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The End of the Road

Coming face to face with your insecurities, fears and anxieties isn’t something you expect to do the minute you land in paradise.

My husband and I recently accepted jobs in a place that is so remote, it is quite literally at the end of the road. Cambutal is a small fishing village on the pacific coast of Panama. Greener than green trees, empty beaches, incredible surf, wild horses, no phone service and a whole lot of Spanish speakers make up this unique place here on earth. Within this petite village lies Sansara, a luxury ocean front yoga and surf retreat where we currently ‘work’ (I air quote this word because it certainly doesn’t feel like work).

I have dreamed about working at this sacred space since seeing an opportunity pop up on Yoga Trade a year ago. After a long time of trying to match dates we finally made it to this tropical oasis. Our home here is incredible, the job is fulfilling, the people are phenomenal and the surroundings are breathtaking. It is everything I dreamed of and more. So, why was it the first two weeks here I felt the need to RUN?

The beginning weeks were a struggle, I cried and cried some more. I was so frustrated and angry with myself. ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ ‘This is paradise, how on earth can you feel this way?’ ‘You finally have everything you ever wanted!’ I felt low, and nervous and scared and confronted. But for the life of me, could not figure out why.

Until one day I finally opened up to a friend here in Cambutal. I explained how I felt and my confusion at the situation. She told me that this happens to everyone when they first arrive. I asked why? She gently explained that because this place is so isolated, you somehow feel more exposed. Without all the distractions from modern life you find your self face to face with the real you. The good, the bad and everything in between. She went on to describe how at some point everyone here has had to deal with underlying issues that they have carried around for years. That everyone has had rise up to meet their fears, worries and insecurities. They have had to really meet themselves for the first time and embrace every side of their personalities. To deal with their past, honour the present and surrender to their future.

And here I was, coming face to face with everything I had been running away from. I have always struggled with anxiety, depression and fear of the future, but this time there was nowhere to hide. There were no distractions, no TV, no internet, no shopping centres or busy, bustling streets. It was just me and my thoughts. Me and my fears. Me and everything I had worked so hard to keep below the surface.

I was comforted at the thought that others had experienced what I was going through, but also petrified at the journey ahead. What if I couldn’t accept myself? What if I couldn’t handle meeting the real me? What if I ran?

But, I didn’t. I stayed. I cried. I meditated. I listened. I cracked. I watched. I surrendered. I accepted. Then, I healed.

The end of the road has been my rebirth.

Because of this experience I am creating like never before. I am writing again and painting again. I have made some big, exciting life decisions. I am growing and learning each and everyday. I am loving deeper and living fuller.

In modern day life we have so many distractions. Anything negative we feel or experience can be dulled through distraction. Alcohol, TV, magazines, FaceBook, Drugs, shopping…the list goes on. What we do not realise is that these negative or undesirable parts of ourself need to be dealt with, they are here for a reason, they want your attention. You can never truly know yourself until you have seen the whole divine, spectrum of your soul. You need to know your dark side in order to shine brighter. You need to understand your fears to fully overcome them. You need to debunk any lies within, to unleash your truth. You need to face your past in order to create a luminous future. You need to deal with any emotional junk to make room for new, exciting and rewarding ideas.

Sometimes it is ok to step into the dark, to experience the bad, to sit with the uncomfortable, to listen to the unthinkable. This is were we grow the most. This is where we get to know ourselves on a deep, profound level. This is the place we spark our brightest light.

If you get a chance this year, disconnect. Disconnect from everything and everyone. Be alone, sit in silence, listen to the whispers of your soul and be brave enough to wholeheartedly accept yourself. Don’t be scared to feel it all.

You are not alone in this journey, you are not broken, you are being reborn.

I had to disconnect from everything to reconnect to myself.

I had to get seriously lost, in order to be found.

I had to reach the end of the road just to see how far I had actually come.

 

 

 

Vicky Simpson is a yoga teacher, travel blogger and avid explorer. She lives a minimalistic, nomadic lifestyle with her husband Micky. Vicky travels the world teaching in yoga retreats, hosting workshops and writing of her adventures along the way.

http://theyogiandthechef.com/

5 Reasons to Teach Yoga for Free

Cover Photo: Shaunte Ditmar Photography

The new year is in full force and instead of adding any more weight to the unpredictable future, maybe introducing a softer approach to our world view could create some lasting ripple effects.

As the world seems to be getting smaller, faster, and cloudier, at the same time, more dreams are coming true; love is forever being found, and the possibilities of a change in consciousness on a global scale is becoming a reality — Instead of focusing on things that separate, we must look outside of the norm, think for ourselves, and strive for a different set of values if we are going to be able to come out of this era of uncertainty and thrive.

Simply put, to teach yoga for free is GOOD. To do anything for free is good. But as a viable construct of our society it becomes a commodity and therefore;

1) To teach yoga for free or within an exchange system is a little piece of CHANGE in SOCIETY that we’ve got our hands on.

A healthy wide-spread yoga practice is a veritable KEY to opening the door to less reliance on the systems that separate and discourage people. You scratch my back I scratch yours. The more we incorporate this into our communities the more networking we can have outside of stereotypes and economic standing. Going against the grain and being a free thinking individual will help bridge the gap in ways unimaginable.

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2) Teaching a free class, or pushing our own boundaries and maybe traveling to a different country to teach yoga, we consciously OPEN ourselves up to an abundance of new possibilities.

You teach, you travel, you learn; and the whole world becomes your oyster. The pearl of who you want to be emerges. Stepping into the direction of service, you ultimately free yourself from value restrictions and the flow of goodness cascades into all corners of your life. You never know who might enter your class, or what opportunities may arise.

The universe always provides…

3) Teaching yoga classes literally ADDS PEACE to the world–teaching classes for free reaches the many individuals who haven’t tried yoga yet or aren’t willing to pay for a class.

You don’t need to watch the news or read the paper to know that (even in regards to your own mind), peace is needed.

Pranic breathing, literally increases your AWARENESS of yourself, and your own personal awareness is where peace resides. To share the possibility of awareness for others in a group setting is the seed to growing the PEACE in the world.

4) Teaching a free class a week (even just once in your life) or taking a trip to somewhere through a yoga teaching exchange network is a way to LEARN and expand in new ways.

Being a teacher doesn’t take away the fact that you are forever a student in the classroom of the world, and in every direction we have a lesson to learn. To accept and give freely in an exchange outside of monetary currency allows a free form energy circulation, softly opening yourself up to new patterns, new traction; humility. You discover the strength of SERVICE which as a tenet of yoga philosophy, takes your tangible yoga practice to a higher level.

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5) Free yoga and exchanging classes can CREATE a NETWORK of other wellness practices that are not reliant on the monetary exchange.

If, as a community, we collectively are able to rely on our knowledge and bring our talents to the table, we are diversifying and enriching our ability to prevent illness and stimulate the effectiveness of alternative medicines. Through herbalism, chiropractic adjustments, massage, home services and even home-grown goods, the possibilities through bartering is unlimited.

These ideas are not farfetched or utopian. We are justly apt to creatively bend deeper into characteristics that we want to see emulated in society. The more we work together in a constructive way the more we can actually see changes in the world. The horrors of greed need not reach your inner sanctuary of well-being. Peace and tranquility are knocking at the entire neighborhood’s doorsteps and our limitless existence is unfolding right before our very eyes. Humans as a whole are no-doubt evolving, let the evolution include your dreams and may your dreams become reality.

Let the broken systems of society be mended by the strength of the systems that we know have worked for thousands of years.

 

 

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Abigail Tirabassi: writer, dreamer, believer, artist, ocean lover, finding joy daily.

IG: @scrambby

9 Yoga & Mindfulness Podcasts That Will Feed Your Soul

Have you heard of “beginner’s mind?”

It’s the Zen Buddhist notion that we should approach the world as novices, childlike, open to learning, no matter how much we know about a certain subject. Beginner’s mind means stepping into our lives with a brand-new, wide-open mind, eager to receive, ready to evolve.

This is how we stay young.

This is how we stay open.

As teachers, one of our most important responsibilities is to keep learning.

In yoga philosophy, we call this svadhyaya, or self-study.

These days, for me, svadhaya means a couple of things: home practice, and podcasts.

For wellness professionals and yogis who are teaching or working overseas, or living in isolated rural areas, these are two essential tools to keep in your self-study toolkit.

Home practice can be self-led or guided by any number of the awesomely-diverse and accessible streaming resources we’re lucky to have these days: anything from YogaGlo to YogaDownload to Yoga International to Yoga My Love.

Since I’m a teacher and have a pretty strong self-practice, I tend to just unroll my mat and do my own thing, especially since oftentimes I don’t know whether I’ll manage a 20-minute or a 2-hour practice (depending how my kid’s naps go).

As for podcasts: it’s easy to give technology a bad rap, but podcasts are such a great populist development. Most of them are FREE (whaaaa?!?), they’re available when you are (2am or 2pm, either way, they’re right there), and you can listen to them anywhere from Cambodia to Costa Rica to California, as long as you’ve got a device and a WiFi signal.

Whereas back in the day you used to have to travel for hours or days to learn from many of the world’s most studied experts, nowadays all you have to do is turn on your phone. It’s pretty righteous.

And I’ve discovered that just listening to teachers’ stories can often be the most instructive. I love hearing about the circuitous paths that have taken wellness professionals from former careers in business and finance, academia and medicine, coffee shops and surfboards, to lifelong vocations in Sanskrit studies and Bhakti Flow. It’s truly inspiring to witness the way in which each of these renowned teachers has arrived upon his or her dharma. (Not to mention that it sure makes you realize that even in the moments you feel like you’re totally lost, you’re still on the path.)

Listening to these yoga pros is also a great way to find a sense of connection and a spirit of sangha (or community), especially if you’re living in another country or a rural area without a ton of colleagues who “get” what it’s like to be a yoga teacher. I’m amazed by how a podcast conversation with a studio owner in Boston or a longtime teacher from New Mexico can leave me nodding my head in agreement, saying “YES, that’s exactly it.”

Sometimes just knowing you’re not the only yoga teacher who struggles with things like commodification, the influence of social media, or the increasing fitness-emphasis of the yoga world can be a total balm for the soul. And in this turbulent political moment, I’ve also been comforted to hear teachers and writers get a little more explicitly political in their conversations. Podcast interviews often offer an intimate, unguarded look into the minds of some of the world’s most respected thinkers and teachers.

That said, here’s the list of my favorite nine smart, thoughtful yoga, meditation, and mindfulness podcasts. These are my go-to episodes. They will feed your soul and make you feel connected in moments of despair or disenchantment.

Listen to them driving to work, walking to the grocery store, riding the bus, cleaning the kitchen. Dial one up when you roll out your mat and you’ll get an hour’s worth of learning while you do your moving meditation, too. You can’t go wrong.

Finally: a big shout-out to the hardworking, dedicated folks curating these podcasts, who do so much to create intelligent content, provide a sense of connection, and share learning opportunities for so many of us listeners out here.

We are grateful.

Yogaland Podcast

https://www.acast.com/yogaland

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This new-ish podcast comes to us via San Francisco-based global teacher Jason Crandell and his wife and business partner, Andrea Ferretti, a former editor at Yoga Journal. I’ve been delighted to follow each episode since Yogaland debuted last year as “a place where you’ll hear uplifting yoga stories, conversations about life issues and how yoga can help, sound health and wellness advice, and occasional super nerdy yoga talk.” Andrea’s interviews are smart and well-informed, her guests are top-notch folks from across the yoga world, their topics range from anatomy to nutrition to yoga philosophy, and Jason & Andrea’s rapport is sweet, self-deprecating, and down-to-earth. Fave past episodes include Andrea’s interview with Kate Holcombe on breast cancer and the Yoga Sutra, and Stephanie Snyder’s two episodes on mothering, loving your whole story, and using chanting in class.

J. Brown Yoga Talks

http://www.jbrownyoga.com/yoga-talks-podcast/

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This is another can’t-miss series featuring “candid conversations about yoga and beyond with outspoken teacher and writer J. Brown.” His guests range from old-school teachers like Mark Whitwell to NYC yoga-scene icon Cyndi Lee to “restorative yoga queen” Judith Hanson Lasater. I appreciate that he bookends podcasts with his (sometimes very personal) reflections. I’ve never met J., but listening to his podcast and hearing how he juggles owning a studio, parenting, and deciding whether to stay in gentrifying NYC or move his family somewhere more affordable make me feel connected. His podcasts have become a sort of “living history” of folks from the 1990s NYC yoga scene in particular, many of whom have transitioned from teaching butt-kicking power vinyasa to gentler, more sustainable flows. I’ve learned so much just from listening. Do give it a try.

Chitheads: Embodied Philosophy

http://www.fivetattvas.com/chitheads/

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Jacob Kyle’s new podcast also debuted fairly recently (last year, if I remember correctly), and it’s also excellent. (Props for the clever tongue-in-cheek name, too.) Chitheads features “interviews with leaders, elders, and teachers from the yoga and wider wisdom community on eastern philosophies, consciousness studies, social justice, and the human spiritual condition.” Kyle comes from a background in legit academic philosophy, which lends a sharp critical eye to his approach (much-needed in the yoga world these days). I appreciate his intelligence and his emphasis on the intricacies of yoga history and philosophy. Past episode highlights include his interviews with Sharon Salzberg, Philip Goldberg, Edwin Bryant, and Michael Stone.

Awake In The World: Michael Stone

https://michaelstoneteaching.com/podcasts/

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Speaking of…Michael Stone is the best of the best, “a cross between a spiritual teacher and a public intellectual.” Whether you’re reading his books, taking an online course, or following him on Instagram, you’re going to find rich, thoughtful, grounded material. Michael’s original Centre of Gravity podcast (now “Awake In The World”) was one of the first I discovered years ago. It’s a collection of his lectures and teachings delivered in Canada and at various global sanghas and retreats. They’re fantastically-rich in yoga philosophy, rooted in ancient texts, and peppered with fascinating insights from Buddhism and psychology. Not to mention a gentle sense of humor and a deep recognition of the fact that our relationships and our families are fertile ground for waking up. Check out Michael’s stellar series of lectures on Yoga & Trauma Sensitivity featuring Molly Boeder-Harris for some much-needed insights on this current hot topic in the yoga world.

10% Happier with Dan Harris

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/10-happier-with-dan-harris/id1087147821?mt=2

 

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Dan Harris is a gem: “a fidgety, skeptical ABC newsman who had a panic attack live on Good Morning America, which led him to something he always thought was ridiculous: meditation.” Totally self-deprecating, totally at home in the television world, this ABC anchor has done much to take the “woo-woo” out of meditation. Check out this excellent podcast, in which he interviews Average Joes like the Dalai Lama (what?!?), Robert Thurman, and George Mumford, famous NBA meditation coach. Harris is as committed to his practice as he is humble and funny, and he curates a great interview. Can’t recommend this one highly enough for the down-to-earth factor alone.

Meditation In The City: A Shambhala Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/meditation-in-city-shambhala/id635143127?mt=2

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This podcast series from Shambhala NY is a fab resource for the urban-dwelling Millennial, with lecture topics like “Buddha With A Smartphone” and “If the Buddha Grew Up in New York.” Its aim is to “help dispel the myths about meditation, with down-to-earth, real life teachings that show us the benefits of meditation in our everyday life.” Seek out lectures from folks like Ethan Nichtern and Lodro Rinzler, two of my favorite thirtysomething Buddhist teachers, who both do wonderful work merging old-school philosophy with new-school realities.

Tara Brach

https://www.tarabrach.com/talks-audio-video/

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Tara Brach’s bio describes her as “a leading western teacher of Buddhist (mindfulness) meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening.” That about nails it. Tara’s podcast was one of the first I discovered several years ago, and I quickly consumed her entire podcast library, which is a lovely blend of lectures and audio meditations. Come for her calming, gentle voice, and stay for the timeless, psychology-infused wisdom.

Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg

https://sharonsalzberg.com/metta-hour-podcast/

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If you’ve studied Buddhism, you’ve heard of Sharon Salzberg. Sharon is one of the premier teachers of the generation of folks who really brought Buddhism to America in the 1960s and 1970s. She’s as humble and unassuming as she is brilliant and perceptive. This collection of her talks, which “feature Buddhist philosophy in a practical, common sense vernacular,” includes lectures with Ethan Nichtern and Congressman Tim Ryan. You can’t go wrong with Sharon, especially as you are building a foundation for a lifelong practice. She is a gift to the curious student, young or old.

Sounds True: Insights At The Edge

http://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom

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Tami Simon “interviews spiritual teachers, visionary writers, and living luminaries about their newest work and current challenges.” You’ll find a rich cross-section of spiritual activists, teachers, and writers interviewed here. Just listening to this excellent podcast alone will provide a powerful, diverse spiritual education. Check out episodes with Jack Kornfield, Seane Corn, Thomas Moore, and Marianne Williamson for a start.

 

 

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Rachel Meyer is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Yoga International, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at http://www.rachelmeyeryoga.com/ or @rachelmeyeryoga.

Life Post Yoga Retreat: Maintaining the Bliss Buzz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Home Sanctuary

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

2. Nourish Your Physical Body

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

3. Set Goals

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

4. Reconnect

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

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5. Be Gentle

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

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

 

 

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

CONNECT:

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

Divine Sisterhood

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

This is why I teach yoga and meditation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it begins on an individual level…

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

raiseyourbeat.com/thrive

 

 

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Access Your Highest Potential!

Inspired by World-Renowned Life Coach Trainer, Anna Suil

p1030097Anna Suil is a true master of how to live a vibrant, joyful and balanced life. I began training with her for purposes of personal-development, but have since found great value in integrating the tools of Life Coaching into my work as a Yoga Teacher and Retreat Leader.

I’ll be the first to admit, that the idea of a Life Coach is one I shied away from at first, and certainly never a title I sought for myself. It was the inspiring story of my teacher Suil that gave me an entirely new perspective.

As a young adult, Suil committed herself to the path of yoga & meditation, studying under an impressive list of spiritual teachers including Baba Ram Das, Goenka, and Buddhist masters in India, Nepal, Japan and Korea. She continued her formal education with a degree in Psychology, which enabled her to effectively spread the teachings of the East to a Western audience. Among the many hats she has worn in her lifetime, Suil is now a Life Coaching Trainer with an expertise in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a technique which trains the brain to rewire itself towards positive thought patterns and behaviors in order to maximize our human potential.

In the last year, Suil’s audience has made a drastic shift from the leading corporate CEOs in Asia to a community of health and wellness practitioners at Yandara Yoga Institute, a humble training center in the desert of Mexico. Needless to say, she means it when she says that Life Coaching is a valuable tool for everyone. As Suil makes the shift into retirement, her teachings are being carried forth across a wide spectrum for personal and professional development.

So what is Life Coaching all about?

Here are a few FAQs boiled down specifically for the Yoga Trade community!

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Life Coaching is a tool to access your highest potential – those hidden jewels within each and every one of us just waiting to be uncovered!

Who needs a Life Coach?

Short answer: everyone. Because of its holistic approach to well-being, the tools can be applied uniquely to each individual encompassing work, leisure time, romantic relationships, family & friends, and so forth. Having someone shed light on areas that may have been hiding in the subconscious can lead to a better understanding of how to maximize fulfillment in every moment.

How does it work?

A coach supports a client in achieving their goals by first identifying what they are and then exploring options unique to their situation in order to set a clear path moving forward. Rather than offering direct advice, clients are challenged to find solutions within themselves, thus gaining the skills to be more efficient in reaching future goals.

Why does it work?

We are multi-dimensional beings, and as our lives become more and more fragmented between work, play and relationships, the perspective of a skilled coach helps keep clients on track and most importantly, stay accountable!

Where to begin?

Coaching can take place in person, online or even involve travel experiences and retreats which facilitate the process by taking clients outside of their normal surroundings to help spark creative solutions.

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If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Mary Tilson at info@marytilsonyoga.com

www.marytilsonyoga.com
Instagram: @marytilson

Testimonial:

“I had never thought of consulting a life coach before but was presented the opportunity at a training program I was attending and feel very lucky to have had the chance. Mary helped me realize that there are tangible steps we can take in order to live the life we want. She helped coach me into identifying what these steps were for me in a way that made me feel very comfortable as I had a big part in identifying what I was comfortable with and what I thought was possible. I loved the fact that I left the meeting with an actual list of things to do daily to help me reach my goals. It wasn’t just talking fluff. It was actually creating a realistic plan to help me achieve what I want. Mary was professional, nonjudgmental and understanding. I would recommend her life coaching services with the highest praises.”

-Erika, Yoga Teacher, USA

 

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Mary Tilson is a world traveling Yoga Teacher, Retreat Leader, and one of Anna Suil’s certified Life Coaches. She is currently the Yoga & Wellness Director of Nihiwatu, Travel+Leisure’s “No1 Hotel in the World” on Sumba Island, Indonesia.

Hot Yoga Isn’t Punishment: 10 Tips for Making Friends With Your Body During a Hot Yoga Class

Friends, friends: it’s that time of year.

I’ve taught Saturday and Sunday mornings for seven years now, and every December around this time folks roll into class ready to sweat out every canape and martini they half-drunkenly inhaled at the office holiday party the night before. Sometimes they’re wearing six layers of clothing in a 99-degree room so as to “detox” all the pinot and the feta and the gingerbread, armed with liters of coconut water and a couple of big towels for mopping up the evidence.

This always makes me a little bit sad.

I mean, I totally get it. I remember countless hazy, hungover twentysomething mornings spent rolling into Bikram classes feeling like I needed to do the same thing. Too many yoga practices that felt like atonement for the night before.

A decade later, as a hot yoga teacher myself, I cringe to think that my class could ever be complicit in my students’ self-abasement.

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So here I am to remind you: hot yoga is not a punishment.

You are not here to flog yourself for everything you consumed last night — especially in this season of overindulgence. You’re not here to beat your body into submission. You’re not here to burn enough calories that you “can have” that extra slice of pie tonight at Grandma’s.

You do not have to “detox” every bit of sugar you’ve eaten in the last month. Your body already has a great built-in system for that. It’s called your liver.

Get this: your body is your friend. Gulp, what? Yes, your friend. Your ally. Your buddy-for-life. Why not start celebrating it rather than shaming it?

Rather than making your yoga practice a participant in the kind of soul-sucking cycle wherein you eat and drink delicious things and then punish your body for eating them, how about you shift your mindset? Then, your yoga can become less a fitness regimen and more an opportunity to lovingly check in with your body and your mind in the midst of what is already often a frantic, busy holiday season. An opportunity to get quiet. To listen a little more. To offer your body grace for getting up in the morning and getting dressed and trudging through ice and snow and staying healthy and awake and alive in some of the darkest, coldest days of the year.

Portland, Oregon studio owner (and former Olympic ice skater) Jamie Silverstein has written a powerful article about this. In “Cut the Fat Speak: An Open Letter to the Yoga Community and Message for the Holiday Season,” she writes:

“Every time we speak in terms that portray food, exercise, reward, even love (!) as part of an economy of exchange, we are latently affirming a message of, “You are not good enough as you are.” Every time we employ a rhetoric of action-consequence we effectively say, “You are not enough.” Simply, this is not yoga….

On a more personal note, as a recovered anorexic/bulimic and eating disorder (ED) recovery advocate, I feel that this language is not only maladaptive, but that it also reinforces a dangerous ideal. Both from my personal practices and my work in the ED recovery field, I’ve encountered how the negative conditioning an exercise-exchange economy adversely affects people. It is often tantamount to verbal abuse. This is ironic, because as yogis, we are committed to ahimsa.”

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And living with ahimsa means creating less suffering, even for ourselves, right?

One of my favorite meditation teachings (I think it comes from Ethan Nichtern, but it might’ve been Susan Piver, too) is the notion that meditation is the process of making friends with ourselves. How beautiful is that? I know, I know; it sounds kind of cheesy at first. But when you really think about it, meditation (and yoga) are all about shifting the kind of negative self-talk that many of us are already pretty good at into a more compassionate, patient voice that greets ourselves as a beloved friend.

Here are a few tips for making friends with your body during a hot yoga class:

1. Use a witness-observer mind.

Notice what you’re thinking, without getting stuck in it, or thinking it’s you. Your thoughts are just thoughts. They come and go. They’re not YOU. (This is pretty much the whole definition of yoga: learning to no longer identify with the fluctuations of your mind.) And once you figure that out, life is so much easier.

2. Remember that hunger is not your enemy.

You don’t have to resist it, or avoid it, or chew 17 sticks of gum or drink 8 Diet Cokes a day to avoid actually eating anything. Hunger is actually a good thing. It reminds you to nourish yourself! Food can be a friend. Food can be celebration, and solidarity, and community, and holiday ritual. Food is here to fuel you, not punish or taunt or numb you. You don’t need to sweat it all away.

3. Treat yourself like a toddler.

Picture your favorite 1-year-old learning how to walk. They fall on their cute little butts constantly, don’t they? They wipe out and belly flop and totally lose it all the time, and what do they do? They giggle, push themselves back up, and try again. Can you imagine if you spoke to a toddler the way you speak to yourself when you fall out of a tough balancing pose? (“Come on, dummy, you are a such a failure! You suck. You might as well just give up because this yoga thing is so not for you.”) Of course not, right? When they wipe out, you just smile and help them up and say, “Way to go, buddy! You’re doing great. Keep trying. You’re doing it!”

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4. Three key words: Isn’t that interesting?

When you fall out of Pincha Mayurasana and CRASH, shaking the whole studio with your stunning wipe-out, notice it and smile and say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” When your muffin top spills over the waistband of your yoga pants more than it did a month ago, rather than beating yourself up, notice it and say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” This notion of “interesting” cuts the judgment: it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. It can shift everything in your day-to-day.

5. Be tender. ‘Nuff said.

With yourself, with your body, with your practice, with one another. Silverstein adds, “If you are struggling with self-acceptance this holiday season, as many of us do, let that be okay, too. Unfortunately much of our body-rhetoric and internal dialogue is harsh and prescriptive. Know you are not alone. Self-compassion cannot live in an antagonistic environment. The healing comes when we learn to acknowledge these voices without doing what they say.”

6. When you fall out of the pose, just get back in.

No big deal. No drama. No judgment. Whether we’re talking about a pose, or a healthy lifestyle, or anything else you’re trying to make into a positive habit. You are not the worst yogi that ever was. You just fell out, and now you’re gonna get back in. Get lost, start over. As Pema Chodron says, “Feel the feeling. Drop the storyline.” And then move right along.

7. Let go of the idea that a hot yoga practice is a detox.

I’m pretty ready to scrap that loaded “D” word already. Try to release the notion that your yoga practice is atonement for everything else you put into your body. It’s not here to wring out every “toxin.” It’s not here to sweat your “sins” out. It’s here to lovingly, patiently bring your body into balance, unraveling the knots, letting the prana (or life force) flow freely again.

8. Think of this practice as a celebration rather than a punishment.

I’m ever-grateful to my longtime friend and student Stacy, who suggested this to me once when we were hiking in Point Reyes. She noted that when I teach I often respond to people’s pained faces (when they’re clearly being hard on themselves in a pose). And then she said, “Rachel, what about the opposite? What about the moments wherein you maneuver yourself into a new pose for the first time, and you’re bowled over with awe and excitement at the amazing things your body can do? Things you never thought it capable of doing? So much that you just want to cry from the wonder?” I love this. Try approaching your practice with a spirit of “Holy shit, this is amazing!” rather than “Dammit, I suck.” Everything changes.

9. Picture yourself as an eighty year old.

If you’re lucky enough to live that long, you probably won’t be able to do any of this asana stuff. But you’ll still be trucking around this same old body, and you can choose to beat it up or love on it. Your call. I don’t know of anything that ever gets softer or kinder or more open from being beaten down, though. (At the risk of being a walking yoga cliche, let me quote Rumi, who said it best: “Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are. You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.”)

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10. If you’re a teacher, commit to using body-positive languaging.

Silverstein offers an inspiring pledge for teachers: “This season, I am committing to nourishment. I am committing to nourishment not just through physical food, but through language and action. I and my studio (The Grinning Yogi) promise to offer a message of acceptance and nourishment starting NOW. We are pledging the following:
* We will NOT teach from a voice rooted in an exchange economy of food, guilt, calories, indulgence, or anything related to not “being enough” as you are.
* We will create a safe-haven for our friends to feel empowered so they can take effective steps in promoting their own self-care and overall wellness.
* We will open a dialogue about what real nourishment is.
* We will remind our friends that food is food, love is love, and yoga… yoga is a GIFT!”

I am proud to commit to this pledge, and to make my hot yoga classes a sanctuary and a refuge from body-shaming. So come on in. Bring your perfectly-original body along. Share the love. You’re all welcome here.

 

 

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Rachel Meyer is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Yoga International, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com or @rachelmeyeryoga.

The Power of Sound: Simrit Kaur

I definitely remember when I first heard Simrit’s music. It was in a yoga class a few years ago at Wild Mountain Yoga in my hometown of Nevada City, California. After class, I asked the teacher who the artist was that was gracing our asana, and then I immeditately went home and purchased the album. Her sound is timeless and refreshing at the same time. When you hear her sing you know she is fully connected and in the flow. Her magestic world music sound has a way of bringing back the ‘remembering’ as well as inpsiring optimism for the future, all while being present. Her devotion appears effortless. All yoga teachers, music aficianados, and lovers of the mystery will appreciate this music. Thank YOU Simrit, for allowing us to catch up with you and learn a bit more about your story…

Can you share with us your first memories of exploring your own voice thru singing?

The first time I explored my voice was in my home in first grade.  I explored and sang with my voice since even younger…My mom said I sang when I was a baby/toddler, but the first time I remember actually sitting and listening back and singing interesting scales and notes was when I was in first grade.  I would sit in the corner of our living room and record myself on a tape player while singing and making up songs and lyrics.  Then I would play the recording back and figure out where I wanted to change the song or add things. 

When did you know that sound and music was your calling and what helped you believe in your path?

Interestingly enough, I was born to a lineage of Beloved Greek singers in Greece, so music has always been my path, and I was always playing music and taking lessons in piano and voice and drums since the time I was in grade school.  However, I didn’t realize I was going to do this as a life path until about 3-4 years ago.  I created two albums and never marketed them or did anything about them.  I just created them out of sheer joy and love of music.  People had been telling me I should tour more, etc, etc…but I didn’t.  They told me that the music was changing their lives and touching them deeply.  They told me that hearing me live was very powerful.  I played some concerts here and there….but never full-on toured like I do today.  One day, I just woke up and saw that I needed to do this thing myself and not rely on something to “just happen”.  That’s when I realized it was my calling…..when I felt a shift in perspective on a visceral level and also when I felt the drive to do this no matter how much work it takes, because it takes an immense amount of work.  However, when you love something so much, you’ll do any amount of work it takes to nourish it.   
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All photography by: Ingrid Nelson

Why is the power of sound so important in yoga and life?

Yoga is all about sound, audible or inaudible.  Being one with the sound is yoga..hearing and feeling sound internally and externally and merging your internal with that external sound.  Yoga isn’t some practice we do on mats or in yoga studios.  That’s simply practice so we can experience yoga.  Yoga is a state of being.  I’m not sure when it became some thing that people do in studios.  Yoga is what life is all about.  

What are your insights on how to create a better relationship with the voice and how to use the human voice to heal?

Stop trying to sound like someone else and start working with your natural sound, uncontrived.  Once we start trying to sound like someone else, we cut the soul out of our experience.  The real healing happens when we embrace our own, unique sound and refine from there. 

What is the main message you would like people to receive from your new album, ‘Songs of Resilience’?

That no matter what we go through, we are as resilient as we want to be.
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Who or what has inspired you the most along the way?

My Mamma, my Pappa, and my Brother.  They all have immense hearts.  My husband….he’s so incredibly intelligent and wise…way beyond his years, but most of all…..so dedicated, kind and SO generous.  He truly walks his talk.  My son, for being unapologetically his own.  Life….It has taught me so much about myself and others.  Music….a constant teacher and inspiration. I’ve been blessed to meet many teachers in my life along the way that have helped me to see life for what it is and see myself for who I am. 

Can you share a simple mantra to include in a daily practice?

Sat Nam.  Sat means truth and Nam means name.  It is the easiest way to direct the mind to tune into what we really are….Truth…which is beyond the mind’s conception.

SAT NAM

 

 

 

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Simrit Kaur’s energy and music have a way of deeply touching people, understanding them, and bringing them with her into the unapologetic realm of the soul. Hailed world-wide for her haunting voice, music and undeniable and rare ability to transmit deep humanity and pure love through her sound, Simrit is known for her revolutionary innovation in hypnotic world and chant music that heals and evokes the innate power within all. She is a Renaissance woman who is the CEO of her independent record label, SIMRIT KAUR MUSIC, LLC, and she has topped World Music Charts including iTunes at #1 for consecutive weeks at a time, many times over, and Billboard’s top 5 in the World and New Age Music category.  Her voice communicates with so much humanity. As an orphan child from the moment she was born in Greece, Simrit was the heir of a very distinct sound that she genetically inherited from a lineage of beloved Greek women singers going all the way from her mother (who was too young to take care of her) through her great grandmother. As a toddler, she was adopted by another Greek family from the American South, and she was raised in a rich Greek culture in South Carolina. Simrit records music and tours the world giving concerts and workshops with her band.  She is the creator of The Supreme Sound, a yogic voice cultivation online course that has been attended by thousands across the globe.  She is the co-creator of The Sweetest Love, an online course that she created with her husband that helps people deeply enjoy and succeed in their love relationships.

CONNECT:

SIMRITKAURMUSIC.COM

Facebook:  simritmusic

Instagram: @simritkaur

The Fit Traveller

One of the greatest things I have learned from yoga and life itself is the power of CONNECTION. I am so grateful for all of the connections in the world and blessed with the connectivity that the path of yoga presents. One of these connections has been with Skye Gilkeson, aka The Fit Traveller. Although as of now we only know each other via the ‘virtual world’, it is amazing to share our passions for being Connection Catalysts within the global wellness community. The Fit Traveller is an inspiring portal for anyone interested in exploration, retreats, nourishment, and a lifetime of wellness. We are grateful to catch up with Skye and learn about her story here:

What inspired the idea for the Fit Traveller?

Many factors played a part in the creation of The Fit Traveller; my personal passion for wellness and travel and my love of journalism and visual storytelling were all key. I knew I wanted to combine all of that experience to create a space that was both inspirational and informative; that helped people better their lives through health and wellness and broaden their horizons and life experience through travel. I’m very proud of the way The Fit Traveller does just that and continues to evolve, guided by that ethos.

Can you tell us a bit how travel and wellness has shaped your life?

Travel has been a constant in my life from a very young age. I grew up in country Australia so I was always on the road, travelling with family or playing away for representative sport and music. Those early adventures had a profound effect on me. I was very independent and very curious. Travel fed both of those traits in abundance. I loved exploring new places and meeting new people. My first significant international trip was at the age of 15. I went on a sports tour to the US and Europe. I made a decision on that trip that as soon as I finished school, I was going to leave Australia to see the world. When I was 18, I went backpacking around the globe for a year with a friend. I then lived in Spain for a year while at university and I have travelled consistently for most of my life in between those big trips and ever since. Travel is a huge part of who I am. I genuinely believe it makes me a better person. So it makes sense that I have shaped that passion into a business. 

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Wellness has always been an integral part of my life. My mother was a very big influence growing up when it came to healthy eating. We didn’t have junk food in our house – just simple, nourishing food. Even at school, I was always very conscious of eating in a healthy way. Being involved so intensely in sports at school also meant staying fit and being active was just part of my everyday life. I ran a personal training business while completing my post-graduate studies and I loved helping people make small and bigger changes to the way they lived their lives. It is something I’m still very proud of. I have had some personal health struggles too, so I really value my health and hope to encourage others to do that same in any way I can. 

How did you connect with Yoga Trade Travel Rep, Mary Tilson? 

Mary was our yoga instructor during our stay at the Hariharalaya Retreat Centre in Cambodia. There really was something about Mary. I got to know her as an instructor during that time and as a friend and colleague after leaving the retreat center. We were in regular contact and very supportive of each other’s similar paths. That connection grew organically into a business relationship. She is now our Yoga and Wellness Editor and shares her active adventures with our readers when she is on the road. I am very grateful our paths crossed in such a wonderful way. 

What is one of your favorite places you have traveled to this year?

It would be so difficult to narrow down one place to be honest. I have been travelling almost full time for the last year and a half. Most recently, I visited to the Canadian Rockies with The Hubby. I loved that trip as we got to spend so much time being active out in nature. The more time I spend in the mountains, the more I fall in love with it. I have always been a beach girl but the mountains are wooing me more with each trip. There’s really nothing like hiking a mountain with your partner with no one else around. It’s the ultimate indulgence in many ways. 

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What is your advice to people that want to start a business that will enable them to live a life of wellness travel?

Start small. While it can look like a glamorous life from the outside, it can be very tough. I always say, don’t give up your day job just yet. It’s important to know how you really want to live your life; what your non-negotiables are, what exactly your business and your particular niche is and what you are willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Focus on your personal skill-set, formulate a business plan and start with weekends away or short trips and get a feel for how that life would be. It’s an extraordinary way to live, but it’s not for everyone. 

How do you create community while traveling?

I have found social media to be really helpful with connecting with likeminded people while travelling. Going to retreats, group exercise or yoga classes or chatting to people who own small businesses like healthy cafes around the world is a great way to connect with someone you may never have otherwise crossed paths with. I have met some really interesting and inspiring people that way. You have to put yourself out there but the rewards are incredible.

Where do you see yourself and the Fit Traveller in 10 years?

I would love for The Fit Traveller to be a household name in 10 years – a one-stop-shop for wellness, travel, conscious eating, style advice and general healthy living information and inspiration. That’s what we are working towards. 

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Favorite mantra?

“Start where you are”.

Anything else you would like to share?

The Fit Traveller is always looking for new voices so if there are any writers, teachers, photographers or creatives who have a story to tell or some wisdom to share by contributing with content, I would love to hear from them. 

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Skye is a journalist, a former personal trainer, a freelance writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a passionate advocate for helping others reach optimal health and wellness. Skye created The Fit Traveller as both a beautiful online space where readers can feel uplifted but also a place that will inspire them to think differently, move differently and perhaps look at their lives a little differently. After launching The Fit Traveller in November 2014, Skye decided she needed to launch herself fully into building The Fit Traveller community and creating the best quality content for readers. Skye and The Hubby hit the road in March 2015 to travel full time. The Fit Traveller hopes to help you create a life you love by showcasing content that is both informative and inspiring – crafted from in-depth storytelling, beautiful imagery and authentic personal experiences. 

CONNECT:

The Fit Traveller | @thefittraveller

Healing with Iyengar Yoga

“Yoga lets us cure what need not be endured, and endure what cannot be cured,” said B.K.S. Iyengar. The great yogi, who lived to be nearly ninety-six, passed away in August of 2014. But his teachings continue to live and thrive within the Iyengar Yoga community, where teacher training is rigorous and the practice is specialized to accommodate everyone, including those with unique disabilities.


What sets Iyengar Yoga apart from most types of yoga widely practiced throughout the U.S. are timing (poses are held longer), focus on alignment (detailed instructions help the individual to move deeper within the structure of a pose), the use of props (wall ropes, blocks, straps, blankets and chairs), and specific sequencing (intelligent sequencing that can be tailored around various physical needs a practitioner may have).

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“B.K.S. Iyengar not only was a teacher for eighty years, but his practice was uninterrupted for that entire time. There aren’t many people in the world who could say that,” says Vanessa Bacher, an Iyengar Yoga instructor living in Santa Barbara, California. “He was a very sick boy—he had tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria just to name a few of the serious ailments he suffered from—and was not expected to live beyond his teenage years. He essentially cured himself from all of these various ailments through his dedication to the practice of yoga.”

Vanessa, a petite and charismatic woman with a mane of wavy blonde hair and bright, aquamarine eyes, first discovered Iyengar Yoga over ten years ago, while still in her early twenties. Hailing from Colorado, she had put herself through college and went on to live and work overseas on the Caribbean island of St. John. There was no knowledge or practice of yoga to speak of there at the time, but Vanessa had brought along a book of standard yoga poses and began to practice daily on the white sand amongst the palms; it became an integral part of her lifestyle. She experienced a jolt of culture shock upon her return to the states, though, leaving behind the relaxed island vibes for the stressful pace of life back in America. Seeking solace in nature, she went to stay with her aunt, who lived and taught Iyengar Yoga in the small mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado.

Vanessa credits the experience of studying under her aunt as the pivotal chapter that, though she didn’t know it at the time, decided her life’s purpose.

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“The first class I took, I felt like I was reborn. I felt like I had been completely dissected and put back together again in a better way. From the moment I stepped into the classroom I felt transformed.”

During her two years in Crested Butte, Vanessa found an inspiring mentor in her aunt. Still, she felt that relying on a relative to guide her was keeping her in too tight of a comfort zone—she wanted to deepen her practice and carve out her own path. She set out on a six-month journey through Southeast Asia and India, studying at the base of the Himalayas in an intensive program with a couple of senior Iyengar Yoga instructors. It was the first of many pilgrimages that shaped the course of her professional and spiritual life.

“In the Iyengar system in India they have “Medical Classes” that I would assist and there would be people with MS so severe that they were essentially paralyzed,” Vanessa explains. “They didn’t have (the technology that we do)—they had rickety wooden chairs from the 1940s. Someone would carry them in and we would assist them and strap them to the wall, and place them over all of the brilliant props that B.K.S. Iyengar invented.”

In India, Vanessa was a firsthand witness to countless instances of the miraculous healing powers of Iyengar Yoga, but one story in particular has stuck with her over the years.

“A woman came to study with my teachers and she was a novice in the practice,” Vanessa recalls. “She came in with her feet bandaged—she had some sort of foot disorder where she couldn’t separate her toes. She had stability issues and trouble walking. When she came into the class the teacher said, “Take those bandages off your feet” and she said, “I can’t, I’ve worn them all my life. The doctor prescribed them to me; I have a disorder.” The teacher said, “Nonsense, if you’ve signed up for this intensive and want to participate, take those off.” He was quite strict with her and really put her through the paces. Within three weeks, she was able to separate her toes. Tears were streaming down her face; she could walk with ease and stability. This moment always stayed with me, proof that we have this incredible, innate ability to heal ourselves and that this practice teaches us to be more in tune and find the resources within rather than depending on any sort of crutch.”

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These experiences had a profound impact on Vanessa; they stirred something in her and planted the seeds for her own future as a healer.

“Mr. Iyengar taught me that happiness is to give more than you receive,” she says, continuing on to describe how the guru’s influence drove her to gain devotion to something greater than herself and lead a life of increased integrity. Her desire to help others benefit from the practice of Iyengar Yoga is palpable in the passionate tone in which she speaks of it.

“What moves me the most about it is that it’s absolutely made for any age, any body type, any ailment,” she says. “The practice is that diverse and has that much depth that it’s approachable for anybody. I always tell people that yoga has very little to do with just striking a beautiful pose. It is about the communication that you have to build with yourself to travel deeper towards that inner Self.”

“The path to bliss isn’t all rainbows and lotus flowers. I knew that it would take dedication.”

When Vanessa returned from India she made her home in Denver, beginning a cycle of intense practice abroad followed by intermittent lapses in practice back home and frequent disillusionment over the vastness of knowledge that she did not yet possess.

“I think it took me years to really cultivate the dedication that is necessary in the Iyengar practice,” says Vanessa. “Frankly I just wasn’t mature enough. But, over the years I chiseled away at the practice and became more devoted.”

She refers to her periods of not practicing as her “Dark Ages.”

“When I was not practicing I got very depressed. I felt like I had found this path that transformed me and then I let it go; I was not honoring my truth.”

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Photo: Chris Orwig

It was only through loss that she found her path again and determinedly set out on it for good. Vanessa had moved to Santa Barbara, California for a relationship and left everything behind in Denver—her home, her family, her job. When the relationship did not work out, she found herself alone in a new city.

“The only thing I really had that stayed with me was my practice,” she recalls of that time. “I clung to it, basically, because it was all that I had. I decided then that no matter what happened, I would never let it go again. I knew that without it I felt lost and started practicing more than I ever had.”

Her new instructor at the Santa Barbara Iyengar studio recognized Vanessa’s natural affinity in the classroom.

“He said, ‘you know this is what you’re meant to do, right? It’s in every fiber of your being.’ Then he asked me what I wanted to do about it.”

She expressed her hesitancy to the instructor. The Iyengar teacher-training would entail at least three years of schooling to become a certified instructor, which for Vanessa would mean frequent trips driving back and forth to the Iyengar Institute in Los Angeles. Once the first hurdle of certification is passed, the training is not over. There are many levels in the system; instructors continue to study, train and go up for subsequent certifications for many years to come.

But ultimately, Vanessa was not daunted.

“My instructor said that in his experience, sometimes the longer, more arduous route is the best route,” she reflects. It was advice that echoed the words of her father.

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Photo: Kayla McKenzie

“My father always said, ‘stay the course and it will pay off.’ I’ve definitely sacrificed quite a lot for the practice; the path towards enlightenment isn’t an easy one. The path to bliss isn’t all rainbows and lotus flowers. I knew that it would take dedication.”

Her instructor offered to mentor her, so Vanessa embarked on the three-year teacher training under his mentorship, traveling regularly to the Iyengar Institute in Los Angeles. After completion, it would take her two more years to become certified. She continued to work late nights as a restaurant server five nights a week, getting up early in the mornings to practice or teach.

“I felt half asleep in the mornings and dead on my feet at night. I continued until I was able to teach a little more and work in the restaurant a little less, but that is what yoga is all about. Yoga is the balance of two opposing actions. So in life I was balancing two complete polar opposites and that juggling act is yoga.”

Today, Vanessa’s mornings and evenings are filled with leading classes at two public yoga studios as well teaching various private lessons, a life in which she finds true fulfillment. When asked what words of advice she might have for someone interested in embarking on a similar journey with Iyengar Yoga, Vanessa says simply, “show up and don’t give up.”

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You can contact Vanessa Bacher by email at vanessabbacher@yahoo.com or Instagram @vbacher. If you live in Santa Barbara, or are visiting the area, consider taking an Iyengar class with her at one of the following locations:

Iyengar Yoga Studio of Santa Barbara

2718 De La Vina St.

Santa Barbara CA, 93105 USA

(805) 569-2584

 

The Santa Barbara Yoga Center

32 E. Micheltorena St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 965-6045

Author Bio:

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Lili Rauh aspires to find and create beauty and meaning in everyday life. Currently located in South Lake Tahoe, Lili loves to write, cook and entertain and ultimately hopes to combine all of her passions in one sustainable career. www.lilirauh.com