Yoga + Nature, and why you should try it.

Out in nature is my favorite place to teach yoga.

I believe yoga and nature both serve the same purpose in their own way, and that purpose is connection. Yoga is about connecting mind, body, and spirit, and through this awareness connecting us to all beings and entities in our infinite universe. I believe being in nature, truly experiencing the natural world around us, does the same. A lack of connection with nature contributes to our stress, anxiety, depression, and general feelings of less-than-ideal well-being. The comfort, quiet, and rejuvenation of being in nature calms the body and mind and can help you connect with your truest self - just give it the chance, and to learn to listen.

Growing up in rural New Hampshire, I have always felt the greatest sense of peace and contentment when I'm walking in the woods. In fact my "happy place," the vision I imagine when I want to feel calm and connected, is laying in my hammock as a child, at the edge of our woods, looking up at the trees and sky. It feels only natural that yoga, something that also brings me a sense of peace and clarity, should be combined with nature.

This is one reason why I am passionate about leading yoga outdoors and on retreats. I want to make it easy for others to disconnect from their technology, their daily grind, and get into nature to restore and rejuvenate both mind and body. My upcoming retreat in Maine this June 2017 (co-led with Ellie and Dave from Venture Outside) is a way to do that.

Photo credit: Matt Lambert

If you haven't participated in an outdoor yoga class, do your best to try one as soon as you can. Whether it's beach yoga, stand-up paddleboard yoga, island yoga, a yoga retreat, or yoga on your own in the woods - I guarantee you it will take you to a different head space than your typical studio or home practice.

What has your experience been with outdoor yoga?

If you could try yoga in one new space - where would it be?

Let me know in the comments!

Dreaming of Retreat

Those of you who know me may know that one of my big goals is to lead wellness and adventure retreats. As an avid traveler in my personal life, as well as someone who has worked in the travel industry, it only makes sense that I combine all of my passions together into one big happy family. What are all of those passions, you ask?

EXPLORATION. YOGA. NATURE. ADVENTURE. GOOD FOOD. COMMUNITY.

I want to create a travel experience that balances you. I want to create a dual experience for you, where you feel both ease and excitement. One where you feel like you have rejuvenated your mind and body with yoga, meditation, healthy delicious food, and rest. But also one where you have broken out of your comfort zone and tried a new food, a new adventurous activity, or made a new friend. Even just having a conversation with a  new person, and thus expanding your own personal community, adds to your growth.

I have been learning the ins and outs of becoming a retreat leader through the amazing guidance of Julie Zuzek, The Corporate Yogi (check out her amazing podcast), and her program for current or aspiring Retreat Leaders called Retreat U. I have been learning a lot and am constantly inspired being a part of this group.

In the below interview with Julie, I chat a lot about my goals and aspirations - and about how I am starting first by building Sangha (community) and attracting my "tribe" in Boston before jumping into leading retreats on my own. 

If my vibe matches yours, please join my email list here and be updated on my events and future retreats!

 

And if you are another yoga teacher looking to lead retreats - I highly recommend becoming a member of Retreat U @ www.retreatu.co 

Yoga Mix Tape: Volume One

"Jen was an expert mix-taper in the 90s. Cassette deck perpetually poised and at the ready, radio consistently playing in the background, Jen could often be found diving across her wallpapered bedroom to press record and snag that song she'd been waiting for. Times have changed, and Spotify has made all of her dreams come true, but we don't have to lose the vibe of this beloved memory."

Yoga Mix Tape is my first original yoga series where I am tracking back to my childhood to bring something fun and lighthearted to the yoga community. I hope to attract like-minded people who love music, love moving, love community, and love fun. At each Yoga Mix Tape event, you can expect a themed throwback playlist - something that would have appeared on the homemade mixed tapes of the 90s. I hope to bring a little fun and good memories into the positive yoga scene.

On December 8th I hosted Vol. 1: Throwback Holiday Jams. We moved and sweat to a holiday playlist filled with 90s and 00s goodness...from Mariah to Britney to NSync and even Adam Sandler. A few of my favorite classics (including Dean Martin's version of Baby It's Cold Outside, my most favoritest ever) rounded out the mix.

Check out the playlist here and on Spotify - maybe it can become a part of your holiday yoga repertoire?

SUP Yoga Meets Acro Yoga...What!?

Two things I've been dabbling with came together this summer...

Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, say hello to AcroYoga.

This was something I decided to do on a whim when a friend invited me to this class with SUP Yo! I love trying new things, and so I had to say yes. Say yes, people! For me, it feels so amazing just to TRY something new. The excitement that comes from traveling just a little bit outside your comfort zone is kind of exhilarating. The only thing more fun is when you try something new, and then you also find some success in it. Having an experienced base for my flying helped me to feel steady and comfortable, and he coached me through the process. Being able to nail a couple of these poses made me feel like a superhero for a day. And trust me, I'm just a normal human.

My friend Yvonne and I as we watch with amazement what others are doing.

So my challenge to you? Say yes! Get out and try something new, whatever it is! If you've never tried Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga, or even just SUP without the yoga, get out there and try it! It's such a fun summer activity that gets you connected to nature while working your body and mind at the same time.

If you've never tried AcroYoga, check your local studios for options, or check Facebook and other social media sites for groups near you. Often you'll find these yogis just playing around at local parks. I have never met an AcroYogi that wasn't super friendly, open, accommodating, and willing to meet someone new - so give it a shot! What's the worst that can happen? You might just discover a new hobby...

What's been your experience with SUP Yoga or AcroYoga?

What's one new thing you're going to try this year?

Bachelorette Party and Wedding Yoga!

I love special occasion yoga. Not only do I love creating fun themed playlists to go with a particular event or theme (some fun past playlists here), but I love teaching yoga to groups of people who know each other. Whether it's workplace yoga, team yoga, or what I like to call - party yoga.

This summer this bachelorette party took their yoga lakeside, under the trees, on beach towels, to a soundtrack of 90s hip hop jams and love songs. 

"Forest" Yoga?

Lakeside Warrior Twos

But let's not stop at Bachelorette Yoga! Yoga on the morning of a wedding might be just what everyone needs to shake off any rehearsal dinner residuals, or calm those pre-wedding jitters. I had a blast making this wedding themed playlist for just the occasion.

More wedding yoga pics to come!

If you'd like to book a group session for your bachelorette party or wedding, please be in touch!  Playlists and sequences can be made to order based on your preferences, style, and yoga experience level. Mimosas optional.

Writing for FITT Boston

I have had the pleasure of doing a little bit of freelance writing for an up and coming website that rounds up the best fitness, food, and fun happenings in various cities around the country. Check out the Boston version of FITT here. Boston has become a real hub for all things local and healthy and FITT is a perfect showcase of local businesses, classes, events, and more.

Two articles that have been published on the site so far are the Summerlong Schedule of Outdoor Yoga Classes and the Boston area Farmers Markets. Check those links out - it's not too late to go try something on those lists!

I love being involved in fitness, health, and wellness in any capacity, and freelance writing has been a wonderful way for me to infuse those passions with a little sprinkle of creativity, and then share it with a wider community. Thanks, FITT!

Keeping it Light: Yoga Playlists

One way that I like to connect with my yoga students is through music. Music has always been a huge part of my life, with parents who used to play everything from Mariah Carey to Elvis to Jethro Tull to Mahler, during all stages of my life. Just the act of listening to music evokes for me feelings of positivity, family, community, and connection. And of course individual songs and artists so easily call to mind a particular emotion or memory from my life. We all know how much music can influence our minds and our moods - and I like to use it to create a fun and playful atmosphere in many of my yoga classes.

I believe in balance. There is a time and a place for more silent, serious, and meditative yoga (although lets not take ourselves too seriously). And there is a time and a place for lighthearted and fun yoga. Life is about balance, yoga is about balance, and one way I keep us on the playful end of the spectrum is through my themed playlists.

I'm highlighting a few of the favorites from over the last year. More to come!

Halloween Yoga:

Christmas Yoga:

David Bowie Tribute Yoga (RIP D.B.):

Old School Hip Hop Yoga: Ladies Style (This one was for a bachelorette party)

Community Garden and Wellness Day at Russell Elementary

Outside of yoga, I'm still working full-time as an elementary school teacher (and have just made an exciting transition from a 2nd grade teacher to an art teacher!). And since I spend the majority of my time in that job, I try to find ways to incorporate the things that I love - especially yoga and wellness.

As our school "wellness champion," I've coached our 100 Mile Club walking and running club and helped organize events such as our annual 5K race (check out last year's recap here) and our community garden and wellness day.

Our most recent Community Garden and Wellness Day, which took place in May 2016, was such a highlight for me because I got to teach two short outdoor yoga classes to our students and families. It was nothing less than the. cutest. thing. ever. I was in my element and it helped me realize that I love teaching yoga to people of ALL ages.

In addition, I spent a good while the night before in the Whole Foods bulk aisle picking out delicious and healthy snacks to add to our "Make Your Own Trail Mix" bar.

Other highlights were bike and scooter races, planting in the garden, Fresh Truck produce, and more. To see the full scope of everything that went on, check out this awesome recap here.

We will continue with another 5K Race and Community Day this school year. Our upcoming 5K race is on October 15, 2016 at Mother's Rest in Dorchester right next to Carson Beach. We'd love your support - come run with us! Sign up here!

NamaStay Sober: Synchronicity in the City

I have the pleasure of being on the team of volunteers for a wonderful Boston nonprofit and charity called NamaStay Sober. The goal of NamaStay Sober is to connect recovering addicts with free yoga, fitness, and meditation classes to aid in their recovery and connect them with a healthy and positive community. In addition, NamaStay Sober hosts sober fitness and community events around the city and gives Boston a fun and healthy alternative to the social bar scene. Here's a pic from our "Raw Yoga" event at Brooklyn Boulders.

How I became involved with NamaStay Sober is where the synchronicity comes in. One evening last winter, I was sitting in Boston Common Coffee doing some "yoga work" and applying for yoga positions. At the same time I overheard two people nearby in the shop chatting about yoga and what a difference they feel it makes in their lives.

I became overwhelmed with the feeling that this must be a sign from the universe (of which I had become more aware since teacher training), and I felt compelled to go introduce myself. When I met Nicoletta, the founder of NamaStay Sober, and realized what she was doing - I knew I had to take part. As someone who has lost a loved one to addiction, I feel close to the cause. In fact, yoga for addiction was one area of interest before meeting the NamaStay Sober crew! The rest is history. I now help secure food and beverage sponsors and donations for our fundraisers and events.

Check out our next event on City Hall Plaza, the NamaStay Sober Fit Fest

September 11, 2016 ~ 10am-5pm

Facebook Event link here: https://www.facebook.com/events/311969705820226/

Playing with AcroYoga

In January and February I explored a few AcroYoga/Thai Massage workshops in the Boston area and absolutely loved it. I had the pleasure of learning a few things from local teachers Izzy Vanhall and Brian Lam, but then ventured out to the burbs for some more fun.

Centre Yoga in Woburn (a really beautiful studio) hosted a fun and relaxing AcroYoga night around Valentine's Day. Some yogini friends and I had fun getting upside down, trying not to fall (but still falling...), and just enjoyed trying something for the first time. It was a blast, and so rejuvenating at the same time. You do not need to be an acrobat or expert to give this a try - you can even be a newbie in yoga! The benefits are endless and I encourage everyone to try it.

Thanks to my friend Anne for being an amazing and trustworthy base!

Healthy Around the Holidays Event @ Russell Elementary

Outside of yoga, I spend my days as an elementary school teacher. Russell Elementary School in Dorchester is part of Boston Public Schools, and as you might imagine, there isn't much of a budget for employee wellness. That's where the Sunshine Fund comes in. My colleague Mary and I head up the school's "Sunshine Fund", which for years has been a financial fund into which each employee contributes for things such as birthday celebrations, baby showers, wedding gifts, get well gifts, employee appreciation days, etc. 

Mary and I have chaired this fund for the past three years, and this year we wanted to bring more employee wellness into the workplace. So, the idea for a "Healthy Around the Holidays" event was born. Just before Thanksgiving 2015, we partnered with local business Beacon Blend to bring 100% organic smoothies to staff members during their lunch break.

Mary and I with Beacon Blend's beautiful display in our teachers' lounge.

Mary and I with Beacon Blend's beautiful display in our teachers' lounge.

In addition to smoothies, I created homemade paleo pumpkin spice and chocolate coconut "energy balls," and attached recipe cards for both flavors so that staff members could recreate the healthy treat at home. Finally, I gave staff printed information on how to stay healthy around the holidays with food, exercise, and mindfulness tips.

Beacon Blend's owner and founder, Danielle Perretty, even allowed a couple of our students to interview her for a project where they study businesses that help people in the community stay healthy. So wonderful!

Outside of this event, another way I try to impact our school's environment is by offering weekly yoga classes and free introductory meditation classes to all staff. Just trying to spread yoga and wellness in any way I can!