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.


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.