Friday, January 9, 2015

My First Poetry Slam (and I Raised $2,000 for Yogis in Service)

My First Poetry Slam
(and I Raised $2,000 for Yogis in Service)
The Yoga Bag

So, I had this opportunity:

I am an ambassador for lululemon Walden Galleria Buffalo. The lululemon team sent out a notice, which said that we were having a get together. They said that we could bring a one-pager and present an idea, a cause, or a charity to which they would provide a donation ($2,000). We’d also have five minutes to share with the group.

This was great for many reasons. I was going to get to spend time with a bunch of positive, game-changing community members. More. Given past experiences, I knew it would involve hearty, wholesome food, I would meet new friends, and I would be inspired by the journeys of the others in the room.


I began to daydream….

I have big daydreams….

I dream of TED talks and poetry slams. I get inspired when I see people do great things. I have seen great things on TED. For example, there is this one clip in which TED and Poetry slam are one. This- the most inspiring poetry slam that may have ever existed as a TED talk- 

Sarah Kay- If I should have a daughter….

Watch it here:

I watch that and think, “What if….”

My husband has a quote that is always kicking around in my head:

“Success is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Cite as Cook-Cottone, 2015, The Yoga Bag

I had a reason that was bigger than me to try:

Not only did I have an opportunity, I had a reason that was bigger than me to try. I had a cause, a purpose. I had been planning a project, YOGIS IN SERVICE for months. My dream was to continue to build on a seed that was planted in 2013 on the East-side of Buffalo by Susan Fain and Alexis Asquith. Yogis from all around the WNY area (e.g., great people like Casey Sotland, Cole Bailey, and Ashley Kney) as well as students from the University at Buffalo from the OT, Social Work, and CSEP programs helped make this happen- Yoga on the East-side.

Since the 2013 initiative, a group of yogis has continued to practice on Saturday mornings. The plan- YOGIS IN SERVICE- YIS- would nurture this seed. We’d start by raising $5,200 to pay two teachers to teach yoga for the Saturday AM group and another $2,000 for supplies, etc..  Students from UB, yogis inspired to volunteer, and any community member that wanted to- would all meet at Resurrection Church at 10:00 AM and practice yoga together.

More- YIS would be a place where any yogi who is providing service in WNY could meet, receive support, and be empowered. Yes. Together we’d all be stronger. From there- anything would be possible- Yoga in Schools- Yoga for Teachers- Yoga for Helping Professionals- Yoga at Roswell. All kinds of Yogis in Service.

Cite as Cook-Cottone, 2015, The Yoga Bag

Big Poetry Slamming Dreams:

So, I had this opportunity. I had a reason that was bigger than me to try. And I had big poetry slamming dreams….

I had a chance to speak in front of a crowd for 5 minutes. I had a mission (YIS). The $2,000 could go a long way in funding YIS.

As I daydreamed, the believing and brave part of me thought, “Catherine, do it. Do a poetry slam.”

As I daydreamed, the insecure you’ll-just-embarrass-yourself part of me thought, “You don’t have time to prepare.”

Notice- that I did not think, “You are afraid to try.”

No. I rationalized a good reason why not to try.

You see that is what we do. We have so many reasons why not to try- and then we don’t- and then things never change. And its okay- because we had a good reason.

No. That was not going to be me.

“Catherine, do it. Do a poetry slam.”

“Catherine, do it. Do a poetry slam.”

“Catherine, do it. Do a poetry slam.”

So, I did it. I bought poster board. I wrote the slam. I wrote key words to reflect each stanza in BIG BRIGHT COLORS that I held up and dropped when the stanza was done. I practiced. I sang it in in my car. I sang it in my office at the University. I performed it for another professor. I performed it for my daughters. I performed it for my husband. Before I presented- I went into the bathroom and went through the whole thing 5 more times.


The whole formula would be there:

“Success is when preparation meets opportunity.”
And I have a reason bigger than me to try.

This is how it went down.

Y- I- S

Yogis in Service

So many yogis want to serve
Teaching yoga to those in need
Alone it's easy to lose your nerve
Dreams die, unwatered seed

Yogis need a tribe, a place to go
A collective of the giving
Soil for dream seeds to grow
Evolving thinking to the living

Yogis in Service- I propose
yogis that meet to dream
To drop their fears, to strike the pose
so they can carpe diem

Goal- equipment to share
Goal- Mats, straps, and blocks
Goal- badass T-shirts to wear
Goal- a web page that rocks

Goal: yoga in schools, for kids in need
Goal: yoga for the fallen, lost, and low
Goal: yoga to inspire hearts to lead
Goal: YIS- across buffalo

Yogis in Service, YIS

Yoga- to unite

Y- I - do
Y- I- love
Y- I- serve
Y- I- be


Be the change you want to see in the world

Yogis in Service, YIS

Catherine- out.

No matter what happened, if I did or did not get the money for YIS- I had challenged myself to do something I had always wanted to do.

To dream- is good. To follow your dreams- is better. To be brave enough to follow your dreams even though you are afraid- is nothing short of amazing.

So, no matter how things were going to come out- I had already grown- because I had chosen to be bigger than my fears.

I got the news New Years Eve- the $2,000 would go to YOGIS IN SERVICE.

Thank you lululemon Walden Galleria for the opportunity.

Thank you to Jerry Cottone for the reminder that preparation is a key ingredient in success. 

Thank you to the best side of me- the side that tries even when I am scared.

And the success goes to YOGIS IN SERVICE (one more HUGE Thank You lululemon for the funding!)

I challenge you to do it- do something that you dream about- even if it scares you. This won't be my last poetry slam. Maybe someday you'll see me on TED. 

Big yoga love,

Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag

More about Yogis in Service

You can donate directly by check to Resurrection Village Corp. with Yogis in Service in the memo- this avoids all processing fees. Leave for me at yoga or UB.

Or donate through this link:


Yogis in Service is a support and empowerment tool for yogis in OUR community who want to BE THE CHANGE. It will begin with monthly meetings offering a community of support for individuals committed to bringing yoga to those in need.

Specific projects will be targeted including the provision of yoga for children and families on the East-side of Buffalo, for community members struggling with substance abuse, yoga in schools, and other high need populations (e.g., those incarcerated or struggling with illness).

Support will include monthly meetings, a library of yoga supplies (i.e., mats, blocks, and straps), and ongoing tips and supports so that Yogis in Service will have a powerful and effective service experience. Self-care and support will be featured in monthly meetings. Yogis will be encouraged to work in teams and pairs. Personal career and services goals will be explored each month as well as self-care and empowerment goals.

Yogis in Service will be technologically supported by a web page and Facebook page so that members can share and access resources.


Those committed to the practice and sharing of yoga as a tool for personal growth and health. Catherine Cook-Cottone, Ph.D., R.Y.T provides the structure for the meetings. Participants must be in the process of or have completed yoga teacher training. All participants must have yoga service goals and/or be in active yoga service. Once YIS is established, a board of directors will be elected.


1.     Two sets of yoga class supplies to stock the library: (i.e., 2 sets of 20 yoga mats, 2 sets of 20 blocks, 2 sets of 20 straps, 4 large Suitcases).
2.     A web page and Facebook page
3.     Awesome-t-shirts
4.     $5,200 for 2 Yoga Teachers to teach Saturday AMs at Resurrection Church.  

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