Whole Foods Market and Kula for Karma Team Up to Offer Therapeutic Yoga Programs

Free Weekly Classes in Glen Rock and Saddle River are Open to the Community

Whole Foods & Kula for Karma - Yoga

Kula for Karma has partnered with Whole Foods Market to launch two therapeutic yoga programs in Bergen County, NJ. The natural foods supermarket, known for its commitment to improving lives in the communities it serves, is sponsoring the free weekly classes, which began February 7 and 8 and are open to the community.

“Since 2007, Kula for Karma has offered over 600 programs in the Tri-State area, at no cost, to those with physical and mental health challenges, “said Penni Feiner, the organization’s Executive Director. “Our success has been grounded in a community of dedicated volunteers, including yoga instructors, allied health professionals, business leaders and local supporters like Whole Foods Market.”

The Whole Foods Love Your Body Love Yourself class is designed to transform negative body image into acceptance and body love by offering yoga that is accessible, body positive and reflects the full range of human diversity. Classes will take place at The Body Image Boutique, 96 E. Allendale Rd. in Saddle River, NJ, on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. beginning February 7.

The Whole Foods Market Healthy Heart class is for those recovering from heart disease. This gentle class focuses on relaxation techniques designed to mitigate stress and promote physical, mental and emotional well-being. Classes will be held Wednesdays at 7 p.m., starting February 8, at Powerflowyoga, 530 S. Broad St., in Glen Rock, NJ.

Kula for Karma is a nonprofit that is pioneering the integration of therapeutic yoga, meditation and stress management into mainstream medicine and healthcare. The organization’s relationship with Whole Foods Market dates back to when the natural foods supermarket opened its Ridgewood, NJ store. Feiner was teaching for Kula at the Woodlea Group Home, a facility for at risk teen girls run by Children’s Aid and Family Services.

“The store’s community’s manager invited the girls to wrap gifts in the Whole Body department,” Feiner recalls. “We set up a table and wrapped until our fingers were raw! Kula’s relationship with Whole Foods Market grew from there.”

Whole Foods Market has donated food to all of Kula for Karma’s major fundraising events, including its annual gala. Five years ago the organization was the designated local nonprofit for one of the Ridgewood store’s “5% Days”, receiving five percent of that day’s net sales.

“This new collaboration is the continuation of a longstanding and mutual admiration for one another’s missions and vision,” said Feiner. “We are grateful for Whole Foods Market’s four Bergen County stores, for continuing to support our passion for sharing the healing power of yoga with our community.”

Whole Foods Market operates Bergen County locations in: Closter, Edgewater, Paramus and Ridgewood.

Registration is required for both classes, and participants can sign up online here. For more information email info@kulaforkarma.org or call 888-545-9642.

Yoga in One Word: What Yoga Means to Us

As you may have already experienced, yoga means many different things to different people.

Practicing yoga can be about physical care, about emotional well-being, about community, or a multitude of other things. We think this range of meaning is both beautiful and powerful, so we created a video of our amazing team members and friends sharing what yoga means to them in one word. Hear what they had to say:

As a part of the Kula family, we’d like to invite you to share what yoga means to you in one word as well. You can do so by commenting below, sharing on social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) with hashtag #YogaInOneWord and tagging Kula, or by creating your own short video. We’ll compile your answers, and be sure to share them here.

Thank you for being a part of our community! It is because of you that we can continue our work to ensure that yoga is accessible to all, and we’re incredibly grateful for your dedication and support.

If you’re interested in joining the Kula team as a volunteer yoga instructor, we’d love to connect with you. You can learn more about it and start the process here.


Here are some of the wonderful responses we've received from the Kula community about what yoga means to them:

  • Love
  • Revitalization
  • Happiness
  • Tranquility
  • Yolk
  • Breath
  • Lifestyle
  • Solace

Program of the Month: Jericho Project

Our program of the month is the Jericho Project!

Jericho Project

The Jericho Project provides a Veterans Initiative to over 550 veterans in New York City. Jericho's Veterans Initiative is comprised of housing, employment and supportive services for veterans. 

Providing instruction and practices in yoga and meditation may help veterans lead more successful post-deployment lives, helping them transition back to civilian life and reconnect with themselves, friends, and families.

Kula is proud to have been serving the veterans at Jericho Project for a year! We are looking forward to expanding our programming within this wonderful organization to help more veterans, as well as families and young adults in need.

Volunteer of the Month: Virginia Atkins

Our volunteer of the month for February is VIrginia Atkins! 

Virginia began practicing yoga in earnest when she retired in 2006. At that time, she was practicing almost daily at Dew Yoga in Stamford, CT and reaping the benefits of regularly being on her mat. In 2012, Virginia decided to take her teacher training and enrolled at Kripalu for the 200-hour certificate. Upon completion, she began to teach a Karma Yoga class at Dew each Sunday morning whereby all proceeds from the class and the equivalent of her salary were donated to a local charity. Virginia returned to Kripalu in 2014 to complete her 500-hour certification.

In 2015, Virginia moved from CT to live full-time in NYC – a life long dream. After a few false starts, she found Reflections Center for Conscious Living and Yoga, which she says, “felt like home the moment I walked through the door. After one Sunday morning class I mentioned to the teacher than I would like to find another volunteer teaching position. Through her, I learned of Kula for Karma and the amazing contributions they are making.”

Virginia registered to become a yoga instructor with Kula, and immediately was made aware of an opportunity to teach at the Dublin Cancer Center associated with Mt. Sinai Hospital. Virginia now finds herself happily teaching at a residence associated with the Jericho Project. She says, "I am delighted to be guiding the yoga practice of a group of veterans that is more grateful for the experience than I ever could have imagined.  It is incredibly rewarding.”

Thank you for all that you do, Virginia! We are so grateful for you.

Program of the Month: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at HUMC

Our program of the month for January is the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center!

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at HUMC provides a full range of empirically validated psychiatric services to meet the behavioral health needs of their patients. 

Their programming includes specialized treatment tracks appropriate to the age and specific diagnosis of consumers such as substance abuse, eating disorders, thought and mood disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders.

Through the The Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine at HackensackUMC has been able to expand its psychotherapy program. The overall goal of the program is to reduce the unnecessary use of psychiatric medications and strengthen the psychotherapy division to better serve the needs of patients, and help treat the whole person. Kula is incredibly grateful to have been serving both inpatient and outpatient patients since July of 2015. One of our dedicated volunteers described the experience as, “It is an incredibly rewarding experience to be with these patients in their moment of vulnerability and to offer them the opportunity to experience and see themselves differently.  Our class helps them get in touch with their inner resources and resiliency on a whole new level.”

Thank you for your incredible support in making yoga accessible to all who can benefit from the practice!

The Science of Yoga: Why It's Good for Your Body & Mind

When we first started practicing yoga and meditation, we didn’t know where it would take us. Each of our team members started to practice for different reasons, and had different ideas about what our practices would look like. Some were focused on breathing, some on daily meditation, some on rigorous yoga practice, or others on a combination. But one thing was the same for all of us: practicing made us feel better, both mentally and physically.

It made us curious about why that is. Were there studies that could shed light on the positive changes we were feeling after starting our regular practice? We were thrilled to find that there were – and many, in fact.

Some of the many psychological benefits of yoga and meditation include improved self-acceptance, reduced anxiety and depression, reduced hostility, improved impulse control, and learning of healthy coping strategies. On the medical side, practicing yoga regularly can lead to improved sleep, increased immunity, decreased pain, normalized endocrine function, increased musculoskeletal flexibility and strength, decreased blood pressure, and so much more.

Knowing about this research further solidified our commitment to our practice, as well as to making yoga and meditation more accessible to all. We frequently share such research on our blog, and are thrilled to often see members of our Medical Advisory Board sharing pieces of their own as well. To share this information with you, we've rounded up our research here: 

Psychological Benefits

Overall Mental Well-Being

Addiction

Anxiety

Body Positivity

Post-Traumatic Stress

Medical Benefits

Overall Physical Well-Being

Addiction

Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Arthritis

Back Pain

Cancer

Multiple Sclerosis

Sleep

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

You can also find a number of medical studies on the effects of yoga and meditation for cancer survivors, those struggling with addiction, survivors of domestic abuse, youth with special needs, and more here.

We’re always working to expand our programming to provide free yoga to those in need of its incredible benefits. If you’d like to support that growth, you can do so by joining us as a volunteer yoga instructor or sponsoring a program.

Volunteer of the Month: Laura Eisdorfer

laura eisdorfer pic.JPG

Our volunteer of the month for January is Laura Eisdorfer! 

Laura began volunteering for Kula in 2015. Having just finished her 200-Hour teacher training, Laura was delighted when presented the opportunity to teach on the inpatient psychiatric unit at HUMC (6 St John). A clinical psychologist for 30 years (and still going), this was a perfect way for Laura to meld her experience and passion for helping people with mental illness with her belief in yoga's ability to heal people emotionally, spiritually and mentally. In addition, the deal was sweetened by the opportunity to work side by side with Susan Simring, DSW and a longtime Kula volunteer.

Together, Laura and Susan developed the program on the unit. Initially they facilitated mat classes but it soon became clear that chair yoga was more appropriate for this population. The patients on this unit often suffer significant physical limitations due to their active psychiatric illnesses, concomitant medical problems, and medication side effects.  A few patients come to class in wheel chairs each month. Because most patients only stay on the unit for 1 week, each class is taught as a first class. Laura and Susan give a brief description about mindfulness and yoga, provide a short dharma and then facilitate a very gentle class. Week after week, the patients express gratitude for this class. Many describe feeling in touch with their bodies or feeling relaxed for the first time in many years.

Acutely aware of how despondent and hopeless these patients often feel, Laura and Susan try their best to help them "create space" so they can open to possibilities and experience hope. Laura describes her class on 6 St John as a "highlight" of her week and adds, "It is an incredibly rewarding experience to be with these patients in their moment of vulnerability and to offer them the opportunity to experience and see themselves differently.  Our class helps them get in touch with their inner resources and resiliency on a whole new level. Sharing this class with Susan further enriches my experience.  We have a lot of fun together."  

In 2016, Laura completed her 300-Hour teacher training and participated in 2 additional Kula trainings.  Laura is currently focusing on honing mindfulness practices to incorporate into her professional practice and yoga classes. She looks forward to many more years of dedicated service to Kula for Karma!

Thank you for your commitment to seva, Laura! We're so grateful for you.

To learn more about volunteering with Kula for Karma, learn more and get in touch with us here.

Help Yourself & Others as a Volunteer Yoga Instructor

Help Yourself & Others as a Volunteer Yoga Instructor - Kula for Karma

As the year comes to a close, we’ve been thinking about our incredible community and how every one of you has made it possible for Kula to serve a growing number of individuals and populations each year.

The most fulfilling aspect of this work is knowing that Kula makes yoga, meditation, and all its positive effects accessible to those who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity. This wouldn’t be possible without our volunteer yoga instructors, in particular. Our volunteer team is dedicated not only to teaching students how to properly practice yoga and meditation, but to doing it in a way that is nurturing, kind, and life-giving.

As you may know, yoga and meditation are beneficial to all who practice, no matter their level of experience, including teachers, students, and those who practice on their own. It has many medical benefits, such as increased immunity, decreased pain, and a more relaxed nervous system, as well as psychological benefits like reduced anxiety and depression, improved impulse control, and increased healthy coping strategies. These benefits are the number one reason we work so hard to offer yoga and meditation to people who are struggling with issues around mental and physical health. But for volunteers, there’s even more to it.

We’ve heard from many of our instructors that teaching yoga isn’t just beneficial for the students – it has a positive effect on their own mental and emotional wellbeing as well. Here’s what one of our instructors had to say about her experience teaching yoga to those struggling with addiction at Integrity House:

“What connects us and opens (the students) up is not the content of the asana sequence, but my willingness to become vulnerable with them. They know my story. I’ve shared my pain, my joy and my gratitude for recovery with them. There is no judgment or expectation of them…I feel their energy, open my heart, and magic happens. What seems like such a small offering means so much to these women, and is so powerful to those who are ready to receive it.”

These positive mental and emotional effects of volunteering are well-supported by research as well. At the London School of Economics, for example, researchers found that the more their study participants volunteered, the happier they were – a metric that increased the more frequently they volunteered their time. This correlation was a result of a number of factors, including a connection to others; support in counteracting the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety; a sense of purpose; and feelings of joy and fulfillment.

We can speak to this from personal experience as well: as a volunteer yoga instructor, you’re not only doing good for others, you’re also doing good for yourself through the combined positive effects of your practice and supporting others. We’re so grateful for our volunteers, and are always thrilled to hear them say that they’ve felt these benefits while working with Kula.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer yoga instructor in the New Year, we would absolutely love to connect. The more committed and passionate individuals who are willing to dedicate any portion of their time to seva, the more programming we can offer to those who need yoga and meditation most.  You can learn more about our current programs here, and find out more about volunteering with Kula here. To see the impact of our volunteers’ service, check out other blog posts, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Wishing our wonderful community a beautiful holiday season, and a happy New Year!

Program of the Month: Valley Hospital

Our program of the month for December is Valley Hospital!

The Valley Hospital is a fully accredited, acute care, not-for-profit hospital serving more than 440,000 people in 32 towns in Bergen County and adjoining communities. Valley is committed to giving back to the community. Valley serves the community by providing thousands of hours of healthcare education and screening, support groups and classes to assist those in need, and care to all those who come through their doors, regardless of their ability to pay.

Kula for Karma is honored to be a part of the Valley community. January 2017 marks two years since Kula began offering weekly yoga classes to cancer patients, cardiac patients, and post-op spinal patients—all free of cost. As of December 2016, we have added three additional classes for cardiac and cancer patients. The classes have been wildly successful and we are excited to launch more programs in 2017!

Thank you to Valley Hospital for your commitment to service and partnership!

Volunteer of the Month: Carol Seigel

Kula for Karma Volunteer of the Month: Carol Seigel

Our volunteer of the month for December is Carol Seigel!

Carol has been practicing yoga for as long as she can remember. She has an energetic yet gentle presence and teaches with enthusiasm and humor. Her classes offer students the gifts of yoga: strengthening the body, calming the mind, opening the heart, and awakening the spirit.  She weaves in yogic philosophy, self-reflection and self-acceptance. Her intention as a yoga teacher is to inspire others both to be curious and realize their many gifts, and to step fully into their most brilliant selves.   

Carol began volunteering for Kula for Karma at Gilda’s Club in Hackensack eight years ago, and knew then that her love affair with Kula would last a lifetime! She has completed advanced teacher trainings in adaptive yoga; cancer care, cardiac health, MS and Parkinson’s. She currently teaches cardiac care students at Valley Hospital and students battling cancer at HackensackUMC. She enjoys teaching both mat and “off the floor” classes that offer students a chair/standing yoga experience. Carol is also certified in prenatal and children's yoga, and is a Reiki practitioner. 

Thank you for all that you do, Carol! We're so grateful for you.

To learn more about volunteering with Kula for Karma, learn more and get in touch with us here.