The Great Blue Heron Music Festival

Every year in early July there is a music festival near my hometown in western New York state – The Great Blue Heron. It’s a festival full of bluegrass music, zydeco, camping, dancing that goes until the wee hours of dawn, and so much more. Growing up I used to attend the festival as a high school student and college student. The weekend was late nights and late sleeps. Now in my 30’s I appreciate the festival for being so much more than cases of beer and no sleep.

At the most recent Blue Heron I made sure to fill my days with a schedule that had always existed, but that I had never explored, such as, you guessed it – yoga. There has always been yoga at the Blue Heron, but I never woke up in time to make a class. What a shame that turns out to be. The Revival tent where the yoga classes are held take place in the Revival Tent, a tent that kisses the end of a serene pond. Yoga is at 9am, which may not seem all that early, but to those bustin’ a move till 6am, that is an impossible time.

This year my husband and I didn’t attend the festival until Saturday morning and it was my primary goal to get to the Saturday morning yoga class, so we dropped our dear pup Fred off at grandma and grandpa’s house and arrived just in time for me to roll my mat out for class. Being that I had never attended a single yoga class at the Heron before, I was surprised to see that quite a few people set their alarms to get to the class. There were probably 20-30 people at the class and around the same amount of people attended Sunday’s class. Sunday’s class was just as good as Saturdays and both days offered completely different styles of yoga – Vinyasa and Iyengar, both were beneficial for heads and bodies aching from worldly pleasures of the day and night before.

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Another new experience for me was a sound healing, or a sound meditation on Sunday. A soft-spoken woman with an array of instruments guided a large group through a chakra balancing meditation. She encouraged us all to incorporate outside noises into the meditation, which was necessary since the festival’s beach area is practically connected to the Revival Tent which meant that sounds of children enjoying splashing in the pond were difficult to ignore, and then halfway through the meditation the truck that serviced the porta-potties (my husband and I playfully referred to it as the ‘Poop Truck’) arrived to the adjacent beach to service the porta-potties there. That was hard to peacefully incorporate, especially knowing what it was, but after a few minutes the hum of the truck doing it’s job did incorporate its way into my meditation.

It would be a long post to write about everything other than a party weekend that the IMG_20180708_122532.jpgBlue Heron offers everyone from young children to mature adults, but a short list includes a mushroom walk, star-gazing, activities almost every hour for the kids, vendors, a tent full of events specifically for teens, etc. Unfortunately the Blue Heron has a local reputation for being a drug fest full of ‘undesirables’. Is there a wide range of people at a festival of around 7,000 people – yes, so might there be people partaking in illegal substances? Yes. Are there also young families that come for a day or the entire weekend? Yes. The festival can be what you make of it. If you want to party till the sun comes up, do it. If you want to put ear plugs in and crawl into your tent at 11pm to wake up early for the 7:30 meditation and the 9am yoga, do it.

The primary draw of the festival is undoubtedly the music. The lineup has not altered much since my high school days or my last time there in 2012, and while that can seem mundane it also speaks to the artists that people enjoy their sets year after year. There’s something for everyone on the line up at the Heron, bluegrass and Americana cover people who love those styles as well as those that enjoy country music, which there are many in Chautauqua county; there’s also world music, funk, psychedelic rock, and so more.

 

For musicians, professional and aspiring, there are music workshops on Saturday and Sunday so bring your fiddle and drum. I myself always enjoy bruising up my hands at the drum circle with my djembe, which a kind man tuned for me for a donation, saying that he considers his skill a gift to the world. Whatever your opinion of hippies are, they sure are kind and warmhearted.

The event as a whole can be described as happy, warmhearted, and sustainable. Event volunteers sort through recyclables which festival goers divide initially into plastics, compostables, and waste destined for the landfill. My environmental-hippy hat tips off to organizers for making their Rainbow Recycling program such a large part of the festival. To get waste to its proper place for 7,000+ people is a commendable task.

The Blue Heron is a celebration of American culture that I was excited to share with my English husband. It had something for everyone, even more so than I remember as a younger adult. If you’re looking for a summer festival next year, keep the Blue Heron in mind and mark your calendar for the weekends surrounding July 4th, the festival is always held on the weekend before or after the holiday. We’ll definitely be there, maybe I’ll see you at yoga.

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A Victorian Farm to Table Dinner

This spring our local history museum, the Fenton, and a local historical society of Busti, NY partnered up for the second year in a row to host a Victorian Dinner. These are some of my favorite things: fundraisers for good causes, local history, and delicious, local, real food. The dressing on the salad was that Victorian costumes were encouraged, my dream event, save if there was yoga, then it would have been over the top, but it was still quite fantastic without, reasons why below.

Victorian Costumes

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I love to get creative and dress up. The creativity comes into play by piecing costumes together with pieces that I already have and by borrowing from friends and family to pull it all together. This is an ethical decision to avoid plastic packaging and to not support fast fashion.

I knew instantly what I was going to wear for a Victorian costume. Years ago I bought a frilly white top from Zara (purchased before I knew about fast fashion) that I wore to my bachelorette Downtown Abby tea party and that would work for this event because the frills give it a perfectly Victorian feel. A friend had given me a hand-me-down long black skirt that initially I considered donating on, but I held onto it just for the Victorian Dinner and I am glad that I did, also, it grew on me so I’ll keep it for regular wear.

To perfect the look I knew I needed a hat. I spoke to a coworker about this because I had a hunch that she might be the perfect person to ask. She pulled through and delivered a magnificent hat complete with a red bird on it (Put a bird on it! Any Portlandia fans reading?) The hat was red, green, and black so it worked well with my long black skirt. Another coworker lent me a pair of black booties with buttons on the sides that fit the theme.

Others at the dinner wore their costumes and there were at least half a dozen big hats. One lady told me that she rushed around that day hot gluing fake flowers to her simple, black sun hat – I love it, another DIY costume maker! Even some of the men were in elegant three piece suits complete with pocket watches. Historical Halloween in May? Yes, please!

Farm to Table

The food was mostly local from the very first course which included apple cider which was pressed at the Busti cider mill last fall and kept frozen over winter, apple butter – homemade by our tablemates, and flour and corn meal ground at the Busti grist mill that went into the dinner rolls. Soup and salad followed. The soup was potato-corn chowder that had the ends of the bacon of a pig that the caterer had purchased and had butchered.

Mains included a pot roast beef and turkey and stuffing. At least the turkey was local as the event took place during turkey season here in WNY. Root vegetables and garden asparagus accompanied the meat. The meal was served family style and seating was unassigned. Not forgetting desert, although it would have been sensible to pass on desert after taking multiple servings of the first rounds, I am glad that I did not pass on it because it was scrumptious – pound cake with rhubarb compote from the garden pictured below. Make note of the lack of plastic, real cutlery, dishes and teacups.

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After desert was served the owner of the cartering service, 3 C’s, spoke about the food, where it came from, and how it was cooked in a Victorian way. As mentioned above, most of the food was local. The meat was cooked simply without any exotic spices. Given the season of spring, the root vegetables would have been stored in the root cellar. There was no refrigeration or frozen food in Victorian times, so we were spoiled by having tomatoes, corn, and the apple cider at our tables.

Education & Entertainment

Before and after dinner a local troupe of musicians played period pieces on stringed instruments, speaking about the songs that they played and their history. Instruments included fiddles, guitar, banjo, and stand up bass. The music was enjoyable and made me realize how quiet it was during dinner when the band was not playing. Today we’re used to music in restaurants and bars, sometimes it plays too loudly and conversations can barely be heard; it was nice to have silence for polite conversation over dinner.

Two men spoke after dinner about local history. The first man, our tablemate and one of the organizers of the event, spoke about the Victorian era and what the local town where the event was held looked like at that time. It had a tannery, shoe maker (who got leather from the tannery), carriage maker, creamery, multiple churches, school, etc. It’s romantic to imagine a time when communities were entirely involved and mostly sustainable, when everyone knew everyone else and supported each other.

The second man to speak shared historic items from the Jamestown Police. He himself a former officer, had a box that contained an old whistle, a sheriff’s badge, a police officer’s hat, and a photo of the police force from last century. Both short talks were interesting and tied the event together.

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Two sets of couples that sat with us at our table drove down for the event from about an hour away. They told me of other such historic dinners that they had attended throughout New York State, one a candle light dinner in an old mansion at Christmas time. It makes my heart smile to know that there are others out there that enjoy learning about and celebrating history. I’ll keep my ears to the ground for other such events and am already looking forward to next year’s Victorian Farm to Table dinner locally.

Guest Author – Ashley Ordines – On Her Health Transformation Through Yoga

Introducing another Ashley! Ashley attended a New Years Yoga workshop hosted by Kara Bemis Yoga in early 2017 and has never looked back since.

On December 31st, 2016 I made a new years resolution to try to become a healthier person. I had struggled for the majority of my life with weight control and mental health issues. The resolution I made came during my very first yoga class at Phoenix Rising Wellness Studio in Jamestown, NY, taught by Kara Bemis. I really enjoyed the class and knew that it was something I would like to continue to do, even though I remember thinking, “wow downward facing dog is SO hard!” This was huge for me as I had never found a physical activity I really enjoyed doing. It even seemed to be mentally beneficial; after only one class my mood had improved. I decided that my resolution for 2017 was going to be regularly doing one thing for myself that would teach me to be more mindful and self-aware, as well as improve my physical fitness, so I signed up for more yoga.

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I began taking classes at Sun Moon Yoga when it opened in a new location in January 2017 with Karen Hansen. Over the next several months I slowly learned to be more comfortable with my body and gradually began feeling improvements in my health. I felt more energetic, flexible, and overall more positive. I even began documenting the food I ate as a way to become more aware of what I put into my body. I consider this point to be when I really started making my journey about mindfulness, specifically relating to how I treat my physical and emotional self.  

I continued to track what I eat as well, and as of today, I have lost 97 lbs… most importantly I have found a physical and mental strength that I never knew I had. Without yoga, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

Over the next 18 months I began to lose weight while gaining strength and confidence. I began trying other physical activities as well, and found that I also really love hiking. So for many months I continued doing yoga 1-5 days a week, both at class and at home, and hiked during the warmer months. I continued to track what I eat as well, and as of today, May 30, 2018, I have lost 97 lbs. I have lost over 10 inches on my waist, 8 inches on each thigh, and 9 inches from my hips. Most importantly, I have found a physical and mental strength that I never knew I had. Without yoga, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

Yoga has taught me to accept myself where I’m at and to not be discouraged by not being able to do everything at once. I have learned patience and acceptance for myself and continue to work every day on loving myself for who I am right now. To anyone who has considered doing yoga but is afraid to try something new, I say do it. Even if you don’t want to lose weight or change anything physically, you can learn so much about yourself just by trying something new. One of the biggest lessons I have learned throughout all of this is that even when your life situation seems like the “end-all-be-all,” it doesn’t have to be forever. Be patient with yourself. Go through the steps. Trust the process. Just breathe. Downward facing dog won’t always be hard.


30595258_10211780662216373_1594345654740582400_nAshley Ordines is a freelance artist/illustrator living in Jamestown, NY. Her focus as an artist is mainly illustration, concept art and design. She is also a passionate environmentalist and hopes to bring focus to environmental issues through her art. Ordines is also an avid gamer and spends most of her free time playing video games or hiking.

Instagram: @ashordinesart @thtashtho

Facebook: Ash Ordines Artworks

Two Plogging Events, One Post

If you haven’t heard of the craze of plogging yet then you can learn about it in our previous post WTH is Plogging? which was posted to teach people about a Plogging & Yoga event hosted by Kara Bemis Yoga the day before Earth Day. That same week, Kara’s twin sister, Kayla, attended a Plogging event in DC. This is a special joint review of those two events co-authored by Kara & Kayla, and if this post inspires you and you’d like to stand up against single use plastic for the ocean, then keep your eyes out for events taking place in early June for World’s Oceans Day, June 8th, such as March for the Oceans in DC on June 9th.

Plogging & Yoga Event – Jamestown, NY

This event was promoted a lot leading up to the day of the event and due to the fact that it was free, was anticipated to have a number of guests. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the event was under-attended. Initially this was a sad slap in the face, but two people did show and those are two more people who now know more about plastic pollution, why it’s a problem locally and globally, and how to change habits.

5gyres_ambassador_rgbThe most important aspect of this event was the 5 Gyres plastic talk, followed by the physical act of collecting litter, and lastly the yoga. The talk was rooted in a 5 Gyres power point that included visceral slides and facts and statistics on the importance of the oceans and the detriment of plastic. Although there were only three listeners to this talk (my husband made it to the event just in time) it was a positive experience to give my first talk on plastic.

The four of us collected an impressive amount of litter in a small radius near the Chadakoin river in downtown Jamestown, NY. It was a sunny, warm day so walking and talking while picking up garbage was an enjoyable task, seeing how much we gathered made it even more worth it.

 

 

The yoga itself was initially planned to be very beginner friendly as I was expecting yoga newbies to attend, but since all of the participants were returning students the yoga I taught was intermediate. The class was nature based including animal and insect poses. Of course vrksasana/tree played a part.

Moving forward from this event I plan to host more Plogging and Yoga events and offer the plastic talk to any group or individual who wants to hear it. Science classes, environmental groups, strangers on the street, anyone.

Plogging Event – DC

The event that I attended was presented by the DC Parks and Recreation (such an under appreciated governmental resource!) and a local gym called VIDA Fitness (VIDA) located on U Street. On the morning o Earth Day registered participants met at a recreational facility in my Petworth neighborhood. Attendance was high, nearly 40 people, which is not surprising considering that DC is the second healthiest city in America. Minneapolis stole our first place stance in 2017, hence the increased DC Parks and Rec events throughout the capital – we can win it back!

To begin, our hosts, VIDA’s Membership Consultant and a representative from DC Parks and Rec, gave an overview of the day, offered a guided stretching routine and gave an informative talk about litter control in DC. Most memorably, we practiced squatting for healthy trash pick up to preserve our ankles, knees, and backs before taking off. The DC government representative spoke for a new initiative at most DC park facilities, in which plastic trash and plastic recycling bags are available for year round plogging enthusiasts to utilize.

Each attendee was furnished with bags and plastic gloves, including a few clear recycling bags, which I was able to score. My boyfriend and I took the mission to heart and split a pair of the plastic cleaning gloves, wearing a single glove on our right hands for trash pick up and keeping our left hands air-accessible while holding our bags. The group ran, jogged or walked through our predetermined path grabbing litter along the two and half mile route. There was even some media coverage at one spot, check out the video here.

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In addition to the fresh air, meaningful community/neighborly time, environmental impact, health benefits and an increased feeling of well-being, I truly felt that our group was an inspiring view for those driving by or viewing us from their stoop. It was fun to feel uplifted by working towards a common goal with other environmental Washingtonians, and to see others smiling at our noble cause. Perhaps we influenced those spectators to do their share by snagging a few pieces of trash on their morning jogs or commutes.

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It was a really enjoyable way to spend a sunny day outside and honor the planet. I hope to see other similar events pop up in my lovely city over the coming months. In the mean time, I encourage everyone to independently do their part by plogging, decreasing their plastic consumption and trash creation and especially by participating in March for the Ocean (M40) on June 9, 2018, in celebration of World Oceans Day. Visit marchfortheocean.org  to find a rally near you, or for information on donating to help in protecting our planet and in efforts to eliminate plastic use.

Guest Author – Ashley Biekert on Her Yoga Journey – A Yoga Beginner’s Testament

Introducing Ashley, a new convert to the joy that is yoga. Ashley gives her experience overcoming the ever-common anxiety and nerves that come hand in hand with attending initial yoga classes and her transition to becoming a regular yoga student that has had success in health, both physical and mental.

Yoga…. to someone who has had extremely poor flexibility (like I couldn’t even touch my toes) for my whole life, this four letter word held a lot of intimidation for me. I mean, sure, I had tried a few basic poses at home, but the thought of a class where other people might see me struggle made me shudder. To say it was out of my comfort zone was an understatement to say the least. But the truth is, good things happen outside of your comfort zone, and once I was able to recognize this, I was able to truly embrace this wonderful art form.

I started my fitness journey in December of 2017 with at home Beachbody workouts. Yoga was my Sunday workout video, and this truly was my first introduction to any sort of yoga beyond those couple basic poses I knew. As the weeks went on I began to look forward to my Sunday’s but I still felt like something was missing from the experience. I looked around online to get some more info on the yoga classes in the area but was incredibly hesitant because I truly felt there was no way I could ever measure up to the people in those classes and that I would be the most inexperienced person in attendance. So I waited.

At the end of February my birthday weekend rolled around and I found out there would be a Restorative Yoga class at Sun Moon Yoga, and since this sounded more my speed, I convinced my sister to join me as a birthday gift. It was great! My instructor Karen made me feel so comfortable and there was something so different about the energy in the room when you have fellow practitioners with you. I was hooked. At the end of class, I signed up for beginners yoga that just happened to be starting that Wednesday, and I went for it!

Now, was a nervous showing up to class that Wednesday? Absolutely! It was a new experience and those always make me anxious. But do you know what outshined that nervousness that I had? EXCITEMENT! I was so thrilled about this new journey I was embarking on, and I couldn’t wait to see what I could learn.

Every week I walked away from class with more confidence in myself and more appreciation for what my body was able to do for me. I could see my flexibility increasing, slowly but surely, and I feel myself getting stronger. I was no longer intimidated by the thought of someone seeing me struggle or the teacher adjusting me. In fact, I fell in love with adjustments. These are something you very much take for granted when you are only practicing on your own. It was great to finally have someone showing me the right way instead of just guessing. I could feel the poses working for me instead of struggling to get them to be what I thought they should be. There was absolutely no looking back now!

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I no longer fear new experiences when it comes to seeing what my body can do. I’m not afraid to be the least experienced person in the room. We are all on different journey and we are all at different places in our journey. To compare yourself to someone else’s capabilities is so futile. I’ve learned to love my body for what it is today while also being excited for what it will be capable of doing for me tomorrow.

The biggest thing Yoga has taught me isn’t how to touch my toes or the proper way to do downward dog, it is to love myself always… To love myself through the failures and successes, and to embrace my imperfections and work through them. This is the only body I get, and I am so blessed to be able to use it for the short time my soul gets to inhabit this planet. I won’t waste any more time doing anything but wholeheartedly loving my vessel and working to improve it however I can.

 


image2My name is Ashley Biekert and I have been a resident of Jamestown, NY my entire life. I have been married to my husband Andrew for almost three years and I am the mother of my beautiful 1-year-old daughter, Rayne. I have only been doing yoga for a few short months but I have found a lot of love for it. I hope to continue to grow every day and see where my body can take me. The sky is the limit! You can follow me on my fitness journey on Instagram at @raynys_mama 

Jason Crandell Workshop Take Aways

It was two months ago that I attended my first (but not my last!) workshop with Jason Crandell. I traveled a far distance – ten hours round trip to be exact – to practice and study with Jason, a renowned vinyasa teacher. You can read about the studio where the workshop was held here.
No matter what style of class or where, I always take something away form the teacher, good or bad, and store it for future use and implementation. Let me clarify that I do not mean that I take sequences or any other sort of “intellectual property” but rather a word here and there or an interesting assist. These are my take aways from Jason’s workshops.

Humor

He was funny, and frequently, too. There were around 80 people practicing challenging vinyasa sequences together, energy was high and as much as it is repeated and known not to let the ego creep in and self judge in class, I’m positive that eyes were looking around the room to compare practices. Jason cracked jokes that dissipated thoughts of the ego, at least that’s the effect that it had on me. The mood was lightened during handstand practice, and the point was made that life is not ending if the handstand is not perfect.
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Float Around

There was a small raised stage with a glued down yoga mat, I’m assuming that that’s where the usual teachers teach from, and it is where Jason started his workshops from, but not where he was glued to. Throughout the roughly eight hours of flow, Jason walked around the room to give his sequences. I liked this. It kept everyone involved and the energy flowing.
Also, it literally brought him back to the students’ level. Something that I had never though of until I heard the idea on Andreah Ferrerrit’s podcast, Yogaland, is that as teachers we have an instant air of hierarchy and power over our students. To move around the room and give students equal attention, not just the advanced students at the front (because lets face it, beginners generally go to the back and it’s usually only the late comers who have to begrudgingly roll their mats out right in front of the teacher, or it’s the confident students who choose to be there.) Hear Yogaland’s podcast about this topic and yoga in the era of #MeToo here.

Demo to the Crowd

Usually in class I demo poses myself, but often times Jason had a student perform a posture while he pointed out adjustments or assists, never to the embarrassment of the student, he demoed students capable of the poses. Often times his assistants were called over to a central mat to perform the pose, as in the photo below.

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This is such an effective teaching tool. It brings the entire room together to witness a pose developing in real time. Questions can be asked and answered then and there. This is necessary to do when having students partner up, you have to make sure that they know what they will be doing and what their partner’s role will be, especially when the pose to be practiced is an advanced pose such as an inversion.
As mentioned in the intro, my first yoga workshop with Jason will not be my last. I have signed up for a morning workshop with Jason in early June, this time closer to home in Cleveland, OH. It was difficult to make the decision to attend only one portion of his weekend long workshop in Ohio, but my mentor and good friend, Mindy Sisco is visiting me during that week from South Korea, so sacrifices had to be made. Not to mention, I’ll be practicing with her all week, including in Cleveland, so I’ll still be learning and growing as a student and teacher.
If you are a yoga student who is getting more into the practice, then I highly recommend finding yoga workshops near you this summer; teachers, of course you know how beneficial workshops are. Workshops are better than classes, instead of a teacher simply leading you through sequences, the teacher gives you the technique and drills to be able to perform difficult poses in the workshop or down the road as you build strength. Then you can take those newly learned skills and apply them to your home practice or at a the next studio class you attend in which the teacher says,”… and now pop into tripod headstand if that’s in your practice.” because it will be in the practice now, a new skill gained from a knowledgeable workshop.

The Yoga Loft, Bethlehem, PA – Studio Review

I made a commitment to myself that I would train more this year, so when I saw on Instagram that Jason Crandell was teaching a weekend workshop on the east coast of the U.S. I didn’t have to think twice before booking a spot. The studio is a good five and a half hours from where I live, but the idea of a weekend with a well-known vinyasa yoga instructor to practice and learn made the drive worth it. A separate post to follow regarding the workshop with Jason, this post is about the studio alone.

The Yoga Loft is in a central area of Bethlehem which is an old steel city with the decaying remnants of that time still dominating the skyline. The studio is in an old brick building with street parking and a parking lot to the side. The studio is up three flights of stairs, something to keep in mind if running late or suffering from an injury.

Once up the flights of stairs you pass through a door into the foyer of the studio. There you can register at the front desk, browse their yoga accessories for sale (clothes, books, etc.), and lounge in a sitting area. There’s also a water machine to fill up your reusable water bottle before class.

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Just beyond the entry way and slightly to the right is a doorway that leads to two changing rooms and the toilets. The double doors directly ahead lead to one of their three studio spaces. The space that I practiced in was massive, photo below, it held 70-80 people with mats tightly placed side by side. The floors of the studio are beautiful hardwood and there are a lot of windows to let natural light in. All areas of the studio are welcoming and kept clean. Staff that I interacted with during registration and during breaks from the workshop were friendly and sociable, although I did not take a class with any of the local teachers while there.

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There are a lot of classes on offer at The Yoga Loft. Looking at their weekly schedule online, there are three to eight classes offered per day, with less offered at the weekend. Classes on the schedule are labeled by level, a guideline that ensures students attend appropriate classes, something that not all studios provide prospective students with. Styles offered on the weekly schedule include: Yoga Flow, Infant Yoga, Barre & Pilates, Candlelit/Restorative, and more. Special events, workshops, and free events also found on the website.

The studio offers a lot of promotional classes to get new students in the door. There is a six-week beginners series for those new to yoga to help them get them on their feet and gain confidence to then explore other teachers and styles at the studio. They also have a new student, promotional, unlimited monthly rate of $39. Lastly, they host open houses that include a free class and option to ask questions about yoga to staff. These all make a lot of sense in terms of brining new students in the door and getting more people interested in yoga, especially those that may feel shy or nervous to try yoga for the first time.

Another interesting page found on their website that I have never seen before on a yoga studio website is a section called ‘Places We Love’ which includes restaurants and places to stay recommended by the studio. This is so useful because the studio hosts traveling teachers with big names that no doubt draw in students from all over the east coast; case in point my five and a half hour drive there, I also met two women rushing out the door at the end of the Jason Crandell workshop that were rushing because they had something like a nine-hour drive home to Maine! Us out-of-towners appreciate recommendations. Listing restaurants is very smart as most people who do yoga tend to lead a healthier lifestyle than the average American, therefore would appreciate knowing where the local vegan restaurant is as opposed to walking into the nearest McDonald’s.

I enjoyed every aspect of my short visit to The Yoga Loft in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Never before had I even really heard of the city or studio, but I am glad that a post on Instagram about the workshop got me interested and travelling across New York and Pennsylvania to travel there. If you live in the vicinity, vicinity being the entire east coast it seems, then check out their upcoming weekend workshops and book yourself a spot. A highly recommended experience.

 

 

WTH is Plogging?

The next event that Kara Bemis Yoga is hosting is a Plogging & Yoga event which might have people scratching their heads. WTH is plogging? Essentially it is a newly invented word that means collecting litter while on a jog. It is said to have originated from Sweden in 2016 and has since gone global via social media, so it seemed like a good idea to ride the trend and get local people interested in cleaning up their neighborhoods.

If like many people you are slightly averse to jogging and prefer walking and are also highly averse to seeing garbage scattered around your walking route, then have no worries because plogging can easily be translated into an event that takes place during walking or hiking at your nearest state park.

Before there was a trendy Swedish term for it, I have been unknowingly ‘plogging’ for years. It started while living in Costa Rica. My then Tico boyfriend picked up litter while we were on a walk at the beach and initially I thought it odd, to touch someone else’s ‘dirty’ litter, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t odd at all, and that if we were to all clean up beautiful places then the idea might spread. Maybe others would begin to do the same, heck maybe the people who mindlessly and selfishly through their trash on the ground to begin with would change their ways.

Is it dirty to pick up others garbage? Short answer no. More often than not the garbage is plastic. What’s the difference of picking up a plastic fork lying on the ground and touching a straw at a restaurant. Sure the straw at the restaurant is ‘new,’ but it’d likely had been handled by others before reaching your hands. It was handled in production, packaging, distributing, and from the restaurant employee to you. Same with a plastic bottle or bottle cap. What I do consider as dirty litter to collect is cigarette butts. Those are nasty little things, they’re called butts after all. They’ve touched others hands and lips and what is even nastier is that they are made from plastic, so everytime a smoker flicks their butts out of the car window they are littering. I wish police would enforce litter laws with all, but especially smokers, I think that they it is harmless to flick them out  of their hands and onto the grass, but who is going to collect them? Plus, they easily make their way down street drains and straight out of the outlet to the nearest river, lake, reservoir, sea, or the ocean. For cigarette butts I would recommend wearing cotton gloves to collect, such as gardening gloves.

If you have an interest in making  a change in your local area, start plogging today! If you live in are around Jamestown, NY, then join me next Saturday for a community plogging event that will include a free yoga class (taught by yours truly.) Wherever your walking path may be: a sidewalk, in the woods, up a mountain, or on the beach have a two minutes cleanup and share your little victory on social media by using #plogging to spread the movement.

ploggingyoga

Yoga Teachers – Taxes!

Taxes are no fun. They’re something that we put off all year until April rolls around and they become a quick necessity and an annoyance. Taxes as a contracting yoga teacher are more manageable and less scary than they may seem leading up to April, however. The one thing all yoga teachers need to keep in mind is to keep track of almost everything. This sounds ultra-annoying, but a little work throughout the year means less digging for information at tax season.

Unfortunately there is no shortcut to filing taxes when working for yourself as a yoga teacher. Whether you work part-time now and again, or fill your weekly schedule up with as many classes as you can, you will need to keep track of how much you worked, where, what you spent to do your job, and how much you made, of course. It can be easier than it seems.

One thing that helps is to keep track of all of your classes, taught and classes attended. Keeping track of hours taught is beneficial for two reasons. One, you can add up your teaching hours and eventually use them to increase your yoga teacher title from RYT (registered yoga teacher) to E-RYT (experienced registered yoga teacher). The second benefit is that you can look back at your calendar and track your driving mileage to and from class to be deducted. Miles to and from classes and trainings taught and/or taken can be tracked and used as deductibles.

The rule on deductibles is: They must be both ordinary and necessary. Ask yourself what you need to teach yoga and if those things are common necessities for all yoga teachers. For example: yoga mats, clothes, and trainings. By clicking the hyperlink you will find an article by Turbo Tax which goes into detail on this.

Other business expenses might include accommodation during weekend long workshops as well as meals out during those trips. Keep track of spending during such cases by using a consistent credit card that continuously tracks spending, keeping receipts, or by keeping paper records. My credit card offers a year-end summary that is very handy to double-check my spending, specifically business spending, which I printed out and highlighted before filing my taxes. My credit card, (Capital One Venture) also earns travel points and has no international fees. Perfect for international yoga retreats.

 

When working for multiple studios or for companies teaching corporate yoga, you will receive a 1099 from each employer as long as you earned more than $600 in the year. The 1099 is a form that you will have filled out when you started the job and at the end of the year the employer will send you the completed 1099 with your year-end earnings to be used for filing. Keep track for yourself so you can check for mistakes. One thing to keep in mind, if you send an invoice at the end of December but are not paid until January for that work, then the money paid to you in January will be applied to your following year’s earnings.

Final tip, find a tax professional to help with taxes. It may seem as if taxes are a DIY item, and they may very well have been for you for the majority of your life, but with the complications of working for yourself and juggling multiple studio employers, taxes may no longer be self-manageable. Plus, by hiring a professional you will be able to relax knowing that everything is by the book and that you will be receiving the largest possible refund.


Follow hyperlinks for more information. This article does not constitute as legal, professional tax advice, for the real deal find a tax professional.

New Ways to Give Up Plastic

Most people are familiar with the fact that plastic is ubiquitous and highly damaging to the environment. It’s not hidden knowledge what the most common single-use plastics are and how to cut back on them, such as switching to reusable bags instead of taking plastic bags from stores, using a reusable metal water bottle instead of buying bottled water, and saying no to plastic straws at restaurants and cafes.

These three examples are very good places to start when cutting back on single use plastic. With a little bit of time and effort, it is possible to give up those three forms of polluting plastic all together. After changing your habits in those simple ways, you can begin to look elsewhere in your life and see where polluting plastic is lingering around (for its short lived lifespan) and ways to replace it or stop using it all together. Below are three ways that I have reduced my plastic use in my daily life. Check ’em out and share how you cut back with me. We can do this together.

Floss

Do you floss? Maybe you do, but not as regularly as you should; however often you are flossing, you are probably flossing with plastic. It is obvious that the thin, string-like hygienic product that we keep in our medicine cabinets is made from plastic if we take a second to think about it. What else would it be?

To be honest, I had not considered what my floss was made from until I stumbled upon silk floss (let me repeat that – silk floss – how luxurious)   in the supermarket aisle one night. After taking a moment to read about the product, I was instantly sold. Never again will I buy plastic floss. Silk floss does the job perfectly and is biodegradable. It costs a little more than cheaper, average floss, but it is worth the cost because it lasts for a long time and doesn’t come with any plastic polluting guilt, however, as you can see, the packaging is sadly plastic, but has a plastic 5 recycling lable so will be recyclable when the product is all used up.

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Sponges & Cleaning Products

Colorful sponges that come in four packs of bright yellow, pink, and blue can be made from polyurathane, a plastic and what makes that even worse is that they fall apart. Have you noticed that after a couple of weeks of use that bits of the sponge begin to break off into your dish washing basin? Where do you think those bits of plastic end up going once down the drain? Even if you pick out the bigger pieces, there are bound to be smaller ones that make their way down your kitchen sink’s drain and into the water system.

Instead of using those Spongebob-yellow sponges I have been using wash cloths. I also found more durable sponges made out of natural cellulose with a fiber on top that resembles coconut husk (it is not, but the packaging does not tell me what the top is precisely made of, it does say however, that the entire sponge is 100% plant-based).  I have used these sponges for my bathroom cleaning mostly and am happy to read on the labels that the sponges can be boiled to sanitize and that they are top rack dishwasher safe, plus It scrubs better than the cheap sponges.

For cleaning products I primarily use a simple vinegar and water solution to which I add essential oils. I also found a blog listing secondary uses for lemon peels; soak them in vinegar in a sealed jar for two weeks and add to the vinegar spray for an added fresh scent and as a way to get more life out of the lemons. When life gives you lemons… make lemonade, and then make lemon scented vinegar from the peels!

I also use borax for more heavy-duty soap scum. Used together with the fibrous sponge brings a smooth shine to my bathtub without any harsh chemicals lingering around to contaminate my next bath.

Tea and Coffee

I mostly drink tea, but sometimes coffee, never, ever do I drink Keurigs – those little pods are completely wasteful, prime examples of single use plastic waste. I thought I was doing pretty well with tea and coffee, buying organic and fair trade when my budge allowed, but taking a closer look at my tea bags I realized that my tea often came in little, individual plastic packets (even the organic kinds sometimes). And if the bags aren’t wrapped in plastic then they are sometimes wrapped in aluminum or paper. Even the expensive triangular tea sachets upon inspection are most definitely made from plastic.

It’s impossible to know what the tea looks like inside the box, so I choose to buy a certain brand of tea that comes in a wax lined paper pouch, all 20 tea bags in one pouch, and no staples, strings, or labels. Limited waste. Even better is loose leaf teas bought in bulk. The brand that I prefer from a box is Celestial Seasonings. For bulk tea I buy from a local grocery store. It has to be said that herbal tea grown from the garden or collected from a wild source, dried, and put into glass jars is the least wasteful form of tea and the most pranic. Herbs and flowers for collecting include mint, nettle, chamomile, Calendula, and lavender to name a few.


Plastic is a vital and necessary part of modern life. It is in our phones, computers, cars, almost everything. There is no doubt that plastic will be a part of our daily lives, but certain types of plastics can be cut out of regular use – single-use/disposable plastic. This type of plastic is overused and has a minute lifespan of sometimes only minutes (think about the plastic spoon used to eat greek yogurt, out of a plastic tub, it only takes minutes to eat that snack and then the spoon and the tub are waste.) Start becoming aware of plastic’s detriments and then decide to abstain from using it and encourage those around you to do the same.