Summer Yoga Teaching: June

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Post originally written on June 8.

I am so thrilled to announce that starting this week (not coincidentally my last week of teaching elementary school), I will return to teaching yoga. I am overjoyed for the encouragement and reminder of all that yoga does for me – a reminder that is made stronger when passed on to others through teaching. One of my teachers, Sheri Celantano, has a saying: “We teach for ourselves. We practice for our students.” That quote is a reminder of the kind of yoga teacher I want to be — one that uses a strong and fruitful practice to fuel empowering teaching. Continue reading for my teaching schedule this month, as well as the pertinent themes I plan to focus my teaching around.

June Yoga Schedule

Wednesday 6/7 5:45pm (60 min) Community Class at Harlem Yoga Studio

Thursday 6/8 7:45pm (60 min) OmPower Flow at One Yoga for All

Saturday, 6/10  9am (60 min) Vinyasa at Harlem Yoga Studio

Thursday, 6/15 7:45pm (60 min) OmPower Flow at One Yoga for All

Thursday, 6/29 7:45pm (60 min) OmPower Flow at One Yoga for All

Friday, 6/30 10:45am (75 min) Yoga Open Level at Harlem Yoga Studio

The theme at Harlem Yoga Studio for June is Second Chakra: svadhistana. I love, love, love a good chakra focus. The theme at One Yoga for All for the month is “Root Down to Lift Up.” So – you guessed it! (maybe?) – I will be basing my classes on the teachings of the first two chakras. For inspiration this first week, I’m using the teachings of Anodea Judith, chakra expert extraordinaire.

As we enter the second chakra, we encounter the watery realm of emotions. Where we hae worked for grounding and stability in the first chakra, we now cultivate feelings and movement. Our associated element has shifted from earth to water, from solid to liquid. In this transmutation we encounter change. Through consistency, consciousness finds meaning; through change, it finds stimulation and expansion.

To find consistency within change is to embrace the unfolding flow. Only by moving does our consciousness expand, and only through change is our consciousness stimulated. Movement and change stimulate awakening.

  • Anodea Judith, Eastern Body Western Mind

To close my classes, I’m using a poem that, to me, teaches the true meaning of presence by the Sufi poet Rumi.

THE CHANCE OF HUMMING

A

man

standing on two logs in a river

might do all right floating with the current

while humming in the

now.

Though

if one log is tied to a camel,

who is also heading south along the bank–at the same pace–

all could still be well

with the

world

unless the camel

thinks he forgot something, and

abruptly turns upstream,

then

uh-oh.

Most minds

do not live in the present

and can stick to a reasonable plan; most minds abruptly turn

and undermine the

chance

of

humming.

In My Bag

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Earlier this year, I took advantage of a Kate Spade Surprise Sale and bought this tote for 75 percent off. I am deeply obsessed with it, and feel instantly more put-together throwing it over my shoulder. I love that it zips up (though it takes an effort to pare down what I carry enough to allow it to zip). I love that it has a hook for my carabiner clip to strap my (also Kate Spade – what have I become?!) water bottle onto. What I love about it is that, unlike my backpack or my former lower-quality totes that opened in every direction, it forces me to be intentional about what I carry. While I am writing my first “in my bag” post – I love reading these on other blogs! – I know that all these things are purely symbolic. I believe in Tim O’Brien’s words and the idea that we carry so much baggage with us every day. More than that, everything we hold – including the good – is symbolic of aspects of ourself. So, here’s what’s in my bag on a typical day:

MqGZWCWTTRYMR5a5.jpgiPhone: I spend a lot of time on my iPhone. From the WordPress app to Snapchat to Pinterest, so much of my social and work lives intersect on this device.

imgres.jpgRXBAR + Gum + Tea: I am super prone to being hangry. Carrying a snack on me at all times is so, so necessary for my personal well-being. Gum also wakes me up in the afternoon when I’m a bit sleepy. As does Fortnum + Mason’s Smoky Earl Grey Tea.

sweaty betty 240.jpgYoga Clothes: I usually go from work to yoga so my yoga clothes typically include Sweaty Betty pants, a sports bra, and a Laughing Lotus tank.

lilly-pulitzer-agenda-stickers-2.jpgLily Pulitzer Planner + Planner Stickers: I am obsessed with my Lily Pulitzer planner that I bought at the beginning of this school year. It has a spot for planning my vacations, taking notes, monthly calendars, and the day-to-day. I also bought a pack of cute planner stickers from Paper Source that I love to decorate the interior of this beautiful planner with. When super busy, documenting the cluttered days in a stylish way helps.

UV.pngBeats by Dre Headphones: I bought these with my holiday bonus from work after really feeling ambivalent about spending so much money on headphones, but my purple beats make my day every day, and I get so much use out of their wireless capabilities when I’m cleaning my apartment or stowing my phone away at work.

imgres.pngKate Spade Wallet: I got this at Second Time Around and was thrilled to finally find a wallet that carries all my cards!

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 9.44.37 PM.pngKindle Paperwhite: I used to have a Kindle Fire, but I switched to a Paperwhite because I wanted to feel like a reader of books more than a user of a tablet. I love how user-friendly and designed-with-readers-in-mind it is!

Sparkly Water Bottle: Enough said.

Tinted Lip Balm: I use Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm and Burt’s Bee’s Lip Shimmer to both rejuvenate and color throughout the day.

Grad School Folder: I carry around a Poppin folder with just the readings I want to get done in a day. In an effort to not overwhelm myself, I put them in here and then transfer them to a binder after the class in which we discuss them.

image.jpgMoleskine Notebook: I have a large squared Moleskine notebook to record my thoughts, journal, and sketch out ideas.

What do you carry in your bag?

 

 

10 Ways to Practice Self-Love for Under $10

Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy belated Galentine’s Day! Happy Day of Revolutionary Love! With so much to celebrate involving one of my absolute favorite words – love – I started thinking about one of the goals of this blog: assisting millennials in practicing self-love in small, manageable and consistent ways so that they – we – can better serve the world we live in. This February 14th, I want to share 10 ways to practice self-love for under $10. Too often, the rhetoric of self-love overlaps with the rhetoric of advertising – getting us to be part of a “self-love” consumer base that makes us forget that self-love is something that is a right, not a privilege that should cause us to break the bank. Here are some inexpensive strategies for practicing self-love…

  1. Do a themed home yoga practice. This morning, I re-discovered a playlist I made for Valentine’s Day from back when I taught yoga consistently (you can find it here). At 5:40am, I lit three candles in my yoga room, turned the music on, and folded myself into a child’s pose. Starting my day off with yoga was definitely a lovely way to start the day off with self-love. To find out how to do a home practice of your own that is both safe and sustainable, check out my e-course here.
  2. Treat yourself to a fun coffee beverageMake it something you don’t get everyday. Make it a treat and allow it to infuse your morning with the feeling of specialness.
  3. Meditate. 
  4. Write a gratitude list.
  5. Get a change of polishThese often cost less than $10 (way less than a manicure, but for a similar effect).
  6.  Buy a new book for pleasure.
  7. Purchase a magazine and read it in bed!
  8. Get a mindful coloring book (or download mindful coloring pages off the interwebs) and get to it!
  9. Put on a face mask!
  10. Catch up on blogs.

Enjoy the day! And comment: how are you practicing self-love this February 14th?

Seva for Millennials

Seva is a Sanskrit term that means “service.” We are in a political time when we need full-on and present engagement in service. We need to be and stay woke. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, we need to practice self-care in ways that serve others. For the purpose of this post, I want to focus on the latter part of that mission statement: serve others. What are some efficient ways to serve others, mobilize fellow 20-somethings, and contribute in effective ways while still holding down the one, two, or three jobs that most millennials have (plus, you know, grad school, yoga, and other hobbies)?

Call your representatives!

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My roommate got me hooked on 5calls.org, which makes it extremely easy and user-friendly to make targeted phone calls and to log your engagement. This website runs the gamut of sociopolitical issues from legislation regarding climate change to education to immigration.

Volunteer for one organization.

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In an effort not to spread yourself too thin to the point where you quit everything, choose just one organization that is involved in a cause you’re passionate about. Maybe that’s Planned Parenthood or the ACLU or a local tutoring program. Find out where they need volunteers the most, take out your planner or log onto GoogleCal, and schedule it in. Time is change-making currency, baby! (Pun intended.)

Donate when you can’t protest!

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Recently, I made a rule for myself: for every mass protest I don’t show up for, I will donate to an organization that does the kind of work that protest is fighting for. Two weeks ago, I was unable to show up to airports to protest the ban. As I shared my guilt with my friend on the subway back from yoga, I took out my phone and donated to the ACLU. It took me less than two minutes. I am not saying that donating is the same as protesting! I am also not saying that we shouldn’t do both if we can! But, there are so many ways to be involved and engaged, and to make a contribution. Time and money are both forms of currency. I am going to try to use one when I cannot use the other.

Practice positive reinforcement: write thank-you notes.

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This is my third year of teaching elementary school. In elementary school (and many of the classes I take in graduate school as well), we talk a lot about the idea of positive reinforcement. The psychology blog Very Well defines this age-old field-tested concept,

In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.

Thank the people who are doing good work. Thank them genuinely – because you really appreciate what they’re doing – but also thank them because you want to encourage them to continue doing the good work that they’re doing. Finally (as if you need more reasons to intentionally say “thank you”), it shifts everyone’s mind to the positive, which is so important…especially if you’re making a lot of phone calls or going to a lot of protests to get legislation changed. My roommate is writing thank-you letters to her representatives that stick out to her as speaking out against the administration in productive ways. I wrote an email to my principal thanking her for broadcasting immigration stories on the announcements. The possibilities are varied, and bottom line: taking this action is refueling!

Which one of these are you going to do today? Let’s get to work!

Book Review: The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga by Amy Ippoliti and Taro Smith

Yoga is the process of skillfully turning challenges, failures, hurts, and mistakes into opportunities. – Amy Ippoliti + Taro Smith

The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga: The Yoga Professional’s Guide to a Fulfilling Career (New World Library, June 8, 2016) by Amy Ippolitti with Taro Smith is a comprehensive guide to marketing yoga teaching as a sustainable business, while upholding the integrity that the practice demands. The book is part guide, part exercises and part memoir of Ippolitti’s and Smith’s already-achieved success as yoga business professionals. In fact, the second I received the offer to review this book in my email inbox, I immediately knew I wanted to write it…because I’ve admired Ippoliti’s work for years.
62ea9d1f-4979-4049-8a51-032bdb818944.jpgI was obsessed with the name and concept of her e-course, 90 Minutes to Change the World, even though I could not afford to take it when it was live. This book, however, takes that course and mass produces its most vital content because guess what? There’s room at the top for a whole lot of successful yoga teachers (and Ippoliti and Smith even take the reader through creating their own definition of success at the beginning of the book!).

There’s an irony in how, during the one time in my life I was making a living solely by teaching yoga, I could not afford to take that e-course. This irony is a problem, and one that Ippoliti aims to solve in her book. Here are my key take-aways for how to solve that problem, that I gleaned from reading this phenomenal book:

  • We need to make sure that our yoga business embodies the ethics that our yoga practice is about.
  • Yoga teaching is both an art and a profession.
  • Schedule everything in! Including self-care!
  • As teachers, we are responsible for being skillful, which means teaching to who is in the room and managing time well. 

With chapters like “Yoga Business Basics,” “Class Planning and Preparation,” “Presenting Yourself as a Teacher,” and “Social Media,” The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga speaks to yoga teachers at all levels, from the newly trained to the once-a-week teacher to those with their eye on national, multimedia reach.

“To be a yoga teacher is to embody what it means to have well-being in life, and in turn to impart that understanding to others,” writes Amy. “Trust yourself and your own authentic seat as the teacher. Carve out and claim the time to care for yourself, do your practice, and kindle your own fire. Then watch how your enthusiasm and energy can light up another’s fire. This is how we help wake up the world.”

The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga is an amazing and comprehensive take on all a yoga teacher needs to know to run their own business successfully, with savvy, and while keeping their integrity intact. Everything is full of the intention of usefulness behind it all. It has templates for creating your own yoga binder, marketing plans, and more. From a full guide for how to sequence a yoga class to how to gain control of your finances, Ippoliti doesn’t hold back. And, while being about business, it is not a book without heart.

When I finished reading this book, as I sat on my grandmother’s dining room table (this was most definitely my vacation read), lounging around in new Spiritual Gangster sweats and my “Hoosier Valentine” t-shirt (thanks, N!), I felt a jolt of inspiration flow through me. The first Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is “Atha Yogash Nushasanam:” “NOW, the practice begins.” I now feel able to apply that wisdom to my yoga teaching practice, as well as to my own practice on the mat. I feel inspired to create marketing plans for all that I am offering this summer, when yoga becomes my main business, versus my side job like it is during the school year. My computer has shared screens; one for the PDF of Ippoliti’s book, and the other for GoogleDocs: my own marketing plan buzzing with the excitement of being a container to help me teach and make a greater impact. I will not be letting go of this book anytime soon.

To order the book, click here.

For more information, check out Ippoliti’s website.

It’s Been a Year

As I write this, I am sitting on the 1 train crying (what else is new?). These tears that are welling up in my eyes but not actually making their way down my face are tears of knowing I don’t actually have to cry so much today. One year ago today, I was hit by a car while biking home from work. My aunt emailed me yesterday – a belated Thanksgiving email – to tell me she was grateful I made it through. My ex-roommate’s ex-boyfriend Facebook messaged me to say one year later he was thinking of me and I seem happy. And I made it through today, teaching four third grade classes and forgetting and remembering and then commuting and remembering again that one time I didn’t make it home.

It’s been a year.

It hasn’t been a bad year. It definitely wasn’t a good year. It was a year that doesn’t subscribe to dualistic or simplistic adjectives in my mind. Today, I told a third grader to find a more descriptive word than “nice” when picking the characteristics for his own personal loving-kindness meditation. I think that when I think back to that swathe of time between the gurney and now, I’ll always be searching for the right words to sum it up.

To the reader still injured, this too shall pass. Making it out on the other side is a shape-shifting experience, a process of becoming, and that process gets recognized in moments – jumping up and down while teaching kids yoga; taking a particularly challenging yoga class; crossing the street with a regular, even, steady heartbeat.

Talk about growing up on OM! I’ve had more life experiences in this year than I’ve probably had in ten years of my life combined. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I remember writing a blog post just ten days out of surgery. I was in my bed and my leg was propped up on four pillows and I was a little high on pain medication but still, I wrote of the overwhelming gratitude I felt…and what I was learning. Well, folks, what I learned then doesn’t even make a dent into all I’ve learned since and all, I am sure, that I have left to learn.

Here is what I’ve learned between December Firsts (i.e. what a one-year-out me wants to say to late 2014 me and all those who are working through injuries):

  • You will heal, even though, in the deepest darkest places inside,  you don’t think you will.
  • Family is everywhere. The school I did my AmeriCorps service at continues to make my heart swell with how much they cared for and about me last year.
  • True friends are the ones who don’t leave the trauma ward when they put the bones back into your body. Instead, they tell you to call your parents before you go under. Even though that’s the last thing you want to do. Even though – and because – you’re terrified.
  • True friends are the ones who don’t leave the hospital room when you’re getting a catheter put in. Even though you ask them to. Even though – and because – you’re terrified.
  • True friends hold your hands while the anaesthesia seeps in.
  • Those who’ve been injured before, been ill, will understand things others just can’t, and it’s important to keep them around…because they will bring you something – a book, poetry, yarn and needles, some homeopathic plants – for the pain. Oh, and the people who’ve been through something along that injury-illness spectrum? They will be the ones who will treat you as if you are not injured; they are the ones who will make you remember that you’re still you.
  • Moms can fly across the country so fast that it’s like they’ve personally strapped on wings and skyrocketed through the air, never mind that they usually have to pop a few Xanax before takeoff.
  • Doctors are amazing workers of magic. So are nurses. And physical therapists? They are resurrecturs of spirit.
  • That surgical boot? It’s the fucking sexiest thing you’ve ever put on your leg. If you don’t believe that, shit’s just gonna be really hard to deal with for a little bit.
  • The next time you think that person is going to save you in some way, remember that at the end of the day, it was your helmet and a whole team of healers that did. If that isn’t a hushing of codependent thoughts, I don’t know what is.
  • Oh honey, oh honey, oh honey, be gentle. The physical gentleness will happen organically; it’s sink or swim in the land of the injured, healing and casted. But the gentleness of the head and the heart? That won’t. So you’re going to have to make the extra effort for radical gentleness.
  • Getting all sorts of help that included mind, body, spirit was the cocktail that saved my life.
  • You need more nourishment, of every single sort. Your body is working in ways it never has before. It’s rebuilding itself.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither are bones.
  • You can’t go from zero to hero overnight. Service to others during a time like this will blissfully get you out of your own head, but take it slow.
  • Sisters rise up to the occasion.
  • You are your own best advocate. No one else will know that you need a blanket underneath a scarred knee in yoga class. Your stepmom won’t know when an uphill walk is too challenging for you. This is the ultimate test of that thing you say or hear teachers say, “You know your body best.” Even when it changes so radically, even when it breaks, even when it betrays you – especially when it betrays you – that is truth incarnate.
  • Celebrate the small milestones. Because if you don’t, no one will. Because if you don’t mark progress like a child who gets sharpie on the wall when their height is measured, growth is too minute, too important, to see.
  • This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.

Namaste,

Shira

Giving Tuesday

Happy #GivingTuesday!  After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is exactly what the world needs…what we all need…to balance out our intentions.

Here’s a description of what today – a newer holiday – means, from GivingTuesday.org,

Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges. It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners— nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.

As a global movement, #GivingTuesday unites countries around the world by sharing our capacity to care for and empower one another.

As a 20-something, I know that it can be so challenging to justify philanthropy. Last year, as an AmeriCorps member, I legitimately did not have $10 to donate. (However, to be honest, that was all OK because I donated basically all my time.) But this year, as a young professional, even gearing up to pay graduate school tuition, I realize that just $10 makes a huge difference. I also have a large list of nonprofits that I absolutely, positively adore, that have made a huge impact on me and others.

Summer on the Hill

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I spend my Saturdays teaching for this organization that shares the resources of a very well-off prep school with students who are more local to the Bronx neighborhood that prep school inhabits. These are students who are traditionally disadvantaged, but academically gifted. From their website:

SUMMER ON THE HILL (SOH) has had an outstanding impact on education for 21 years!

A year-round enrichment program for bright, low-income students from the Bronx, Washington Heights, and Harlem, SOH has placed 300 students in college and 58 students in NYC specialized science or audition high schools.

Donate here.

Girls Write Now

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For four years, I was a mentee with GWN so I know firsthand the tremendous impact this organization has on young lives. Through the support of GWN, I received a scholarship that enabled me to graduate from my elite private alma mater debt-free. But that is so not even close to how awesome GWN is. It allowed me to identify as a writer at the age of 15 and it supported me wholeheartedly and gently through the writing process, which can be a tumultuous one. From the website:

“Writing is a way to understand the world and myself. This is just the beginning.” —Massange Kamara, mentee

Girls Write Now is poised for significant growth with a strategic plan to double the number of girls we serve and to enhance our college prep and alumnae services, extending the support we provide young women writers into college, career, and beyond. There is no better time to invest.

We work on the basis of intense commitment – the girls who participate sign up for a demanding year of daily effort and constant challenge as they learn various genres of writing and a range of life skills. Girls Write Now promises an equally intensive investment, one that is highly effective and economical compared to similar services.

Donate here.

Girls on the Run

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I witnessed the power of GOTR in Portland, OR last year as I coached the most amazing third through fifth graders to set a goal and achieve it. GOTR teaches so many social-emotional skills for students. From the website:

We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

Donate here.

Exhale to Inhale

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This utterly profound organization empowers yoga teachers to empower the disempowered: survivors of domestic violence. Bringing yoga to domestic violence shelters is no small feat. I very strongly encourage you to donate to this amazing organization. From their website:

People ask us, “why yoga?” Our answer, is that the resources people gain through yoga are at the very foundation of our lives – the ability to breathe, to gain physical and emotional strength, and to make healthy life choices, which in turn, helps us to better care for our loved ones. 

For the women we serve, yoga provides them with a tool to heal and to feel strong and safe in their bodies so that they can help to end the cycle of violence in their families and communities. Physically, domestic violence often leaves survivors with long-lasting medical conditions that can be mitigated by yoga such as broken bones, head trauma, and nerve damage. Emotionally, survivors may begin to feel empowered that they are doing something that will help them heal physically and emotionally, to help them view their bodies as a safe place again, to calm their nervous systems, and decrease their levels of anxiety.

Yoga is an empowering tool with far-reaching benefits that carry over off of the mat and into everyday life. The yoga mat is a safe place where people can begin to reconnect with themselves, to practice making choices, express when something doesn’t feel right to them, and figure out what would work better. For many women, the time spent on their mats is the first time, possibly in years, that they have been able to feel safe and breathe evenly.

Donate here.

Living Yoga

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I was very involved with this organization through working at unfold last year. They do great work by bringing yoga to schools in Portland, OR, and bringing free recovery yoga to studios around the city. They work on researching and directly implementing their research involving yoga + trauma. From their website:

When you give to Living Yoga, you’re giving the gift of hope and healing to another human being.  Every day we see lives transformed in big and small ways because of the yoga classes we are able to offer with your support.

Chances are you have experienced the profound effects of yoga in your own life. You understand the depth of healing and change that is possible through practice.  That is why we ask you to give generously to Living Yoga.  To empower others who are at critical moments in their life-in prison or in treatment for addictions, to experience this same potential.

Donate here.

As part of what it means to grow up on OM, donate. Forgo the lunch out just one day and spend just $10 on one of these organizations. If my seven-year-old sister can do it with her accrued allowance, use 20-somethings can too.

P.S. Even if donating isn’t one of your spiritual practices as a 20-something, chances are that online shopping is. AmazonSmile is a great way to pick out any of these organizations and basically have Amazon donate on behalf of you. Oh, hay, no excuses approach to philanthropy!

Portland(ia): The City of Functional Nonprofits

In preparation for my move to Portland, I bought a trench coat. Yes, it rains a lot here, but the reason why I bought a trench coat had a lot more to do with the fact that I love feeling put-together. I adore people who are put-together: who wear button-down dresses and efficiently check items off lists.

I just love put-together people.

What do I love more than put-together people?

Put-together nonprofits.

Like a book, you should be able to judge an organization by its cover. I understand that this might seem superficial, but please follow my train of thought here. An organization starts from the inside, out. It begins with an idea. If that idea is powerful enough and has enough people to back it (a sign of its power), the inside will start to be reflected on the outside: on the stationery, the website, the graphic design, and how well the volunteers are taken care of.

I have had my fair share of exposure to dysfunctional nonprofits: organizations with potent missions and shake follow-through. Portland, however, has provided a different experience accompanied by the illusion that there are no problems because of an abundance of organizations and like-minded people dedicated to fixing them. Here are three Portland nonprofits, accompanied by their mission statements, that dedicate themselves to reflecting their beautiful missions in their communications with the public.

Living Yoga

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Living Yoga is a non-profit outreach program teaching yoga as a tool for personal change in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, transitional facilities, and to populations who would otherwise not have access to it.

We believe that yoga creates and supports positive change from the inside out for all individuals. We recognize there are vast numbers of people who do not have access to this practice and its benefits including stress management, self-awareness, impulse control, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. We believe the health of any community is dependent on the health of all of its members. Living Yoga implements its compassionate mission by providing yoga support services with volunteer teachers.

Growing Gardens

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Growing Gardens gets at the root of hunger in Portland, Oregon. We organize hundreds of volunteers to build organic, raised bed vegetable gardens in backyards, front yards, side yards and even on balconies. We support low income households for three years with seeds, plants, classes, mentors and more. Our Youth Grow after school garden clubs grow the next generation of veggie eaters and growers! Through Learn & Grow workshops and work parties, we teach gardeners all about growing, preparing and preserving healthful food while respecting the health of the environment.

We plant seeds for good food and healthy people by making sure low income people have the resources they need to grow organic vegetables at home. Through this work, community members meet over the backyard garden, through volunteering, by attending classes, and through sharing extra produce.

Metropolitan Family Service

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A world where children never go hungry, young people are always educated, families are financially stable, older adults remain connected and all humans are healthy, happy and cared for.

Perhaps you know someone in our community facing cultural and economic inequity. We help thousands of people who struggle because of inadequate education, health issues, social isolation, unemployment, and poverty. These challenges increase vulnerability and compromise well-being. Worst of all, hope fades. For many, life is just plain hard.

To tackle these tough issues, we meet people where they are and listen to what they need. Combining the wisdom and experience of our elders with the energy and potential of our youth, we build community wherever we work. And as champions of innovation, we develop lasting solutions that bridge gaps, create equity and demonstrate respect and value for every person.

Now tell me: what are your favorite nonprofits in your abode? What are the organizations that reflect the changes they make?

Those Summer Reads

Disclaimer: This is a long post. I have taken the whole summer to write it, to put thought into every book I read, beginning with the adult fiction and ending with the young adult fiction (going back in time!). And bear with me; this is the first big chunk of non-required fiction I’ve read since before undergrad. Enjoy!

While this is not true in life, when reading, I find myself again and again returning to my first love: young adult fiction. In many ways, this blog is about me learning what it means to be a full-blown grown-up, having been out of teenage-hood for over four years at this point. Yet why do I find myself returning, again and again, to books that leave permanent, gorgeous, wrenching imprints on my heart? 

Because there are parts of being a teenager that are timeless, the age itself encompasses a liminality that I find myself drawn to, especially during a time like this when I embody the space of my own many transitions. The words of Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars; see below) both haunt and inspire me: “our own little infinity.” At 22, I find myself grateful for having experienced many infinities, that leaping into the unknown. 

And so this summer fiction-wise, I read a relatively even blend of literature about people younger and literature about people older than me. It is almost as if, in order to get into the present moment, I return to the past and gaze into the future and try to mediate the practical and figuring-out muck of adulthood with the drifting-away innocence of what it means to slowly grow up with meaning.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

A person by the name of the protagonist in my own life left that book on the kitchen table one moment and the next, I found myself using it to try to decipher the male psyche with Waldman’s highly observational piece of fictionThe Love Affairs of Nathaniel P chronicles the inner monologues of – you guessed it – Nathaniel P in relation to – you guessed it again – his love affairs. Reading this novel was like watching a particularly gory episode of Game of Thrones yet not being able to look away. While physical violence wasn’t this protagonist’s modus operandi and the setting was far from fantasy (the setting is the Brooklyn literati scene), reading this novel was, at times, brutal. I did not want to believe that someone could actually think this way about women. Yet my friend J (this book got passed around plenty) had an interesting take on it: how much of what Nate thought was actually his thoughts? To what extent did Waldman paint his thoughts as what he thought he should be thinking? Is this meta enough for you? Regardless, form your own opinions. I most definitely deem it a worthwhile read!

Graduates in Wonderland: the Two International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

I finished Nathaniel P on my plane trip to Chicago five days after graduating from college. When I was in Chicago, I picked up a copy of BUST magazine where Graduates in Wonderland was recommended with a five-boob rating (I heart BUST). I downloaded it to Kindle and started reading this book comprised of emails between friends, starting right when they graduated from Brown. Not-so-coincidentally, I started reading it on the plane to Italy, my first international trip post-grad, and reading it definitely inspires the longing sensation of wanderlust, but also a contentment with where life already is and the many unexpected twists and turns it tends to take. This book also made me realize the power of freaking email and how much of our lives we share with one another via the modern-day pen-palship. It made me think of all my friends that are in different countries now, particularly M and K who are teaching English in Gaza and Spain, respectively, and how much we are learning about one another’s post-grad experiences through what we type. 

Breathe by Kate Bishop

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For this piece of total chick-lit with soul, I think I will sum it up by sharing some of my favorite quotes from this yoga novel (honestly, it should become its own genre at this point):

The spirit must be soothed before connecting to its destiny. – Nancy

My first instinct was to try to guess what he wanted to hear. The urge was strong, but instead, I took a deep breath and spoke from my heart. No frills, no embellishments, no projections. – Alex

My point is that our teachers ignite something within us that feels like love. It’s because we’re recognizing the divine within ourselves, and the closest thing we can compare it to is the ecstasy of romance. – Nancy

Just keep showering and eating salads, darling. – Nancy

Small choices add up to big change. – Alex’s Mom

Boundaries aren’t for isolation, they’re for containment. Just keep deepening your roots, darling. – Nancy

This pose is about trust. Trust in the roots that support you, and the depth of the well you draw from. And if the wind blows, just sway with it. Don’t be afraid to dance. – Galen

[She had an] ability to see what needed to be done, to see what people needed, and to do it without drama or recognition. She truly was a humble warrior. – Alex doting on her Mom

You have to be knocked off center in order to find center. – Galen

I could feel my tight grip on life and the people in it relaxing. – Alex

Always challenge what you think you know and when you think you don’t know, know you don’t. – Galen

Not a consuming idealizing sort of love. A love that supported my own growth, and his. A love that spoke the truth. A love that was patient and honest. And fun. – Alex about Andy

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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There are some books that move us. There are some books that make us laugh. There are some books that provide that delirious sense of escapism to lives not our own. There are some books that inspire us to write better and there are others that remind us of how small our lives are compared to the vastness of literary ones. The Fault in Our Stars did all of these “side effects” (to use a phrase Hazel and Augustus tossed around in their dialogue) of reading and yet it accomplished none of them because the impact this book made on me and thousands – perhaps millions – of other readers represents an infinity that will continue to make me cry for a thousand more little infinities. And to find out what I mean by that, well, you must read this book. Required reading for life and for all the living we do until we die. After I finish writing this post, I am tempted to watch a TV show before I go to sleep, but I just finished The Fault in Our Stars this evening and I want to fall asleep with it still, unencumbered, untainted, lying gently in my heart, with the tears I shed for this book drying organically on my cheeks. Like wanting to finish my day with the taste of the finest dark chocolate on my tongue, I want to preserve the multitude of feelings this book gave my soul until they inevitably evaporate in the tastebuds of everyday life.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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This is a book that deals with Big Issues. Child abuse. Body image. First love. Flirting. Bullying. Race in middle America. Attraction. Family. Unfinished love. And so many more. Rainbow Rowell (I am still curious what this is a pseudonym for; it must be something amazing) chronicles the lives of two teenagers in a heart wrenchingly eloquent way, in a way that made me react out loud to the ending of every single chapter. This book is a fully embodied read. At times, I was made to feel like I was the character speaking at the time just from Rowell’s use of the art of writing about proprioception. This book thoroughly changed my perception of the power of Young Adult literature. The below texting convo between me and my sister summarizes how I feel. So deeply worth the read. At any age.

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The Last Weekend of June

June has been an intense month. Transitioning out of graduating college…spontaneously surprising friends in Chicagotraveling to Italy with my family…beginning two teaching jobs…a romantic beach trip in Nantucket…

It seems only appropriate that it would end in an intense way. 

Yoga is, and has been for quite some time now, my buffer. My constant in a sea of change. In the transition out of school, out of relationships that have become my backbone, and my impending transition out of New York City, my need for this practice has only grown. I’ve had to find organic ways to comfort myself, newness in a practice I have gotten to know almost too well. Yoga and I, well, we’re like a couple that’s recently celebrated our 6-year anniversary. We started out dating slowly, then more intensely, and then the intensity became the norm. We have gone on honeymoons (yoga teacher training) and we have fought (about finances). We’ve met one another’s friends, loving some and disliking others. It’s as if we have almost gotten too comfortable.

So, as any good couples therapist would suggest for a relationship like ours, we’re mixing it up. Going on new dates. Trying new places. And all in a rapid succession before I start work full time and me and Yoga start seeing one another just a little bit less.

This weekend, we’ve gone on dates galore. They have been exhilarating, fun, and we’ve learned so many new things about one another. 

(And okay, now my yoga personification will terminate as I move into a description of our weekend-long revisiting of our honeymoon.)

Friday

Harlem Shakes

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I had, as per usual, a fantastic time subbing Harlem Yoga Shakes on Friday. But what made it even more fantastic was the emphasis on Pride and Love that the upcoming weekend allowed for. Being in NYC during Pride, while not as happy, joyous and free as it would be if I were in San Francisco…is still pretty freaking happy, joyous and free. The playlist emphasized that sense of unabashed love that this holiday brings about. The icing on the cake, however, was the Poetry. Picking up a book of translated poems by Rumi from the little HYS boutique in the lobby, I read two poems by one of the best Lovers I’ve read.

Kirtan

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Honestly, my plans for after teaching were to go home, eat Chinese takeout with my mom and watch OITNB. But as my class ended, the Kirtan artists introduced themselves to me at the HYS lobby and as the incense, candles, blankets, altar and drums got set up in the room I taught in 15 minutes prior, I simply could not bring myself to leave; I felt viscerally compelled to stay. That night, I did not need Chinese takeout. I needed divine human connection of voices and of souls. I have had experiences in Kirtans where I haven’t been able to stop smiling even if I tried and this Kirtan, where we chanted Interfaith melodies and words (including to Yemayá, reminding me of my spiritual experiences in Cuba!), was certainly no exception. 

Saturday

Vinyasa

In what seemed like a few hours later, I was back on 125th Street for a full day at HYS. I began by opening up the studio at 9am and taught another Pride-themed class. I was reminded yet again of the transformative power of teaching and the ways in which it is a Practice in and of itself. After I left Nantucket I felt sad, but I am oh-so-aware that the one true remedy for sadness is to GTFO my head and into Service. 

Yoga, Sewing + Creativity

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After a quick lunch and walk around Harlem, I returned to HYS for Tara’s fantastic workshop. We began with an introduction of ourselves, why and when we started yoga, and our creative practices other than yoga. I was reminded that so many of us come to yoga after we have been Awakened by something else as well. For me, that something else (that constant in a sea of change) was – and is still – writing. In high school, I was part of the most nourishing writing group: Girls Write Now. Yoga is most certainly not the be-all and end-all for me; it, rather, nourishes all else that I do. At this workshop, we channeled the Second Chakra (the theme of the weekend and I suppose of my life lately) and the Goddess Saraswati of Creativity and Learning. Tara led us through a gorgeous Second Chakra-themed yoga sequence and deep, deep guided meditation. These practices infused me with the patience I later needed in order to learn how to use a sewing machine for the first time and create my own yoga mat back (which is still a WIP). 

Sunday

Lotus Live at the Rubin Museum

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Image via http://rolfgross.dreamhosters.com/Thanka-Web/Thanka-Web.htm and the Rubin Museum

It is no secret that Sheri and Ali are two of my fave teachers at Laughing Lotus. I did FLY Skool with Sheri as my first 50-hours of my 500-hour training and Ayurveda Skool with Ali as my most recent. Their energy combined is grounding, healing, but most of all, CREATIVE. It also felt like coming full-circle: during my 200-hour teacher training with Three Sisters Yoga, we took a very memorable field trip to Chelsea’s Rubin Museum of Asian Art, which frequently features exhibits on the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern traditions. The class itself channeled the Goddess Tara. After the class, we went on a guided tour of the exhibit and saw three different sculptural iterations of Tara, the Goddess of Compassion.

(There are more yoga + museum tours at the Rubin during this exhibit – check them out here

While I ended the weekend feeling a bit exhausted, I also closed it by feeling yogically fulfilled, temporarily satiating my ever-present desire to learn more.