Pottstown’s High Street Yoga; Room to Stretch, Quiet to Reflect

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mud, Obstacles and Yoga

Last Saturday I participated in the Pa Spartan Run. I registered not really knowing what I was getting into. I’d heard of mud runs and I’d been running more so I thought why not?! About a month before the race I realized that I needed to start doing more then just run so I added sit ups, push ups and burpees to my routine. 2 weeks before the run I found the Spartan Chicks and that is when I found out exactly what I had gotten myself into. This was the mother of all mud runs with intense obstacles, walls, barbed wire, fire etc. I began to get a little nervous! I realized it was time to step things up; I did two sets of burpees each day, push ups at the kitchen island whenever I was in there, which is a lot with three kids. Every afternoon I carried two backpacks up our steep hill, one in the front and one in the back along with a viola and sax just to get the extra weight. It’s not a rock or a sandbag but as a mom of three I’ll take what I can get. Even with all this, I felt like it was little too late to be in the kind of shape needed for a Spartan Race. I reached out to the Spartan Chicks on line with my fears and received and outpouring of support and encouragement. I was encouraged to run my own race, take my time, take one obstacle at a time, and believe in myself. Wow, this was starting to sound a lot like Yoga Philosophy. How often in class do I say “listen to your body” “find your edge w/o going over” “Accept your body exactly where you are w/o judgment” My worry and fear had gotten in the way and I wasn’t enjoying the process of training and being in the moment, in my body. I was so grateful that I’d reached out to these women. I felt such clarity and even a sense of calm. I knew I would do the race and finish it and have fun.

My yoga principles helped me out throughout the race. There is a practice called walking meditation where you use the experience of walking as the focus. The first two miles of the race was straight up Blue Mountain. Many participants stopped or sat to catch their breath. I knew I couldn’t stop so I looked at my feet, got into my zone and just repeated the mantra ‘one step’ until I got to the top.

The same mindfulness came into play with the bucket of rocks. I focused only on my breath, breathing in and breathing out. I didn’t look to see how far I had to go or how far I’d been. I focused on each step and each breath.

Going down the mountain was equally as challenging to me. I was cautious and went slow. In retrospect it was probably the hardest part for me mentally. It left me with anxiety that I didn’t expect.

Before the race I was afraid of the fire and I jumped over it with such a sense of freedom and pride. I am proud to say I finished the 4.8 miles and 20 obstacles and had fun!

Yesterday was a week and a day after the Race and I found myself running a 6 mile loop, a loop I hadn’t run in almost three years since my Dad died. The run gave me time to reflect.

I’ve faced my share of obstacles over the past few years; I lost both of my parents in a span of 17 months in addition to a long list of other tragedies. Grief and stress take a tremendous amount of energy and all of my energy went into living each day, taking care of my family and running my business. I didn’t have any extra energy to run. The Spartan Run and especially the Spartan Chicks came into my life when I was ready for it. There is a Buddhist expression that says ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will come” The time was right for me to head down this path and I consider each one of the amazing Spartan Chicks as my teachers for inspiring me.

The symbolic meaning of the lotus flower is something I hold near and dear to my heart. The lotus flower grows in the mud and rises into something beautiful. Despite challenge and difficult circumstances it still blooms into something beautiful. Ironically I got a lotus tattoo years ago long before I understood suffering. Now I feel I’ve risen through the mud, symbolically and literally!

I’ve thrown my list of stress and grief into the flames of the last challenge because it is my story but it doesn’t define me. I faced my obstacles and conquered them.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Relay for Life Pottstown

Last weekend I attended my first Relay for Life in Pottstown Pa. Relay for Life is sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Members of the community come togethehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifr at a local track with a team and someone from the team walks for 24 hours straight because Cancer never sleeps. The Pottstown Relay is one of the largest and is highly recognized.

This year I had the opportunity and honor to teach two yoga classes for participants, one in the evening and a sunrise one for those that camped out. The event is so large that visitors are encouraged to park at a local elementary school and shuttle to Pottstgrove High School. I left my house with plenty of time to get the event and park and spend some time walking around. Teams set up camps with tents, tables, chairs and sales to help their team fund raising efforts. I arrived with plenty of time to browse. There were food vendors as well as teams selling food. I got tomato pie for lunch and spent some time with the team Friends on Earth and Friends Above. Several members of the team are friends and fellow yogis. They were selling bracelets. Each bracelet represented every kind of cancer. I bought a black and white one to honor my Mom who passed away of Lung Cancer last March.

Yoga was held under the main tent in front of the stage. I had 30 minutes to teach and focused on gentle stretches for the legs, hips and low back. The Sunday morning class was the same. I was most happy with all the kids that showed up, and kids of all ages. There were young kids, and A LOT of teens both boys and girls. Kids are fearless and always willing to give something new a try. I enjoyed being able to teach yoga at such an amazing event. The class wasn’t quiet, or meditative, but I like to think helpful none the less.

After my evening class I went home, got my boys and we went back for the Luminary Ceremony. The ceremony is to honor loved ones lost and those who have won their battle. We purchased a luminary in honor of my Mom and were able to light the candle ourselves. The candles are set up on the bleachers and spell the word hope. Candles also surround the track. There is a reflections garden next to the bleachers. Several Survivors share their story; we watched an interpretive dance and a symbolic reading of the dinner table. The most powerful part of the evening was the silent walk. Every person at the event (and there were thousands) walked around the track in silence following a drum beat.

This was the first and won’t be last Relay for Life for me. I’ve heard say it is a life changing event and I agree.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yoga on the Steps 2011 and Team Tri-County for a Cure – The Journey

Yesterday was my second trip to Yoga on the Steps in Philadelphia and was just as memorable as the first.

Last May I stumbled upon a link to the event on Facebook and on a whim went with two friends. We were blown away and decided to create a team. Because we live in Pottstown, a small community and a 45 minute drive (with no traffic) to Philadelphia we decided to open up the team to the tri-county area.

I’ve never done any team events or fundraising for a cause so this was all very to me. Carrie, Joy and I, the original three, decided to start with a grass roots approach to recruiting our team. We called, Facebooked and e-mailed every local friend, family and yogi we knew. I contacted other local yoga instructors and yoga studios to join in. In the end we were 26 yogis strong including 7 yoga instructors, myself and Maryann Fitzmeyer from High Street Yoga, Dorian Able, Healing Yoga, Stephanie Smolik
Yoga for Everybelly, Joanne Lins, Sara Riley, and Luan Liberatori recently certified Yoga instructor for the Deaf.

Creating a team, recruiting members, fundraising and communicating to the team, involved logistics and time. Thrown in with my three children and their sports and school schedules, a husband that travels A LOT, a massage therapy practice and a yoga studio, my life can get pretty busy. But throughout it all I kept in mind words of Abraham Hicks You cannot have a happy ending to a miserable journey.

Not sure where to begin or how to get started, Carrie, Joy and I each took on a task that we were each good at. Joy, an artist and teacher, designed our amazing logo and team t-shirts. Carrie created beautiful pink breast cancer/yoga inspired jewelry and donated proceeds of each piece to the team. I taught Yoga for a Cure class accompanied by live harp music. In the words of Carrie we ‘did what we love” The spirit of community and giving continued. Team mates organized events including; Hip Hip Hooray a Yoga Class taught by Dorian Able, Rita’s for a Cure and Special Sales of Angels and Hope at
Kaleidoscope Angels where proceeds benefited the team. Our biggest and most amazing event was the video project created by Melia of Pricelss Moments by Melia. The event created awareness and got the community involved. The efforts of our team were recognized by LBBC as we were announced the team with the most Community Involvement and that was exactly my intention.

The morning of the event we met in the parking lot of the Coventry Mall and piled into 4 vans. We picked up two more team mates in Collegeville and headed into Philadelphia. For me it was exciting to share the experience with a group, many who had never been to Yoga on the Steps. We arrived, registered, settled into our space and had enjoyed our happy ending to the wonderful journey.

The weather held out as we were instructed by Jennifer Schelter. This year, 10 women shared their stories while we held yoga poses for up to 2 minutes. I cried through each story and was inspired by the strength and courage of each woman. I walked away once again with the reminder to live life to its fullest.

When it was time to leave I wasn’t really ready to end this journey. We hugged at the museum and hugged again at the Coventry Mall. New friendships were forged and plans made to attend other yoga events together. My newsfeed on FB continues to show Tri-County friends connecting. I love seeing the new pictures uploaded and the video created by Anne. I love the feeling of community and working together for one cause.

I look forward to many more years with Team Tri-County and Yoga on the Steps. Thank you Living Beyond Breast Cancer for all the work that you do, for creating this event, for supporting our team and for answering all of my calls, e-mails and FB questions!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yoga/Breast Cancer Video 'around Pottstown'

Over the past several months I have been busy with a yoga video project which began as a conversation in my morning yoga class. In the midst of a 30 Day Yoga Challenge, a participant shared that she does Tree Pose in the grocery store while standing in line. During prayer squat one day I shared a story about my husband traveling to Indonesia and noticing that people wait in line doing prayer squat. This evolved into ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do yoga poses in random places around Pottstown and take pictures’

Throughout the long winter, during each class someone would comment or giggle about a certain pose we could do in a location in Pottstown. We dreamed for spring to come and decided it would be our spring project. Before long, the idea began to grow and evolve into raising awareness and funds for our Yoga team Tri-County for a Cure that is attending Yoga on the Steps on Sunday May 15th. Suddenly the project became much greater then ourselves and became something both fun and meaningful.

My good friend and the most talented and creative person I know, Melia Rios-Lazo from Priceless Moments by Melia offered to donate her time and photography skills toward the project. She was suffering the loss of a good friend that just passed away because from breast cancer and felt very drawn to the cause.

Fellow team mate, friend and owner of Hammi Jammi Jewlery and I hit the streets of Pottstown and scheduled Business Owners and Pottstown leaders for their photo shoot. After everyone stopped laughing about doing yoga, each agreed to try. The support and enthusiasm was amazing.

We had 3 days scheduled for pictures and ended up adding on two more. Fellow yogis’ from Pottstown and the surrounding areas joined us each day to help teach and join in with the pictures. Most of the sessions were scheduled and we grabbed unsuspecting strangers along the way. Each day of the filming was energizing, fun and powerful. We quickly realized how many people knew someone that was affected by breast cancer.

Some of my favorite scenes include, waiting in line for the bus in prayer squat, because it is what sparked this whole crazy journey. I had fun with the cab drivers, the mayor and the students at Montco. When I look at the pictures and the http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifdiversity of the people involved I am proud to live and work in Pottstown. When I look at the picture at the farmers market I am so happy to see Daniel, the young Mennonite Farmer who joined us. We had so much fun with the kids from the YWCA and the Pottstown Senior Center. I can’t really sum up my favorite picture or moment. I am just proud to have been a part of this great project.

I’ve watched the video at least 50 times and still laugh and cry each time. Please take the time to watch it until the end. I hope this video touches you too. Click on the link to view.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Yoga on the Steps and Tri-County for a Cure

Last year, I came across a link on FB for an event in Philadelphia called
Yoga on the Steps sponsored by Living beyond Breast Cancer. On a whim, two friends and I decided to go. We dug through our closets for pink shirts and headed into Philadelphia bright and early on a Sunday morning. We didn’t know what we were getting into or how it would affect us. Over 1,000 yogis did yoga on the steps to raise awareness and funds for education and support for women and families affected by breast cancer. The event was powerful and one that changed me. Click here to read my post from last year.

Last year we learned that many yoga studios create teams to attend the event. Most of the teams wear team shirts, sit together and raise funds together. I knew I wanted to do the same thing and share the experience with as many people as I could. One year later, the same two friends and I have created an amazing team called Tri-County for a Cure. We are a group of yoga enthusiasts from Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties. Over the past few months, we’ve created more then a ‘team’, we’ve created a spirit of unity and a sense community.

The team and cause is near and dear to my heart because my SIL is a breast cancer survivor and more recently a friend and fellow yogi was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Each and every one of us on the team has been affected directly or in-directly.

Since the creation of our team, everywhere I go, I meet survivors, family members of survivors and friends that have lost someone to this terrible disease. Each person has a story and all have courage.

There are a variety of ways you can support the team; donate to the team by clicking here, join the team, by clicking on the same link and go to “join our team” or you can attend one of the events below.

Upcoming Events Include:

Heart Opening Yoga Workshop

Sunday March 20th 1-3

Location: Prana Pottstown

For questions or information please email Pam at peacelotusyoga@gmail.com or call 610-283-1385 Suggested donation $20.

Yoga with Live Harp Music

Tuesday, March 29 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm

Location First Presbyterian Church 750 N.Evans St. Pottstown, PA

Join us for an evening of gentle Yoga accompanied by live harp music, tea, vendors, raffles and more! Remember to wear pink and all proceeds benefit Tri-County for a Cure a local yoga team participating in Yoga on the Steps Suggested Donation $20

Hip Hip Hooray RX for the hips and Low Back

Friday April 29th 7:30-9 pm

Location; Healing Yoga Douglassville Pa

Contact Dorian to reserve a space: 610-369-0831 or dorian@healingyogapa.com.

Ritas Pughtown

Monday May 2nd 6-9

Location 2323 Pottstown Pike

Pottstown, PA, 19465

Come to Ritas and Support our Team! Proceeds of the night benefit Tri-County for a Cure!


Jewelry artist Carrie Grabowicz of Hammi Jammi Jewelry Is selling Breast Cancer bracelets and necklaces. Click here to view her work and 15% of each piece will be donated to the team.

T-Shirt Sales

Tri-County for a cure T’s designed and created by Joy van Ruler are available for purchase.

Tri-County for a Cure; Be inspired, be part of team, help others and unite with fellow yogis

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sand Mandala a Buddhist Symbol of Impermanence

Change is the only constant in life. It can be inspiring, motivating, exhausting and scary. According to Buddhist practice, change or impermanence is the essential characteristic of all existence. The Buddhists suggest that nothing is lasting, even in the moment everything is undergoing change. All is fleeting, the beauty of a flower, the sunset the leaves on the trees are in a continuous state of change. What is real is the existing moment, the present.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word for circle. The sand Mandala is constructed as a vehicle to recognize impermanence, to develop concentration and compassion. Millions of colored sand is placed on a platform over a period of days or even weeks. Traditionally when finished to symbolize the impermanence of life, the sands are swept up and poured into an urn to be poured into a nearby river or stream.

Last week I had the privilege of seeing Tibetan Monks create a Sand
Mandala at Penn State Berks County in Reading Pa. My son was home sick
that day, and since he did not have a fever I took him along. Driving to the
event I felt disappointed that I didn’t have all three boys with me. I
realized that this was something special and a learning experience they
wouldn’t find at school. But I didn’t have the foresight so only had my
one semi sick guy.

This was my first time on campus and we easily found the cafeteria. There was a table outside with prayer beads, prayer flags, books and other items for sale. The Mandala was in a roped off area in the cafeteria. There were 3 or 4 Monks working with focus when we arrived. We watched as they tapped on metal tubes (Chak-pur) to create the lines. Their work was intricate and beautiful. They answered my questions happily and seemed quite at peace in the center of the loud student filled cafeteria. Students stopped by to browse and my son and I got to experience something extraordinary. I talked to him about the concept of impermanence and its something he understood.

When we were telling his brothers about the event, one of them asked “What did the Monks have on their feet?” I thought this was an interesting question, but I guess they have the image in their mind of bald men in maroon robes in bare feet or sandals. I hadn’t noticed, but Owen did. He said “one guy had on nice shoes like Dad wears to work” He noticed their feet, but I’m sure he noticed much more. What an experience for an 11 year old and for me too!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fun Yoga Stuff

One of the things that I love about yoga is that you don’t need a lot of gear, no expensive equipment, shoes, or tools, only a mat.

Even though there isn’t a lot needed to DO yoga, there are still a lot of fun yoga accessories out there. Recently I came across an amazing artist and yogi Kasha Ritter that makes purses and bags out of Yoga Mats! I stumbled on her website and had to splurge. Her bags are creative, fun and yes, flexible! When the bag arrived in the mail I was so excited. The packaging was beautiful. Kasha wraps each bag and includes several special touches. Inside the bag is a card that says Om Shanti and a card blessed by local monks. She includes some other goodies, but I won’t spoil the fun. Order one for yourself!

We’ve had a loooong winter in the north east. My feet are always freezing and I wait until the last possible minute to take off my socks in class. I stumbled on these amazing cashmere toeless yoga socks on Etsy and they are genius! They are warm, soft and hand made and they don’t have toes or heals. Your feet can stay warm and you still can grip the mat! I love my new socks!

For Christmas my husband got me this amazing Pigeon Yoga Mat. I love it and I love that he thought of it. He said he was glancing through my latest yoga journal magazine and saw the ads in the back, looked it up and ordered it. I love that he thought of it just as much as I love my new mat.

Finally, a plug for my Yoga Team, Tri-County for a Cure; a group of local yogis are fundraising for an event in Philadelphia called Yoga on the Steps. Its an event that attracts over 1,000 yogis each year and benefits the group Living Beyond Breast Cancer. My friend and fellow yogi Carrie of Hammi Jammi Jewelry is creating necklaces and bracelets and 15% of the proceeds benefit the event.

Namaste’ and Happy Shopping!