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How Yoga Travel Humbles The Control Freak

By the grace of the universe I found yoga at fourteen years old, and since then I have held on to it for dear life to remind myself to loosen my grip a little bit, to breathe, to recognize that I am being held, to trust in the beat of my own heart, to trust in the beat of, well, everything.

We won’t dive too deeply into where these control patterns stem from (some Buddhists such as Pema Chodron believe it all comes back to our fear of – and lack of control over – death), but those of us who have experienced them know how easy it can be to trick ourselves into believing we have quit controlling for good. Who, us? We don’t control our environment! We let things happen and let people be free, autonomous individuals! We let the Universe flow! Until something happens that makes us feel less-than the grand image of ourselves we’ve created. Then the clawing, the biting, the manipulating, the screaming, the full-on emotional breakdown ensues and we quickly point our well-meaning fingers to how that situation or that person was just not working for us fairly. You get the picture.

Then back to our mats. Back to our breath. Back to letting go of that “I”-ness. But in the comfort of our daily lives, even this can be a facade. It’s easy to be a zen master when we know what to expect. Same classes each week, same group of smiling yogis, same bed to come back to at night. Nothing to shake us up or knock us off our “path.”

This is when we need to travel most. When I first joined Yoga Trade, I no doubt brought my control issues right along for the ride. I tried only to “choose” the opportunities that seemed the best and most outstanding. I wanted to cross countries off my list. I wanted to be around people that I thought would be a good fit for who I imagined myself to be.

It turned out it wasn’t working (surprise). The harder I tried to manifest my ideal situation, the less I felt like I was getting what I was looking for. So I packed up my things & decided to trek Europe with three friends instead. I was free to make my own choices – this situation was full of less surprises. How sad that we think this is what we want, when in fact we are simply stifling the magic from flowing in.

About one week – just one – into this no-destination backpacking affair, my counterparts and I decided our goals were wildly different – none of us were willing to relinquish that control of our Selves (surprise again) – and we amicably went separate ways. How could I have gone into travel thinking I knew what I was getting into, and ending up here so quickly? The lesson is – as anyone who’s traveled has learned – we always do. I spent a hot second in Barcelona feeling victimized by the Universe (“Why isn’t this trip going as I planned?!”) and going back and forth over whether to just call it quits and buy a ticket home. Whatever choice I made felt like a massive weight on my shoulders that would profoundly impact my worthiness as a human. The struggle to make the “right” (read: “perfect”) decision was real.

Welcome divine intervention. I received an email from a Yoga Trade member in Italy that had previously turned me down, but whose lead yoga teacher had gotten sick & couldn’t host the week-long retreat she was scheduled to lead and that began in less than 48 hours. So I hopped on the first train from Barcelona to Rome and made the trek to the profoundly quiet and peaceful mountain city apartment that would be my home for the next three weeks as I led some of the most brilliant and incredible yogis I’ve ever had the privilege to teach, not one, but three, consecutive yoga retreats.

The universe really drove it home for me (in case I hadn’t gotten it already) when the day after my arrival in Italy (which happened also to be my birthday) a fabulous Italian dinner that had been put on by my colleagues at the retreat was interrupted by shouts & music from outside. Rushing from our table, we found every inhabitant of the tiny town dancing in the streets during what must have been one of the few big celebrations of the year. At midnight that night on my birthday, these warm and welcoming residents of Casperia lit hundreds of heart-shaped lanterns and released them into the sky, where they floated out over the hills of vineyards and sunflower farms, competing with the stars, and appearing to laugh at me, at all of us, as if to say, “How could you – any of you – be anywhere but here?”

I learned much more about myself leading those retreats than I could have wandering the streets of Europe alone. Like most of us do, I quickly realized our path is an endless organic unfolding of free will – balanced quite evenly by natural intervention. Fate, serendipity, whatever you choose to call it, there is no doubt it should make us feel relieved, excited even, that we are absolutely not in full control. We can find joy in the fact that the Universe has plans for each of us that are so much grander, and more beautiful, and more perfectly designed to bring us to our greatest good, than any we could ever create on our own.

Travel with an open heart, an open mind, and a sense of abandon. Abandon what you know, what you want, what you think things should be. Because the truth is, things will always be exactly as they should.

 

 

 

Samantha Migliozzi is an E-RYT 200-hour that has been teaching for over seven years locally in New England and abroad. She has been a dedicated Yoga Trade user since its outset and has visited 15 countries in the past three years.

https://www.samanthanaturalhealth.com/

IG: @samimigliozzi

Off the Mat – Activated after Bhakti Fest

It was one of my very first yoga classes that my teacher spoke about practicing yoga “off the mat.” I initially came to yoga to get in shape, lose some weight, and start a new exercise routine, with no intentions to get in touch with myself or find any sort of spirituality in the process. I remember thinking to myself, “ of course you can practice yoga off the mat, you just do the poses on the ground anywhere else!” Easy peasy.

It wasn’t until that moment in savasana that my mind got quiet, I felt my body, and my breath became my own sacred white noise, that I realized that yoga is far more than a twisted posture in a peaceful room. Class after class I would reach that feeling I couldn’t describe and still barely can, that feeling of connection to myself and everything else around me. It started to come to me in different postures, and then in meditation, and then I started to feel it after class, when I’d stumble onto the bustling streets of NYC and still feel that sensation of deeper connection. The people or situations that once agitated me no longer carried so much weight. And there it was: I was practicing yoga off the mat.

This photo and cover photo by: Monique Feil

Thousands of downward dogs later and now I understand why practicing yoga off the mat is not only important, but necessary. My understanding for what yoga actually is has been completely transformed— I now know that yoga is a way of a life, a way of a service, and truly a way of activating our own lives to reach outside of ourselves and into the world. After attending Bhakti Fest in September, my beliefs were absolutely validated and certainly expanded, as this festival lives and breathes yoga off the mat.

As the mantras were being chanted and the mala-wearing yogis were saluting the sun as it spread its rays through the Joshua Trees, there was devastation happening around the world. Hurricanes destroyed the eastern side of our beautiful country and wildfires scorched the old growth forests of the West, while ice caps were simultaneously melting at rapid speed in the arctic. This, amongst the heavy political strife in ours and so many other countries around the world, pushed me to wonder how chanting and deep breathing in a Southern California desert could possibly contribute to this polarized world we are living in in a positive way. While I felt a shift inside myself, how could that reach outside of myself?

Photo by: Monique Feil

So many teachers, musicians and artists at Bhakti Fest were tuned into this same question, and addressed it quite directly. From MC Yogi’s lyrical genius, singing “love is righteous, and it might just save the whole world from this global crisis,” to Michael Brian Baker’s plea to protect our planet and its people by supporting Chase Iron Eyes to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline and drop all charges against water protectors. This festival is not just about feeling good, but also about being real with our own innate power and using it for good.

After taking a class with Sianna Sherman, focused on creating change off the mat and in the world, we spoke more in depth about how yoga can inspire compassionate activism. Sianna teaches Rasa Yoga, “an alchemical fusion of mantra, mudra, asana, Bhakti, tantra, soul alchemy and earth ceremony.” One of its goals she said is “to remember that we are a collective tribe and also earth guardians, and we are here to protect and serve the earth and each other.” She spoke about using yoga as a pathway to better understand our own shadows and the power of turning towards, rather than away, from our own pain and anger. These practices teach us how to work with our own emotions and stay centered so that when it’s time to be a voice of change and to be of true service to the world, we are not pulled out of ourselves, but rather grounded and activated from within. “If we use our power and really consciously work with our own emotional fluency and literacy, and emotional intelligence, then we can change all the energy inside, including all the anger and rage—so we can truly create positive change,” said Sherman. What we’ve seen happen far too often is that “rather than using our power consciously, we end up polarizing and dehumanizing the other point of view and righteously standing only in our own narrow perspective” she said.

Sherman’s sweetie and beautiful musician, Masood Ali Khan, also had a strong take on the matter of change-making. He shared about how the sustainability of our world “is coming closer and closer to its death if we don’t make a move. This is a call for us to rise up.” He went on to say that in order to create change we need to move as a family and a community, so we can expand fast. “We need to make changes now, because it’s going to be too late if we wait. And you know the way that the planet is going— a week, two weeks could be too late, who knows what the next storm might bring,” said Khan.

Photo by:  Simone Levine

Bhakti Fest was really a place to gather people together to open their hearts and minds in order to activate change off of the mat. And while we came together to chant the mantras and pray, a very important medicine for the self, according to Breathwork facilitator and founder of the The Breath Center, Michael Brian Baker, “it is not enough to actually create change in our world as we need it now.” He went on to say, “we’ve reached this critical mass where things are shaking and going on, and if you look at it from a spiritual standpoint, the right brain would tell you that spirit incarnated into this physical form in order to take action, because spirit without a container can not create change on a material plane.” The call is loud and clear: it’s time to take action now!

As I left Bhakti Fest on a high of feeling the good vibes and inner transformation, I knew there was much more for me to do. I signed some petitions for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and am honing in on what lights me up so I can practice my yoga off the mat from my own center, a center that is truly ignited.

Learn more and connect with Bhakti Fest:

bhaktifest.com

 

 

 

 

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.

IG :  @momomagical

Morning Altars: A Daily Living Practice

I first became aware of Day Schildkret and his work at Wanderlust Festival in Lake Tahoe. Day is known internationally for Morning Altars and has encouraged thousands of people of all ages from all over the world to forage, build and be awed with Earth Art. Day is igniting an international movement by sharing the art, teachings and spirit of Morning Altars as a tangible spiritual practice that renews and redeems our relationship to wonder, creativity, nature connection, generosity, and impermanence. He taps into the roots and foundations of yoga with a unique perspective and inspires us that a daily practice does not have to be done on the mat. Here we catch up with Day to learn from and be moved by his creative soul. Much gratitude Day!

What are your earliest memories of making altars?

I was five years old and making the tiniest of altars. I would run outside after every rainstorm and witness the driveway covered in displaced and homeless worms, wiggling around trying to find their way back into the ground. I felt so much sympathy for the pathetic worms that I would literally dig small holes in the earth and escort the worms back into their proper place. But I wouldn’t stop there. Apparently, I wanted their little homecomings to be met with beauty. So I would adorn each hole, creating miniature art installations with flower petals, tiny sticks, and fallen berries, until there was a constellation of worm-hole mandalas scattered throughout the front yard. While my parents probably thought it was cute, to me it was everything. I was helping these helpless creatures find their way home — and marking that journey in beauty, with an altar. I didn’t know it at the time, but our capacity to mark moments with beauty is entirely human.

Can you talk a bit about your love for nature and connection…

That’s like asking me to speak about my love of life. It’s almost indescribable.

I think it’s best to start off by speaking a bit about my disconnection from nature and my journey of discovering it again. After college, I found myself working on Broadway and living in Times Square on a street that had about a thousand people walking by my front door every hour. There was barely a tree in site. Everything was pavement. The billboards lit the city so brightly at night that it looked like daytime. My days were rushed and stressful and, as you can imagine, there were consequences to living that way.

Yet right down the block there was an oasis: A community garden lush with green grass, a winding path and an old magnolia tree. That garden brought me back to life and reminded me how crucial being connected to the natural world is.

My love of nature is my love of the interconnection, diversity and unexpected magic of life. This love requires me having a beginner’s mind and being able to be awed by what I see. This love reminds me that to truly connect with nature, I must slow down and open my eyes and heart to what I’m connected to. Nature is alive and always communicating.

Any words of wisdom you can give someone that is wanting to start this kind of daily practice? Would you say that making altars is a yoga practice for you?

The word of wisdom is simple: Begin. Take a step outside and just wander for a bit, looking around for leaves or bark or anything that inspires you. Sit on the earth and just begin to arrange these pieces. You’ll be surprised how easy it is when you choose to begin.

I started this as a daily practice years ago because I had a relationship breakup that totally broke my heart. I couldn’t do yoga, couldn’t meditate. All I could do was take my dog on a walk in the hills here. It was a huge act of courage at the time to just walk out my front door. But what I discovered and remembered was how connected I feel when I’m creative and in nature.

The word yoga in Sanskrit means “to join,” “to unite” “to bring together” – it’s the practice of connecting oneself to something greater. My Morning Altars practice is yoga practice for me as it’s all about connecting ourselves in the moment: to nature, to creativity, to the present moment.

Who and what are some of your biggest inspirations?

Perhaps I can answer this question by describing my smallest inspirations. The magic I make when engaged in my craft is given to me by what lives and grows on the land. There have been little leaves I have found that are splattered with all the colors of the seasons on its surface. Or a perfectly rounded river rock that looks like it was shaped on the potter’s wheel. Or the flowering puff of a thistle plant that desires any opportunity to ride the wind. When I sit down to create, these gifts of the land are my inspiration and give my imagination the endless ideas of shapes and patterns. Every single Morning Altar that I have made has been inspired by the place I am at and the objects of that place.

How do you maintain your amazing curiosity, creativity and beginner’s mind?

Maintenance is a practice of keeping something you love alive and well. And this practice, like any practice, exercises a muscle and a skill. Like playing the guitar or learning a language, to become skillful at something requires a commitment to take time to tend to it everyday — to be willing to meet it everyday. I believe in yoga this is called “finding your mat.”

Curiosity, creativity and beginner’s mind are skills that we must exercise daily to not lose them. As children we are born into these kind of skills — we begin with 100% and are asked to maintain them. However, the dominant industrial culture we live in requires us to trade in these enormously valuable skills for the promise of certainty, knowledge, productivity and competence. And, like any muscle that isn’t exercised, it atrophies when underused.

So maintenance is a practice of keeping something alive. I keep my curiosity, creativity and beginner’s mind alive by committing to my Morning Altars practice everyday. I get to behold the wild turkeys that parade by the creek or the squirrels chasing each other up a redwood tree. I get to practice making something new everyday using my own hands and being awed by what I made. It’s a practice so I mess up all the time — but my commitment has never been stronger.

Any tips on how to turn passions into a sustainable way of making a living?

The etymology of the word “sustain” means to “hold up” like you would with the foundation of a home. Anything that is sustainable and endurable requires a willingness to be flexible, adaptable, innovative and persistent. For passions to become a living, it really requires a shift in mindset that includes uncertainty and not knowing. It asks you to tell your passion that no matter what, you’ll be there for it. No matter how uncertain things are, you won’t abandon it. What happens when you alter your mind in this way is that you learn a certain kind of grace and courage that is needed when making your passions into livelihood.

You are also a Purpose Coach and created Legacy of Livelihood. Please tell us more!

I’m passionate about people remembering that they are needed during this time. There are too many people in the world living a life that is purposeless, needy and disconnected and there’s enormous negative impact on their health, relationships and on the planet itself.

We need as many people as possible attempting to live creative and regenerative lives. We need as many people as possible remembering that everything they benefit from has been given to them from generations before and that their purpose directly impacts generations to come. We as a human species are at a crossroads: Do we continue to take from this planet with an incessant, insatiable appetite or do we show up with purpose, meaning, generosity and responsibility for a world greater than ourselves?

I’ve worked with hundreds of clients as a Creative Purpose mentor because I want to see other people living their passions and purpose everyday. I want to see people taking risk and living creatively without any guarantees that its going to work out. Living with purpose right now requires us to proceed with our life’s calling in the midst of uncertainty.

I absolutely LOVE witnessing my clients get strong and devoted to living their passions.

What is one way we can all bring more beauty into our lives?

The more beautiful everything around you is, the more beauty is in your life. So, I think the question should be: What does it look like to make everything that surrounds me as beautiful as possible? What does it mean to bring beauty to your partner or your neighbors or your office co-workers? What does it mean to make your home or working space more beautiful? How can your greetings to strangers be more beautiful?

The more beauty you give, the more spills all over you. That’s what is needed in this world.

 

To view the mesmerizing magic of Morning Altars, visit: www.morningaltars.com

Instagram:  @morningaltars

Facebook:  facebook.com/morningaltars  

Sign up for the Morning Altars newsletter! The first 10 sign-ups will receive a package of Morning Altars postcards (when say you heard about this via Yoga Trade)

Devoted to Bhakti

I’ve been carrying an energy with me for the last four months that I can’t, and don’t want to shake. My breath feels more fluid, my mind more clear, my heart more open. This all began at Shakti Fest this past May, and integrating the lessons and practices has certainly not been a walk in the park. Rather, I’ve been on a dedicated journey that takes patience, practice, and work to fully live into — a journey that I feel grateful and honored to participate in.

Lucky for me, and thousands of other devotees, another opportunity to sink deeper into these practices is right around the corner. This year’s Bhakti Fest West, the sister festival to Shakti Fest, is happening in just 2 weeks in Joshua Tree, CA (Sept 6-11, 2017)!

Bhakti means devotion, and at Bhakti Fest that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what will unfold, and has been unfolding for the past 9 years. Bhakti Fest gathers a community of mindful folks from all over the world to practice the art of yoga, meditation, music, breath work, sound healing, and much more. One of the only fully vegetarian festivals, that is also drug and alcohol free and family friendly — this is a safe place to enliven your senses in pure form.

Bringing some of the best spiritual teachers of our time to one sacred place, including Seane Corn, Mark Whitwell, Kia Miller, and Michael Brian Baker, as well as internationally renowned musicians Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, MC YOGI, and Donna De Lory is just part of why this festival feels like a total dream.

Yet what seems to be the most impressive part of this festival is that it’s actually a non-profit. While we are celebrating, Bhakti Fest will be donating a percentage of its revenue to charities including Food for Life Vrindavan, Love Serve Remember Foundation, Ramana’s Garden, and the Seva Foundation.

It’s an “everybody wins” event that I’m personally stoked to experience as a teacher, practitioner, and lifelong student.

Participate in the SEVA program by working in exchange for a ticket (A Yoga Trade opportunity)! A fantastic way to make meaningful connections and enjoy the festival by sharing your trade: bhaktifest.com/participate/

Transform, deepen, and come play with us!

Tickets for Bhakti Fest West 2017 are available at:  https://tickets.brightstarevents.com/event/bhakti-fest-west-2017.

 

 

 

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.

IG : @momomagical 

Big Moves and Big Changes: How Transition Brings Positive Transformation

Many people fear transition. However, it is possible to use a period of transition as a way to change your life for the better. When we find ourselves in situations that either make us unhappy or are simply unsustainable, our strong feelings about the situation can generate a sense of momentum and purpose. This transformational momentum allows us to surge forward towards the change we so deeply crave.

Here are some tips for how you can use a major life transition, such as an upcoming big move, to replace bad habits with positive ones:

Getting Focused

If you’re looking to harness the power of transition to transform your life, it can be helpful to start by getting some clarity and focus. Ask yourself the following questions:
Who do I want to be? What type of life do I want to have?
Who am I? What type of life do I currently have?
What is the difference between the life I have right now and the life that I want to have?
What steps do I need to take to get there?

Home environment

From being uprooted to having to get settled into a new location, it’s no secret that moving is tough. Take this as an opportunity to make your new home environment a health environment. One way you can do this is by making your home environment as stress-free, healthy, and tidy as possible. These changes will lead to your home being a happier environment.

Social Connection

If we are making a cross-country or long distance move, we may worry about leaving our loved ones behind. We might even wonder whether people will like us or whether it will be difficult for us to make new friends in our new location. These types of concerns are very understandable. Humans are social creatures, and recent research has shown that the brain cannot differentiate between social pain and physical pain.

Although it can be uncomfortable at first, be patient with yourself. After a big move, it will take you some time to make friends, find a new social activities that you love, and explore your new neighborhood. Over time, you will begin to make new friends while (hopefully) also nourishing your existing relationships. This will boost your overall life satisfaction, reduce feelings of loneliness, and might even boost your immune system. In the words of behavioral researcher, Vanessa Van Edwards, “Connection nourishes us and makes us better humans.”

Mental Health

Your home environment and social connections also play a role in your mental health. As part of the healthier choices you are making, you might also consider ending any toxic relationships – or at the very least, start implementing some healthy boundaries. This will help you reduce stress, fatigue as well as contribute to overall happiness.

In conclusion…
To conclude, there are many benefits to transitions. As you’ve hopefully learned after reading this article, the current and upcoming changes in your life will build character and push you beyond your comfort zone. This provides you with an important gift: the unique opportunity to make some real changes and see positive transformation in your life.

 

With SpiritFinder, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.

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

Reasons to Practice Mindfulness

Everyone’s heard of mindfulness these days. For most of us who practice yoga, mindfulness is an integral part of our practice. After all, being mindfully aware of our body as we move through the sequence of poses is what really allows us to deepen our practice. But did you know that mindfulness can be just as useful when practiced off the mat?

For me personally, I’ve found there were five main ways that mindfulness affected me once it became part of my daily life. If you’re already practicing mindfulness, you might find you can relate. And if you’re not, they might inspire you to give it a try!

Here’s my list of five reasons to practice mindfulness:

1. Helps Deal with Criticism Better

Not a lot of us openly embrace criticism, in fact, most of us loathe it. The reason for this is because we just don’t want to hear any negative feedback – it makes us feel bad, and it can even make us panic. However, being more mindful helped me to ground myself and to respond with the right presence to any kind of criticism. Essentially, it assisted me with bypassing that ancient ‘fight or flight’ reptilian brain response. Instead of stressing about it, I could just take it all in and keep moving along with my day as normal.

2. Improves Listening Skills

I’ll say it: sometimes I plain suck at really listening to what people are trying to tell me. I mean sure, I hear them, but I’ve found myself (more than just a few times) letting information in the one ear and right out the other. I’m betting you can relate. The problem is that when we’re distracted, we don’t give others the attention they deserve. Mindfulness helped me focus on doing ONE thing at a time, and giving it my all, even if it was just listening to a friend talk about her holiday plans or let off steam about her job.

3. Boosts Relationships

With the enhanced self-awareness I was cultivating thanks to mindfulness, I was able to be a better team player, which meant that I started getting along better with the people around me. (Even the ones who’d always rubbed me the wrong way before.) I started being more patient with them and just kinder in general. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I finally started understanding what the term ‘compassion’ really meant.

4. Leadership

Well not a leader of thousands per se, but it greatly enhanced my leadership skills, and that’s something that we all need to work on if we want to help others. By being more mindful, I was able to recognize toxic patterns and negative thoughts. By recognizing them, I was able to choose healthier beliefs instead of automatically believing the old, limiting ones. This helped me become more confident in myself, which is vital for leadership.

5. Controls Stress Levels

Stress is a massive issue, and one that easily turns into full-blown nightmares. Simple techniques such as closing my eyes and just focusing on my breathing are what helped me deal with my stress at work. This helped me control the effects that stress was having on my mind and my body. In fact, it not only managed them, it helped me reverse the effects.

Final Thoughts:

I just showed you a few great benefits of mindfulness and how it transformed me personally, and I sincerely hope that this post has encouraged you to start your own mindfulness practice. It’s really simple yet very effective!

 

 

 

Megan is a DIY health & beauty enthusiast and yoga addict. When she’s not trying to master the perfect headstand, she loves to write. You can find her work at Gold Mountain Beauty, where she is responsible for the blog, Instagram and Pinterest.

 

 

Presence & Prosperity Lessons from Shakti Fest 2017

Basking in the sunshine, camping under the stars, and moving my body with amazing yoga teachers is what I came to Shakti Fest for – what I left with was a new clarity on how to approach living yoga beyond a mat, retreat, spiritual text, or paycheck.

I’ve been practicing yoga for twelve years, teaching for seven, and grappling with the money question for lifetimes beyond this current reality. How do I teach yoga, be of service to the world, and also make enough money to pay my rent? I find myself oscillating around this frequently, which takes me out of my practice and keeps me stuck in my monkey mind (or maybe it’s my money mind?).

After spending a weekend immersed at Shakti Fest – studying, chanting, dancing, and practicing with some of the most inspiring yoga teachers, workshop facilitators, and kirtan artists, I believe I’m closer to the answer than ever before: living yoga is living service – meaning serve first, live yoga off the mat, and prosperity will come. Also, as advised to me by Shakti Fest’s executive producer, and world renowned yoga teachers Shiva Rea and Kia Miller: “Don’t quit your day job!”

In Sanskrit, yoga, which derives from the word yuj, means “to unite” or “to join.” The Sanskrit word, seva (“selfless service”), derives from two words: saha, meaning “with that,” and eva, meaning “too;” combined seva means “together with” or “unity.”

Just serve, and then you will make money? Some might call that naive…but some of the great teachers have lived by and are still living by this concept and it works.

“I say teach yoga, but teach it with a passion,” said Shakti Fest’s Executive Producer, Sridhar Steven Silberfein, when asked about how to make teaching yoga sustainable. “Teach it with a love that you want to help change people and turn people on to a better way of life. Not ‘what am I gonna get from it’– we’ve got to stop that concept. Everything will come to you at the right time, it’s just our anxieties and desires built up from our ego mind that want everything right now.”

Silberfein started Shakti and Bhakti Fest, the largest yoga and kirtan festivals in the USA, as well as several other businesses that combine business and yoga (a health food store, natural skin care line, and a recording label to name a few).

“Basically we wake up in the morning, we produce, direct, edit, and write our own story and we star in it. That’s all we do everyday – just think about ourselves. Hardly any time is spent thinking about another person or a group of people. So by coming here we are building spiritual community, a safe haven.”

Shakti Fest is a place where people can come back to themselves, center in, and as they reconnect with themselves, they connect with others, and unite with their community with more integrity. In addition to Shakti Fest being an incredible venue for yogic practices and sacred community, it also lives service through its seva program – where people can volunteer in exchange for festival tickets and camping. Shakti Fest also donates all of the proceeds (after paying for expenses) to orphanages in India to support young girls who are living in poverty. Silberfein is dedicated to living a simple life so we can give back and practice seva as much as possible.

“Service to me is an attitude of being” said Kia Miller, internationally renowned Kundalini and Hatha Yoga teacher. “When I’m fully present to the moment I’m able to serve the moment from my full being. When I’m living my life from that place then I’m naturally by extension being of service.”

She also recognizes the difficulty in combining business and yoga. “You don’t want to put all the pressure on making your rent by teaching yoga. It’s helpful that you have something else that’s paying your rent and your food bills for a little while. When you are really in alignment and you’re serving and you’re giving to people I find that there is just a natural prosperity that follows that.”

Miller believes that acting out of service is not separate from any other way of being.

“Everything you’re doing is coming from a connected place of service as opposed to separating it out and living your life here and being a certain way, and then serving over there, and then feeling bad about yourself or beating yourself up because you’re not serving in the way people perceive people should serve.”

Her message is loud and clear: stop trying so hard and instead just be present in the moment, present for yourself, and ultimately present for your community. The more we live from a place of connectivity and unity, the more we are truly practicing yoga at its core meaning.

A lot easier said than done, right?! Miller suggests the simple act of doing a daily yoga practice to ground into this concept. She says “Just keep practicing. If your well runs dry, then try something new. There are so many different approaches to yoga and I think it’s important that we keep open to everything and not become too narrow. We want to be narrow enough that we can dig a deep well but we don’t want to lose the ability to be receptive to all.”

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been integrating concepts I learned at Shakti Fest into my daily practice and I’ve noticed a big shift. I feel more aligned to myself and therefore more capable of connecting with others out of integrity. As for paying the rent, I’ve let go of the concept of trying so hard to make yoga my profession, but rather my living. I now know that the more I live yoga, and live seva, the money will come. I’m also working on getting a day job…

The annual Shakti Fest and Bhakti Fest happen every May and September in Joshua Tree, California to bring song, dance, yoga, chanting, meditation, workshops, and delicious vegetarian and vegan food together.

For more information or to buy tickets for Bhakti Fest this September, please visit their website:

http://bhaktifest.com/
Bhakti Fest – September 7-11, 2017
Shakti Fest – May 10-14. 2018

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.  

@momomagical

Panama Sail Adventure: Living Yoga at Sea

Five years ago in Indonesia, on the very same trip the idea for Yoga Trade was born, I also met Captain Bryan Blaze. His sense of adventure instantly captivated me. Bryan, a seasoned sailor, was living part time in Indo and part time in Panama. In 2012, I remember him telling me about a passion project he was focusing on in Central America. We kept in touch intermittently. It has been inspiring to stay in contact with a fellow free-spirited entrepreneur who has persevered and made a grand vision a reality. Bryan is the Founder of Nirvana Surf Yoga and captain and owner of the Green Flash Catamaran based out of Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Last March, divine timing was on our side and a group of incredibly creative yogis came together in the archipelago to board the Green Flash to spend 3 nights of living yoga at sea. In addition to Bryan and I, our group was comprised by; Diego, an acro yoga teacher, traveler, and photographer from Venezuala. Judita, a globetrotter, ocean lover, and sailor from the Czech Republic. And Simone, a wellness travel educator, photographer, and soul sister from Oregon. This experience was one for the books and a good reminder that sometimes the most profound yoga revelations come when we integrate yoga into our everyday activities and adventures.

All photos by Simone Levine and Diego Barbato

Our first night was spent moored just off of Bastimentos Island. The beauty of the first light and colorful glow awoke me in the morning. I rose and went to the deck to watch the sun rise over the jungle island. It was amazing to practice meditation with the sounds of sweet hooting birds and gentle waves making playful sounds against the boat. Together we snacked on a light and healthy breakfast and then went to land to share a lovely asana practice at Red Frog beach.

 

The journey continued as we headed toward the Zapatilla Islands and eventually further south. Although we did not score swells ideal for surfing on this trip, we were blessed with phenomenal water clarity and we happily immersed ourselves in all its glory. Daily activities included; cruising around on the SUPs, snorkeling, and swimming. We tapped into our childlike states attempting flips and back dives off the boat. We took some goofy underwater mermaid shots and even played a round of underwater karaoke. We explored an uninhabited island and were graced by the presence of beautiful sea life.

The colors of the water from these days will continue to inspire my dreams and and imagination beyond this lifetime.

 

Our last night we ended up in a stunning bay where a local village resides. The new moon and favorable conditions delivered shooting stars and magnificent bioluminescence. The following morning we paddled into land and took a short hike to yet another picture perfect beach. We played around with some acro yoga, body surfed, and connected with a few local people. In the afternoon, the winds began to pick up a bit and we enjoyed a peaceful sail. My favorite memory comes from this afternoon…while swaying in the hammock listening to the sound of a tibetan chime, I realized we were flowing in synch with a pod of dolphins! Sailing has a magical way of bringing us in touch with presence and gratitude for this amazing world in which we live!

 

 

 

Benefits of Integrating Yoga and Sailing:

 

RELATIONSHIPS

While living on a boat, there are not many places to run or hide. This dynamic allows relationships to become magnified. Not only the relationships with ourselves but also our relationships with others. This can be challenging at times, but this also causes growth. Constant changes and ‘unknowns’ are thrown into the mix while sailing. As individuals and as a group we must adapt and deal with the situations at hand. The art of designing beneficial relationships is our choice, and being on a boat can help unveil work that needs to be done while helping us form special human connections.

BALANCE

Simple balance poses such as Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana), take on a whole new personality while cruising on water. For yogis who have practiced for a while, sailing brings unique approaches to postures. It is a great way to work on strengthening our smaller, secondary muscles. Also, being in the middle of the sea allows us to observe in great depth our emotional and spiritual balance. If you have yet to experience much sailing or time on the ocean, it is a great way to view things with new perspectives.

 

EXPLORATION

The ocean is teeming with life. Humans have barely scratched the surface when it comes to ocean exploration, and to some, the ocean feels like the final frontier here on earth. What better place to practice yoga than a place like this, where we can simultaneously explore our inner world while appreciating and exploring our outer existence here on this planet.

 

LEARN NEW SKILLS & LIVING YOGA

There is so much to learn about sailing. Navigation, wind, mechanics, etc….and this is only the beginning. Just like yoga, and many things in life, sailing allows us to be a forever student. It allows us to strengthen our problem solving skills, keep positive mindsets, and make do with what we have. It can give us confidence in realizing we do know more than we think if we have patience to reach new discoveries. Also, we can practice living our yoga by becoming aware that what we get out of an experience is a direct result of what we put into it.

 

BE IN TUNE WITH THE ELEMENTS

Living in fresh air and on a boat makes it easy for us to get in tune with the natural elements and our own circadian rhythm. Waking up with the sunrise, stargazing at night, feeling the winds, riding the currents, and becoming intuitively in touch with the swell, helps us feel deeply connected. It is from this place of deep connection that creative energy and flow is the most potent.

 

SUSTAINABILITY

By being immersed in and surrounded by mother ocean, it allows us to naturally form a deep respect for her and the entire natural world. We become more aware of the impact many modern life normalities can have, and start looking to alternative and more regenerative ways to live and thrive. Pondering, ‘all we need is less’ can be quite easy to do while sailing on a boat, and a great place to begin our pledge to living more simply and sustainably.

I left Bocas Del Toro with a full heart and beaming with gratitude for this opportunity and for the time spent with old and new friends.

Take your practice deeper by integrating yoga philosophies into everyday life.

There is a place inside of you where magic grows…KEEP THAT PLACE ALIVE!

To join in on a yoga at sea adventure or to bring a retreat group of your own on the Green Flash Cat, visit Nirvana Surf Yoga for more information:

NIRVANASURFYOGA.COM

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Article Photography by: Simone Levine and Diego Barbato

 

Events

Small Luxury Yoga Retreat on Bali December 2017

This is a fantastic opportunity to get in a few days to chill out and recenter yourself before heading into the busy season of Yule/Christmas and new year.


5 days/4 nights just outside Ubud in a small luxury villa.

Thursday 30th November – Monday 4th December

or

Wednesday 6th December – Sunday 10th December

From 550USD per person sharing a double room.


This retreat is ideal for a couples get away with a maximum of 6 participants.
The retreat is designed to help you turn in and relax body, mind and spirit.


Each day will start with yoga by the pool and another session before dinner is served.


In addition there will be meditation, mantra chant, yoga nidra, an introduction to yogic philosophy, breathwork and more. 


Simple but delicious vegetarian meals are supplied 3 times a day as part of your retreat package.

For details please see the website or email me.