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Five Peaks recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of our incredible Tribe5 members, Loriana Hernandez-Aldama, about ArmorUp for Life – her passion-project charity that grew out of her experiences battling Leukemia after her initial diagnosis in 2014. Our Good Karma Community Flow, every Friday at 4:00pm, supports ArmorUp for Life by helping provide funds to purchase fitness equipment for local hospitals and cancer patients who are currently battling against cancer, so that they, too, can become “Fit to Fight”. Read on to learn more about Loriana’s story, and the work that she and Armor Up is doing in our local community.

Five Peaks: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What got you started along this path?

Loriana: I’m a former local and network news anchor and fitness/health reporter of more than 20 years, turned cancer survivor/fighter and advocate. I turned that advocacy into a non-profit called ArmorUp for LIFE. I founded the non-profit from my bedside after struggling to understand how the “clean eating, green drinking, yoga enthusiast and on-air health coach” could get cancer. After my diagnosis, I felt I had to answer to my viewers, who were asking so many questions. I asked my doctors why I’d wasted my time doing everything right, only to get diagnosed with cancer anyway. My doctor said, “You have it all wrong. The more FIT you show up and present yourself to us, the more aggressive you can fight. Put your Armor on. You will be here for a year separated from your (2 year-old) son, and stay focused. ” He went on to say, “Take a look around the hall. Not everyone’s chemo bag is the same size. You may all have leukemia, but you don’t all fight the same. We have to tip-toe around other problems that get in people’s way, like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. They will get a smaller dose.” IT was the light bulb moment for me and the biggest story of my career, and I needed to shout it from the mountain top… What you do each day, how you live your life, what you eat, how much exercise you get, how much stress you allow in, all determines how well you show up to YOUR fight, whatever that fight may be AND… your ability to fight and your dose will be directly correlated to your health and fitness level. This was MY BREAKING STORY!

Five Peaks: That’s incredible. How does your yoga practice fit into all of this?

Loriana: I practice yoga because I truly believe it is amazing for the mind, body, and soul. I started practicing yoga in 1999 when I did a story on the power of yoga for one of my fitness stories, and I never looked back. I have seen people walk in broken, and walk out of class 6 months later standing tall with no back problems, emotionally grounded, and all-around feeling better. I have been in awe of the impact I have seen on those who practice yoga and make it part of their lives.

Five Peaks: Tell us some more about Armor Up For Life

Loriana: ArmorUp for LIFE is a non-profit with a dual mission: 1) To help everyone “armor up for life”, and get their bodies prepared for the unexpected – so that they, too, can receive the most aggressive treatment possible for whatever comes their way; and 2) To use the money we raise to help those currently engaged in the fight against cancer “armor up” through diet, exercise, lifestyle, spiritual, and financial fitness. When I was hospitalized for an entire year, I had a tribe, and even better I had a “pit crew” of friends/viewers/professionals come to my aid and help me on all those levels throughout my fight and even after my battle. At ArmorUp for LIFE, we want to be that “pit-crew” for every cancer patient.

Five Peaks: How can the Five Peaks Power Yoga community help ArmorUp for LIFE achieve it’s mission, and serve our local community of individuals fighting cancer?

Loriana: The Five Peaks Power Yoga community can get involved in so many ways. You can donate your time as a volunteer to help the following ways:

• Donations – Money raised will be used to host events at cancer centers to raise awareness of fitness with cancer patients and give them the tools their need for success. (Fitness gear, healthy snacks, medical massages, sponsor a patient, pay for house cleaning, or fund getaways for patients to make memories).

• Collect new or gently used fitness gear (clothing, sneakers, yoga mats)

• Secure partnerships with any businesses to help ArmorUp for LIFE on a larger scale. (Can your business help fund or sponsor a medical massage for a patient? A trip to make memories? Contact us!)

Five Peaks: What is some advice you can offer to our community here at Five Peaks that can help everyone “Armor Up” for life?

Loriana: My advice for everyone, yogis included, is that we often check off all the boxes to a healthier lifestyle and think, “Oh, this will never happen to me,” but the truth is, it CAN happen to you. Your life can flip upside down in an instant. It’s not just eating right and exercising. Sleep, and stress levels, are critical. Did you know that cancer is caused by inflammation in the body? And guess what causes inflammation? Chronic stress. So yes, there is a wheel of success that includes diet, exercise, lifestyle and stress, alongside spiritual and financial fitness. You have to find balance, and incorporate all of this into your life. Yoga is the perfect way to achieve this, but you can’t just show up for your yoga class and leave… You have to practice this all day, every day.

Five Peaks: Is there anything else you would like our community to know?

Loriana: I am available for speaking engagements to share the ArmorUp for LIFE story, and the money raised helps fund the non-profit and further promote the mission.

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

M.L.K.

January 16, 2018

Today, in honor, celebration, and remembrance of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we reflect upon all that Dr. King fought for, marched for, and ultimately, died for, during his time as a civil rights activist and leader, over five decades ago. While much of America’s landscape has changed in the time since Dr. King marched on Washington, wrote letters from a Birmingham jail, or stood behind the pulpit in Montgomery, much still remains the same.

As students of yoga, actively engaged in walking Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed Path, it’s impossible to not see a link between the actions and teachings of MLK, and those outlined in the first two limbs of the Eight-fold Path (coming before Asana!): the Yamas and Niyamas.

The Yamas and Niyamas are moral and ethical guidelines that inform and direct yogic action; they serve as a map to chart the course of one’s life, and provide a clear and straightforward framework for how to conduct ourselves off the mat – both in how we treat ourselves, and how we treat others.

It is not coincidental that the very first of these moral directives is Ahimsa, which means to cause no injury, and do no harm. Essentially, Ahimsa is non-violence.

In his 1958 memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott, Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King outlined six principles of non-violence; basic steps toward non-violent action that he taught and lived until the day he died. Importantly, he made it clear that non-violence is not for the cowardly, weak, passive, or fearful. Non-violence is the way of the strong. Dr. King wrote,

“Nonviolent resistance does resist. It is not a method of stagnant passivity… The method is passive physically, but strongly active spiritually. It is not passive non-resistance to evil; it is active nonviolent resistance to evil.”

In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?, Dr. King wrote,

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

MLK believed in living his principles through action. At a time in our history that was marked by violence and war, Dr. King refused to give in to his basest instincts; He refused to return violence with violence, or hate with hate. Instead of allowing himself to be swallowed by the darkness, he became the light. He chose a new way. And in so doing, he became the change he sought to create.

The second of the Yamas is Satya, which means truth, or truthfulness.

On the subject of truth, Dr. King was clear: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Satya directs us to speak our truth, even when it’s unpopular; even when speaking our truth is inconvenient, or difficult, or dangerous. No one knew this, or lived this, better than Dr. King.

While he is rightly revered and loved by many in today’s modern age, it is important to remember that, in his time, MLK was a highly divisive and radical figure.

The FBI famously wire-tapped him, beginning in 1955 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, until his assassination on April 4th, 1968. After his controversial anti-Vietnam speech at Riverside Church in 1967, the FBI stepped up their surveillance efforts in an attempt to discredit him, and pundits across both sides of the aisle criticized him for his firm and controversial stand, given at a time when most Americans still supported the war. Even members of his own staff warned him not to give the speech, but Dr. King stuck to his ideals, and refused to back down.

On the Vietnam War, and America’s involvement in it, King stated, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King believed in speaking your truth, no matter the cost. One month after his speech at Riverside, he spoke at a conference, stating, “The cross may mean the death of your popularity. Even so, take up your cross and just bear it.”

As students walking the yogic path, we can draw inspiration from and hold in our hearts the words of Dr. King. While he wasn’t a “yogi” in the traditional sense, his teachings and actions are a modern example of what it looks like to truly walk the path, and stay on the path.

In alignment with the yogic practices of Ahimsa, and Satya, King lived his truth, and in so doing, inspired countless lives across the world. Both during the time of his life, and perhaps even moreso now, a half century after his passing, King’s influence and impact is undeniable. His words echo into the annals of our collective history, across the vastness of time and space, straight into our ears, eyes, and hearts, and prove just as relevant, important, and necessary now as they ever were.

Be patient, be gentle, be kind. Love with all your might. Speak your truth, and live your truth. You, too, just might change the world.

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

We are so excited to kick off our TRIBE Member of the Month series by introducing you to one of our most inspirational community members – author Anna Kanianthra!

Anna has been rolling out her mat with us at Five Peaks Power Yoga since day one, and was a regular Bikram Yoga practitioner for many years prior. You can often find her practicing in our 9:30 and 12:00 classes alongside her daughter and granddaughter, inspiring everyone in class to breathe a little deeper.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to flow beside her yet, you may still recognize her name from our recent 12 Days of Giving; We featured Anna’s book, Recipe for Success in WIC: Based on a 35-Year Life Story, which recounts her experiences working as a groundbreaking Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) Program Manager with the Fairfax County Health Department, leading the program to be one of the most successful in the nation under her tenure.

We recently sat down with Anna to find our more about her time with WIC, as well as why she decided to donate 100% of the profits raised from the sales of her book to homeless families in India.

Five Peaks: Anna, thank you so much for agreeing to sit down and chat with us! We are excited to learn more about you and your time at WIC. Tell us a little more about yourself.

Anna: I was born and brought up in a middle class family of ten in the southern part of India. We moved to the US more than fifty years ago. My dream as a teenager was to work with low income families, especially mothers and children. I pursued a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Tennessee, and after graduating, worked initially as a teaching dietitian at the Saint Mary’s Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. My family moved to Fairfax County, Virginia in 1975, which opened up the door for me to get a position as the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Program Manager with the Fairfax County Health Department. I finally retired on January 1st, 2016, after 35 years of serving our local community and fulfilling my dream of working in public service. My husband and I have been blessed with a wonderful son and a daughter, and four beautiful grandchildren. We are very lucky.

Five Peaks: What a fascinating life story! What made you decide to write your book, and share your story with the world?

Anna: My motivation for writing Recipe for Success in WIC: Based on a 35-Year Life Story, is because I strongly believe that others like myself, involved with Community Programs across the country, may be helped and inspired through my experiences described in the book. I believe that one of the most important rules of happiness in life is to do what you love most, and certainly in my case, my long journey with the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program in the state of Virginia helped to reinforce this belief. Looking back over the past 35 years of my journey, I can see how God placed me with the right people by my side when I needed them the most, to make Fairfax County’s WIC Program one of the most successful in the country.

Five Peaks: That’s phenomenal, thank you. It’s wonderful that, through this book, you now have the opportunity to impact so many more lives across the country, far beyond the borders of Fairfax County. Both public servants, and those they serve, will surely benefit greatly from your contributions and wisdom.

Anna: Yes, certainly.

Five Peaks: So, tell us – What made you decide to donate all of the profits from your book sales to the homeless in India?

Anna: Well, growing up, my mother had always worked with the homeless in India through the church. It was her life work, and it inspired me to do the same, and to continue giving back as my mother always did. Once I raise $500, I plan to spend a month back in India, working and cooking for the homeless through the church that my nephew is the Minister of – just like my mother did. I want to honor the memory of my mother, as well as my role as a public servant here in the States and abroad. That is why 100% of the proceeds I receive from each book sale are going back to the homeless people of India. It’s important work – each individual book sale will feed a single child in India 4 days’ worth of healthy, nutritious meals!

Five Peaks: Wow. Anna, that is wonderful. Important work, indeed.

Anna: Yes. There are so many in need. Every contribution makes a difference.

Five Peaks: So what’s next on the horizon? What are you working on now?

Anna: More writing, I think! I’m working on writing a Manual for Healthy Living, with a focus on maintaining a healthy body weight. Yoga, you know, helps greatly with this.

Five Peaks: That we do! We can’t wait to read it. Before we conclude, would you share one of your favorite stories with us, from your time at WIC?

Anna: There are many… reading the book will highlight them. But one – a Caucasian woman came in with her adopted African American son who was on a respirator needing counseling and coupons. I had a feeling I needed to talk with this woman on a personal level, so I asked her what had motivated her to adopt this child who had so many medical challenges, and caused her to be completely selfless with this child. The woman responded that she was volunteering in the hospital when she came across this child, and she instantly felt a pull to him – a need to be with him. It was as if God had put this child in her life, and she simply had to become his mother. I firmly believe that God puts special mothers with very special children.

Five Peaks: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Anna. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better, and we can’t wait to read your book and learn even more!

Please join us in supporting Anna and her mission to help feed homeless children in India, by purchasing her book, Recipe for Success in WIC: Based on a 35-Year Life Story, on Amazon or your local bookstore. Bring in your proof-of-purchase, and we’ll give you or a guest a free class on us! And if you haven’t yet, make sure to hit up one of our 9:30 or 12:00 classes during the week – you might just be lucky enough to practice alongside this inspiring yogi!

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

Kids. Are. Awesome.

December 14, 2017

Kids Yoga is an excellent way for kids to build strength and stamina in both their bodies and minds. Yoga brings an awareness to themselves and others, in a practice of mindful movement both physically and emotionally.  With Treehouse Kids Yoga at Five Peaks, each class will be based on a theme as we take a journey through movement and breath while making it fun with yogi games, songs, books, and age appropriate postures.

Together lets empower kids to build their strength, from the inside out!

Benefits include:

  • Increased strength and flexibility
  • Improved concentration, focus, and attention
  • Improved body awareness and coordination
  • Management of stress through breathing, meditation, and movement
  • Learning to live a healthy lifestyle – physically, mentally, and emotionally
  • Becoming part of a group that is both non-competitive and non-judgmental
  • Increased respect for self and others

Join us THIS Saturday at Five Peaks Power Yoga for our Holiday Kids Yoga Playdate!! We’ll entertain the kiddos from 1:30-3:00 with yoga, mindful coloring, games, books, yoga obstacle course, and snacks, while you get your last-minute holiday shopping done. A win-win for everyone!

*Space is limited!! Register today! $25/child, Ages 4-8.

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

On the 1st Day of Giving, my yoga tribe gave to me… A free gift for expanding our Tribe family!
*Less than 10 spots left for Grand Opening Pricing of Tribe5 memberships; Register now & receive a free gift of your choice (eye pillow, bolster, meditation cushion). This offer is extended to everyone in our Tribe5 membership family!
Heart to heart, hand to hand, we’re held in the holiday spirit here at Five Peaks…
As we step forward into our intention of Seva, we honor the importance of self-care as a primary step along the path toward better serving others.
This week, we begin our countdown of the 12 Days of Giving – with daily offers to help you center, restore, and rejoice. By making time to serve your soul this holiday season, you’ll be better equipped to serve those around you from a place of presence and joy.
Happy Holidays! Take care of yourself, and take care of others. We look forward to seeing you on the mat soon!

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

December: SEVA (Service)

December 13, 2017

Throughout the month of December here at Five Peaks, we are focusing on the theme of SEVA. In Sanskrit, “Seva” means “selfless service”. It is the act of giving; openly, without the need to receive.

But Seva also has two facets – that is, while the primary intention of Seva is to be of service to others, it is important to stay mindful of how we are caring for ourselves as well. Think about it this way – if your tank is empty and you are running on fumes, you won’t have much of anything left to give. When our spiritual tank is empty, we can’t effectively serve others from a present and compassionate space.

This time of year, it’s easy to forget about self-care in the name of serving those we love; And understandably so – this is the season of giving, after all. However, the best way to serve those you love is to take care of yourself first – body, mind, and soul – so that you can more fully give of yourself in every interaction, and flow through this holiday season with presence, clarity, and heart.

As we move through this week, consider how you are prioritizing self-care. How are you nourishing your body, mind, and spirit? By showing up for yourself in a powerful way, you are engaging in the act of “Seva” – for yourself, and by extension, everyone else you’ll meet along the way.

This week, we begin our countdown of the “12 Days of Giving” – with daily offers to help you center, restore, and rejoice. By making time to serve your soul this holiday season, you’ll be better equipped to serve those around you from a place of presence and joy.

Check back here on the blog, or follow along on our social media channels. We look forward to seeing you on the mat soon!

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

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