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Power of Community: Shakti Fest 2018

In the middle of the Californian desert, I found myself at a heart-centered celebration:  Shakti Fest.

For three days, men and women from all corners of the world gathered to sing sacred music, grow their yoga practice, and honor the divine feminine in us all. My most significant take-away was the power of community for spiritual growth and support. Take a look at our video as we catch up with Shakti Fest’s executive director, Sridhar, and yoga teachers, Kia Miller and Govind Das to discuss the alchemy of gathering in community.

Video Music:  Jai Ma (Down to the Sea Mix) by Govind Das & Radha

Filmmaker:  Audrey Billups

Gather Amongst the Joshua Trees

One of the things I cherish most about being a yoga teacher is the ability to be an eternal student. There is no endpoint to this path, we are constantly evolving, discovering, and soaking in all the lessons life gives us. Through years of traveling and soul-searching, the importance I find in community grows more and more. Community encourages personal growth and fosters the eternal student within us all.

In two weeks, amongst the magical Joshua trees, surrounded by the expansive desert, like-minded individuals from around the globe will gather as community at Shakti Fest. At this yoga and sacred music festival, we will honor the divine feminine in all of us. This world renowned festival offers countless opportunities for attendees to push their boundaries and discover their potential.

There will be yoga classes taught by world class yoga teachers including Shiva Rea, Mark Whitwell, and Kia Miller. Festival goers will be able to practice devotional chanting with enchanting Kirtan artists such as Jai Uttal, MC Yogi, and Govind Das & Radha. There will be workshops covering diverse topics such as Vedic astrology, women’s sexuality, and tantric energy. Participants will also be able to experience the healing effect of sound baths and discover the Eco Artisan Village with abundant vegetarian and vegan food vendors, eclectic yoga gear, and artisan jewelry.

An opportunity for transformational growth, Shakti Fest encourages attendees to connect and learn from each other. If you feel called to take on a more active roll and give back, Shakti Fest also offers Seva positions, where your service grants you a festival pass in exchange!

Connect with community, connect with nature, and connect with your Self. Join us at Shakti Fest this May 10 – 14 in Joshua Tree, California.

See you there!

 

 

 

Audrey Billups is a filmmaker, international yoga teacher, and Yoga Trade’s videographer. Her passion for yoga, travel, and film has brought her to many corners of the world. Follow along with her travels and work:

thenomadicfilmmaker.com

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

Co Living and Working for Wellness Professionals

My journey as a traveling yoga teacher has brought me to numerous yoga and wellness ‘communities’ around the world. I appreciate well run communal environments and have learned so much about ‘living yoga’, wellness, healthy cooking, permaculture, and sustainability from many of these places. I have also made many wonderful connections this way. Although nature and yoga are at my core, one of my current interests includes growing and evolving on a ‘professional’ level and as a business artist. Another interest is to connect and create relationships with humans outside the ‘yoga bubble.’

I have been intrigued by the Co Living/Co Working Community, Outsite for sometime, and  finally booked a stay at the Santa Cruz location in November. Upon walking into the ‘Greenhouse’ (Outsite Santa Cruz has two locations), I felt a warm and friendly vibe. The house has an open layout, high ceilings, redwood beams, and magnificent lighting. The location couldn’t be better and offers fantastic walkability options. The house is set two blocks from the ocean and the much loved West Cliff bluffs. It is the perfect recreation spot for walking, biking and surfing, and the beach can be accessed directly from the house via the magical Bethany Curve trail. Also, within walking distance are heaps of dreamy spots for wellness enthusiasts including; New Leaf Community Market, Santa Cruz Yoga, and Bantam Restaurant (Don’t Panic, It’s Organic!). The property boasts a lovely kitchen, beautiful communal space, a hot tub, bikes, surfboards, chickens, a plethora of books, board games, and a piano!

In community living situations it’s really all about the people. I was fortunate to meet a couple standout souls during my short stay here who inspired me with their stories and spirit (this included meeting a former Olympic Windsurfer who is now getting his MBA at UC Berkeley!).

If you are a yoga teacher or wellness entrepreneur looking to bring fresh perspectives and professional concepts into you life, here are some reasons why you may want to book a stay at a Co Living/Co Working space such as Outsite:

Diversity and Community

I love being part of the global yoga community, but it is also refreshing to meet people outside the world of yoga. A space like this brings all sorts of people together. It is much more than sharing a work space; these types of environments are special in that we can cook with, adventure with, and be challenged by the people we meet. It is a breeding ground for innovative ideas and different ways of thinking.

Collaboration and Networking

You never know who you will meet when booking a stay, and this is all part of the fun! Guests at Outsite can be Entrepreneurs, Developers, Designers, Artists, and Academics. Most people that stay here tend to have a great balance of work and play. As a yoga teacher and/or wellness professional this can be a great place to meet others that have valuable and different skills from ourselves to learn from.

Practice Openness and Be Part of a Social Movement

It can be challenging to share physical space. We know from the practice of yoga, that it is beneficial to be open and live from our hearts. Also, we know from asana that much of a yoga practice is about how to be more receptive when put in uncomfortable positions. If the idea of sharing house space with strangers sounds ‘uncomfortable’ to you, it may be a perfect way to practice some yoga and get out of your comfort zone. With housing costs on the rise, this way of living may become more of the ‘norm’ in the near future, and it can be exciting to be a part of it.

Location Independence and Flexibility

The reality is, more and more people are working from their laptops which means a lot of people have the opportunity to live anywhere they can get online. A perfect example of this are our friends Brandon and Anne aka The Yoga Nomads, who have created a successful online business. What an extraordinary time to live! Co Living/Co Working communities such as Outsite provide ‘flexible stability’. Have certainty that you always have a place to stay and a community, but choose when and where you will stay.

(After a morning of work, a housemate and I adventured up the coast)

Balance of Productivity and Fun

Often my most productive work is done in these kinds of collaborative environments. There is something about the sparks of energy that can be cultivated when a group of creatives come together. Many ‘digital nomads’ often spend much of their work time alone zoning out into cyber space. I find that many people (including myself) that work solo can sway easily to the extremes of imbalances, either by working too much and not finding self care or becoming lazy with a lack of motivation. Working in a community we can hold each other accountable. We can have time for focused work and then have fun and get out and play by surfing, hiking, biking, exploring, practicing yoga, making group dinners, or having dance parties!

Sustainability and Opportunities to Share Your Trade

With rental and home prices being quite high (especially in California), this a great way of living in amazing spaces while keeping our costs down. The concept of co living is nothing new, just they way we are doing it is. Many of us are realizing that living in isolated boxes (such as track homes in suburban neighborhoods) is not a sustainable way to live. As a society we are shifting toward wanting to live closer to the land and our food and water sources, or when in urban environments leaving smaller footprints. While staying at a co living community, we also have the opportunity to ‘share our trade’ with housemates. Most members of Yoga Trade are yoga teachers or have some kind of wellness trade. Offer to teach a yoga class, cook a healthy breakfast, or give someone a massage. Be of service, have meaningful experiences, and share the practice.

We will conclude with some inspiring words from Britt, the Operations Manager at Outsite. He is also the Community House Manager in Santa Cruz, and I was privileged to meet him and ask him a few questions:

Yoga Trade:  How would you describe the Outsite experience in a few sentences?

Britt:  Outsite is your new home if you’re traveling. It’s a community of traveling professionals looking for connection and a consistent experience. You’ll find comfort, new friends, and new hobbies as you explore our variety of locations around the world. Our locations are smaller than a hotel and more familiar. Our team, members, and guests are eclectic and friendly.

Yoga Trade:  What new Outsite location are you looking forward to most and why?

Britt:  I’m most excited about our upcoming location in Bali, Indonesia. I’ve never been there, and it seems like an adventurous paradise. We’ll be opening in Canggu, so it’s a prime spot. We’ll have authentic Bali architecture and furniture, yet modern fixtures and a pool!

Yoga Trade:  Where do you see yourself and Outsite five years from now?

Britt:  I hope we have more locations and more members, and it continues to thrive as a wonderful network. I see us having more locations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. I see us as a more recognized option for accommodation and community. I see myself still based in California, developing more partnerships and creating more events to bring together the Outsite Community.

Outsite currently provides several desirable locations (especially alluring for surfing yogis): Santa Cruz, Lake Tahoe, Venice Beach, San Diego, New York City, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica. New locations on the way include; Bali, Lisbon, and Baja!

Check out their affordable memberships and rates and connect here:

https://outsite.co/flex-membership/

FB: outsiteco

IG: outsiteco

Hope to practice the balancing act of work and play and share creative house space with you soon!

 

Erica Hartnick grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, and enjoys all things wild and free. She teaches nature inspired yoga and leads mindful adventures in California and Costa Rica. She gets excited about; LEARNING, intense weather, glassy ocean peaks, pillows of fresh powder snow, crystal clear water, positive people, cultural travel, thriving vegetable gardens, fresh mint chip ice cream, nature’s glory, LIVING YOGA, and connecting with others. She is passionate about the collaboration with friends that led to the creation of Yoga Trade, and is devoted to connecting the yoga community with infinite opportunities!

 

She Will Rise

Kelsey is the Creator of She Will Rise: a community of women who are rising from the ashes of their past into the brilliance of their future. The community offers Trauma Therapy, Group Coaching, Retreats, and a Podcast. I met Kelsey in 2010, at a very dear place to my heart, Yandara in Baja, Mexico. I was there for one month taking a training and she was there teaching and working. Her strength and vibrance inspired me. We did not really stay in touch but years later, life brought us back together. We had both continued on the paths of living yoga and were simultaneously working on creative projects within the wellness world. Love had led me to the location that she was living. The connections that are made through yoga and wellness are amazing, and it is exciting and magical to grow and evolve together. Here we catch up with Kelsey, to learn from her story and wisdom. Thank you Kelsey for sharing your bright light!

Tell us about the inspirations that led to the creation of the She Will Rise Podcast…

 

On my own path of recovery I didn’t like or fit into the conventional systems or route, they just didn’t work for me. I had to make it up as I went a long and find my own way. I now call this intuitive recovery.  I had to learn how to listen to my heart AND ALSO my body AND ALSO my soul. It was hard for me as I didn’t meet a lot of people doing what I was doing and I felt like I was crazy at times. I knew that what I was doing was working for me but I lacked support and I felt very alone. As I developed the She Will Rise Intuitive Recovery Programs and Retreats I found other women offering amazing things too. I have always been comfortable sharing my story and I saw other women were starting to share theirs too. I thought, “what if there was a free resource for women where they could listen to other unique stories of recovery and have access to many tools and techniques so they could find their own unique and intuitive way through their trauma?” That is when the She Will Rise Podcast was born.

 

How has yoga helped shape your path?

 

I have heard a lot of people say that yoga saved their  life, I truly believe it saved mine. I was 23 and suffering from some pretty serious injuries from snowboarding. I couldn’t sit down for longer than an hour and I would wake up in pain every day. My friend dragged me to an Ashtanga yoga class after much convincing. I had dabbled with yoga by myself for many years before but never really went to classes. So I went and I cried the whole class because it hurt but felt good at the same time. I woke up in no pain so I went back. My body got stronger and had less pain. Then I tried a yin class…it was emotionally excruciating for me and I cried through every class for months. I was going to 6-8 classes a week because I was feeling so much emotional and physical relief. I was sold and in a year decided I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I have had some of my greatest physical healings, emotional breakthroughs and spiritual awakenings in practicing yoga and I can see myself having it in my day to day practice for the rest of my life.

Why do you feel called to create a space specifically for women?

 

I am a woman who has experienced a lot of abuse from men and I know a lot of other women have experienced the same thing and do not feel safe when men are around them. When women gather and are in a safe and sacred space to open up, magical things happen. The way women or female identified people feel, create, heal, dance and play is unique and it is different. The essence of who you are whether feminine or masculine needs to be initiated, honored and held with love. There is something remarkably strong about a compassionate sisterhood based in holding the highest vision for each other and I want to be a part of that.

How has the process of holding these conversations with women helped in your own growth and healing?

 

I believe our stories are medicine. When we hear a woman’s story of what she has been through it helps us feel like we are not alone and we might find the tools or words of inspiration that we are looking for. This is also true for me. I learn SO much from every woman I interview, their strength, courage and vulnerability deeply touches the parts in me that need just that to keep going. The friendships that are being made from the interviews and also the programs are so supportive, it is truly amazing.

Do you have any words of wisdom for women in wellness that are thinking about starting their own creative entrepreneurial projects?

 

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Don’t be afraid to hire someone who can do a task in an hour which would take you days. Stay connected to your values and practice integrity. Base your business around this. Look to others who are inspiring to you and surround yourself with supportive people. Stay away from comparison and jealousy of other women in the same field, there is absolutely enough clientele for you and the people you are meant to work with are out there waiting for you. Promote and support your colleagues; cross promotion is a powerful tool. Find a deep WHY.  Why are you are doing what you are doing?  Align the ‘why’ with your values and write it down everywhere!

 

WHAT and/or WHO sparks you up most right now?

 

All the amazing women I am interviewing for the podcast.  They are all so different, some of them students, mothers, big and little business owners, entrepreneurs, and they all have an amazing story to tell. They inspire me so much! I am also deeply immersed in earth based magic and ceremony and learning more to live with the circadian rhythms, following the moon cycles and living with the seasons. Then there are the animals in my life, my dogs, and the horses I work with and ride. I am now offering Animal Communication as a part of the programs I offer and it is profound the healing and therapy animals have to offer us.

 

 

Learn more and connect with Kelsey and this beautiful community:

Kelsey is a recovered addict and sexual abuse survivor who is dedicating her life to breaking the silence around these issues by sharing her story and supporting women to work through their trauma. She is the Creator of She Will Rise. Hear from courageous women who share their stories of a painful experiences and traumas, and how they work through it. The She Will Rise Podcast offers tools, resources and gifts to listeners. Stories are medicine. Together we are stronger.

www.shewillrise.community

IG:  @shewillrise.community

Three Reasons to Retreat

Want to travel to some of the worlds most stunning locations around the world, guided by inspiring teachers, surrounded by a positive like-minded community, while enjoying daily wholesome foods and yoga? A yoga retreat is a magical experience. It is one of the best ways to self-nourish, gain perspective on life through an intentional ’time-out’ and possibly transform your life. While there are many benefits to a retreat (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) the following three reasons are what keeps me creating these sacred spaces for students:

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1. It shifts perspectives

When you physically travel to new locations (even if it is only hours away!) you step out of your comfort zone. Exploring unfamiliar or foreign places encourages you to see the world through fresh eyes and in order to adapt you will need to learn from the people and cultures around you through receptivity, humility and compassion.

2. Improves Wellness

A well-integrated retreat program will include practices for self-inquiry, along with plenty of time for rest, play and adventure. Every retreat experience is designed to aid you through healthy routine in a supportive atmosphere in body, mind and spirit — imagine 8 hours of deep sleep, healthy wholesome meals, fresh air and sunshine, along with daily yoga and meditation. Through rest and reflection you may begin to notice aspects of your life you would like to adjust in order to create more well-being. Unhealthy patterns and habits are often recognized and surface when in these environments. Your teacher(s) will be able to teach you simple practices and suggest tools to transform your life and maintain well-being once you are back home.

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3. Builds community from the Heart

During a retreat there is power in the intimacy that is created with oneself, but most importantly there is a greater sense of connection and harmony felt as you share this experience as a collective. The dynamics are always unique to the individuals and circumstances brought together, yet all are encouraged to welcome one another from a place of authenticity. There are fewer ‘masks’ worn as you only know one another from a neutral and supportive space. You have time to be present with once another, without distractions or alternative motives. Community forms quite quickly as you spend time together on and off the mat and in a foreign context. Often these authentic connections become long lasting relationships and remind you to stay open-hearted as you move through life.

 

 

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LAUREN LEE is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures.

 

 

 

Join Living Yoga Ambassador Lauren Lee on one of her many amazing international yoga retreats! Check out THRIVE: A Soul Fueled Immersion for Wellness Entrepreneurs March 2017 in Costa Rica!!! Receive 10% off the retreat price when you use the promo code: CULTIVATE

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Living Yoga Alchemy

I met Nicolina Sandstedt in March 2016 when I was a student of hers in the Living Yoga Alchemy 3oo hour core module at Yandara Yoga Institute in Baja, Mexico. During the weeks of the program I was inspired and intrigued by her strength and softness, her extensive knowledge of mystical stories, her beautiful story telling, her wisdom of the physical body, and her balanced radiance. I fell in love with the Yandara community after my first time visiting and participating in a training in 2010. I am grateful to be a witness to their evolution as they develop and offer more trainings, and excited to continue learning from the teachers and community at this very special place. Here we catch up with Nicolina as she talks a bit about the magic of life and the development of the Living Yoga Alchemy program that she co-leads with her partner, Christopher Perkins.

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How did you originally connect with the Yandara community and what made you stay?

My first yoga teacher training was with Hatha Yoga teacher Corrin Adams at Yandara Yoga Institute in 2006. I immediately felt at home with the loving community and the desert-meets-ocean magic that surrounds the center. After about 6 months I got an offer to come back, which led me to put my university plans on hold and pack my bags. I worked with administration and attended as many of the inspiring classes and workshops as I could. After about a year of learning and growing, I returned to Sweden to complete my university degree in Physical Therapy. Apart from being a full-time student, I taught lots of yoga, attended trainings, and eventually opened a studio. Everything was flowing well for me in Gothenburg but in the end what made me pack my bags and return to Yandara a third time was love…After spending a few years in Sweden, Christopher, a kindred spirit and one of the co-owners of Yandara, came for a visit, and…the rest is history. Christopher and I recently built our dream home next to the Yandara center in Baja, Mexico. We work side-by-side and I am grateful every day for me life and wonderful community at Yandara; both the permanent year-round community and the new community of yogis that join us every month for their teacher trainings.

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Tell us about the vision behind the Living Yoga Alchemy program…

The vision behind the Living Yoga Alchemy program is to create an experience with just the right heart and mind opening ingredients to inspire true personal and spiritual evolution. When putting together the program, I spent a lot of time thinking about the teachings that have inspired me to grow. With Living Yoga Alchemy we aspire to present the wisdom that has stuck with us and that continues to inspire us daily. We wish to reflect back to some of the most inspiring teachings we have collected. We also asked ourselves: What is it that makes a great Yoga Teacher? The answer that kept coming back to us is that the students come to yoga to have an experience of themselves, and a great teacher is not always the one with the most advanced asana practice; great teachers guide their students toward their inner Self. And so, the Living Yoga Alchemy program is truly designed to illuminate each practitioners personal path.

Can you tell us about your passion for story sharing while teaching?

Ancient myths and stories have fed our souls and our imagination for thousands of years, long before Netflix, TV, or even books. Told around campfires, they would bring the community together and inspire us to be brave, compassionate, truthful, self-less, generous, and other admirable attributes. The stories from the yogic mythology carry within them the teachings of yoga in a captive and relatable way. Each character, the dark as well as the light, exists within our own mind and heart. They are archetypes of our own psychological energies. Energies that we feel, but may never have the courage to invoke or express. They are representations of aspects of our inner selves and their stories represent the countless inner struggles we do through in our daily lives. To me, the stories are simply another way of studying the teachings of yoga. It makes it fun, creative, and adds just the right amount of magic.

“To me the ancient teachings of Yoga are an invitation to be deeply curious about the flow of Life, and to cultivate it on all levels of our being. It is a practice of moving through any stagnation or blockage so that awareness can permeate our entire being.”

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Does Yandara have other advanced studies and offerings in the works?

Apart from our core module, Living Yoga Alchemy, we offer the elective modules: Ayurveda, Life Coaching, and Yin and Bhakti Yoga. A new offering is a 10 day module called “Yoga in Community“. This module takes place in Hawaii and is focused around the idea of living a yogic lifestyle in a yogic community. Apart from practicing yoga and meditation together, this module will take you to some amazing farmers markets and teach you how to cook delicious vegetarian meals. Other offering that will take place int he future are: Yoga for Pregnancy, Qi Gong & Vision Quest, and a Meditation and Energy Work module. We like to keep the advanced trainings alive and flexible, we have many inspiring ideas and also want to make sure that the quality stays high.

What inspires you most right now?

Living far from any big city, which is where most yoga events happen, inspires me to take a lot of online courses. Lately I have been inspired by the Life Coaching methods of the Handel Group that teaches how to craft dreams for different areas of our lives, as well as the Art of Attention work by Elena Brower. I am also inspired by my daily yoga and meditation practice which often includes a Kundalini Yoga Kriya.

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Who have been some of your greatest teachers?

There are so many! But if I have to choose a few that have inspired me a lot along my student and teaching path, it would be: Angela Farmer for encouraging me to always stay curious; Shiva Rea for showing me how to tend my inner fire; and of course my rock ‘n’ roll guru Patti Smith for inspiring me to stay authentic in all areas of life. Most of all, my students are my greatest teachers.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself continuing to spend part of the year in Baja and part of the year in Sweden together with Christopher. I stay close with my friends and family and I continue to love being a student and teacher of yoga. The roles of the student and the teacher inspire each other in a way that guides me to evolve breath-by-breath, day-by-day, year-by-year. Being a student inspires me to be a better teacher as much as being a teacher inspires me to be a better student. When I think back to 10 years ago, I realize how much I have evolved and how my practice has evolved with me. I am very curious to see where I will be in 10 years from now. I welcome further evolution!

 

 

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After living a nomadic lifestyle for several years, Nicolina spends most of her year teaching with Yandara Yoga Institute in Baja California Sur. Nicolina’s inspiring presence and teaching style, is organic and intuitive. Through centering, up-lifting and challenging yoga practices, she guides her students to awaken and explore their own sense of flow. Nicolina is in awe of the magic that is everywhere. When she’s not teaching yoga, you may find her surrounded by the elements of nature, admiring the cactus forest, exploring the arid desert hillsides, doing tarot spreads, making delicious raw treats for community potlucks, and sipping endless cups of tea with her beloved.

http://nicolinasandstedt.com

Photo Credit: Yandara Photography

It’s All About Balance: Yoga Business

Many full time yoga and wellness professionals support themselves by combining their teaching and healing trades with good business. This can be tricky as the philosophies of yoga and business can sometimes seem to contradict each other. I know a lot of new yoga teachers who teach part time and have other jobs they want to leave but are not ready to commit to jumping into making teaching yoga their only source of income. Also, I have a lot of creative and entrepreneurial minded friends who want to branch out and start their own business and could really benefit from accessible educational groups. It is all about perspective:  Starting a yoga business can be a great life teacher and adventure. Like most things, it’s about balance and how we approach it. The number of yoga and wellness professionals continues to rise and we are beginning to see more creative resources pop up for those in the industry. At times, it can seem overwhelming having a yoga business, but we must remember we don’t need to take on all the responsibility ourselves. Seeking community support, partnering up with people with complimentary skills, and having a passion to continue to learn new thing is key. I recently met Melissa Leger at a yoga training at Yandara in Baja, Mexico. We spent a lot of intimate time together as most people do at yoga intensives and was able to get to know her on a meaningful level as well as learn about exciting projects going on in her life. We share many commonalities in the journey of  finding the balance with yoga and business. Melissa recently launched The Smart Yoga Teacher, a business resource for yoga professionals. Here we learn her story and dive into the benefits of this community resource.
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What is your yoga story?

I started yoga in college in about 16 years ago to cross train.  However, it was very much a work out mentality. I did it off and on but it wasn’t until I had a bout of depression where I really understood it was more than just asana. During the depression, I was very aware of it, I tried everything: self help books, astrology, staying busy, meeting new people, hobbies, exercise….but every day I would have the uncontrollable urge to cry and felt incredibly lonely. On another self help kick, I felt like I needed more exercise and bought a Groupon and practiced consistently at a studio for 30 days. I liked the exercise so I kept going and about 3 months in, I noticed a lot of those negative feelings went away. They were and are still there on occasion but without realizing it I learned the tools to witness emotion instead of overcoming them. I then pursued my 200 hour training which had a heavy focus on mindfulness and yoga therapy and in changed both myself and my practice. I completed my 300 hour yoga teacher recently which is a good reminder who we are is always evolving in our practice as we move through life.

Tell us about your passion for business…

Ah, my passion for business. I am a creative person but not in terms of being an artist. I like to think creatively and I love a challenge which works great in business. I love creating something out of nothing and enriching people’s lives. To be honest, I like making money too. Not in a greedy sort of way but I find a lot of ease in not having to think about bills and struggling. For me, it’s a lot more fun and useful to work hard in a way I want to share good things with the world than to have the stress of not knowing if I can pay my bills.
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What is the vision at The Smart Yoga Teacher?

Some people are natural mothers, artists, athletes…I’m naturally inclined for business with a background in it and I also enjoy it. However, that’s not the case for a lot of people, in particular, natural healers that tend to come into teaching yoga. I’d like to create an educational resource that has a lot of free ways to learn from people who have “made it” in the yoga industry using the language and values that make sense to us. This doesn’t mean they are millionaires, though that would be nice, but they can support themselves and their families with their yoga career whether it be the main source of income or added to other desirable streams of income. Right now we have the blog which features a lot of tips, templates, and some how to videos from my experience. On the podcast, I interview other yoga pros doing different things in the industry and are supporting themselves. We also have a Facebook group where people can learn from each other. Long term, I’d like to see some offline and online courses but ideally we’re all earning from each other in our language while living yoga.

As a yoga teacher yourself, what resources for yoga teachers do you feel are lacking?

Business for sure. Yoga Alliance only requires 2 hours with a maximum of 5 in yoga teacher teacher trainings. That’s not enough. I have an M.B.A., was in the military, and worked in finance for 8 years and it’s still tough for me. People expect to be able to teach and start a career after yoga teacher training yet they’re very ill prepared for business side. Unless they are an employee, there’s very few full time yoga positions out there. Not only do we have to know about business but entrepreneurship specifically. There’s a technical and a very scary and challenging emotional side that isn’t talked about enough. Adding on to that, I think there’s a lack of community when it comes to business and yoga. Sometime it’s by nature from the individual teacher but also from a fear of competition. There’s competition out there but competition doesn’t have to create fear or a sense of lack. I’d like to see more resources to create community for yoga professionals where everyone’s connecting, sharing, and helping out communities together not separately.

How do you think ‘living yoga’ can improve businesses, organizations, and communities?

This is huge. As yogis, the 8 limbs can really help us with running our businesses ethically yet abundantly. The yamas and niyamas in particular are amazing when it comes to business. They can be our compass when we go through the peaks and valleys of running a business: being happy with wherever we’re at, how to communicate with people, what’s appropriate behavior in the workplace, setting boundaries with ourselves, clients, and employees, creating positive work environments, maintaining balance…I can go on forever.
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Any tips on how we can maintain balance between utilizing the internet as a resource and finding presence offline?

Turn off all notifications! Seriously. There’s nothing so important that happens on your phone that can’t wait until you make time for it to be present. I think the internet is a great place to connect but it can also be a place to escape from our communities and relationships around us. Set time aside specifically for business and do the work then enjoy your life. I’ve started turning off my phone or leaving it behind when I’m not working because it’s such a distraction from life.

What do you believe is in store for the yoga industry over the next 10 years?

Business wise, there’s going to be more opportunity and also more competition. Some people fear competition but the people who are successful understand it’s a natural part of business. We’ll see yoga in a lot more places outside of the yoga studio and more teachers. The ones that will do well are the ones that don’t undervalue themselves because they can sustain themselves and continue to become a better teacher. There will be a lot more online learning, just like other industries, but physical classes will be just as in demand for the energy, personal attention, and community.

What is your definition of success?

In business, I would say being able to support ourselves financially and love what we do. In life, understanding ourselves and really owning it.

Anything else you would like to share?

Most people who succeed in business are the ones that failed more often than others. The reason people become successful is because they believe so much in their path that they don’t quit. Take action, keep trying, fail more often, and keep going!
 
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Melissa Leger is the founder of The Smart Yoga Teacher, Ignite Your Bliss, and a yoga instructor. After a career in the Army and finance, she began to feel the pressures of mindlessly achieving more but having a constant feeling of emptiness. Through her yoga practice and eventually her teacher training, she began to feel alive, empowered, and aware. She completed her Yoga Teacher Training in 2012 at Mindful Yoga Academy in Spain, Level I of Blooma’s Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training, and Level I of Yoga Gangsters training working with At Risk Youth, and is completing her 500 hour training at Yandara Institute in Mexico. She also owns Green Locus Yoga in Tampa, Florida which aims to make yoga accessible to the community regardless of age, body type, or ability. She loves cooking meals, traveling, and spending time with her dogs and husband.

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Talking Story: Lauren Duke

Lauren Duke is an inspiring yoga teacher based out of the eclectic town of Encinitas, California. She is the Founder of Yoga Bergamot, a studio that is committed to making yoga accessible to everyone in a special place where donation based yoga can live strong. She is a devoted teacher and student, deeply involved in community events, and married to Chris Miller, the Co-Creator of Vuori Clothing. Here she shares some light on her experiences and life. Thank you Lauren for your words about the journey. We look forward to reading your books in 10 years;)

Tell us a bit about your yoga story…

Yoga is changing for me all the time. The definition is relative to my experience and my experience is always in flux. I never knew the moment before the last few years. I spent my younger years in survival mode. I missed a million moments. I was too busy worrying about everything.   I got into yoga before it was trending.  I noticed the physiological benefits, although when I was 18-19, I wouldn’t have been able to explain that. It’s become my muse and is a constant reminder of what I want to stand for and how I want to live my life. I’m human. I make a lot of mistakes, although I make way less then 10 years ago. Yoga is the awareness and development of spiritual maturity which is the recognition that we are in control of choice making. I think yoga is a practice of knowledge and our ability to learn skills and apply information prudently so we can make the best choices for ourselves and our communities.

What inspired you to create a DONATION based yoga space?

Well, one of my first teachers was Rusty Wells and that’s how he ran his platform for yoga. Then when I moved to San Diego I started teaching at a donation based studio and it closed down. I felt protective of the model and everyone that needed it to be able to practice and decided to just keep it going. To be honest, It was just an instinctive survival response. It’s a model where there is a lot of reciprocity for both the student and the teacher. It protects and is in the best interest of the teachers and students as well. I set my model up a little different though and I think that’s why it’s been so successful. It’s a cooperative which means the teachers rent the space collectively to be able to pay rent. It takes the pressure off of me knowing that everyone is pitching in. Also, it incentivizes the teachers to grow their brand and their business and to make their version and voice of yoga both authentic and unique. Because they pay rent, they also need to make sure they bring people in so they can make it worth their while. On the other end as a student , there are no commitments and no questions. We just ask everyone to be honest. We do believe that there needs to be an exchange between teacher and student. We live in a modern world where we have to pay bills and rent and taxes. Unfortunately it’s not free but giving people the opportunity to choose what they can afford, I feel like takes a lot of pressure off students. Now there are no excuses. You can just practice even if you can only afford a dollar. I used to have a student give me a check for $2 every time she came and then after years she finally got on her feet and now pays $20 every time and is so grateful that she had the opportunity to practice even when she had nothing. It’s a pretty sweet model and feels very communal and tribal like bartering. It’s the antithesis of the current capitalist model. You don’t become a yoga teacher to get rich but if you are dexterous and dynamic and passionate then anything can happen!
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Do you offer any types of work exchange/work trade at Yoga Bergamot? What benefits do you notice from “trading”?

We do offer work trade at Bergamot. We have bartered so much over the years. Our whole brand and website and photography is all from a trade for a training and yoga. It’s a community love affair at Bergamot and I think everyone really recognizes how important it is to help the studio keep running and help to maintain its success. The students feel like they are a part of it. Also we trade for cleaning and classes. I’m all for trades but I have very high expectations and it’s under the pretense that everyone will hold up their end of the deal. I don’t really tolerate slackers. It takes a village.

Any thoughts on environmental issues and how the yoga community can be of service?

Well community is a powerful thing. When people unite and they feel like they are a part of system and recognize how their actions effect the bigger picture, anything is possible. And fundamentally that’s what yoga stands for – the recognition and awareness around how one thing affects the next. Like the domino affect.  So if students are actually living this philosophy then they are taking action amongst the issues that need attention.  This starts with the individual becoming mindful about all products they are using, how and what they are eating, recycling, picking up trash.  My goal is not to just share the path and its ideals with people but rather empower people to actually take action and make a difference. That’s what Ghandi did. Some people think one person can’t make a difference with their actions but I think Ghandi and mother Theresa would certainly disagree.

What is your definition of happiness?

Happiness is relative. Life isn’t the same all the time. Shit happens and someone’s life’s not so happy. But my definition of something that can’t really be defined with an lauren5absolute -such as happiness- is the ability to be here now.  The ability to be present. It’s very simple and cliche and zen but it works. In the moment, often there is no pain. When you are sitting watching he sunset but stewing on something else – happiness is gone. But when you can embody the moment – to me that’s the ultimate. It’s basically what I work on everyday from the way I embody my posture or breathing practice or the way I interact and treat people. I want to be able to drop in – no matter what the experience is. But happiness is fleeting just like everything else. Unless you live in a cave and don’t go into modern day living it’s impossible.  Anyhow there’s no certain absolute definition. But I will say I’m happy when I’m here (just Right here) and not there (as in not present). It’s nebulous, but I get it and that’s all that matters really. 

If you could go back in time, what would your current self tell your 16 year old self?

I would tell my younger self to just “chill the fuck out.” It’s all gonna work out. And also to spend more time building my brains then my looks. Looks are just the tip of the iceberg. I think people are way more beautiful when they have something to say and stand up for their beliefs and have spent time getting to know their emotionality which is just the gateway to heartfelt spirituality.  “Look deeper,” I suppose I would tell that very sad, distracted, tenuous girl.  Underneath there was always so much more but I needed to take time to know and understand it. It takes life and heartbreak and death and experiences to develop that knowing.

“Look deeper…”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years I’ll be an author. Still teaching yoga of course but taking my experiences to the next level. I’ve had a crazy life. I have something to say and to share and I’m determined to do it.

What are you most inspired by right NOW?

Right now I’m seriously the most inspired by philosophy. I’m taking two online philosophy courses right now with Christina Sell and Noah Mazé. The physical practice is just so symbolic. With the dissolution of the richness of the yoga philosophy in the teachings of current yoga, the ideals of what the physical stands for are lost. I’m totally nerding out on how there’s such deep symbology in the postures. It’s all about the actions. I’m less involved these days with how to show up perfectly in each pose and more concerned with being fastidious about the actions that stand for how we live. Building poses will remind us of that. We actually have so much control, especially if we are paying attention to what we are doing. It makes such a difference to go through each pose with deep awareness of how it effects you and how the breath affects you and how one pose affects the whole system of poses.  It’s so deep it blows my mind. Still!  So I’ve come full circle. I used to care so much about doing a handstand. Then I figured it out and realized that it was so much deeper!  It’s not about nailing the posture – it’s about being available and participating in your experience. These days I’d rather nail savasana or a meditation. These days I’d rather show up awake so I can be better for my community, my husband, my family and my friends. That feels more like ruling at life.

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Committed to sharing and sustaining both the spirit of yoga and the donation based yoga system, Lauren is the Founder of Bergamot Yoga. With over 1,000 hours of training through several different systems including; Hatha, vinyasa, and Anusara, her method of teaching is a blend of yoga depending on what feels relevant to her students, her individual practice and her own life. She is known for her raw disposition, detailed Instruction and fun-loving nature. You never know what you are going to get but it’s guaranteed to always be challenging both in your body and in your heart.

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www.yogabergamot.com

www.vuoriclothing.com

Learning Compassion Through Yoga

As humans we all experience judgment. There are many times where we can be incredibly quick to come to a conclusion about a person, a place, or a thing – often based off of a first glance – and while we are so quick to judge others, we are even quicker to judge ourselves, making judgment seem like one of the hardest habits to break.

But lucky for us… we have this thing called yoga.

The more we step onto our mats the more we delve deeper into these judgments about ourselves and others. Through 5-14our practice of movement, breathing, and mindfulness we allow ourselves to become observers: observers of our thoughts, observers of our feelings, and observers of how we choose to react to those thoughts and feelings. Do we allow ourselves to get distracted, fall out in frustration, and feel shame for the lack of integrity? Or can we move through the experience with presence and mindfulness and compassion?

When I first started practicing yoga it was purely for the physical workout. I was recovering from a knee injury, I wanted to become more flexible, and I wanted to get strong – drop some pounds and get myself in better shape. While the dedication to a consistent, Vinyasa practice did help me to strengthen and tone and create more fluidity within my body, I started to noticed a bigger shift beginning to happen. Instead of rolling out my mat for a workout, I found myself rolling out my mat for a “work in.” My practice was allowing me to slowly break down the walls I had built up – the harsh judgments, the limiting beliefs, and the self doubt that I had been carrying around with me for so long. The doors of compassion were beginning to open.

It wasn’t until my 200-hour teacher training that I really began to understand what it meant to be compassionate towards myself. Thanks to self-inquiry and a consistent journaling practice I began to bring more awareness to my judgments and when and why they were showing up. During a practice, I would try to be mindful of when that harshFORGIVE2 voice would get loud, criticizing myself, another student, or the teacher. After the practice I would write in my journal, noting what judgments came up for me and reflecting on what I was feeling at that moment and why I was feeling that way. I began to see a pattern. I was way too hard on myself and in return, I was way too hard on others. I expected myself to be perfect and I expected others to maintain the same type of perfection. And many times I began to notice that the things I found to be annoying or frustrating about someone or something else were usually qualities that I seemed to hold as well…oof! That’s always a tough pill to swallow.

But one of the most beautiful things I’ve come to understand about compassion is that it can mold and move with us as we continue to grow. Now that I am teaching, I’ve begun to look at compassion through a completely different set of eyes. Because when you take on that role as teacher, you automatically begin to hold a space for others who are breaking through their own judgments and doubts and limiting beliefs. I wasn’t able to fully grasp what it meant to be compassionate towards others until I truly learned what it meant to be compassionate towards myself. And we’re not talking about the pity kind of compassion, but a much deeper kind of compassion, coming from a place that we are all one. As a teacher you quickly learn that everyone shows up on their mats for different reasons – some as light as physical exercise and some as heavy as to deal with death, depression, or addiction. It’s a reminder that we are all doing the best that we can with what we’ve been given and no matter how different we may appear on the surface, we all experience the same types feelings, insecurities, and judgments on the inside.

I now understand that compassion is the key to community and harmony. The more we practice bringing compassion onto our mats, the more we will see compassion showing up for us off of our mats. As we begin to loosen the shackles of perfection, we forgive ourselves for all of the too-quick conclusions that we have made. In understanding and appreciating both our positive attributes and our quirky flaws (because we all have them) we learn to understand and appreciate those qualities in others. In releasing our judgments and limiting beliefs we inspire others to do the same. So the next time you roll out your mat, I encourage you to ask yourself the question, “Where can I show myself more compassion?” Then allow the doors to open.

 

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Cait Lawson is a RYT-200 and Living Yoga Ambassador currently located in Rincon, Puerto Rico where she teaches yoga, SUP yoga/fitness, and offers surf lessons and eco-tours around the island. Follow more of her adventures at www.sunburntandsalty.com.

Call and Response Foundation

Kirtan is a group singing and music making experience that blurs the boundaries between performers and audience. Mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.​ Here we catch up with Director of the Call and Response Foundation, Jennifer Canfield. She educates us about the benefits of community kirtan and mantra and gives us more information about this inspiring and soulful foundation. 

Tell us about the vision of the Call and Response Foundation…

The Call & Response Foundation is a registered nonprofit devoted to serving and expanding the mantra music community. Our mission is to share the experience of chanting with one million people by 2020.

Our Outreach program is our fastest growing program with more than a dozen Universities on board our Sacred Sound project.  The Rutgers University event draws over 500 students and embodies our vision of a project we support but is executed and sustained by dedicated community members.​

What are some benefits of chanting and kirtan?

 

-​ ​“According to a research done at the Cleveland University, USA, the rhythmic tones involved in chanting create a melodious effect in the body called the Neuro-linguistic call2effect (NLE). When we know the meaning of the mantra we are reciting, it creates a Psycholinguistic effect (PLE) on the body. The NLE and the PLE effects are by-products of the production and spreading of curative chemicals in the brain. The research concludes that this is the real reason why chanting provokes curative effects in us.
-A study by Dr. Alan Watkins (senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London) revealed that while chanting, our heart rate and blood pressure dip to its lowest in the day. Doctors say that even listening to chants normalises adrenalin levels, brain wave pattern and lowers cholesterol levels.
-Using chants as part of our exercise regimen, helps facilitate movement and flow of the body during exercise.
-Studies prove that making chants a part of our daily yoga can help achieve greater weight loss in a shorter span of time.
-Neuro-scientist Marian Diamond from the University of California found that chanting helps block the release of stress hormones and increases immune function. It also keeps our muscles and joints flexible for a long time.
-The body’s energy and vitality are augmented by regular chanting.
call5-Chanting cures depression: An 8-week study was carried out at the Samarya Center for Integrated Movement Therapy and Ashtanga Yoga in Seattle, WA, to see the effects of chanting on general well-being and particularly respiratory functions in people suffering from mild-to-severe depression. The results showed that chanting helped participants increase control over their breath and expiratory output level. The participants claimed that chanting reduced their anxiety and improved their mood. Researchers thus concluded that if done at least once a week, chanting is an effective means of enhancing people’s moods in the immediate present, as well as over an extended period of time.”

How does your foundation embody “living” yoga?

 

​Our programs and events create opportunities for positive change; especially with marginalized and vulnerable populations.​

Do you offer volunteer opportunities?

 

Yes; we work with volunteers who help us facilitate programs in prisons and other institutions.  We also work with community members who help facilitate our community kirtan programs.​

How can people bring more kirtan to their local communities?

 

One way is for anyone interested in having more kirtan in their community is to call3schedule a free consult with our staff an​d discuss the community kirtan initiative we facilitate.  We have helped establish weekly and monthly kirtans all over the country.  Our resources include making connections with qualified instructors, a grants program for renting space and support scheduling guest presenters.

The Foundation started in 2010 with a dream.

call1Three people who felt more vibrant, calm, and connected through kirtan, the ancient sanskrit practice of call and response chanting, decided to share the practice with as many people as possible. Their research about mantra music and chanting revealed that these practices do indeed improve mental, physical and emotional health. Now, our staff works to connect sacred sound musicians with universities, prisons, psychiatric facilities, refugee communities, shelters, and more so that they can offer free conscious music to participants.