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4 Key Predictions for the Future of Retreat Travel

Yoga and wellness retreat offerings ground to a halt beginning in March 2020, as resorts closed worldwide and global travel came to a near stand-still.

A recent study by retreat registration & payment platform WeTravel found that 50% of retreat leaders have cancelled between half and all of their scheduled retreats, trainings, and similar destination-based offerings for the remainder of the year. Some hope to forge ahead with travel plans in late 2020, while others have moved their retreats online or postponed them until next year.

According to the same study, however, there’s reason to be optimistic. Wellness travel providers are generally confident about retreat travel’s rebound, especially when compared to travel operators more broadly.

Retreat leaders have been more resilient and creative in dealing with the current realities; for example, in quickly pivoting to online programming to stay connected to their communities. Their survey responses also show that they see the timing and strength of the industry’s rebound in a more positive light.

So, what does this mean for the industry rebound and the future of retreat travel in the longer term?


Prediction #1: Virtual Retreats Are On The Rise And Here To Stay

While virtual retreats are currently the only option in many geographies where people are still mandated to shelter in place, they are also an innovation many industry insiders believe will outlast the current COVID19 pandemic.

For new retreat leaders, they provide a low-stakes option for breaking into the industry. For newer and veteran players alike, they represent a means of supporting communities still in lockdown, while carrying reduced logistical burdens and financial costs.

For retreat participants, they stand to provide relief from months of sheltering in place. Furthermore, for those who have long-term health, mobility, financial, or circumstantial constraints to travel, they may present the first feasible route to participation in a retreat experience.

Even if online retreats don’t have quite the same feel as “being there,” creative use of technology can greatly enrich the virtual experience. Retreat leaders can activate the senses and invoke the sights and sounds of nature with carefully selected audio and visual material. They might also opt to provide suggestions for in-home rituals around taste, smell, and touch (e.g., recipes, essential oils, and self-massage).


Prediction #2: Yoga & Wellness Retreats Will Be On The Leading Edge Of Travel’s Rebound

According to WeTravel’s survey, most respondents are confident that business will pick up again before the end of the year. Close to 50% of rescheduled offerings are slated to occur between September and December 2020, with the majority of the remainder scheduled for early-to-mid-2021.

On the demand side of the equation, masses of people are now in acute need of time and space to decompress, detoxify, and take a step back from the intense pressures of professional and domestic responsibilities. Retreats are an ideal space for this work and healing.

Likewise, local retreats timed for the early COVID-recovery period are a feasible option for many organizers. As the destination itself is often secondary or supplementary to thoughtful retreat programming that promotes mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, retreat leaders may find highly suitable venues close to home.

In these cases, participants are more likely to be able to use personal rather than public transportation. The logistical and financial considerations involved make close-to-home retreats inviting to a wider audience.

Options for local retreats generally include both urban, suburban, and more remote destinations. The latter, which inherently offer a greater degree of physical distancing, as well as the opportunity for reconnection with nature, are likely to go over well in the coming months.


Prediction #3: When Global Travel Returns, There Will Be Changes To How Retreat Leaders Select Service Providers

As retreat leaders hatch retreat plans for the post-COVID era, they will undoubtedly pay greater attention to the contractual responsibilities and obligations of their partners, including retreat centers, logistics managers, transportation providers, and insurance companies, amongst others.

Considerations for retreat venue selection are likely to include deeper research into recent or upcoming facility refurbishments, hygiene policies, and foodservice methods (e.g., less reliance on buffet service). Guests may have preference for single rooms and/or the availability of compelling outdoor recreation and practice spaces.

The retreat insurance industry, and travel insurance industry in general, have been forever changed by COVID-19. Industry experts predict an uptick in demand for “cancel for any reason” policies; while these have always been among the pricier options for travel insurance, they are expected to become more expensive in the future. Retreat leaders and participants alike are encouraged to shop broadly for insurance going forward, read the fine print, and purchase accordingly.


Prediction #4: Retreat Groups Will More Closely Examine Their Ecological Footprint and Local Economic Impacts

In the wake of the height of the COVID19 pandemic, many wellness professionals and practitioners alike have paused to reflect on the relationship between our own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of the systems, natural and commercial, that support us as travelers.

As a result, retreat groups are bound to give more careful consideration to the ecological footprint of their travel plans. Additionally, they are likely to be more mindful of sustainability considerations and the possibility of overtourism.

In the ideal situation, visitors will consciously support sustainable business models that play an active role in safeguarding local foodways and ecosystems, and justly share the financial rewards of travel with local populations.

Responsible consideration of these factors is crucial to sustainable travel that supports human well-being across the board, rather than simply for those who have the means to visit destinations aboard in hopes of enriching their personal well-being.


 

Jen Corley (CYT-500) heads the wellness travel division at WeTravel.com, the operator of an online booking and payment platform for retreat travel. When she’s not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Evan, and French bulldog, Taco.

A Non-Intentional, Intentional Community: How a YTT Fostered Community During a Crisis

In response to a few cases of COVID in Peru, the Peruvian president closed the borders to all travel entering and leaving the country. For us, this was half way into a 200 hour YTT. 20 students were from the US, Canada, and Europe. The 4 teachers were from Peru and the US. We were in the village of Moyobamba in the Amazonica region. Moyobamba is located 3 hours from the nearest airport in Tarapoto. And, Tarapoto is about 2 hours by air from Lima.

The President’s announcement came as a surprise. We realized that our flights home were cancelled. There was no way to get to Lima. Essentially by 8 PM that day we were stranded in Peru.

The 200 YTT was at halfway point and we would be there for an indefinite period of time. I was curious to see how the group would evolve. I wanted to see if the group would maintain interest in and focus on YTT, how group dynamics would evolve, and what would happen as this YTT became an involuntary community due to an international crisis.

That night the group met. At that time the borders had been closed for the next 15 days, which would extend 11 days after YTT ended. As the news sank in, we realized that we would be where we were for the remainder of the week then would need to find alternate living arrangements.

The following morning, our thinking was widely divergent. One overarching concern was where would people live. Some began to search for ways to get home. Others were looking for housing. Some wanted to prepare for the Zombie apocalypse. The first day of the new reality found the group lacking cohesion. The teachers decided to continue the YTT. Students participated and all made an effort to focus. But many told me that they were feeling distracted. At the same time, most in the group found comfort to the consistency of daily yoga practice, meditation, and meals together. Although there was internal turbulence, the structure of the program and its communal nature created a container where folks felt cared for while continuing to study yoga. Everyone seemed to be at peace with the new reality.

There was a wide variety of emotion. One person cried nightly. A nurse felt guilty that she was not in the US helping. One who believed that the-world-as-we-knew-it was coming to an end welcomed the opportunity to start over. Several said that they did not feel stranded since it had been their intention to stay in Peru after the YTT. Several came to this YTT during periods of transition and found it comforting to know that their time for transition would be longer. Others were concerned. One woman began to worry about job security. One woman was concerned for her son (she was able to make arrangements for him to be at his father’s house). Some who did not speak Spanish were concerned about staying on their own.

A shift occurred when the owner of the hotel agreed to keep the hotel open for our group until the end of the “National State of Emergency”. Most remarked that they felt very relieved when they learned that we could stay together and at that location. This bought a palpable sense of relief.

For the remaining days of the YTT students and teachers were both engaged and distracted. Everyone completed the YTT and there are now 20 certified yoga teachers. All completed their projects, practicum assignments, classes, did their practice teaching. At the same time they were engaged in creating this new non-intentional, intentional community.

After the YTT ended, we settled into our life. We had a pool. We had yoga class every morning, sometimes led by one of the students or a teacher. Each night we had restorative yoga or a movie, a trading blanket, or ecstatic dance. We made a running trail. One participant, a chiropractor, saw everyone who wanted an appointment. A massage therapist, offered massages to one person daily. A reading group started. Some began art projects. Some studied Spanish. One woman led a daily cardio- HIIT workout. Others started AB/core workouts. The combination of being in a safe place, in a town where there was no Coronavirus, with like-minded people, fostered more the feel of a yoga retreat than being stranded in the jungle in a third world country. A community evolved. People took on roles, friendships developed. While there was plenty to do it was easy to find time alone. Except for the fact that this was caused by a terrible pandemic it seemed quite nice.

A week after the YTT ended everyone was involved in the community. No one felt anxious. Many spoke of how supportive the community had become. Everyone was using time productively. For some that meant reflecting on the next steps in their lives. For some it mean study. Several learned that they could work remotely, full or part time. Some did but continued to make time for discussions, yoga, fitness classes, journaling, etc. Several decided to read books about yoga. No one felt bored or useless.

The end happened quickly. The night before we were to leave the hotel, the Irish embassy picked up the one Irish citizen. The next day the American embassy arranged transportation for 7 Americans. Within a day the Canadian embassy picked up the Canadian citizens and transported an American to Lima. One group who had planned to stay longer did. And, three teachers and the one male student stayed in Peru.

An obvious question is: How was this experience shaped by the intensive YTT? There is no basis of comparison, but it seems that the intense focus on yoga shaped and informed the experience of being stranded together.

Several remarked that they were changed by practicing yoga twice daily, having morning and afternoon meditation class, studying asana, yoga philosophy, etc. Indeed, this is the point of an immersive experience.

Whenever a group comes into a stressful situation it would seem logical that emotions would elevate and that stress would take its toll on individuals and on the group. I did not see that happening. I expected more evidence of stress. I expected cliques to develop. I expected to hear more criticisms. But, I noticed almost none.

As I reflect on my own experience, although a leader and caring for others, I also felt supported and cared for by this forced community. I think that this happening at the end of a YTT that focused on living the yogic lifestyle dramatically impacted the group’s evolution. It gave us the opportunity to live as an intentional community built upon common values and practices. It gave us the opportunity to live as a community of yogis.

It worked.

 

Before becoming a yoga teacher, Dr. Loren Thomas retired twice; once from being a school district superintendent and then from being a college faculty member. He began to practice yoga in 1997 and was inconsistent for years. But, upon retiring, yoga became his daily passion. He now teaches yoga and teaches in YTTs, focusing on philosophy and meditation. In addition to career and yoga, he is an avid marathon runner, rock climber, cyclist. He found that the combination of meditation and his outdoor physical activities supported him in his work as an active professional. He now works to promote healthy habits, a positive approach to aging, enjoyment of life. He encourages everyone to be active and pursue what calls to them.

 

Listen to Episode 9 of the Yoga Trade Podcast to hear COMMUNITY VOICES and other pandemic stories from the global yoga and wellness community.

 

The Art Of Staying Put: How World Traveler Yogis Can Tap into Their Skills to Survive COVID-19 Confinement

Like a row of dominos you accidentally start, country after country around the world have made decisions we never thought possible: they are urging us to stay home for the good of all and have closed their borders.

For once, those of us who usually have the privilege to travel around the world freely, in search of new experiences, work, and play, have to remain in one place. We have had to make our own decisions and ask, with a new sense of panic, concern, or necessary cold-headedness: Where to now?

For a lot of people, the underlying organization required to set up for a stay at home of an unknown duration at home requires little energy, at least at first. Sure, apparently hoarding on toilet paper was a thing to worry about. In the west, many headed to the supermarket to stock up on basic necessities, picked a friend to spend the confinement with, and even a location where to spend. But the rest was pretty straight-forward as long as you have a roof over your head you call home.

The privileged yogi nomads and travelers of our earth have not had it all that straightforward. We’ve had to ask ourselves what to do if our home countries decided to close its borders—do we go back now? Where to, exactly? We’ve had to ask around if our home countries would offer repatriation, and, considering our options, if it would be okay to refuse a potential offer. Where is home when you’ve been on the road for a while, hopping from country to country in search of work and life experiences? What kind of work can I do now that I’m not allowed to move anymore? Where will I get my income from once my current job ends? Will the owners of the Yoga Farm kick me out?

And do you even have to stay in confinement when the country you’re currently in… doesn’t really have one in place yet?

Feel Your Feelings—Navigating The Grief of Cancelled Travel Plans

Once you’ve somewhat figured out the practical side of things and decided where you’d remain for a bit, reality hits. Airlines have emailed to say your flights were cancelled. The yoga studio you were supposed to work at in your next destination isn’t able to receive you anymore. The friends you were going to take a trip with are heading home. Travel plans are cancelled, and you suddenly have an empty calendar.

I’m a slow traveler myself and prefer to stay in one country for a while before I move on to the next. In the beginning, when confinement rules started popping up here in China, I wasn’t too worried about my next travel plans. The situation would get better, and we’d be able to hop on a train to keep exploring China in no time.

Well, not quite. Next week, friends were supposed to fly in to visit Shanghai, and we were going to take a trip somewhere to the mountains. I have a list of places I’d like to visit around China—Tibet, the “Avatar” mountains (Zhangjiajie), Hong Kong for a Vipassana meditation retreat. Everything is canceled until further notice, and it has come with disappointment.

So right now, it’s okay to be sad, and yes, grieve. We will get used to the new normal, eventually, but it’s okay to take some time to feel the sadness, the disappointment, the anger even. The rest will come when it does.

The Wonderful Skills of A World Traveler Yogi

World traveler yogis have more than one trick up their sleeve. Exploring the globe comes with its set of challenges, and when you’re on the other side of the planet, away from familiarity and comfort, you have no other option but to go with it (with a little help from our friend, our yoga practice). Over time, you build the skill set to face the next challenges that will come—right now is one of these challenges. Let’s see how we can navigate this COVID-19 situation with ease.

Adaptability
Traveler yogis have, without a doubt, an incredible ability to adapt to new situations, places, faces, and atmosphere. Right now, we’re called to adapt to our new normal and to go with the flow. What has our yoga practice to teach us here? How can it support us to navigate new rules, new settings, new obstacles? We’ve done it time and time again—now is as good a time as any to rely on that skill.

Online communication
Some of us have years of experience making long-distance relationships work through video calls, regular emailing, and photo sharing. Some of us might even remember the times when emailing or bad internet connection on Skype were the only options available. Now, with dozens of calling platforms, social media, and an internet connection available in all corners of the world, it’s easier than ever to check in with loved ones, and even play games together, even miles apart from each other. Let’s make the most of that possibility!

Resourcefulness
If you want to travel the world in search of new experiences, there’s no way you’ll find what you need by staying put and watching time pass by. You have to get out there, reach out to people, make new connections, come up with a plan, find a balance between what the world is saying you do and what your gut is telling you to do. Right now, how can your ability to problem-solve and find a way to get what you most long for help you with your current situation? How can you feel in control rather than like you’ve lost your freedom?

Compassion and empathy
Traveling isn’t just a way to discover new places, you discover new cultures, new ways of life, and learn from the countries that so kindly open their doors to us. For once, we see how it feels to be refused entrance to another country. We also think of the people who spend more of their time outside all over the Asian and African continents, while we are cozied up in our homes. How we cultivate our compassion towards the populations who have it more difficult than we do? And how is this changing our perspective?

All Things Are Temporary

If there’s one thing we learn by traveling the globe and having a yoga practice, it is that things never really last. Emotions come and go, landscapes come and go. Nature reminds us that every time a new season comes and goes, and every yogi will agree that our yoga practice evolves the same way, urging us to respond to our needs and desires in the moment.

May we all remember this right now, and that we can rely on ourselves, our mats and meditation cushions, nature around us, and our loved ones across the globe to go through this. It won’t last forever, and sooner than later, we’ll have to adapt to yet another new normal.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

 

 

 

Ely is a slow traveler and location independent entrepreneur. She is a digital content creator and the co-founder of Shut Up & Yoga, an online magazine that aims to bring humor and critical thinking to the worlds of yoga, wellness, and personal development. She is a curious bee and loves to experiment with different outlets and media to explore her mind, move, breathe, learn, and play. If you travel to Shanghai, her current home, you might find her squatting down trying to chat with the local street cats…

@ebsnotebook 

 

This Is Where We Learn to Trust

This article was first published by Vira Bhava Yoga 

The day after I returned from India, I received a text from a good friend of mine who had been in the jungle of Colombia on a vision quest. It said simply, “can you talk soon, I’m feeling like its important to touch base,” even though both he and I recognized that our profound experiences needed time to be assimilated and integrated before we could share them. But, even in knowing this, he was insistent. “Actually, can you talk now?” And as soon as I said yes, the phone rang. Our conversation was brief but profound. He acknowledged that we weren’t ready to share the details of our experiences, but there was a wisdom that he encountered on the mountain that felt urgent. He said, “The tita (shaman) told me something that I know is true for you too, and I need to share it right now.” He said, “Kel, our religion is trust.”  

We exchanged maybe 10 words after that and hung up the phone. Now less than two months later, we are standing in the middle of the biggest test of trust that we can imagine. In the days and weeks that have followed that conversation, I have been sinking deeper and deeper into that reflection. Rather than moving out in reaction to the immensity of the global crisis at our door, I’ve found myself moving more deeply inward. The world as we know it is crumbling. Our illusions and identities are being challenged to say the least, and our ideas of safety and comfort, of being in control are shattering. So now what?? Do we move on the tide of fear, or slip into the current of trust? Can we release the idea that we are (or were ever) in control, and be present for what is happening? Can we be guided by new notions of what is real and important? What would happen if we release the requirement that the external world is the measure of our safety and security, and move inward to find what is real? What if the whole world learned to listen to the soft and quiet whisper of our hearts, and heed it’s requests. This might just be bigger than us. Bigger than doctors or healthcare systems, bigger than governments or elections.  This might be bigger than conflicts and solutions. What would it take to change our world, truly? I think we are in the middle of finding out. 

Maybe you’ve been one of the ones striving to make a difference, to change the systems, to dismantle the patriarchy. So I ask you, what if this is what success looks like? What if we are standing at the precipice of the “new” world that we’ve been so diligently trying to coax into being?  What if the “new” world is NOT simply a fixed and repaired version of the old one? What if no election, act, or law can bring the change we desire, no amount of success or effort or investment can actually bring about the safety we seek?  What if THIS is it?  A terrifying experience which is bringing us all onto the same team, demanding that we step back from the constant pursuit of happiness and SEE what we have right in front of us.  An invitation to value the lives we have created and cultivated.  An opportunity to STOP or at the very least SLOW DOWN and re-evaluate. It’s true that some things won’t survive, that even with the best intentions, businesses might close, systems might fail, we might lose things, we might lose people. If we are truly committed to a better world, accepting these truths is primary, and feels very lonely and scary. And this, this is where we must remember. This is where we build the container that can hold both doubt and hope. THIS IS WHERE WE LEARN TO TRUST.  Not in the ease, the beauty, or even the battle or fight, trust emerges from the depths of surrender. So the invitation couldn’t be more clear. At this time of urgent and cataclysmic change, will we find the courage to let go of what was and enter the mystery of the unknown?

We have an opportunity right now to live into that change, not resist it. To loosen the grip on what we thought we depended on, and begin to take rest in uncertainty. What if our world will NEVER be the same? Will we fight to maintain the past, to rebuild the failing structures and systems, to turn a blind eye to all that is being brought forth at this time? If we are thinking about how things will go back to “normal” after this time of fear and isolation is over, we might be wrong. Moving into the time of the light doesn’t just mean bringing everything out of the shadows, it means actively engaging in the process of keeping it in the light. The world is ripe for change.  Everyone on every side of the fence or aisle is frustrated, angered by the state of the world, distrustful, afraid. And now, we have been offered something that is out of our control to help us remember what is real, what is true, what is meaningful. Will we cower in fear, hide and retract, will we divide and blame, or will we rise, find new ways to band together and support each other? Can we become the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible?

These are radical times, many are saying unprecedented. We are being called to let go of our illusions, release our misunderstandings, and learn to trust the ground on which we stand. Learn to love, cultivate real and meaningful connection, return to a sense of what is essential and lasting. Make love, laugh, dance. Trust our hearts to guide us, challenge ourselves to move into the discomfort of the situations at hand. Stretch the lens of our own perceptions, and surrender the attachment to control. Can we find refuge in the real, the here and now, and stop hiding and running? Can we defy the endless striving and arrive where we are?  The world has caught up to us, what will we do with it? The challenge now is to explore TRUST with a force that is as unprecedented as the times in which we are living. Dare to discover the place that can hold our fears and doubts alongside the power of our desires and dreams. Enter into the scary places willingly and without expectation, and see what we find. There is no better time than NOW to try. NOW might be all we have. 

 

 

 

 

This article was written by Kelly Golden, the founder of Vira Bhava Yoga. These times of uncertainty are strengthening our practices, our commitments, and our TRUST. We truly believe in what we practice, and we are ready to offer it from an unwavering desire to share the tools that support us in the chaos of the unanswerable questions, the fears, and the insecurities, and may be able to support you too. Though we cannot predict how things will evolve, we have spent the last year moving our programs onto a digital format, which means we are ready to meet you where you are at. We have been training mentors to meet students virtually, and provide support in times of struggle. We have created an online “studio” where we are collecting practices from Vira Bhava Yoga teachers across the country to provide support and steadiness when you feel wobbly. We have opened access to our much of our online content (via the website and Facebook), and are prepared to move our in-person trainings to a virtual format if necessary. We are equipped and ready, and truly believe that this work is more important now than it has perhaps ever been. We are living experiments of the teachings of Tantra, and are finding the ways in which these teachings and practices support us on every level. We want to share them with you. If you are ready to try something different, to trust beyond the tangible, to dive headlong into the unknown to seek the truth, you’re in the right place. At Vira Bhava Yoga, our religion is trust. We commit to elevating our practices, cultivating steadiness, and leaning into trust for ourselves and for you. So, if you need something or someone to lean into, we are here for you.

 

Homemade Wellness Shots

Wellness is all the rage these days and what better way to keep up with the trends than by slamming homemade wellness shots??? Heck yeah!!! In lieu of the hard stuff, swap out your trusty tequila for this majestic moonshine. Like tequila, this too will give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside without the hangover or drama. This drama-free delight is packed with everything you need to conquer your day and the world, one shot at a time.

Here is what you are gonna need to feel fabulous:

Wellness Shots: Liquid Gold

Yields approx. 4 cups.
Will keep in fridge for 3 or 4 days but you will drink it all before that I promise.

-A pound of organic turmeric
-A pound of organic ginger
-Enough organic limes/lemons to make a cups worth
-3 organic oranges
-Black pepper

Wash and peel the turmeric and ginger.

Dish gloves might help combat dyed orange hands from the turmeric and ginger burn:)

Pass the ginger and turmeric through a juicer. Don’t have a juicer? Buy THIS ONE.

Masticating juicers are better for juice extraction than the more popular centrifugal models, but if all you have is a centrifugal one, then use that.

The goal is to extract a cup of juice each from the turmeric and ginger. So keep juicing until you get the desired amount.

Next squeeze the citrus. I hand squeeze myself but if you know a better way, then go for it! Keep squeezing until you get a cup of orange juice and a cup of lime/lemon juice.

Mix It all together with a 1/4 tsp of fresh black pepper and pour it into a quart sized bottle. Line up shot glasses and pass them around the table after every meal with your friends. CELEBRATE your COMMITMENT to WELLNESS!

***For maximum absorption, the shots are best served by adding a drop of cold-pressed liquid coconut oil. 

 

 

Constantly curious and always exploring, Alex Lanau has been the head chef at Pavones Yoga Center, spreading the gospel of nutrient dense foods all day, everyday. Creating simple and inventive plant based meals as a reminder that cooking is not something to be intimidated by. With his practical approach and attention to detail, his edible art has converted countless carnivores to the dark side of the leafy greens. When he is not cooking for hungry yogis in various parts of the world, he is painting murals, eye gazing the sun and sea, and hanging out with his four legged furry son.

Join Alex at the Buena Vibra gathering March 14-21, 2020 at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica!

 

Living in the Flow of Life: Connect to Source

Yoga. Dance. Surfing. Diving. Writing. Meditation. Running. Climbing. Swimming. Chanting. Painting. Breathwork. Hiking. While distinct in form, practices like these (and many others!) have one powerful thing in common:  – from the inside-out – with the sensuous, circadian rhythms of life. Flow experiences can catch us at any time, in virtually any environment. Those vibrant moments of connection between the body, spirit and surroundings that bring us into closer communion with Divine. The ultimate high that requires no external substance – only breath, mindful presence, and the free-form flow of energy moving in and through us, reminding us just how thin our skin actually is when we allow our physical selves to exist as vehicles for the alchemy of energetic creation, expression, movement and release vital to our existence, wellbeing and co-evolution as human-animals living this collective life-world, together.

Cover Photo: Jennifer Harter

Flow is a transformative encounter with transcendence, where the perceiving and physical bodies blend into the ether of the natural environment, through the beyond-conscious energetic experience of sensation and absolute presence. Living in flow, as a collective, we become, in the words of David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous, “a community aware of its place in an accompanying cosmos.” While we can’t always plan for the moment when a flow experience will find us, we can cultivate a lifestyle based on free-form experiences that connect us purposefully to an ego-transcending existence, bringing us a little bit closer to living in the flow of life.

Living in a state of flow isn’t rocket science. In fact, once we begin to clear our lives of all the everyday distractions by committing to and crafting our personal practice, we find that experiences of pure presence become almost second-nature, bridging the ethereal sacred with the quotidian mundane by getting out of our own way and letting energy move through us. Living in the flow of life is where we re-connect to the divine magic of Source, manifest in our natural surroundings, our relationships, and in the pure light that burns within each of us. And if we’ve chosen a spiritual path, that’s the sort of Source-connected life we desire to live, am I right?

So how do we get there?

Photo: Michelle Rodriguez

In the rush and hustle of everyday life, devotion to your personal practice as a central part of a flow-based lifestyle might feel like a pipe dream, at best. Sure, you make it to the Vinyasa class at the gym a few times a week, but truth be told, between work commitments, family, travel and a social life, intentional flow experiences often take a backseat. Still, carving out specific time during the day to prioritize your daily practice – whatever that looks like to you – holds a world of benefits for achieving greater peace of mind, managing stress and living more intimately connected to nature, the elements, your inner wisdom and divine purpose on the Planet.

In the words of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: “It is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.” In yogi terms, he’s talking about our commitment to our Sadhana spiritual practice, and the way we live the ethical philosophy of Ishvara Pranidhana, our surrender to the current of life beyond the distractions of the ego. Cultivating a life aligned with practice, purpose and presence, we live more fully in the flow of the more-than-human life-world and the universal cosmos of which we are an integral part.

So how can you bring more flow into the work of art that is your life? As someone who has crafted a personal and professional lifestyle around a purpose-driven commitment to the movement and flow experiences of surfing, yoga, writing and dance, I offer these practical steps to support you along this journey of great freedom, discipline, trust, discernment and deep surrender.

Four Steps for Living in the Flow of Life

Step 1: Identify the practices that pique your interest and connect you mindfully to a state of flow. For those of us choosing a yoga-based spiritual path of connection, liberation and evolution, it’s important to cultivate a Sadhana practice based on the free-form experiences that speak most powerfully to who we are. Experimenting with different styles of yoga, nature-based activities, meditation techniques, breathwork, journaling and movement modalities can help narrow down the world of flow-based possibilities to the experiences that resonate most deeply. Keeping an open mind as we differently navigate our senses, states of consciousness and energetic expressions is a practice of surrender in itself, trusting our body and spirit to connect with the flow-based practices that will best support us in shedding the sticky parts of our ego-conditioned selves, opening space for both subtle and powerful energies to move in and through us. Once you know what resonates with you, choose one practice and go deep, or compose your personal sadhana by selecting a few.

Step 2: Commit to creating your sadhana and sticking to it. Be realistic! Surrendering to the flow of life in alignment with your spiritual purpose doesn’t mean succumbing to nihilism, apathy or inaction. In fact, committing to your sadhana requires the discipline of a valiant will, drawing from the strength of your solar plexus – the wellspring of vital energy you’re projecting out into the body through your practice, and beyond the self, into the world. Depending on the experiences we choose to incorporate into our flow-based lifestyle, our sadhana might be rigid in daily repetition, or it might look different each day, each week or each month. And we can always remove elements that aren’t working and add others that inspire our curiosity. Sky’s the limit! For example, my practice most days includes an early morning surf, followed by a hatha-based asana flow and 30 minutes of free-form journaling. Lately I’ve incorporated open-ocean swimming and long beach walks a couple of times per week, a morning Kundalini class every Thursday, an ecstatic dance celebration at least two Fridays per month, kirtan whenever possible, and a sweat lodge ceremony at least twice per year. Both discipline and enjoyment keep me in integrity with my sadhana, and when my body is aching for a break, I’ll skip one or two of my regular activities, but not all of them. Writing, for example, is the one everyday practice I’m rigidly disciplined about. Be sure to leave room for rest, and women will want to adjust your practice to attune to the regular changes of your moon cycle, as well. Get creative and stay realistic with your commitments to keep yourself on track. Even twenty minutes per day is an important place to start!

Step 3: Rearrange your life, as much as possible, to prioritize your flow-based practices. For some of us, embracing a flow-based lifestyle might mean quitting our 9-to-5 jobs that don’t align with our sense of purpose or fulfillment in life, so that we can make time for all the things that do. Or it might inspire us simply to trade Saturday nights at the bar for sunrise meditation and an early hike on Sundays. But for most of us, the realignment in our life priorities can be a gradual shift with profound results for our long-term sense of wellbeing. This is the time to take a genuine inventory of the ways we spend our days, who we spend them with, and toward what purpose in life? Surrendering to a flow-based lifestyle can be powerfully transformative to the point that we are willing to be completely honest with ourselves and take full responsibility for the way we wish to show up in our lives. Prioritizing free-form and flow-based experiences is a practice of deep truth in alignment with purpose and an embodied presence of being that requires our deliberate action and intentional awareness each step of the way. As we know, our daily habits become who we are. What are you choosing? What are you ready to replace? What will you prioritize in your life today? What about tomorrow?

Step 4: Embody a flow-based lifestyle. This doesn’t mean selling all your possessions and moving across the world to become a monk. (Though for some of us, it might!) Embodying a flow-based lifestyle is the natural progression of your sadhana becoming the foundation for your life. The more you’re able to clear away life-defeating distractions and prioritize the flow experiences that bring you into communion with Source, the easier it becomes to access a regular state of flow, even in mundane activities like walking the dog, making breakfast or folding the laundry. Engaging with mindful presence in your sadhana practices creates a level of deep awareness with important spillover effects for daily life. The more you endeavor to embody a flow-based lifestyle, the more connected you become to the natural world in your ability to listen intuitively to the signs around you and receive Divine guidance, express and move energy through your body, and live more boldly in a place of truth beyond the ego. Sure, our sadhana takes us on a fast-track to encountering the flow states we desire, but living in the flow of life is more profoundly about connecting the everyday moments we live outside of our practice with the same mindfulness, purpose and presence we cultivate through our intentional flow experiences. And as we change our lives from the inside out – on and off the mat, in the ocean and on the land, dangling from a boulder or digging our hands into the dirt, on the dance floor and in the dreamscape – we recover our essence as an integral part of the more-than-human earth community, an entire life-world bound together in the sacred flow of universal energy and cosmic evolution. We are the dreamers and the dream.

As we step more fully into living in the flow of life, may we endeavor to fulfill the prophetic vision of David Abram, that: “the recuperation of the incarnate, sensorial dimension of experience brings with it a recuperation of the living landscape in which we are corporally embedded…. [A]s we reacquaint ourselves with our breathing bodies, then the perceived world itself begins to shift and transform.”

And so it is.

 

 

Tara Ruttenberg is a writer, surfer, and yogini based in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Tara created Tarantula Surf (www.tarantulasurf.com / @tarantulasurf) as a space for authentic story sharing and engaging with new social living paradigms.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Tara and FLOW This July:

Wake Up & Write!

A Writing Immersion for Planetary Wellbeing in a Changing World

 

 

Authenticity in Yoga Teaching

Before starting to talk about authenticity in teaching yoga, let’s look first at what is personal authenticity? Authentic, that is something genuine… Authenticity; being real, being true to yourself…

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  ~Oscar Wilde

The root of the word “authenticity” in Latin language is “author”, so being “authentic” is mostly about being the “author” of your own personality.

Referring to Art (we all humans are a work of art eventually, no?), Tate Gallery shares that; ”Authenticity is a term used by philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin to describe the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction.”

Which is, no room for copying…

To put it in an another way, authenticity is living your life in such a way that every one of your actions is aligned with your real purpose. Not changing things according to other people’s beliefs, or not wearing any other people’s authenticity on you. And it is not a question of whether you have it or not. We all do, we are all authentic. As I said, we are all already a piece of art. But it is a matter of how you practice your authenticity and how much of it you want to have. No one can be you, and you cannot be anyone. That is for sure. But how much are your actions aligned with ”your” purpose, not anyone else’s?

In Bhagavad Gita Verse 3.35, Krishna says that; ”It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous” (Bhagavad -gita As It Is, Swami Prabhupada).

We cannot separate yoga from life.

Actually, it is not really necessary to make a difference between being an authentic person and an authentic yoga teacher. We cannot separate the practice of teaching from the practice of being human, but we can at least try to narrow down the scope, special to yoga teachers.

I like to approach authenticity in teaching yoga in two different ways. First one is sticking to ”being yourself”, not stepping back from it and the second one is not trying to be ”anybody else”, or in another way, not using any other person’s voice. They may sound the same but let me explain.

How to define an authentic yoga teacher?

If we look back to the definition of authenticity, it says ”living a life in such a way that every one of the actions are aligned with one’s real purpose”. It brings us to the point of living a life with yogic understanding, and here, I do not mean a yogic life with only practicing yoga poses. Basically, integrating all 8 limbs of yoga into life.

And when you live in this way, it will make you a passionate, balanced and present yoga teacher, who is being her / himself and not trying to make everyone happy, with the risk of losing authenticity.
What is this ”voice”?

Let’s take a look at authenticity from the other perspective, from the perspective of having a ”voice”.

Finding your own voice as a yoga teacher is not easy, it takes years of teaching and this ”voice” is also something that is changing and evolving over time. And it is not something that you can bring from outside, it needs to arise from within you.
But yes for inspiration…

Let’s put first things first: None of the teachings belong to one yoga teacher and we are all just servers, to the goodness and happiness of all beings. We just transmit the teachings that we learn from our teachers. When we think like this, none of us are authentic, right?
But are we not really?

The key here is, being yourself, being authentic, while creating your own voice, with the same teachings we all share.

It is all in our mind-set. For example when we learn or hear something new, first of all we need to think about: Does it really make sense to me? Can I really feel that expression, that cue? Or do we just want to use it exactly as it is because it sounds nice…

So what about first fully understanding, feeling and digesting the new things and after expressing them with our own words and authentic voice? You can use it in such a way in your flow of teaching that it can be ”yours”. And then you will let it go and another authentic teacher will take it from you and express it with his or her own style. Beautiful, isn’t it? We are all students and teachers, at the same time.

 

 

 

Derya’s passion for lifelong learning and her curiosity about different cultures, different bodies and energy work brought her to Southeast Asia 3 years ago. She started her yoga and Thai yoga massage journey in Turkey and has been sharing her love for these two abroad in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Once she found “home” within herself, all countries became her home. Derya’s passion is movement and her goal is to show the strength, gracefulness and beauty of being in a body when it is aligned inwardly and supported by a steady breath. She wants to inspire her students with the possibility of waking up every morning with an enthusiasm and thirst for learning new things.

Connect:

IG: @deryadenizyoga

Facebook: Derya Deniz Yoga

Find What You Love and Love What You Find

The life of a freelance yoga instructor, self-defense teacher and adventure sports writer involves a lot of free time. I used to devote an embarrassing amount of that free time to trawling the Yoga Trade website. The secret to using the site well is to know when to daydream about an opportunity, when to seize it, and to love what you find. So when I saw a listing looking for yoga teachers to assist hiking retreats in Norway, I knew it was time to pounce. I just didn’t know that pouncing would change my life.

I’ve always wanted to visit Norway but it’s notoriously expensive and I’ve never had the money to go. I’ve lived above the 60th degree latitude so I knew what I was getting into. I’ve worked as a hiking guide, I’m a natural history nerd, I have wilderness first responder training, I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga for over 30 years. I knew I was perfect for the job. I just had to convince the woman running the retreats that I was perfect for the job.

I was at a yoga retreat in Bali when I saw the listing, so I had limited internet access and no cell reception. I crafted a carefully worded letter of introduction, gathered my CV and a few yoga photos and tried to send them off. The message didn’t appear to land, so I bombarded this poor woman at every portal I could access: YogaTrade, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and her personal email. I don’t know if she was impressed or annoyed, but she called me within a day. After a week of communication I was able to convince her to stop looking at other applications and bring me to Molde for the month of August.

As I sweated through a stint teaching yoga at a retreat center in southern Spain and traded yoga classes for surf lessons in Portugal I kept thinking about the crisp air, lush forests and sparkling vistas that awaited me in Norway. I researched the bare essentials: Molde sits on a fjord, facing south, about halfway up the coast of Norway. It’s home to 26,000 people and famous for roses. The hottest day of the year sees a balmy 60 degrees. I could expect between five and eight days of rain during August, and seventeen and a half hours of day light at the beginning of the month.

I neglected to research my remarkable hostess. Pille Mitt was born in Estonia when it was part of the USSR. She grew up under an authoritarian regime that denied the most basic freedoms I often take for granted- the ability to choose where I want to live, travel, and pursue an education or career. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Pille was able to offer exercise classes and eventually open her own gym. On-line dating brought her to Molde, Norway, where she lost the guy but found a new home. A yoga teacher training in Rishikesh opened new windows, and now she teaches at both yoga studios in town and offers yoga and hiking retreats in various locations throughout the year. “I have to stop having such a good life!” she jokes. “Time flies when you’re having fun, so my life is passing too quickly!”

I also neglected to research the hikes. The first day we warmed up with a casual stroll out of town which led to the ascent of a nearby peak. Then we hiked a mountain overlooking the next day’s destination, with the option of climbing a nearby twin summit. One day saw us ascend steep muddy slopes to the Troll’s Church, a limestone cavern with a 40 ft waterfall inside. We traveled by ferry and car, climbed mountains, crawled through caves, jumped in alpine lakes and swam in the frigid Atlantic. Each day brought stunning vistas, the option to picnic and relax or hike as hard as we could. One day was a glorious road trip up a series of hairpin turns to a precariously perched restaurant and café. We dispersed like a flock of birds and came back together to meditate on a quiet ridge.

The first group was all female, and we bonded like the loving family I never had. Two Lebanese women and an Israeli woman broke bread together every day; they are not allowed to travel to each other’s homes and would probably never have met otherwise. We pushed each other to hike harder and relax more deeply, comforted and inspired each other, learned from shared stories of triumph and failure. I’ve led groups from southeast Alaska to Southeast Asia and never experienced one with more authentic love or less bitchy drama.

Over the following month my life fell into a simple rhythm: wake up, meditate, plan yoga classes, do yoga, eat breakfast, hike all day, teach yoga, eat dinner, fall asleep, wake up and do it again. Rainy days invited a road trip, a philosophy discussion, an extended yoga class, a shorter hike. After the first group left, Pille and I had two half days free. We scheduled an outdoor community yoga class, shopped for food and went for a hike. When you’re doing what you love, you never want a day off.

Pille and I cried when I boarded the bus for Oslo. We are both intense athletic tomboy powerhouses, and were afraid we wouldn’t meet another kindred spirit until our paths crossed again. Fortunately that won’t be long. We plan to lead yoga and hiking retreats together in Alaska, Norway and California in 2020. Guests from last August have already signed up, eager to hang out with us again. We are considering offering a yoga teacher training together in 2021. The only bummer is I don’t have time to daydream about opportunities offered on Yoga Trade anymore. I’m too busy living them! Love what you find!

 

 

Leonie is an RYT-500 Yoga Alliance certified instructor who has been teaching yoga and meditation for 15 years. She loves introducing students to the joys of being present in their bodies and her teaching style skillfully combines her spiritual practice, athletic ability and infectious enthusiasm for life. Her award-winning Mindfulness and Empowerment workshops reach over a thousand students every year.  When she is not teaching, Leonie is a passionate plant-based wilderness athlete who loves to ski, surf, climb and cycle.

Join Leonie on retreat in Alaska in 2020:

https://www.mittyoga.com/retreat-in-alaska.html

 

Wellness and Healing at Home

Winter is often a hard time of year for many people with its grey skies and overabundance of darkness. The cold and precipitation can easily keep you from venturing outside, but that shouldn’t prevent you from maintaining your personal wellbeing. It is during this time of year that we look to our homes as a safe haven so it’s crucial to make necessary adjustments to further promote wellness and healing.

Looking for a place to start can be overwhelming and may seem daunting at first. But there’s no reason to let those feelings get to you and start having an adverse effect. There are many areas in your home that can aid in your personal wellness and overall well-being. Once you’ve identified which areas need the most help, just a few adjustments can make a world of difference in any room.

In Your Bedroom

Your bedroom is your sanctuary. If yours doesn’t give that feeling to you, then you’re in need of a few changes. Otherwise you will likely have a hard time fully relaxing and finding peace in there. Start with the lighting. A bedroom is a place of rest and rejuvenation so there should be no bright and harsh lighting. Instead, opt to replace your current bulbs with ones that offer soft light. This small change can instantly put you in a better and more relaxed mood to help your body fully recoup after a long day.

 

Next look toward your actual bed and make sure it’s doing everything possible to help you get your best sleep every night. If your mattress causes you back pain that makes you toss and turn throughout the night, replace it with a new and more comfortable one. Make sure your sheets, comforter, blanket and pillows are working in your favor as well. If you tend to get hot at night opt for moisture-wicking sheets, a light comforter and cooling pillow, for instance.

Doing what you can in your bedroom to ensure a good night’s rest is essential to your overall well-being. Without it, no matter what other healthy habits you adopt in your life, you are putting yourself at risk of illness, burnout and depression.

In the Kitchen and Dining Area

Food is a key aspect of wellness and healing, making your kitchen and dining area a central hub for your well-being. From the food you have in the fridge, to the tools you use to prepare it and even how you eat your meals, all play into your personal wellness level. We all know how important it is to eat healthily and limit our intake of any junk food. But sometimes we just crave something that isn’t good for us. In that case you can always stock up on and prepare healthy alternatives to your favorite junk food so you can satisfy your craving while still maintaining your healthy habits. There are also healthy alternatives to cooking. For example, using an air fryer instead of an actual fryer cuts down the amount of grease you’re putting into your body.

How you consume your meals also can impact your wellness. Try to stick to certain meal times that work with your schedule. Having designated times to eat will help your body regulate when it is hungry and can expect nourishment. Eating in your dining area is also important. Whether that’s a table in the kitchen or an actual dining room, having a place to eat will be helpful in preventing you from overeating. If you’re in front of a television eating on a TV tray for example, you’ll be more likely to over consume and feel sick later.

In the Living Room

Where your bedroom is a place for sleep and rejuvenation, your living room is a place for relaxed entertaining and activity. To promote wellness and healing in this space, look to the decor you have. Muted and neutral tones work best for wall color and furniture to give the area a calm feel. You should also ensure that the room is as organized and clutter-free as possible. Overwhelming your guests and your own senses with too many bright colors, lights and items will make the space feel too crowded to enjoy and relax in.

One decor element to make sure you include here is candles. Sporadically placing them throughout the room will spread their glow and scent throughout the entirety of the space and immediately set a calming mood once lit. Having candles made with essential oils will offer plenty of benefits as well. One with lavender will help relax those in the room, while one with lemongrass scent will help combat any headaches and inflammation.

In a Recreation Space

Whether you have a spare room that was converted to a rec room or a renovated basement, there are plenty of ways this general space can help your personal wellness and health. Turn the space into a way to start a new hobby or to even perfect one you’re already practicing. Yogi’s can even engage with their community from around the world and look for advice on or new healing and wellness practices all from the comfort of their home studio.

The best part about this space is that it is customizable to your personal needs and preferences. You can even divide the room to meet your needs, for example it can be part yoga studio and part home spa. Whatever you need and want it to be, it can be. Having this dedicated area for your hobbies will give you a place to go relieve stress and focus on yourself all without having to venture out into the cold.

 

Jennifer is passionate about wellness as it relates to home decor. She thoroughly believes that having a place to retreat to is essential for everyone. Relaxation, happiness and personality are all major principles to her and the core of what she believes a person’s space should embody.

 

Buena Vibra GIVEAWAY!

***UPDATE December 18, 2019:

Big congrats to the winner of this giveaway: @lucia088 !!! Thank you to all who entered and all those who support this flourishing community. Much love!


We are excited to announce the Buena Vibra GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to each and every one of you for helping make our community what it is.

One lucky member will receive a $200 discount code to go toward the BUENA VIBRA gathering, March 14-21, 2020 at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica + a 2 Year Yoga Trade PLUS membership ($96 value).

Join Erica HartnickAlex Lanau, and the Yoga Farm Family for 7 days and nights of Buena Vibra: nutrient dense living to nourish the soul and awaken the senses! Celebrate Flavors, Form, and Friends as we explore these realms as the foundations of wellness. The Yoga Farm is a rustic off-the-grid yoga center and sustainable living project located on Costa Rica’s southernmost Pacific coast. Set amidst beautiful tropical rainforest, overlooking open ocean, and one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, it is an ideal space for those looking to reconnect with mind, body, and nature. Passionate humans (including the Yoga Trade Founders) and incredible flora and fauna inhabit this magical land. Gather for a week of delicious good vibes! Let’s share our wisdom and grow together! Learn about more details HERE.

HOW TO ENTER:

(Please read directions carefully, it’s a 3 step process)

1. To enter, log into your Yoga Trade account and LEAVE A REPLY (post comment) below at the end of this BLOG post. In the comment, state why you are excited to attend the BUENA VIBRA gathering! You must be a Yoga Trade member to post a comment. (If you are not currently a member, you can sign up at yogatrade.com)

2. Visit the FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE and mark that you are GOING or INTERESTED.

3.  Finally, SHARE about this BLOG/EVENT GIVEAWAY post on at least one social platform of your choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Share this link:  https://yogatrade.com/buena-vibra-2020/

That’s it. You’re Entered!

Thank you for contributing to this flourishing community. We look forward to growing together!!!

The WINNER will be chosen at random (random.org) and will be announced on December 18th, 2019.

*Only ONE entry allowed per person. You must be a real human to enter. The giveaway is only valid for persons age 18 and above. The event discount code and Yoga Trade membership is transferable to another person if winner is unable to use or would like to gift it. This giveaway is not redeemable for cash. 

 

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