A few weeks ago, I announced on my Instagram that I was working on a blog post about yoga and about my experience as a group fitness instructor. Many of you lovely hearts sent in questions for me to answer here! I filtered through all the questions (there were too many to all answer here, but if I couldn't fit them in this post, I wrote you back personally) and combined some questions to answer below. But first, a little bit of my story:
In 2015, I found myself in a place needing healing. I had just graduated from college and life was not looking the way I had always planned. (The year after college is a confusing one for most, a fact that "they" don't prepare you for.) I was in a place of re-learning everything: who I was, what I wanted, what I believed, and where I was going. I needed to heal from brokenness, and I planned to do so in the most efficient manner. (Finding efficiency is a common theme in my life -- oops.) I did everything "they" (actually do) tell you to do: I went to therapy, got a puppy, journaled, and started working out regularly.
Getting to the gym consistently has always been an issue for me. The only physical activity that retained my interest was yoga. I loved how it made my body look, how it enhanced my mind, and how it lifted my heart. I spent the summer after graduation practicing yoga on my own or with friends, and after a couple months had the thought, "Maybe I want to be certified in this someday."
That September, I met with my friend Kirstin who had just opened her women's fitness studio, The Balance Culture, in my town. As we were talking, I mentioned that I had thought about becoming a yoga instructor someday. She encouraged me to come to a certification class they were having at the studio, and I thought she was crazy!
As I mentioned, I was not a gym person. I couldn't specify any muscle groups, didn't know what was safe or unsafe in working out, and had just started becoming proficient in my yoga poses.
But the certification process was so educational, to preparing, and so easy! (More on that later.)
By November 2015, I was certified by AFAA as a Group Fitness Instructor with training in yoga. (This means I'm certified to instruct any class like kickboxing, barre, or pilates in a group class setting.) My dream became a reality so quickly! And it was one of the best things I have ever achieved. If you are considering becoming certified in any fitness, I definitely recommend pursing it!
What is the certification process like?
As I said, I was certified through AFAA, and it was very easy! For a girl who was not really into fitness at all (thanks, high metabolism!), I became a fitness professional quickly. I started studying slowly in September and took the test in mid-November (all the while being in a grad program and working with Trades of Hope). I got to study in a group of women at the studio, and that honestly was a game changer. The testing took one afternoon, all in one sitting. There was a written test and a physical test, which did not take a high amount of endurance (says the girl who wasn't into fitness!). Trust me, if 2015 me could do it, anyone can do it!
Why do you like yoga so much?
I love what yoga does to my body. I feel strong, lean, and flexible. I'm not looking to have too much muscle on me as that's not really the look I'm gong for personally. What I get from yoga is perfect. I also love what it does for my mind. Anxiety has been something I have had to learn to manage, and yoga empowered me a lot in controlling it. The concentrated energy and focus yoga requires allows one to center in and think about what is going on in that single moment. Anxiety is dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, and yoga demands all attention to be brought to the present. The mental break is relieving and has equipped me to remain present throughout most of my day to day.
What do you emphasis the most in your classes?
When I'm instructing, I always talk about listening "to your own body." We are all on our own journeys, and the only way to progress in those journeys is to focus on what we need, not on those around us. I believe in and live by this in every area of life.
What has been an unexpected gift from yoga?
Because I teach in a women's studio, I have absolutely loved the friendships I have gained through this. I love my fellow instructors and the ladies who attend my classes. I spent a lot of time with them out of the studio, and they have blessed my life tremendously in so many areas!
How much did it cost be be certified?
Being certified through AFAA, the most prestigious and recognized organization, I paid about $300.
Where do you find the training?
Thankfully, I studied for my certification at my studio with a group of women who would be certified with me on the same day. So we trained and studied together in our studio every week. But certifications occur regularly in major cities, so I would google one for training near you. I received a study guide to navigate through what I needed to learn.
Yoga and becoming a Group Fitness Instructor was a big part of my healing and coming into a fuller version of who I am. If it is something you are even wondering about, I believe it is absolutely worth pursuing. There is only fun and health ahead!
If you have anymore questions, feel free to comment them below!
My answer to the commonly asked question, “What do you do?” often provokes more questions or confusion from the asker. To be fair, what I do is unique, and to set the record straight (a record of which I am very proud and a record that is tons and tons of fun), this, my friends, is my answer.
What do you do?
I am the Co-Founder and VP of Marketing of Trades of Hope, a fair trade company that sells ethically crafted fashion accessories and home décor made by artisans all around the world to create sustainable business and job opportunities to end the cycle of poverty. These products are sold online through our website and socially sold through Compassionate Entrepreneurs. You know what’s really cool? Because they are creating a market for our artisans’ products, our Compassionate Entrepreneurs earn a commission of off their sales. This means that our artisans and Compassionate Entrepreneurs are in a dignified partnership, both needing each other equally to earn an income. Neither of them are superior or inferior due to race, gender, or financial status. How beautiful.
I co-founded Trades of Hope in 2010 with three other amazing women who won’t allow for the heartbreaking realities millions face every day to endure. We believe that sustainable business is what will end poverty in lives, communities, and countries around the world.
When I was 5 years old, my family founded an orphanage and nonprofit organization in Haiti. After Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, all of the children in the orphanage were evacuated and placed with families in the United States for adoption immediately. That offered an empty orphanage and an opportunity to reevaluate. The community’s poverty around the orphanage had not changed during the time of our work there. Yes, children were adopted out of the situation, but there was no long-term solution to the poverty of everyone left behind.
My mom started learning about micro-loans and sustainable business, and through her learning I became aware of new and innovative ways to help people out of desperate situations, ways that actually helped to heal poverty, not just cover it with a temporary band aid.
This is when Trades of Hope was born.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb
All around the world, different countries home talented, intelligent, creative people who don’t want charity. They don’t want to depend on another person. They don’t want a hand out that will quickly run dry. They don’t want to wait powerlessly and remain passive in their lives.
They want an opportunity. They want an opportunity to show people their craft. They want an opportunity to change their own circumstances, feed their own children, reach for their own dreams. And when you give a woman that opportunity, she shines! According to CARE Australia, when you empower one women out of poverty, she takes 4 more people with her.
We empower her to be the hero of her own story.
Our artisans work in 16 different countries around the world, as far as Thailand and the Philippines to as close as Costa Rica and even in the U.S. itself! These are women and men who are earning a living wage so that they can support their families, thrive in their communities, and make their dreams a reality. (FAQ: How much of a product sale goes back to the artisans? Answer: Goes back? The artisan has ALREADY been paid 100% of the asking price before their product is released to our customers! This is amazing for them and so unique! Our artisans are our peers and business partners, so nothing “goes back,” as they have already been paid in full before a customer makes a purchase. Because empowering our artisans is our sole focus, if we don’t sell a product, that is a financial ramification we take on ourselves.)
I love my job so much.
As a Co-Founder, I get to dream up new ways to grow Trades of Hope on a daily basis. I also get to do things like help decide what beautiful products will be released in which lines! (I excitedly always want every piece to be released NOW for you all to see, but we typically plan a year and a half out.) I get to collaborate with the other founders on how to lead our office of Home Team members and how to help our Compassionate Entrepreneurs. But I would say my two favorite things about my job are 1) When I travel around the world to meet our artisans and experience their culture and 2) When I get to speak publicly about how I know sustainable business is alleviating pain and will end poverty. I get to travel the U.S. multiple times a year to speak on university campuses, in leadership forums, in interviews, and at large events with our Compassionate Entrepreneurs (we currently have over 4,500 and growing rapidly!). I love public speaking, sustainable business, and cultivating relationships, so it’s no surprise I enjoy it all so much.
As the Vice President of Marketing, I get to do a myriad of creative, colorful, strategic things such as leading an amazingly talented and big-hearted team of creatives and strategists, branding our company and branding each line release (we have three every year), planning and executing our catalog photoshoots, being the creative editor of our catalogs and business collateral, and strategizing new ways to bring Trades of Hope to passionate, purposeful, world-changing people just like you!
This is what I do.
It is my dream job. More than that, it’s my so-perfect-I-didn’t-know-how-to-dream-for-this-dream-job. When I was growing up I wanted to be a spy (to help people like Kim Possible), then a fashion designer, then a teacher, then a writer – and I feel like I am all of those things now, at the same time, but in such an amazingly purposeful way.
I went to Haiti and saw poverty for the first time when I was 8 years old. I spent my childhood struggling in a vigorous pull between my comfortable home in the States and the responsibility I felt after seeing what I saw abroad and wanting to be on the ground there to help. I felt so misplaced, and I was restless and helpless to be there for my friends and their loved ones. Trades of Hope has been the answer: being able to help those who are in desperate circumstances around the world, straight from my home in the middle of my daily routines.
If you have felt that restless helplessness, there are three ways you can get involved:
Thank you for your sweet time and interest! Sustainable business is what will empower people out of poverty and one day positively alter the economies of countries around the world!
At Trades of Hope, we wear what we believe. Poverty ending. Hearts hoping. People rising. Nations healing.
What do you believe in?
Tomorrow is International Women's Day, a day designed to celebrate women and their economic, political, and social achievements around the world. What a stunning kaleidoscope of beauty, diversity, and culture the women of this world create. Even in light of our revered differences, we stand hand-in-hand, intertwined by sisterhood, respect, and the knowledge that we are better together.
International Women’s Day is also a time to focus on places and situations where women's rights, equality, health, and safety still have a long way to go.
Millions of women all around the world face the physically, emotionally, and psychologically taxing realities of slavery, sexual exploitation, slums, and discrimination.
But through co-founding Trades of Hope, I have seen women who will not allow themselves to remain oppressed.
We are in the middle of a movement: women saying, “no more” and rising to become the heroes of their own stories. They are fighting for their families. They are leading communities. They are claiming respect for their hearts, their bodies, and their minds. Statistically, for every woman who is empowered out of impoverished situations, she brings 4 more people with her.
While I have participated in peaceful protests before and respect those who will powerfully participate in A Day Without A Woman, I'm not striking tomorrow. As a co-founder of a company that creates jobs for women in 16 different countries (including the U.S.), I don't think it is the most effective route for me to support my sisters around the world.
What is another impactful way to empower women on International Women’s Day?
Buy their products.
Literally, to shop.
By purchasing their products, you are financially impacting lives of women and attributing the value that is due to their ideas and talents. This opens doors for women to reach new heights of dignity and success and equality in society, business, and politics. You are empowering women and perpetuating a sustainable solution to poverty and inequality.
Trades of Hope sells fair trade, ethically crafted fashion accessories and home décor, made by women rising up in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the U.S.
Buying a woman’s products positively impacts the economic nature of her life. At Trades of Hope, we believe this begins a cycle of sustainable business that will impact economies of communities and, someday, whole countries.
Hear from one of our artisan partner, Ms. Florence, as she shares how she has become her own hero through sustainable business and today is a leader in her community and her country.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
― Audre Lorde
Threw together some of my video footage from my trip to Iceland to make this video for you all! If you're interested in Iceland or planning a trip, check out this post for photography and details about what I did!
You were shaping America while I was shaping myself. This coincidence or reality is one for which I will always be grateful. Lessons upon lessons I won't forget:
I needed some inspiration and motivation today, this January 20th: inspiration to believe that there is goodness coming for this country and motivation to do the work that President Obama asked of us, work that we can do to bring about change. Looking for a little piece of "work" I could do today, I made these wallpapers, mainly for my own comfort, and decided to share this small piece of comfort with any friends who need it today, too.
Let's be real, some of us need LOTS of inspiration, so I made desktop wall papers as well:
If you need a refresher on how to slip these babies on, here's how...
- go to www.elisabethhuijskens.com on your phone
- hold your finger down on the wallpaper(s) you want
- select save image
- then go to your photos and set it as your wallpaper!
- while setting on your iPhone 6, be sure to select "still"
- go to www.elisabethhuijskens.com on your computer
- double or right click on the image
- save image
- set at desktop picture!
I'm going to miss Barack and Michelle in our White House. But regardless of their residence, their thorough empathy, considerate intelligence, and captivating grace keeps them leaders I will follow. Their words empower me and their pledge to continue working alongside us comforts me, so I'm surrounding myself with their encouragement. This is one small step, but every ounce of effort counts in standing for what we believe in.
Part I: Reykjavik (The Most Northern Capital On the Planet)
Part II: Scenic Adventures (Waterfalls, Cliffs, Glaciers)
Part III: The Euro Cup + Insta Pics
The pony riding company I went through: Viking Horses
I love Halloween. And ever since I was little, I have chosen to dress up as women and characters I admire. I have 3 Halloween parties to go to this year, and I'm going as Audrey Hepburns' Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Most dress up as her in the opening scene, peering into Tiffany's with a scone in her hand. Always trying to be original, I opted for her apartment scene, right before she meets her love interest Paul "Fred" Varkjak (George Peppard).
Donning her Tiffany's blue sleep mask and trying to sleep off the party she threw the night before, Paul buzzes her apartment in attempts to get to his new place in the building. Her orange cat named Cat paws at her to awake, and finally she arises and dresses in the closest thing she can reach for: a men's formal white button down. Holly meets Paul at her door, slowly realizing her purple fringe ear plugs are in her ears as he asks her four times if he could use her phone. The phone is then found her suitcase as she tells him, "I'm crazy about Tiffany's."
I did a cute little shoot with Naomi Lynn Photography in my own apartment to capture this year's costume. All the details for my costume are below for you to either pull together last minute or plan for next year! It was SO easy for me and so much fun to collect these iconic pieces. (THB: I've been using the sleep mask every night since I got it in the mail.) Have a happy Halloween, friends! Xo
Holly Golightly Sleep Mask - SvetlanaCO's Etsy shop
Holly Golightly Ear Plugs - TarnishedPast's Etsy shop
Men's White Button Down, L - H&M
(I also wore some white denim shorts under mine, just to be safe. (; )
A year ago today, I met a 3 pound, red-head King Charles, Toy Poodle puppy, and we became instant best friends.
Regarding her warm waves, energetic personality, and sassy charm, I named her Ember.
I have an affinity for light and fire references and analogies. Fire comes to shed light, giving vision and perspective; it brings warmth, a rescue from the cold; and it purifies, a processing that leaves only what is of worth.
Ember became a part of my family during a particularly confusing, dark time of my life, a time of figuring out who I was, what I believed, and what I wanted. Having a myriad of questions yet to be answered can fabricate a foggy, lonely life. But I was determined NOT to live a foggy, lonely life. So I got a roommate, started my physical fitness certification, went to counseling, and got a puppy. (These are all the things they tell you to do while depressed. The only thing on the list "they" suggest that I chose to avoid was eating healthy. I really like french fries.)
According to this article from The Atlantic -- I know, I know, not the best source; but it was between reading this or an extensive essay from the CDC (you would have chosen this one, too) -- psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University say, "'[the] emotional benefits pet owners receive from animal companions could be the equal of a human friendship." During studies, they found that people with pets tested healthier in areas such as loneliness, self-esteem, depression, and illness.
More than just an entertaining companion, my love for Ember courses so deeply throughout me because her presence made a time in my life that had a high probability of being threateningly dark so much lighter and easier to navigate.
This girl has moved into my first apartment with me...
She has road tripped all over central Florida with me... (She still tries to sit with me like this and then gets incredibly vexed when she doesn't fit.)
And she has cuddled up to me every single night. Her favorite places include, but are not limited to, in the angle of my bent knees, on my butt, or on my neck. We are both very lucky she is a cuddly dog. Otherwise, I would be very disappointed and our relationship, very strenuous.
Choosing her, and everything that comes with her, has been my most favorite life choice. For one whole year, this chick has been my sidekick. And in light of this, I am so jazzed that I wrote a whole freaking blog post about it.
(But can we just take a moment to celebrate me for keeping another living thing alive this long? Hello.)
This probably my favorite piece I've made. I really wanted to make a design for this month with paint and paper, off the computer. So I took a couple of hours to splash around with water + color, and it felt so good do create something without pixels. I have the original decorating my apartment + it brings me so much simple happiness.
The idea behind the piece is that the process of darkness fading to light is not linear; the process of bad fading into good is not had with steps solely forward. It is not a pattern, not a formula; the how is not promised. The only given is that it will happen + that process brings us to wholeness.
I have it on 3 FREE iPhone wallpapers + a FREE desktop wallpaper! Download them right here.
On top of that, I have this uploaded to my little store, so you can buy it printed on happy things to sprinkle around your day-to-day. You can find everything from prints, mugs, totes and cases (everything seen here + so much more!). I already ordered a travel mug + I keep reloading the tracking shipping info in anticipation.
Thank you guys so much for loving fun, pretty things as much as I do. Happy May! Xx
Everyone has a story that they would feel uncomfortable publicly writing about.
It’s uncomfortable, but I’m going to do it any way. Not because I'm under an illusion that people care more than they do, but because I only know a few things to be 100% truth. One of those truths? It’s important to share stories. The world needs less people who say, “It’s going to work out! You’ll be okay!” and more people who will settle into your pain with you and honestly, authentically say, “I have been in this ugly, ugly thing, stood where you are standing, and now I’m somehow on the other side. And that is how I know you will, too.”
I used to be so scared of the word single. I was scared because I had yet to realize this: You’re single. I'm single. Everyone is single. Maybe you’re married or dating, and you think you’re not single, but you are. Sure, you can feasibly plan a future with someone. And when the Chinese food delivery guy comes to the door, you don’t have to yell “Hey guys, get out the plates!” to an empty room so Delivery Guy won’t realize you’re sitting alone in your old band shirt, with no pants on and very, very hairy legs watching your favorite movie again. Again.
We are each individual human beings. Whole beings. Galaxies. Entireties within ourselves. It’s really not romantic. Not when the media pushes obsession as love and when Christians push the “becoming one” idea. But now, having been single, I am so thankful for it.
Not because I can flirt with whomever I want, hang out with my girlfriends whenever I want, or wear/think/do whatever I want without the input of another. I mean, I can do those things and I like those things, but those things don’t make a relationship-girl happy to be alone. (So, if you have a friend who is going through a break up, please, don’t use those as reasons for her/him to be happy about it.)
I am so thoroughly pleased with being single because I have lived through, experienced, embodied this truth:
With divine presence inside of me, I have the ability within myself to heal, regenerate, and renew myself when I’m wounded or anxious or scared. I have the ability to make my ambitions reality. I have the ability to determine what I need in any moment and give it to myself, especially when there’s no one else around to do so.
You have this ability, too.
You and I, we don’t need another person or outside party to do these things. Outside parties are good. Outside parties are healthy and fun. You can find companionship with an outside party, confide in an outside party, make out with an outside party. It’s great. But, except for community, you do, in fact, have everything you need within the galaxy that is you.
During the five years wherein I was always in a relationship, I would have hated reading this. I would have said that everything written above was heartless and cold and the author had obviously never been in love before. Because, back then, I was the permeable membrane. Permeable freaking membrane. Let my favorite author (and close, personal friend) Elizabeth Gilbert, explain. This was me:
“I have boundary issues with men. Or maybe that’s not fair to say. To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right? But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time—everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else. I do not relay these facts about myself with pride, but this is how it’s always been.”
Remember when Chandler and Monica have their engagement pictures taken, and Chandler makes this cringing face the whole time? Yeah, that’s the face I make when I read that. Because when I read that, it feels like I’m slipping on an old skin; and even though it was shed and it doesn’t really fit tight or right any more, it still feels like an old dream. Dark, confusing, and familiar.
But of course I acted that way. (And if you feel like you have acted similarly, let me just say, of course you acted that way!) If being with someone is all you’ve ever known in your teenage and adult life, of course. If you haven’t had the experience to realize that you can stand on your own (and that you’re actually kind of bad ass at it), then of course you would lean too heavily on the person next to you.
Let me just take this time to say: forgive your past self. She/He was learning. She/He doesn’t know what you know now. Forgive your past self.
Hyperaware of this fact this fact even back then I thought, well, frick, Elisabeth, how are you going to stop doing this? An obvious answer was to try out being single; but that really wasn’t sounding like any fun so I didn’t, until that was no longer my decision.
My life suddenly looked nothing like I had envisioned it.
I suddenly looked nothing like I had envisioned me. Not only because I wasn’t dating anyone, but I just didn’t like myself, period. As much as people don’t want to date a permeable membrane, the permeable membrane doesn’t want to be the permeable membrane. And I had a hunch that being a permeable membrane with nothing/one to permeate would make me just loathe myself even more.
So, I decided to stop being the pellicle that holds cells together and, instead, be a woman. More specifically, I decided to be Elisabeth as a woman, and figuring out who she was has been my favorite part of my human experience.
That’s exactly what being single has been for me: absorbing me and my human experience and everything, good and bad, in which that entails.
After I got back from my time in Guatemala, I started reading books again; I spent all of my money traveling and then got it all back again; I got a dog; I got certified to teach yoga; I watched all the series on Netflix that I wanted. It’s amazing what you can get done when you’re alone. And I actually felt like a complete person for the first time.
I no longer lived in my fairy tale world. I was in the real world, baby; and out here you adapt or die. (There was a day last summer when I actually said, yes to myself because that’s what you do when you’re alone, “Elisabeth, if you stay in this sorrow and hopelessness, you might as well be dead.” I didn’t want to be dead.)
No one can die by emotional wounds inflicted by another human being. One can only die while forgetting that they are more than the pain.
So I adapted. Any time I felt lonely, I sat there and felt lonely. No running, no trying to escape it. I wanted to figure it out. Any time I felt pissed, I sat there pissed. But no matter how slighted I felt (and I felt freaking slighted), I always used my emotions as a vessel to carry me forward and eventually back into peace. Any time I got anxious, 100% sure I was going to die alone, I made a map of my feelings and talked to myself the way I would compassionately talk to a friend: “Wow, you some kind of big shot? You are in no way smart enough to know what your future will hold. You actually sound really dumb right now. Take a breath.” Any feeling that I used to ignore or try to put out, I felt. And I learned. And I welcomed into my human existence.
“Hi loneliness, anger. Oh hey, anxiety. So glad you guys could make it. Listen, you all obviously think your jobs are super important, so I won’t keep you from your tasks for long. I tried to shake you for years, but now I have no one to hide behind. So, I’m gonna let you tag a long on all of my adventures from now on, but let’s just get one thing crystal clear. You guys will not dictate who I am or how I behave. I have places to go, things to accomplish, people to see – and I intend to remain my truest, greatest self through all of it. This means, I’ll carefully consider your input, but I am the human and I will make the decisions. Alright? Solid.”
I don’t know what parts of my story are beneficial to others, if any are at all. But the purpose of my sharing is so that I can settle in with someone wherever they are, share in their vulnerability and say with credibility:
When you decide to choose yourself as one of your own soul mates, when you decide to never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings or fears, when you view the parts of you that are breaking as opportunity to let light into who you are– you step into your truest, greatest self.