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After a three-year stint in Charlotte, native New Jerseyan Maria Suarez moved back to Oradell to help care for her aging father. The longtime artist has worked as a jewelry designer for the past 25 years. Upon returning to NJ, she became aware of Family Promise and wanted to support our mission. While talking with our Executive Director Kate Duggan at a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party, she had what she describes as “a light bulb moment’’—yoga!

Maria, a certified yoga instructor, knew that yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises would help Family Promise mothers cope with their very stressful lives, so she began offering free yoga instruction.

Here’s how she explains her motivation on her website: “To me, yoga was always about the practice, not making money. I wanted to delve deeper into my personal study and to help people with my yoga, but I wasn’t looking for financial gain. Then I met the mothers at Family Promise.’’

Maria’s hunch was right; Family Promise moms love yoga. They say it’s relaxing—“OMG,’’ one said after a class, “I slept like a baby!’’—and fun. By being able to laugh together and enjoy themselves, the mothers feel united, despite their challenges. Learning something new also has its appeal.

After meeting the women and their wonderful children, Maria was moved to do even more. She created Seva Pop-Up Yoga so she could teach additional yoga classes to the public, donating 100% of the proceeds to Family Promise. She says, “The fact that the proceeds go to Family Promise gives my students the opportunity to take care of themselves, while they take care of others.”

Students of Seva Pop-Up love the yoga as well as the charity aspect, saying things like, “I love that I can take time for myself, in the peaceful atmosphere of the park, and it benefits a worthy cause.”

One of the philosophies that Maria abides by is that yoga is a powerful tool for anyone. It brings a sense of peace, serenity, and well-being, increases strength and flexibility, and also improves blood circulation.  More importantly, yoga helps you remember who you are, especially when you’re going through a hard time.  It helps you connect to your essence, your true self. Namaste.

To help yourself while helping others, try a Seva Pop-Up class. Classes are held in Memorial Park, Oradell, and River Edge Farmer’s Market. Visit www.sevapopupyoga.com for a schedule.