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Learn to Handstand. Learn to Love.

I am currently midway through the final week of the online course 6 Weeks to Handstand with Kyle Weiger. During the past few weeks I have felt new areas of my body ‘wake up’ and strengthen. I am slowly but surely seeing progress in my handstand form and shape. But the biggest take-away thus far is that although these drills and exercises are making me physically stronger, this course is really about learning to love. We all have the ability to change our ‘state’ anytime and we can begin to see results in any area of our lives in as little as 6 weeks. This series is about much more than nailing a handstand, it is about diving deep into; curiosity, doing the work, dedication, self-care, integrity, and keeping the flame alive! These are great teachings that can be applied to all areas of life. I reached out to Kyle to learn more about his story, and he was kind enough to share some wonderful insights. Big thanks Kyle for the inspiration. May we all keep loving the journey!

Tell us a little bit about your yoga background?

I got into yoga after literally 6 years of a friend nagging me because he said I spent too much time in the gym and I needed to work on my flexibility too. Little did I know that his persistence would change the entire trajectory of my life. Well played, Sir.

Can you share with us about your initial curiosities with handstand and your handstand journey thus far?

It definitely started with yoga. I had an obsession for learning all the arm balances and Handstand was one that I played with often. However, it wasn’t until I got into Gymnastics training, and Circus after that, where I realized just how differently each modality approaches the pose.

Gymnastics was the first time the idea of “the line” was drilled into me, and watching and training with Circus hand balancers was where I first realized it’s so much more than just a single pose. Handstanding is its own art form, and my current journey has me exploring it from this angle.

Do you see your approach to learning to handstand as a metaphor and a way to approach life in general?

Oooh! My favorite question!! Yes yes yes! This is one the BIGGEST things I talk about in my workshops.

SPOILER ALERT: BEING ABLE TO DO A HANDSTAND DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON…

Rather, I use it as a teaching tool to reflect on how I handle tough situations. When things get challenging, do you get frustrated and quit? Or do you learn to laugh at yourself, be willing to put in the work, and approach things with a light-hearted attitude.

Check out a video I did on this very topic: 

What is your favorite verbal cue to say to someone learning to handstand?

“GET TALLER”…..It’s the simplest cue, but it will immediately fix a lot of inflection points in the body. When you get taller, you press through the heel of your hand which will activate your traps and straighten out through the shoulder.

Meditation and journaling is a huge part of your practice. Tell us more…

Journaling is a daily activity for me, particularly the act of gratitude journaling. I like to give my attention and focus to all the things I am grateful for in this life. Whether it’s a deep conversation I recently had with my BFF, or if my Handstand felt significantly strong during a certain day, or if I pull my winter jacket out of the closet and find a $5 bill in it. I seriously write so much in there, so i go through journals like crazy.

As far as meditation, some yoga practitioners may disagree with me when I say that Handstand can be meditative. It requires your attention to direct to a single point of focus, a single task, and you have to be fully present or else you come out of balance.

Thus, seated meditations using visualization exercises are huge for me! So when I get upside down I can re-access that state of presence and purpose.

You are an entrepreneur and and have created a successful online business. Can you share some of your daily practices for finding the balance between wellness, community, work, and play?

This is also one of my favorite things to talk about. I’m actually in the midst of writing a course just for yoga professionals on how to do exactly what I did by using bare-bones resources.

At first, it wasn’t balanced…at all. It was a huge grind 12 months ago to get the product up. With launching a business, there’s no way around it but through it. That’s just how these things go.

Then over time, I found myself working on my website less and traveling to do workshops more.

I think it’s a lofty goal to have every individual day be perfectly balanced. Rather, I look at it in phases or waves. When I first launched 6 Weeks To Handstand with a $200 marketing budget and no clue if it was going to sell, it was a very stress-heavy & work-heavy phase of my life. Now I’m in more of a play-more-laugh-more kind of phase.

Those two balance each other out in the big picture, so I’m ok with sprints or bursts of hard work to have access to more abundance later.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m moving more and more into the role of business consulting in the fitness industry. My business background is in Sales & Marketing, Paid Ad Campaigns, and Email Funnels. I want to share what I know with other people in our space. And of course I’ll never stop teaching Handstand!!!

Who or what are some of your biggest inspirations?

My biggest inspirations are my friends: I have a few pretty special people in my life that I draw inspiration from every single day: Clayton, Del, Katy, Ali, Madison, Bobby…you know who you are:)

As far as Handstanding, there are sooooo many talented people out there, but the coaches I’ve learned the most from are Miguel Santana, Yuri Marmerstein, Andrey Moraru, and Janchivdorj Sainbayar.

Anything else you’d like to share…

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abe Lincoln

 

 

Kyle Weiger is on a mission to show you that you are far stronger than you think you are. And not just in a rainbows-and-unicorns-motivational-speaker kind of stronger….more like a belief-shattering breakthrough “Holy Sh*t! I can’t believe I just did that!” kind of stronger. Kyle teaches Handstand course workshops around the world at Yoga Studios, Festivals, CrossFits, and Fitness Facilities alike. Regardless of the setting, his methodology and approach to learning Handstand just flat out works for students of all shapes and sizes.

kyleweiger.com

Connect on IG:  @kyleweiger

 

Power of Community: Shakti Fest 2018

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

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

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

Filmmaker:  Audrey Billups

A Prayer for Those Who Dance With Death: The Vulture, the Goddess, and Me

“Awareness of death is the very bedrock of the path. Until you have developed this awareness, all other practices are useless.”
– His Holiness the Dali Lama

While we may not want to admit it, death is part of every yoga practice. In fact, traditional yoga seeks to honor the process of one’s death as a part of one’s spiritual life. Many yoga classes are designed to energetically mimic the cycle of life: birth, action, death, and even re-birth during a single session. The cycle of the class is a mirror of repetitive traits and mistakes known as samaras, or energetic wheels we may become trapped in through this and other lifetimes. Yet, the topic of death is something I routinely avoided with my students and in my own practice with myself. When talking about death and yoga, how can we become more connected and less afraid?

As a yogini, when I lie down in savasana and when I direct my students to do so, I have a choice. I can avoid the topic of death or address it. Savasana itself is a practice and is quite literally, corpse pose. Although often seen as the portion of class where we take it nap, it is also the rehearsal of the ultimate freedom from our corporal existence. While in savasana, we are engaged in the surrender and acceptance of who we have been and what we can no longer control. On the surface, one might merely let go of the physical effort of the yoga class; savasana contains the possibility of training the mind to let go of life its self. In every class these moments are an opportunity to avoid or embrace death – and a mirror of how we individually deal with other uncomfortable truths.

Symbology & Reality

My personal passive/aggressive-interest/avoidance dance with death came to an end about a year ago, when I moved to Central America. That’s when I became in contact with death daily, in the form of vultures. Parked on the street corners, in the garbage bins, and on the beaches, vultures are about as common in Costa Rica as pigeons in New York City. To me, and to many others, they are literally death personified. These scavengers are often viewed as ugly, evil, and undesirable. They perform the work of an unpaid undertaker for those who have no one to take care of their final rights, disposing of and devouring bodies in decay. Like most, I was originally put off and frightened by them. Their naked heads lurking atop trash heaps, and beady eyes peaking over animal carcasses intimidated me. All l I could see was death and decay. Over time, I began to realize that my recoiling at the presence of vultures was merely a manifestation of my own fear of confronting death. What was the difference between my recoiling at vultures and my denial of natural life cycles. Or my unwillingness to accept what I fear and don’t fully understand? The answer was: not much. Vultures, I realized, just like death aren’t going anywhere, even if I (we) look the other way. So I decided to stop avoiding death and vultures…and look into mythology and tradition.

The Goddess

How could yoga help me move beyond fear and avoidance with death? I first looked to the ancient text of the Bhagavad Gita, which offered a beautiful story of bravery and devotion. The protagonist Arjuna heads into battle facing certain death with only courage and faith in the Lord on his side. He learns that attainment of freedom from the bondage of life is possible by doing one’s duty. While both epic and beautiful, his story did not help move me from fear to acceptance of death. Maybe I wasn’t as strong or brave as Arjuna? Or maybe, I what I needed was a different kind of inspiration. I found the inspiration I was searching for in stories about the goddess. The goddess, in all her forms provided just the metaphor I needed to get more comfortable with the topic of death on a personal level.

Each goddess we study in the yogic tradition, both Hindi and Vedic, brings with her certain qualities we may hope to evoke in our practice and embody in our daily lives. Durga showcases our inner strength, Lakshmi our ability to cultivate abundance, Parvati our vast internal well of love. Who better to teach us about death and transformation than Kali? Kali is our wild side. She represents our uncensored self. She is confident and limitless. Kali is a symbol of the death of our ego. Subsequently, she is often depicted with Shiva on the cremation grounds. In one interpretation of Kail she is portrayed as the embodiment of time (Kaal is the word for time in Sanskrit.) In this version, her body is the color black representing an all-consuming presence: one of which all things are born and into which they will all dissolve. However, she also possesses a soft side, which seeks to nurture us by liberating the soul. She dances to relieve our souls of our temporary bodies.

While the mortal nature of our bodies and the liberation from them might still sound a bit disturbing, it is in this dance and celebration that I found peace. Death is the great equalizer. Death allows our mortality to be a gift. Contemplation of death and mortality is the beginning of truly loving our lives. So when we honor the strength, abundance and self-love that different goddesses embody, we are honoring these same aspects of ourselves. Similarly, when we contemplate the destruction and transformation Kali can represent, we are allowing conversation about and the contemplation of death to rise to surface. The conversation allows us to be more present in each moment. This contemplation contains within it celebration of the limited time we have, and an understanding of how deeply we can love our experience.

To the Dancers

So the prayer is this: I pray when we step on our mat to practice that we embrace the natural cycles of both life and death. I pray we can find courage in acceptance and not fear. I pray this acceptance leads us to a deeper appreciation of it all; the horrors, the beauties, and the deep love that always surrounds us on this wild ride we call life.

 

Meghan’s passions are education and service. She currently lives with her husband in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica where they both teach yoga and work with Ninas Para el Exito; a rural girls empowerment program in the jungle.

Leprosy & Lessons in Love: Meditation In Action

With fear on my mind and love in my heart, I choose to follow people who live to benefit more then just themselves.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, in total health and abundance but I became aware of the unsatisfactory nature of a life without service to others.

Nathan & Zohar, run meditation in action projects around the world known as Sangha Seva Retreats.

They first came to Anandwan in 2004 as volunteers and have been facilitating groups of people to experience and contribute to the community every year since.

Anandwan (‘Forest of Joy or Bliss’) is a leprosy rehabilitation center in Mararashtra, India. Baba Amte, a saintly man, founded Anandwan in 1951 with the mission of providing a life for people with Leprosy that went beyond offering medical support but a way for each individual to be wholly integrated in society.

All Photography by Shilpa Shah

Leprosy is the oldest known disease and is extremely misunderstood and stigmatized all over the world but particularly in India – as being grotesque, highly contagious and even a personal curse of God or Karma.

Historically, India has had the highest population of the disease with many afflicted people being rejected and disregarded from society – left to fend on their own support, in times of dire need of the support of others.

Baba Amte fiercely started this project with 6 patients living on donated government land- without even a water source. With the power of love in his heart, within only 2 years the land completely transformed into a self-sufficient community – apart from sugar, salt, and oil.

Therefore, you can imagine the jobs that were manifested – from making on-site homemade mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, fabrics, housing and furniture, homemade specialized wheelchairs, custom-made shoes for all these differently shaped mended bodies and feet, bio-waste methane system turning cow and food waste into gas to cook with, growing food and cooking for all these many mouths – all day, every day!

The community has grown to host approximately 3,000 individuals with a range of differences in the body and mind (children, elderly, with physical and mental disabilities) that may have not had a safe place in the world without Anandwan.

Anyone can live here with the guidelines of not taking any intoxicants, non-violence, and being willing to work, if able. Baba said “give people a chance – not charity,” which from my observation seems to be clearly successful.

As a part of the meditation-in-action mission, 17 international volunteers, joined together for 3 weeks to practice meditation while consciously living and working in various workshops throughout the Anandwan community.

I choose to work in the elderly home in the mornings and alternating between the hearing and the visually impaired school in the afternoon.

Besides working with other people, I had to deal with my own suppressed internalized fear I was unknowingly hosting around touching elderly people’s bodies. It really had nothing to do with Leprosy as in retrospect I remembered that I also felt this sense of rejection at my grandma’s retirement home in Toronto. The look of fragility and potential weaknesses somehow gave me the impression of it not feeling safe to touch the bodies of these human beings. Maybe some unconscious fear of “catching” whatever they have even if it was just my own projection of their pain and suffering. As it turns out, odds are as a human being, if I’m super lucky, I will indeed catch the state of old age regardless of physical contact will people or not.

Baba was known to say that the real leprosy to fear is this leprosy of the mind.

The illusive walls between where the being behind ‘their’ skin and mine – began to fade away. I realized that my intention was to share moments of connection, not “fix” anyone or anything.

Through breaking down my own barriers of fear I shared in the most precious exchanges of love during this project.

They, like you and me and all other beings- simply want to experience happiness- feel love, less suffering, less pain. Something we can all naturally offer to each other – but as I can see it must start with the fragile being behind our own skin.

The human beings living at Anandwan showed me strength and joy through the endurance of suffering and pain. Maybe it really is the challenges that strengthen the spirit. All I know is the light and love radiating from these people felt so bright that I couldn’t even see the different abilities, shapes of bodies or sense capabilities in all their various forms.

We all have opportunities to dive into these unfamiliar environments and into the power of love that exists beyond the discernment of our mind that constantly creates distinctions between good, bad, less or more, like or dislike, into this golden thread that ties us all together – the aliveness that exists in meeting each moment with full awareness- of life, exactly as it is.

“Namaste” – the people of Anandwan say here with their hands at their heart and I couldn’t imagine a greeting that was more appropriate. I see you – as a pure divine living, breathing, feeling being – as significant a life as the one I consider “my own.”

May we all find ways of stepping outside our own fears and into the transformation power of love – for ourselves and for each other.

 

 

 

Sacha Bryce, BSc, RYT, is a Holistic Yoga Therapist based in Toronto, Canada. She has travelled the globe studying, teaching and living Integral Yoga. Her mission is to share the power of the practice to liberate herself and others from suffering.

IG: @sachabryceyoga

Divine Sisterhood

Now, more than ever, we are being called to stand up, speak our truths and live with compassion, authenticity and fearless hearts. Many of us are feeling a call to live more sustainably and protect the earth, to learn/share integrated practices which help us to live from a place of love and not fear. Our individual efforts are 100% needed for a collective shift…

This is why I teach yoga and meditation.

I know that these teachings have given me tools to step out of my personal addictions, and help me to make better decisions daily.

And with my own healing, I can offer more support and love to those around me. I can live a life of service and have the most positive impact in the world.

Most importantly, I know that these practices bring people together in community and that ideas become more powerful when shared…

This shift in consciousness is the rise of the Divine Feminine. The energy of the female is potent — She gifts us the qualities of creativity, intuition, protection, holistic thought, collaboration, empathy and unconditional love…all of which have been ignored and abused within our society for far too long.

sisterhood

 

While men have an equally important role to play, it is women’s time to gather in sisterhood to encourage mass collaboration and love as the qualities our society will recognize and hold sacred moving forwards.

This is why I share the practices of yoga and mindfulness through retreat immersions around the world. I want EVERY human to first treat themselves with the love and respect they deserve through heathy lifestyle habits: high vibe nourishment through diet, sleep patterns, physical movement and time for reflection and relaxation to bring awareness to the parts of us we need to nourish (or begin to nourish) daily. I want women to learn to accept themselves exactly as they are, to see themselves as a beautiful and unique Goddess and live with more sweetness. Most important, I want everyone to experience the gift of sacred community: what it feels like to be seen, heard and felt from a place of neutrality. When we feel nourished from within and supported from those around us, we naturally rise into our highest selfs.

This is the power of Divine Sisterhood. Our sisters provide the platform for loving-kindness and a safe haven of support. Our sisters help shape-shift us into better partners, mothers and daughters. They remind us of our power and responsibilities as women of the world. They hold us accountable without shame or blame. They honor our uniqueness and help us integrate with tenderness. The power of sisterhood is fierce, creative, loving and a change-maker…and this energy resides within each one of us.

As we are all a direct mirror reflection of one another, it is imperative we take initiative and become mentors for the world. Women must celebrate and collaborate with one another in order to encourage those around us to follow suit.

And when enough of us support one another to take action, the system will naturally adapt to support us. There is a ripple effect which will spread far and wide.

But it begins on an individual level…

It is our birth right to step into our highest selves — to be happy, healthy and give back to the entire eco-system that is our global family. This is a call to action to create more Divine Sisterhood in our lives. Together, women can change the world. I feel it. I believe it with every single cell in my being. Things are just getting good and I am so honored to be here, right now, alongside you.

The Divine Goddess within me, recognizes the Divine Goddess within each and every one of you.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Join Lauren Lee and friends for this amazing week THRIVE: A Soul-Fueled Immersion for Wellness Entrepreneurs, March 4th-11th in COSTA RICA!

raiseyourbeat.com/thrive

 

 

thrive

The Happy List: How I Found My Path, Passion, and Purpose

Guess what day it is? It is Monday… And this is me listening to Alex & Sierra’s “Scarecrow” and writing these lines. No stress, no rush, no Monday blues. I am in Thailand working as a Yoga and Meditation Instructor and putting my marketing and business development skills to work for a fitness, yoga and detox center. My feet are hanging in the pool and the sun is shining on my face. It is my day off, today. My current life situation is a real blessing. Everyday I can create a beautiful balance of business thinking, movement, mindfulness and yoga on and off the mat. Yoga has changed my life in so many different ways it is almost unbelievable to me – and I was there for every step of the way. So how did I get here?

Thinking back to days in the office in Berlin, Germany with snow storms outside and only approximately 2 hours of daylight (that’s how it felt) each day – I am now more than DCIM103GOPROG3799553.happy with every decision I have made in the last two years to take a leap and change my life according to my needs and my life callings. How did this all come together? I remember one winter day, when I sat in my room in Berlin on the wooden floor listening to music and feeling a little blue. Things were going well overall with my job, friends, family and I had my free time well organized to be a balanced mix of sports, teaching yoga, farmers market visits, art and music shows, and cooking dates with my flat mates. Pretty good life, but why does it feel heavy and strange at times? Is that just how it is? My decision was to explore this situation and find answers. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down EVERYTHING that makes me happy, makes me smile, things that energize me. My ‘Happy List’ was born.

The list was long and everything was allowed on there, everything that came to mind right in that moment – materialistic wishes or belongings, feelings, random words, colors, people, surroundings and so on. After about 5 minutes I decided I was done for the time being and when I looked at my list I realized that my everyday life here in Berlin is not really a reflection of the things that make me happy. How can that be? I chose this life. I made it all happen.

For a while I forgot about my ‘Happy List’ again. Also, unconsciously I knew every single word on that list and how much meaning it had to me. One more flashback: (hang in there) One Monday morning back in the office in Berlin I found a YogaTrade IMG_5837Newsletter with a job opening popping up in my inbox: Yoga Instructor Wanted AND Retreat Manager Wanted. Two positions that sparked my fire! ‘If I could do both, I could create a great balanced life for myself.’ And needless to say it wasn’t located anywhere close to the German winter but in sunny Cambodia. Traveling and exploring new countries happened to be things on my ‘Happy List’. In 5 minutes total I put all my power into an email to this center in Cambodia, explaining why I was perfect for both positions and sent all my information over. As I was typing the words seemed to jump on the screen and very effortlessly formed this lightly put direct email. It simply felt right. Click: SEND. Done. A smile flickered over my face before I had to rush off to a new project at work, phone calls, meetings and work emails.

For the next few weeks I didn’t think much about the job in Cambodia, as I was very busy and I didn’t really want to get my hopes up. This whole thing felt so far away from where I was and what I was doing. Emails are a funny thing to me as well – it doesn’t feel very personal to me sending emails. You send it off and wait. Maybe I haven’t fully adapted to the cyber age of communication and other elements of life.

Long story short, I was offered the position a few weeks later! Basically both positions and it made me jump. It was very exciting. I looked at my piece of paper and the only thing this job didn’t include from my ‘Happy List ‘ was water close by, a lake, or the sea. But that was fine with me, all the other 20 things are part of this new life. I quit my job the next day and prepared for my trip. Flights, insurance, canceling my contracts in Germany and full of anticipation started to get very light in my everyday life in Berlin.

Ever since, I began living a life that I love with all my heart. A life that took me to Cambodia, Bali, Gili Islands, Thailand and so many other places. I found a healthy lifestyle with enough room for my personal development, yoga, and a job. A life full of purpose, connection and sun, based on a piece of white plane paper with black maker scribbles all over it. It has been a journey of self discovery and love. Something very simple like the ‘Happy List’ and the world’s timing changed my life. The ‘Happy List’ and a moment of pausing and digging deep to understand the true motivation of my heart and spirit.

Get to know yourself and write a ‘Happy List’.

What is on your ‘Happy List’ and where will it take you?

Thank you Yoga Trade for great opportunities and connection. It is a true inspiration.

 

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Maike, from YogaWithMaike, is a traveling yoga-entrepreneur, a seeker, inventor, and life lover. She has been teaching yoga in many forms and shapes. Her love for holistic living and balance leads her to new adventures every day.

Connect:

yogawithmaike.com

Beyond the Mat

I recently became a RYT through Hollywood Market Yoga, a local studio in my town. This studio is magical, and serves as a second home for me. It provides a safe space where I can forget about my to-ellie2do list, forget about difficult times I am working through and just be myself. Every inhale I take on my mat fills my body with fresh energy, and every exhale relieves me of the energy that isn’t serving me. Throughout my teacher training, I was able to meet some incredible people who were on a similar path, in search of clarity in life. We connected beautifully and I felt so incredibly blessed to have stumbled into such a safe and loving space.

When training came to a close and I became certified, I was so thankful and excited to share my light and love with the world through the yoga practice. It was bittersweet to realize that these amazing people who had become family to me wouldn’t be seeing each other all the time anymore at the studio, but I think the biggest challenge I face is reminding myself to keep my yogic energy strong when I leave the studio as well; keep the love and light shining when I walk out of the door and face the external world. I’ve put together a list of mantras to carry with me off of the mat.

1. I am love

I do not need to be told that I am loved every day, because I can tell myself not only that I am loved, but that I am love. I have the power to love others and offer my energy to the universe. If I approach each situation with love in my heart and my intentions, I will know that I did my best. I was the best version of myself.

2. The universe knows, trust the universe

When things feel messy in my head, when the world doesn’t seem to make sense, when things no longer feel harmonious, take a step back and trust. The universe knows. It has a plan for me, and the “coincidences” in my life are there for a reason. If I trust that the universe will provide, I will no longer live in fear.

3. Let go of what no longer serves you

It is okay to be me, to have expectations, to have goals and dreams and thoughts that are unique to me. When something or somebody leads me to change who I am and I begin to feel a disconnect from myself, that life force is no longer serving me. Let go. Utilize the ellie1energy spent changing who I am to reroot in my own unique existence and know that all things happen for a reason.

4. Listen and Observe

In this world of chatter, taking a moment to listen or observe can open my mind and heart to the world. I am able to see the intention behind actions, see the pain or passion in someone’s eyes and gain a deeper understanding of the people and space around me. I don’t always need to fill empty space with words, thoughts and opinions. I can find serenity in the silence.

5. Finally, don’t let the world bruise you

People will doubt me, people will make assumptions, draw conclusions or develop impressions that I did not intend but I cannot let it cloud my vision of the beauty in this world. I will not be battered, I will not be bruised, I will remain true to myself and let my light shine, even through the dark.

These are my mantras that I am beginning to develop off the mat. I think that everyone has unique practices and beliefs that help them, but if you don’t, encourage a search ellie3within, to find the challenges you face, and remind yourself that you are worthy of love. I believe that we can radiate the positive emotions we create on our yoga mats and truly make this world a more kind and safe place for everyone.

 

Yogalu (Ellie Morgan) is a yoga teacher from Boise, Idaho who strives to offer healthy and happy energy through her yoga practice, writing, and photography.

Karma Yoga in Practice

Oh the Floors I’ve Swept…Karma Yoga in Practice…

“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures, but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” – T.K.V. Desikachar

Sometimes as modern day yogis we loose sight of what we’re really doing here in our yoga practice. Asana classes have become so popular and trendy that many people – even some who have been taking yoga classes for years – associate lynn2yoga solely with postures and physical movement. But why do we really practice? Why go to a studio and stretch and strain and breathe deeply? I think the most basic and one true answer to what motivates us as modern yogis is our desire to be happier, healthier human beings. To feel alive and connected, to ourselves and something bigger. But where does this connection come from, and how does it transform from our intentions in yoga to our everyday lives?

When I travelled to India for an Ashtanga Yoga teacher training I learned a lot about asana practice, and even more about the wholistic lifelong practice of yoga. In India, the birthplace of this ancient path, I discovered that the majority of modern Indian yogis do not practice yoga asana (postures linked with breath and vinyasa) at all. Their practices are far more spiritual and ritualistic. Bhakti yoga (the practice of unconditional love and devotion) and Karma yoga (service to others) are much more common. Every morning, as we rose at 5am for meditation and asana practice, steady chanting drifted across the backwaters of Kerala from local temples. Their prayers were many. Ritual chants declaring unconditional love for the Hindu gods and devotion to the service of humanity. People choosing to put love at the forefront of their intentions and daily duties without ever asking ‘what’s in it for me?’.

“Love is the coal that makes this train roll…” – The Black Keys, Everlasting Light

When I lived in Toronto, Canada I spent 3 years doing an energy exchange at a yoga studio. I worked one shift per week and received a class pass at the studio. The tasks I performed were less than glamorous. Sweeping, laundry, changinglynn4 garbages, cleaning the showers and spraying sweaty yoga mats after class. During this time I also worked a busy job managing a restaurant. I barely had time for asana practice at all, sometimes only attending one class per week and was often so exhausted from working that I would just lay in Savasana and rest. But I stuck with the EE. I mopped the studio and folded towels and loved every second of it. It kept me in the yoga community, and was my karmic yoga to that community. When I finally began to crack and crumble from mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that inevitably comes from over work and stress without balance, that community was there. They cared, showed me compassion, supported and inspired me to keep going and take the next step on my path.

Now, years later I can see how cultivating love, devotion and a practice of karma yoga deeply penetrates and translates to infinite joy in everyday life.

Many of us lead busy lives, we have jobs, families and communities to attend to everyday. Finding time for physical asana practice is tough, damn near impossible sometimes. But instead of resenting our responsibilities and mundane daily chores that keep us too  busy to attend yoga classes, what if we shifted our perspective? What if we performed every action, every task and approached every situation with love. Know that by doing this, or even simply by setting this intention you are doing a service of karma yoga to your family, your community and the wider world.

lynn3

Lynn Alexander is a modern day yogi living her karma yoga. Her philosophy on practice and life is to do what you can every day – love and all is coming. Follow her on Instagram @modernday_yoga

Flow

As soon as she laid herself down on her mat, her soft, warm skin awoke by the coolness of the floor which pushed through her mat into her skin. You could nearly say; the mat was giving her a hard time because she hasn’t used it in quite a while.
First; Stillness.
Breath started to flow slowly into her system.
In and out.
In and out.
In and out.
The nearly invisible hairs on her body spiked up, only through the thought of knowing she has 90 minutes to herself and no one else.
Breath.
In and out.
In and out
In and out.
She started to move to her breath, awakening every dark and untouched corner of her soul. Mindfully opening her body from pain, fear, insecurities, doubts but also happiness. Gradually building strength from the ground up, feeling the burning desire to touch the roots of her feelings. Her feet, pressing thoroughly into the mat, legs engaged, sweeping her arms up on the inhale and down on the exhale. She was moving like a surfer moving to the swell and ebb of the ocean.
Her pores are opening, sweat is releasing, releasing impurities of her body. Letting go. Letting go. Letting go. Peak; Dhanurasana, bow pose.
Her heart is visible now. There is no place to hide, no lies to be told or pain to be unseen. There it is, just her and her heart. Exposed to the world like standing naked in a crowd full of people although she is all alone in a room with her mat. And what was the sensation when stars alone like bees crawled numbly over it? Her breath flows in, energizing her chest, lifting higher and higher and higher. I’m on top of the world.

Release. Her face looking down, her chest drowning into the ground. Arms are heavy, legs are still and once again she feel the coolness of the floor, pushing into her body.
Restorative movements are here. Now, the exposition of Yoga is being made.
Surrendering to forward folds and hip openers. Her body is saying yes but her mind can’t hear that yet. Only until a gentle tear is rolling down her cheek, dripping onto her mat and then, another one and another one.
Pure surrender in happening, she knows. She knows too well. Breathing into the pose.
The final call. Savasana, moving into stillness. Her breath was now the only thing that is moving. Consciously unconscious. Not manipulating the breath but being eternally watchful towards it. Belly moving;
Up
and down
Up
and down.
Awakening but eyes are still closed. Last prayer. Gratitude towards pain, fear, happiness and doubts. Gratitude to being alive, being right here.
10734245_681879745243720_8087402292483934423_nThe knowledge of the head bows to the wisdom of the heart.
OM.

 

Danae is a German/ Italian Yogi, lives on Mallorca and is a passionate Yoga teacher and Blogger, soulseekergirl.com about what she does best: The Art of Food, Fashion, Travel and Health. She inspires her readers toward a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.

A Better World

This is a repost from our friend Liz Clark and her blog at Swell Voyage. Thank you so much Liz for your bright light, for being an outrageously inspiring adventurer, teaching us how to “live yoga”, and for sharing these tips on how we can help to make a better world.

You can find the original blog post here: http://www.swellvoyage.com/inspiration/a-better-world-what-we-can-do/

1. Spread Good Vibes!  Simply be nice to each other!

Life can be testing, but being negative only makes things harder for you and those around you. Try not to loose your cool. Keep kindness and good vibes flowing through you and to those you encounter throughout the day. Positivity is contagious, healing, and unifying. A peacefulliz1 world starts in our own hearts, so our job as individuals is to check ourselves when negative emotions arise and take another direction before they become overwhelming and cause harm to ourselves and others. In a better world, we must treat each other and ourselves with kindness, compassion, and integrity!

2. Your dollars are your Voice: Buy Organic, Local, Non-toxic, and Mindfully.

Let your purchases speak to your eco-values. We can make a positive impact everyday by supporting brands and people who love the environment as much as we do. By doing so, we tip the demand toward sustainable and eco-friendly goods. Buying local offsets carbon. Supporting organic farmers helps reduce degradation and pollution of our soils, waterways, and oceans not to mention our bodies. Boycotting brands containing GMO ingredients tells Monsanto we disapprove of Big Ag, Round-up ready varieties, and their monopolizing of our seed banks! Opting for sustainably-sourced wood and paper products can help preserve biodiversity and the Earth’s remaining forests. Refusing to buy chemical-based shampoos & body wash, laundry & dish soaps, toothpaste & cleaning products means fewer toxic chemicals end up in our bodies and waterways. Do a little research, beware of fakes, read ingredients and labels, and look for minimal and recycleable packaging! Check out Patagonia, Mizu, Zeal Optics, Eco Flex Moss Research Surfboards, Avasol Suncare, Enjoy Handplanes, to learn more about these highly mindful, authentic brands who love our Earth!!

3. Reduce, reuse, recycle & refuse SINGLE USE PLASTICS.

Our oceans are becoming plastic soup. I find plastic debris lining the beaches of tropical islands thousands away from any trash source. This plastic never biodegrades, only breaks down into tiny toxic pieces that pollute our ocean ecosystems and enter the food chain–killing wildlife ranging from plankton to seabirds to whales–and rendering seafood toxic. It’s time we demand and implement non-toxic plastic replacements and stop using something that will last forever–plastic bags, bottles, straws, etc—only one time!? It makes no sense!? 50 billion plastic beverage bottles are produced each year. At least 40 billion of them end up in our oceans and landfills EVERY YEAR, not to mention a stream of other plastic bags and trash. Let’s stop our single-use plastic addiction and lead the way toward a world of biodegradable plastic alternatives. Get a reusable water bottle, install a water filter in your home, bring your own shopping bags, dine-in, refuse plastic straws, avoid brands using excess plastic packaging, and speak up with friends and merchants about this important issue! Check out Mizu’s stainless steel waterbottles and campaign to #protectwhereweplay!!

4. Eat less or no meat!  Animal agriculture is killing our environment.

Why do they keep telling us to ‘turn off the lights’ and ‘carpool’ to help save the planet when eating less meat & dairy for a week could decrease liz2your personal eco-impact more than carpooling for a whole year? Animal agriculture is the leading cause of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, soil degradation, water pollution due to animal waste runoff, ocean acidification, rainforest clearing, and extinction due to habitat loss and destruction. The energy and water that go into meat production are astonishing. It takes an average of 660 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger!? Despite that the meat and dairy industries have us thinking animal protein is necessary for our health, studies prove otherwise. Meat and dairy are proven to cause cancer, hormone imbalance, high blood pressure, obesity, and a host of other unpleasant effects. Plus, we’ve sadly overlooked the horrifying treatment of these sentient animals in America’s factory farms. Fish and shrimp farms are generally extremely environmentally taxing and their end-products lack nutrition. After switching to a plant-based diet in 2012, I can assure you that I feel SO good that the thought never enters my mind to go back!! If you’re not ready to give up meat entirely, try to choose wild, sustainably-caught, or humanely-raised meat, poultry, and seafood. Check out the documentaries “Cowpiracy“, and “Earthlings“, and read up on The China Study!!

5. Support alternative & free energy solutions

Free, clean energy is absolutely possible and available to us, and has been so for a long time. It’s just not in the interest of the very powerful people who prefer we stay dependent on buying their fossil fuels. They are destroying the planet just to get richer…it’s rather short-sighted and selfish, no? So where we can, let’s go off-grid, use solar and wind-power, drive more fuel-efficient cars, demand better public transportation, walk, ride a bike, and support alternative energy systems and free energy solutions! Watch “Thrive”!!

6. Dedicate yourself to personal growth & self-awareness!

A better you makes a better world, and I believe we cannot truly be fulfilled without making a constant effort to grow and evolve into a better version of ourselves. It’s easy to point fingers at everyone else and blame our problems on the other guy, but this helps no one. Going within takes courage, but the rewards are unlimited. Even small positive changes in our negative behavior patterns can improve our lives and relationships drastically, and inspire others around us to do the same. Don’t wait for someone else to change, change yourself. Find where you can be more open, kind, loving, positive, flexible, courteous, patient, forgiving, honest, humble, etc. We all have our issues, our struggles, our hardships. We can either use them as stepping-stones to our greatness, or allow them to make us bitter and victimized. Choosing the latter leads only to further darkness, so we must use our adversities as opportunities to grow, learn, and move closer to the Light!! Check out my Reading List for helpful book recommendations in this department!

7. Get Outside and connect with Mother Earth!

Whether you just stop & take a deep breath and look up at the sky, or smell a flower, go for a nature walk, surf, hike, swim, or the likes–doing something everyday to acknowledge our connection and dependence upon the Earth helps keep the important things in liz4perspective. We often forget that we depend on a healthy Earth for every meal we eat, each drop of water we use, and every breath we take. A life acknowledging this connection to the Source of our existence cultivates gratitude, balance, respect, and a feeling of Oneness with Nature and the Universe. Get off the beaten path and go fall in love with this magnificent planet in your own beautiful way!

8. Plant a garden or create a permaculture yard.  Let’s take back our food!

It’s amazing what we consider ‘food’ these days. Growing a veggie garden and planting edible plants in your yard is not only the best way to ensure that your food is chemical and GMO-free and charged with love, but you also reap the benefits of re-connecting with your food and gaining respect for the growing process. You automatically reduce your carbon footprint, contribute to local biodiversity, save yourself some cash, and put the power to feed yourself highly nutritious food back in your own hands!! Veggie Garden Cheat SheetHow to Build a Permaculture Vegetable GardenStarting Your Permaculture Garden

9. Buy Less, Waste Less, Upcycle, and Get Creative with what you have.

Nature knows no ‘waste’—matter and energy are always reused and transformed. Our current economy is based on the impossible premise of infinite growth on a finite planet, encouraging us to blindly consume and throw away. We spend our time earning money to buy things liz5that often don’t enhance our well-being or happiness. This one-directional ‘buy & toss’ system is not sustainable! We must reject this model by refusing to buy things we don’t really need, offering services rather than goods as gifts, finding ways to reuse and reinvent things that we would normally throw away, or giving them to someone who will. We must find a way to close the loop on our waste stream, and be as clever as nature at utilizing, recycling, and transforming our resources!

10. Do what you Love!!

We are all here for a unique and beautiful calling. Each of us contributes to the diversity and evolution of humanity when allowed to develop into our fully blossomed Self. Take a risk! Follow your dreams and live up to your potential, so that you may be happier and more inclined to want to give back to the world. Choose joy and passion over security. Abundance always follows people who live in their true calling or joy-space. The alternative is a life of gray, haunted by internal whispers of what ‘could have been’. Money and comfort doesn’t really make us happy, only genuine self-love does. I believe ‘too comfortable’ can become caustic, and the only real failure is having never tried. We can’t wait for the system to change, we must leap with relentless positivity and energy toward living a life we dream of. Once you go for it, you’ll look back and see how your hardships were part of your path to fulfillment, and a deep Trust may be born in the Greatness and Perfection of it All. Compassion flourishes, competition melts away, and we come to see and feel the interconnectedness of all our stories and struggles. Understanding and feeling this Oneness, we realize that we cannot truly rise unless we rise together. Hence, we strive to lift up our brother and sister humans everyday!

Liz Clark has been sailing the seas since 2006. She is a surfer, captain, yogi, and environmentalist who is living passionately and following herliz6 heart. She is making waves of positive impact in this world and continues to inspire with her sustainable lifestyle and adventures. Catch up with Liz here: 

www.swellvoyage.com

Instagram: captainlizclark