End of Summer Recipes

With the end of summer right around the corner, and an overabundance of blueberries (from a recent local blueberry picking adventure) and one massively large zucchini (I guess when you go away for two weeks the little zucchini just grows and grows until it becomes a giant one), I got to work yesterday using up my bounty.  After freezing most of the blueberries, I decided to use what was left in a couple of recipes.

I made a large batch of blueberry jam and several loaves of zucchini/blueberry bread.  I know, the bread  probably sounds weird, but it’s actually super delicious!  It is now my favorite treat.  

The jam will keep on the shelf for up to 18 months (if you are successful in “preserving” it) and the bread will keep in the freezer for several months, if you don’t end up eating it all up as soon as it comes out of the oven.  (Not naming any names, but maybe that’s what kinda happened in my house.)

Zucchini/Blueberry Bread


*A few notes before you get started: You can make the following changes - decrease the amount of sugar by at least 1/4; use canola oil instead of coconut oil; use regular flour in instead of white whole wheat flour; use walnuts instead of pecans - but if using nuts, only use 1/2 cup of blueberries. And, finally, I always set my timer for at least 10 mins less than a recipe calls for when baking for the first time.  Every oven is different. 

Preheat your oven to 350*

Grease the bottom and sides of a standard loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment (or wax) paper.


1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1/4 tsp of baking powder

1/4 tsp of salt

2 tsp of cinnamon

1/2 tsp of nutmeg

1/2 tsp cardamon

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of grated zucchini

1/4 cup of coconut oil

1 egg

1/4 tsp finely shredded lemon peel

1/2 - 2/3 cup of blueberries

optional: 1/4 cup chopped finely pecans


Sift the flour, then combine it with the baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamon in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, on medium high, mix the sugar and egg together well.  With mixer on low (or using a wooden spoon), add zucchini, oil, and lemon peel until well combined. Using a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture, folding it in until just moistened.  Gently fold in the blueberries (and nuts if using them.) Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake on a rack centered in the oven for 55-60 mins, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10 mins in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and continue to cool completely before slicing.

End-of-Summer Blueberry Jam


*A few notes before you get started: I love this recipe, from the cookbook Against All Grain by Danielle Walker, because it is easy and is made with no refined sugar and STILL is so sweet and delicious.  How?  Honey!  (I like my jam a little bit tart, so I tend to cut the amount of honey I use.)   

In order for the jam to be “shelf-stable” for up to 18 months, you have to be sure the canning process is successful.  (I cover that extensively below.)  If it is not, and you will know, you can store it in the refrigerator.  However, it will not stay fresh nearly as long.  You can use frozen and thawed blueberries for this recipe if you don’t have fresh ones.

Things you will definitely need: large pot to sterilize the jars and lids in, small canning jars with two piece lids (a disk and a rim), magnetic lid lifter,  and jar lifter - these serve to preserve sterilization of jars and lids if you plan to keep preserves for a period of time before using.  I also recommend a silicone canning mat, although I’ve read it is not necessary.

Tips: In order to “preserve” the jam, you will need to sterilize your jars and lids.  And you can do that in either a large pot or using your dishwasher.  If you use DW, be sure to time the end of the cycle for when the berries are cooked, so they should be put into the jars as soon as they are ready to go.  Because my DW takes so long to run a cycle, I used a large pot and timed it so that the sterilization step started 10 mins before the berries were finished cooking.

SERVES: this recipe fills three 8-oz jars, but you can double or triple the recipe if you wish to make more.


9 cups blueberries

2 1/4 cups honey (you can use less depending on how tart your berries are)

6 tablespoons lemon juice

3-4 teaspoon lemon zest


Place the blueberries (remember to completely thaw if using frozen) in a large sauce pan (or a large pot if you are making more than one batch) and crush them with the back of a fork or using a potato masher. Add the honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir frequently while the mixture boils for 15-20 minutes and it starts to thicken. The best way to test if it’s done is to put a spoonful in the freezer for 5 minutes. If it won’t easily pour off of the spoon when you remove it from the freezer, then it’s done. Sterilization process - While the jam mixture is cooking, place a large pot of water, with the jars and lids immersed, on the stove over high heat.  As it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium and let it remain on a low boil until preserves are ready.  This should take about ten minutes. When the jam is ready, skim off any foam in preparation for ladling it into the jars.  Using a jar lifter, remove one jar from pot of hot water and place on counter.  Using a large spoon, fill jar with preserves, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Using the magnetic lid lifter, remove a lid from the pot of hot water, making sure the two pieces are in-tact, and screw lid tightly onto jar. Continue until all of the jam has been jarred. You now have two options - 1) store the jam in the refrigerator, for a couple of weeks or 2) “process” the jam using the canning method below.  This will allow the jam to be shelf stable for up to 18 months.

Canning Process:

Use a large pot for the canning method.  Place a silicone canning mat on the bottom of the pot and put the filled jars onto the mat - you should be able to fit three to six depending on the size of your pot.  Fill the pot until the jars are covered with two inches of water.  Bring this to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat slightly, but still at a boil, and continue to boil for at least 10 mins.

Using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the pot and place upside down on a dish towel, leaving them for 20 - 30 mins.  If the canning process worked, the disk part of the lid should be indented tightly and will not move.  This is how you know the canning process has been successful, and the jam should be shelf stable for up to 18 months.  If the dick is not tight and moves then you should store in the refrigerator. 

I hope y’all will give these recipes a try and please let us know how they turned out!  Also, if you have a special recipe you would like to share with our Jaya community, please send Hilary an email.  We would love that!

Enjoy these waning days of summer.. before you know it, we will be talking about pumpkins and cranberries.


August at Jaya Yoga


August is here and the summer days are starting to wind down, but there is still a lot going on at Jaya.  Besides our regular schedule of classes, we have three special series/events on the docket:

Vinyasa Beginner’s Series

Teen Yoga: Back to School, Back to the MATness!

Yoga & Farm to Table Dinner

Intro to Vinyasa Beginner’s Series is very popular and will introduce you to Vinyasa through six 90-minute sessions, starting August 17th.  The cost of the series is $139 and includes a new yoga mat.  The Saturday classes meet from 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM.  

Pre-registration is required and space is limited.

The Teen Yoga Series is offered multiple times throughout the year, with the fall session beginning August 17th.  It is a wonderful way to move your body and mind back into the school year with intention and self-care.

The series consists of six one-hour sessions where students will learn to honor their body and build self esteem and confidence .  The cost of the series is $45.  The Saturday classes meet from 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM.

Pre-registration is required.

The Yoga & Farm-to-Table Dinner is back and in a great new location!  On Friday, August 30th, join Hilary for a relaxing yoga class that will  prepare your body and mind for the fabulous dinner that will follow, prepared by local chef Donna Fitzgerald Vannan.  Get ready to taste, smell and digest in a heightened state of awareness!

This event will take place from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM in the adorable new cafe, The Wandering Hen, located in downtown Scranton with convenient on-street parking.  The cost of this event is $65.

Pre-registration is required.  

Check your schedule and sign up for one of these great August offerings.

Don’t forget to check out our in-studio classes, the on-line offerings, and our summer Aqua Yoga at Glen Oak Country Club (Monday’s & Wednesday’s 9am) or SUP yoga classes offered at the beautiful Lake Hideaway in Moscow, PA.

Yoga offers time to step back from your daily to-do list and focus on your breath.  It’s a vital aspect of self-care in this busy 21st century. Jaya’s offerings are looking to help you navigate life’s challenges on the mat and in your day-to-day life. 


Celebrating Summer with Fresh Strawberries


Summer is now well under way and many of us will be gathering with family and friends throughout the next two months to enjoy the warm weather and nature’s bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit.

Knowing I would be spending most of my day recently at the Apple store, and feeling quite grouchy about it, I decided to start early so I could make a stop at one of the local farms with the “pick-your-own” option before I left town.  And let me tell you, I am so happy I did.  It was just what I needed to put me in a good mood for the rest of the day, no matter what!  

It had been roughly 17 years since I last picked my own strawberries.  And this time I have to admit, it was way more fun!  No small children to get discouraged or too hot; no one to complain that they want to go home; and in just 90 mins (from the moment I parked my car to the moment I drove away) I picked more than two times the amount of berries I ever picked back in the day with three young helpers.

I walked away with roughly 10 pounds of fresh strawberries!  

So now what?  

Well, this weekend I froze a portion, made some preserves, and the rest I set aside for eating now and to use in baking.

In the spirit of the upcoming Fourth of July festivities, I thought I’d share two of my favorite recipes.

When my children were growing up, I made the same strawberry shortcake recipe every summer and they loved it!  It was our tradition.  Now my kids are grown and I’m married to a man who prefers not to consume sugar or grains.  That makes baking difficult.  But with the help of a new cookbook - Sweet Laurel: recipes for whole food, grain-free desserts - I am learning a new way to bake.  

Now before you turn up your nose at that idea, let me assure you this recipe - for a new take on the traditional strawberry shortcake - is so yummy you will want to eat the flipping cake by itself - no strawberries necessary because it is so moist and so sweet!

The second recipe is for my strawberry/lemon preserves.  They are made without refined sugar and add a sweet tangy-ness to anything you want.  I love it on toast;  my husband enjoys it on his oatmeal; it’s delicious on top of ice cream. 

So, without further ado, I hope you will venture soon to try one of the recipes below.  


Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes (Sweet Laurel)    

Ingredients for shortcake

2 cups almond flour

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (can use regular almond or coconut milk)

1/2 cup maple syrup

Ingredients for strawberry sauce

1 pint strawberries, tops removed and quartered

1/4 cup raw honey (I omitted this)

Juice of one lemon

Ingredients for coconut whipped cream

Two 13.5-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

A few notes before you start: 

* I use regular almond milk (found in the refrigerator dairy section) for the cake.  The batter was more runny, but it made no difference in the way the cupcakes baked/came out.

* You MUST use canned full fat coconut milk for the coconut whipped cream.

* I made large muffins/cupcakes and they were done in 23 mins in my oven.  When trying a new recipe, I always check five mins earlier than what the recipe says, just in case. 

* I omit the honey in the strawberry sauce.  This is just a preference as I find the finished product sweet enough for me.

* I use only one tablespoon of maple syrup in the coconut whipped cream, but most people prefer as recipe is written.


1. Preheat oven to 350*. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

2. Sift the flour to remove any lumps.  Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl.  Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, coconut milk and maple syrup together until combines. 

3. A little at a time, add dry ingredients into the wet, stirring until batter combines well.  

4. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups and bake 25-30 mins, until golden brown and inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Immediately turn out/invert cupcakes onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool for one hour.

5. To prepare strawberry sauce, put one cup of the strawberries, the honey, and the lemon juice into a food processor and blend.  Save remainder of cut strawberries for the shortcake assembly.

6. To prepare the coconut whipped cream, remove the solid coconut cream that has risen to the top of the can, and spoon it into a bowl.  Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat coconut cream on high until it thickens and forms small peaks.  IF the cream is too thick, you can add the remaining coconut water, one teaspoon at a time.  Otherwise discard it.

7. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the maple syrup and vanilla.  Transfer into a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

8. To assemble the shortcakes, cut off the top of the cupcake, add a spoonful of coconut whipped cream, and some quartered strawberries.  Drizzle with strawberry sauce.  Add cupcake top, repeat, but be more generous with the sauce on top.


Anut Ellie’s Strawberry Lemon Preserves (revised without refined sugar)


2 lbs strawberries, tops removed and cut in half

Rind of one lemon cut up

1/4 cup water

1/4-1/2 cup of raw honey (or coconut palm sugar or no sugar at all)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

Things you will definitely need: large pot to cook berries in, small canning jars with two piece lids ( a disk and a rim), magnetic lid lifter,  and jar lifter - these serve to preserve sterilization of jars and lids if you plan to keep preserves for a period of time before using.  I also recommend a silicone canning mat, although I’ve read it is not necessary.

Tips: You will need to sterilize your jars and lids.  And you can do that in either a large pot or using your dishwasher.  If you use DW, be sure to time the end of the cycle for when the berries are cooked, so they should be put into the jars as soon as they are ready to go.  Because my DW takes so long to run a cycle, I used a large pot and timed it so that the sterilization step started 10 mins before the berries were finished cooking.

Finally, I used only 1/4 cup of raw local honey for my recipe and it comes out great.  But many “refined sugar free” recipes call for palm coconut sugar.  It has the consistency of regular white sugar.  I made a batch for my husband without any sweetener at all - and it was delicious, but super tangy. 


1. Stir strawberries and water together in a large pot over medium heat, until the fruit begins to bubble.  Turn heat to medium low to allow a gentle boil for 20 mins.  Stir frequently to keep fruit from sticking to the bottom.

2. While fruit cooks, prepare jars and lids for sterilization - place empty jars and lids in a large pot, covering the jars in water, and set aside.

3. After fruit cooks 20 mins, use an immersion blender (or potato masher) to puree fruit.  Add lemon juice and zest and continue cooking for ten more mins.

4. During these last 10 mins, place pot of jars and lids on stove over high heat.  As it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium and let it remain on a low boil until preserves are ready.

5. Remove two tablespoons of fruit and place into glass measuring cup.  Add arrowroot powder and mix well.  This works as a thickening agent in place of pectin or gelatin.  Return to pot of fruit on stove and mix well for about one minute.

6. Remove pot from heat and stir in honey.

7. Using a jar lifter, remove one jar from pot of hot water and place on counter.  Using a large spoon, fill jar with preserves, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Using the magnetic lid lifter, remove a lid from the pot of hot water, making sure the two pieces are in-tact, and screw lid tightly onto jar. Continue process until all preserves have been jarred.

8. To “process” preserves, place silicone canning mat into a large pot and place the filled jars onto the mat.  Fill the pot until the jars are covered with two inches of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce heat slightly and boil for 10 mins.

9. Using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the pot and place upside down on a dish towel, leaving them for 20 - 30 mins.  If the canning process worked, the disk part of the lid should be indented tightly and will not move.  Preserves should last without refrigeration for up to one year.

These small jars make great hostess and thank you gifts.


As always, we are glad you stopped by to spend some time with us on the blog.  If you try a recipe, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know how it worked for you.  And we always enjoy hearing from our readers, so please let us know if there is something you would like us to address in our blog posts.



Change the world by changing yourself. Heal the world by healing yourself. Find a need and fulfill it. Service is the greatest form of spiritual practice. Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t.png

Seva is a word not unfamiliar to yoga teachers. It is translated from Sanskrit to mean selfless service or work performed without any thought of reward or repayment. The Bhagavad Gita (a 700-verse Sanskrit scripture) encourages selfless service as a way to develop one’s character. Seva lies at the heart of the path of karma yoga—selfless action—and asks us to serve others with no expectation of outcome.

A completely selfless good deed is a bit of a challenge, right? Do you not feel good when you help someone or make someone feel good? Is the deed then selfless?  Haven’t seen the episode of Friends where Joey and Phoebe debate selfless good deeds? See it here.

Enter intention. If your intention is to do good for a reward, it isn’t selfless. It is attached to a result or outcome. If your intention is to do good and be of service with love and integrity and genuinely help with no attachment to the outcome, you’re on the right track. Essentially, acting kindly while wearing a cloak of invisibility (see Harry Potter.)

Gratitude for your ability to be of service and pleased with a result is different than only doing the work/service for outcome. For example, see some trash lying around? Pick it up and don't post about it on social media. At the grocery store and see someone struggling? Help them out and don't ask for a tip. Do you have extra time? Volunteer somewhere.  Ram Dass says “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.” Joy begets joy. Kindness begets kindness. Love begets love. 

When you are kind and you make the world a better place it’s difficult not to feel gratitude and joy. Joey Tribianni for the win.

Menu Ideas for Memorial Day Gatherings


Hey y’all - the first celebration of summer is almost here!  Are you excited for a long weekend?

Memorial Day has always been one of my favorites.  Three anniversaries (my grandparents, my parents, and my husband and I) and one birthday (my eldest daughter) have made it extra special.  And with a family that has served our country almost every generation, going back to the Revolution, my parents put a lot of emphasis on remembering those men and women who have given their lives for our country.    

When my daughters were young, we got up early and joined a group in our small New England town that placed American flags by the graves of those who lost their lives fighting in various wars.  Then we walked into town around noon to watch the parade.  I love a good parade, and the Memorial Day parade was always awesome.  I loved the old cars carrying the oldest veterans in the community and the folks dressed up in period costumes marching in formation, representing every branch of the armed services throughout the history of our country.  The fact that they threw peppermints out into the crowd was a plus!    

And finally, while the summer solstice - which marks the official start of summer - is not until the 21st of June, everyone knows Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.  We usually go up to Maine and while it is colder up there, I love to spend time digging in my garden and walking along the beach.

I think most people spend at least one day of the long weekend with family and friends, and that means FOOD!  In case you’re looking for new ideas, I’ve pulled together some of my favorite recipes for large gatherings.  I know burgers and dogs are a staple for every backyard cookout, but I’m sharing a recipe for slow cooked pull beef and side salads (some of which are vegan and many can serve as a main dish) that will go along well with the standard fare.

Slow Cooker Pulled Beef

Serves 10-12, this recipe requires just 15-20 mins of prep, freezes well


  • 2 3/4 - 3 lbs of boneless beef, chuck roast

  • 1 tbsp oil (olive or avocado)

  • large yellow onion - sliced thin

  • 1 - 6 oz can tomato paste

  • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard

  • 1 1/2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced (can sub 2 tsp garlic powder)

  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

  • 2 tsp chili powder (more if you like a bigger punch!)

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper


Take the onion slices and place them in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Depending on the size, you might have more than one layer.  

Cut your beef into 3 chunks of one pound each.  Heat 1 T of oil on medium high heat in a dutch oven or a very large skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the beef and sear for 4-5 mins per side.

While meat is searing, mix together the remaining ingredients.  

Transfer meat to slow cooker, placing it on top of the onions.

Pour the remaining ingredient mixture on top of the beef and onions, stirring to coat the beef well.

Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hrs or until the meat is tender and easily shreds.

When the meat is done, remove and, using two forks, shred the beef.  Return to the slow cooker, stirring to make sure it is mixed in well with everything else.

This can be served with or without a bun. 

Magdalen’s Simple Purple Cabbage Slaw (Vegan)


  • 1 large purple cabbage, chopped

  • Juice of 1 large lime

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - add a little at a time until it seems right.  You don’t want it too oily, but the oil is needed to help it all combine.

  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 tbsp coriander or celery seed


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Italian Pasta Salad 

Recipe from Pinch of Yum, this is a super simple and fast recipe!


  • 1 lb of Fusilli pasta

  • 8 oz fresh small mozzarella balls, cut in half

  • 1 lb summer sausage or salami, cut into chunks (I omit this bc I don’t eat cured meat, but I’m told it makes the dish very good.)

  • 3 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

  • 3/4 cup of black olives, sliced

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  • 1 1/2 cups Italian Dressing (see recipe for this at end)

  • Optional: sliced red onion and crumbled feta cheese


Cook the pasta according to directions.  Allow to cool slightly. (IF you are not putting the salad together immediately, toss with a little oil to prevent it sticking together.)

Mix remaining ingredients (except the dressing) together while the pasta cooks.

When pasta is cooked, toss everything together with the salad dressing.

This will keep for 2-3 days.  I always make it a day ahead.

Italian Salad Dressing


  • 3/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (can use white vinegar)

  • 2 tbsp water

  • 1 tbsp sea salt

  • 1 tbsp dried oregano *

  • 1 tbsp dried basil *

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • black pepper to taste

    *I use fresh herbs when I can.  If using fresh herbs, you should use 1 tsp instead of 1 tbsp.


Whisk the ingredients hard, or run through a blender, to make it thick and creamy.

Vegan Pasta Salad

Serves 6 - recipe from The Awesome Green


  • 3 cups penne or spiral whole wheat pasta

  • 3 cups roasted chickpeas

  • 6 tbsp toasted mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc)

  • 3 large zucchini, cut into cubes

  • 3/4 tsp sea salt

  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

  • 6 tbsp vegan pesto

  • 3 large punch of fresh parsley

  • 2 Handfuls of mint leaves, roughly chopped

  • 2 Handfuls of fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped


Prepare the pasta according to directions.

Drain water and transfer into a large bowl, add pesto, toss to combine, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in skillet over low heat, add garlic cloves and fry for 20 seconds.  Add zucchini cubes.

Cover over low heat for 7 mins, stirring frequently, then season with salt and add to the bowl of pasta.

Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.

Tuscan Pasta Salad


Can be adjusted for vegans and serves 6-8


  • 16 oz bowtie pasta

  • 7 oz sun-dried tomatoes, drained

  • 6.5 oz can black olives, sliced

  • 1 cup spinach

  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese (can be omitted for vegans)

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing

This is my go-to salad dressing for everything!

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • Juice of 1 large lemon

  • 3 T Dijon Mustard

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 t sea salt

  • 1/4 t ground pepper

  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped

  • optional - 1 t dried oregano and 1 t dried basil


Cook pasta according to directions.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and set aside while pasta cooks.

Make the dressing, using a whisk or in a jar and shake well - either will make it thick and creamy.

Toss the pasta with the other ingredients and drizzle salad dressing until covered to preference, tossing til combined.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Vegan and serves 8-10


  • 2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 2 cans of white corn, rinsed and drained (“shoe-peg” is preferable)

  • 2 red peppers, chopped

  • 3 scallions, chopped

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in quarters

  • 2 barely ripe avocados, cut up in small squares

  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped


In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together, except the avocado.  Toss with my Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing.  For a punch, substitute juice of 2 small limes for lemon juice.

Gently toss in avocado before serving.

Chocolate Brownies

Makes 12


  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temp but not too soft

  • 2 1/2 cups of light brown sugar, packed

  • 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


Preheat oven to 350*. Generously grease 9” x 13” brownie pan.  Line bottom of pan with parchment (or wax) paper.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and chocolate.  Microwave on high for 1 min.  Stir.  If chocolate is not softened, then repeat for 10 second intervals until melted.

Beat eggs and vanilla into the melted chocolate.  Turn-in (mix in) the flour and salt.

Pour everything into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top.

Bake for 35-40 mins, but adjust time if you know your oven needs it.  Prick with toothpick to see if it comes out clean - you want the brownies to be done, but NOT overcooked.  

Place on cooling rack and let it cool.

Turn brownies out onto work surface and cut into squares or, using a cookie cutter into shapes.  You can sprinkle with powdered sugar, regular sugar or cocoa.

Serve with vanilla ice cream!

Mimi’s Chocolate Chip Shortbread, Vegan


  • 2 sticks of Earth Balance vegan butter, at room temp, but not too soft

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1 tbsp pute vanilla extract

  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375*  Take out a 9” x 13” brownie pan - do not grease it.

In a mixer, beat “butter” with sugar until creamy, but do not over mix.  It should be mixed but not too soft.

Add flour and combine easily.  Add vanilla and salt and combine using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Add chips, combining with spatula or wooden spoon.

Transfer batter into brownie pan and make sure it is even.

Bake for 11 mins, or longer, until top is slightly brown.

Allow to cool in the pan, set on a cooling rack, for 5-10 mins.  Then cut into squares.

These are really good with vegan ice cream or regular ice cream or just as they are!

Mother's Day

Copy of Mothers Day Jeanne.png

Sunday is Mother’s Day and when it comes, it will bring with it all the complicated feelings surrounding a day centered on Mothers. 

I’m very lucky.  At 90 years old, my mother is still here and, both mentally and physically, vital.  I’m also lucky because I’m the mother of three healthy children.  And, to top it all off, I enjoy a positive and affirming relationship with all four. 

But this is not necessarily the case for others.  It is not always this simple and succinct.   

In spite of all my good fortune, I have a lot of mixed feelings around the idea of setting aside one day to celebrate the woman who bore and/or raised us. 

An obvious reason is that the concept of Hallmark holidays grates on me more and more as the years pass.  I hope I do a good job showing my mother the depth of gratitude throughout the entire year and not in just one big way every May.

But another reason is simply this - there is so much wrapped up in the idea of being a mother and what that word means.  Not everyone has a mother they can or would want to celebrate (and the later effects not only the child, but also the mother), and not everyone who wants to be a mother has been able to have that experience long term or at all due to the loss of a pregnancy, the death of a child, infertility, or other reasons. 

For years now, I have looked at Mother’s Day as an opportunity to thank the various women in my life who have supported me in a myriad of ways.  I see it as more focused on the idea of nurturing rather than a day centered around mothers.

Women who don't have children of their own (by choice or by chance) can provide a  maternal influence in spite of their lack of “official” experience, and mothers with children can also be a maternal figure to those who are not their children - both in ways we rarely think about or consider when we think about Mother’s Day. 

Women, as a whole, look after and care for others. Period.

 Without my older sisters, one of whom never married and did not have children, I would not have made it through many difficult moments in high school and college, not to mention all the times they have held me up since.  My aunt, who did not want children of her own, played a huge part in the lives of my daughters after my divorce and was always a source of inspiration and strength for me until her death two years ago.  My best friend since high school, Jenny, has been mothering and counseling me for almost 40 years, and it all started when she helped me with my math homework.  She has a family of her own, including two sons and an elderly mother.  My house parent (never married/never had children) in boarding school - she put up with a LOT and was still there whenever I felt homesick with a sympathetic ear and a plate of cookies; my voice teacher in college (who wanted, but was unable to have children) - she had a box of kleenex just for me in her studio and always allowed me to unload my personal struggles; my college roommate, who cooked for me for two years whenever I was too tired to cook for myself and helped me fold laundry; my mother’s best friend (ran a large corporation and was a single mother of two), who gave me her beautiful designer suits when I got my first job and imparted me sage advice throughout my life.  My new friends in NEPA who have reached out and helped me find a place where I can feel at home.  And I could go on.  All women, but not all “mothers”, and each one of them has nurtured me in an important way.

The point is it takes a village, and the need for a loving and supportive presence in our lives doesn’t begin and end with our mothers. While our mothers are the ones who gave us life and were, possibly, the first to show us love and compassion, they have not been the only ones who have held our hands and held us up throughout our lives.   

We all have, or have had, teachers who have gone that extra mile or friends who made time for us while juggling their own needs in school, developing their own careers, running their own businesses, volunteering to make a difference in the world, and caring for their own families - women who make an impact in our lives with their nurturing and supportive natures. 

On Sunday I will thank my mother, my sisters, my friends and others who have been there for me, and remain here with me.  I will sit quietly and think of those who are no longer here. 

I will also think of  my friends who are struggling this mother’s day because they are unable to celebrate with their mother and those who are unable to celebrate as mothers.

As with all things in life, nothing is cut and dry.  The best we can do is strive to show our gratitude and compassion, especially during these Hallmark holidays that are just a bit more complicated than they appear on paper and in commercials. 


Happy May Day!

Even though it seemed as if it might never happen, the first of May is finally here.  Thinking back over this past winter, I remember weeks where I thought enough already!  I’m so grateful for my yoga practice, which provided me with the guidance I needed during the coldest and darkest days.  Now it seems odd the sun doesn’t set until after 7 PM, but I’m not complaining!


In March we celebrated the 8th anniversary of the opening of Jaya Yoga Studio.  All those who came to join Hilary and her wonderful group of teachers made it quite the festive occasion.  I asked Hilary about those early days, weeks and months, and here is what she shared: 

“It’s hard to believe eight years have come and gone. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! Jaya has surpassed anything I could have imagined. The teachers, staff, and students have created a community second to none. The support, encouragement, strength, love, and friendship shared, on the mat and off, is humbling and empowering. I’m consistently inspired by this incredible group of humans. 

2019 is shaping up to be our busiest yet, as we embarked on two new adventures. In January we launched Jaya Daily, Jaya’s online yoga studio which allows students the ability to practice on their own terms. Sometimes life gets in the way and being able to go online to practice with the Jaya Tribe anywhere, anytime, and from any device is something I really wanted to offer because a home practice is a wonderful addition to any studio practice. 

At the ‘birthaversary’ party in March, we showcased a fleet of paddle boards, revealing Jaya’s newest undertaking.   This Summer we will be offering signature Namastayafloat paddleboard yoga classes. Yoga often challenges us with new poses and flows, encouraging us to walk toward change with excitement rather than fear. Yoga also encourages us to get up and try again if we fall down. Paddleboard yoga seems to embody these sentiments in spades. We will dive in together on June 1st at our launch event at Lake Hideaway in Moscow, where we will hold regular classes on Tuesday & Thursday mornings from 9 AM - 11 AM. Keep checking our website and social media outlets for additional class times.” 


At the party two paddleboards were set up in one of the studios giving everyone a chance to try them out.  Crowds gathered as teachers and students alike took their turn.  As an observer, I can tell you it was pretty cool and a lot of buzz was generated!  Many were surprised they were able to steady themselves on a paddleboard, and a lot of interest and excitement was expressed in this latest offering. 

In no time, we will be able to enjoy the May flowers brought on by all the April showers, and the days will continue to grow warmer and longer.  And as we move into the summer months, don’t forget we have special events scheduled throughout.  In May alone we have the following:

May 5th at 4 PM

Replenish & Restore - a special candlelight restorative yoga class using Reiki and Young Living Oils to facilitate a deeper release and relaxation.   

May 11th at 10 AM

Breathe, Bend & Buildup - a special outdoor, all-levels yoga class celebrating an inspiring group of young people and to support BUILD UP (a non-profit that empowers youth to positively impact others through inspirational and encouraging handwritten messages.)  This is a donation class, and all proceeds go to benefit BUILD UP.

For more information on these, and all of our special events, please check out the website under the tab Workshops & Events.

As always, we are happy to have you visit us here on our blog and would love to hear from you.  So please, feel free to leave us a comment or pose a question.  And, please encourage your yoga friends to visit us as well.  

Each week new content is added to Jaya Daily, Jaya’s online yoga studio, with more opportunities to practice with your Jaya tribe anywhere, anytime, from any device! Vacationing this Summer? Take Jaya with you.  Life at home making it difficult to get away?  Jaya Daily is there for you. 

And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram.  Hilary updates the account daily with class schedules, motivational quotes, and photographs.  Be sure to tag us (@jayayogastudio) in any of your Jaya Studio yoga posts on IG, be it in the studio or on your mat practicing with our online classes.  We always love to see your photos!

Until next time…



Spotlight On...Corrin McAlarney

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This month we are shining our spotlight on another local Jaya teacher.  Corrin McAlarney led an active life growing up in Dickson City.  While she spent years involved in baton twirling and cheerleader, she also enjoyed being outdoors ice skating and swimming.   

Throughout her life Corrin has been guided by a passion to help others, and after high school she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at Misericordia University in Dallas, PA.  Since then she has worked in various areas of the medical field, all focused on patient care.

It wasn't until 2013 that she first tried yoga.  There came a point where Corrin felt stress was significantly effecting her daily life, both personally and professionally.  When she saw a notice on Facebook for the Beginner’s Series at Jaya, she made plans to attend with a co-worker.  And, as they say, the rest is history.  When asked what made her stick with yoga, Corrin responded, “From the moment I entered the studio, I felt like this was where I was supposed to be at that point in my life.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt different - - in a positive way.”

After she completed the Beginner’s Series, Corrin began to attend class at least three to four times a week.  With each class she saw an internal shift within herself.  “Though life will always be stressful, I found a release through yoga.”

In 2016 Corrin decided to enroll in the Teacher Training program.  The impetus for this had nothing to do with becoming a teacher, and this is something I hear often when interviewing for this series; much more than I expected.  Like others, Corrin was looking to “dive deeper” into her own practice.  She didn’t want the expectations of being a teacher; she just wanted to dig deep.  And dig deep she did.  Also, similar to our other teachers, Corrin lists the relationships that were developed as being a major benefit of the experience.  “The fellow trainees were really supportive, and we each brought our own personal experience and love for yoga, which made it so special.”

Corrin was the first in her group to teach outside of the program.  Half way through the training, she decided to plan a class as a fundraiser in support of a friend who was participating in Ryan’s Run.  In the lead up to that class, Corrin said the support of her co-trainees proved invaluable.  While she was nervous about the undertaking, everything went off as planned.  The day of the class Corrin faced over 30 faces, and all of her fellow trainees were in attendance.  “Having the other trainees there eased my nerves and let me enjoy how special the experience was.”  When it was over she realized that “guiding students through this moving meditation was a gift.”

When asked her favorite way to unwind, Corrin responded without hesitation, “Yoga.  If I am not on my mat regularly, it shows.  And those who know and love me can see it.”  All of our teachers I’ve spoken to thus far have told me something similar, and the longer I am involved in yoga the more I understand this.

Outside of yoga and work, Corrin and her husband spend their free time being active outdoors - riding bikes and hiking - or traveling.  “We are always up for an adventure!”

Dishonesty is her biggest pet peeve.  “In the world today, I feel we need to hold ourselves accountable, which creates self confidence and builds strong relationships within our work place and with those who are closest to us.”  And, as they say, “honesty is the best policy.” 

Corrin’s overall health and wellness philosophy?  “Be grateful for the body you inhabit today.  Each day our body shows up differently.  So, instead of being hard on ourselves, we need to listen to our body and give it what it needs - - whether that is rest, exercise, nutrition, etc.”  Corrin’s reminder to “be kind to your body because it is the only one you get” really hit home for me, and it certainly reflects the practice and philosophy of yoga.

When asked where she saw herself in five years, Corrin responded,  “Happy and in a good place.  I have no expectations.  I just try to live every day to the fullest.”

In reference to her favorite pose, Corrin had a great visual to share:  “I love reverse warrior.  I always think - reach forward and grab whatever it is that is holding you back that day …. then just throw it over your shoulder.  Release it and let it go.”  Sounds good to me!  Corrin continued: “Much like life, our yoga practice is a continual practice of working towards the best version of ourselves, which we do each time our feet hit our mats.”  Very wise words.

Corrin told me she doesn’t really have a least favorite pose, and that did not surprise me.  “I have held back on arm balances and inversions, but recently in my home practice I’ve been focusing more on them and seeing that they are a possibility.”

The best aspect of Teacher Training?  It remains the same for everyone I’ve interviewed - the relationships forged.  And many add to that the experience of sharing.  “We all brought a different dynamic, which is what made the experience so special” Corrin told me.  “Everyone there had a shared, mutual love of yoga.  To move and breathe on your mat with people who have the same appreciation and love of yoga was inspiring.”

The worst aspect? “When it was over.  That was hard.  Everyone has their own life and we’re all busy.  I love the days when I come to class and am able to practice in a room full of fellow yogis.”

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My favorite question to ask is about the influences a teacher feels they bring to the classes they teach.  It’s so interesting when I’m talking to someone whose class I take, because I am never surprised by their answer.  “I like to think I offer a space to move and breathe with challenges along the way.  Sometimes we find ourselves in our heads.  We might be thinking, ‘I can’t.  This is too hard,’ and maybe we compare ourselves to the person on the mat next to us.  But we have to remember: we are all strong.  Some things may come easier, but others we have to work harder for.  Usually the poses we shy away from the most are the ones our bodies need the most.  When you roll out your mat, I encourage you to be present for those moments you are on it, to listen to your body, and to give it what it needs, what it deserves.”

I closed the interview by asking what was her favorite yoga class to take.  “It depends on how I am feeling that day.  Sometimes I seek an open level class to challenge myself, other days Yin or Restorative call to me.  Every day I look forward to getting on my mat, tapping into my breathe, and finding that moving meditation.”

Thank you Corrin.  It was a pleasure!

Yes, I Can Change my Reality

Life is funny.  Last week, after writing this post, I learned from Hilary that her theme is for the month is Yoga Sutra 2.33, which says: When disturbed by negative thoughts, cultivate the opposite mental attitude (Vitarka-badhane pratipaksha-bhavanam).  No doubt, the universe is definitely trying to tell me something.

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So, March is here and it’s still cold, and frankly, I’m not loving it.  I’ve lived in the northeast for more than half of my life, and I still find it hard to believe how cold and snowy March can be! 

In years past, I have managed to do a pretty good job of buckling down and dealing with it - - but not this year.  For some reason I just cannot get over the fact that it is still cold and there is STILL snow in our forecast!  I keep googling the groundhog and his prediction for spring - over and over and over.  

Yesterday, we “sprang forward”. In ten short days, the spring equinox will arrive.  But I know, in my heart of hearts, that I will still have to pull on my boots and put on my coat, and my hat and my mittens, because it will still be cold -  for many weeks to come.

Friday, March first, I woke up and felt the burden of a seemingly never ending winter upon me.  I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I didn’t want to get dressed.  I didn’t want to go outside.  Basically, I threw a little hissy fit about it and did as little as possible for the entire day; I didn’t even go to my 10AM yoga class.  Consequently, by the end of the day I was so down I couldn’t even get myself motivated to go out with my husband.  Thankfully, he was very understanding, and we settled in to watch a mediocre movie on Netflix instead.  When the movie was over, he reminded me of something I had allowed myself to forget.  “Let today go.  It’s over and done!  But tomorrow, put your yoga clothes on as soon as you get up.  That way, you will have no reason for not going.  I bet after class I will get a text telling me how glad you are that you went.”  As per usual, the professor was correct!

While I begrudgingly pulled on my yoga pants that Saturday morning, and cursed the light snow that had accumulated on my car overnight, the moment I walked into Jaya, and Renea greeted me in her ever joyous voice, I knew everything would be alright.  And it was.

Erin started our class by reminding us that this was our time.  We were there and for the next 75 mins everything else could wait.  I closed my eyes and set my intention for centered peace.  As I began to breathe, slow and deliberate, I felt unburdened.   At the end of my practice, I was reminded of the prayer for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the courage to change the things we can.  

I cannot change the weather.  It is what it is.  BUT, I can make an effort to change my attitude.  This morning I read an article about an elderly person who said they spent many years hating winter and complaining.  Then one day they realized most of their life was behind them, and they simply could not stand the thought of spending one more minute bitching about it.  Right then and there, they decided to acknowledge their gratitude, each and every day, for another opportunity to rejoice in the gift of life - no matter what, even in the midst of the bleak mid-winter.

The practice of yoga has been a steadfast teacher.  I am learning to accept so many of the things I cannot change -  about myself, about this world, and about life in general.  I am also learning to find the courage to make changes where I can.  And if I get distracted and find myself off my mat more often than on it, I know yoga will still be there, welcoming me back with open arms and loving kindness.


Can we be a culture of Love Thy Selfie?


Be honest. Who hates Valentines Day?

If you’re not in a relationship, it can bring up feelings of loneliness and dread. If you are in a relationship, it can be disappointing or anticlimactic.

V-Day has the power to create depression and self-loathing in many people because of societal attachments to love and worth coming from another person. Society perpetuates the idea that if we don’t have a romantic partner in our life on February 14th, then we are worthless. This is an idea yoga looks to eradicate.

Society has become a “Look At Me/Watch Me” culture. More and more people are placing their value and self-worth on “likes” and “follows” on their social media. It’s mind blowing.

Many of us have become so busy creating an energy of being seen, noticed, and heard in the world, that we are attaching inappropriate value to our social media accounts. We compare our followers with other people’s followers. Seriously, are humans only worth-while and love-able if we are in a relationship and have a gazillion followers? Is that truly what will make a person love another person?

Social media has given us a culture of watching, but are we really seeing ourselves? And not through the eyes of social media, but through our hearts, souls, actions, words, and deeds. Aren’t these the things that warrant merit, the things others really love about us?

As yogis, we strive to practice awareness, acknowledgement, and non-attachment. It can be challenging to take that practice off the mat and into our lives. Yoga was, is and always will be about learning things on the mat to get better at living life off of it.

Likes and follows, by their very nature, are counter intuitive to the non-attachment of yoga. Are you posting for a result or to represent the work, self-expression, and the artistry itself?

This valentine’s day, let’s switch perspectives. Try cultivating value in yourself. Strive to see, hear, and notice yourself with merit and worth. And, finally, be more open-hearted and loving with the reflection in the mirror. Forget about a preplanned post for social media fame. Live for you, practice for you, and, if you post, post for you.


Hilary's Monthly Musing - January

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Some days it’s impossible to get to the studio, because, let’s face it, life happens.  So does weather.  That’s why we created Jaya Daily.  Now you can get your zen online, anywhere, anytime.  We wanted to make it possible for you to join your Jaya tribe whenever, and wherever, from any device in order to meditate, practice, or work on one of your favorite poses with a tutorial.  The new online platform allows you to stay consistent in the face of life’s little speed bumps.

Maybe you struggle to cultivate a home practice.  Jaya Daily can help.  Distractions happen.  Have pets, kids, to-do lists?  Your home practice doesn’t have to look just like your studio practice.  In fact, it should look different.  Maybe you get on your mat and pop in for a quick class while your laundry is in the dryer.  Maybe it’s 10 minutes of handstand or crow play.  It could even be your favorite restorative posture in front of your favorite tv show. 

 A little more than five years ago, the studio was booming and I was teaching. A lot.  What I wasn’t doing as much of was practicing.  Free time was devoted to new playlists, covering other teachers classes, etc.  Often we overlook ourselves to get those to-do lists done.  So, on a cold, December day I threw down my mat and haven’t looked back. 

Some days my body knew what it needed and guided me.  Other days I needed to be led and videos helped.  The best classes were those led by my teachers, speaking my language, and that’s what I want Jaya Daily to be for you - an extension of the incredible in-studio community and an opportunity for people to stay connected when they can’t make it to Jaya.

I get on my mat. Every. Single. Day. And each day my practice looks different.  One day it might be two shorter practices, with one in the morning and one in the evening.  Another day it could be Yin or Restorative; some days a vigorous vinyasa.  The point is perfection is a myth.  Throw on a video.  Listen to a five minute audio meditation while you fold laundry.  What it looks like is up to you.  Videos or no videos, make the time you do have the right time. 

Resolutions vs. Intentions

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The New Year is a time to start fresh and make changes. It’s a metaphoric clean slate.  But we get a clean slate every day, every hour, every minute.  It’s our mindset.  Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?  Want the secret to starting the year with a no lose mindset?  

Let’s start by kicking resolutions to the curb! Resolutions are an archaic unforgiving idea you need to toss out with last night’s trash. Resolutions are absolutes. They feel judgey and have a connotation of you not being good enough as you are. This is the opposite of yoga. They are outdated and unforgiving, much like an ex. Remember they are exes for a reason.  

The key to success lies in Sankalpa or intention.  It’s single pointed focus and resolve. Intentions aren’t absolute; you don’t fail with a misstep. And lets face it we are humans. We are imperfect creatures and there will always be missteps.  

Quickly swallowing a sandwich in the car on the way to a meeting or enjoying a 4-course meal at 6pm is still considered eating. It’s the intention that matters.

Are you trying to race through the meal or enjoy it? Savor it?  What is the motivation? Is it dinner, supper, fine dining or grabbing a bite? 

Intention is deciding to improve on what is already there.  Like yoga, clearing away the clutter to reveal what is buried beneath.

Create your Sankalpa. Say it aloud. Write it on a post it note or ten. Breathe it in on your mat. Make it a word or a statement that is realistic and can be supported with action steps.  

And if you make a mistake, veer off course; intentionally choose to get back on the path. Seriously when one door closes, open it again. That’s how doors work.

The Breath

This week we are pleased to share an article from one of our newest Jaya teachers, Erica Nealon.  While the topic of breath is always important, it can become even more relevant during this season of the year.    

The Breath


Take a second and listen to your breath. Watch your chest rise with each inhale and fall with each exhale. Think about where that breath is going when you take it in, and what is being released when you send it out.

We never spend much time thinking about our breath. We may only think about it when it’s cold and we can see it, or when we have exhausted it and our breathing is labored. 

The focus of the breath is essentially our practice in yoga, but we don’t really have to think about it. We just do it. We just breathe.

Our breath is what keeps us here. It’s what can take us back to the present moment. It keeps our bodies working. When we breathe, we send oxygen to every little cell in our body, keeping them working and expelling carbon dioxide with each exhale. 

Breathing is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. 

Dolphins are conscious breathers. They do not breathe automatically like we do; they decide when to breathe. They actually have to think about it while they are sleeping, which means that a part of their brain has to remain constantly awake in order for a dolphin to remember to breathe. 

Humans can have prolonged periods of unconsciousness and not have to worry that our breathing will stop because we are no longer thinking about it. 

Dolphins use what is known as unihemispheric sleep - only one hemisphere of the brain can sleep at a time in order for the other one to control the breathing. For breathing purposes, they rest on the surface of the water while they sleep. This means they are actively thinking about their breath, always.

Imagine if we had to think about breathing. Imagine if you had to make a decision whether or not to breath. 

If I decide not to breathe at this moment, I can decide if I want to live or die; however, we never think about our breath in this way. Most of us never really think about our breath in any way. We just know we do it. We know that it is important, but we never take the time to focus on it. We think about breathing in terms of living. The breath gives us life. If we are no longer breathing, we are no longer alive. We don’t think about breath in terms of dying until we have to.

Have you ever watched someone take their last breath? When you know someone is leaving this Earth, you do not focus on their kidneys; you do not focus on their heart; you do not focus on their brain. You focus on their breath. 

There are patterns of breath that come before death. While the other organs may be failing and causing the actual death, it is the breathing that we can see and hear. As death nears, the breath becomes irregular. Rapid breathing may occur at first, followed by a period of little to no breath. The time between each breath becomes longer. It can just be a few seconds or it can be as long as a minute.

When you are watching a loved one in this state, that is what you are watching - the breath. When the final breath is taken, you know. You know that the person has left this Earth.

Do we focus on our own breath? We should. 

Focusing on our breath keeps us in the present. We live each moment by each breath. The next breath is not guaranteed. Each time we breathe, we are sending oxygen to the brain. We are sending it to the places in our body that needs it in that present moment. 

Taking some time each day to focus on your breath will ground you in the present moment. It does not matter what is happening around you; it does not matter what thoughts are racing through your mind. As soon as you stop and focus on your breath, that becomes the only thought. It becomes the only focus. 

It’s good to take some time each day and focus on the thing that keeps us alive, to be grateful that we can breathe.

Hilary's Monthly Musing - December

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Do you take better care of your cell phone than you do of your mind? 

Let’s be honest.  For many of us, our cell phones have become so important that we sleep with them, eat with them, and, quite possibly, feel anxious if they are out of sight.  As a society, we have become completely dependent on this tiny, electronic device.  We collectively spend more time and money (fancy cases, apps, etc.) on our phones than we do taking care of ourselves.  

But here’s the thing people - - self-care is the new health care.    

Health begins and ends with peace-of-mind.  Science supports the negative affects of stress on our bodies, and, let’s face it, never in modern history have humans been so stressed.  We live in a constant state of it.  Most of us are so used to it, we aren’t even aware we are taking shallow breaths, experiencing muscle tightness, suffering from adrenal fatigue…and the list goes on.

Are you worried? 

Here’s something to think about - what is it that we really, truly need VS. what we want in order to make life easier or, as the saying goes, keep up with the Jones’?   

Who hesitates at the thought of buying a gym/studio membership because of cost, but gets that new phone case with no hesitation?  Who has thought going organic was too expensive, but has been eager to upgrade to the newest iPhone every time one is released?  

Desire is an imposition on peacefulness.  Why?  Because peace is desire-less; it needs nothing to exist.  Cell phones, and electronic devices in general, prevent us from experiencing quiet.  And let’s be honest - in our modern world, silence can be uncomfortable.  

Are you starting to fidget at the mere suggestion of it?  

Most of us have had that experience - sitting in stillness, hearing the thoughts, but not wanting to think them, and trying to find a way to distract ourselves.  Most humans want to avoid feeling uncomfortable.  In fact, many will go to great lengths to avoid discomfort.  

As a society, it seems we are developing an Avoidance Disorder.  Our coping skills are failing.  Because of the modern world, people don’t want to feel anything.  If Siri or Alexa can’t fix it, the slightest struggle can send people onto a tailspin. 

Electronic devices, in general, provide humans an easy out; a way to avoid doing the hard work and the heart-work. The energetic vibration of a cell phone can mess with our energetic vibrations and vice versa.  We are out-of-sync with our selves, seeking answers from an electronic device when we are the only true knower of the answers we seek.  

A cell phone, iPad, or any electronic device is replaceable; however, you are not.  While these devices are expensive, you, my friend, are priceless.   

So, please, know your worth.  Spend the extra time and money on yourself, rather than a device.  Use the tools Meditation, Yoga, and Reiki provide to live a healthier, happier, more peaceful life.


Jaya's Pose of the Month - December

December’s Pose of the Month

Jaya's Pose of the Month - December

Each month we introduce our "Pose of the Month."  You won't necessarily find any dedicated focus given to that pose in your classes at Jaya, although some teachers may chose to do so; it is more about the idea of exposing us to various poses and how we might benefit from incorporating them into our own personal practice.  

This article is designed to give you basic information on the pose, as well as step-by-step instructions (accompanied by photographs of our Jaya teachers as illustration) to guide you.  We expect many will be familiar, while some may be new to you.

As always, we look forward to hearing back from you as you read our weekly posts.  We’d love to hear your feedback!  And, of course, feel free to share with your friends!



Plank is the perfect pose to tone the core for the holidays!  It also strengthens the wrists, arms, and spine.  Plank helps lay the ground work for more challenging arm balances and is also a key pose in Sun Salutations.

Start in Adho Muhka Svanasana (Downward Dog.)  Inhale, then shift your weight forward until your shoulders are directly over your wrists and your torso is parallel to the floor.  Spread your fingers wide.  Firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor -  essentially, press the earth away.  Broaden your shoulder blades.  Lengthen the crown of your head forward and your tailbone toward your heels.  Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.  For a more advanced variation, try lifting one leg up at a at time.  

Spotlight On…Cindy Condella


Each month we will present an in-depth look at one of our Jaya teachers/practitioners.  This month we are shining our spotlight on Cindy Condella.

Cindy is another local Jaya teacher, growing up not far from our studio in Clark Summit on Grove Street.  She teaches Slow Flow, Open Level Flow, and Yin.  When I asked Cindy which was her favorite, she told me she likes each one in a different way.  “Yin and Slow Flow are more meditative and methodical, while Open Level Flow is more physically challenging with increased stamina and energy.  All are equally enjoyable to teach.  It’s the students that make the class.”

Active and energetic all of her life, Cindy started dance lessons as  a little girl, in a studio conveniently located across the street from her house.  Over the years, she studied ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop.  As she got older, Cindy started to look for a more rigorous and organized option to dance classes, but in the 90’s there weren’t opportunities for a dance troupe in this area.  She dabbled in various sports, but found cheerleading gave her the organized athletic outlet she craved as it integrated dance. 

Unlike me, Gym was Cindy’s favorite class in school.  When she found herself with two Study Hall periods, she asked to be put into a second Gym class.  For her, quiet time was best spent choreographing routines, and to this day she is best centered and focused when she is practicing yoga.  She takes classes at various studios and practices yoga at home daily.  “Physical activity helps to calm my mind.  Through the physical practice of yoga, we exert our bodies so our minds can be still.  That’s how we get to that meditative state.”

Although she was encouraged for years to try yoga, it wasn’t until 2011 that her friend Mary took her to her first class - Candlelight at Jaya.  For Cindy it was not love at first try.  “I had no idea what I was doing!  The whole time I had my feet turned out, as if I were in ballet.”

The first two years of her yoga practice were sporadic, with Cindy attending class once every two months.  It was “a slow process, a one-step-at-a-time” kind of thing, she told me.  As 2013 rolled around, Cindy found herself committing to two classes each week.  By the time 2014 was in in swing, Cindy was hooked, “110%.”    

“I began feeling better, sleeping better and found I was more accepting.  I was a better person when I practiced yoga, and people around me could see the difference.”

As I hear from many regular yoga practitioners, there was a correlation between Cindy’s evolving commitment to yoga and how things began to play out in her personal life.  

When Cindy graduated from Marywood University, she continued her career in the hospitality industry, and eventually found herself working as a wedding specialist with a local historic hotel.  While she enjoyed her work, she knew it wasn’t what she wanted in the long run.  She had ideas; dreams of something more, and on her own terms.

In her early 30’s, Cindy found her personal and professional life at a crossroads.  She began to question every decision she made, and eventually this led to an anxiety attack than landed her in the hospital.  “I was physically and mentally unhealthy.  Yoga helped me realize I had to let go, that I can’t control everything.  Our past mistakes are in the past and worrying about our future is futile.  We learn through our practice to be present in the moment and observers of both our physical and mental state, taking the necessary adjustments to be the best versions of ourselves.” 

In 2014, Cindy made an important decision.  She left her corporate job and started her own business as a wedding planner.  2016 brought more positive changes and happiness.  It was the year she started Teacher Training at Jaya and it was the year she and her long-time love, Gerard, were married.

When asked what made her decide to commit to Teacher Training, Cindy responded, “ I don’t remember exactly, but I had no expectation outside of the desire to deepen my practice and learn about the philosophy and discipline of yoga.”

Cindy shared that it took her a year of teaching regularly to find her voice and style as a teacher.  “It will take years to really develop as a teacher, but that’s exciting.  With yoga there is no end.  It’s sustainable.  I can teach and practice forever.”

I asked what was the best part of Teacher Training, and Cindy was quick to respond, “It was the relationships we forged.  It was intense.  Many of us came up together, started to practice together.  Through the teacher training, we got to know each other in a significant way.” 

The worst aspect? “When it was over, I wanted to keep learning.  I love to learn!  And I missed the connection with the people I went through the process with.”

Cindy’s favorite pose?  “Half moon.  It exemplifies flexibility,  balance, and stability.  I’m also really into inversions right now, handstand variations in particular.”

Least favorite pose?  “It changes, but right now it is back bends, camel.”

Cindy’s favorite way to unwind after a long day is yoga, but she also enjoys a glass of wine and luxuriating in a warm bath.  “I always enjoy taking a walk with my husband and our dog, and any other dog we decide to bring along with us.”  (Cindy and Gerard are known to take other peoples’ dogs out with them on their walks around their neighborhood.  Nice neighbors to have!) 

Biggest pet peeve?  “Negative self-talk.”

When asked what her health and wellness philosophy was, Cindy told me, “It’s simple.  Make time for your own physical and mental health.  Stop making excuses and make a commitment to yourself.”  Can't argue with that!

I asked Cindy where she saw herself in five years.  “Well, I’ve actually been thinking about the next phase of my career.  I don’t really know, but I will be doing what I love.  Yoga is my passion.”

While both Cindy and I assumed our interview would be short and sweet, we ended up talking longer than expected with a few of my questions leading us astray.  And, it seems, it’s often in those moments of going off road that I find the sweetest take-away.  I’d like to close by sharing one of those with you.

In talking about the influences Cindy feels she brings to her classes, she shared these thoughts with me.  “My practice is still advancing.  I’m not sure what I bring to my classes other than the notion that as we age, we don’t need to think limiting thoughts.  We are always growing, learning, and developing.  That’s why yoga is so vital.  You know, the flow in yoga is about transitioning; flowing/transitioning from one pose to the next, just as in life.  I find the energy in my classes amazing.  I love being able to step back and see people in their practice.  As a teacher that’s what’s fulfilling.  Yoga is just you and your mat - - you vs. you and not you vs. another person.  There is no competition.  Yoga teaches us to keep our egos in check while continuing to challenge ourselves.  We learn to celebrate and support each other; we learn to care for our physical bodies, which will alleviate issues as we age; and we learn to care for our spiritual needs.  In turn, we are better able to serve others and achieve personal happiness.  ”  

A Season of Gratitude, All the Good Year Long

Download and fill out your own gratitude journal

Download and fill out your own gratitude journal

As we settle into the season of gratitude, I always get the same feeling I do when Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Valentine’s Day rolls around.  Why is it that we are so focused on being thankful, and showing or sharing our gratitude, during this season?  Why not all year long?

Hallmark has cashed in on the idea that we are a nation of people who are too busy and too overwhelmed to show love and respect for our mothers, fathers, and partners most days of the year.  We are urged to spend upwards of $3 on a card (let’s not forget the gifts) to send to someone who raised us, sacrificed for us, and loves us in May, June, and February.  

Similarly, as October winds down and November leads into December, we are assaulted by products that remind us to be grateful, to give thanks, to gather. 

It’s been well documented that gratitude is good for our general well-being.  Studies have shown feelings of gratitude and thankfulness are related to overall good mental and physical health.  

When we experience gratitude, we sleep better, feel less stress, work harder and are more focused, and are, let’s face it, nicer to those around us.  Obviously, gratitude won’t make us or our lives perfect, but you get the gist. 

So why all the focus on gratitude just in November and December?  Again, why not all year long?

Research tells us humans feel gratitude in two ways.  The first is obvious - when we receive a gift or something good happens to us, we feel grateful.  The second is more of a life-style choice and harder to stick with - it’s a general inclination towards a happy and appreciative attitude.  

But let’s be honest, not everyone is born with that in their genetic make-up.  And it’s no sin.  Some people struggle more on a day-to-day basis and feeling appreciative doesn’t always come easy.

Most of us are familiar with the first example.  As children we’re taught to show gratitude when someone does something nice for us, such as give us a gift, invite us to a party, or compliment us.

But once that good deed is over and done, how many of us continue to feel fueled by gratitude days later?  

Honestly, in today’s world it’s hard to cultivate a daily habit of gratitude.  Face it - we have full and diverse lives.  For example: school; romances gone right or wrong, either way it’s a struggle; two career marriages; maybe a couple of kids to look after; a dog or cat; a lawn to mow; committees to participate in; children with special needs or illnesses; parents who are aging; a significant other who needs and desires our attention; a boss who is demanding; bills that need to be paid; extended family and friends who want to spend time with us.  And, let’s not forget, our own hearts and minds that need to be cared for and cultivated.  

We can’t depend on people doing nice things for us, or for good luck and karma, to keep that feeling of gratitude alive within us.  

When we are facing the reality of our modern lives, it is not uncommon to move through our days without feeling a moment of gratitude.  It happens to all of us.  In fact, studies shows it can happen so often we may go days without realizing it.  In the end, everyone suffers - we do, as well as those around us.  

That’s where the second, more fulfilling example of gratitude comes in - cultivating a general inclination towards a happy and appreciative attitude.

How do we cultivate a life where we are inclined towards this happy and appreciative attitude?  Where do we find the time for that? Every.  Single.  Day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think it would be normal to be flying high all the time.  Sometimes things happen and we just don’t feel grateful, no matter what.  Constant happiness is not some kind of goal for us to reach, nor is it proof that we are enlightened spiritual beings.   

In fact, forced or fake gratitude has been shown to be just as detrimental to our overall well-being as a lack of genuine gratitude.  

Pretending does not allow us to sit with our pain and disappointment.  Life is full of bumps and bruises, some more serious than others, and it is important to acknowledge these struggles and to live through the journey in order to pass through times of stress. 

One thing I know for sure is this.  Even during the worst heartache - a divorce, the death of a parent or a spouse - or the most trying of times - loss of a job, a child who is physically or mentally ill -  the sun rises on a new day every 24 hours and, eventually, a new day will dawn that presents a little less pain and anguish than the day before.  That is when we must decide - am I going to continue to dwell on the problem and prolong the agony, or can I find a way to focus some of my attention on something better?  

I’m not suggesting that if we are depressed or struggling we just need to buck up and get over it.  Far from it.  Research shows clinical depression and/or anxiety cannot be cured by that approach.

But there are things we can do that will help us, no matter where we are on the scale, and enhance treatment options. 

What I’m talking about is working to develop a kind of gratitude that comes from the heart and cannot be created in or by our minds.

Recently I read that “gratefulness exercises” do not improve or change the way someone might respond to a gift or a nice gesture.  However, it seem such exercises can aid us in cultivating the general inclination towards that happy and appreciative attitude I mentioned earlier.   This can be especially helpful for those who are experiencing a difficult time.

On the advise of my mother, some years ago I started the practice of trying to set aside some time every day to think about, if not put down on paper, a list of at least one thing for which I felt grateful.  Thus began my attempt at a “gratefulness exercise”.  

This hasn’t been easy and I haven’t always been successful.  Some days really suck, and my brain is so clouded, that the fact that I am alive and have a roof over my head or that my children are safe and warm or that my husband is healthy never even enter my mind.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but there have been times when the only thing I can say I’m grateful for is my dog Roxie.

And, like many people, a day or more can go by - maybe I’m stressed or maybe I’m having a run of really good luck - when I forget to stop and make my list.  This is where my yoga practice has made all the difference.

A happy and appreciative attitude is not built on what is happening TO us or FOR us that makes us feel good.  It arises, instead, naturally from a heart that is centered and this aids us in releasing stress.  It helps us develop our inner life rather that being focused on getting awards or achieving goals.  And this is how we begin to cultivate a general inclination towards a happy and appreciative attitude.

A regular yoga practice leads naturally to feelings of gratitude and thankfulness.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Google it!  Just the act of being present on your mat, as you move through the various poses and focus on what your body is telling you, opens a space inside that generates positive energy.  And positive energy breeds thankfulness and gratitude.  It happens without us even thinking about it.  It’s this amazing involuntary, subconscious side-effect.  It’s our body and brain chemistry working to make us more open and accepting of ourselves and of others.

Don’t forget - Yoga and meditation are about controlling our mind so it cannot control us.  Together, they can be an invaluable tool to help us, although they are not a substitute for care or treatment if depression and anxiety persist.  

With the help of my “gratitude exercise”, and the added support of my new yoga practice, I’m striving to continue the season of gratitude and thanksgiving long after December has turned the page to a new year.

Is this something you have thought about and want to implement?  Maybe some of you have been working on this for a while now.  We’d love to hear from you!

Please take a minute to share with us your thoughts on cultivating a happy and appreciative attitude - whether the idea is new to you or old hat.

And, as always, we appreciate the time you spend here on our blog.  And, please, keep sharing with your friends and family!  



It’s no secret that we’re living in divisive and fearful times.  Yoga at its very core means unity.

The first tenant of yoga is do no harm, yet judgment is everywhere and as harmful to the self as to the person or persons, you are slinging judgment at.  Stop and ask yourself: How many times a day you judge yourself? Others? And how much energy do you give to these thoughts?

Low self esteem, insecurities and self-doubt can lead people down a path of judgment. We all experience these moments. Maybe we judge ourselves in comparison to others. Ever glance at someone on a nearby mat and think how graceful and beautiful his or her practice is and start trash talking yourself?  The habits we discover on the mat we usually find off the mat as well. What kind of people we would have in our lives if we allowed them to talk to us the way we talk to ourselves?

Maybe we judge others because by making someone else less, we feel we become more. This rationale may work for a moment but moments don’t last very long. In the end it makes the division wider and the pain greater.  It’s difficult to sling mud and keep your own hands clean.  

It’s easy to embody our yoga when things are going well and we are all in a good mood but in the face of adversity who shows up?  If you squeeze an orange you get orange juice. Every single time. What you fill yourself up with is what is going to come out when life puts the squeeze on you.  How do you want to show up? What do you want to release when you are faced with the tough stuff?

Judgment in and of itself created division, the opposite of yoga. 

Sometimes we forget we are not our thoughts. We are NOT.  Don’t believe everything you think. Everything is energy, including you, me, all of us. Our energy speaks the moment we enter a room before we open our mouths.  Judgment creates negative energy. The end.

I am not immune to temptation. Thoughts can pull us into the future and into the past without warning. Yoga and meditation offer tools. These tools help us practice awareness. The moment we notice we are slipping into judgment we have moved out of autopilot. We are conscious.  We are aware. Mindfulness, another valuable tool, allows us to make an intentional choice to stop judging.  We can decide to change our thoughts. We can make a choice. If we are aware of something we can then decide if it is serving us or not. If it is we can strengthen it, If it’s not we can eradicate it.  Life is all about choices. What will you choose?

Jaya Vita Yoga Teacher Training 2018


Yesterday marked graduation day for the Jaya Vita Yoga Teacher Training Class of 2018.  Jaya’s 200 RYT training program is a seven month long program that runs either once a year or every other year.

Teacher Training is a way to delve into the practice and teachings of yoga, whether you desire to teach or not.  This group of yogis built a supportive, nurturing community for each other, and it truly was a pleasure guiding them these past seven months.  

We asked our graduates a series of questions in order to give our community some insight into their training experience.  Here is what they had to say. 

Tara Atkins, the organizer extraordinaire, wife, and momma of two grown up kiddos;

Danielle Krimmel, the ICU nurse and mother of two, with two bonus kiddos that make four! 

Abby Healey, Jaya’s own photographer, and an aspiring art therapist.  Abby has been practicing yoga since high school;

Erica Nealon, the always smiling nurse-to-be.

What made you want to do the teacher training?  

Tara Atkins: I wanted to learn more about yoga, and why we are doing what we do.  I didn't go into this thinking I'd become a teacher.  I just wanted to learn something new and challenge myself. 

Abby Healey: I felt compelled to take part in the Jaya Vita Yoga teacher training as a way to deepen my understanding of yoga and the ways in which it enriches the practitioner’s life.  I have been practicing since 2013 and had been seeking to expand my knowledge of what lies beyond a sixty minute class with the hope that I could bring the benefits of what I would learn to others.

Danielle Krimmel: I wanted to dive deeper into my knowledge of yoga, and learn more about the philosophy of yoga. I felt like the more I did the physical practice of yoga, the more I wanted to learn how to truly take yoga off my mat. Yoga is not just the movement of the body through different asanas, but noticing your mind/your thoughts without judgement. I wanted to dive deeper into living my life as a yogi.

Erica Nealon: I wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga, and not just in the physical practice, but in the philosophy of yoga and the mental practice.


What was the best thing about training?  

Tara Atkins: Getting to know the other girls and experiencing this process with them, learning from Hilary and all she has to share and teach (she’s an amazing mentor), and  learning safety while teaching.  As a former dancer, I never had that.  I feel it will help me be a much better teacher!

Abby Healey: The best thing about training was the bond formed between my fellow trainees and I, and learning from each other’s experiences and perspectives. 

Danielle Krimmel: There are a multitude of experiences I enjoyed throughout this training, but I think it's the unexpected experiences that I cherish the most. I absolutely loved our close knit group of trainees and getting to learn with them.  To learn from them was such a great experience for me as well.

Erica Nealon: I loved spending the whole weekend with friends, learning about something I truly love.  We all had to dig deep within ourselves to find an understanding of much of the material and to be able to teach others about yoga.  It was fun watching everyone grow in this way.  I also just loved learning about everything!  I truly love yoga and it has saved me in many ways.  I’d love to be able to share that with others.


What was the biggest challenge?  

Tara Atkins: The biggest challenge for me was fighting my body.  I had to learn to meet my body where it is and be ok with that.  I became the queen of modification, which I think will be a plus while assisting others! 

Abby Healey: The most challenging part, over the past seven months, was the way cultivating all of the elements of teaching, when put together, feel. Finding balance while vocalizing what you are guiding a student into, cueing breath, and remaining mindful of alignment and safety provided an intensified appreciation for the instructors who inspire me.

Danielle Krimmel: Biggest challenge.....not believing everything I think, which I am still working on.  Strive for progress not perfection.

Erica Nealon: I think some of the readings were very challenging.  Now that I have a little more understanding, I would like to go back and read them again.  Applying the philosophies from the readings is challenging as well, but it has opened me up to a new, deeper way of thinking and questioning the mind.  Is this thought valid? Why am I thinking this? Do I have to believe this thought? Should I be attached to this way of thinking?

What surprised you?  

Tara Atkins: What surprised me most was all the other things we had to learn that had nothing to do with the actual poses - the history, the chants, the human body, the LIFE of yoga!

Abby Healey: The biggest surprise has been the feeling of vulnerability that accompanies learning about myself in tandem with our yogic themes. This training is far from just academic and has moved me to strive for the best version of myself so that I can share that energy with those who may be in my classes. Yoga asks you to confront and process your emotions, through compassion and honesty, in order to discover your most wholehearted self.

Danielle Krimmel: It was more intense than I thought it would be.  Creating an hour long flow is much more difficult than I thought.  The teachers at Jaya make it look so easy and seamless.  I strive to get to that level one day.

Erica Nealon: I was very surprised at how hard it was to actually get up there and teach, especially the first time.  I practice almost every day, sometimes twice a day, but actually standing up there telling people how to move through their practice was difficult. The best thing to do is to just practice!


What was the most important takeaway from the training?  

Tara Atkins: As a perfectionist in so many ways, I learned it’s ok to fall - - just get your butt back up and try again!  Some days will be harder than others, but you have to love your strengths and not dwell on your weaknesses because it can all change tomorrow!

Abby Healey: The most important takeaway has been knowing that the learning does not stop with graduation. Every instructor will always remain a student of yoga and must follow their curiosity to best serve their students and their own practice.

Danielle Krimmel: Hmmm…again, there are so many things to choose from, but I think the most important thing is to stay true to yourself as a teacher and as a student.

Erica Nealon: There are so many important concepts that I will take away from this training. I think the general idea of "non-attachment" is so big. We are attached to so many things, so many thoughts, so many actions. Should we be? If we are attached to a certain outcome, what happens when that outcome is different? Or exactly what we wanted? Are we disappointed? Do we want more? For me personally, I’ve found I was attached to a life I thought I wanted, until I got it. It wasn't what I expected. I don't think many things are what we expect them to be. So, if we are not attached to that expectation, maybe we can find something deeper in that outcome. I did want to win the Mega Millions, but when I woke up this morning to a few losing tickets, I was not attached to the idea of buying a beach house or three after I quit my job and hired a personal pizza maker.

Would you do it again?  

Tara Atkins:  I would, but I would like to see more of it all together.  I liked the time in between, but sometimes I felt I needed it more often.  Also, I feel now that I have a taste of all aspects of the yoga world, there are some things I want to learn more about! 

Abby Healey: Yes.  I look forward to future trainings and learning opportunities.

Danielle Krimmel:  In a heartbeat!!!

Erica Nealon:  Yes, in a heartbeat. I will miss my weekends filled with yoga and new friends. We didn't just learn about yoga; we have learned a new way to live.