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Off the Mat – Activated after Bhakti Fest

It was one of my very first yoga classes that my teacher spoke about practicing yoga “off the mat.” I initially came to yoga to get in shape, lose some weight, and start a new exercise routine, with no intentions to get in touch with myself or find any sort of spirituality in the process. I remember thinking to myself, “ of course you can practice yoga off the mat, you just do the poses on the ground anywhere else!” Easy peasy.

It wasn’t until that moment in savasana that my mind got quiet, I felt my body, and my breath became my own sacred white noise, that I realized that yoga is far more than a twisted posture in a peaceful room. Class after class I would reach that feeling I couldn’t describe and still barely can, that feeling of connection to myself and everything else around me. It started to come to me in different postures, and then in meditation, and then I started to feel it after class, when I’d stumble onto the bustling streets of NYC and still feel that sensation of deeper connection. The people or situations that once agitated me no longer carried so much weight. And there it was: I was practicing yoga off the mat.

This photo and cover photo by: Monique Feil

Thousands of downward dogs later and now I understand why practicing yoga off the mat is not only important, but necessary. My understanding for what yoga actually is has been completely transformed— I now know that yoga is a way of a life, a way of a service, and truly a way of activating our own lives to reach outside of ourselves and into the world. After attending Bhakti Fest in September, my beliefs were absolutely validated and certainly expanded, as this festival lives and breathes yoga off the mat.

As the mantras were being chanted and the mala-wearing yogis were saluting the sun as it spread its rays through the Joshua Trees, there was devastation happening around the world. Hurricanes destroyed the eastern side of our beautiful country and wildfires scorched the old growth forests of the West, while ice caps were simultaneously melting at rapid speed in the arctic. This, amongst the heavy political strife in ours and so many other countries around the world, pushed me to wonder how chanting and deep breathing in a Southern California desert could possibly contribute to this polarized world we are living in in a positive way. While I felt a shift inside myself, how could that reach outside of myself?

Photo by: Monique Feil

So many teachers, musicians and artists at Bhakti Fest were tuned into this same question, and addressed it quite directly. From MC Yogi’s lyrical genius, singing “love is righteous, and it might just save the whole world from this global crisis,” to Michael Brian Baker’s plea to protect our planet and its people by supporting Chase Iron Eyes to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline and drop all charges against water protectors. This festival is not just about feeling good, but also about being real with our own innate power and using it for good.

After taking a class with Sianna Sherman, focused on creating change off the mat and in the world, we spoke more in depth about how yoga can inspire compassionate activism. Sianna teaches Rasa Yoga, “an alchemical fusion of mantra, mudra, asana, Bhakti, tantra, soul alchemy and earth ceremony.” One of its goals she said is “to remember that we are a collective tribe and also earth guardians, and we are here to protect and serve the earth and each other.” She spoke about using yoga as a pathway to better understand our own shadows and the power of turning towards, rather than away, from our own pain and anger. These practices teach us how to work with our own emotions and stay centered so that when it’s time to be a voice of change and to be of true service to the world, we are not pulled out of ourselves, but rather grounded and activated from within. “If we use our power and really consciously work with our own emotional fluency and literacy, and emotional intelligence, then we can change all the energy inside, including all the anger and rage—so we can truly create positive change,” said Sherman. What we’ve seen happen far too often is that “rather than using our power consciously, we end up polarizing and dehumanizing the other point of view and righteously standing only in our own narrow perspective” she said.

Sherman’s sweetie and beautiful musician, Masood Ali Khan, also had a strong take on the matter of change-making. He shared about how the sustainability of our world “is coming closer and closer to its death if we don’t make a move. This is a call for us to rise up.” He went on to say that in order to create change we need to move as a family and a community, so we can expand fast. “We need to make changes now, because it’s going to be too late if we wait. And you know the way that the planet is going— a week, two weeks could be too late, who knows what the next storm might bring,” said Khan.

Photo by:  Simone Levine

Bhakti Fest was really a place to gather people together to open their hearts and minds in order to activate change off of the mat. And while we came together to chant the mantras and pray, a very important medicine for the self, according to Breathwork facilitator and founder of the The Breath Center, Michael Brian Baker, “it is not enough to actually create change in our world as we need it now.” He went on to say, “we’ve reached this critical mass where things are shaking and going on, and if you look at it from a spiritual standpoint, the right brain would tell you that spirit incarnated into this physical form in order to take action, because spirit without a container can not create change on a material plane.” The call is loud and clear: it’s time to take action now!

As I left Bhakti Fest on a high of feeling the good vibes and inner transformation, I knew there was much more for me to do. I signed some petitions for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and am honing in on what lights me up so I can practice my yoga off the mat from my own center, a center that is truly ignited.

Learn more and connect with Bhakti Fest:

bhaktifest.com

 

 

 

 

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.

IG :  @momomagical

The Personal Journey That Led To Open a Yoga Therapy School

From a very young age, I questioned the meaning of life. I wondered how I should live, and how other people were living around the world. I wanted to know more about different realities and ways of thinking so I could make my mind up about how I wanted to live my own life. I simply wasn’t ready to live life the way I saw it in Canada, the only home I’d ever known.

 

We all have different stories, different questions. For me, it wasn’t that my life wasn’t good, but that the North American lifestyle didn’t make much sense to me. All around me, I saw people working themselves into the ground at jobs they didn’t even like. All for a huge house, a beautiful car, a lot of clothes, and two weeks of vacation per year. Some people are satisfied living that life, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted to live a simple life, without having to fight for status and wealth. I needed to find something to dedicate myself to—a livelihood that would give me purpose and meaning in the world we live in. This is why after completing a course of study in physical rehabilitation, I decided to travel.

 

Working in the physiotherapy ward of Ziguinchor Regional Hospital in Senegal, I experienced culture shock for the first time. There, I saw people sharing everything, though they had nothing. People welcomed me as if I were their sister. I saw entire villages—not just parents—taking care of children. I met people who smiled even when they didn’t know how they would find a way to eat the next day. I saw people praying to a God I couldn’t see, people who had faith in life though it offered them few opportunities. I understood that there was so much more to life than focusing on material wealth. I could decide to live a life of abundance without having to sacrifice all my time to a meaningless job, instead dedicating that time to taking care of myself, others, and my environment. I understood just how lucky I was to have so many choices.

 

I continued my journey, alternating between working in physiotherapy clinics in Montreal and leaving for months at a time to travel through Asia, Oceania, and Central America. I was on a spiritual quest. Meditation was already part of my life, after I’d had a rough time coming to terms with my own family history. I wanted to go deeper within myself to find inner peace. I needed the tools necessary to deal with uncontrollable external factors.

 

That’s when yoga came into my life. At first, I didn’t even know that yoga was a way of living. I always thought it was like Pilates, just exercises in front of a mirror. I wasn’t interested in that. However, during my year of traveling, I ended up in Nepal and in India, where I hoped to participate in a meditation retreat. As I researched meditation centers, I found out I had the wrong idea about yoga, and I realized that it could actually bring together my knowledge of the human body and my desire to find peace of mind. Suddenly, I was excited to learn more.

 

In India, I went to a Yoga Teacher Training Course in Goa and a Vipassana retreat in Kolhapur, where I was taught about breath and consciousness. I learned how to move with awareness, how to maintain a clear state of mind, how to look inwards, how to let go, how to accept. When I returned home, I felt rich with all the knowledge I’d gained. I saw how my approach with my physiotherapy patients changed, and I began to learn all I could about yoga therapy, reiki, and conscious communication.

 

I felt I’d finally found a path that made sense for me, a path through which I could evolve in a personal, professional, and spiritual way. Three years after my first visit to Asia, I returned to India, where I met a beautiful woman named Rita. Rita’s life in India was miles away from my own, but somehow, our paths were meant to cross. We had the same desire to share our knowledge and experiences with like-minded people. We shared the belief in yoga therapy – a tool for preventing imbalances and restoring well-being. In founding Yoga Chikitsa in Nicaragua, we decided to make our shared vision a reality.

 

Today, I continue to remind myself that in life, change is the only constant. Things are forever evolving and transforming, which is why this school will be a reflection of the many beautiful souls that have passed through its doors, and all of the learning and life-changing experiences that have happened under its roof.

 

 

 

Josy is a Certified Physical Rehabilitation Therapist, Yoga teacher, Alternative Medicine Practitioner, Therapeutic and Energetic Masseuse, and she also practices Vipassana Meditation. She is also the Co-Founder of Yoga Chikitsa Nicaragua.

 

Devoted to Bhakti

I’ve been carrying an energy with me for the last four months that I can’t, and don’t want to shake. My breath feels more fluid, my mind more clear, my heart more open. This all began at Shakti Fest this past May, and integrating the lessons and practices has certainly not been a walk in the park. Rather, I’ve been on a dedicated journey that takes patience, practice, and work to fully live into — a journey that I feel grateful and honored to participate in.

Lucky for me, and thousands of other devotees, another opportunity to sink deeper into these practices is right around the corner. This year’s Bhakti Fest West, the sister festival to Shakti Fest, is happening in just 2 weeks in Joshua Tree, CA (Sept 6-11, 2017)!

Bhakti means devotion, and at Bhakti Fest that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what will unfold, and has been unfolding for the past 9 years. Bhakti Fest gathers a community of mindful folks from all over the world to practice the art of yoga, meditation, music, breath work, sound healing, and much more. One of the only fully vegetarian festivals, that is also drug and alcohol free and family friendly — this is a safe place to enliven your senses in pure form.

Bringing some of the best spiritual teachers of our time to one sacred place, including Seane Corn, Mark Whitwell, Kia Miller, and Michael Brian Baker, as well as internationally renowned musicians Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, MC YOGI, and Donna De Lory is just part of why this festival feels like a total dream.

Yet what seems to be the most impressive part of this festival is that it’s actually a non-profit. While we are celebrating, Bhakti Fest will be donating a percentage of its revenue to charities including Food for Life Vrindavan, Love Serve Remember Foundation, Ramana’s Garden, and the Seva Foundation.

It’s an “everybody wins” event that I’m personally stoked to experience as a teacher, practitioner, and lifelong student.

Participate in the SEVA program by working in exchange for a ticket (A Yoga Trade opportunity)! A fantastic way to make meaningful connections and enjoy the festival by sharing your trade: bhaktifest.com/participate/

Transform, deepen, and come play with us!

Tickets for Bhakti Fest West 2017 are available at:  https://tickets.brightstarevents.com/event/bhakti-fest-west-2017.

 

 

 

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.

IG : @momomagical 

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

THE BEACH, PART 1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

I have never felt more miscast than ever.

 

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

 

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

 

I found my own cast of The Beach.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

THE BEACH, PART 2

 

Where do I start?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Kranti Yoga on Patnem Beach in Goa, India.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But for me, the next stop is Kuwait!

 

YOGA IN KUWAIT

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So I accepted.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

To you all NAMASTE.

 

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

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

 

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

IG: @kanebonkeyoga

 

A Yoga Work Trade in Hawaii

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The Kirpal Ecological and Meditation Centre (KMEC)

 

Location

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Accommodation

 

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

 

Food

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sustainability

 

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

 

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

 

Yoga and Meditation

 

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

 

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

 

Life as a Work Trader

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

7:30 – 9: teach yoga

9 – 10: breakfast

10 – 1: housekeeping reception/cook lunch

1 – 2: lunch

2 – 5: yoga practice, read, beach time

6:30: dinner + relax

 

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

 

“Ohana” means family.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Teaching Yoga at KMEC

 

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

 

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

 

Final Thoughts

 

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

 

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

 

Mahalo for reading everyone!

 

Originally published here:

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

 

 

 

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

IG : @ashtangayogagirl

Leprosy & Lessons in Love: Meditation In Action

With fear on my mind and love in my heart, I choose to follow people who live to benefit more then just themselves.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, in total health and abundance but I became aware of the unsatisfactory nature of a life without service to others.

Nathan & Zohar, run meditation in action projects around the world known as Sangha Seva Retreats.

They first came to Anandwan in 2004 as volunteers and have been facilitating groups of people to experience and contribute to the community every year since.

Anandwan (‘Forest of Joy or Bliss’) is a leprosy rehabilitation center in Mararashtra, India. Baba Amte, a saintly man, founded Anandwan in 1951 with the mission of providing a life for people with Leprosy that went beyond offering medical support but a way for each individual to be wholly integrated in society.

All Photography by Shilpa Shah

Leprosy is the oldest known disease and is extremely misunderstood and stigmatized all over the world but particularly in India – as being grotesque, highly contagious and even a personal curse of God or Karma.

Historically, India has had the highest population of the disease with many afflicted people being rejected and disregarded from society – left to fend on their own support, in times of dire need of the support of others.

Baba Amte fiercely started this project with 6 patients living on donated government land- without even a water source. With the power of love in his heart, within only 2 years the land completely transformed into a self-sufficient community – apart from sugar, salt, and oil.

Therefore, you can imagine the jobs that were manifested – from making on-site homemade mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, fabrics, housing and furniture, homemade specialized wheelchairs, custom-made shoes for all these differently shaped mended bodies and feet, bio-waste methane system turning cow and food waste into gas to cook with, growing food and cooking for all these many mouths – all day, every day!

The community has grown to host approximately 3,000 individuals with a range of differences in the body and mind (children, elderly, with physical and mental disabilities) that may have not had a safe place in the world without Anandwan.

Anyone can live here with the guidelines of not taking any intoxicants, non-violence, and being willing to work, if able. Baba said “give people a chance – not charity,” which from my observation seems to be clearly successful.

As a part of the meditation-in-action mission, 17 international volunteers, joined together for 3 weeks to practice meditation while consciously living and working in various workshops throughout the Anandwan community.

I choose to work in the elderly home in the mornings and alternating between the hearing and the visually impaired school in the afternoon.

Besides working with other people, I had to deal with my own suppressed internalized fear I was unknowingly hosting around touching elderly people’s bodies. It really had nothing to do with Leprosy as in retrospect I remembered that I also felt this sense of rejection at my grandma’s retirement home in Toronto. The look of fragility and potential weaknesses somehow gave me the impression of it not feeling safe to touch the bodies of these human beings. Maybe some unconscious fear of “catching” whatever they have even if it was just my own projection of their pain and suffering. As it turns out, odds are as a human being, if I’m super lucky, I will indeed catch the state of old age regardless of physical contact will people or not.

Baba was known to say that the real leprosy to fear is this leprosy of the mind.

The illusive walls between where the being behind ‘their’ skin and mine – began to fade away. I realized that my intention was to share moments of connection, not “fix” anyone or anything.

Through breaking down my own barriers of fear I shared in the most precious exchanges of love during this project.

They, like you and me and all other beings- simply want to experience happiness- feel love, less suffering, less pain. Something we can all naturally offer to each other – but as I can see it must start with the fragile being behind our own skin.

The human beings living at Anandwan showed me strength and joy through the endurance of suffering and pain. Maybe it really is the challenges that strengthen the spirit. All I know is the light and love radiating from these people felt so bright that I couldn’t even see the different abilities, shapes of bodies or sense capabilities in all their various forms.

We all have opportunities to dive into these unfamiliar environments and into the power of love that exists beyond the discernment of our mind that constantly creates distinctions between good, bad, less or more, like or dislike, into this golden thread that ties us all together – the aliveness that exists in meeting each moment with full awareness- of life, exactly as it is.

“Namaste” – the people of Anandwan say here with their hands at their heart and I couldn’t imagine a greeting that was more appropriate. I see you – as a pure divine living, breathing, feeling being – as significant a life as the one I consider “my own.”

May we all find ways of stepping outside our own fears and into the transformation power of love – for ourselves and for each other.

 

 

 

Sacha Bryce, BSc, RYT, is a Holistic Yoga Therapist based in Toronto, Canada. She has travelled the globe studying, teaching and living Integral Yoga. Her mission is to share the power of the practice to liberate herself and others from suffering.

IG: @sachabryceyoga

Exams to Evaluate Your Yoga Level: A Paradox?

I’m approaching the end of my 3 year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training, and lately I’m struggling with this paradox of having an exam in yoga. To strive and train for an exam, is to me, so in contradiction with the ‘yoga philosophy’.

Six years ago I started practicing yoga to heal myself from an serious back-injury after doing so many back-bends as a contortionist in a circus. Today, practicing yoga asanas makes me feel good, it makes me feel alive and I feel much more aware and clear-minded.

Every morning, when I step on my yoga mat, I like to do some wake-up stretches and unwinding of my body. I’m feeling the state of my body this morning, and I’m just flowing and slow dancing to wake my body up and get the sleepy stiffness away. This kind off moving wouldn’t look like yoga, but it feels good. I move in an intuitive way.

Next, I’ll start with one of the 6 sequences I’m repeating every week, always in the same order. Because it’s Iyengar and this is supposed to be the most logic and best order for the body’s balance. Those have been elaborated by one of the most senior students of B.K.S. Iyengar.

Usually at this point my mind starts working, instead of “citta vrtti nirodaha” (YS 1.2) which is often translated simply as, ‘Yoga is the ability to calm/direct/restrain the fluctuations of the consciousness/mind’. Mostly I’m criticizing myself, because through the Iyengar Yoga method I’ve gained so much knowledge about how each pose is supposed to be, all the details I should be aware of. So instead of being right here on my mat, at ease with myself, offering myself the best I’ve have to give for today, I’m doing all the opposite.

Because of that exam. Because of the pressure. Because of the expectations.

 

Here is the paradox: Yoga is about the path, not about any goal. A perfectly executed advanced pose is not going to bring me enlightenment. NEVER! But, that exam is waiting for me. Therefore, I have to raise my practice to a certain yoga level, because I really want to pass that exam. But the yoga I loved so much, is gone, because of this exam.

 

Yoga is about the path, not about a goal.

This exam is a part of my path. So what can I get out of this struggle. Instead of going in a downward negative spiral, every struggle can be an opportunity to grow.

 

What causes trouble in this situation, is the mind, the mind and it’s thoughts. So the question then becomes – HOW do we calm or restrain the mind to achieve this desired state of yoga? Well the simple answer is: do your yoga practice. Simple. Just keep doing a regular and sustained yoga practice and all will come – as the late Sri. K. Patthabhi Jois would say. But we are creatures of wanting to know everything and sometimes the simple answer just doesn’t cut it!

 

Patanjali actually describes the five fluctuations (functions or states) of the mind (or five vrittis) to help us better understand the workings of the mind. He says these five vrittis can be painful or non-painful. They are:

1. Valid Cognition (Pramana) 

(Knowledge should be acquired through direct experience for accepting any knowledge as correct.)

2. Misconception (Viparyaya) 

(Learning to dissolve our personal subjective frame of the way we see things, so we can start seeing things for what they truly are.)

3. Imagination (Vikalpa)

(Imagination, doubts, indecsion, daydreaming…. these are all our own creations, but our mind might start believing them for being true. We create an imagined world for ourselves based on our way of thinking. This ‘power of positive thinking’ may appear new age, however the yoga sutras has been teaching for thousands of years the importance of controlling the mind! Through this control, we can liberate ourselves from suffering.)

4. Sleep (Nidra)
(When the mind is not in one of the first three vrittis, it might be in the nidra state: the mind is directed inward, operating at a very subtle level. B.K.S Iyengar says that “sleep is the non-deliberate absence of thought-waves or knowledge”. )

5. Memory (Smriti)
(The Yoga Sutra 1.11 is translated as “Memory is the mental retention of a conscious experience” or “memory is a recollection of experienced objects”. All conscious experiences leave an impression on the individual and are stored as memory. It is not possible to tell if a memory is true, false, incomplete or imaginary. Think about a different people who will recall the same event, they all might remember it differently. Memory can influence your present situation more than you might realize, by holding onto certain impressions (conditionings), it’s very likely we can’t experience the now AS IT IS…without bias, judgement or criticism.)

So, how can this knowledge serve us in calming the fluctuations of the mind?

 

By being able to become an observer, stepping out of yourself and observing and recognizing these different functions of the mind, without being attached, upset or frustrated, slowly you will learn how the mind works. Once you are able to observe without reaction, you will be able to differentiate the mind and all of its fluctuations from your true nature. You aren’t the mind and it’s thoughts, emotions, imaginations, memories and fluctuations. No, behind the fluctuations of the mind, you might catch a glimpse of your true self. The true self which is only emptiness, and at the same time contains everything. You might discover there is no separation between ‘Me’ & ‘You’.

 

So the most simple answer to calming the mind and finding peace with life’s paradoxes is to do your practice. Do your practice, and stay the observer – On your yoga-mat, off the yoga-mat, all day, all night. Yoga is all the time, meditation is all the time. Through a regular and sustained practice, life will unfold the way it is meant to.

 

 

 

 

 

Yara will be a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor from October 2017 on. She is a certified Myofascial Energetic Release (M.E.R.) Therapist. She is Dutch, currently living in France. As a former circus-artist she loves to play, move and travel around the world.

From Perfectionist To Perfect

“Yoga is about progress, not perfection”.

I see this phrase – and others that say essentially the same thing – a lot on social media, and at first glance, I like it. I like it a lot. Finally, someone is telling me that I don’t have to be perfect! I can screw up, and no one will mind! I can fall out of Headstand rather than elegantly lowering myself back down into Child’s pose, and it’s ok. I can wobble in Tree pose, and fart in Happy Baby, and puff rather than glide my way through Surya Namaskar (and, by the way, I don’t even have to use Sanskrit names that I can’t pronounce, let alone remember), and it’s all fine. And as a relatively new yoga teacher, the initial idea of progress not perfection is doubly appealing. It means that next time I lose track of which leg goes forward first, I shouldn’t worry about it. If I forget where we are in that sequence I so carefully prepared, and a class of 40-odd students are sweating in Downward Dog while they wait for me to tell them what to do next, it’s ok. I can laugh it off. I can demonstrate firsthand to my students that even yoga teachers don’t get it right all the time. Everyone messes up occasionally, and it’s all ok.

It felt great, until I realised something…that implicit in that phrase, there was an assumption that it wouldn’t always be this way. I would progress. I would get better. Not only that, but that I would want desperately to get better, and that I would work hard to do so. I would put in the hours on my mat until I became more flexible, stronger, and able to come down out of headstand like the textbooks say you should. I wouldn’t fart in Happy Baby, and my Sun Salutations (or Surya Namaskar, now) would be effortless. And I definitely, definitely wouldn’t forget what comes next in the sequence I teach.

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I realised that, in today’s western (yoga) world, being imperfect is acceptable up to a point. After that – if your progress isn’t fast enough or good enough – yoga becomes just one more thing that you can’t do. Time to give up and try something else that you might have better luck with.

Yet this is almost the exact opposite of what yoga teaches us (or is supposed to teach us), and that is that everything is already perfect. Not perfect for now, or good enough for now, but perfect in the present moment.

We are all already under so much pressure in our lives to be perfect….or at least, if we can’t be perfect, to at least want to be. We are always striving to be better in some way. To have more money, to have a better house, to get a better job that’s higher up the ladder, to be better parents, better siblings, better children, better teachers. To be better people. And in a way, that’s natural and good. Ambition is what gets us out of bed in the mornings. The desire to grow is what keeps us learning and exploring. The desire to nail that headstand is, perhaps, what keeps us coming back to our mats, at least to start with. Without progress in some form or another, millions more of us would still be dying of the flu, and I wouldn’t be typing this now.

But our desire for progress has become all-consuming, and the word “progress” itself cannot be criticized. If something is labelled as “progressive”, then the overriding feeling is that it must be good whether we like it or not. Sometimes, it feels like the worst thing we can do is to “not progress”. We must always be moving on to the next even better thing, and we become very attached to doing so. Then if, for some reason, that progress doesn’t happen, we suffer. We suffer even if it does happen, because it’s never long before a new desire for something even bigger and better and “more progressive” kicks in, and the whole cycle starts over again. We very rarely stop and take a moment to appreciate what we already have, and to appreciate where we already are….and even rarer is the feeling of being satisfied with that.

If we let it, yoga gives us that feeling. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to improve our asanas, or that we don’t want to grow and learn in our practice. But those precious hours on the mat are our time – perhaps the only time some of us get – to be ourselves, warts and all. Yoga gives us the space and time to be who we are, not who we pretend to be. It gives us the opportunity to discover who that person is. It isn’t the time to push, or to berate ourselves for, yet again, not being good enough or not making fast enough progress. Maybe we will eventually be able to do headstand without crashing down out of it….in fact, if we keep practicing, the likelihood is that we will. Yoga, though, can also show us that it is futile to become attached that hope. Instead of constantly chasing after a new goal, yoga shows us that we have a choice, and we could choose to believe that wherever we are in our practice is perfect. It’s where we are now, in the present moment – and being aware of the present moment and acknowledging it, candidly and truthfully and authentically, is part of what yoga is really about.

Progress? Or perfection? I’m going with perfection…..just not the type of perfection we are so used to thinking about and aiming for. Not a perfectionist style of perfection, but a perfect-in-the-present-moment type of perfection. It’s hard. I haven’t managed it yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. I suspect there will always be a part of me that worries about making mistakes as a teacher, that pushes to be better, stronger, more flexible, and that berates the other part of me for not doing well enough. But I am starting to accept that all I can do is show up, in the moment, as I am. Perfect.

Or, at least, good enough.

 

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Ali is a certified yoga teacher, crystal healer, writer, editor and dreamer at http://kriyashakti.net. When not on the yoga mat, she can usually be found reading, drinking tea, or on a beach (ideally all three). She is currently based in the U.K.

Presence & Prosperity Lessons from Shakti Fest 2017

Basking in the sunshine, camping under the stars, and moving my body with amazing yoga teachers is what I came to Shakti Fest for – what I left with was a new clarity on how to approach living yoga beyond a mat, retreat, spiritual text, or paycheck.

I’ve been practicing yoga for twelve years, teaching for seven, and grappling with the money question for lifetimes beyond this current reality. How do I teach yoga, be of service to the world, and also make enough money to pay my rent? I find myself oscillating around this frequently, which takes me out of my practice and keeps me stuck in my monkey mind (or maybe it’s my money mind?).

After spending a weekend immersed at Shakti Fest – studying, chanting, dancing, and practicing with some of the most inspiring yoga teachers, workshop facilitators, and kirtan artists, I believe I’m closer to the answer than ever before: living yoga is living service – meaning serve first, live yoga off the mat, and prosperity will come. Also, as advised to me by Shakti Fest’s executive producer, and world renowned yoga teachers Shiva Rea and Kia Miller: “Don’t quit your day job!”

In Sanskrit, yoga, which derives from the word yuj, means “to unite” or “to join.” The Sanskrit word, seva (“selfless service”), derives from two words: saha, meaning “with that,” and eva, meaning “too;” combined seva means “together with” or “unity.”

Just serve, and then you will make money? Some might call that naive…but some of the great teachers have lived by and are still living by this concept and it works.

“I say teach yoga, but teach it with a passion,” said Shakti Fest’s Executive Producer, Sridhar Steven Silberfein, when asked about how to make teaching yoga sustainable. “Teach it with a love that you want to help change people and turn people on to a better way of life. Not ‘what am I gonna get from it’– we’ve got to stop that concept. Everything will come to you at the right time, it’s just our anxieties and desires built up from our ego mind that want everything right now.”

Silberfein started Shakti and Bhakti Fest, the largest yoga and kirtan festivals in the USA, as well as several other businesses that combine business and yoga (a health food store, natural skin care line, and a recording label to name a few).

“Basically we wake up in the morning, we produce, direct, edit, and write our own story and we star in it. That’s all we do everyday – just think about ourselves. Hardly any time is spent thinking about another person or a group of people. So by coming here we are building spiritual community, a safe haven.”

Shakti Fest is a place where people can come back to themselves, center in, and as they reconnect with themselves, they connect with others, and unite with their community with more integrity. In addition to Shakti Fest being an incredible venue for yogic practices and sacred community, it also lives service through its seva program – where people can volunteer in exchange for festival tickets and camping. Shakti Fest also donates all of the proceeds (after paying for expenses) to orphanages in India to support young girls who are living in poverty. Silberfein is dedicated to living a simple life so we can give back and practice seva as much as possible.

“Service to me is an attitude of being” said Kia Miller, internationally renowned Kundalini and Hatha Yoga teacher. “When I’m fully present to the moment I’m able to serve the moment from my full being. When I’m living my life from that place then I’m naturally by extension being of service.”

She also recognizes the difficulty in combining business and yoga. “You don’t want to put all the pressure on making your rent by teaching yoga. It’s helpful that you have something else that’s paying your rent and your food bills for a little while. When you are really in alignment and you’re serving and you’re giving to people I find that there is just a natural prosperity that follows that.”

Miller believes that acting out of service is not separate from any other way of being.

“Everything you’re doing is coming from a connected place of service as opposed to separating it out and living your life here and being a certain way, and then serving over there, and then feeling bad about yourself or beating yourself up because you’re not serving in the way people perceive people should serve.”

Her message is loud and clear: stop trying so hard and instead just be present in the moment, present for yourself, and ultimately present for your community. The more we live from a place of connectivity and unity, the more we are truly practicing yoga at its core meaning.

A lot easier said than done, right?! Miller suggests the simple act of doing a daily yoga practice to ground into this concept. She says “Just keep practicing. If your well runs dry, then try something new. There are so many different approaches to yoga and I think it’s important that we keep open to everything and not become too narrow. We want to be narrow enough that we can dig a deep well but we don’t want to lose the ability to be receptive to all.”

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been integrating concepts I learned at Shakti Fest into my daily practice and I’ve noticed a big shift. I feel more aligned to myself and therefore more capable of connecting with others out of integrity. As for paying the rent, I’ve let go of the concept of trying so hard to make yoga my profession, but rather my living. I now know that the more I live yoga, and live seva, the money will come. I’m also working on getting a day job…

The annual Shakti Fest and Bhakti Fest happen every May and September in Joshua Tree, California to bring song, dance, yoga, chanting, meditation, workshops, and delicious vegetarian and vegan food together.

For more information or to buy tickets for Bhakti Fest this September, please visit their website:

http://bhaktifest.com/
Bhakti Fest – September 7-11, 2017
Shakti Fest – May 10-14. 2018

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.  

@momomagical

Discovering the Self Through the Breath in Mysore

I was in Mysore, India, for a month studying with Saraswathi Jois, Guriji’s daughter. I found myself full of emotions, thoughts, feelings. Mainly, my heart was full of gratitude. Below are some of the reflections I wrote down while I was there.

First of all, the breath.

The breath is a powerful and inspiring tool for grounding, discovering the self, exploration, and trust. In our daily life, we rarely pay attention to our breath. Yet, it is there, happening as an unconscious miracle, every day.

In our yoga practice, the breath is also there, just happening. It persists with unrelenting tirelessness. The practice gives us a chance to become familiar with it, to look closely at our inhalation and exhalation, to listen to the sound of our own personal breath.

Through the practice, we learn that a long deep breath gives us more stability, sense of grounding and introspection. A shallow breath may, instead, be the expression of an unfocused mind, a sense of impatience, or of a physical/mental tension.

During the practice, with every single inhalation and exhalation, we are given a possibility for self-exploration. Why is my breath shallow today? What are the thoughts coming up in my mind? What are the physical and mental tensions I am carrying with me on the yoga mat? What prevents me from being totally focused and grounded in my yoga practice today?

By simply asking these questions and observing the feelings (and answers!) that might arise – without bringing in any form of judgement or any intellectual reasonings – we undertake a journey of self-discovery, through the breath.

The mind is there, ready for judging whatever arises. Our inner “enemies” (competition, anger, fear, and so on) are also there, ready to take control. Yet, our challenge is to maintain an observer’s disposition, acknowledging with gratitude and acceptance whatever arises.

If tension or discomfort arises, we can consciously decide to change our breath and make it deeper, longer and steadier, contracting the glottis to produce a gentle sound of ocean. Through the breath, we instill in ourselves a sense of grounding and focusing.

We learn that the breath is there to help us be present. We experience that, in the moment we intentionally decide to breathe deeply and steadily, this will change our practice and our focus.

The presence of the breath as a tool for self-exploration is available in each posture. Every inhalation gives us a possibility to go inwards, to notice our personal “reaction” to the posture. How is our body in that asana? How is our mind? Any specific emotions arising? Any tension? Every inhalation gives us also a new chance for further lengthening, opening, twisting, folding, so we can reach – even with just one more inch – a totally new different space of self-exploration.

And then, the beautiful miracle of the exhalation comes, reminding us to let go of whatever we encountered, to simply acknowledge, with a sense of acceptance and gratitude, whatever was there in our path, present in that specific moment. What is coming up to the surface is most probably what we have to work on. Observing, acknowledging and accepting it, is the very first step for “progressing” in our spiritual path towards the discovery of the Self.

Finally, the breath leads each single movement throughout our yoga practice. When the inhalation begins, we open, we lengthen, we rise, at the pace of our breath, with a sense of being fully present in the moment. At the exhalation, we fold, we twist, we release. How reassuring and calming it is to wait until the very end of the inhalation/exhalation before changing posture, with no rush, no impatience. How beautiful it is to embrace the magic of the moment in between the inhalation and the exhalation and vice versa. A moment of quietness, when we are completely confident that the next inhalation/exhalation is there, about to happen. With no rush, we follow the dance of the breath with trust and patience.

 

Valeria is a freelance consultant in gender and international development, a yoga teacher and practitioner. She has travelled to and lived in several countries. She strongly believes in the power of yoga to empower communities and to inspire social change.