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Postcards From the Mat: Real Deal on Home Yoga Practice

Practicing yoga alone is an amazing adventure. There are aspects of home yoga practice which are so delightful. A controlled environment that you can choose yourself, whatever temperature, music, incense, lighting, tempo, sequence, pace, theme and style your little heart desires. And then there are some aspects of practicing solo that are arduous, roadblocks, speed bumps, detours and distractions on your path to Bliss. They too are a part of practice and prove to be fascinating obstacles and edges to work with as well.

Before I begin my yoga practice, I take inventory and scan myself internally. I feel two tensions: one is the tension of procrastination tugging, a Tamasic state of inertia begging to stay inert, “let’s just check the phone one more time” or “how about another tea first?” The other tension is one of distracted excitement, a bubbling up of energy that has yet to be directed. It rattles and bangs against my nerves feeling trapped by lack of expression and erratically pulsing with pure Rajasic restlessness. And let’s be honest, perhaps there’s a little too much morning green tea or coffee percolating through my human form? There are stories of thoughts forming and whirling, I observe myself engaging in a dramatic mental dilemma as to whether or not I’ll be able to overcome my laziness and/or find the ability to center, focus and calm down. This is all in my mind.

Neither of these two energies feels like a friend, an ally, a tool, or a supportive sense of assistance in my effort to get on the mat and do my thing. It feels like a struggle, and even a fight to get to the mat. If I examine this more closely, I recognize the underlying element of fear. Fear comes up, the fear that initiates the biochemical fight or flight response in my glands, blood, bones, heart, nervous system. All of this resistance starts just because I began thinking about getting on the yoga mat. Just the idea of a little discipline, effort, delving into my yoga practice is met with so much resistance. The hilarious cosmic joke is that I absolutely love, adore, and cannot imagine living without yoga! I am not sure any of this makes sense, and that is okay because yoga has taught me to live with paradoxes.

I make the tea. I drink the tea. I wash dishes. I wash my face. I apply coconut oil to my skin to wake it up and give warmth with gentle massage to my arms, chest, face and if there’s plenty of time to my spine, legs and feet as well. Maybe I turn on music. Maybe I film my yoga session just so I can replay it later and re-witness/remember the practice from an outside perspective. Chant a few prayers, and/or take a moment to dedicate the merits of my practice somehow, maybe just a couple conscious, sacred breaths to begin.

And it is time. I sit on the mat. I breathe. I arrive. I center. I notice. Wow. Okay, here we go, one breath at a time. Within minutes I become absorbed with sensations of stretching, “Ah yes, this is right. This feels so good. I love yoga.” Next come the runaway thought trains. I observe the process of my mind getting on runaway thought trains, followed by getting caught on tracks to the past and/or future. “Oh no, where did you go? This is hopeless. I can’t. Just go get a latte.” Finally, a deeper layer of tension disperses and the ease of a tender, forgiving, spacious, loving awareness is available in the present moment. You are here. Good job coming back, to be here – now. Why not stay? Here, in the now?

It is so lovely in the present, back to breath, back to arriving, and actually, directly experiencing feeling more centered. Now I’m watching thoughts go by like leaves in a stream. I am in the flow. I am the flow. The sensations of stretching in the body are feeling easier, sweeter, hypnotic and expansive as I continue to meld mind, body and breath. It’s not that I won’t go through more rounds of distracting thoughts, but I won’t grasp or push at them (so much). Their power to hook me will fade, meanwhile every other sense in my being becomes more awakened, enlivened and charged with prana. A state of equanimity is being cultivated with the practice of acceptance. This creates the right environment for body, mind and soul to combine forces as yoga instruments where incredible, mystical union can, and does occur.

Now I am dropping deep into savasana. It feels like a return home. It is the place I can clearly remember the beauty and special gift of this precious life, the blessings of this incarnation. I realize to have a life is such a privilege and an honor. I have been on a yoga adventure and now I remember what it is like to have calmness pervade the space between my cells. Stillness. My mind is clear, my body’s energy has been tempered, balanced with both stimulation and relaxation and it’s time to watch myself resting and not doing. Aaaaaahhhhh. Ommmmmmm.

Waking up from savasana, is always like, “Dang, it worked again!” I feel the genuine and authentic gratitude and joy for yoga, for my life, for everything, for every little thing. It’s a magical feeling. It is always there, but it gets covered up, blurred and even lost in the shuffle of all the other things in life that are also real and true, and the amount of information/stimulation that our senses are subject to on a daily basis. This state of harmony and knowing contentment is Sattvic. There are no tricks, nor lasting shortcuts to this state. Yoga practice takes you there as a simple result of practice. It is clarity, and a state of non-attachment that allows us to be with things as they are, without attraction or repulsion, and including the paradoxes. We feel connected, and a part of rather than the pain of separation. Even the ability to accept that the harmonious Sattvic state will not last permanently is a deeper layer of non-attachment. That way we do not cause suffering by clinging to the sweet feeling. Impermanence also applies to the Tamasic and Rajasic states, in fact all three of the Gunas are constantly, dynamically in play with one another from the gross to the subtle. Our goal as yogis is to be able to simply observe the Gunas, acting on the Gunas.

If the Gunas are unknown or new to you, or you have never quite understood their meaning, it is highly recommended to spend a little time researching and delving into the study of the Gunas. Two great resources for insights and wisdom are:

-Richard Freeman’s book, The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind

https://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/books

-Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita

https://stephenmitchellbooks.com/translations-adaptations/bhagavad-gita/

And in the spirit of staying true to your yoga practice, whether you practice by yourself, or with others, I will happily share the best advice for yoga success that Richard Freeman would give us students at the end of just about every class or offering. He would say, with a big smile, “Practice every day. Practice all day.”

Good Luck Yogis and Yoginis and Practice On!


 

Aimee Joy Nitzberg has been an avid lover of yoga since her first classes back in Boulder, CO in 2000. She knew she had a problem when she was skipping out of work to go to yoga class. She decided to plunge in, quit her job and set off on an incredible adventure which has included daily practice and working full-time in the yoga field for almost 20 years.  This opened up great opportunities to study with extraordinary, masterful teachers and to travel around the world.  She loves sharing yoga as a way of serving and honoring the grace of all the gifts that she has received, and as one of her favorite ways to connect and share with others. Currently, she resides in South Lake Tahoe with her mountain man and spends as much time outdoors as possible with their yogi doggie.

Permaculture, Pachamama, Privilege: Deep Ecology of Wellness

Getting off the boat at Deep Ecology of Wellness, we were greeted with freshly cut coconuts, a perfect beginning to what would be an immersive, insightful, and inspiring week.

Article Photography by: Ashley Drody

I was one among thirty participants and ten teachers who spent a week living out the Deep Ecology of Wellness retreat organized by Yoga Trade at Punta Mona. The Punta Mona Center for Regenerative Design and Botanical Studies is an off-the-grid permaculture farm and educational retreat center on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Launched in 1997, it is considered one of the most established and bio-diverse permaculture farms in Central America, with over 300 varieties of fruit and nut trees, as well as over 150 medicinal plants. Punta Mona’s mission is to practice and teach a simpler, regenerative way of living.

For most of us during this gathering, it was our first immersion into a permaculture-based lifestyle. As we learned during the workshops, permaculture is a holistic design system for creating sustainable human settlement and food production systems. It combines three key aspects:

1. An ethical framework
2. Understandings of how nature works
3. A design approach

Applying the permaculture principles to human relationships, communities, social systems, and networks is known as social permaculture. According to our teachers, social permaculture can be considered “the art of designing beneficial relationships” and includes the interrelationship among humans, plants, animals and the Earth. It thus comes with no surprise that permaculture stems from a strong emphasis on indigenous wisdom regarding how to live lightly on the planet.

At Punta Mona, every day began with yoga. A lovely tree-enclosed yoga shala housed our sessions allowing us to not only connect with our breath and bodies but also the natural environment around us.

In addition to fantastic yoga instructors, we were blessed with an incredible line up of passionate and wise workshop facilitators. I share a few of the highlights below:

– Founder of Punta Mona, Stephen Brooks, shared with us his excitement for fruit trees and knowledge of the jungle during tours around the land.


– Lala Palmieri, herbalist and co-leader of the Village Witches gave us an eye-opening tour of herbs, plants, flowers and their medicinal properties.


– Co-founder of the Permaculture Action Network, Ryan Rising, gave us the 101 on permaculture design, principles, and ethics. He also facilitated an “asset mapping” activity where we quickly realized how many of our needs can easily met by others in our communities and networks.


– Self-proclaimed Mother Nature representative and Village Witch, Sarah Wu, guided us on an insightful shamanic journey exploring deep ecology.


YogaSlackers power duo Sam and Raquel not only taught us how to do yoga on an inch-wide piece of fabric but also shared their tips on conscious-traveling as modern-day nomads.


Jess Taing, an experienced Kirtan teacher, facilitated a restorative mantra singing circle.


– Sustainable-surfer, yogini, and writer activist, Tara Ruttenberg, catalyzed us into deep introspection during an open dialogue on the important topic of privilege and responsibility.

Mary Tilson, an international retreat leader, helped us explore the complex topics of addiction, trauma, and ways to recovery.

– Bodyworker Lynn Alexander led us through a powerful breathwork workshop, in which many of us were able to deeply connect with our energy bodies and release old emotional experiences.


– Yoga Trade co-founder, Erica Hartnick, showered us with her love and visionary ideas, in particular during our opening and closing ceremonies.

Incredibly, the wisdom-sharing did not stop there. Mealtimes turned into fascinating discussions during which many of the participants shared their own expertise and experiences. For instance, I learned more about Ayurveda during one dinner conversation than during my entire lifetime.

In one of our final sessions, a question came up regarding how to take back and implement all that we had learned during this week into our daily lives. I share three main take-aways:

1) Privilege and Responsibility

There is no doubt that those of us lucky enough to travel for pleasure have been granted privileges in life that a majority of the world’s population does not share. The question is how do we respond to that privilege. Shame and guilt, which some privileged people often feel, are closed-hearted emotions that do not help anyone. It is okay to take time to mourn the suffering of others, but then it is critical to move into radical acceptance. It is not our fault that we have privileges, but it is our responsibility to be aware of them and use them for the betterment of the world. As Tara shared in her workshop, one way to do this is through mapping our privileges to better understand them and how they play out in our lives as travelers. You can read more about this in her recent post.

2) Asset Mapping

To improve individual and family well-being requires communities, neighborhoods and their residents to be involved as co-producers of their own well-being. Everyone has something to contribute and we need everyone’s “gifts and assets”. Using the principles of Asset-Based Community Development and asset mapping we can help create powerful community partnerships to build healthier, safer and stronger neighborhoods and communities. At the most basic level, you can carry this out in your community by bringing people together and asking them three questions: What assets do you have? What skills do you have? What do you need? Then have people share and see what needs can be met by the skills or assets of others! You can also follow a more detailed process using this toolkit.

3) Healing Through Herbs

Herbal medicine traces its roots back to earliest civilizations. While conventional medicine often treats symptoms of acute illnesses, herbalism fosters preventative health and addresses the roots of chronic health problems. With little effort, time, or money, you can grow our own herbs, make your own medicines, and care for yourselves and families. Why not start your own herbal garden today?! See a list of medicinal herbs that you can grow here.

 

Naima Ritter:  My mission is to help people deeply connect with themselves, with others, and with the universal flow of life. As a Conscious Living Coach, I help other people reawaken their inner sparks and embark on journeys towards tapping the full potential of their lives, in particular through seven levels of awareness and action around grounding your energy, sacred sexuality, BEing/DOing, loneliness, conscious communication, positive thinking, and spirituality/higher purpose. After completing a Masters in International Development Management at the London School of Economics, I co-founded Conscious Co-Living, a consultancy that supports the development of co-living spaces built around connection, authentic relationships, and harmony with the natural world. Born in Guatemala and raised in the USA to Costa Rican and German parents, I consider myself a multi-cultural child of the universe. When not deliberating on the state of the world, I can often be found dancing, acro-yogaing or trying to plan a much needed global drumbeat movement revolution. 

CONNECT:

Finding Importance Thru Simplicity

Lessons from a Yoga Trade Experience:

Simplicity is one of the most underrated concepts. In these moments of simplicity, I’ve felt more whole, than ever before. These moments where life feels easy to surrender to. Maybe it’s the stars, without the city lights. Maybe it’s the people, the conversations, maybe the sunsets, the river, the rain. Possibly a combination of it all. This environment that I am unexpectedly falling so deeply in love with, is providing me a chance to shift focus. It is allowing me to better understand what is truly important. We all have 24 hours in a day, how we choose to utilize this time, is subjective. At Finca Bellavista, I spend my time doing yoga, meditating, practicing Spanish con los Ticos, journaling, reading, learning about the animals, plants, and observing everything. The simplicity in my days has provided me space to be clear with my intentions.

From the moment that I arrived to Finca Bellavista, I was immediately greeted by the music of the jungle and a sense of tranquility. My lifestyle that I have chosen the past few years, is typically on the move. With that, it is easy to get caught up on looking forward to what
adventure / destination is next. For once, I am here and present. I am not looking at what is to come, I am SIMPLY BEING. I am allowing my bare feet to touch the earth. I am allowing myself to swing, in a hammock, and not feel as though I am wasting time. I am allowing myself to be fully immersed in this experience. This opportunity, is one I will never forget. I have been in Costa Rica now for two weeks, and can’t fathom the fact that I was hesitant about taking this venture. I was only given a few days’ notice to get to Costa Rica after I had received the position via Yoga Trade. I was forced with an impulse decision to make. Either stay out West and continue to ski, or take a risk, and plunge into the unknown. It can become very overwhelming to try to figure out every small detail of the “how’s,” so I didn’t. Instead, just like I remind my students, I reminded myself; to just breathe, relax, and go with it. I often hear others tell me how lucky I am, to live this life full of adventure or work cool jobs. For me, that is not my motive. It’s all about the simple things, spreading the fundamental values that we are taught from a young age. The golden rule; treat others the way you want to be treated. Making others happy, will make you the happiest. Love. Unconditionally. The gift of love is the greatest gift we can give. Lastly, being of service, because playing small does not serve the world. I hope that approaching life with these values will move others towards their own dreams.

You can follow along with my journey on Instagram @angela__fina if you wish!

Work Trade, Travel and Yoga

Work Trade is an incredible way to experience the world. Whether you head off to an exotic destination, or simply make a new connection in place closer to home, you are opening up to growth. It can be a chance to get a little (or a lot) out of your comfort zone and explore your edges both externally and internally, especially through the lens of a yoga practitioner.

There are really practical reasons to explore volunteering, work trade and paid positions to extend the length of a trip as well as open access to a variety of destinations. Plus work trade is also an incredible opportunity to delve deep into your yoga practice, to gain new lessons and reflections through selfless service, karma yoga and mindfulness. It’s one thing to visit a place as a traveler, tourist, an outsider of some sort; and it is very different to actually slow down, spend time and actually “be” in a place.

Expand your horizons

Meet people from different parts of the world, different countries, and a variety of cultures. This exposure leads to improving your social skills, and the ability to speak and connect with strangers. You’ll grow as an individual, learn many new things as well as form some very genuine bonds with these new friends.

Acquire experience in the field

Taking advantage of opportunities to do work trade can really boost your confidence and ease the performance pressure if you’re newer, or brand new, to your field. Learning and growing while actually doing the work is incredibly valuable, it equates to on-the-job-training. This adds a great deal to your career and life path with expertise and a great set of skills.

Get out of your bubble

Make new contacts. See what else is out there, network and mingle with new faces and places. It is a wonderful thing to feel supported and connected in a community, and it is equally fantastic to go out into the world and discover community everywhere. You will be inspired by the people you meet, and that stimulates genuine energy and creativity in your life. You might find yourself surprised at the new interests, skill sets and influences that are discovered along the way, and you will no doubt meet people that will become part of your lifelong story.

Better sense of accomplishment

One thing about volunteering is you often find yourself liberated to do the best that you can, and not to overthink, or add anxiety to your work. There is a great sense of contributing, and that is one of the greatest motivators. It leads to job satisfaction and pride in your work in a way that allows the work to flow through you, unencumbered.

Only way to do it is in person

When you stay somewhere long enough to get to know your surroundings, and can tap into a sense of actually living there, your perspective changes. You begin to see some of the same people daily and form relationships, as well as have the opportunity to get to know the local food, culture and landscapes. It feels more intimate to be a part of a place rather than to only pass through. And you’ll often find yourself having actual free time to live life, rather than feeling caught in the intensity of busy-ness and daily grind of your normal routines and stressors.

As you take advantage of evolving, growing and receiving wisdom from opening up it shapes your yoga practice. Being immersed in the present moment, fostering the ability to pay attention, concentrate and develop more awareness all add incredible fuel for igniting your yoga fires! This can manifest in witnessing both the challenge, and liberation, of shedding old layers of thought, habits, and patterns – which is priceless. What an incredible call to practice yoga on the daily? Plus you get to give back a little piece of your heart and soul in the exchange, and receive direct experience in the art of karma yoga. Karma yoga is living your life as your path. Open up to your life as a spiritual being having a human experience – ALL OVER THE WORLD!

Photography by: Lanny Headrick

 

 

Aimee Joy Nitzberg has been an avid lover of yoga since her first classes back in Boulder, CO in 2000. She knew she had a problem when she was skipping out of work to go to yoga class. She decided to plunge in, quit her job and set off on an incredible adventure which has included daily practice and working full-time in the yoga field for almost 20 years.  This opened up great opportunities to study with extraordinary, masterful teachers and to travel around the world.  She loves sharing yoga as a way of serving and honoring the grace of all the gifts that she has received, and as one of her favorite ways to connect and share with others. Currently, she resides in South Lake Tahoe with her mountain man and spends as much time outdoors as possible with their yogi doggie.

Diving In: The Yoga Trade Journey

I am not certain who introduced me to Yoga Trade, although I wish I knew so I could write them a thank you letter. It was shortly after my first 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Montezuma, Costa Rica at Anamaya Resort. “OMG…a website filled with yoga teaching jobs all over the world, holy crap!” My mind was blown. Moving forward, I spent my evenings scrolling through hundreds of volunteer opportunities that awaited me.

I began my Yoga Trade journey in Ubud, Bali, without a plan. I was unhappy working back home and took the leap impulsively. I blame the Full Moon for my beginners luck since I literally got the first job I emailed. The job opportunity was at a retreat center in Bali, at one of the nicest resorts in Ubud. I spent the next two weeks living like a princess and getting paid to do it. It was one of the most magical two weeks of my life.

After the Bali retreat center gig, I was back on Yoga Trade. This is where my Yoga Trade journey gets interesting. The bar had been set for me with this first experience, so I had high standards to say the least. Future Yoga Traders: don’t be picky. There are pros and cons with every job opportunity and every opportunity will be much different from the one before. Considering I had my own private luxury room and bathroom, my standards were now at a certain level. Unfortunately, this held me back from potential opportunities. After the hundreds of dollars I spent on food and accommodation in Ubud while searching for my dream job, I finally realized, I needed to get a job asap and it didn’t matter if I had to share a room.

After a few weeks I finally found my next position theu Yoga Trade at H20 Yoga and Meditation on Gili Air, Lombok. It was such a relief to not pay for accommodation and was totally worth living in a dorm. The other yoga instructors and I would take turns taking photos of ourselves teaching our classes and I gained legit Instagram photos of me teaching. I used my free time to work on my website, projects, and social media.

After my time at H20 Yoga and Meditation, I stumbled upon an ad on Yoga Trade for a Reiki + Yoga retreat with Jaclyn Keoh on Gili Air and made another connection! The fact that I was already familiar with the island and just a boat ride away put me ahead of the game. Apply to jobs closest to you and show up. Ads on Yoga Trade receive emails shortly after an opportunity is posted. Making yourself stand out and showing up is the best way.

After the retreat, I flew into Phnom Penh, Cambodia and took another opportunity I found on Yoga Trade at Bohemiaz Resort and Spa. While teaching at Bohemiaz, I was able to check out the The Vine Retreat near Kampot, Cambodia, which ended up being another job opportunity I found on Yoga Trade. Keep your options open! Upon meeting the owner of the retreat center, I was able to apply my ever growing business skills, make a good impression and shake on a deal. The owner is allowing me to use his space to host a retreat without a down payment since the center is so new. So basically my situation is that I am teaching at Bohemiaz in exchange for food and accommodation and working on my Semi Silent Self Love Yoga Retreat + Organic Farm Feast at the same time. It really is the perfect setup for achieving my goals.

Now that my Yoga Trade life story is out of the way, here is some advice if you are ready to take the plunge:

Save enough money before you head out. I took my Yoga Trade journey when I was not financially prepared due to my mental state. Money simply didn’t matter to me at the time, pursuing my passion and gaining happiness was all that mattered. I encourage anyone who feels they desperately need to get out of a western cubicle to do it immediately. The Universe will provide. Otherwise, save money before you go.

Be sure to consider what part of the world you want to be in a while and research visa requirements. I chose southeast Asia and intend to stay in southeast Asian countries the remainder of my time. However, I did not research and consider visa requirements before I left and my lack of knowledge definitely threw me off track. Be sure to plan jobs and timing the best you can. If you want to work in one place for longer than a few months, you will need to purchase a working visa and working visas are not always cheap.

Keep in mind, you are basically running your own business. Typically, resorts and yoga studios are flexible and normally need your help, so be sure to talk yourself up with business, as business skills are just as important as yoga experience. At the same time, don’t skip out on your yoga experience and be sure to create a yoga business CV. Once you get going do not focus on the cons. Remember, use the space for your business, have fun, and if things don’t work out…move on! There are infinite other opportunities out there thanks to Yoga Trade.

Thank you Yoga Trade for playing such a significant role in my life. I will continue to use this service and grow as a human. Yoga Trade not only enabled my business skills but held me while I healed. May the light in my Yoga Trade journey shine light on your Yoga Trade journey.

Namaste Yoga Traders.

 

Kelsey Kosmala’s journey began in Southern California, where she studied Social and Behavioral Sciences and had a lot of fun…She spent about 4 years heavily participating in drugs and an unhealthy lifestyle. Eventually, she got involved in fitness, which lead to her interest in yoga. After a few months of yoga classes at the gym, she was hooked and decided to get her 200 hour YTT certificate in Montezuma, Costa Rica. This is when she “woke up” and her love for yoga and travel began. She spent 5 years studying yoga, holistic living and spirituality in India, Thailand, Mexico and Austin, Texas. She has over 850+ hours training and has taught over 1000 classes and workshops. Her style consists of interlacing her studies with her own style. She incorporates Ayurveda, Trauma Therapy, Mindful Dance and Reiki Energy Healing into her work. She feels blessed as her turbulent background gave her the motivation to help others. Her specialty, given her past experiences, is holding space for people to transform, heal and be themselves.

Connect with Kelsey:

FB: @kelseyjaneyoga

Join Kelsey on retreat:

Yoga Trade in the Maldives: Finding Freedom at Sea

In May and June 2018, my partner and I went on a ‘Yoga Trade’ as a surf guide / yoga instructor duo to the island of Himmafushi in the Maldives. A dream-like place of wonder where the waves peel perfectly off a right-hand reef break above crystalline seas teeming with life, just steps from shore. Where guests travel across the world to dive with giant manta rays and black-tip sharks. And where Islamic tradition is shrouded in a thick cultural barrier, virtually inaccessible to a Western-bred feminist like me.

It was a world of paradox I found myself slipping serendipitously into. Where I’d begrudging cover my arms, chest and legs to brave the 200-meter walk – barefoot above soft, crushed-coral white sand – to the locally owned mini-mart for a sweet mid-afternoon snack. Only an hour or so before hopping off the boat in my teeny bikini, scoring some of the best waves of my 12-year surfing life, nearly naked to the sky; no qualms, no questions.

Where foreign visitors can shed their sarongs on a patch of sand designated ‘Bikini Beach’ and can only access alcohol aboard boats with liquor permits or resorts on other islands with special tourism licenses. Where most men would not shake my hand and young local girls would sneak over to our pool and dare a dip in their long pants and long sleeves, before their dad showed up, both timid and angry. Where the local surfer boys reminded one another not to hit on me because I was already someone else’s property.

And where I’d lead the guests at our adopted surf and yoga villa in a guttural round of Sanskrit mantra, just as the sunset prayer began to bellow from the speakers of the mosque. When time stood still in an incommensurable reverence of difference, across cultural lines, spiritual constructs, sun-kissed skin and silken shroud. Despite the distinction in our choice of song, I loved those impeccable moments of simultaneous prayer, mingling among the seaward breeze, mantra colliding with Quran in an otherwise impossible skyspace where I imagined the spectrum of god(s) and goddess(es) smiling joyfully from the heavens, shaking their heads at the perfect conundrum that was my task as yoga teacher and US-born, Costa Rican-bred surfer girl stuck smack-dab in the middle of an Islamic island nation, standing somehow steadfast in her integrity at the heart of the Indian Ocean.

And I’ll be honest – I struggled, most days, with how to be woman in that magical island world.

I mean, look. I’m a Western-born Jewish white girl, freedom-loving feminist, practically sensitive to cultural nuance, yet unabashedly thin-skinned beneath the blazing sun of gender inequality, repression, and injustice – anytime, anywhere, and however veiled by the social dictates accepted by most, even when they’re socio-historically determined by only men and institutionalized in religion and other forms of under-the-radar patriarchy. Add in my 16 years of yoga practice and deep regard for the yogic traditions, and you’d think it was a miracle I didn’t collapse into a mid-life identity crisis right there on the beach, 11,000 miles from my home.

Most of the time, despite myself, when I walked the white-sandy streets of town, I chose to follow the rules, keep a low profile, hide my skin in earth-length skirts and long sleeves, out of respect for a people I knew nothing about in a place I was only passing through. That whole ‘when in Rome’ thing. And truly, I was glad, and even honored, to do it – like an (uninvited) guest in some else’s grandmother’s home.

In reflection, there are parts of that experience I find beautiful, and even empowering. I appreciated that men didn’t ogle or eye-fuck or cat-call at will. A far cry from the soul-crippling streets I frequent in Central America. And I liked that the women would say hi to me when I took their customs seriously. I acknowledge the purity in human interaction where booze and drugs and boobs and butts are not precursors for self-expression or casual conversation. And I liked that both men and women looked me in the eye without the underlying misogynistic pretext of competition, domination or sexual objectification.

But I’ll be real in admitting that wearing long sleeves and long skirts in that heat was a hassle, and I chose to stay inside the villa bubble in my booty shorts on more than one occasion, rather than suit up at noon and sweat my skin off just to feel a little bit free from too many chastising eyes on me. And that didn’t feel empowering at all. In fact, it felt a little like prison in my skin.

In the beautifully sticky, blessedly uncomfortable space I lived for two months in the Maldives between cultural respect and my personal brand of feminist freedom, I found an everyday sense of solace, and soul-felt gratitude, in my home-away-from-home, the sea. Where I could surf as naked to the sky as I wished to be. Not because I wanted to feel sexy, but because – like it or not – my skin against the breeze is my definition of free.

(Cover photo by Lila Koan. Story photos by Pedro Uribe.)

 


Tara Ruttenberg is a writer by trade, surfer by passion, yogini by maternal ancestry and scholar-activist in sustainable tourism, by dharma. Tara‘s work explores alternatives to development in coastal tourism destinations to promote human wellbeing in harmony with nature. She created Tarantula Surf as a platform for authentic story-sharing and engaging with new social paradigms for a more beautiful world. Tara’s work has been featured in books like the Critical Surf Studies Reader and the Routledge Handbook of Latin American Development, at gatherings including Envision Festival, ECHO, Surf + Social Good, Yoga Trade’s Sustainable Living Retreat, and the Institute for Women Surfers, as well as in print with Elephant Journal, The Huffington Post, The Inertia, Sunshine Surf Girls, Yoga Trade, 7 Mares, and Desert Jewels. A nomad by nature, Tara lives most of the time in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, where she leads surfing, yoga and writing retreats for women.

Join Tara for Immersion 2019: Surf + Yoga + Writing Retreat for Women this March in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, ideal for aspiring writers ready to share your stories with the world; and at Yoga Trade’s Deep Ecology of Wellness in April, where she will be offering workshops on sustainable yoga travel and journaling as a practice of personal transformation.
Immersion retreat link: www.tarantulasurf.com/surf-trips-retreats

Deep Ecology of Wellness GIVEAWAY!

***UPDATE***

Today is December 18th, 2018 and we have picked the winner at random. Big CONGRATULATIONS to Yoga Trade member @bevinking !!! YOU WON! See you in the jungle! Big thanks to all who participated! A few more days to sign up with our earlybird pricing. Use the discount code AMIGOS at checkout to receive $200 off before December 20th!


Yoga Trade is excited to announce our Deep Ecology of Wellness GIVEAWAY!

One lucky member will receive free admission (5 nights shared glamping accommodation, three meals a day, all workshops and classes) to Deep Ecology of Wellness, April 9-14, 2019 at Punta Mona, Costa Rica. ($950 value)

Deep Ecology of Wellness is a unique and special retreat gathering (limited to 100 participants max). It is will be held at an off-the-grid botanical center where the rainforest meets the Caribbean sea. A space for Yoga Teachers, Wellness Professionals, Permaculturists, and those with a desire to learn from around the world to come together in an intimate and natural conference setting. Enjoy Movement, Yoga, Nature Connection, Community Building, Continuing Education, Storytelling, Permaculture, Regenerative Design, and Joy. Check out the incredible line up of passionate teachers HERE.

HOW TO ENTER:

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

1. To enter, log into your Yoga Trade account and LEAVE A REPLY (post comment) below at the end of this BLOG post. In the comment, state why you are excited to attend the Deep Ecology of Wellness event! Within your comment, feel free to also share about your own experiences with Yoga Trade. You must be a Yoga Trade member to post a comment. (If you are not currently a member, you can sign up at yogatrade.com)

2. Visit the Facebook page for this event (https://www.facebook.com/events/329849784255275) and mark that you are either ‘GOING’ or ‘INTERESTED’.

3.  Finally, SHARE about this BLOG/EVENT GIVEAWAY post on at least one social media platform of your choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). You must share this link:  https://yogatrade.com/deep-ecology-wellness-giveaway/

That’s it. You’re Entered!

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

The WINNER will be chosen at random (random.org) and will be announced on December 18th, 2018.

*Only ONE entry allowed per person. You must be a real human to enter. The giveaway is only valid for persons age 18 and above. The event ticket is not transferable to another person if winner is unable to use. The event ticket includes full admission (shared accommodation, food, and classes), and does NOT include transportation to the event or other travel costs. The event ticket is not redeemable for cash. 

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

 

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 Yoga Travel Humbles The Control Freak

By the grace of the universe I found yoga at fourteen years old, and since then I have held on to it for dear life to remind myself to loosen my grip a little bit, to breathe, to recognize that I am being held, to trust in the beat of my own heart, to trust in the beat of, well, everything.

We won’t dive too deeply into where these control patterns stem from (some Buddhists such as Pema Chodron believe it all comes back to our fear of – and lack of control over – death), but those of us who have experienced them know how easy it can be to trick ourselves into believing we have quit controlling for good. Who, us? We don’t control our environment! We let things happen and let people be free, autonomous individuals! We let the Universe flow! Until something happens that makes us feel less-than the grand image of ourselves we’ve created. Then the clawing, the biting, the manipulating, the screaming, the full-on emotional breakdown ensues and we quickly point our well-meaning fingers to how that situation or that person was just not working for us fairly. You get the picture.

Then back to our mats. Back to our breath. Back to letting go of that “I”-ness. But in the comfort of our daily lives, even this can be a facade. It’s easy to be a zen master when we know what to expect. Same classes each week, same group of smiling yogis, same bed to come back to at night. Nothing to shake us up or knock us off our “path.”

This is when we need to travel most. When I first joined Yoga Trade, I no doubt brought my control issues right along for the ride. I tried only to “choose” the opportunities that seemed the best and most outstanding. I wanted to cross countries off my list. I wanted to be around people that I thought would be a good fit for who I imagined myself to be.

It turned out it wasn’t working (surprise). The harder I tried to manifest my ideal situation, the less I felt like I was getting what I was looking for. So I packed up my things & decided to trek Europe with three friends instead. I was free to make my own choices – this situation was full of less surprises. How sad that we think this is what we want, when in fact we are simply stifling the magic from flowing in.

About one week – just one – into this no-destination backpacking affair, my counterparts and I decided our goals were wildly different – none of us were willing to relinquish that control of our Selves (surprise again) – and we amicably went separate ways. How could I have gone into travel thinking I knew what I was getting into, and ending up here so quickly? The lesson is – as anyone who’s traveled has learned – we always do. I spent a hot second in Barcelona feeling victimized by the Universe (“Why isn’t this trip going as I planned?!”) and going back and forth over whether to just call it quits and buy a ticket home. Whatever choice I made felt like a massive weight on my shoulders that would profoundly impact my worthiness as a human. The struggle to make the “right” (read: “perfect”) decision was real.

Welcome divine intervention. I received an email from a Yoga Trade member in Italy that had previously turned me down, but whose lead yoga teacher had gotten sick & couldn’t host the week-long retreat she was scheduled to lead and that began in less than 48 hours. So I hopped on the first train from Barcelona to Rome and made the trek to the profoundly quiet and peaceful mountain city apartment that would be my home for the next three weeks as I led some of the most brilliant and incredible yogis I’ve ever had the privilege to teach, not one, but three, consecutive yoga retreats.

The universe really drove it home for me (in case I hadn’t gotten it already) when the day after my arrival in Italy (which happened also to be my birthday) a fabulous Italian dinner that had been put on by my colleagues at the retreat was interrupted by shouts & music from outside. Rushing from our table, we found every inhabitant of the tiny town dancing in the streets during what must have been one of the few big celebrations of the year. At midnight that night on my birthday, these warm and welcoming residents of Casperia lit hundreds of heart-shaped lanterns and released them into the sky, where they floated out over the hills of vineyards and sunflower farms, competing with the stars, and appearing to laugh at me, at all of us, as if to say, “How could you – any of you – be anywhere but here?”

I learned much more about myself leading those retreats than I could have wandering the streets of Europe alone. Like most of us do, I quickly realized our path is an endless organic unfolding of free will – balanced quite evenly by natural intervention. Fate, serendipity, whatever you choose to call it, there is no doubt it should make us feel relieved, excited even, that we are absolutely not in full control. We can find joy in the fact that the Universe has plans for each of us that are so much grander, and more beautiful, and more perfectly designed to bring us to our greatest good, than any we could ever create on our own.

Travel with an open heart, an open mind, and a sense of abandon. Abandon what you know, what you want, what you think things should be. Because the truth is, things will always be exactly as they should.

 

 

 

Samantha Migliozzi is an E-RYT 200-hour that has been teaching for over seven years locally in New England and abroad. She has been a dedicated Yoga Trade user since its outset and has visited 15 countries in the past three years.

https://www.samanthanaturalhealth.com/

IG: @samimigliozzi