Free Zen Takes Toronto

In a city divided by politics and culture, Torontonians are unified by their commitment to being busy and staying stressed.  The trouble is, many have no idea that they’re committed to this lifestyle and that they may, in fact, be addicted to stress.

Tuja wellness decided to do a little social experiment by trying to bring 30 seconds of relaxation to a city known more for going than for letting go. As a yoga and meditation teacher, I planted myself in the financial district with a sign that said “Free Zen.”  The producers for tuja wellness assured me that it could do no harm. In the worst-case scenario, I’d embarrass myself and have to nurse a few emotional wounds after a day of aggressive rejection.  But, I was reminded, in the best-case scenario, people would remember that it’s the simple things – a deep breath or an unexpected detour – that can release stress and open up an opportunity to change your whole perspective on the day.

So, did I find the best or the worst case scenario on the busy streets of Canada’s biggest city?  Luckily, we videotaped the whole thing so we could share the results with everyone.

Courtney Sunday writes the Everyday Mindfulness column for tuja wellness and teaches yoga and meditation in Toronto. 

Finding Bliss in Bali, Kundalini Style

wanderlustmalaI just recently was lucky enough to travel to Bali with my boyfriend for three weeks. In answer to your question, yes it was as dreamy as it sounds. Prior to jetting off, my mind was filled with the thoughts of beaches, pristine rice fields and breezy afternoons spent meditating (think, Julia Roberts, Eat Pray Love). Bali most certainly did not disappoint and I know with certainty that it is a place I will have to visit again in my life.

In my research leading up to the trip, it became clear that checking out a yoga class while in Bali was a must. Bali is the home to many renowned yoga teachers, schools and retreats. My boyfriend and I splurged and spent two nights at the gorgeous, Desa Seni Eco Village. Desa Seni is a popular spot for tourists and locals to enjoy organic meals, relax in authentic Balinese cottages and of course, practice yoga.

I carefully studied the yoga schedule, and decided to try a class I was not as familiar with. While home in Vancouver, I love a sweaty Vinyasa Flow or Hot class. I have only practiced Kundalini once, so decided Bali would be the place I would learn more about this form of yoga. Despite being intimidated by a sea of experienced yogis, I joined them for Kundalini on a beautiful Bali morning.

desaseni1Before entering into practice, our instructor gave us a brief introduction to Kundalini. This tiny, tanned, glowing yogi explained that Kundalini practice involves repeated movements and chants with the intention of awakening and strengthening the spiritual and physical body. She said that “if you aren’t feeling some sort of discomfort during your practice, you are probably doing something wrong.”

This discomfort kicked in almost immediately as I bumbled through chants (note to self: learn Sanskrit) and felt my arms nearly light on fire as we moved them up and down, in circles and every other which way for minutes on end. In addition to warning us of the potential for pain, our instructor explained that some people claim to experience a unique sense of euphoria during and after Kundalini practice.

As we moved towards the end of class, something funny happened. While chanting (I learned to fake it) and pushing my body through repetitive, taxing motions, I felt an energy buzzing through myself and the yogis around me. The more I leaned into the discomfort, the more exhilarated I felt after the posture was over. I left that class feeling amazing and alive.

desaseni4The post-Kundalini bliss lasted a few days and over that time I began to think about the parallels between this practice of yoga and travel itself. Like Kundalini, travel involves discomfort, uncertainty and sometimes pain. I experienced mind-numbing jet lag, was pummelled by a wave while relaxing on the beach and learned the hard way that my stomach and Indonesian pizza are not friends.

But, as I worked through these travel woes I also felt near perfect moments like watching the sunset on Lombok (an island off Bali), swimming in a pool, in our private pool with my lovely man and seeing countless Balinese people greet me with some of the most genuine smiles I’ve ever seen. These moments and my post-Kundalini endorphins would not have felt the same without enduring some discomfort beforehand.

These feelings of bliss may not always require some prior struggle, but in my experience they often do. Whether it is in travel, your yoga practice, or life in general, the good can sometimes come with some struggle. I wore my Wanderlust Mala, throughout my trip in Bali. Whenever I look at it, I am reminded of this beautiful contradiction. You don’t need to travel to Bali to experience this. Embrace the discomfort of a new job, yoga class (I highly recommend Kundalini!), or whatever feels foreign or scary to you. I guarantee you will get a least a little bliss out of it.

Liz works in Digital Engagement at lululemon athletica.  Books are her one true love, with Pinterest as a close second. Expressing her thoughts and wisdom through writing is what lights her up. Her goal is to one day work as a freelance writer. See what she is up to on Instagram, @lady__lizz. ?

5 Apps to Boost your Meditation Practice

Craving some calm? Need to pump a little zen into your daily routine? We’ve rounded up our favorite meditation apps to help you de-stress and do your best. Go and get your bliss on!

Screen shot 2014-10-07 at 4.22.46 PM1. Calm

Cost: Free, subscriptions begin at $4.99

Every day bring it’s own chaos. Between meetings, emails and deadlines it can be hard to find time to be still. That’s why Calm is so awesome.  Guided meditation session’s range from two minutes to 30 minutes and you can sneak them in between meetings, or settle in for a longer session if you can spare the time.

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2. Spirit Junkie

Cost: $1.99

Spirit Junkie’s are no stranger to Gabby Bernstein, a NYT bestselling author, life coach and motivational speaker who’s on a mission to teach the world about the power of miracles. The Spirit Junkie app allows you to wake up to a new affirmation every day. Set a reminder anytime to surface today’s affirmation or choose from any of the hundreds of previous affirmations to turn inward and shift your perception. Save your favorite affirmations, and share with friends to spread the love.

Screen shot 2014-10-07 at 4.24.51 PM3. The Mindfulness App

Cost: $1.99

With meditation apps, as with life sometimes, the bells and whistles can get in your way. The Mindfulness App is straightforward and simple. Guided meditation sessions can span from 3 to 30 minutes. Silent meditation sessions alert you with gentle bells. You can personalize your own meditation session too. The app even reminds you when it’s time to meditate, so you can keep up a regular practice.

 

Screen shot 2014-10-07 at 4.25.18 PM4. Simply Being

Cost: $0.99

One of the biggest distractions when trying to meditate is the stream of thoughts running through your head. Pushing thoughts out of your mind requires skill and practice. Having someone — in this case, a calming voice from the app — guide you through your meditation session may help you find calm more quickly. With this app, you can pick a session length, choose to have a guide or not, and even add soothing, natural sounds to the end of your meditation session.

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5. Omvana

Cost: Free

What’s relaxing and calming to one person may be aggravating and irritating to another. That’s why Omvana lets you customize your meditation sessions with the sounds, noises, and quotes that inspire and relax you. This app contains thousands of audio tracks, beats, and sounds that you can blend together in the app’s mixing board. If a stranger’s voice is unsettling, you can even record your own voice and use it to guide your meditation sessions instead. This app is fully customizable to help you create a more relaxing, enjoyable meditation experience.

Did we forget to add one of your favorite meditation apps? Tell us what it is in the comment section below! 

5 Ways to Cultivate a New Habit

10665478_505966316206485_1633729244_nYou’ve decided it’s time to break that old habit and cultivate a new one. The idea of a better version of yourself has you inspired to act, and ready to do it now! What do you no longer accept of yourself? What do you demand of yourself to be better? Whether it’s going to bed earlier, meditating, getting a sweat on every day, or giving your diet an overhaul, these 5 tricks will have you chasing down your goals and living the life you’ve imagined.

 1. Start Small. Take a close look at what it is you want to achieve and all the potential steps to get there. What is the first and simplest of those steps? Now that is where you will start! So if your goal is to go for a run every day. The simplest step will be to put on your running shoes and head out that door. And once your shoes are on and you’re outside, well you might as well run! Break you habit into the simplest version of itself and start there.

2. Plan Ahead. Examine your schedule and make time for you. Sure, once your shoes are on, going for the run becomes a straightforward task, but have you carved out the time for this to happen? Examine your day with a fine toothed comb, and just like you wouldn’t cancel on that meeting with your boss, or brunch with the girls, time to form your habit must be non negotiable too!

3. Set a Reminder. This behaviour is new, which means it might not always be on the top of your mind. So consider leaving yourself some loving and gentle reminders throughout the day to help you make the right decisions. If your goal is to drink more water, then have a reusable water bottle ready to be filled at your desk. Want to sit less at work? Try setting a phone alarm to remind you to get up and move. What to think happier thoughts? Why not change you phone background to someone you love, family or friend, whoever brings a smile to your face and heart. Setting up a visual reminder takes the thinking out of your goal making it much easier to remember.

4. Be Accountable. Let everyone you know aware about this awesome new habit you are forming. You’ll be working hard to make these changes; the moral support will help you to keep at it and push through. Share your habit on social media, give daily updates which people will expect, and let everyone know that you’ve got this!

5. Reward Yourself! It’s important to celebrate your successes no matter the size.  Every time you remember your habit consider a little verbal “way to go!” After one week of success, how about an extra long bubble bath. One month, maybe a picnic in the park. Rewards don’t need to cost money, but they do need to make you feel good. Give yourself some praise and enjoy every success.

Talk to us about your habits. . .

What good habits have you developed recently? What helped you form them? What motivated you throughout the process? Are there any habits you would still like to develop?

Share your thoughts in the comment board!

HGardner2An athlete most of her life, Heather is passionate for expressive and enjoyable movement to promote healthy, active living and building community. As a yoga instructor, marathon runner, and indoor cycling coach, Heather has nearly two decades of experience in group and personal fitness. Heather can be seen as the resident fitness expert on CHCH Morning Live, in coaching videos with Canadian Running Magazine, and in the pages of Best Health Magazine as Canada’s top fitness blogger. As the creator of Tribe Fitness, Heather is dedicated to the development of community and connectedness through informed and fun fitness experiences.

Website: www.runsoulcycle.com

Twitter: @RunSoulCycle

How to Establish a Home Yoga Practice

yoga1 - Version 2What is a home yoga practice? Basically, it is committing to practicing yoga outside of the studio, i.e. on your own. One of the ‘hazards’ of being a yoga instructor is that I make it to class on my own way less than I did before simply out of lack of time. It is tough! Getting my butt to class has been a personal struggle since my teaching journey began, however it is imperative for my craft that I continue in progressing my own skills. Hence, the necessity of a home practice. Likewise, even if you are not an instructor and instead are a regular at the local yoga studio, establishing a routine at home will develop your practice faster and fulfill you on a deeper level than without one.

 One of the greatest complications in developing a home practice is the problem of distractions. I have three boys aged 7, 10 and almost 12, and believe me when I say that my house is crowded, chaotic, rambunctious, disruptive, frenzied and so un-like a yoga studio. From the outside it seems impossible place to find peace at home, let alone practice yoga. But I do it. I do it because it helps me as a woman, a mother and a wife. Sometimes I am on my mat 30 minutes, sometimes it’s five. But getting there restores a sense of determination when I need it, energy when I require it, and peace when I crave it. Some days I work on advanced postures I am trying to learn, some days I do repetitive Sun Salutations and other days I literally only lay in child’s pose. The goal is to get there. Here’s a short list of things I do that may help you create a home practice of your own.

1. Leave your mat out. I personally leave my mat out in the middle of the living room floor (unless my in laws are coming over). The boys walk all over it, my dog likes to nap on it for some reason and sometimes it gets pretty dirty. But leaving it out reminds me to get there. Leaving it out also gently reassures me that it is there for me when I need it. All which help me practice more often out of sheer frequency. Out of sight out of mind unfortunately rings true.. so keep your mat out!

2. Own headphones. Invest in a good pair! If you are a mommy, you know there are days that the noise decibel level inside is too much to bear and there are days your stress level can be at its peak. This is the time to plug in your headphones, put on a song that speaks to you (for me that is Jimi Hendrix, ‘Red House’), and do a few sun salutations. Maybe just breathe and sit in child’s pose. No matter what is going on around you, headphones will help you tune out the noise and take a few moments to yourself to center and recharge. You will feel better after a few minutes, I promise!

3. Ignore everything else going on. Barring an accident that draws blood, the kids will survive without your attention for ten minutes. The laundry, dishes, or checking Facebook can wait, you can DVR or pause the television, and your bedtime can be postponed a half hour. See suggestion #2 above (headphones), tune out the rest and focus on giving your practice your full attention. I use this tactic when I need a few minutes (a mommy time out if you will), and now when I am on the mat, my boys know that I will not answer any questions for the most part. It is my time.

4. Don’t worry about a plan. There are days I get on my mat and I stay in down dog for a long time before I decide where to go next. Other days, I am able to move between several poses without thinking, and even other days the creative juices are flowing and I am able to make up a series to teach for my next class. The point to remember is that it doesn’t matter. You don’t need a plan at all! That being said, if you are a person that needs structure, then start with a specific set of poses or try a internet class. I often take a class on YogaGlo to revive when I need to find new inspirations. Finding your way and doing it is more important than what you do.

 5. Establish a routine time, or don’t. What I mean by this is take into consideration the type of person you are when developing your home practice. Are you the type of person that if you set an alarm you are more likely to follow through, or are you a person that is better if you leisurely find your way to the mat during the week. For me, I practice whenever the mood strikes me, and since I keep my mat out, I can fold a few shirts in a load of laundry, turn around and practice five kick ups, and then finish folding the laundry and somehow it just works for me. For someone else, they may never make it to the mat unless they designate a specific time for it. So know yourself, and plan accordingly.

 6. Practice with the Seasons. Think outside the box! Is the sun shining? Move outside! Take a few vinyasas in the grass and get a tan while holding warrior 2!  Snowing perhaps? Practice by the fireplace! (not too close of course!) Full moon? Bring out your cushion and meditate on the back porch. Connecting the time of year, time of day and weather to your practice can help you feel a deeper connection to yourself. Plus it is fun and mixes it up! No one said you have to do yoga exactly the same way every time! You can also for the most part do yoga anywhere! Next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store- smile and practice tree pose. Forget the rules!

 7. Meditate. Yoga is not just about the asanas. The physical aspect is only one part of it. There actually is something called the ‘8 limbs of yoga’ which if you delve into yoga more deeply you can learn about, but getting back to the point, taking time to give your mind a break is a highly effective means to centering yourself as a person, and can enhance your yoga practice infinitely.

 8. Be patient with yourself. We all have jobs, long lists of responsibilities and different hats to wear. It is tough to make time for yourself and your practice in some part, because it can seem that you are being selfish to put aside all the things that need to be done to play on the mat. However, believe me when I tell you that your ‘self’ needs it! All of those things on the ‘to do’ list will still be there, the difference is, you will be better equipped to handle them.

I don’t always get on my mat.. but when I do, I always feel better. Stay thirsty my friends! 😉

IMG_8831Tiffani Shipman graduated from University of Oklahoma with degrees in Psychology and Sociology, received her RYT200 through Tiffany Cruikshank Yoga Medicine, and is currently studying Acupuncture, Holistic Therapy and Sports Medicine. She is a contributor to Misfit Yoga and Wellness and you can also find her blog, yoga schedule and more at www.tiffanishipman.com When she isn’t studying her craft or teaching yoga, you’ll find her playing practical jokes on her friends and family, restoring old cars, baking cupcakes, hula hooping, or enjoying a beer in the backyard. She resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with her husband and three boys.

6 Mantras to Repeat when you Need to Let Go

10706747_768029876587892_254045983_nIn the past few years I have had the really rad experience of becoming a yoga teacher. I have gone from chugging 5 diet sodas a day to chugging my veggies each morning. I have learned Sanskrit words for poses and been to a few chanting festivals. Kirtans, tattoos, loving soul sisters walking the same walk, mala beads, out of body experiences, meditation, opening a studio and been in step with LOVE (always).

Here’s what I’ve learned through all my readings, teacher trainings, workshops and teaching/practicing from the mat: we are all on a similar journey. Our paths may not be the same and our lives will look entirely different, but deep inside we are all walking the same walk. It’s a simple mantra that puts itself on replay whenever we need it most: more love, less bullshit. It’s as simple as that.

All of us are looking to let go and release that which no longer serves us in order to step into our path, into greatness and into a deeper connection of love. Today I want to share with you 8 mantras for letting go in order to help you let go and step into that greatness.

1. Ishvara Pranidhana – This mantra is my FAVORITE. As one of the yoga sutras, this is my constant connection to the divine (and my tattoo). Ishvara means divine, God, universe, higher power. It is blind faith, surrender and trust that no matter where we are right now, it is exactly where we are supposed to be. It’s a love and an acceptance. It’s the truest amount of trust you can put into yourself and the universe. Repeat this mantra as you count your rudruksha beads or place it as your intention at the beginning of a Prana Flow class.

2. Om Shanti – Om Shanti is more than one of those yogic greetings that you see at the bottom of every yoga teachers email, it’s an intense and beautiful mantra with a meaning of peace. I often tell my students that om “simply means creation” but it is so much deeper than that. It may even stem from the big bang theory when the world exploded into itself and was created the vibration of OM. It is the all encompassing idea that we are all connected. Shanti means peace and in combining these two words together we are able to wish for peace and love to all beings. By wishing peace for all you are including yourself and allowing anything that no longer serves you to leave you immediately. Chant this with your favorite incense as you relax before bed.

3. Om Gum Ganapateyi Namaha – This mantras translation is to release obstacles. It is a call or a devotion to Ganesha, one of the most popular deities. Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and by using this mantra in your meditation, it is helping you to let go of that which is blocking your path. And do you want to know something extra tricky? Sometimes Ganesha PUTS the obstacles there for us to maneuver around, the idea that wherever we are is EXACTLY where we are supposed to be is always present. Sometimes we need to work around things and learn the lesson before we can fully move on into grace.

4. Lokah Samasta Sucinho Bavantu – May all beings be peaceful and free. This mantra allows us to release jealousy, anger and any negative feelings to make way for peace for all. Chant this whenever you need a boost. Sometimes chanting for not only ourselves, but for others can give us the lightest of intentions and the biggest opening in our hearts.

5. Om Shrim Maha Laksmeyi Namaha – Lakshmi is the goddess of good fortune and wealth. This chant is for abundance, so if you’re needing to let go or release any money blocks this would be the perfect mantra for you. I often grab my citrine quartz as I chant this mantra and begin to release anything that is blocking me from receiving abundance.

6. Om Namah Shivia – I honor the divinity within me. This mantra is one of the simplest and yet most complex of mantras. It allows you the opportunity to accept yourself where you are today. It allows you to let go into the knowing that you are enough, you are perfect and you are divine. Honor and love yourself, always.

This week I hope you hold onto one of these mantras that resonates with your spirit. As with all things boho babe and yogi lifestyle, you get to choose which one you’re connected to and hold onto it for as long as you need. Whenever you need a refresher, come back here and check these mantras out to infuse your malas with more love.

1157699_383157768473367_247012539_n-199x300-150x150Jenny Ravikumar is the owner and a yoga instructor at Barefoot Yoga Shala.

Twitter: @Jennyravikumar
Instagram: @Jennyravikumar

How to Set Intentions with Mala Beads

MailChimp-SetYourIntention

7 Great Reasons to Do Yoga in the Comfort of your Home

10635954_814680641906049_4928240045228069362_nAlthough in-studio yoga classes are a must, there are several benefits to practicing every day at home, too. Why go the online yoga route? Check out seven reasons that are sure to get you inspired!

1. You can practice whenever you want, wherever you want. One of the advantages of using a platform like My Virtual Yoga for your practice is the flexibility it offers. Whether before work, during baby’s nap or right after dinner, you’re just a few clicks away from indulging in a bit of well-deserved yoga.

PSST: For those of you who are constantly travelling, know that online yoga can be done in a hotel room before a business meeting or right after a long flight. We love how yoga can be adapted to your busy lifestyle!

2. You’ll find a variety of styles in one spot. You like variety, and making new discoveries—we totally get that. Hatha on Tuesdays, Vinyasa on Wednesdays and Yin on Thursdays: anything is possible! With an online platform, you can easily switch up your practice. It’s simple!

3. It’s an excellent way of complementing your in-studio practice. Most of us have a favourite studio: a place where we gather with others who are passionate about yoga, too. This weekly meeting is necessary so your teacher can correct you, but online yoga allow you to really develop your practice and better integrate what you’ve learned in the studio. 1+1 = 2!

4. There’s something new every week. Are you always on the lookout for what’s new… just like us? Online yoga practice is a great way to test-drive new ways of learning, new techniques and new themes. It means allowing yourself to be in tune with what’s new and have fun, too. Oh, look: there’s something new to try!

5. You can take your favourite teacher with you everywhere you go. So you’ve fallen under the spell of a specific teacher who offers AMAZING CLASSES that seem perfectly adapted to your needs. With online yoga videos, you don’t need to wait for a specific time every week to take your teacher’s class: whether on your iPad at the cottage or on the TV in your basement, your teacher is waiting!

6. It’s a question of comfort. The weather will never make you miss your class, nor will you be able to make excuses for not wanting to leave your OH SO COMFY home. Yup: as far as yoga is concerned, you’ll never be able to use excuses like there being too much traffic, or the metro being late. From now on, it’s all about comfort… and nothing else.

7. There is a yoga class for all levels. Does your beau want to try yoga? No problem: there are videos for every level: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The yoga  videos are adapted to your body and what you’ve learned so far.

Namaste!

My Virtual Yoga

Sign up for My Virtual Yoga using this promo code and get a free one-month subscription: tinydevotions

Happy yoga-ing!

How Do I Know My Mala Beads Are Working?

how-to-tell-if-your-mala-beads-working-tiny-devotions

How to Set Up Your Sacred Space

tRIzKEGtl79OPUR7Fe7GydTOwWoY5NaVWez1LrwVu8AOut of all the practices to keep consistent in your life, I’d say that two reign as the most important; finding an exercise program that you love, and meditating.

Both of these practices work towards the same goal, but in different ways. With exercising, you are boosting your level of endorphins to stimulate healthy tissue growth, stability, and strength, allowing for you to feel better and be more grounded in your body. When you meditate, you are focusing on the breath, observing the inner mechanics of your body, and flexing your spiritual muscles that will ultimately create better focus, allowing for you to feel better and be more grounded in your body. It is therefore imperative that these practices make it in to your daily life, as the body is the greatest tool that a human being has in their possession.

And if you’re going to meditate (which you should do, for the record), you’re going to need a good space to do it in. Creating a “sacred space”, a place where you are inspired to be grounded and at peace, is a perfect way to get yourself excited about the practice of meditation. Equipped with your favorite Tiny Devotions Mala, you can visit this space at least once a day, perform a meditation that is most suited to your personal purpose, and reap the benefits of a calm mind and calm body.

Here are some helpful tips in setting up your unique sacred space:

FH3FZWOVBX-Q0k-FVmg_r9brp8KFptcvZK6ZtciRUkI 1)     Choose an area where you will not be disturbed. If you have room mates or if you are living in a house with other people, it is best that your sacred space be situated in an area that is not going to be disturbed by others (your room, for example, is usually a safe bet). Designate this area as your own for your practice and ensure that the other people you live with respect that space. As a boho girl or guy, it is more than likely that your house mates are already aware of your needs and will support your  space 100%.

2)     Have something comfortable to sit or lie down upon. This could be a large cushion, a chair, your bed, or anything that will allow you to be most comfortable when you are meditating. Have this is the centre of the space as a connection point, inspiring you to remain still, grounded, and connected to the healing energies around you.

3)     Decorate the space with anything that resonates with your specific vision of inner peace and spiritual energy. It may be an image of your favorite Hindu deity, or it could be a photograph of a tropical paradise. Allow whatever brings you calm and focus into your sacred space and keep your vision in tune with your inner most desires.

4)     For centuries, many cultures have used incense as a way of cleansing and consecrating their sacred rituals. If it feels right to have some incense or candles in the space, light them up and let them burn! Psychologists have proven that specific smells can trigger calming sensations in the brain, easing stress and provoking a more centered turn of thought. Do you a little experimentation and see which scents and candles feel right for you.

5)     Have a point of focus. It may be an image, a phrase, or even your Tiny Devotions Mala. Have this item as a key point of focus in your sacred space, something to keep you attention when your mind inevitably begins to wander during meditation. This componant will bring all of the sacred space elements together and pack a bit of a punch to your spiritual mojo.

Becoming in tune with your desires and your central spirit is important. However busy you get, however often you get swept away in the waves of some of the more trivial aspects of your life, remember that the key to coming back to it is as simple as breathing in your perfect, sacred space. With an open heart, a grounded body, and a calm mind, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

Namaste!

Lauren is a guest writer for the Huffington Post and Social Media Coordinator in Toronto.

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Twitter:@LaurenMesservey
Web: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lauren-messervey/