Village in the News!

To celebrate Women's History month, the Shaler North Hills Library is putting together some special programs in March.  These programs will be focusing on promoting a positive body image for women.  And our very own Abby Ritter, Yoga Instructor, will play a part in this event by offering a free class on the benefits of yoga on March 20th at 6:30pm at the Shaler North Hills Library.  Read the full article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.


Souls for Soles

Many of us have more shoes than we know what to do with.  We look through dozens of pairs each day to decide which one we’ll wear.  And those are just the shoes we actually keep in our closets.  It’s estimated that there are over 1 billion unworn pairs of shoes taking up space in our closets and storage bins.  Maybe they are out of style or outgrown.  Either way, if they are in good condition, they would be a priceless treasure to someone in a developing country.  The Village is asking you to help us support another good cause and donate your shoes.

Why are shoes so important?  One in two people lives in extreme poverty in sub-Sahara Africa. And with HIV rates at an epidemic level, many children are left orphaned and shoeless.  It’s estimated that there are over 20 million orphaned children without shoes.  Shoes also offer a measure of health and safety, as being barefoot in these regions can lead to cracks, cuts, and injuries on the feet that are never treated and could end up with a serious infection, parasitic, amputation, or death.  Shoes are also required for children to attend school as part of their uniform.  Without them, they are unable to be a part of the classes.  Currently, 40% of children are unable to attend school because they don't have shoes.  This prevents many adults and children from working, as many jobs require walking long distances.  Therefore, their income is also negatively impacted.

Spring is the time to de-clutter and start anew.  Take some time to go through your closets and clear out your old shoes and fill your soul by donating your shoes so that others have the opportunity to live a better life.  Starting March 1st through May 1st,  both Village locations will be gratefully accepting your shoe donations for adults and children in sub-Sahara Africa.  

Your Food & Your Mood


Have you ever noticed how you feel after a bowl of ice cream or a handful of cookies? Maybe a little guilty and regretful?  It’s not just your imagination.  Certain foods can actually trigger certain responses in our bodies.  Because what we put in our bodies fuels us, it can directly affect our brain, which in turn, determines our mood.  We need a certain supply of vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies functioning optimally.  When we feed ourselves food low in nutritional value, our risk of depression and other emotional issues can rise.  So what should you limit to keep your body and brain on a positive path?

Refined sugar is one of the biggest culprits of a bad mood.  At least in the long run.  It may feel good for a few minutes, but leads to fluctuations in your blood sugar, which then causes fluctuations in your moods.  It can also lead to insulin resistance, which plays a large role in mental health. Sugar has also been shown to create chronic inflammation in the long term, which can wreak havoc on our immune system and be linked to a greater risk of depression.  Processed foods are another thing to avoid if you want to keep your mood steady and positive.  They are filled with many chemicals that are connected to irritability and a bad mood. 

So what should you be eating if you want to keep your brain happy?  Eating healthy fats rich in omega-3 fatty acids can play a big role in decreasing inflammation, which promotes good moods.  Fermented foods, such as yogurt or fermented veggies, are another great option, as they promote good gut health, which is directly related to our moods.  Getting in your five a day of veggies and fruit helps ensure you’re getting all the nutrients and fiber your body needs, which keeps our bodies physically and mentally healthy. Complex carbs such as root vegetables and whole grains can also help keep your mood stable, as they digest slowly and create a more balanced blood sugar level.  Getting plenty of vitamin D, especially in the winter months, from some good old-fashioned sunshine can help keep depression at bay.  Finally, keep up your water intake.  Dehydration can cause tiredness and agitation, while staying hydrated can keep us energized. 

For more tips on how better nutrition can improve your health and daily life, check out our upcoming workshop, The Art of Healthy Living Through Yoga & Ayurveda with Bhavna Mehta next Sunday, February 26th. 

Staff Spotlight – Bhavna Mehta, AHC, RYT-500


This month at the Village, our featured workshop is The Art of Healthy Living through Ayurveda and Yoga, where you’ll learn how to incorporate each into your daily routine and the therapeutic benefits they can provide.   We were able to sit down with the teacher of this workshop, Bhavna Mehta, and find out a little more about how she got started in holistic therapy as well as more about using Ayurveda in our daily lives.

1.       How did you get started in Ayurveda and Yoga practices?  What was your inspiration?

I was born in India and was raised by Ayurvedic doctors within my family.  Spirituality was not something separate, but rather a way of life.  Yoga was always practiced in our family as well.  Having grown up with those values, after moving here, I wanted to study Ayurveda and Yoga at a higher level, share those values, and teach those values.

2.       What is your approach to holistic therapy?

There are many schools of thought.  The most common form of therapy focuses on only the physical body. I like to understand each person on a mental, physical, and emotional level to help identify the root causes of imbalances.  Rather than a one size fits all model, I focus on an integrative approach and focus on what that person individually needs.  My goal is to use combinations of predominately yoga, Ayurveda, herbalism, and massage to heal that person.

3.       Tell us more about your upcoming workshop featuring Yoga and Ayurveda.

My workshop has two parts, a combining of the sister sciences, Yoga and Ayurveda, to demonstrate the benefits of a holistic approach.  While yoga has many different aspects, (spiritual, meditation, etc.), I will demonstrate the therapeutic value of yoga.  For example, we will learn about which poses are good for back pain and which poses aid in digestion.  In the second part, we will focus on the Ayurveda diet and lifestyle.  We will discuss which foods are good to eat in each season, and which foods are good for each body type.  We will also enjoy an Ayurvedically prepared meal at the end of the session.

4.      How can we incorporate Ayurveda into our daily lives?

Setting up and following a daily routine is essential.  To do this, start with one thing.  For example, having lemon water in the morning, eating heavier meals earlier in the day, or by avoiding mixing incompatible foods.  While Ayurveda as a whole is much more complicated, I will have handouts during the workshop with a list of items that can be incorporated into your lifestyle that you can build on step by step.  When you go at your own pace, even starting with just 5 minutes a day, you can make a meaningful impact in your life. 

If you want to know more about how Ayurveda and Yoga can benefit you, join us for Bhavna's workshop, February 26th at our West End Village location.


Staff Spotlight: Kristina Lampasi, PiYo Instructor

Kristina warming up in the studio before teaching her Tuesday night PiYo class.

Kristina warming up in the studio before teaching her Tuesday night PiYo class.

With the beginning of a new year comes a time of reflection and goal setting.  And for many of us, we want to incorporate new health goals into our lives, which often involve starting a new exercise routine.  That's why this month seemed so fitting to catch up with the Village’s Piyo Instructor, Kristina Lampasi, to find out what her exercise class is all about and how she got started. 

1.  How did you get started and what inspired you to start teaching PiYo?

I was introduced to PiYo shortly after having my twins. I had previously been an avid runner, but had stopped during my pregnancy.  Afterwards, I was looking for a low impact workout that I could do at home.  I immediately fell in love with PiYo! Not only did it help me shed the baby weight, but it totally improved my mood for the day! That’s when I knew I had to share it and I began practicing for my PiYo certification, which I completed in December of 2014.

2.  PiYo is a relatively new type of workout. Can you explain what it is and how it's different than other popular workouts?

PiYo is a mind-body workout with the elements of Pilates and Yoga. We combine the muscle-sculpting, core-firming benefits of Pilates with the strength and flexibility advantages of Yoga, while continuously moving to keep up the heart rate. The class is broken down into 10 sections which all use different muscles, giving you the maximum benefits. It’s also low impact which means just about anyone can do it!

4. With a great exercise routine comes other healthy choices.  What keeps you motivated to lead a healthy lifestyle?

My kids! I have three little ones that keep me going and that I need to keep up with every day. I also want to be a positive role model by teaching them that it is important to take care of yourself. A healthier parent makes a happier parent and I think we all have to remember to make ourselves a priority when it comes to making time for healthy habits. Exercise and proper food choices keep us well and prevent common illnesses, and as a parent of three, I don’t have time to get sick, so that’s something I always keep in mind.

5. What advice would you give someone who wants to give PiYo a try?

Give it a shot! This workout really is for everyone! All of the moves can be modified for any fitness level whether you're an athlete or a couch potato.  We will sweat but also have fun while doing it!

Kristina’s PiYo class is every Tuesday evening at our Shaler location from 6:30 to 7:30 pm and costs $5 per class. Wear comfortable clothes, bare feet, and be ready to get in a fun workout! For more info on the PiYo class, other classes at the Village, and a link to purchase a 4 class pass, check out the Village website.


Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy – 5 Healthier Holiday Tips

Can you believe it’s the middle of December already? By now you are probably starting to feel the rush of the holiday season set in.  Shopping, parties, presents, programs, and family gatherings.  And they are all happening on top of an already hectic schedule.  It’s no wonder that we start to put our health on the back burner during this time of year and are craving a healthy change in the New Year!  Why wait for January to take care your health?  Here are five easy ways to get a head start and feel better during the holidays!

1.      Don’t Forget To Eat Breakfast - It’s the first meal of the day and can set the tone for the rest of the choices you make, so choose wisely.  Pick healthy, filling options like a veggie omelet, fresh fruit with yogurt, or oatmeal with peanut butter.  By making good choices early on, you’ll be less tempted to head for the treats later in the day!

2.      Keep the Water Coming – In the winter, it’s easy to forget to drink water consistently.  When that happens, we start to confuse thirst with hunger and end up snacking when all we really needed was water.  Keep a water bottle with you at all times so you don’t forget to keep drinking!

3.      Give Yourself a Break – Try to block out a small amount of time each day where you can sit and soak in your surroundings.  Let the rush and stress of the day fade away and take a moment to just breathe.  Sometimes, just giving yourself 10 peaceful minutes to relax can make a huge difference in how you take on your daily tasks.

4.      Pre-Party At Home – Parties are always on the schedule this time of year, but they can be filled with tempting, unhealthy foods.  Rather than filling up at the party, plan to eat a healthy snack or meal that will keep you full while you’re out.  Then you can focus on enjoying the company you’re with rather than the treats!

5.      Don’t Skimp on Sleep – Keep your nighttime routine consistent and make it a priority to get at least 6 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  Staying caught up on sleep will help you enjoy the season and resist unhealthy temptations.  

I hope these tips help get you through the busy season a little healthier and happier! 

If you’re interested in learning more about a healthier lifestyle, check out our upcoming workshop in January, Ayurveda: Nature's Healing Medicine, featuring a holistic Ayurveda daily routine, along with a grounding yoga practice.


HOPE for the Holidays

With Thanksgiving only a few days away and the rest of the holidays not far behind, let’s take a moment to give thanks for what we have.  A safe place to live and a good relationship with our partners can easily be taken for granted.  That’s why the Village is a big supporter of the Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center.  The HOPE Center, located in Tarentum, PA, is an organization of social change whose mission is the safe elimination of domestic violence through intervention, prevention, and collaboration.

The Center offers five programs to help victims of domestic violence, including emergency shelter, legal advocacy, transitional housing, medical advocacy, and a 24 hour crisis hotline.  They are also proactive in their stand against violence and offer violence prevention programs including classes for children, teens, and a high school dating violence education program.  The 24 hour hotline provides support, education, and options regarding each domestic violence situation, as well as referrals.  Their 30 day emergency shelter is a secure place for women, along with their children AND pets, who are experiencing domestic abuse and need a place to live or are homeless. Being able to bring pets and provide a safe place for them is a huge relief to victims of domestic abuse, as many choose not to leave their situation for fear of their pets’ safety.  During their stay, weekly education based life skills and goal planning are available to help the women gain confidence.  For longer term, there is also transitional housing option.

The HOPE Center is always in need of our support!  Let’s join together this holiday season and give back to a worthy cause.  If you would like to help out the shelter with a donation, they are requesting unwrapped toys for children. They are also always in need of socks, slippers, underwear, and pajamas for women and children, and pet supplies for dogs and cats such as food, treats, leashes, shampoos, toys, and beds. 

The Village will be taking donations for the HOPE Center at both Village locations until December 18th:

Village North - 1407 N. Mt. Royal Blvd, Glenshaw, PA 15116

Village West – 68 Wabash St., Pittsburgh, PA 15220

There is an Adopt-A-Shelter fundraiser benefiting the Alle-Kiski HOPE Center that will be held at Casey’s Family Restaurant in Shaler, on Saturday December 10th from 6 – 10pm, and will include family fun, a DJ, and raffle baskets.  Donations needed are unwrapped toys for children and pet supplies. 

Resources for Help and Awareness

If you or someone you know is experiencing any form of domestic violence, encourage them to get help!  For more info on what domestic abuse is, read here. 

More information about the Alle Kiski HOPE Center -

Alle Kiski HOPE Center Crisis Hotline (888) 299-4673


Children's Grief Awareness Day - November 17th, 2016

This year, Thursday November 17th is Children’s Grief Awareness Day.  It is purposely set on the third Thursday of November, right before Thanksgiving, to help support children who have lost a loved one, get through the holiday season a little easier.  This day also helps remind others that children experience grief, just as adults do.  This important day was started in 2008 by Highmark Caring, a Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents, and their Parents. Their mission is to help grieving children feel less alone and more supported during their time of need.  As adults, we sometimes struggle to cope with a loss, but for children it can feel almost impossible. That is why spreading awareness is so important.

Books can be a very helpful outlet for children after the loss of a loved one.  This site has some great references to books for this topic such as Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories and Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs, along with Rainbow Reach books which are interactive workbooks to help kids process their feelings during the difficult time of a loss.  Here is another informative site about what to expect with grieving children and some very useful tips and book recommendations.  Always remember to preview any books about coping with a loss before reading it to a child. 

To support those who have lost a love one and help them to honor the memory of someone they have lost, we encourage you to wear BLUE on Thursday, November 17th.  The village is also honoring this day by hanging butterflies that have been decorated by children in honor of someone they have lost.  HOPE the butterfly is the symbol of Children’s Grief Awareness Day.  This helps children who are grieving know that we are here and we care about them. Anyone can decorate a butterfly in memory of, in honor of, or in support of here.

More resources about Children’s Grief Awareness Day:

Staff Spotlight: Dawn Penney BC-DMT, LPC, RYT

This month we caught up with Dawn Penney, one of our licensed professional counselors, to find out how she combines dance, yoga and mental health, and how she keeps a "mindful" approach to life.

How did you get started in the field?  What was your inspiration?

Dance held a healing power for me ever since childhood.  While in high school, I had the direct opportunity to witness and help facilitate dance with children who simply opened up and came alive in class. I will always draw my inspiration from that time with those special children.  I had planned to go to college for Child Psychology and then discovered, through a magical moment, the field of Dance Movement Therapy.  I never waivered.  I was then able to receive my undergraduate in Dance with a minor in Psychology and go on for my Masters degree in DMT before further education and licensure as a Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, Certified Trauma Professional and Registered Yoga Teacher.  People often ask me what the connection between them all might be. But there is a deep connection of mind and body.  I am very passionate and believe wholeheartedly, both personally and professionally, that for true health and healing, we cannot separate the two.  I am so grateful for my 16 professional years in the field and continue to learn and grow from each experience.

What is your approach to holistic therapy?

Holistic to me speaks to the mind, body and spirit interconnection.  I work from a present moment perspective and the client's experience and relationship to their challenge at that moment.  I believe that the body and the breath are the only things we have available to us in the present moment and encourage clients to connect with both as often as able.  The mind, body, spirit interconnection naturally brings to the table the balance in ones' life regarding physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relational needs and how these are impacted by lifestyle to routine to communication approaches.  I also include and believe that holistic invites creativity and alternate approaches to talking.

Tell us more about your upcoming Mindfull workshop.

I include Mindfulness techniques in each session and lead our Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation each Monday evening for the past 2.5 years here at the Village.  I thought that during this time of year, both transitioning into Winter and the Holiday season, would be a great time to offer a space and time for our community to explore, deepen, experience their relationship to Mindfull vs. Mindful.  The workshop will present simple concepts of Mindfulness with experientialism and take homes including; exploration of mindful eating, breath work for decreasing anxiety and increasing mood and focus; restorative yoga postures with guided imagery for experience of restoration prior to the upcoming seasons!  Talking weaved in with a great deal of doing and being!  It also can be a positive experience to share this time and space of mindfulness with a family member, friend or partner.  Last year participants who invited others expressed that it was positive and powerful for them.

How can we incorporate mindfulness into our everyday lives?

I think a few great ways are to incorporate minute mindfulness with tasks that we already have in our routine, so it isn't "another thing" or increasing our feeling of overwhelm.  For example, really pay attention to your senses and the feeling of your feet on the floor when you're brushing your teeth.

If you are interested in experiencing and understanding how to take a more mindful approach to your everyday life, especially during the upcoming holiday season, register and come join us Sunday, November 6th for Dawn’s Mindfull Workshop.

A Deeper Look Into Ayurveda

The colder weather has finally moved in and the fall season is officially in full swing!  Last time on the blog, we introduced you to the seasonal approach of nutrition through Ayurveda.  We learned that Ayurveda focuses on reaching balance through the mind, body, and spirit. This time, we are going to take a deeper look.  How do you even start on this health journey? What more do you need to know about this ancient practice?

To begin, there are three constitutions, or Doshas, in Ayurveda’s approach; Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Each person matches up to one of these more than the others.  Finding your match is key to using the Ayurvedic philosophy to your advantage.  Vata, which is air and space, is dry, airy, light, cold and clear.  Vata types tend to be thin and lanky.  Vata also regulates movement.  Pitta, which is fire and water, is sharp, hot, liquid, and oily.  Pitta types are usually of medium build and moderately muscular. Pitta’s domain is transformation.  Finally, Kapha, earth and water, is heavy, cold, dull, cloudy and hard.  Kapha types are usually very athletic and have strong, large builds.  Its domain is stability and structure.  To find out more about Doshas and which type is most like you, take this quiz.

By breaking out the different qualities into three Doshas types, the Ayurvedic approach to health is unique and not your average one-size-fits-all approach.  You can use the principle Dosha rules to fit your individual needs based on your imbalances, geography, and the changing seasons.  And by doing so, you can keep yourself healthy, balanced, and more aware of your body and it’s needs.  This is done by choosing foods to best fit and compliment your Dosha, as well as the season.  This takes us to the six tastes of Ayurveda nutrition.

The six tastes are very important in this practice as they help us to experience our food more fully and enjoy the actual experience of eating.  The six taste are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.  And how these tastes are combined in a meal can create all kinds of responses in ourselves and affects our Dosha.  During the fall season, the Vata constitution is higher in most people due to the colder and drier climate.  We need more warm, cooked foods, olive oils, ghee, and warm drinks.  Eating foods like cold cereals and sandwiches during this season may throw off our balance and are not recommended.  Sweet, sour, and salty tastes are favored.  Foods like rice, cream of wheat, pasta, cooked vegetables and fruits, cashew, almonds, and sesame seeds are all good choices.  Cooked apples, avocados, grapefruits, beets, and carrots are all favored fruits and vegetables in the Vata season.  Check out more Ayurvedic recipes for the fall season here.

We can all benefit from acknowledging the seasons and the changes each brings and establishing a routine for each that increases our health and happiness.  If you would like to learn even more about Ayurveda and how to adjust with the seasons, come join us in our upcoming workshop, Transition into fall with Ayurveda on October 22nd.


Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup

Perfect for fall or winter, this sweet potato and butternut squash soup is great for the Vata season.


1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 medium sweet potato
3 TB coconut oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 in. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 c. coconut milk
1/4 cup raw cashews blended with 1/4 c water, blended until smooth
6 c. stock or water
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄2 tsp. sea salt
black pepper, to taste

In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil, and sauté the garlic, onion, and ginger for 2 minutes, until tender. Add the squash and the sweet potato. Sauté for 5 minutes, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 10 minutes.
In a large soup pot, add 1 tablespoon coconut oil and the remaining spices. Sauté until fragrant. Add broth and vegetables from the skillet to soup pot. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 10 minutes, until squash is tender.
Puree in a blender until smooth. Return to soup pot, and add coconut milk, cashew cream, salt, and pepper to taste.

Find this recipe and more here.


A Seasonal Approach to Nutrition

When we think of a healthy body, many of us think of the physical things we need to do to stay in shape, like running on the treadmill, taking a kickboxing class, or even walking our dog.  Physical activity is great for our bodies, but there is one key ingredient to our health that most of us tend to overlook; nutrition.  With the weather cooling down, it’s easy to want to curl up inside and eat lots of comfort food. Maybe the fall season finds you rushing around from one activity to another with not a lot of time to do anything but go through the drive-thru at meal time.  What we eat can either wreck havoc on ourselves or can help us to heal and promote better health.  When we start to understand how powerful the connection is between what we feed our bodies and how we feel, it’s easier to make better choices.

One holistic approach to health and nutrition is the practice of Ayurveda.  This practice has been around for 5,000 years and translates as “knowledge of life”.  It’s also considered a sister science to yoga, as it focuses on accepting a person just as he or she is without judgement, and uses breath work techniques. It is used to bring the body back into balance so that it can begin to heal itself.  By re-balancing the body, it helps to bring mental clarity back to the mind and relieve stress.  And eliminating stress is always a good thing when it comes to promoting wellness.

In Ayurveda, there is a focus transitioning your nutrition through the seasonal changes of the year and really listening to your body and it’s needs.  Instead of counting calories, fat, or carbohydrates, it focuses on the changing foods being harvested throughout the year and eating those accordingly.  Being aware of nature plays a huge role in the Ayurvedic practice.  For example, in spring, we should eat fresh leafy greens and berries, as these are the foods that are freshly harvested.  In winter, our bodies work better eating heartier meals of grains, potatoes, and other root vegetables that correspond with the season.  This cycle is a more natural one for our bodies and thus promotes better balance within. 

With the days being rushed and meals being squeezed in between activities, the Ayurveda practice of eating helps us learn to slow down, be present when choosing our foods, and reconnect with nature.  It focuses on food being nourishment and presents a more mindful attitude when choosing and eating our meals.  And when we can find balance in that aspect of our life and make it more enjoyable, we feel less stress and find it easier to stick to the path of a healthy lifestyle. 

If you are interested in finding out more about the Ayurvedic approach to healthy living, the Village is hosting two workshops for you this month.  The first one is The Art of Healthy Living Through Yoga and Ayurveda on Sunday, October 9th and the second is Transitioning into Fall Through Ayurveda on Saturday, October 22nd.  We hope to see you there! To register, go to

The Power of a Healthy Mind

Did you ever notice that after a drive to run errands on a busy day, when you’ve been going over what feels like a millions to-do’s in your head, that you didn’t even notice that the rose bushes in your yard are in full bloom or that your significant other got a new haircut?  We can probably all relate to not living in the present moment.

Did you also know that by not focusing on living in the present, you are actually decreasing your happiness level and well-being? Being mindful and present in the moment can help contribute to a feeling of being satisfied with our life. When we are fully engaged in the here and now, we tend to not worry about the future as much, not think about past regrets, or even be concerned over what we are or aren’t doing with our lives.  We are too busy enjoying the current activity and building relationships to have time for those negative thoughts to creep in.  

Our physical health can benefit from mindfulness too.  Our thoughts, emotions and past life experiences can all have a very powerful effect on our current level of health.  Which is why the practice of mindfulness, being aware of the present moment and acknowledging our feelings, thoughts, and sensations in this very moment, can add so much value to our health.  Physically, it can help us keep a lower stress level, increase our immune systems, and improve our sleep.

Because we need to learn to acknowledge and accept our emotions and experiences in a mindfulness practice, we learn to accept our feelings in everyday life situations, rather than avoid them and keep them bottled up. This in turn will help our mental health in a positive way.  Being able to fully appreciate and accept our true self not only takes a huge stress away, but also leads to an overall feeling of joy and can improve our relationships with others. It has also been found to help less the symptoms of certain mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

While a practice of mindfulness may not be a cure for all issues, it can help us to begin the healing process of emotional, mental and physical challenges.  If you are interested in putting this healing practice in your own life, the Village has a new Healing Power of Mindfulness therapy group.  It is a therapeutic yoga group, designed to encourage mindfulness and present moment focus as well as connecting you to your mind, body and breath, using vinyasa yoga flow.  This will be an on-going group that will combine the tools of yoga and therapy to focus on external and internal tensions that we encounter daily in social relationships and within ourselves.

Celebrate the Village’s 5 Year Anniversary with Yoga in the Park

We are kicking off our 5 year anniversary celebration with Yoga in the West End Park this month in an effort to help raise awareness for mental health initiatives in our community.  If you’re like many people, you may think of yoga as just another exercise trend.  However, there is so much more to yoga than meets the eye! It’s not just a work-out, it’s also a work-in. The positive impacts that yoga can provide are not only physical, but can have far reaching impacts mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.  And those benefits can stay with you long after you have rolled up your yoga mat.  

One of those benefits is learning how to be present in the moment.  In yoga, we focus on being present through the class and all the poses, which can be challenging depending on the difficulty of the routine. And the same goes for outside of class.  So many of us are rushing through our daily lives going from one thing to the next, that we forget to focus on the now.  By practicing being present in each yoga class, we can learn to be more engaged off the mat and fully enjoy every experience in our day.  

Another teaching lesson that yoga can provide is balance.  During a yoga class, you learn balance through different poses.  It also requires an effort to continually renew this balance moment after moment to stay centered.  Off the mat, it encourages more life balance. It teaches you to hold on to things that give you peace, joy, and calmness, and to let go of things that do not.  And to keep up this practice as things become misaligned.  

Finally, it teaches us to breathe.  We must learn to breath during different postures and flows during yoga class and to quiet our mind.  But after class, it teaches us to use these breathing techniques to get through tough situations we may encounter each day, enabling us to slow down, relax, and de-stress.

Come experience all the benefits of yoga for yourself at one of our weekly yoga classes or by registering for one of our two Yoga workshops this month.

Don’t forget to come by West End Park on September 11th from 11:00 to 1:00 pm to celebrate with us with some “Yoga in the Park”!  

Suicide prevention is up to us all

Suicide is pandemic. No gender, age, culture, or class is immune to it. And suicide has an aura of silence and taboo around it: it’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to actually say the words “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” to people we care about. We don’t want to say those words because that’s the worst reality we could face. But that’s how we prevent suicide: by listening, asking, and talking.

Silence isn’t the only problem. Our culture is hard on those who attempt or commit suicide. They are often called “crazy” or “selfish” or “immoral.” Judgments are quick and common: “I just don’t understand how she/he could....”  And just like that, understanding is shut down, the conversation doesn’t happen. Rarely are there discussions in our media or culture or with each other that talk about mental health and suicide in productive ways.  But that’s how we prevent suicide: by listening, thinking, and talking.

Too many myths about suicide have too much power. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) lists a number of misconceptions that are spread every day:

“People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”

Not True. Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

”Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.”

Not True. Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are always signs of mental illness but are not signs of psychosis.

”If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop him/her.”

Not True. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waiver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

”People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”

Not True. Studies of adult suicide victims have shown that more then half had sought medical help within six month before their deaths and a majority had seen a medical professional within 1 month of their death.

”Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”

Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
— From SAVE:

It's essential to keep talking about suicide in ways that connect us to each other. Below are some resources, some for immediate help in crisis, and some for support, education, and awareness. 

Resources for crisis

If you or someone you know is in crisis, there are people who can help immediately.
Call anytime 24/7:
Re:solve Crisis Network   1-888-7 YOU CAN (1-888-796-8226)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273 TALK  (1-800-273-8255)
For deaf and hearing impaired, click here for options to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Resources for support and awareness

The Matt Arch Foundation, currently a subsidiary of Side Project Inc, is a philanthropic organization committed to raising awareness for the global pandemic that is suicide. Through fundraising, we will aid the cost of suicide education and thus diminish its unpredictability, and through activism, we will encourage a public discourse on the pandemic and thus increase its visibility and prevention. There is a concert benefit Friday, June 24, featuring ill Willis at the Smiling Moose restaurant in South Side to raise funds for this foundation.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)


Happy Father's Day! And Some Thoughts About Men's Mental Health

Happy Father’s Day!
And Happy Men’s Health Month! 

It’s a good time to discuss men’s health needs, especially their mental health needs.  In the United States, men’s mental health needs are still underdiagnosed, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and other illnesses.  That’s troubling, when the statistics also tell us that men are 4 times as likely as women to commit suicide. What are we missing?  Why don’t men get the help they need?

There are many factors at play, of course, but one of the most powerful influences are our cultural expectations for men to always be strong and to never show weakness.  Everyday expressions like “be a man,” “have some balls,” “wimp,” “wuss,” “man up” are examples of this cultural expectation.  While ideas of femininity and LGBTQ have evolved in and expanded in the past decades, the idea of masculinity remains a pretty narrow concept: strong, tough, successful, in charge. It’s rare for the media to show male figures who have full expressions of human emotion, including anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and sadness.  Men and boys aren’t encouraged to communicate about their inner lives, and it then becomes difficult to even find the words to tell others how they feel. And this makes them lonely: men on average develop far fewer intimate friendships than women do. All of this combines to make it very challenging for a man to say, “I need help/support/someone to listen to me.”

The Representation Project is working on ways to represent fuller pictures of boys and men in our culture, including men communicating thoughts and feelings with each other and their children.  They’ve put together a video as a Father’s Day gift:

Check out these other helpful resources for men's communication and mental health:

Heads Up Guys

Tips on Being a Support

Men’s Issues and Problems

Men and Depression

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Wishing you all a special and Happy Father’s Day from the Village!  

Staff Spotlight: Dr. Gil Citro

 This month we caught up with Village Center Psychiatrist Gil Citro, MD. Dr. Citro took some time to answer these questions about himself, his approach, and the importance of Mental Health.

Can you explain what holistic means to you?

Prior to joining the Village Center for Holistic Therapy, I had no background or training in holistic medicine or healing.  I'm a psychiatrist who trained at a very biological program (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic) and my practice is informed by medical evidence and data.  However, I also was never satisfied with a model of psychiatry in which patients wound up with fewer choices and less control over the own well being because of evidence and data which can be overstated.

Like Victor and Kristy, who started the Center, my clinical background was in community mental health.  I continue to believe in the mission of community mental health and work in community mental health settings, but at the time I found the Center I was seeking to diversify my practice. After talking with Victor, I felt that the philosophy of holistic wellness upon which the Center was founded was very compatible with the philosophy of evidence based medicine, when holistic is understood to mean looking at the whole picture, centered upon each patient's values, experiences and goals for the change they would like to see in their lives.

For some patients, medication is an important piece of the picture, and conservative use of medication, guided by medical evidence, can help them to stay well.  Other patients may be more interested in alternative modalities, with which I may or may not be familiar, and for which there may be varying degrees of evidence. I'm interested in learning together with patients and working with each patient to help them assess the risks and benefits of any treatment they are considering and to reach decisions in which they feel confident.

What clients do you most enjoy working with?

When I was in medical school, I thought I wanted to be a neurologist, because the brain is complicated and I thought it would be a fascinating thing to study,  However, when I did my clinical neurology rotation I found that in practice most of what neurologists do is prescribe medication for headaches and seizures, or diagnose irreversible or degenerative conditions from which there is little or no hope of recovery.  

I had the opposite experience in psychiatry.  I didn't think I would like it because I expected it to be vague, but what I found I enjoyed was that each patient was different, and that most patients had the opportunity to make big improvements in their lives.

So, the answer to the question is that I enjoy working with a wide variety of clients who are seeking to make positive changes in their lives, which is what drew me to psychiatry.

What do you like best about working at the Center?

So far working at the Center has been very rewarding.  The timing of my start date fortuitously coincided with the semi-annual staff retreat, so I got to meet all the therapists and staff who work at different locations and at different times, and to appreciate the diversity of experiences and backgrounds they bring to the Center.  I've found the Center to be a warm and welcoming environment conducive to wellness and healing.  

I'm looking forward to continuing to work with all the staff in building a patient-centered psychiatry practice to complement the existing services offered by the Center.  

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Can you share what that means to you?

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in the United States in May since 1949.  It's an opportunity to examine attitudes and ask what we can do to promote mental health and  support those struggling with mental illness.  Each year has a theme, and the theme for 2016 is "Life with Mental Illness," inviting individuals with mental illness to share their experience of living with mental illness.

Mental Health Awareness Month is only one of many opportunities to support the cause of mental health.  Another great organization to be aware of, which is very active in the Pittsburgh area, is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  NAMI provides education, advocacy and resources to those with mental illness and those who seek to support them.  One of their main awareness and fundraising events is the annual NAMI walk, which this year will be Sunday, October 2, 2016 at the Waterfront.  Hope to see you there!


Stress Awareness Month

April is National Stress Awareness month. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed then you are not alone, we all experience some form of stress at one time or another. It could be that commute to and from work or school, a demanding career, a hectic family life, or being affected by a trauma such as divorce, illness, or losing a loved one. Stress takes a toll onmental and physical health. No matter the cause or level of stress, it CAN be managed! Here at the Village, we want to help you make yourself a priority by sharing some stress busting tips from our staff.

Use music to find peace

“My biggest stress relief would be putting on headphones to play music. There is something that music, without any other distractions, does to help relieve my stress.”

-Anthony Calvario, LPC

Refocus by using your senses

“One way to manage stress is through using our senses.  We can do this by playing a game of 5s.  Anytime you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed stop and try to notice 5 things you can hear, smell, taste, touch and see (pick a color, i.e. 5 things that are green).  This can help us to shift focus from our emotions inside of us to the world outside of us.”

-Gretchen Hoffer, MA, NCC, LPC

Release the tension building in your physical body

“Releasing the weight of the world:  Create space between your earsand your shoulders by sliding shoulders down and back towards the tailbone.  Now breathe deeply.  Continue to slide the shoulders further towards your tailbone with each exhalation, soften your throat.  Continue to breathe deeply. Massage the muscles of the face with two fingertips.  Allow your eyes to soften in their sockets.  Drop your tongue.  Breathe deeply!”

-Dawn Penney, BC-DMT, LPC, RYT

Just breathe!

“One of the most important things that I tell students/clients is to breathe diaphragmatically.  Breathing this way helps to relax our nervous system.  Bringing a deep sense of calm to our body and mind. Breath exercise:

   You can be seated comfortably lengthening through the crown of your head with your eyes closed. Bring both hands to your stomach and start to breath into them, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Do this for about 3-5 minutes and then open your eyes and notice how you feel.”

-Abigail Ritter, E-RYT 200, RYT 500

Set healthy boundaries

Learning to set healthy boundaries can be a very effective way of managing stress.  Learn how to say no, set your limits and stick to them. Try not to take on more than you know you can handle and avoid people who consistently cause stress in your life. 

-Kristy Weidner, LCSW

Prevent stress before it becomes overwhelming

“Create a list of simple and healthy ways to relax and implement one or more of these each day.  Establish a short, daily meditation practice or an activity that promotes mindfulness each day to nurture yourself.  Prevention is key in managing stress before it has the chance to manifest in unhealthy ways.”

- Victor Barbetti, PhD

Connect with nature

“My favorite stress reduction activity is to interact with nature. Caring for house plants, planting a garden, or going for a quiet walk in the woods on a trail are magical. I forget my troubles when I begin to take in the sights and sounds of the various species of life. I relax as I look at the sky and cloud formations and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin relaxing my shoulders.  At night, I enjoy looking at the moon and stars and the vastness of space. For this is the space of peace.”  

-Patricia Stewart, LPC  

“Taking a walk outside, preferably in a natural area really helps me relax. Take some time to use the senses - listen to the wind or animals, smell the cut grass or mud in the creek bed, feel the warmth of the sun or the coolness of the wind, stop and look up at the clouds or the trees waving in the wind, the leaves falling.  Breathe.”

-Angie Phares, Yoga Instructor

Make time for rest

“Here's my new mantra: In rest there is abundance.  When we choose to take time to rest and allow the body to sit still and just be, it is not only a physical benefit but emotional and spiritual.  When we rest we allow the mind to quiet and space to open up for creativity and new growth.  It is counter cultural to say yes to rest, but in many other places in the world rest time or ‘siesta’ is built into the day. It is a value that everyone accepts.  Rest, rejuvenate and bring a clear mind and a peaceful body back into circulation with enhanced energy.  Let's all commit to stopping and resting, taking our "siesta" daily, even if only for 5 minutes of focused breathing with eyes closed.  What abundance we will encounter when we allow ourselves to rest.”

-Rita Lampe, SW, LCSW

We hope this advice speaks to you. Even if you can incorporate just one of these tips, your stress load will feel a little bit lighter!

Staff Spotlight: An Interview with Anthony Calvario, LPC

This month we would like to shine the spotlight on Anthony Calvario, LPC. He will be facilitating the Grief and Loss group beginning Thursday, April 28th, at our West End location. Anthony took some time to answer these questions about himself, his approach, and the upcoming Grief and Loss group.

How would you describe your approach to therapy?

My approach to therapy seeks to empower each individual for the various, unique reasons that bring her/him to therapy. The person seeking therapy is the expert of her/his life, not me. With those two starting points I see therapy as a collaborative effort to help bring healing and growth for the person desiring more support.

Can you explain what holistic means to you?

To me, holistic means knowing that we all need to be aware of the many areas that drive our hearts. A holistic approach helps to embrace all areas in our lives, including food, exercise and silence, to help bring us fulfilled joy in our lives.

What clients do you most enjoy working with?

Even though my hair continues to go bald a little more every day, I have a deep passion for working with young people. I have been fortunate enough to work with teens and young adults through some of their very formative years. I truly enjoy being able to experience such a profound and long lasting growth with younger people.

What do you like best about working at the Center?

The best part about working at the Center is the supportive community. Each person is so dedicated to helping individuals achieve growth and peace. Everyone is very intentional in making sure others are being lifted up positively in all areas of life.

Can you give tell us more about your Grief and Loss group?

Grief and loss is a life experience that each one of us has already experienced or will experience at some point in our lives. At times we feel isolated in our grief and struggle to feel support. This group hopes to help people navigate through a very difficult time as well as bring peace to their hearts.

New: 6-Week Beginner Yoga Series with Angie Phares

Thursdays 7:15pm - 8:15pm
March 3rd through April 7th
$45 for the series;
Angie Phares
Register Online
    Enjoy a small group setting to learn the foundations of yoga practice, including relaxation, breath techniques, mindfulness, and of course, basic poses.  We will be learning traditional Hatha yoga (unheated), using props and modifications as needed for each individual.


Sunday January 24th
Time: 11:00am – 2:00pm
Cost: $35
Register Online

Food is a fuel for body. Most of us are trying to eat healthy. Nourishing and uplifting life requires more than just food. When we feel fatigue, stressed, and tired eating healthy is not enough but how, when, where, why, and what to eat is an important part of life.


Ayurveda, the ancient science of life and wisdom, has the answer. It teaches us who we are and how we can harmonize with the nature. It gives us guidelines for optimal health through diet and lifestyle. This workshop will throw light on:

– Know your body type
– Set the diet and life style routine.
– How to strengthen the digestive fire (Agni)
– Understand the cycle of digestion, assimilation, absorption, and elimination of the food.
– How to nourish the vitality
– Role of the mind in digestive process

We will have hands on cooking class and will try freshly made food. You will go home with healthy recipes.