Posts

Retreat Here Now: Six Destinations The Masses Haven’t Discovered

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Bali and Costa Rica are amazing spots for retreats, but they’re not exactly the world’s best kept secrets. For a destination that will satisfy your wanderlust tendencies and need to heal, consider checking out these less-visited locales. Whether it’s health, adventure, cuisine, or culture that’s calling, here are six spots sure to inspire transformation.

Widest Variety of Accommodations: Southern Italy

Southern Italy offers up some truly unique group accommodation options, from monasteries in Sicily, to trulli in Puglia, to caves in Matera. Points south of Rome offer good value for money; check out the mainland provinces of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Puglia plus islands Sardinia and Sicily. In many of these areas, visitors are more likely to encounter Italian tourists than throngs of foreigners. Nationwide, the Italian government supports a thriving program of state-sponsored agriturismos, or independently owned farms that open their doors to independent travelers or groups. While not generally equipped with amenities like yoga props or meditation cushions, they can make great retreat venues as they offer plenty of space for movement and mindfulness practices. Food is generally excellent, making generous use of hyper-local ingredients as a rule. Though agriturismos span the budget-to-luxury spectrum, rates are overall very reasonable and usually include breakfast and dinner.

Most Exciting Food Scene: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s cuisine is flavored by the influences of its native Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim traditions as well as those of its Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonists. The country has only been open to tourists since the civil war ended in 2009, so tourism hasn’t yet totally diluted the cultural picture; with the exception of a few beach towns, you aren’t likely to find yourself in a sea of tourists. Like many Southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka has a thriving street food scene. There’s a culture of “short eats,” or snacks available by the dozen in both restaurants and shops. Especially in a group setting, these are a great way to try small portions of different foods. Between meal times, feed your soul with a visit to one of the country’s stunning temple complexes. “Can’t miss” sites are the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Dambulla Cave Temple, and the Koneswaram Temple.

Best Island Destination: Iceland

Many retreat-goers first look toward the tropics when thinking about island destinations. However, what Iceland lacks in palm trees and sun-drenched beaches, it makes up for in glaciers, waterfalls, and rugged mountains. It’s easily accessible from both North America and Europe; there are direct flights from 25 US cities by carriers IcelandAir, Wow, Delta, and United. High season is June to August, but you can save significantly on airfare and accommodations by visiting during the colder months. Time your low season visit right and you may be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, generally visible September to April. Whether you visit in summer or winter, consider complimenting your daily retreat practices with time in nature. Iceland offers cold water diving, whale watching, glacier hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and much more. Even close to the capital, Reykjavik, you can enjoy its famous geothermal pools; two good choices are Nauthólsvík geothermal beach and the complex at Laugardalslaug.

Greatest Healing Power: Ikaria, Greece

The residents of the world’s five Blue Zones enjoy unparalleled longevity, which has been linked to lifestyle factors such as a plant-based diet, strong social and familial bonds, spiritual engagement, and moderate physical activity. Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil. They drink antioxidant-rich tea and wine, as well as goat’s milk, which is lactose-free but provides nutrients like potassium and tryptophan. Some speculate that Ikarians’ regular afternoon naps also contribute to longevity by ensuring they get enough sleep and helping keep stress at bay. The climate, with warm, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters supports outdoor tourism as well as thriving agriculture on the island. Locals grow and harvest the food they eat year round, enabling true farm-to-table living. Ikaria is well-known among Greeks for its “Panagiria,” celebrations of saints’ feast days and other religious holidays, which take place all year long, but especially during the summer. Don’t miss these unique opportunities to mix with locals while trying traditional food and wine, live music, and non-stop dancing.

Easiest Logistics: British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia invested heavily in sporting and transportation infrastructure as host of the Vancouver Winter Olympics back in 2010. Visitors today should breeze through their travels in, out, and around the province. Vancouver is both a foodie’s paradise (worth a visit even if it isn’t your final destination) and home to a major international airport. Travelers also have the option of flying to Seattle and driving north; it’s about a three hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver. British Columbia is a great spot to retreat year-round, drawing visitors to its striking coastline during summer (don’t miss Tofino) and to its alpine areas in winter (notably, ski and snowboard destination Whistler. B.C. beaches are amazing for lounging, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding while the mountains have world class skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating. It’s tempting to think of the coast as the place to be during summer months and likewise the mountains in winter. However, look for shoulder season deals on the coast and don’t underestimate mountain areas’ summer potential. Mother nature offers plenty of opportunities for multi-season activities, including hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding, and ziplining.

Most Culturally Immersive: Morocco

While Morocco’s coastal resort towns and Marrakesh (one of the country’s four imperial cities  are heavily touristed, there are many inland areas and smaller towns largely untouched by outside influences. The strong culture of hospitality in Morocco means you’re likely to be well fed and cared-for throughout your stay. The country doesn’t have many traditional retreat centers, but tented desert camps and riads, or traditional houses offering bed and breakfast-type accommodations, often cater to retreat groups. Morocco is a complete visual pleasure in that it isn’t just major tourist sites where you’ll experience breathtaking architecture. The craftsmanship that goes into the tile, plaster, metal, and woodwork of basic buildings like riads or hammams, not to mention that of mosques, palaces, and city gates, is simply stunning. Though meat-based dishes are often showcased in restaurants, most Moroccans eat meat sparingly. Fresh, raw salads and long-simmered, produced-based dips, soups, and stews often kick off meals, with vegan- and/or vegetarian-friendly couscous and tajine dishes to follow.

 

 

 

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

5 Reasons to Practice Yoga While You Travel

Versed travelers know well how difficult it can be to stick to your regular daily preferences when you go away for a few days, or even weeks. You fill those hours with as much sightseeing as possible, trying to see, taste, and feel the energy of this new destination you’re visiting. Is it, then, realistic to find the time and the patience you normally have for staying true to your yoga practice and healthy eating choices?

Surprisingly for many, it actually is quite possible and doable. In fact, if you need further convincing to continue with your yoga morning flows even when there’s an exciting tour for early birds, keep reading to inspire yourself and stay healthy and fit on the go.

Immersing yourself in the moment

Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga combines incorporating your natural breathing pace with the movements and asanas you perform. As an essential ingredient to a healthy yoga practice, breathing represents an opportunity for increased, deepened mindfulness. When you let yourself enjoy the present moment, while soothing your body and mind through controlled breathing, you can truly experience your adventure on a new level. Take some time in the morning to start your day with yoga, and it will help you retain that awareness of your surroundings and the joy of new experiences. With better awareness, you can do your best not only to rejoice in the beauty of those new localities you visit, but also to stay mindful of your carbon footprint, in an effort to become a more sustainable yoga traveler.

Connecting with the local culture

Although Asia is known as the birthplace of many notable philosophies that focus on peace and serenity, many of its local hotspots are now very fast-paced and bustling with visitors. However, when you take a trip to some of its most renowned destinations, you’ll see that Asia strives to retain its Zen essence. What’s even more relevant is that you, as a traveler, are more than welcome to become a temporary part of that community. For instance, practicing yoga in Hong Kong is still a staple of modern life, and it has become simplified with the use of apps that let you join a class you desire, no matter where you come from. That way, you can taste the true life of Hong Kong beyond the typical highlights, and experience its innate, life-loving rhythm that you’d otherwise miss in its urban eco-system.

Inspiring reflection

How many times have you caught yourself overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and authenticity of your travel destination? A yoga routine lets your mind process these events and emotions, and in fact become much more grateful for the opportunity. In the haste to see the world, we often take it for granted. Yoga helps you stay rooted in your ability to appreciate the present moment and the gift of travel, which we tend to leave behind as soon as we hit the road.

Experiencing relaxation amidst stress

As beautiful as it is, travel also often comes with a hefty dose of stress. It may be caused by anticipation, waiting for your next flight, or by the mere change of perspective. We tend to get used to a certain way of life, and leaving it all behind for a limited amount of time can be a challenge for those who like their routines. Whatever the underlying cause may be, practicing yoga can help you soothe your stress reactions and be more resilient to any other potential triggers. This is especially relevant when you visit hectic spots such as Baghdad or Cairo, where the tension is practically palpable. Yoga is a simple, yet powerful way to stay calm in such environments and see the world through a new lens.

Staying healthy and vibrant

Not every journey is a luxurious one, nor it should be. However, when you do put your body through a lot by taking exceptionally long bus rides, spending hours in sweltering heat, or trekking for hours, yoga can help alleviate the pain. Even daily sightseeing can cause sore muscles, and add to that dehydration if you don’t drink enough water, and your body will start craving a soothing yoga session.

Even though yoga in its essence is so much more than a simple stretching, devoting a fraction of your time just to unwind in comfortable stretching positions will help your muscles heal. That way, you can renew your energy for the next day’s adventure and keep the pain at bay.

 

Sophia Smith is beauty blogger, an eco-lifestyle lover and a food enthusiast. She is very passionate about natural skincare, yoga and mindful living. Sophia has contributed to a number of publications including Mother Earth Living and How to Simplify.

Yoga As a Mobile Career

Yoga teaches us about unity; not only of ourselves, but also of humankind. It teaches us to let go of attachments and appreciate impermanence. So does travel. My career in yoga has already taken me across North and Central America. Yoga can be a mobile career, and it’s one that has allowed me to move around, follow my own path and not have to be limited by staying in one place. What’s interesting is that the experiences I’ve gained keep bringing back the same lessons I go to the mat for.

Have you lived a nomadic lifestyle as a yoga teacher? Do you aspire to? Here I’ll share how yoga can help you connect with international communities and find new and exciting work opportunities. Teaching yoga is one of the best travel jobs out there!

When considering yoga as a mobile career, it’s important to note that some places will have more opportunities than others. When you visit a new area, it is beneficial to connect with the local community as they often have existing yoga teaching opportunities. Common places to find short-term yoga teaching opportunities include hostels and tourist destinations that have a “high season.” Meeting people who are vacationing and simply introducing your services can connect you to interested students. However, one of the easiest ways to connect with local communities before you even arrive is through social media, which brings us to the next tool that can help you grow a nomadic yoga business.

Online Presence

Traveling yoga teachers benefit from having a business card that clearly states their website, email and social media accounts. These tools become like a mobile yoga center, a place that students can be present, follow their teacher’s journey, and leave comments and reviews. These tools are helpful to showcase experience and professionalism for traveling teachers.

Teachers hoping to teach in any given location can use social media as an efficient way to advertise. On a recent trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I turned my one-week trip into a working vacation by simply connecting with the local community’s social media page. I taught classes at a hostel and a yoga center and advertised on the community’s social media page. Advertising this way has also been a successful practice for me when living in various communities in Mexico.

Online yoga work is another increasingly popular opportunity that is becoming more easily accessible to yoga teachers who have an existing online presence. Blog writing, live-streaming yoga classes, and pre-recorded videos all allow teachers to work from anywhere that has a reliable internet connection.

International Trainings and Trade Opportunities

Participating in international trainings and using online resources (like Yoga Trade!) allows teachers to connect to yoga communities all over the world. We never know who we are going to meet or where in the world relationships can take us. In my own experience, completing a yoga teacher training in Mexico led me to teach yoga throughout Mexico and to connect with yoga teachers living all over the world.

Work trade opportunities often open doors to many international opportunities to teach yoga online and in countries throughout the world. The positions can range from a few weeks to permanent teaching positions, many in beautiful tropical locations. Learning another language is also incredibly helpful, but it is common to find English yoga classes in many destinations. Getting out there and getting connected will often open many more doors, allowing you to continue your travels.

What kind of lifestyle are you seeking?

Yoga as a mobile career can look different for everyone depending on preferences and mobility. Some people may love to take a year to travel, live and work in as many places as possible, accepting several short-term teaching opportunities along the way. Others may prefer to live a mobile lifestyle that is ongoing and slower paced. They may choose to stay in places longer, spending time building local connections and a client base, or accepting longer-term trade opportunities. Some people have a yoga career in their home city, but would love to have regular opportunities to leave their routine for travel, growth and learning.

Yoga teaches us about community and connections. It’s a beautiful lesson that many nomadic yogis are able to connect to on a deeper level. The opportunities are out there! You just have to be open to them.

 

Molly Rae is a Sivananda is a writer at Yogapedia.com. She is a yoga teacher, mental health professional, blogger, musician and nomad. 

IG: yogapedia_com

Find Purpose With a Mindful Gap Year

Meet Co Founder of Intrepid Gap, Simone Levine. Intrepid Gap is a holistic gap year counseling service that integrates a mind-body-heart approach and builds lasting relationships with all those they work with. Read on to learn more about her inspiring story and this creative work that blends experience, passion, purpose, service, and perseverance. 

What is your definition of a gap year?  

A gap year is when you take some time during a transition in your life to focus inwards by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and into the world. Traditionally, this happens between high school and university, but it can also happen after university, retirement, or another time in your life when you are seeking to slow down, focus on your own dreams and goals, and explore the world and yourself. According to research, 2 months or longer is the recommended time to really dive in and immerse yourself in experiences that will be both enriching and meaningful, with lasting results.  

Did you personally have a gap year experience? What were the results?  

I did! After university I was unclear as to what I wanted to do with my life. Having just spent basically my entire life in a classroom studying some subjects that I enjoyed, and many that I didn’t, I knew I needed to get out into the world and learn more by doing. I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina and started out with a TEFL course. This turned into a year of me teaching English to Argentinian adults, learning Spanish, and in my down-time traveling around South America, including Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru. The results?! Well…I learned that regardless of the country or language, we are all basically in search of the same things: love, happiness, and connection. I learned how to communicate across cultures and barriers. I learned about my own innate strengths and talents. I finally got direction for how I wanted to spend my energy in my career: in cross-cultural exchange and training.   

Is it possible to integrate practicing and/or teaching yoga within a gap year?  

Absolutely! First off, yoga can happen anywhere and everywhere, whether that be through a personal practice or through immersing in a yoga teacher training or teaching job. For me, I always have a yoga mat rolled up and attached to the outside of my backpack. There are retreat centers, teacher training courses, spas, and hotels all over the world that are always seeking yoga teachers and practitioners to come and join them. I’d say that one of the most direct ways to incorporate reflection, self-actualization, and mindfulness into your gap year is by participating in some sort of yoga-inspired opportunity for at least part of your gap year!

A lot of students dream of gap years but have difficult times figuring out how to make the finances work. Any suggestions?  

I completely understand how challenging the money conversation can be. Many people believe that taking a gap year has to cost an arm and a leg, but the reality is that there are many different options depending on your budget. You can spend upwards of 50k USD on a gap year and at the other end of the spectrum you can actually make money on your gap year! One way to do a gap year on the cheap is to look for work trade opportunities (working in exchange for room and board). Work at an organic farm picking fruit, teach yoga at a retreat center, lend a helping hand at the reception of a hostel, B&B, or hotel, or be an au pair or nanny for a local family. You can see more suggestions here:  Gap Year Options That Won’t Break the Bank 

What are some resources you would recommend for someone who is interested in taking a gap year?  

The gap year industry is quickly growing, which means that there are more and more options out there each day. That said, it can be challenging to know which ones are legit and which ones not. Our best recommendation is to work with a gap year counselor who has specific, safe, and vetted program partner relationships and can walk you through the process.  However, if you want to do the research on your own, you can find a lot of free information available through the Gap Year Association

What makes Intrepid Gap unique?  

We are holistic gap year counselors — meaning we set people up with gap year placements around the world that are in line with their own individual passions, dreams, strengths, and goals. We integrate a mind-body-heart approach with every individual. Not only do we connect you with customized, vetted, and meaningful experiences around the world, but we also support you emotionally from start to finish. Most gap year counselors just set you up with a placement and then send you on your way. Taking a gap year can be challenging both physically and emotionally, and we are here to guide you through the process in order to make it meaningful, intentional, and exponentially worth your while. In addition, we are environmentally conscious, socially aware, and culturally sensitive.  

What are some of the most inspiring gap year opportunities you have heard of lately?  

Good question! There are so many options and each person will be inspired by different experiences.  However, that being said, my personal favorites are:

-Teach yoga at an amazing retreat center through yogatrade.com

-Monitor lions, hyenas, leopards and mega herbivores (elephants and white and black rhinos) at a national park in South Africa, as well as contribute towards anti-poaching initiatives and collect data to assess the health of the park ecosystem.

-Volunteer at an intentional community in Southern India with building maintenance, renewable energy, primary and secondary education, village outreach, architecture, organic farming, animal care, and more.

-Intern along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia doing admin, writing, social media, and multimedia projects to conserve the reef.

-Backpack through the Andes mountains with a small group while learning about the outdoors and yourself.

Take your gap year to the next level and visit us at INTREPIDGAP.COM

 

 

Simone Levine is the Chief of Endless Opportunities and Lead Counselor at Intrepid Gap. She is an explorer, a photographer, a student and teacher of yoga, a group facilitator, lover of the ocean, and a believer in our capacity as a human race to create positive change in the world. After working in the gap year and experiential education industries for her entire adult life she decided it was time to turn her own dream into a reality (start a business doing what lights her fire!), and there was born Intrepid Gap.

FB:  intrepidgap

IG:  intrepidgap

 

A Yoga and Surfing Adventure Story

I have always shared a sentiment with close friends about how yoga and surfing simultaneously saved and ruined my ‘life’. A shift in perspective changes it all into a grand adventure story.

Back in 2014, I had every ‘thing’. Great job, beautiful house and loving relationship. At the age of 25, I was set…..Well, so, that’s what everyone thought. Living in the big city, I would find myself craving to be out in nature and next to the sea. As I talked with friends and family they said, “Jodi, C’mon, you need to be realistic.” – As a dreamer, this word killed me. – I believe people telling me to be realistic pushed me further to listen to that little voice inside. My intuition was telling me to search for something real. With no clue what I was looking for, I knew I had to follow that feeling. At the time I kept contemplating, do I give up my love for my dream, or give up my dream for love?

I opted for the first one.

To say it was easy would be a lie. With many tears shed and a heavy heart, I was on my way, soon realising that less was more. I was struggling with my health at the time due to irregular eating, sleeping and flying patterns. A trusted friend had approached me and told me a surf camp in Sri Lanka was looking for a yoga instructor. Having already trained as a yoga teacher the previous year, I decided to take the next step. After some serious soul searching and contemplation, I quit my air hostessing job of five years and jumped on the opportunity. My next chapter began.

Guiding yoga classes in the mornings and having all day to surf in the tropical waters of Sri Lanka made me realise that I was on the right track. I found a peace and serenity, which further fuelled my desire to follow this new lifestyle. After five months, the season was coming to an end and I was not sure what was in store next…The security of my old life had given way to something far more unpredictable. Scary yes, but what would an adventure be without such feelings?

One thing was for sure. I knew I wanted to continue this path of sharing my love for yoga. The UK was calling as I had a magical crew of friends down in Cornwall that I had met many moons ago in Costa Rica, so over the pond I hopped. Sharing my yoga classes on the golden sands of the Atlantic coast was nothing but fresh and invigorating. This is where I met my current partner who shares my passion for surfing, camping, nature and adventure.

We planned a ‘trip of a lifetime’.

Travelling down the coast of Central America. Starting in LA and making our way down to Costa Rica over four months on a shoestring budget. Always remembering less was more. My dream had become my reality, with meeting so many authentic characters and sharing it all with my partner in crime.

Having spent another lush summer in the UK, fast forward to where I am now – the in-house yoga instructor at Surf Star Morocco – A surf camp that embodies their love for the surf, nature and life. It’s The enchanting Morrocan land of the right-hand point breaks. My daily routine consists of guiding a morning flow to wake the surfers up to hit the waves all day then taking them through a yin/restorative class in the evenings to rejuvenate their bodies & minds for the following day. I am currently in sync with mama nature, rising with the sun and tucked in by 8 pm most nights. Fuelling my body with the fresh food made with love that the camp prepares daily. So, the moral of my story is create your own reality and don’t listen to others when they tell you that you need to be “realistic”. As for me, there is nothing more real than feeling the wind on my face and the waves on my toes. Listen to your intuition and follow your dharma & remember that the best ‘things’ in life are not ‘things’.

Knowing that the path of Yoga has brought me around the world, from teaching on an eco-farm in Costa Rica to the sublime Moroccan coastline. It has physically opened me up and mentally allowed me to overcome insecurities & vulnerabilities of being open to love as it’s all around us and within each and everyone one of us. I am forever grateful to be shredding the radical!!!

 

 

 

Jodi is a yogini from Canada that started her adventures into this trade from Yandara, Mexico. She is currently travelling the globe in the pursuit of waves and sharing her path of yoga. You can find her here on FB here:

wavestrengthyoga

 

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

You Are The Writer Of Your Own Life

It has been such an incredibly beautiful journey with many lessons and blessings along the path.

 

This journey began back in Ireland after returning home for nearly 2 years, my soul was longing for something else, somewhere else and I wasn’t too sure what. I just knew I needed to go. It was almost like a ticking in my heart saying now is the time. The only thing I could do was listen to that calling and follow my heart; “It’s time to spread your wings and fly Clare.”

 

On one of our random sunny days in Ireland, I headed for Kilkenny Castle and went straight to the gardens to connect with Mother Earth, I got my laptop out and started to apply for yoga jobs on Yoga Trade around the world. Seeing which places I felt energetically drawn to at the time. Boom! Done, dusted, Sorted. I left it in the hands of the universe and waited knowing in my heart I would be leaving very soon. My family and friends thought it couldn’t be possible to move somewhere in 3 weeks without a job and somewhere to live. I trusted though…my soul knew.

 

A few days later I received a phone call from the UK. I moved there 3 weeks later! Aww Wee!

 

Scotland was so beautiful, almost like taking a step back in time, I knew I had been there before, there was a strange familiarity about the place perhaps in a past life. I was exactly where I needed to be. I spent a few weeks working, connecting with people and spending time with the elementals in parks and beaches. My heart still felt saddened though, something was missing… Yoga in some parts of the western world was becoming more money based instead of love based. Humanity is becoming addicted to technology, asana, and the outside world. We are creating insecurity and losing our self worth instead of being present with each other, finding the magic within coming from a place of love, healing, connection and safety. When we come from a place of love the abundance will flow.

 

One day I was having a conversation with a friend and I just said I don’t think this is for me, I blurted out…“MY SOUL IS BROKEN.”

 

Wow… who said that and where did it come from? (These were powerful words and I didn’t know to what extent at the time)! I surprised myself with the words that came out of my own mouth. It was a relief though and I felt this beautiful sense of peace wash over me. I felt happy and light again. That was my catalyst for CHANGE.

 

“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.”

 

I welcomed transformation into my life. Once I acknowledged how I felt and accepted it, a whole new world started to open up. My energetic vibration lifted higher and therefore I created new energy pathways to be revealed to me.

 

I was asked to facilitate a workshop with another teacher, “Awaken Your Inner Goddess” two days later in the most amazing studio in Edinburgh. My heart jumped with joy and that little voice inside roared YES, I WOULD LOVE TO! Again I was wondered who said that. I didn’t even have time to think about it in my head, did I know enough, what would I teach? It meant I was moving into the unknown, taking it one step at a time, allowing my heart to lead the way. Change can both be little scary, very exciting and totally worth it. I was a self employed yoga teacher teaching my truth and everyone’s truth is different and I totally respect that. I connected with the most amazing and loving souls, learning and growing from each other with plenty of fun and giggles along the way, I was finding my love for yoga again.

 

I was ready to move into my new home. My heart started to do that thing again though, you know the ticking thing before I left Ireland. I went and sat near the biggest tree in the meadows that day and began meditating hoping to pick up some inner wisdom and clarity from the tree. I did get the odd intrigued look from a few people…either they wanted to join in on my peaceful looking meditation or else just thought I was totally nuts.

 

I closed my eyes and tuned in, there was something else coming, there was something more I had to learn and it wasn’t here, this was just the start of the story. I was feeling a bit panicked as I was meant to be moving into my new home and decisions needed to be made soon.

 

It was full moon that night so I went out to the park and did my full moon ritual, writing down what I wanted to let go of and burning the paper as a way of releasing it to the ethers.

 

I sat on a bench and my conversation with Mother Moon that evening went something like.. .”I really like it here but why do I have this feeling. If I’m not meant to be here, something better happen will soon and when I say soon I mean before tomorrow night because if I move into my new place, then I’m not leaving for the next 6 months.” Feeling I needed to be firm so she knew my seriousness and of course having so much love and gratitude in my heart at the same time. (I really didn’t think much could happen in one day though, come on, I was really testing the universe here.)

 

In bed that night I awoke in the middle of the night, I leaned over and picked up my phone to check the time. I had an email on the screen. “Possible New Opportunities” it read. I opened it, it was an email from INDIA asking if I would be interested in a Yoga Therapist position in an Ayurveda Hospital in Kerala. What the….! The excitement! I emailed back straight away. I must have applied for this job online before I got here…although I really don’t remember applying for it. We organised a Skype call for an interview the following evening, it just felt right in my heart. They emailed back a day later to say they would love to offer me the position if I was still interested. That inner voice popped out again, YES PLEASE! I could see this was becoming a bit of a pattern and I had no control over it, my heart and the universe were leading me and there was nothing I could do only surrender and trust.

 

They could see the bigger picture.

 

It was time to say see you later to everyone in Scotland for the time being. I’m forever grateful to my yoga family there that showed me the light again, reminding me of that beautiful, powerful and wise divine goddess energy always present within me, guiding me on my path.

 

I accepted the job, packed up my car and left the next day to head back to The Emerald Isle to apply for my visa. India here I come.

 

My conscious self was still a little in disbelief, I was offered a job to go teach yoga in the Motherland. This is a yogi’s dream come true. Wow! Did I really manifest this and was it really happening? Such Magic! The gratitude in my heart, I felt just completely at peace, loved, safe, protected and guided.

 

I often think if I didn’t honor my heart that time and continued on with my broken soul, my disheartened spirit, if I resisted change and didn’t take the chance where would I be now….? This was such a valuable lesson going forward for me to always be true to myself and speak my truth with a courageous heart.

 

I try to apply this in all areas of my life now, it’s not always easy as I am only human after all. As much as I can, I live in the heart, I express how I really feel with kind and honest words, look for the blessings in every lesson experienced here, to be my true authentic self no matter what and remembering to always have fun along the way.

 

If I’m not honoring all those things, I’m hiding the true me and well then, what’s the point? I’m living a life that doesn’t truly make me happy, I’m not accepting or loving myself and may miss out in the opportunities and possibilities that are for my Soul Purpose and healing which is leading me to our over all goal in this life, that one thing we are all looking for and need in this world…. LOVE. When we raise our vibration to love, we send out an energetic field that affects those around us that we care about, healing one heart at a time. And with that Heart energy, it has a positive Ripple Effect healing humanity. We really do have the power to change OUR world. You are the writer of your own life!

 

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

 

 

The Butterfly Yogini

Clare Fitzgerald

Founder and Director at Solas – Heart And Soul Of Who We Are

Instagram: Butterfly_yogini

Love. Inspire. Grow. Heal. Transformation.

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

 

A Yoga Work Trade in Hawaii

Aloha friends!  This is my review of the retreat centre I worked at and my experience of living like a local on a work trade (spoiler: it was a dream come true!).

 

Hawaii has been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember…active volcanoes, spinner dolphins and being able to see the Milky Way being some of the many reasons why.

 

When an opportunity popped up on Yoga Trade at a yoga retreat centre on the Big Island, I didn’t waste a moment. I applied to be their resident yoga instructor and within a month I was on my way.

 

 

The Kirpal Ecological and Meditation Centre (KMEC)

 

Location

 

This lovely little retreat centre is on the Big Island of Hawaii in an area called Pahoa. Since this side of the island is in the shadow of the volcano (Kilauea) it tends to be the more rainy/cloudy side, but as a result it is so lush and rugged it feels like you’re in the Jungle Book.

 

The volcano is very active, which has also put people off developing the land here. In fact, the volcano was erupting a steady flow of lava into the sea during my stay. We went to go and look at the surface flow and poke it with sticks (and do handstands on it!).

 

Another great thing about being on this side of the island is the clear night skies. Lack of building developments = no light pollution = amazing stargazing! When wandering back to my cabin at night I would look up at the stars and feel so grateful for the opportunity to be staying there.

 

Accommodation

 

There are about 10 log cabins for guests spaced out over the property. They are basic but if you’re a fan of adventure and being at one with nature then you will love them. You’ll fall asleep at night to the croaks of the coqui frogs and the sound of the ocean in the distance. It’s truly magical.

 

Food

 

The work trade volunteers at KMEC cook breakfast and dinner in the community kitchen, which guests can choose to have at an extra cost. Everything is vegan, gluten-free, organic and DELICIOUS!

 

Breakfast is fairly simple buffet with gluten-free cereals, fruit and teas/coffees. The dinners, however – another story! We had a chef staying with us who is now interning at a fancy restaurant in New York – she was so talented and everything she made was to die for. Some sample meals we had:

 

  • Vegan tacos and chilli
  • Jackfruit BBQ “pulled pork”
  • Quinoa crust pizza

 

And with a beautiful communal dining area, everything tasted ten times better.

 

Sustainability

 

The property is off-the-grid meaning everything runs off solar power, propane or a backup generator. A rainwater catchment system provides filtered water for everything – showers, taps, washing machines. During spells of dry weather this meant we ran out of water a couple of times and had to call in reinforcements to fill up the water tanks.

 

Some of my time was spent harvesting fruits from the gardens for our meals, which I really enjoyed. Any food or garden waste is made into compost that we used to fertilize the gardens.

 

Yoga and Meditation

 

Guests staying at KMEC can attend morning yoga classes in the lovely yoga hale for $10, taught by the resident yoga teacher at the time.

 

At the bottom of the gardens you’ll find a Balinese meditation pavilion, the pride and joy of Len, the owner of the property. The parts were all flown in from Bali and blessed by his Guru. There’s a mini library in there, mostly the teachings of Master Kirpal Singh, the meditation guru after whom the centre was named.

 

Life as a Work Trader

 

There are usually about 15 volunteers staying at KMEC at any one time, plus two managers who are full time employees. I was sharing a bunk bed in a teensy cabin with one other volunteer. This made me a little claustrophobic at first but actually we were rarely in our cabins apart from right before bed so I had no trouble with personal space issues. We also became BFFs so never wanted to be apart anyway!

 

We pretty much lived outdoors, which is such a wonderful experience. Our cabin had a screen as a window to keep bugs out but apart from that you feel like you’re just living at one with nature. Even in the bathroom, when you shower or sit on the loo you’re looking out into the jungle.

 

The jobs you can do as a work trader at KMEC include maintenance, gardening, managing the reception, cooking, cleaning and yoga teaching. In exchange for your accommodation and free daily yoga, volunteers are asked to work 25 hours per week and pay $150 for food. I did a mixture of yoga teaching, housekeeping, working on reception and a bit of cooking for my ohana. A typical working day (5 days a week) looked like this:

 

7:30 – 9: teach yoga

9 – 10: breakfast

10 – 1: housekeeping reception/cook lunch

1 – 2: lunch

2 – 5: yoga practice, read, beach time

6:30: dinner + relax

 

As work trades are so common here, I felt part of a big community, almost like I was living like a local. The same people would pick me up when I was hitch hiking, I’d see people I knew at Uncle Robert’s market or at Kehena beach for the Sunday drum circle. I loved this way of traveling compared to just staying in hostels and doing touristy things everyday. Not only was it MUCH cheaper, but we got to find out about sites and activities that tourists would never see, simply because we were with people who live on the island permanently and knew all the secrets.

 

“Ohana” means family.

 

I know it’s inevitable to become close with people you’re living and working with, but there is definitely something special about the people at KMEC!

 

Even though we were experiencing some of the most unique, out-of-this-world activities on a weekly basis (active lava flows, wild horses, whale watching) it’s the smaller, everyday things that will stay in my memory forever.

 

Like chasing cockroaches out of my cabin with my roomie almost on a nightly basis. Or hitchhiking 3 hours across the volcano crammed in the back of a truck with 2 other volunteers. Or singing around a campfire with the whole crew.

 

I could go on forever, but suffice to say it was one of the happiest times in my life so far.

Teaching Yoga at KMEC

 

Teaching yoga every single day at KMEC allowed me to develop my teaching skills to another level. Each class was a mix of guests and other volunteers, which gave me the experience of watching some students progress each day, but also the variety and challenge of always having new students in the class. In the afternoons I’d often help my friends work on specific asanas so I also had plenty of experience teaching in a one-to-one setting.

 

With the experience I got at KMEC (plus several other Yoga Trades I did throughout the year) I found it much easier to get teaching positions at studios when I got back home.

 

Final Thoughts

 

My time at KMEC was truly one of the happiest times of my life. Everyone who passes through remarks on just how special the energy is here, guests and staff alike. This side of the island has so many unique things to see and do and KMEC is the perfect base from which to access all of them, whilst being a unique experience in its own right.

 

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of this special community and I truly mean it when I say: Big Island, I’ll be back.

 

Mahalo for reading everyone!

 

Originally published here:

ashtangayogagirl.com/yoga-work-trade-hawaii/

 

 

 

Natalie is a traveling yoga teacher and blogger from London. Her quest to delve deeper into the Ashtanga tradition has led her all over the world, from India to Hawaii and Indonesia. She documents her adventures on her yoga blog, Ashtanga Yoga Girl.

IG : @ashtangayogagirl