Representing YIS and Namastadium

On Saturday, March 6th, hundreds of yogis came together for a historic event – practicing in Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, with all proceeds going to Women’s and Children’s Hospital. I was there with Yogis in Service. We had dreamed, planned; we even had a countdown going, and today was finally the day! Armed with awesome YIS t-shirts, generously donated yoga mats, and full, excited hearts, our troops marched right into the stadium and firmly took our place on the turf that we’d only seen on TV.

1795773_769092539876684_4950996951688873518_nRight away, I noticed something. It didn’t matter if you arrived in a Ferrari or a bus. Your age wasn’t a concern (people of all ages took naps on their mats, a nice change of pace from the practice I’m so used to). Your size, the color of your skin, your sexual orientation…none of that matters on the mat. In an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people, our little yogis found their inner warrior and thrived. Wherever they took their mats, they had a home, a community. I’d like to think the YIS instructors had a part in this, but really, the kids did the work. They showed up, in every sense of the phrase. And together, we embraced a beautiful day, a heart-opening practice, and – most importantly – we embraced each other.

1939721_708723052570915_1156914414132421695_nIt’s easy to think of yoga as a way to look more toned in a bikini, (you usually do anyway), or just really great physical exercise, (which it is).
But that day, hopefully, everyone felt the same euphoria I did. The sense of community. The unity. The oneness. The true meaning of the word “yoga.” YIS is yoga. Sometimes, the kids get it way more than the teachers.

11266503_769946879791250_2288656103019992916_nThey’ve taught me that the best way to truly improve your practice is not obsessing over your handstand or making sure your core is always engaged. The way to be your best yogi, and best human, and best part of this universe, is to practice off your mat.

Endure when things get tough. Life can be a real chair pose sometimes, and the kids in YIS know that better than almost anyone – seriously, we have a particular student who lets the entire East Side know how much he hates chair, every single time it is asked of him. They’re honest, and they’ll tell it like it is, but they grit their teeth and dig the f in. Checking out is easy when you are surrounded by unemployment, poverty, and violence. I know, in my bones, that yoga helps these kids check back in. To know their bodies and minds are capable of doing the seemingly impossible. As teachers, we see this, and we are inspired. We try to give them as much hope and courage as they give to us. So give to others, even if you don’t feel like you have a lot to give. You do. You really do.


We were all tired, hungry, and deliriously happy when we took a picture around the fifty yard line. Staring up at the enormous blue sky, I held the hand of a little person with a future. He could be a doctor, a lawyer, a great dad, or maybe even a yoga teacher. The best part is, he knows this just as well as I do. He believes in himself, and YIS believes in him. We were in a circle of possibility, and all of us – rich, poor, black, white, in between – will carry that circle, and that day, with us, for the rest of our lives.

Thank you, yoga, for everything. And thank you to all my amazing teachers, especially, on this day, Catherine Cook-Cottone and Steven Procknal. You two are sharing your multitudinous gifts so beautifully, and I am beyond blessed to know you both.


Article written by Hannah Duke.

Project Update: Easter Egg Hunt and YIS Demo

10422177_738704546248817_3417935340716509864_nBuffalo City Council member Demone Smith hosted the annual Masten Easter Egg Hunt at MLK Park on Saturday April 4th.  The event drew thrones of eager children and parents as well as special appearances by Buffalo’s Mayor, The Honorable Byron Brown; Buffalo City Court Judge, The Honorable 1508533_738708686248403_2628921827585962780_n
JaHarr Pridgen; and Erie County Family Court Judge, The Honorable Deanne Tripi.  Among these honored guests, our very own Catherine Cook-Cottone was asked to put on a yoga demonstration for the crowd.

Yogi’s In Service showed up BIG for the event with at least a dozen members assisting and demonstrating for the crowd.  Making the demonstration interactive and fun, Catherine awarded prizes to participants who could hold “tree” or “warrior 3” or “crow” the longest.  In addition to sharing their love of yoga, many Yogis in Service joined in the dance contests and showcased their love of dance! Our own yogi, Eric, was honored with a prize for his “current” dancing skills during the Mayor’s dance contest while Mary G. Carney got honorable mention for her “old school” style.

11133854_738702412915697_9027307369555350842_nThe YIS demonstration was quite popular, and many attendees asked about where to find Yogi’s in Service again.  We happily replied “Resurrection Church on Doat & Genessee every Saturday at 10am! And coming soon to the Delevan Grider Community Center!”  We can’t wait to return next year with some new dance moves and more yoga for fun.

Article written by Mary Carney


Yoga Service Immersion: Heart and Soul Seva

The most pivotal point in any yogi’s journey is the moment we learn to take our practice with us when we leave the mat- to employ the many lessons learned through asana and meditation in our everyday lives.  A step further than that is living our practice with the pure intention of sharing it with others.

Myself and two fellow members of Yogis In Service took a little road-trip to Nazareth college for a workshop presented by The Rochester Yoga Service Network entitled Yoga Service Immersion: Heart and Soul Seva.  Leading this workshop was Carla Giambrone, an absolutely brilliant yogi and researcher who has a way of enrapturing her audience through her passion and enthusiasm.  Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly as representatives of Yogis In Service and settled onto our mats to begin the workshop. The first thing Carla asked of attendees was to reflect in our journals- Why were we here? What did we hope to take away from this workshop? Word for word I wrote “ I will go to anything with the word ‘yoga’ in it, and I have no idea what I hope to take away from this workshop.”  Insightful, right?

Carla led us through a vigorous Power Yoga flow, leaving us dripping in sweat, but also grounded and open. It was an effective way to bring everyone to the present moment, settled and ready to work. Carla shared a little about her research and findings regarding yoga as a tool to be shared in order to promote health, healing, and wellbeing, before splitting us into groups based on the populations we wished to serve.  We were given the opportunity to share our stories- why we were drawn to particular populations (children, senior citizens, adult women, or trauma survivors), and how and why we felt yoga could serve them. Following this discussion, we were paired off and asked to perform a variety of partner activities that required strength, trust, balance, and compromise to be successful.   A particularly powerful activity followed this; to me, it was the highlight of the session.  We were asked to stand and face our partners, and spent the next twenty minutes learning the difference between being a “YES” and a “NO.” We practiced being in each, and observed our partner’s very physical reactions to the energy we presented them with.  Carla utilized these activities along with her LEAN® Coaching Method to teach us the three most important themes of providing yoga as a service – “Be Clear. Be Centered and Grounded. Be Consistent.”

The afternoon ended with a moment of quiet reflection, just as it began.  This time however, my words were very different- “I am here because I want to serve others through yoga. I am so grateful to be leaving this workshop with a sense of purpose.”  Carla Giambrone, together with The Rochester Yoga Service Network, presented a powerful and educational workshop that clearly had an impact on every person in attendance.  We learned how to show up for ourselves, as well as how to most effectively be in service to others by using our practice as a vehicle for spreading love and change.

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”



Article by Marissa Bland

108 Sun Salutations

Start your New Year off right. Come practice 108 Sun Salutations with Catherine Cook-Cottone and Steven Procknal to benefit Yogis in Service. Our overall goal- $5,200 to support yoga classes on the East-side. Suggested donation $15 to (no upper limit).

We will have t-shirts and wish bracelets for sale at this event!

We are also taking donations of any gently used yoga supplies (mats, blocks, straps) for our lending library.

For more information, see the Facebook Event.