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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yoga Retreats: An Escape From Reality or Deeper Engagement?

The first yoga retreat I attended was intended to be a mere pit-stop on a lone trip around South East Asia. I was not-so-fresh out of university and in need of some serious TLC. My shoulders were permanently up to my ears, jaw always tightly clenched and the worries of the world sat in my stomach like lead stewing in acid. I arrived with tonsillitis, my pasty white skin contrasting sharply with the ruby red rash all over my body. In short, I was a mess.

I’d barely practised yoga before, but decided on a whim to try a retreat as a kick-start to a trip I’d imagined would be full of cocktails on beaches and partying with strangers. My focus was the location; little beach huts on a gorgeous Thai island, idyllic gardens stretching into sand and sea. On day one, I reluctantly dragged myself from the beach for the first yoga class, relatively disinterested and quietly cursing over the time I was losing to bask in the sunshine. It therefore came as a total surprise that whilst lying in Savasana at the end, I couldn’t stop tears from rolling down my cheeks. One by one at first, slowly but surely erupting into quiet sobs that came from depths I didn’t know existed.

After the class, I shyly loitered around the teacher, waiting to ask what had just happened to me. I felt uncomfortable and vulnerable and had no idea where this explosion of emotion had come from. Was I somehow doing yoga wrong? Only an hour before, I’d been lounging on the beach without a care in the world…or so I thought. I was told it was normal, common even, for deep emotional trauma to be released during yoga. This certainly had never happened to me at the gym, and I couldn’t help but wonder why this class was any different.

Curious, I persisted. I observed as layers of tension melted away day by day. I watched as my body and mind somehow became stilled by my previously shallow and laboured breath. What fascinated me the most was how deep the transformation seemed to be going in such a short space of time. I arrived feeling depleted and lost, but left only days later totally full; full of joy and calm and hope and excitement and energy, sensations I hadn’t felt for a long time. The experience ended up colouring my entire trip, moulding my decisions and steering me towards more fulfilling choices than I perhaps previously had in mind. Decision number one? Book another yoga retreat.

When I arrived at the next retreat centre in Cambodia only weeks later, I connected instantly. The place gave me tingles. The community at Hariharalaya practice and teach integral yoga, living yoga both on and off the mat – a concept although new to me at the time, resonated like nothing before. I was hungry to learn, eager to go deeper into this practice that had rapidly become so important to me. I could write essay after essay on what arose for me during that week, but suffice to say that my time at Hariharalaya was significant, eye-opening and life-changing. I left there a different person, evolved in some way I wasn’t quite sure of. How was this possible in only one week?

Despite travelling hundreds of kilometres to Indonesia after I left Hariharalaya, I knew I had to go back. Within weeks, I turned around and turned up again, excited for what I thought was to be round two of a personal transformation. But this time, something quite different occurred to me. I had been so focused on the power of yoga, I hadn’t noticed the power of a retreat. Of the particular format which, over mere days can prompt radical transformation; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

It was only by going to this same place a second time that I realised this. The first time I had been lost in my own metamorphosis – which by the way, is by no means a onetime thing! This second time, I couldn’t help but observe others. I watched as people, just like me, arrived frazzled and fatigued, tight and tense. Not in all cases, of course, but for the large part, it transpired that people had come as a means of release and relaxation, escape from their daily lives. As time passed, those who had made nervous small talk on the first day slowly crept out of themselves, sharing with sincerity and support. Others became more introverted, tucking themselves away and tapping into creative outlets. Some delved deep into yoga, others delved deep into novels. But each and every person radiated a satisfaction and content which grew exponentially as each day passed. Day by day, I watched as this new family opened up, blossoming in the light of the space that was held for them.

This, to me, is the root of what a retreat does: it holds space for transformation. It guides, teaches and nurtures, coaxing innate qualities to burst forward. Yoga is the tool, the practice around which all of this comes together. For many, there is neither time nor motivation to practice yoga every day, allowing the huge benefits of doing so to be revealed only during a retreat. Although tasty food and exotic locations often provide the temptation to book, it is this space that people come for, often unknowingly. It seems these days that we don’t allow ourselves enough time and space to explore creativity and spirituality, to play, to connect with nature and ourselves. It is this which I find so inspiring about retreats; that a formula so simple can provoke such a profound response.

The word retreat comes from the Latin retrahere, meaning ‘pull back.’ People’s perceptions of a retreat are no doubt shaped by the spectrum of its synonyms, from sanctuary and seclusion to withdrawal, isolation and hiding. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a retreat as a “process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.” In many ways, this is what I was doing when I booked my first retreat. I mindlessly entered my card details as procrastination from the endless difficulties of university work, daydreaming of myself on a beach in Thailand. The sad fact is that many of us feel the need to withdraw or pull back from fast-paced, high-pressure lifestyles in order to be able to process what is going on around us.

Whilst this may be the reason that some of us choose to go on a yoga retreat, it is certainly not its purpose. Whether we realise it or not, by consciously setting time aside to step out of usual routines and their accompanying anxieties, we are prompted to journey inward. Retreats offer us an environment in which we are able to listen to ourselves without distraction, to realise, reassess and refocus. This might expose depths of ourselves which have been overlooked. Suppressed energies can surface, and as such, going on retreat is not always easy. It is not an escape from reality, but a deeper engagement with it.

In taking the time to stop, listen and reflect, new perspectives naturally arise. As Marcel Proust once wrote, “the voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” This to me beautifully captures the longer-term benefits of going on retreat. Even though we must return to that from which we have withdrawn, we do so with new eyes. We go back to our roles, relationships and responsibilities with a fresh perspective. In this sense, the process of withdrawal on retreat is tactical; sometimes it is important to withdraw in order to advance.

 

 

 

Rachel Bilski is the co-founder of Shanti Niwas, a yoga collaborative currently holding yoga retreats and classes in Portugal. You can follow her musings on yoga, travel and life on the Shanti Niwas blog: www.shantiniwas.com/snblog

How Joining the Cast of ‘The Beach’, Led to Yoga in Kuwait

THE BEACH, PART 1

 

I have lived a life of excess and I mean excess! I am generous, cheerful, with an enjoyment for travel and adventure believing that ‘life is for living’ so everything I have done has been done to the extreme until there was nothing left, especially red wine!

 

I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to escape to a yoga retreat, which somehow was connected to a wine bar, yet for some reason, I could never find one.

 

Now, I have studied yoga before, I wouldn’t say I was a yogi, but it was definitely one of the excesses that I had a relationship with. A healthy one, but of course one that fell to the wayside.

 

Finding myself at 38, single, burnt out, uninspired, inactive and a body full of red wine. I decided this was a great time to live out my dream of escaping to the land of Namaste and sun salutations. I didn’t really give too much thought about it, I’m not the one to search too much, I’m impulsive and don’t have the patience to find the best deal. The only certain factor was that the destination was Bali. Why? Because I had travelled there before, loved it, knew it relatively well, was really cheap to live and it was close to Australia.

 

On occasions I had visited Bali previously, I stayed in Seminyak. So I knew straight away Seminyak was not going to give me the Serenity I needed and Kuta, well I’m Australian so Kuta for me is a no-go zone. I think I drove through Kuta once, with my doors locked and windows up. This is nothing to do with the locals, but the Australians that flock there who seem to have been released from a zoo. I can say that I’m an Aussie. We even had a TV show about Australians in Bali. It was a cross between Jersey Shore and well Jerry Springer. Both lovely shows. Google them and you will understand.

 

With Bali in mind, I sat down at my computer and googled Yoga Retreats, Bali. On the screen before me, popped up a number of locations. Since Seminyak and Kuta were out, I went with my intuition and clicked on Canggu Beach. Now I am definitely a guy who looks for “signs” and here at the top of Google search was a Singles Yoga Retreat, (yes singles, don’t rub it in!). A 30-day yoga retreat in Canggu Bali and it was on sale at Serenity Eco Yoga Retreat.

 

Now I mentioned I was into life’s signs, so this deal almost jumped through my screen and I started packing my bags while I booked my flight, without even googling where Canggu was, I was just going.

 

In under a week, I was seated on a plane trying to drink the aircraft out of red wine, before I landed in Bali on my quest to become a Yogi. I landed late, tired and quite happy with the planes bar service; all I wanted to do was sleep so I did.

 

Waking up with a little sore head, I was taken back by the scene before me. I swear I had landed on the set of The Beach, with Leonardo ordering his takeaway Soy Latte in front of me.

Scattered around this eco-friendly yoga retreat, were pretty young men and women from all over our vast globe, talking in their native tongue and lounging on outdoor couches, sitting in groups perched in a thatched hut, barefoot and drinking Alkaline water.

 

I have never felt more miscast than ever.

 

Checking in for my first class of the month, I can say the thought crossed my mind to run to the nearest hotel with a bar and hide. Instead, I faced my fears, registered, grabbed my mat and started my first initiation into the yogi tribe.

 

Now in Yoga, there is no judging, so once I let my ego stop talking my head off, I found myself loving and being happy with my decision. This turned into great happiness when I found my tribe. People over 30, who were all traveling solo, and harbouring some sort of similar heartbreak, burn out story, similar to mine.

 

I found my own cast of The Beach.

 

From that moment forward I can say, my month spent in Bali, facing my demons, (hey I’m not going to lie, I did find a bar on a few occasions) was one of my happiest months in my 38 years.

 

I did downward dogs, I balanced on my head, I meditated, and I met amazing people from all over the globe. I laughed with these new friends, cried as well. Yoga can be an emotional journey. Ate fresh food cheaply, swam in the ocean, once even tried to boogie board with a new mate from Germany and both nearly drowned. The worst $2.50 I have ever spent. I spoke to anyone and everyone, because traveling solo you are forced too. I made friends with the locals and simply I fell in love with Bali. I also managed to fall back in love with life.

 

So after feeling miscast on my first day, I can honestly say no matter who you are, where you come from and what you have achieved, none of this mattered at my Single’s Yoga Retreat.

 

As for Yoga itself, it made me feel alive again, so alive that decided to head to India, to do a Yoga Teacher Training.

 

For anyone reading this who may be thinking of traveling alone, DO IT. Anyone thinking of visiting Bali, DO IT, and for anyone thinking of Yoga. DO IT.

 

THE BEACH, PART 2

 

Where do I start?

 

Well, first I made it. I am now a certified Ashtanga-Vinyasa Flow, meditation and pranayama teacher. 200 hours of back bending, sweating, studying, crying, laughing and well yoga, yoga, yoga.

 

So I seem to be attracting my tribe with my vibe, as the saying goes as I once I found myself staying at a real life movie set, with a gorgeous cast of yogis from all around the world. We represented Australia, Poland, Germany, UK, USA, Canada, Greece, New Zealand, France, Spain, Holland, Ireland, and Norway.

 

All of us brought together to experience a month of intense learning, not only of Yoga but of our true selves. Thrown into the deep end of learning, sharing, pushing boundaries, opening up, letting go, facing fears, twisting our bodies into inhumane positions, standing on our heads, we did all this whilst still trying to wake up every morning, smile and twist and contort our bodies again without attempting to run away.

 

It’s a journey like no other that can only really be explained by experiencing it.

 

I can say I meet a bunch of international beings who will always hold a place in my soul, as going through what we went through creates a bond stronger than any distance could ever break.

 

However, one thing that can be explained is where I was.

 

Kranti Yoga on Patnem Beach in Goa, India.

 

Kranti Yoga is a yogi community, village, oasis, home away from home, sanctuary. It’s completely out of a movie. Split into two sections, Garden View and Ocean View. Both sections are surrounded by cute shacks that are found on beaches all around the world, these shacks are built around outdoor yoga studios. You can also find a tree house chill out zone, a common area where we all ate and chatted convincing each other that we could make it to the end.

It’s fully equipped with a laundry, a kitchen where the local staff produces three yummy vegetarian meals a day. The beautiful Indian staff work tirelessly day in and day out to keep all us tired yoga students happy. Now with all the different nationalities and temperaments, that is no easy task, even though we should be Zen with all the yoga.

 

The two sections of Kranti are exactly what they are named, Garden view is built in the gardens surrounding the property and Ocean view is built right on the edge of the sand to the beach.

 

There is even a Yoga studio right on the edge of the sand, so there are moments when the sun is setting over the ocean while you’re saluting the sun and getting in the zone, moments like this can’t be described only felt. Since I felt them first hand I can say that you’re missing out if you never experience a moment like this in your life.

 

Kranti Yoga is built on Patnem Beach with its rolling waves and perfect water temperature that during lunch times and after class it became our personal massage therapist.

 

The two sections of the commune are joined by a dirt path, that where on any day you can see a variety of cows, monkeys and the local stray dogs who love escorting you from one side to the other. It’s like being in the Jungle Book.

 

Kranti the creator, the Master, the Guru himself, is a smiling entity whose presence was felt before you saw him by his charming positive energy that poured out of all his pores.

 

Being the creator of this home away from home for us like-minded yogis, he created something that only script writers could dream of creating. What Kranti has created is a reality, and could not be made for TV.

 

Now Goa I know is considered the Gold Coast or Miami of India but for me, this was a perfect introduction to India. Even though the beaches are similar to my home in Australia, we definitely don’t have cows that hang out on the beach, with packs of stray but friendly dogs, ladies selling homemade jewelry and massages being offered galore.

 

Driving also is different, beeping isn’t a sign of road rage in Goa, it means I’m coming through or the past and I hope no one is coming the other way. I learned just to hold on, close my eyes and chant.

 

Cows come to the restaurant at the same time each night for their feed, walk down the street, through the shops and stop traffic as they are scared. Monkeys come and watch you study yoga, they also are game enough to go into your room and steal your food and tease the dogs.

 

Electricity also isn’t a given. It cuts out at anytime it wants and could be off for 20 secs or 20 hours, brilliant when you are trying to sleep and the humidity is 90%.

 

Look, India isn’t for the faint-hearted even though I really was only on level 1. However, I can’t wait to revisit this wonderfully spiritual, dirty, moody unpredictable destination.

 

But for me, the next stop is Kuwait!

 

YOGA IN KUWAIT

 

After receiving my 200-hour Ashtanga – Vinyasa flow certification from Kranti Yoga in India I returned to Australia. I wasted no time in joining the wonderful global yoga networking site, Yoga Trade. That same day I applied for jobs in Bali, Philippines, South America, Oman, Thailand, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Kuwait the options were endless. I had a great response from most of my applications which excited me made me optimistic for what the future had in store.

 

Especially the places that being a yoga teacher could take me. The list is global. I applied for every job possible job that was advertised, volunteering, paid, unpaid I just went for it and put my best energy out there and decided to allow the universe to point me in the right direction.

 

Amongst all the jobs I applied for was a position in Kuwait where they advertised for a teacher with 2 years’ experience. Now I had 200 hours experience, no yoga teaching experience but 15 years of dance teaching behind me. I took the leap of faith, emailed them, explained my situation and to my surprise, they contacted me back.

 

Now I was home with my parents at the time, which is a small town in Australia with only 2 sets of traffic lights and not much yoga going on. They asked me to film a video of me teaching a class, since that was not a possibility I got creative and taught a class in my lounge room to no one……. Odd experience. I sent it off, I have to be honest not much confidence in my performance, I cringed trying to watch it back.

 

However to my surprise, they came back to me, with an offer to join their studio in Kuwait City, the only catch is I had to be there in 2 weeks.

 

Kuwait was never on my bucket or to-do list, but I took this as a sign that this could possibly be a great adventure. I live by the motto, “Take the chance, you never know it may just work out.”

 

So I accepted.

 

Luckily for me being single and having packed up my life on my quest for a new path, I didn’t have too much at stake really to stop me from getting on the plane and jumping into the unknown. So I did.

 

Now I find myself in Kuwait writing this article, 2 weeks into living and teaching yoga in Kuwait and my first week as a qualified yoga teacher under my belt. Boy, I wasn’t ready for this intense heat, yes 45 degrees celsius at 9:30 pm, teaching three classes a day, 5 days a week. Thrown in the deep end but I knew I had the ability to swim. I spent the first-week taking classes at the studio which was great. I was able to engage in the vibe and feel comfortable before launching into my own classes.

 

Another shock was city living after spending the last year either in a country town or the beaches of Bali or India. Outweighing all of the shocks is the joy of teaching and the response I have had from my classes has filled my heart with gratitude and joy. To have a student come up to me after class and say that my words helped her resolve problems in her life, to students appreciating the class and the energy, makes this new journey I have started so gratifying.

 

Helping people relieve their daily stress from their corporate jobs, family lives, love lives, personal struggles and taking them somewhere special and away from their struggles while they are on the mat, is so inspiring and emotionally satisfying that I can’t see myself doing anything else for a while and this is just the beginning.

 

From the first part of this article, you will see that in less than 6 months my journey and my soul have absolutely done a 360. For one, I am in a country where you can’t drink, who would have thought, and I have found a way forward when I didn’t think there was one.

 

This is the magic of Yoga, and of course, everyone’s journey is different but I am living proof that if you commit and let yoga work it’s magic, it will come to the party and assist you in more ways than you can imagine.

 

I have a few people to thank for this, Serenity Yoga in Bali for reigniting my love of Yoga, Kranti Yoga for teaching me to be the best teacher I can be at this early stage of my journey, Yoga Trade for being the best site in the world connecting Yogis, and Alive Yoga in Kuwait for living by my motto and taking a chance because it may just work out.

 

To you all NAMASTE.

 

This journey has changed my life. I’m not saying it will change yours, but if I learned anything on this trip. Anything is possible. You just need to jump.

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

 

Kane comes all the way from Australia and has a love for Yoga, Art and Dance. Finding yoga through dance, he has practiced in Bali and Australia until finally traveling to Goa, India where he did his Yoga Teacher Training in Ashtanga Vinyasa.

IG: @kanebonkeyoga

 

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

Life Post Yoga Retreat: Maintaining the Bliss Buzz

Traveling and spending time at a Yoga Retreat or Training Center is one of the most beneficial ways to deepen or re-ignite a yoga practice. Yoga retreats and immersive training centers are an oasis of physical, mental and spiritual bliss! We are fed high-quality, often organic, whole food meals, and we typically do not have to even worry about cleaning our plates after the daily feasts. A daily, often rigorous schedule of asana, pranayama and meditation rejuvenate our minds and bodies while the support of like-minded teachers and fellow yogis hold the space for our transformation and emotional release. We experience decreased responsibilities, limited social media and an absence of addictive substances during the days lived at our yoga sanctuary. We are taken care of and lovingly provided for and held. We often connect so deeply with our fellow yogis on retreat that we question how we ever lived without them in the first place.

Ahhhhh, yes, the blissful bubble of yoga immersion! The environment and community encourage our self-expression and exploration of deep, authentic conversation. We feel so connected, healthy, centered and serene which is the perfect internal environment for our highest selves to shine through.

So, what happens when we leave our yoga bubble and go back home?

We discover on our retreat how easy it can be to consistently practice and embody a yoga lifestyle in a controlled environment purposefully constructed to support yogic principles and transformation. The real world might suddenly feel harsher in contrast to the cozy yoga shalas, yurts and tents we had grown accustomed to. We won’t automatically have many hours a day carved out of our schedules to practice yoga and meditate. Social media, news and other distractions are abundant. And what? We must feed ourselves and clean up? This might feel like too much to handle.

The greatest challenge of leaving a yoga retreat is carrying our recently connected, healthy, centered and serene selves back into the habits, stresses and relationships of our daily lives. It might feel like our yoga saturated bodies and souls transformed in some way making reintegration into the regular world uncomfortable. It may take us time to relate in a new way to our external environment.

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When I return from trainings, retreats and other Yoga Trade travel opportunities, I often find it takes me a period of adjustment. There are obvious extremes I will adjust to like the climate change between the jungle of Costa Rica and my home in Germany, but more importantly, I give myself time to acclimate my inner climate to my regular life at home.

Here are a few tips I find helpful to help integrate, prolong the yoga-bliss-buzz, and stay grounded in the regular world after a yoga immersion:

1. Home Sanctuary

Create a small retreat at home. If you don’t already have a sacred practice space in your home, find a small room or corner that you can create a mini yoga sanctuary. Bring your yoga mat, any props, a pillow, candles and incense. You may even create a small altar with items that inspire you. The space doesn’t have to be big to feel like a little slice of bliss at home. This home sanctuary might even inspire you to consistently practice and dedicate more time to your self-care and well-being than before.

2. Nourish Your Physical Body

If the diet you followed on your retreat was very different than your regular diet, it might be a shock to your body to jump back into old diet regimes – especially if at the retreat, you avoided sugar, alcohol, caffeine, etc. You may even consider incorporating any new eating habits you learned that really worked for you. Take some time to fuel and nourish your body with what it needs and take it easy on cravings. Treats are good, but over indulgence after a week or longer on a retreat might leave you feeling less than optimal.

3. Set Goals

We often quickly embrace the schedule at a retreat as we experience the luxury of so much free-time and limited responsibilities. If your regular schedule doesn’t allow for 3 hours of asana and meditation every morning, set a realistic goal that will still get your body moving and soul connected. You might wake up 30 minutes early every day and go straight to your sacred practice space. Maybe you find a local studio with a lunch time or evening class that you can attend a few times a week. Find a self-care and yoga goal that works with your reality! A consistent physical and mental practice will help you stay grounded and connected to your highest self, long after the retreat buzz wears off.

4. Reconnect

Taking time out of our lives to focus on self-care and personal growth often requires a sacrifice in another area of our lives. If you disconnected on your retreat from loved ones to focus your energy on your relaxation and transformation, take time when you return to reconnect with them. Spend some quality time and share your retreat experience with your partner, family and friends. Ask them what they have been doing while you were gone. These honest conversations will help rebuild and strengthen any weakened connections during your time away.

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5. Be Gentle

Did you discover yourself feeling more gentle, compassionate, honest, open and free than ever before on your retreat? The yoga retreat bubble is the perfect place to truly practice and embody the teachings of yoga. Sometimes, the real world with all of the challenges, stressors and calamities that inevitably transpire makes acting like an enlightened yogi nearly impossible. If you find yourself losing your calm, go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself with unhelpful self-talk, “I was just on a yoga retreat! I should be better/kinder/calmer than this!” Be gentle and patient with yourself. The yoga bubble is a perfect place to practice the lessons and teachings in a controlled environment, and the real world is like the exam we get to finally apply what we learned. If you want to incorporate the teachings and be better at being you in the world, practice.

I hope these tips help you ease back into daily life post-retreat with more grace and patience while maintaining the yoga bliss and teachings. Namaste.

 

 

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Sarah is a Yoga Trade Travel Representative. She loves to explore herself and the world through the lenses of yoga and travel and constantly challenge herself to uncover truth and unity within and around her.

CONNECT:

http://www.la-yoga-vida.com/

Three Reasons to Retreat

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

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1. It shifts perspectives

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

2. Improves Wellness

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

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3. Builds community from the Heart

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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