Yoga Gangsters

‘How you do one thing, is how you do everything’ is a quote I’ve heard before but never really gave much thought to until it was presented to me this weekend. I had the pleasure of spending time with 15 other generous and brave souls as we all trained to become Yoga Gangster teachers.  Yoga Gangsters is a not-for-profit program that brings yoga programs to at-risk youth. We interviewed the founder, Terri Cooper, on Episode 1 of ‘Planted in Miami’ (listen here).  Terri’s story of resilience and perseverance has inspired me on so many levels, that I just knew I wanted to help her give back to the community through her organization.

On our second day, our homework was to go home and reflect on the statement, ‘How you do one thing, is how you do everything’ and journal about how we show up in challenging situations.  For me personally, whenever I’m challenged, I rise to it. I’m definitely Type A and think that through hard work and sweat, I can push through anything. I’ve had this independence and strength from an early age.  I rarely allow help from other people because I have the confidence in myself to get the job done.  How it shows up in my yoga practice is that whenever I’m challenged to hold a certain pose for longer than expected, I connect and stay in it way past the time that my body tells me to get out of it. Not the best approach…

What occurred to me during the training once everyone was sharing their journal entries and insights was that with this confidence in my strength comes a lack of flexibility.  Because I think I can handle just about anything thrown my way, I rarely ask for help.  My mom loves to tell a story that when I was just 2 years old, we had an old television set that would always break.  I would waddle over to it and say “I fix, I fix.”  Even at that young age, I refused to allow others, like a trained electrician, to do the job.  The way this shows up  in my yoga mat is that there are certain poses, like downward dog, where I can’t get my heels down on the mat because of my lack of flexibility.  As much as I press down and  will for them to connect with my mat it doesn’t happen.  Coincidence? I don’t think so. 

What does this have to do with becoming a certified Yoga Gangster teacher? EVERYTHING. We were taught that our issues will show up in service.  Traumas we’ve experienced will surface and we have to be prepared to handle them. Use the ‘mess to be your message’ is the one quote I repeated to myself over and over again. We have all experienced some level of trauma in our lives. Whether it be from getting bullied at school or experiencing poverty or having expectations put on us that were impossible to achieve.  Just because I may not have ever been in the situation of one of my youth students doesn’t mean that we don’t have a common reaction or habit formed from experiencing trauma. 

I firmly believe that everyone should be required to take this training. Even if you never teach one class.  What I learned about myself and how there are growth opportunities in my life is invaluable. The Yoga Gangster philosophy of no judgement, no shame, and no blame really helped me strip layers of my soul and take stock of my experiences.  Yoga for the win every. single. time. I invite you to ask yourself the same question, ‘how do you show up in a challenging situation.’ Maybe grab a pen and pencil or type out your thoughts. See how this relates in your life and in your yoga practice.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Connect with Yoga Gangsters  Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Urban Paradise

For the longest time, my husband and I have had an interest in learning about growing our own food.  We don’t have a huge backyard where we could plant a garden, but we’ve thought about getting raised beds to give it a try. But before we spend time and money, we thought it would be best to learn from someone who knows about farming.  Enter Urban Paradise Guild

This not-for-profit organization was founded to bring natural habitat back to the places where we live. On their website they write “Our city was Paradise before it was paved. With enough dedicated effort we can transform it into Urban Paradise, where the human and natural worlds blend more harmoniously.”

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We found out about the organization when we participated in the March Against Monsanto last May (Listen to our event wrap-up on the podcast here). Sam Leer, the head of the program, spoke at the after party and after learning about all of the cool things they’re doing in parks all across Miami, we decided to volunteer. 

On Sunday morning, we showed up at Amelia Earhart Park at 8:45am to be greeted by Sam. Our friends Eddy & Katrina joined us which made the day even better. P.S. Volunteering with friends rocks.  P.P.S. We were the oldest volunteers. P.P.P.S. Laughter ensued.

One of UPG's long-term goals is to plant a bunch of family gardens to help feed low income families living in apartments in the surrounding communities. Our job that day was to get started on the very first family garden for an Urban Paradise Guild staffer, JeanFrantz.  He selected the seeds and plants from the UPG Nursery and Seed Bank ahead of time and it was our job to get planting!

Alex and I had never done anything like this before and we were too excited to get our hands dirty and learn about growing food. We planted a few seeds of corn and Alex planted a dill plant. Sam took the time to show us around and explain what they'd done thus far. Already in the surrounding areas they had turmeric, yucca, peppers, okra and more growing.  I’m very ignorant when it comes to what certain plants look like and/or how things actually grow.  Sam showed us what a yucca plant looks like and I thought it was a papaya tree! I have lots to learn…

I’m not a huge fan of creepy crawlers so when we were cleaning up some mulch and came across a centipede, I did get a little freaked out but I was also amazed to see it up close and personal.  There was even an iguana that one of the volunteers captured that was eating all of the plants.  To be surrounded by so much life reminded me that I’m apart of something so much greater than the world I create in my head. When you’re out in the sun, getting some Vitamin D and connecting with the Earth, there’s a sense of alignment in the body. I believe that we are meant to give to this planet (and each other) as much as it gives to us every single day.  And I do believe that I’ve found the perfect way to do just that by volunteering with the Urban Paradise Guild.

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If you are looking to learn how to grow your own food or support a local charity or if you have children that need community service hours, I highly recommend the Urban Paradise Guild.

Learn more about them: Website | Facebook | Instagram

I’ll keep you posted on my farming adventures.