but gave me his blessing to move slowly. When I asked my doc about high strength probiotics he told me they haven’t been scientifically proven enough for him to verify their use but that he doesn’t believe that taking them could hurt me.

As I’ve started eating sugar and non-gluten carbs, I’ve noticed some colitis symptoms return. I am slowly beginning to realize that I have to listen to my own body more. I’ve read and followed a lot of information, but I need to pay attention to the cues my body sends me. It is a learning process.

Today I have the courage to share my story because I feel supported and loved by my family and community. It’s still not easy to be vulnerable, but I believe in the power of authenticity.

Are you living with a chronic illness? How have you taken charge of your own health? Where do you find support and connection?

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Making kale chips with Max

Giving Up Alcohol

I’ve always been the friend to agree to suggest a round of drinks for just about any occasion. But the time has come for me to reevaluate habits that are no longer serving me. Drinking is one of ’em. I’m not sure if I’m going to be 100% dry, but I do know that I’m the type to eat the whole bag of chips. It’s easier for me to quit something altogether rather than do it in moderation.

Why I’m Giving Up Alcohol:

1. Health. As I’ve recently shared, I have an autoimmune liver condition. I’ve spoken to a specialist who suggested commanded I drastically reduce my drinking to a minimum. He said a glass of wine a day may be healthy for some people, but not me. So this is the main catalyst for change. However, if I really give it some thought there are many other reasons why I will probably be better off without drinking.

2. Making family a priority. Along with the idea of health comes living a long happy life. Being with my son as he grows up is my top priority.

3. More time and money for things that are fun. Like maybe this photography class.

4. No more hangovers. Waking up at six with a toddler isn’t fun with a headache. Waking up at six is never really fun, but it can be worth it for the hugs and giggles. My hubby and I are taking our little munchkin to Mexico this Saturday for a week. Hence, why I’m not sure about jumping into complete sobriety. But if I do drink, it will be only once or twice(?). But the days at the beaching running after Max will be much more enjoyable without the usual hangover symptoms.

5. Better sleep. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’ve noticed that I sleep much more soundly on the nights that don’t involve a few glasses of vino. Better sleep = a much happier me.

As I test the waters of swimming upstream in a world where drinking is the social norm, I’ve found a lot of support in these relatable blog posts:

A Year Without Alcohol by Kelly at The Adventures of a Sober Senorita.

Why Blog About Giving Up Alcohol by Johanna at Mocktail Hour

Why I Finally Gave Up Booze by Rebecca

One Year of Living Without Alcohol by Alison Travels

How to Socialize Without Alcohol: 7 Tips and There is Another Way by Aidan at Ivy League Insecurities

 Would you or have you considered giving up alcohol?

Word of the Year: Joy

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This year I am trying a new kind of resolution. Rather than choosing something to DO, I am picking one word to BE.

This year I choose JOY.

Specifically, I will use joy to help me in the following areas:

1. Health- Because of an autoimmune condition I must reduce reduce my alcohol consumption by drinking only on special occasions with a maximum of once per week and switch to a 100% gluten free diet. Rather than being sad, I choose joy. Health is more important than a chocolate croissant, however delicious it may be (more about this in a future post).

2. Simplicity- Clutter stresses me out. Shopping is a vice that contributes to physical clutter. Gossip contributes to mental clutter. I choose joy over shopping and gossip.

3. Ease- I choose to be authentic in my relationships and here on this blog. I will let go of any ideas of perfectionism and accept myself and others for the perfectly imperfect people we are. Being authentic contributes to joyfulness.

What would you like to BE in 2015?

Read about choosing a word here: Resolution Revolution: A Better Way to Start Your Year

Five Benefits of the GAPS Diet

GAPSPhoto from an organic dairy & poultry farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The GAPS diet refers to the protocol found in Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She is a Russian neurosurgeon who used nutrition and detoxification to cure her own son of autism. Her ideas are radical and the diet takes a lot of work, but many people have found success with it. I started the GAPS diet in June 2014 as a possible way to heal ulcerative colitis. Although I have been virtually symptom free for years, I wanted to stop taking the maintenance drug asacol. While I won’t go into the details of what the diet entails (there are plenty of resources, including those listed at the bottom of this post) I will just say the key components are lots of homemade bone broth, soups, cooked meats and vegetables, fermented foods, strong probiotics, and nightly detox baths. What I do want to share is the effects of the GAPS diet on me.

1. My addiction to sugar is broken. This is a biggie for me. While I’ve always tried to eat pretty healthy, I had a crazy sweet tooth. Soda was my favorite, as well as vegan cupcakes (icing made from powdered sugar and Earth Balance butter-not exactly a health food) and cookies. Giving up sugar was perhaps the hardest part of the GAPS diet for me. Honey, in moderation, is the only sweetener allowed. Fruits started to taste sweeter, and slowly but surely I stopped missing baked goods. Now there’s only the occasional pang of longing and only when I see something that looks yummy.

2. Food from scratch is the norm in my kitchen. Homemade stock simmers for 24 hours. Everything that is eaten must be made from fresh, organic ingredients. This takes time to get used to. It helps to menu plan and bulk shop. I simplified by eating the same thing for breakfast every day (a bowl of chicken soup).

3. I have more energy. Once I got into the flow I started waking up earlier on my own. Maybe it’s because I was taking a nice relaxing bath before bed. I naturally wanted to go to bed earlier and I started to feel more in alignment with the natural cycles of day and night.

4. My emotions have been in check. This one I didn’t notice on my own. My hubby pointed out that I’ve never been calmer, rational, or clear headed. This study by researchers at UCLA found probiotic yogurt can actually alter the way the brain works.

 5. I am no longer taking asacol, a maintenance drug for ulcerative colitis. I shared more about this in my personal health story.

The GAPS diet is not for everyone. It takes a big commitment, but for those with serious conditions that Dr. Natasha addresses, the GAPS diet provides hope. Check out the resources below.

Resources for GAPS

Empowered Sustenance offers 10 Reasons to do the GAPS Diet.

This seven-part YouTube GAPS diet course goes into the science behind GAPS, as well as helpful hints for doing GAPS as a family.

The Well Fed Homestead has many posts about GAPS, including a comparison chart of GAPS and the Paleo diet.

Health, home and happiness offers tons of free recipes as well as a downloadable 30 Days on the GAPS Intro Diet for purchase.

And why I quit…

Last week I stopped the GAPS diet cold turkey. As I shared in my health story, recently doctors have found inflammation in my liver. It was last checked in May and everything looked fine. I began GAPS in June. I have to wonder if eating animal products contributed to the inflammation. My doctor suggested a vegan diet to counteract the inflammation, so I am currently back to my old veggie ways.  However, I have kept many principals from the GAPS diet, including skipping all sugar and processed foods, making food from scratch and keeping things simple.