Can Yoga Lead the Way to Sustainable Tourism?

As I walk through the streets of Zurich, Switzerland, on a sunny Saturday in early June – about a month after the Swiss Covid-19 lockdown ended – I overhear two women sitting in a café talking about the summer vacation plans they had to cancel (Well, I guess we can go to the nearby mountains, could be fun if it’s just for one year!), and a young couple strolling in front of me, loudly telling each other how they couldn’t wait to get to the beach. Travelling has become an indispensable part of our modern lives, and it is not going away anytime soon; Covid-crisis or not. 

Between 1950 and 2018, the number of global international tourist arrivals has increased 56-fold, from 25 million to 1.4 billion. According to a 2018 article published in Nature Climate Change, tourism’s global carbon footprint accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transport, shopping and food being the main contributors. The United Nations World Travel Organization projects in a recent report that only the transport-related CO2 emissions attributable to tourism will grow 25% by 2030. Against this background, the UNWTO states that it is “committed to accelerate progress towards low carbon tourism development and the contribution of the sector to international climate goals”. How? Well, that is yet to be determined. Awareness and optimization are the path forward, according to the UNWTO; yet, as of now it seems as if we had not even crossed the starting line of such path. 

In order for global emissions to be brought under control, we are going to rely increasingly on travelers whose world view revolves around sustainability. Maybe the global travel ban that was forced upon all of us by Covid-19 opened an opportunity to reflect about why and how we travel, and to make more mindful decisions about our travel activities. To determine what sustainable and mindful travel could look like, it is worthwhile examining the practices of traveling yogis, a small but growing fraction of global tourists whose lifestyle (including travel) choices have been innately sustainable as part of their belief system for a long time. 

In recent years, yoga has become the new trendy fitness hype that claims to not only make you stronger physically, but also healthier mentally and spiritually enlightened. There are so many offerings of yoga classes all over the world (and since Covid-19 even online) that it is possible to quickly throw in a 45-minute power yoga session in between business meetings, that should be a workout substitute, balance out emotions, and calm the mind all at the same time. It is no wonder that in this context, there is less space to learn about the original teachings of yoga. 

The Yamas, constituting the first of an eight-fold path to a purposeful and meaningful life, are the moral and ethical guidelines of yoga. They are often translated and interpreted as: (1) non-violence or “do no harm” (also known as ahimsa), (2) truthfulness, (3) non-stealing, (4) self-control or a voluntary restraint of power, and (5) non-possessiveness. In comparison, the most pointed definition of sustainability I have come across is “living in symbiosis with our ecosystems so that we minimize our negative impact, instead building positive relationships that replenish the environments (including social ones) around us.” 

Thinking about what it actually means to live by the Yamas, the overlap with sustainable living according to the above definition is remarkable: (1) Sustainable systems seek to minimize negative impacts on others and the environment, and hence minimize harm. (2) Achieving sustainability goals requires understanding how the systems we live in function, interact and depend upon each other, and being truthful about our own contributions to the systems’ functioning or failure. (3) Taking something from the environment requires giving something back; lacking restoration, what we actually do is stealing from the environment and other creatures living in it. (4) Sustainable systems require that we not take more (and exercise the power to take more) than we need, thus practicing self-control. (5) Living sustainably requires re-assessing the way we ascribe meaning to things (possessions) and consume them. (see footnote at bottom)

Hence, sustainable living is deeply ingrained in the yoga teachings, and yoga practitioners who take their practice and philosophy seriously will be challenged to think critically about the carbon footprint and other unintended negative consequences of international travel. 

I was curious and interviewed over 25 yoga retreat leaders, yoga teacher training leaders, retreat participants, and yoga retreat centers (from the Americas and Europe), asking them how they think about this seeming friction. It turns out that the answer is quite nuanced. The yoga teachers and retreat leaders are in pivotal positions because they are the ones who choose the destinations and places to visit, and they get to shape the type of education that they convey to their participants. Most retreat leaders stated that their students often do not specifically ask for a “sustainable retreat”. They just want to immerse themselves into their yoga practice in an energetically rich location and serene surroundings away from their everyday life. However, over 90% of the yoga retreat leaders interviewed named environmental sustainability as a mandatory criterion when choosing the destinations and retreat centers they visit, and 80% specifically look for centers / hotels that offer organic, vegetarian, local food (which also leads back to environmental sustainability).

Importantly, most retreat leaders explained that while their participants might not go into the retreat with a focus on sustainability, this experience very often initiated a shift in their mindset, and they started changing their life choices and embarking on their own sustainability journey after a retreat. This was attributed partly to the educational piece about social and environmental sustainability that is ingrained in the yoga teachings, but mostly to its combination with the fact that the participants could experience and see first-hand at the retreat center what it means to have implemented sustainable practices, and how they themselves can take action.

Traditionally, most yoga retreats originating from Europe have been oriented towards India, Bali and Thailand as travel destinations, whereas, according to the European retreat leaders I interviewed, more European retreat centers have emerged in the last couple of years and there is an increasing demand for local retreats that can be reached not only by air, but also by other means of transportation such as train or cars shared between several retreat participants. From a US perspective, while Bali has also been a popular destination, retreats in Latin America are much more common due to the proximity relative to Asian countries. Costa Rica is nowadays one of the first and most established retreat destinations, with other countries such as Mexico and Brazil rapidly catching up. 

A country that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years is Peru. Since the 1990’s, the number of tourists visiting Peru has increased from below 0.5 million to 4.4 million in 2019. According to data published by the World Travel & Tourism Council, the contribution of tourism to Peru’s 2019 GDP was 9.3%, and 7.5% of all Peruvian jobs were in the travel and tourism industry. Especially in Cusco, the closest city to the World Heritage site Machu Picchu, tourism is critical for the economy and has helped alleviating poverty significantly. 

Cusco and Peru’s Sacred Valley having become a hub for sustainable yoga retreat centers, I focused part of my research on their sustainability practices. One example is Willka T’ika, founded in 1995 as one of the pioneers in the region with a mission towards sustainability, community and Quechua heritage protection. In addition to using solar panels for energy generation, its buildings are constructed from local adobe material which is energy efficient to reduce the need for heating and cooling. 80% of the ingredients used to prepare the vegetarian meals are organically grown in its own gardens (whereas the rest is sourced from local farmers), and all employees are Quechua from the neighboring community, most of whom have been with the retreat center for two decades. They also teach sustainable farming and irrigation practices to local communities, which has proven to be particularly important during the pandemic, since it increased food security and resilience among the local population. Currently, Willka T’ika is implementing a “zero emissions” program which provides an opportunity for guests to offset all carbon emissions from running the retreat center and transportation within Peru.

There are many examples around the globe that show how tourism can greatly benefit nature and wildlife (a sample is described in a blog post by Sustainable Travel International). This does of course still not deal with the carbon footprint from fuel-based travel, particularly air travel. But as one yoga teacher put it: Everything is a sacrifice. You always have to give something up to get something. What we need to do is start thinking more thoroughly about what kind of travel is worth leaving such a large carbon footprint and what’s not.” 

Covid-19 may have been a trigger for many to reconsider which flights and what travel activity is worth exposing oneself to the risk of infection. If we also started weighing our personal desire to consume against the effects thereof on the planet (do we really need to fly from London to New York for a weekend shopping trip, considering that the amount of CO2 generated per passenger exceeds the annual carbon footprint of an average person in 56 countries?), chose the places where we stay when travelling more wisely, and returned home not with a suitcase full of new consumer goods, but rather with new ideas and inspiration about leading a more responsible, purposeful and meaningful life as described by the Yamas, this could go a long way. 



Marie-Cristine is currently pursuing an MBA and MS in Environment & Resources at Stanford Graduate School of Business / School of Earth and Environment. Originally a lawyer from Switzerland, she embarked on a journey of continued education and personal growth, striving to work towards sustainable development goals. She loves being active, especially outdoors, colorful food (such as fruits, veggies and ice cream) has found yoga practice as a way to balance herself.





Sustainable Yoga Travel – It’s Our Responsibility

“Surfing Macroeconomic Theory: Waves attract surfers. Surfing attracts energy. Energy attracts people. People attract capital. Investment attracts development. And so it goes. A quick survey from outer space would likely show an inordinate number of major coastal cities expanding outwards in concentric waves from a quality surf break.” — Steve Barilotti, Author

While yoga and surf travel have become leading niche markets in the global tourism industry, rarely do we stop to ponder the impact our destination lifestyles have on the coastal communities and natural environments where we travel to indulge our soulful meanderings.

Have you ever noticed that many of your favorite international yoga epicenters are also world-class surf spots? And similarly, do you find it strange – or even admittedly comforting – that many of these places, as they grow and develop to cater to surf and yoga tourists, end up looking and feeling the same in terms of accommodations, food and available amenities? Interestingly, yoga tourism tends to follow in the wake of surf tourism, after the initial exploratory phase when infrastructure and amenities begin to take root and surf destinations turn into towns built around surf and yoga experiences for tourists. After all, both surfers and yogis are often chasing the same sort of environment for a pristine nature immersion away from the crowds. In that search, however, we end up contributing to the complete transformation of both cultural and natural landscapes in the places we love to travel for surf and yoga.

As a sustainable tourism consultant, I’ve written extensively on the detrimental impacts of surfing tourism on coastal communities around the world, calling for locally defined standards for sustainable tourism and alternatives to development in surfing destinations. Now that yoga travel has become an international phenomenon to be reckoned with, it’s time we also interrogate the foundations of our travel-to-practice-and-teach-yoga lifestyle while exploring the potential for greater sustainability in the ways we approach our next yoga travel adventure.

First and foremost, let’s be realistic and not sugar-coat the environmental damage associated with the jet-set travel lifestyle common to many of us living a semi-nomadic yoga life. Fossil fuels and carbon emissions are the leading cause of climate change, and every time we hop on a long-distance flight to live our dreams in yoga paradise, we are contributing to the irreversible destruction of the planet. In addition, most of us are guilty of consuming more single-use plastics while traveling than when we’re at home. And, we’re less likely to prioritize sustainable producers if it means forfeiting convenience while we travel. Often, the result is a net increase in unsustainable consumption habits when travelling versus staying at home. While we practice mindfulness on the yoga mat, it’s also our responsibility to be mindful of our consumption habits when traveling, taking care to support Earth-minded service-providers and producers wherever humanly possible. Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you should let your sustainability priorities slide by the way-side.

Next, it’s important to be aware of how we carry our modern lifestyles and cultural attributes with us in the places we travel to practice and teach yoga, with powerful (and not always positive) effects on local people and the natural environment. Among the challenges that local communities face as more and more visitors flood to previously isolated locations are: loss of culture as locals seek to emulate the modern lifestyle and attain tourism-centered livelihoods, social inequality and marginalization resulting from upward pressure on prices forcing locals out of tourist zones, and rampant development responding to heightened tourist demand with little concern for nature. While we fulfill our yoga travel dreams, it’s important to be honest with ourselves in recognizing the impact we have on local places and people, no matter how positive our spiritual intentions may be.

Yes, surf and yoga tourism can help create jobs for local people and potentially contribute to deeper spiritual awareness as locals begin learning to surf and practicing yoga themselves. However, it’s most frequently the case that the majority of businesses in surf and yoga destinations are owned by foreigners and not by locals, which contributes to deep social inequalities and further marginalization of local people as the town grows and develops around tourism. This is why seeking out locally owned businesses and service providers is a vital first step in bringing greater sustainability to the way we travel – in yoga destinations and beyond.

What can we do?

There are a few ways to lessen your footprint while travelling, all of which relate to adopting an attitude geared toward minimizing excess consumption and respecting local ways of life and livelihood. This means prioritizing locally owned businesses and behaving as if you are a guest in someone else’s home wherever you go. Do your homework when booking accommodations and tours, as well as in choosing places to eat and shop, supporting locals as a means to improve their economic wellbeing and ensure that more money stays within the town’s economy. Eat local as much as possible, avoiding the imported goods you are familiar with at home. After all, there’s a reason you’ve left your comfort zone, and eating local is one of the easiest ways to contribute to greater sustainability while you travel.

Learn the local cultural standards and attune your actions accordingly, taking care to stay respectful in honoring cultural differences. Take an interest in the culture so local residents can feel that their way of life is beautiful and intrinsically valuable, not somehow backwards or less than in the ways it differs from the dominant modern lifestyle. This will also contribute to a more authentic travel experience if locals see that tourists are taking a real interest in their culture and not just looking for the same creature comforts curated to mimic modern amenities and help tourists feel at home.

And finally, hold your foreign service providers and fellow travelers accountable to sustainable practices, including waste water treatment, solid waste management, minimizing consumption and avoiding the use of single-use plastics. If you see foreign business owners cutting corners on essential sustainability practices and harming the natural environment in the process, say something. As a guest, you have an important role to play in helping hold business owners accountable to the environment, especially in places where regulation is lax, non-existent or unenforced.

Similarly, bring your own containers for to-go orders at restaurants, and ask the juice bar to fill up your water bottle instead of using a disposable plastic cup. Most importantly, avoid the temptation to lecture locals about sustainability – they are not to blame for the piles of trash left by visiting tourists. Instead, lead by example and encourage your travelling yogi comrades to do their part in leaving as little trace as possible in the places we love to practice and teach around the world.

When it comes to sustainable yoga travel, we are the change we have been waiting for.



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

The Importance of Eco-Friendly Athletic Wear for Yoga and Beyond

Cover Photo:

Yoga Slackers: Sam Salwei and Raquel Cruz Hernandez

Photographer: Eric Ward

Many of us choose yoga as a form of exercise, not only because it’s low-impact and improves our overall health, but because we value a natural lifestyle. Thanks to athletic clothing produced with man-made materials like polyester and nylon though, microfibers have been leeching into our oceans. Yes you read that correctly.

Scientists studying our lakes and oceans, have discovered that man-made, plastic-based fibers in clothing are showing up at an alarming rate in our precious ecosystem. Whereas natural fibers, like organic cotton, are better at breaking down in the environment, without leaving harmful microscopic microfibers behind.

After extensive research and speaking to some Yoga professionals (thanks and, I found some retailers who value eco-friendly, sustainable, comfortable, and fashionable athletic wear for yoga and beyond.

Solid Sustainable Brands To Know

Anjali is a NYC based fashion retailer which broke out in 2006. Focusing on yoga wear, this company founded by married couple Julissa Carranza and Kristinn Sigridarson, creates stylish fair-trade, sustainable clothing made from organic cotton, soy, modal, and recycled polyester. The tout their clothing is sweat shop labor free, as the pieces are produced in NYC and LA. Both women and men can enjoy selecting comfortable garments from Anjali, when they plan on getting into their next downward dog or tree pose.

Earth Yoga is based in Malibu, California, and is another brand to check out. The founder has been practicing yoga for over ten years, so it is only fair to support a devoted yogi. Founder Noreen Austin offers reasonably priced yoga clothing, created from environmentally responsible polyester fibers from recycled bottles. You can choose from tops, bottoms, and comfortable hoodies.

Green Apple, based in Manhattan Beach, California, stands out as a sustainable choice. All of the clothing made by Green Apple is vegan and biodegradable. You can find tops, jackets, and bottoms made with chemical-free bamboo and organic cotton. The founder of Green Apple has a background of over two decades in the athletic apparel business.


– Since 1992, retailer prAna made a commitment to produce clothes for yoga that are biodegradable, maintain a sustainable business model, and reduce their greenhouse emissions. This company not only offers yoga clothing, but accessories, jackets, dresses, and swimwear. Clothing from prAna is made from organic cotton, hemp, and Jacquard among other fabrics.

Inner Wave produces mainly organic and biodegradable yoga clothing. All their clothes are produced in LA, California, and the company believes that your inside should match your outside. Women and men can find tops, bottoms, and even jewelry. Sustainable and eco-friendly choices never felt this good.

Reflect Your Values Effortless

Sustainability is a major part of finding our balance and lessening our carbon footprint. We not only want to choose to sustain our bodies with exercise and diet, but we also want to choose sustainable actions that reflect our best selves.

When we support retailers that make clothing that reflect our care for our health and our planet, we send a resounding message to the world.

Thanks to the efforts of some awesome yoga practitioners, finding eco-friendly clothing that matches your values and meets your budget is easier than ever before. As yoga lovers and health-conscious individuals are becoming more mindful about their lifestyle choices, retailers are listening and acting in kind.

“We live in an age where we can not only bring meaningful change to our lives, but by our choices, we can make a meaningful impact on our world.”

A healthy lifestyle is not just about exercise and a healthy diet, but making conscious choices that make a better you inside and out. Choosing to wear eco-friendly clothing is a great way to make an impact on the planet and your workout.



Melanie Nathan is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, writer for Huffington Post and beginner yoga enthusiast. Connect with her on Twitter to learn more.

Sustain the Flow: Doug Swenson


I had the pleasure of meeting Doug Swenson in South Lake Tahoe, California where he holds annual yoga teacher training courses. As the years pass by, I am becoming more and more inspired and intrigued by people like Doug who have dedicated their life to the path of yoga. Doug’s passion for connecting with nature and his enthusiasm for life is contagious. Here we catch up with Doug as he shares some wisdom on how to ‘sustain the flow‘. Thank you for shining bright Doug!

When did you get introduced to yoga?


I was first introduced to yoga in 1963, when I was 13 years – my parents belonged to a church group (Unitarian Fellowship) which was a diverse group of ideas – with no one certain concept. Ironically one member of the Group was a Yoga master, Ernest Wood and he would teach some of the kids yoga a few times a month.


How has your yoga practice changed over the years?


My yoga practice is constantly evolving and changing, much like all of life. Specifically my practice has become more refined and very expansive, to touch every aspect of my everyday life, helping me to embrace more clarity, awareness and gratitude in all ways.
Most important – I am not so focused on doing the best asana, yet feel deep appreciation for just doing yoga under a tree and the amazing feeling of clarity I am rewarded with, this is a heavenly gift.

What are your tips on how to “sustain the flow”?


I assume you mean the (vinyasa of life), which can be represented as a river flowing to the sea. We can be conscious and aware in life, or just walk around mindlessly, not paying any attention to what we are doing and how our existence creates ripples in time. My suggestion is to live simply, create a sacred bond with nature, and adopt the highest quality vegan diet. Most important in this computer age – embrace gratitude for simplicity and try your best to get off electronics whenever possible, touch the earth and breathe light.

You travel A LOT….what helps keep you grounded while always on the move?


I stay grounded by embracing a mostly raw vegan diet, drinking fresh squeezed green juice, and enjoying daily fitness, including my own personal yoga practice.

Words of wisdom on the importance of COMMUNITY?


Community is the fabric of society and yet community is also the dark side to persuade humans to fall from grace. In any group – you have to be strong with an independent and progressive mind, be respectful and mindful of others and yet – Be the Light and you will never be afraid of darkness.
Learn to be the one with the good influence, not the one who is the gravity of failure, self-destruction and ecological disaster. Everyone is different, I am more of a loner, or recluse, most of the time, because I learn more about myself and find great joy in quiet time and self-reflection – this is where I draw my strength to interact with society.  

What does “living in the current” mean to you?


To me it means the moment is eternity, yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not arrived, so by being present we are more successful in all ways. Reflect on the past as a learning experience and priceless moments, then envision the future as a positive path and yet all the while – most importantly life this moment right now.  

“Life is what happens ~ when we are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

It can also mean – being a part of the life force energy – being prana.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?


To me time is only a number for mathematicians to stimulate the brain – I do not think in years – humans are much too busy counting steps of the sun, as the moments pass by and you miss the bus. I only aspire to see myself and all things in greater light!!!   

Who or what inspires you most?


Mother-nature, moonlight on the midnight ocean, sunrise in the Mountains and playing on waves with dolphins. The simplicity of picking wild berries on a warm summer day and the gift of true love.

What mantra resonates with you most right now?


I rarely follow the path of others – So will jump the fence on this one and say:

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time – you might just find you get what you need “ – Rolling Stones  


Anything else you would like to share?


Yes, a philosophical poem I wrote:
Be The Light
If the desert would give back
This sand, like a mother’s touch of warmth
Yet cactus just dreams of a watery life
And ask why – as the night whispers
Tomorrow needs our love, our kindness
And genuine integrity – this flower slow dances
Like a homeless thought, lost between time
Ego fishes for answers and yet – finds no truth
The taste of yesterday’s richness
Touched stray mountains – where sunbeams seek peace
It is not enough – to be the love of the wind
We must find the heart in preservation and be the light…




Doug Swenson began his study of yoga in 1969. He has had the fortune of studying with many great teachers including Dr. Ernest Wood, K. Pattabhi Jois, David Williams, Nancy Gilgoff, Ramanand Patel, and others. Doug is a master yoga practitioner, philosopher, poet and dedicated health advocate. He has incorporated influences from several different yoga systems along with his passion for nutrition and the environment to develop his unique approach. Over the years he has authored several books; “Yoga Helps”, “The Diet That Loves You Most”, “Power Yoga for Dummies” and “Mastering the Secrets of Yoga Flow“. Doug is a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance and travels extensively offering workshops, retreats and teacher training courses around the world. Doug’s classes are always invigorating and inspirational and his supportive style of teaching and keen sense of humor send his students home with a smile on their face and a softness within their heart.

Making It Up As We Go Along

Have you ever dreamed about living in a van down by the river? Here is a little inspiration to follow that dream. Meet Holly Gable. Holly, her boyfriend Angus, and their dog Jella are ‘Making It Up As We Go Along‘ while living, loving, and learning in their home-on-wheels. 

Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.” – Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Where are you currently? What are you most passionate about today?

Currently we are in a small village outside of Berlin. It is very peaceful, we’re surrounded holly1by forest and beside a lake which every evening at dusk becomes a landing strip and party for hundreds of laughing, migrating geese. The recent news tells of killings all over the world, of horror and despair, accompanied by a myriad of hateful opinions and blame towards religion, race and borders. Today we’re trying to hold on to a passionate belief that there is much more love in this world than hate, to continue to cultivate the kindness and compassion that we know to be inherent within all of us.

How did you and Angus meet?

Angus and I met through a series of what seemed like bizarre, chance, same-place-at-the-same-time, happenings in South London, where we studied.:)

Tell us about your yoga journey and tips on keeping up personal practice while traveling.

My yoga journey begun with a simple determination to beat my family’s inflexibility holly4genes and to be able to touch my toes. This did not come easy, and for the first months I thought of yoga as an irritating discomfort that I tried to convince myself to avoid. But separate from the yoga, I had a lot of anxiety, which to me, seemed to be preventing me from leading the life I wanted to lead. As my yoga practice (very) gradually developed, between styles and teachers around London, my fingers got closer to my toes, but I also felt that my mind and body were more in tune, I was calmer and happier. Recognizing the difference in myself and witnessing how yoga was helping others, each on their individual and very different journeys, I decided to deepen my knowledge and to learn how to share it, completing a 200hr Teacher Training course at Arhanta Yoga Ashram in India.

That was in January, and since then we’ve been back on the road in our home-on-holly5wheels. Keeping up a personal practice while traveling has sometimes seemed hard, surrounded by uneven, muddy ground, only enough space in the van for a few seated postures… And sometimes easy, in homes, yurts, forest huts, fields, at river-sides, fire-sides and sea-sides. But the most important lesson I’ve learnt, is that rather than to feel disheartened at not finding space to do a sun salutation without hitting a wall or slipping face-first into a clay-pit, is to instead remind myself that to practice asana is to practice just a part of yoga; When yoga is recognized as a lifestyle, every moment becomes an opportunity for practicing.

How do you practice sustainable living while on the road?

We spend most of our time on work-exchange projects around Europe, exchanging our help for food and living space, and having wonderfully rich, fulfilling experiences in holly6different cultures, communities, natural building and self-sufficient living. We’re trying to discover ways of living that aren’t dominated by money and capitalism, where value is put upon gift and exchange to deepen inter-personal connection and equality. We create objects from recycled materials and waste plastic from the beach, which we sell online a pay-what-you-can-afford basis, and we forage as much food as we can from the wild, and supermarket bins!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Using the inspiration and skills we’ve gained from our journeys, we hope to build a home and to create a space, from natural and recycled materials: a space for sharing what we have learned, for yoga, for creativity, for living surrounded by nature, and hopefully for many other things we don’t yet know! We would like to put emphasis on providing for those with learning difficulties or disabilities and/or past trauma. After working at art workshops for individuals with learning difficulties and disabilities, we feel very strongly about the empowering benefits of creativity, and want to combine this with the quiet yet tremendous healing potential of yoga as a lifestyle.

What inspires you most?

Helping people! Maybe that sounds twee, but if we’re learning anything, it is that nothing feels more rewarding, fills us with more joy, and gives us a more determined sense of purpose, than helping someone or something. And that kindness is contagious.
My name is Holly. I am a yoga teacher and an artist, living and travelling in a home-on-wheels with my boyfriend Angus and our dog Jella! After graduating with Art degrees in 2013, we moved out of our flat in London and traded the flat keys for a set of van keys, which we converted into our new home. We try to live simply, to explore, experience and to gain a greater connection with communities and the natural world. Choosing experiential chaos over steady 9-5s, living, learning and loving in a home-on-wheels. 

Holistic Adventures & Green Goat Guides

It seems as though more and more people these days want to get rid of all their “stuff”, pack a bag and travel the world. Many people are already doing this; creating a life for themselves thru travel while inspiring along the way. As travel tourism becomes more popular we must remember to do so lightly and to respect nature in every possible way. Antonio Jaimez Vega and Jennifer Caravella are perfect examples of people who are following their dreams and living life as earth loving sustainable travelers. Their new project, “Green Goat Guides”, is lighting up the pathway for others. Read on to learn more about rewarding and sustainable holistic adventures.


Green Goat Guides is a grassroots project of climbing and adventure travel guidebooks founded by two wanderlust rock climbers who believe in creating a more beautiful world. The Green Goat duo are using their creatively designed guidebooks as a platform to help raise awareness and educate people about sustainable living practices, holistic wellness, and ecotourism.

Live Free. Travel Lightly. Respect Nature.

These guidebooks are a hippie gypsy dream come true. Adventure nomads, climbers and earth stewards will find all of the information one would normally find in a guidebook asgreengoat1 well a goldmine of resources such a list of eco-friendly businesses, where to find organic food and local farmers markets, how to support the local economy, volunteer and work-trade opportunities, animal rescue centers and shelters, edible plants and medicinal herbs you can forage, recipes to keep you well, where to get a great massage or take a yoga class, vegetarian/vegan restaurants, adventure activities, holistic health practitioners and more.

The Green Goat duo has just launched an Indiegogo fundraiser for their first book, ‘The Green Goat Guide to Portugal’. With your support, you can help manifest the Green Goat vision of creating an international series of holistic adventure guides that inspire, educate and open the doors to a more sustainable world for future generations of all life on earth. Check out the campaign HERE.



Capitol City Designer Finds Inspiration in Living Yoga

One of the beauties of yoga is that we can bring it into all aspects of our lives. Here we catch up with the super talented Northern California interior designer, Amy Aswell. In this talking story, Amy shares how her living yoga practice assists in inspiring her designs and keeps her spirit alive and at peace. Thanks for the inspiration Amy!!!

Photo Credit: Kat Alves Photography

Tell us a bit about your yoga story….How does yoga benefit you as a busy professional?

I enrolled in my first yoga class when I was 20 while living in New Hampshire on a amy5school exchange program. This was around the time (1999) in my life when I began hearing more about yoga and it piqued my curiosity. At the time, I was continually physically active while becoming increasingly interested in the mind-body connection.. While that experience was positive, I practiced only sporadically for the next few years, until I was in my second year of graduate school and feeling beaten down by the rigor and associated stress of my program. I enrolled in a series of yoga P.E. classes at the student fitness center and became addicted! It not only helped me feel calmer and more in control of the stress, but it relieved the chronic back pain brought on by hours of hunching over a computer and constructing design models. My favorite pose during this time was wheel because it felt great on my back and I remember I could hold the pose longer than anyone else in the class, including PAC-10 collegiate football players! I revisited yoga again a few years later during another period of professional and personal angst, this time falling in love with Yoga Nidra or ‘yogic sleep’. The guided meditation and supported, restful poses helped keep me centered and calm outside the studio. I attended classes 3-4 nights per week and felt the residual positive benefits every day. Now that I own a small business, I lean on yoga and meditation more than ever to conjure a sense of balance and strength in my busy life. I now practice Power Vinyasa 1-2 times per week and love the energetic and upbeat nature of my classes. I also have a teacher who cracks great jokes and plays the best music during class, which is great. I’ve found I really appreciate and am inspired by the combination of physical rigor and humor.

How do you bring yoga off your mat and into your designs and every day life?

Yoga inspires my life off the mat in that I’m much calmer and better at handling stress when I’m actively practicing (at least once per week). I think practicing yoga takes aamy2 great deal of discipline, and for me especially Power Vinyasa because the poses are so dynamic. My energy level is also higher and I’ve found that I also make better food/drink choices too. Another benefit is posture. Finally, I like how a particular class becomes a ritual. For the past few months, I have attended the same Saturday morning class with a good friend, and we have a habit of going out for healthy organic smoothies afterward. So it also has social benefits. 

Can you share a few tips on how to create “zen” spaces?

I believe that the things we choose to surround ourselves with have a significant impact amy6on our overall happiness, well-being and quality of life. I’m currently reading and loving ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo, who advocates for having a de-cluttered home full of belongings that ‘spark joy’. Another simple ‘zen’ philosophy that has always resonated is by iconic designer William Morris who said, ‘have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’. In my professional design work, I have been told that I’m an ‘intuitive designer’ which I think translates into creating spaces that are understated, thoughtful, timeless and sometimes provocative. Another favorite inspirational design quote is by Dieter Rams, who said ‘good design is as little design as possible’; emphasizing the boiling of life down to its purest essence.  


How can we all bring more sustainable design concepts to our homes and businesses?

Sustainability ideally should be implemented comprehensively, but there are also little things we can do to make a big impact on the earth and uplift our spirits. We’re currently experiencing a severe drought in California which is making everyone, either by choiceamy3 or mandate, rethink their daily water habits and lifestyle. I’ll use the toilet as an example here…we can all make more sustainable choices by reducing our water use by replacing with a low-flow dual flush toilet (if you’re remodeling) or by placing a brick in your toilet tank (if you’re stuck with an existing, older toilet) or even using the ‘if it’s yellow…’ strategy. I feel encouraged just knowing that every time I have the power to make a design decision for my home or for a project, it can be informed by sustainability. For instance, I can hire the local furniture fabricator, who sources reclaimed wood for his products, which keeps these items out of landfills, retains money in the local community and reduces transportation reliance on fossil fuels for transport. There are so many pieces to the sustainability puzzle and often it’s a matter of just doing a little extra research and asking questions that can make a huge difference. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like our choices are small and insignificant in the grand scheme, but even just attempting to live more sustainably can bring about increased feelings of well-being, which is reason enough for me!

What inspires you? What makes you happy?

Happiness for me is being around people I love, who make me laugh and push me outside my comfort zone. I feel instantly gratified when I’m in nature, and often in water (aka. swimming in a scenic river). I’m also made happy by completely losing myself in an artistic endeavor; one where time melts away and I’m fully engaged. I’m equally happy exploring new (and old) cities by foot, visiting art museums, hiking, riding a bike and lying in the grass with my terrier mix puppy, Gus. Finally, using my body in a physically challenging way every day, being optimistic and believing in myself makes me happy. 
amyyogaAmy Aswell is a Northern California-based commercial and residential interior designer who draws upon her almost two decade-long love of yoga to create thoughtful and engaging yet minimalist interior and exterior environments. Before establishing her design practice, Amy taught interior design at a college for the arts and worked for both large and boutique-size design firms. Being both a ‘Certified Interior Designer’ and a LEED Accredited Professional, she has demonstrated her value of professionalism in practice and the importance of sustainability in design. Amy’s current love of Power Vinyasa and meditation influences her daily business practices and her design concepts and philosophies.

Connect with Amy:

Salty at Heart

“The cure for anything is salt water; sweat, tears, or the sea.”

Here we catch up with Kirstin Thompson, a salty lover and the Editor in Chief at Salty at Heart. Kirstin gives us the down low on the empowering journal, inspires us to make positive change in the world, and gets us stoked on life! Yewwwww!

Tell us about the vision at Salty at Heart…

Salty at Heart began as a vision for a printed inspirational journal that embodied all of the pure, organic, empowering vibes that seem despairingly unavailable in mainstream salty2media. Its foundation is based upon an idea: That you are valuable. You matter. You have the right to be happy, to love, to be free. That this planet is precious. That life is precious. And that all things are connected. The vision is to create a global community, serve as a voice for artists, musicians, writers, environmentalists, surfers, and organizations, and to give a chance for the feminine energy to shine. Since the project began, my mission for the impact of Salty at Heart has evolved into a desire to create a movement towards sustainability and equality worldwide.

How have surfing and yoga influenced your life?

Surfing taught me that I am strong, powerful, graceful, and small, all at once. The ocean and surfing made me realize that I am indeed connected to something much grander than my little life on earth – you and I are connected to this entire, grand, beautiful crazy Universe, and it’s such a wonderful terrible thing. It taught me that despite the challenges I have faced as a woman, there is a place I can feel wild and free – the ocean is one of them, but also within my own heart. It taught me to embrace so many wonderful people, to drift with the wind, and to live by my own standards. Yoga also came into my life right around the time that surfing did, and furthered my respect and love for my body and soul. I have known a few yoga instructors in my life who I can graciously admit inspired me to let go of my fears, surrender to this moment, and let love in. I struggle with pain in my back from nerve damage, and yoga and surfing have both been serious life savers for me when the going gets tough.

Have you ever participated in any kind of yoga trade or volunteering and how did you benefit from it?

Yes, I volunteered at Yoga Farm– a sustainable farm and yoga retreat in Costa Rica. We helped in the garden and around the farm in exchange for yoga and affordable boarding. It was such a beautiful experience, with waves, yoga, healthy food, and great people. I actually met some people there who inspired the formation of this journal!

How do you bring sustainability practices into your daily life?

I do not do as much as I wish I could! When I lived near work I made sure to bike there as well as to yoga class as much as possible, but unfortunately where I am living at thesalty1 moment makes biking impossible. I aim to live somewhere eventually that is bike-friendly. I buy produce from the farmer’s market, use glass re-usable containers like ball jars and glass Tupperware, buy local as much as possible, and look on craigslist or at a thrift store before buying anything new.

Who or what have been your greatest teachers?

Traveling, surfing, the wildness of animals such as whales, dolphins, and wolves, books and words of inspiration from people like Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, Ellen DeGeneres, Emma Watson, and Mary Oliver, the wonderful souls I have met along my journey through life, the people who have maintained faith in me over the years, and my crazy beautiful sister.

Anything else you would like to share with the Yoga Trade community…

Surround yourself with people and an environment that make you smile from the inside out. If you look around and this is not your reality, then get out there and find it! This world is a huge place. I know I’m still searching the world over for new and wonderful things – maybe I am destined to be an eternal drifter, but then again, maybe I will fall in love with a place to call my own one day. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you know you are free and beautiful, and never let anyone tell you otherwise.

salty3Kirstin Thompson is the Editor in Chief  at Salty at Heart. Kirstin, originally from sunny Florida, graduated with a BS in Environmental Studies at Florida State University and continues to take interest in sustainability and women’s studies. As a freelance writer, surf instructor, passionate traveler, environmentalist, and advocate of all things ocean, Kirstin hopes to inspire others to follow the path of the heart and take a creative approach to life in a way that provides for a free and meaningful existence.











Mystical Yoga Farm

Nourish your soul and tend the land. Find harmony and sustainability within your community. Bonnie Norton is the Operations Director at the Mystical Yoga Farm in Guatemala. Here she fills us in on the innovative projects and sustainable programs they offer at this magical learning and growing center.  

Tell us about the “sustainable living” at the Mystical Yoga Farm…

We are proud to be an education center for sustainable living. We like to take time with our decisions, in order to support the long term well being myf5of the land, the community and the growing retreat center. Currently you can come and learn about compost toilets, solar power energy, grey water systems, grey water urinals, permaculture structures, on-site food gardens, re-purposed building materials as well as sourcing staff from the local community. Each day we strive hard to live within the means of our lush piece of Mayan land to ensure that our lifestyle here at the farm protects people, present and future and most importantly, our planet.

What projects are you involved with to help the local community?

We are so fortunate to have worked on many community projects. We work with Seed Bank, helping Guatemala maintain food security by keeping native seeds alive. The village nearest to our farm is Chacaya, where we’re always trying to manifest higher life quality for everyone. One of the programs there is called Chacaya School Projects, with topics such as english, health, nutrition, yoga, sustainability and education. Furthermore we’re supporting Local Farmer Training, which teaches traditional and sustainable farming techniques to ensure local food sustainability. Also, we are working to grow our Child Education Program, where we organize to send a child to school for $50 a year as well as Comida Vida, about nutrition education for women and families. We also cooperate closely with Justa, a holistic network that connects indigenous artisans, global designers, and sustainable projects.

Do you offer work exchange or volunteer opportunities?

The Mystical Yoga Farm thrives as a place of learning, growth and transformation. We do provide work exchange opportunities at the farm – our goal is to allow you to dive deep into your spiritual practice whilst living and learning in a supportive and inspiring community. We have myf2our Spiritual Alchemist Work/Trade Program for the duration of 21 days, offering an unique opportunity to bring your practice off the mat and into the work we do,  whilst engaging on a transformational journey through the Shamanistic Medicine Wheel. We provide a platform and tools to transform anything that no longer serves you. We also offer Tribal Leader staff positions, with a minimum 3 month commitment in exchange for direct trade. The staff form a community and work together to deliver results in many areas on the farm; Land Development, Permaculture Gardening, Sustainable Food, Ayani Harmony and Divine Art. Besides that we have many other staff positions and conscious exchange opportunities available. We are always striving to accommodate personalized work trade opportunities for the right situations.

Your Mystical Shamanism programs are quite unique, can you tell us more about them?

The Mystical Yoga Farm is the home for the School Yoga Institute. SYI offers Yoga Teacher Trainings 9 times a year at MYF as well as all over the world. The 200 hour level trainings are unique as we offer a transformational process guided through the Medicine Wheel, shedding our physical myf3attachments in the cycle of the Serpent, facing our inner darkness and conditioning during the cycle of the Jaguar, finding joy and bliss through understanding our calling in this life with the Hummingbird and lastly flying with perspective and strength in the cycle of the Eagle. The powerful process is guided by incredible facilitators, and supported through a group of souls called together at that time. We stay close to Mother Earth as we unfold and explore the cosmic unknown, reveal our own soul’s journey and manifest the beauty in life. This program is for those who wish to dive deeper into the healing gifts of Shamanism, Mysticism and Yoga.



To learn more about the soul of this learning center and to find out more about the volunteer opportunities and programs they offer, visit:

or email