Thursday, October 6, 2011

The secret to getting a donation to your Yoga on the Steps Team

This entry was written by Sandi Dennis of Washington, DC. Sandra is very excited that LBBC has selected Washington, DC to be the first city of host Yoga on the Steps for its National Expansion Initiative:

LBBC’s Yoga On The Steps® event has long been of interest to me: I grew up in Philadelphia, took art lessons at the Philadelphia Art Museum in my childhood, I’m an avid yogi, and I have worked with LBBC on policy issues in my practice as a healthcare lawyer. I had thought it would be a powerful event to participate in, but never got around to it. Well, this year, Yoga on the Steps is truly speaking to me, as it is coming to Washington, DC where I live, work, and play. And, oh yeah, last year I had breast cancer. So, actually, the event is screaming to me.  

I first felt the marble-like mass above my right breast late one night in April 2010 while trying to print out my boarding pass for my early morning flight to Mexico for a week of yoga and hiking. I proceeded to print the boarding pass and googled an article that said “a moveable, marble-like mass” was likely benign.
Back at home the following week, I had a positive diagnosis for breast cancer, the day after my 55th birthday. It seemed particularly ironic that day as I was still glowing and feeling strong and zen-like, as healthy and in shape as I had ever felt. My yoga-calm quickly began to fade.
As many of you know, treatment can be devastating to one’s body and soul. For me, it was far more tolerable than I feared. I owe much of that to two things: 1) yoga and 2) supportive family, friends, and colleagues who rallied around me—and were comfortable doing so. I was very open about my diagnosis and because of that , I believe, everyone close to me was able to give me the genuine support I needed.

Yoga helped me physically and mentally. The teachings helped me accept myself as a cancer patient. Like it or not, that’s what life handed me last year and that’s what I had to deal with. On a shallower level, the studio was the one place outside of my house where I’d go wig-free—a necessity, as I practice at Down Dog Yoga in DC (a studio heated to 95ish degrees). Yes, I eagerly subject my body to that, but not my $1800 wig!

Other yogis got used to seeing me. There were many young women in the classes and hopefully they could see the ability of someone in active chemo treatment who regularly practices yoga. This was my personal way to continue living life during treatment.
At my office my cancer was headline news. One of my colleagues offered to shave his head as a way to show his support. Our two other lawyer colleagues joined in the head shaving at the office—what a show of support and solidarity for me.

How could I be distraught over my own circumstances when my colleagues were making such a sacrifice and public showing of support? Granted, at least one of them was already follicularly-challenged, but the other two had full heads of hair. I had never imagined that anyone would take an action so bold to support a colleague. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world!

Not everyone chooses to make their treatment so public and it is obviously a personal choice. There is no right or wrong decision. For me, it was really helpful. Not only did I have the support and cheerleading of many of my colleagues, I didn't have to wonder if people knew. They didn't have to wonder if I knew they knew--it was just a fact. It also made it easier to check in without needing to say much. Questions like: How are your treatments going? were one good way to check in or How are you? took on a whole new meaning in this light.

I’ve now been cancer-free for over a year (from diagnosis) and I’m in that grey area where I don’t have cancer, but I’m still a cancer patient; I’m not really sick, but still in recovery. I’m ready to move on but I still feel very connected to my breast cancer experience. What do I do with that status? Well, for now, I'm throwing a whole lot of energy into LBBC’s Yoga on the Steps.

I registered last week and was lucky to get a very generous donation (in addition to my own) within minutes of registering. I set my initial target at $1000 and surpassed it in less than two days! This motivated me to raise it to $2000, which I have also surpassed - I think I'm going for $2500 now. There's no magic in getting donations! I suggest sending an email to everyone you could think of. Tell them how much this event means to you, and how how this positive energy can help you and/or others who are healing. I do think that since I was so open about my breast cancer, people were more inspired to donate. Yoga on the Steps is helping me re-connect with what matters and the people who care. This event is the perfect way to stay in touch, stay healthy, and remember.

Make a donation to Yoga on the Steps today! Even if you don't live in the Washington, DC area, you can set up a virtual team and fundraise from wherever you are. Thank you in advance for your hardworking fundraising efforts. Proceeds from this event go directly toward education and support programs for women and families affected by breast cancer.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yoga and breast cancer go hand-in-hand

Darcie Vugrinovich, who practices yoga at Flow Yoga Center and Tranquil Space, is excited about meeting you at Freedom Plaza on October 16 for Yoga on the Steps®: Washington, DC. Here’s why!

I'm joining LBBC for Yoga on the Steps®: Washington, DC because yoga and breast cancer go hand-in-hand for me. That may sound like an odd statement, but I began practicing yoga right before I was diagnosed with late staged breast cancer. I was only 28 years old. I largely credit my ability to cope with the ups and downs that come with breast cancer (and life in general) to my yoga practice.

Like many people, I began practicing yoga as a form of exercise, but noticed somewhere along the way that yoga is so much more than practicing asanas (postures) to get physically fit - although that's one of its many benefits. Many breast cancer treatments can cause weight gain, but I have lost a few pounds and hopefully gained a little muscle, too. I love that yoga is accessible to people of all abilities, ages, and religious backgrounds. If you can breathe, then you can do yoga. Seriously.

I have brought my bald-headed, over-heated (gotta love those hot flashes), fatigued-self to the yoga mat. I think to myself, "What am I doing here?" But, even on days when it was painful for me to lie flat on my back in shavasana, I have always left my yoga mat feeling a little bit more collected, more energized, and more at peace than when I came. I have joyfully witnessed my body's ability to evolve, as I stood in headstand for the first time or simply rediscovered the challenges of a seemingly simplistic pose.

Yoga has allowed me to focus on the present moment, letting go of the ‘whys’: Why didn't I catch my breast cancer sooner? I'm no longer quite as anxious as I await the results of my latest medical test, which has been no small task for someone who literally stalks the radiology department after every scan.

I'm joining LBBC for Yoga on the Steps because I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience the joy of yoga, particularly women who have been personally affected by breast cancer. If you've never tried yoga before, you may be hesitant to begin. Acknowledge that thought and then join us anyway. I look forward to meeting you there.


To register for Yoga on the Steps: Washington, DC, please visit You can participate as an individual or as part of a fundraising team. Make a donation to Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s team if you don’t want to physically participate! Funds raised at Yoga on the Steps go directly toward education and support programs for women and families affected by breast cancer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Rockstars of Yoga

This entry was written by Randi Rentz. Randi is an individual fundraiser for Yoga on the Steps:

If you remember theY2K Revolution and fear of your computer exploding when we made it to the year, 2000, you probably remember the sudden increase in the new yoga craze, too. The yoga revolution isn’t like the '50s, where you might remember those machines where you flung a big strap around your butt, flipped a switch and jiggled away all your self-esteem. Guess what? The new century brought us a hip way to get fit that is thousands of years old. In fact, yoga is such the rage, it’s been sexified with tres chic language. Who knew that I would need a yoga dictionary to decipher words such as Bikram, Chaka and Vinyasa. I thought I was reading first names of new” rock stars,” like Cher and Madonna, not practices for purifying the soul.

Aiming to tone, firm and beautify your body, mind and soul, the so-called power of yoga workouts are knocking kickboxing out of the ring. Tired, old aerobic routines just don't measure up. (Seriously, have you ever seen Gisele Bundchen at LA Fitness?)

Celebs like Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Anniston and Jenny McCarthy have all given the yoga workout their star-studded seal of approval.

But do they work for regular people; especially people who have had breast cancer? You know, the moderately chunky (from steroids, chemo or Tamoxifen), 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60—somethings? Unable to find my groove at the gym, I was in search of something new, something to lift my spirits. I thought I would rather be waterboarded than do another spin class or the elliptical machine for 45 minutes, yet again.

I decided to live like a celebrity and try out yoga for a month to see if it did anything for me.

Luckily, I live in Philadelphia, so I didn't have to look far to find a studio that suited my needs. The one I chose was just a hop-skip from my house, so I couldn't wait to get my “stretch on” and spiritually moving. I met with “Raj,” the owner, and he walked me through the process, explaining the benefits of this type of ancient workout regime.

According to Raj, yoga goes well beyond toning and firming muscle. It also has been shown to:
• improve bone density

• accelerate weight loss

• reduce cellulite

• improve blood circulation

• decrease physical and emotional stress

• improve balance, equilibrium and dexterity

He had me at "reduces cellulite." I went to a sporting goods store to purchase my first yoga mat and water bottle. While I was at it, I purchased cute yoga outfits, too. Always a thrilling task.

Then I got a free personal training session which is a perk for any new yoga-want-to be at this studio. My trainer told me he would create a routine for me that would intrinsically help me relieve stress and worry, while at the same time learning to live in the moment, which is a major benefit for cancer patients -- and I was off. Yoga literally rocked my world. My whole body quivered and shook, and I swear I grew an inch. My lymphatic circulation was improving by the minute, as well as the continuous pain in my surgical area.

But I was determined to do more, where I squatted, lunged, pliƩ'd, push-upped and planked my way into a major sweat.

This is why Jennifer Aniston's arms are so amazing. It was one tough workout!

After 30 days, I'm stronger, relaxed and mentally acute. But while I'm not Jennifer Anniston by a long stretch, I worked out like her for a month and feel much closer to her than I ever did before.

My conclusion about yoga is this: It's fun, it's easy, and it's up to you to decide how hard you want to make it. The best part is that I wasn't stuck doing it at some clanky meat-market gym. Serenity awaited me every time I walked through the studio.

So, if you want to exercise like Jennifer (and me), give yoga a try. And if you happen to live in Philadelphia, you could always do it at my studio. Just ask for Raj. Tell him Randi sent you.

It's not too late to make a donation for Yoga on the Steps! Our fundraising goal is $250,000. Will you help us reach our goal? We're 75 percent to our goal!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I support Yoga on the Steps because of what LBBC stands for

This entry was written by Kelly Stipa. This will be Kelly's first year participating in Yoga on the Steps:

I first learned about Living Beyond Breast Cancer from one of my best friends, Gina. For the past 4 years, I’ve participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and did a lot of fundraising, but after taking the time to research and learn about LBBC, I decided to become a part of Gina’s team, the 2nd Base Brigade, and fundraise for Yoga on the Steps.

Gina and I have a very close friendship, and one thing we have in common is that someone in our lives has lived with breast cancer. Gina’s mom, Susan, is currently living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and both my grandmothers, Betty and Ann, fought this disease for years. My grandmother on my Dad’s side was diagnosed in 1979 and immediately had a mastectomy on her right breast. She lived a healthy life for another 25 years. My Grandmother on my Mom’s side had a different type breast cancer, and she struggled for quite a long time, which also ended with a mastectomy but 10 years later she is going strong!

When you have a family member so close to you living with breast cancer, you want to do anything you can to help them. I really love what LBBC stands for, and how 84 cents of every dollar donated goes towards education. That is almost 85%! Over the years, we’ve all donated toward research for a cure, which is something we all desperately want to find, but I’ve learned that helping to educate and improve a person’s quality of life is just as important.

In all honesty, I’ve never been a fan of yoga….at all!! In fact, Gina and I love to walk and jog every morning in our neighborhood. We do 3 miles a day faithfully. That’s one of the ways we keep ourselves healthy. But after seeing pictures from last year’s event, and hearing Gina and Susan talk about how fun and important this day is, I wanted to be a part of it with them. This will be my first time participating in an LBBC fundraising event, and I’m excited to experience it with people I love and support.

I am one of only two new members of the 2nd Base Brigade, and I’m so happy I decided to join them for Yoga on the Steps. After making phone calls, sending out emails and text messages, I’m proud to say I’ve helped our team to meet our goal of $1500, and my donations keep coming in! I’m not going to stop until I hit my personal goal of $500. Heck…let’s make it $600!

Gina (or Twin - which is our nickname for each other), and I are known for being silly and having a good time, but there are moments when we bond over the serious things that affect our lives. Gina has talked at length about how LBBC has helped her mom over the past couple years, and she is forever grateful to them. She believes this organization is what has helped Susan to stay optimistic, and continue to live a positive and exciting life. That is what we both want for ourselves if either one of us ever has to struggle with this disease personally.

 Kelly (right) with her best friend, Gina (left).

In support of my grandmothers, Susan, and for all the other mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and girlfriends that are affected by this terrible disease, I hope my fundraising efforts will help to educate these very special people living beyond breast cancer.

Do you have a special reason to fundraise? Register for Yoga on the Steps today! There is a minimum donation of $50 required for each participant to participate in the class and the event.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Share your Hero's Journey at Yoga on the Steps

This entry was written by Jennifer Schelter, prominent yoga instructor who will lead over 1,000 breast cancer supporters during the yoga class for Yoga on the Steps:

Yoga on the Steps for Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) is a magical morning to share and define your "Hero’s Journey."

How do you define being the hero of your own life? Do you define it physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? What do you do on a daily basis to acknowledge your own and others heroism?

As we count down to the days before Yoga on the Steps, I invite you to awaken to your Hero’s Journey – being unstoppable in the face of life’s obstacles. We are all survivors. We all have a story to tell.

Join me on May 15th for Yoga on the Steps for LBBC, as you practice yoga and meditation and feel your own authentic definition of your hero journey.

How do every day heroes think and act? Let’s grow this conversation. Please invite your friends and family to Yoga on the Steps. More than ever we need to see ourselves and others as heroes. Do heroes write love letters? To whom would you write?

Photo Credits: Paul Rider

Can’t wait to see you at Yoga on the Steps!

For more information on Yoga on the Steps, please visit

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stereotypes and yoga

This entry was written by Christina Payne, LBBC's Marketing and Communications Intern:

Stereotypes are all around us. Yoga is an exercise that promotes physical and mental wellness for individuals of all races, religions and backgrounds; however, for the African-American community the practice of yoga is not always first choice of exercise even though yoga has healing benefits that have been proven to relieve stress. According to an article on, Namaste: Yoga in the Black Community, African-Americans seem to associate the meaning and purpose behind yoga with negative views and opinions. This mindset leads to a culture that doesn’t take advantage of exploring and enjoying the benefits associated with this form of exercise.

High-profile celebrity Russell Simmons practices this form of exercise and has said “Yoga has really helped me feel more comfortable with the idea of being present, the simpliest idea of spirituality, the power of now.” And according to Beyonce, “Every time I take a yoga class, I want to cry. I don’t know if it’s because I’m relaxing, or if it’s that by the end of the class, your body can do things it couldn’t do in the beginning, so you feel accomplished and emotional. It’s therapeutic.”

Yoga on the Steps - 2009
In America, yoga is viewed as a predominately White form of fitness. It is believed that yoga is very expensive and individuals with high incomes can only afford the classes. Reports have shown that there is in fact discrimination among African-American yoga teachers and black attendees. There is a stigma in the African-American community in regards to understanding in fact what yoga really is. In 2009, Wake Forest University released study data supporting the positive impact of yoga on the emotional health of women affected by breast cancer. Yoga can be performed by people of any age or physical condition—no prior experience is necessary.

The lack of knowledge leads to confusion and pushes people away from an exercise that is very beneficial to one’s health. Claims such as “yoga is a religion” or yoga teachers of color being mistaken for assistants or receptionists are a few discrepancies that belittle what yoga is and who is associated with it.

Although the stereotypes and stigmas exist, there has been a movement of growth toward a positive perspective that defines the African-American role in yoga. For example, there are many health issues such as, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease that affect the African-American community and the use of yoga can be of great use when it comes to maintaining good health, relieving stress, and balancing physical and mental strength.

Have you ever tried yoga? Can you admit that you’ve associated the healing exercise with some of the stereotypes listed above? Living Beyond Breast Cancer challenges you to try yoga with over 1,000 breast cancer supporters on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday, May 15. For more information, visit The signature fundraising event encourages teams and individuals to raise money in support of LBBC’s educational programs for women and families affected by breast cancer. Register today!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Team Forever 25 Gives Hope

This entry was written by Colleen Kryka, one of the Team Captains of Forever 25: The White House Black Market Team:

After my breast cancer diagnosis, everything became possible. I got the mindset, “why not, what do I have to lose?” The timing was perfect because within days I received an email alert from LBBC that White House Black Market was holding a contest for 25 breast cancer survivors. What the heck, why not? So I wrote my essay, had my husband take a photo and “click,” off it went. Little did I know - that the click of the send button would really set my new path.

I was selected and joined 24 amazing women in New York City for a real-life glamorous photo shoot. We had the full “pit crew” working on us. We were treated like super models, not like mothers, daughters or sisters playing dress-up (even though we were!). We were all little girls again, with giant smiles. We were sexy, beautiful women…not sick, scared, and diagnosed patients. Our inner beauty came through the battered outer shells. Two days of this metamorphosis forever bonded 25 women who quite frankly never would have chosen this common bond, but amazingly found strength, comfort and POWER.

Collective energy can be quite healing. So for the next 4 months we emailed, facebooked, and chatted about our next gathering. So in October White House Black Market and LBBC gathered the 25 of us once again at the Butterfly Ball. We were long-lost sisters gabbing and admiring our beautiful selves all dressed up once again by WHBM. We all danced and laughed. What an evening it was. I never realized or even thought for a moment this would be the last time all of us would be able to gather and celebrate life!

Forever 25

Vivian Rivera was also selected to participate in the photo shoot. She sang a beautiful song during her WHBM interview and LBBC asked her to perform it at the Butterfly Ball. We gave her a standing ovation. Her self-written song, “Chosen” is the voice to all of us who are choosing to win during hard times. Within weeks we heard about Vivian’s illness. Lori Baur, who was also selected to participate in the photo shoot, rallied up all 24 of us to send support, and we did. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. By January, Vivian, our gorgeous song bird, flew to heaven. She had left a mark, touched our hearts, but also challenged my thinking once again - THIS disease is real.

 Vivian Rivera leaves the crowd with a smile after performing "Chosen" at LBBC's Butterfly Ball 2010

Soon we stopped hearing as much from Lori. Although Vivian passed away from a rare brain cancer, her news was so real for Lori. Lori had been living with metastatic breast cancer for years. She and her husband went on their dream vacation to Hawaii. Very soon after their vacation, once again we got the devastating news that Lori’s breast cancer journey had come to an end.

 Lori Baur and her husband at LBBC's Butterfly Ball 2010

This disease sucks in so many ways, yet I have met and became friends with some of the most incredible women. How can something so bad bring such good? That question can’t be answered - it can only be lived. That’s when Denise, another WHBM babe, reached out to me about Yoga on the Steps. There would be no better way to honor Vivian and Lori than to move to action! So we formed Forever 25, The White House Black Market Team for this May’s Philadelphia Yoga on the Steps.

Boy! WHBM stepped up to the plate once again! They are matching our donations up to 10k, making us personalized t-shirts that we can sport day-of, and providing a never-ending supply of support! We can’t bring Lori and Vivian back, but we CAN keep their spirit and the energy of that magical WHBM campaign alive. We CAN give HOPE at the end of each day - HOPE that we will enjoy our son’s next baseball game, HOPE that we will feel beautiful and sexy, HOPE that we will do more than just…survive. HOPE that we will thrive, and just like Lori and Vivian, HOPE that we will touch others and make this journey a little easier for someone else.

See you at Yoga on the Steps.

Make a donation to the Forever 25: The White House Black Market Team! You can start fundraising today! Join a team, form a team or fundraise as an individual! If you have any questions, visit