Work Trade, Travel and Yoga

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

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

Expand your horizons

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

Acquire experience in the field

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

Get out of your bubble

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

Better sense of accomplishment

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

Only way to do it is in person

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

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

Photography by: Lanny Headrick

 

 

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

10 Insights From the One Who Thought They’d Never Teach Yoga

I remember very vividly, standing on the beach with a couple of my girlfriends about to go surf. It was one of those complete cloud-free sunny mornings. Far off, the waves broke over the reef.

“It looks okay, but I’m so tired and sore,” one friend complained. “I still have noodle arms from surfing twice yesterday.”  Two-a-day sessions were the norm for these girls, and yesterday having been dragged around by their enthusiasm, I shrugged and half-agreed. My arms were pretty much toast too.

“We should probably stretch before we paddle out,” the other suggested. “Hey you do yoga, lets do that.” “Yeah, you teach us.”

“Ha .. . no way! I don’t teach yoga,” I blurted out. “Are you crazy, I would never be a yoga teacher.”

In the moment, what I said felt to be complete and utter truth.

Sure, I liked yoga. And sure, I practiced. But was I the beginnings of a teacher? Err, doubt it. Did I even like yoga that much? Uhh well . . .Let alone the talking? To groups of people? To tell them what to do? For at least an hour? Agrhh, no thank you!

Hmm. We stood there, staring at our toes buried in the sand, still hesitant to paddle out.

“Fine, we can do a few things,”  I said as I probably rolled my eyes. Then for the next few minutes I stumbled awkwardly  through leading a few stretches that, at times, resembled yoga asana. Soon after, we paddled out into the icy Pacific . . .

And while my words that morning, “I will never be a teacher”, left an impression deeply etched into my psyche, flash-forward a few years later, something else deeper within would beg very differently of me. Just after the New Year, I broke the news to my same surfer friends.

“Ladies, I’m out. . .I can’t do this anymore.  I’m quitting my job. . . ” I hesitated and then told them my plans, “I’m off to yoga teacher training in Mexico. I already turned in my notice, I leave next month!”  

With large eyes and disbelief, “you’re doing what?!” they asked. Sure they were open-minded, but they weren’t exactly the type to forgo the stability of a salary and leap completely into the unknown.  I wasn’t sure I was that type either, but here I was about to do it.

Eight years later and here I am, a yoga teacher. Mine isn’t a story of overnight success, but more of a bumpy road, ups and downs, twists and turns, periods of teaching, periods of hibernation, periods of discovery and re-inspiration. It hasn’t been clear cut or logically defined, but still, I lean into this journey of becoming a guide for our yoga practice.

So for the ones who thought they’d never teach yoga, but then listened to a different calling deep in their heart. . .

And for those who started this journey, but are now questioning why. . .  

Here are a few insights that I will tell my younger self when time travel becomes a reality. Until then, perhaps they will help you as you forge your unique path.

1. Begin

Start here, where you are. Start now. You don’t have to teach yoga everyday, but you must begin.

At this point, consider yourself a guide as you lead class. And let yourself think out of the box to find a comfortable space to teach in and gain experience.

Try getting out of the studio and teach in less intimidating locations for less intimidating audiences. Hold a class in nature – at a park or at the beach. Offer some lunchtime yoga at your work. Host an informal class during a weekend getaway with friends. Not all classes have to be 90 or 60 minutes. Maybe 30 minute practices are the perfect place for you to start.  

So begin, and little by little, you will become more comfortable with your voice, your instructions, your sequences, your knowing and your not knowing.

2. Get on the schedule

After you log those initial hours and sub some classes at your local studio, step up and get on the regular schedule. Teach.

But also know that sometimes plans, ideas, and goals change. And this is okay.

For example, during my early yoga years, I loved fast vinyasa classes. My favorite classes were led by talented teachers who moved us quickly through inspiring flows. They guided us effortlessly (it appeared) through well thought out sequences, each unique day in and day out.  

That’s the kind of yoga I knew.  That’s the kind of yoga I liked. That’s the kind of yoga I expected to flow out of me as I taught. But, reality check, that kind of yoga didn’t.

I kept at it for awhile, stumbling, refining, improving little by little. But eventually I decided to stop trying.

. . . for awhile (like more than a year awhile).

But guess what?

3. Interruptions and pauses are OKAY

Stepping away from what you were trying to be or trying to achieve is fine. These breaks can turn into periods of learning, refinement, re-dedication and growth. These breaks are a hibernation of sorts, where if you give yourself time and support, your inspiration to walk the teachers path will come back in the right way and in the right time.

For me it was while rediscovering yin yoga. During one such hiatus, a few years after my original yoga teacher ambitions, I last-minute enrolled in a yin yoga training and it shifted everything.

4. Be yourself. Find an aspect that you believe in, something that draws you in and be with that

In yin, I found a great balance of being able to teach slow and to talk less – a way of teaching that was very fitting for my natural introvert personality. In addition, I was able to more solidly grasp the main teachings and less complicated practice. So when I taught yin I kept it simple and my critical, perfectionist self was much more able to tolerate my teaching ability.

Additionally, in the yin practice, I admired how it gave students space. Lots and lots of space to feel your body, to observe your mind, and to go within slowly to be with what was. The practice pretty much forces you to slow down, and then naturally invites you to move deeper into the inner space.

Sometimes I feel this aspect of yoga is lost in western vinyasa flows, but is so needed in our fast-paced modern culture. So in my rediscovery of the yin approach, I was lured back into wanting to share this type of experience of yoga with others.

So when you’re re-inspired and reconnected to why you want to teach . . .

5. Get on the schedule (again)

That’s right, when the time feels right, get on the regular schedule again. Then, give yourself time to teach and evolve your craft. Teaching over time is how you gain experience.

6. Evolve

When you are ready, immerse yourself into your next level of teaching. Sometimes this takes initiative on your part. Sometimes it happens with a gentle push from those you work with.

For me, the next phase in my teaching came while living in Costa Rica.

Teaching abroad can be magic for a few reasons.

If you are not teaching frequently then these short term opportunities are a great way to immerse yourself and teach more consistently, perhaps even daily.

In addition, many of these opportunities are for teaching travelers. This means you will get to teach a wide variety of people, at many levels in their practice. And sure sometimes you will be thrown waaayyyy out of your comfort zone, but luckily you will figure out how to handle this. In fact, as you step into it, I bet you will surprise yourself.

Teaching abroad allows you to get out of your normal surroundings and step into teaching yoga in a whole new way. So yes, hello yoga trade opportunities!  

But that reminds me . . .

7. Don’t quit your day job (in the beginning)

If you are fresh out of a YTT, do yourself a favor and don’t create more stress than is necessary. Having multiple streams of income while you are gaining experience and refining your craft is key.  

For me, having remote web design work has allowed me the funds to cover expenses and to continue to invest in my yoga education. I have also been able to find a nice balance between creativity on and off a computer, while escaping burnout from either side.

Plus, in the beginning, it was very helpful to not have to force myself to teach before I felt ready.

And who knows, maybe those at your current job are great students for your first teaching gigs. I have many times been surprised by who is curious and interested to see what this yoga thing is all about. Could it be you to introduce them to yoga? Could it be your experience and view of yoga that inspires them into the practice?

So again, it’s key to know what  aspect of yoga you really want to share. What messages are you passionate to teach?

8. Know what excites you

If you more consciously know what excites you about the practice, and more consciously weave those messages through your teachings, then you will effortlessly stay within your realm of inspiration. When you are connected to your inspiration, others will resonate and be inspired too.

In the beginning, since I am not a huge talker and speaking in front of groups is out of my comfort zone, I struggled with understanding why I actually wanted to teach.

But eventually, I realized I was excited and wanted to talk to students about the energy healing benefits of yoga and the related practices of sound healing and Reiki.  

Sure, I enjoy yoga asana, but what lights me up is sharing my understanding of certain benefits, for example, how movement and breathwork prepare you for meditation, how your subtle energy body has time to balance and heal itself, how you can use sound for reaching deep states of peace, how you can be fully with your experience to transform it. . .  

These are the conversations that I get excited about. And these are the sparks of joy, that as a teacher, are so important to feel.

Not every student will be sparked on your idea of this or that. But you will resonate with some. And if you make a difference in only one life, wouldn’t that still be success?

So what lights you up?

9. Know and then be. Experience, evolve and expand

There’s no need to be rigid in claiming what you believe in and what you have to share through your teachings. Keep immersing in the practices. Keep learning. Keep growing. Let your message and depth evolve.

And whether you’re sure or not sure if you have truly discovered what lights you up, stay open to your next level of growth, as a person, as a yogi, as a teacher.

You don’t have to figure it out in one day, you probably will be unraveling this your entire life. This is a life practice with bits and pieces of delicious goodness to taste and savor along the way. Give yourself time to experience. To practice. To learn. To grow. To connect with community, to connect with spirit, to connect with your deepest part of self, your soul essence.

This will lead you to the true magic of your soul. And upon touching into this, you will understand, this is your gift to share with the world, through your teachings.

10. Start here. Start now. Go on, take your next step . . .

Here are a few upcoming opportunities for learning, growth and connection within the YT community:

1 – Deep Ecology of Wellness  

2 – Yoga Trade + Membership 

3 – Learn Reiki energy healing & surfing on Retreat w/ Neomi 

Cover Photo:  Shaka Costa Rica 

About Neomi:

 

Neomi simply wishes to help make the world a more beautiful place by helping others to discover the love that rests deep within their heart. Sometimes this love is hidden, very far out of sight and under many layers. But, with the practices of surf and soul – especially the energy healing practices of sound and Reiki – she believes all people can access and experience their soul essence, their soul power, their soul light and love.

 

 

Join Neomi for a SurfSoul Retreat this August in Costa Rica. Throughout the week you will journey into your next level of wholeness – a vibrant expression of feeling deep happiness, love and joy for life through yoga and surf adventures.

In this small group retreat, you will dive into both inner and outer adventures. You will learn to surf, practice yoga and meditation, experience crystal singing bowl sound healing and learn the sacred art of Reiki energy healing.

Check out her website for more information about this: Surf and Soul Adventure 

 

Diving In: The Yoga Trade Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste Yoga Traders.

 

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

Connect with Kelsey:

FB: @kelseyjaneyoga

Join Kelsey on retreat:

Our Thirst for Experiential Travel

The very essence of travel has always been about seeking unique and memorable experiences. However, in recent years, we have become ever so dissatisfied with the same old well-trodden tourist trails. More than ever before, we are actively seeking to expand our horizons and dive deeper beyond the worn pages of a guidebook. We have developed a near-insatiable thirst to wander unique pathways and to connect with local cultures and real people. Rather than merely sightseeing or ticking off popular bucket-list itineraries, our travel plans are made with the desire to authentically immerse ourselves within a destination.

It is no surprise that experiential travel is the most significant, systemic trend in worldwide tourism today. The term ‘experiential travel’ typically refers to the idea of having a more immersive, local, authentic and/or active travel experience. While travel is inherently experiential by definition, how we travel and what we want from our bursts of nomadic living has seen a dramatic shift over the last decade.  

For many of us, experiences now far outweigh material possessions, and alongside this thirst for seeing the world is a global demand for travel that resonates on a deeper emotional level, more than a mere physical level. More than mere consumers, we seek to navigate our own journey and emerge at the other end transformed in a significant and memorable way.

This exciting shift is driving the travel industry to become more adventurous, more personalized, and more attuned to what makes each destination unique as they strive to convey a meaningful experience to travellers in a short period of time.  

The notion of the pre-packaged travel brochure has long seen its heyday. The hunt is now on for an experience that is unique, enriching and as far from the beaten path as possible. The one-size-fits-all package is now no longer appealing or relevant to the modern savvy consumer. Rather than sit by a pool with cocktail in hand, we want to have life-fulfilling journeys that closely align with our own personal values. Where travellers once talked about what they saw or did on a vacation, we now focus more intently on whom we met on the road and how a journey offered us a new worldview from which to ponder our own life and existence.

Earlier this year, Airbnb launched ‘experiences’ which are offered alongside the overwhelming amount of popular holiday rentals. This addition to the platform allows you to not only select your vacation property from any far-flung destination around the world, but to also choose from a diverse range of activities in that region, all offered by the local community. These can range from making crepes in Paris, to a graffiti tour of Barcelona, to a fabric workshop in Mexico, to a DIY tattoo session in Shanghai, to photography cycling tours through Prague and anything and everything in between.

Holiday companies around the world are following suit, expanding their offerings to meet this new demand. Travellers can try chocolate making in St. Lucia, sunrise yoga on a sandbank in the Maldives and street food safaris in Vietnam. Across the board, companies are creating fresh appeal for modern travellers by opening up opportunities where they can connect with local people. Whereas traditionally hotels have always devised ways to tempt their guests to stay within the hotel grounds to maximize revenue, the boom in experiential travel has encouraged hotels to act more like community portals, introducing guests to popular local experiences outside the realm of the hotel boundaries.

The Millennial demographic, perhaps more than any other, are driven by exotic locales and hands-on, adventure activities that push their boundaries and offer both transformational and also ‘insta-worthy’ moments. While there is a great deal of focus on Millennial travel trends, older generations are also driving significant demand for more experiential and adventurous travel options. The modern traveller, regardless of age, wants to forge deeper connections to the people, traditions and customs of the places they are visiting, adding a more meaningful and memorable component to their vacation. Travel companies are witnessing rising trends for new and more remote destinations within Asia, South America and Africa. This older generation of travellers are also inspired by personal interests; it’s not about seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Colosseum, it’s about learning how to make homemade tiramisu or stomping grapes during harvest season.

In the luxury segment, travel has become more focused on total curation and customization. Guests are encouraged to craft their own itineraries and high-end hotels and luxury travel companies are letting go of strict timetables and pre-determined plans to allow travellers to set their own agendas. If money is no issue, savvy travellers can create the most exclusive journey tailored to their wildest dreams; from Porsche ice-rally driving in Sweden, to luxury sea-kayaking trips around Indonesia in search of legendary komodo dragons, or a designer glamping safari tour along the Congo River from Kisangani to Kinshasa. Wealthy vacationers have often been the pioneers of adventurous travel into emerging destinations, proving again that adventure and experiential travel is not only for hearty youth, willing to risk life and limb for heart-stopping thrills.

The concept of experiential travel has also dramatically reshaped the wellness industry. The days of massage and wheatgrass shots have been surpassed by life-changing wellness journeys, meticulously crafted and seamlessly executed. Health and yoga retreats have dramatically multiplied in recent years as the demand for combining an exotic vacation with a healthy holiday has skyrocketed. At the click of a button we can browse a plethora of five star Ayurvedic resorts in India, exotic health spas in Thailand, guided luxury treks through Nepal or yoga sailing expeditions through the Greek islands. Popular health resort Six Senses, has recently introduced new multi-lodge wellness circuits that offers roaming wellness journeys that are set to redefine the wellness travel experience like never before.

So, what’s driving this new era of experiential travel? Chances are you have already guessed correctly. The dramatic interest in experiential travel can be primarily accredited to the predominance of social media in our modern lives. More than ever before, we are connected. We are acutely aware of what is going on around the world, we communicate daily with people in various time zones, we are bombarded with tens of thousands of images every single day; our horizons have dramatically expanded, primarily through the screens we are attached to and subjected to 24/7.

The frenetic nature of modern society induces a sense of urgency and desire. The rise of FOMO – the popular acronym for ‘fear of missing out’ – has driven us to want more, need more, and experience more, now. Driven and steered by social media, we are constantly searching for inspiration, gratification and happiness in unique ways. With our horizons broadened, experiential travel has stepped in, luring us to faraway lands. We are not only influenced by the happy travel snap shots offered by close friends and family. We are powerfully swayed and coerced through our infatuation with social media celebrities. Images of distant lands, people and cultures infiltrate our news feeds and inadvertently, our minds. Cliché vacations to Bali or Mexico no longer hold our interest when we are presented with glamping tents in Morocco, underwater hotels in the Maldives, clifftop cabins in Patagonia or luxury treehouses in the desert plains of Kenya. Digital nomads, millennials, Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers alike are all dialed into these latest travel trends which inspire cultural immersion far beyond the traditional UNESCO World Heritage Site lines.

When presented with these incredible global image hooks we have the means to search, click and book in moments. Platforms such as Bookings.com, Tripadvisor, Airbnb, and Sky Scanner have taken the power out of the travel agents hands, and delivered it directly to us, the consumer. But even as we roam further off the grid, we still want to stay connected. We want to update our status through our real-time experiences. With live Instagram stories, location pins, shared hashtags, and ‘checking in’ on Facebook, social media has become our publicly accessible travel diary and is an integral part of the modern travel experience.

The influence of experiential travel has also come to infiltrate our regular daily lives. No longer are we content with grabbing a coffee from Starbucks; we want to visit our local roaster, perch on handmade crate furniture and know which village the organic coffee beans have been ethically sourced from. No longer do we enjoy a glass of wine at home with our girlfriends; we want to visit the winery, do a tasting course, pick the grapes and understand the fermentation process. No longer do we eat out at the restaurant down the road; we take a Sunday drive to a free range farm where we pick our own greens from the garden, smell the bread baking and watch the chooks peck seed meters from our communal table. As we become tourists in our own cities, there are limitless ways to engage in experiential travel, whether it’s for a month, a week, a weekend or an hour.

If this trend is anything, it is optimistic. It proves that as a society, we want to connect, explore and broaden our knowledge and understanding of ourselves and one another. It proves that we want to push our boundaries and that we want more than the 9-5 with the annual family camping trip. It proves that we are drawn towards new horizons and that we are inherently programed to transform. It proves we want to be more than mere consumers on a predetermined path and we want to create our own journeys that we can filter and hashtag accordingly. It proves that we want more than mere stamps in our passport. It proves that we want to look back on our life, and be deeply moved by the people, places and journeys that we experienced.

 

 

Kelly Alexander is a passionate yoga teacher, plant-based chef and writer who has traveled and worked extensively across the world in health resorts, detox centers, raw food restaurants and wellness retreats. Kelly completed her 200hr yoga teacher training in Byron Bay, Australia in 2008 with Rachel Zinnman. She has a Raw Chef certification, is a qualified Holistic Health Coach, a published author and has a degree in Media & Creative Writing. A nomadic traveler and lover of nature, you are most likely to find Kelly upside down on her yoga mat, chasing a sunrise, or wandering through a local farmers market on the hunt for new culinary inspiration.

www.raw-by-nature.com

IG:  @_rawbynature_

 

Join the Yoga Trade family April 9-14, 2019 in Costa Rica for an immersive travel experience!!!

DEEP ECOLOGY of WELLNESS: Weaving the love of yoga and travel with regenerative lifestyle design.

https://yogatrade.com/deep-ecology-of-wellness-2019/

 

Gather Amongst the Joshua Trees

One of the things I cherish most about being a yoga teacher is the ability to be an eternal student. There is no endpoint to this path, we are constantly evolving, discovering, and soaking in all the lessons life gives us. Through years of traveling and soul-searching, the importance I find in community grows more and more. Community encourages personal growth and fosters the eternal student within us all.

In two weeks, amongst the magical Joshua trees, surrounded by the expansive desert, like-minded individuals from around the globe will gather as community at Shakti Fest. At this yoga and sacred music festival, we will honor the divine feminine in all of us. This world renowned festival offers countless opportunities for attendees to push their boundaries and discover their potential.

There will be yoga classes taught by world class yoga teachers including Shiva Rea, Mark Whitwell, and Kia Miller. Festival goers will be able to practice devotional chanting with enchanting Kirtan artists such as Jai Uttal, MC Yogi, and Govind Das & Radha. There will be workshops covering diverse topics such as Vedic astrology, women’s sexuality, and tantric energy. Participants will also be able to experience the healing effect of sound baths and discover the Eco Artisan Village with abundant vegetarian and vegan food vendors, eclectic yoga gear, and artisan jewelry.

An opportunity for transformational growth, Shakti Fest encourages attendees to connect and learn from each other. If you feel called to take on a more active roll and give back, Shakti Fest also offers Seva positions, where your service grants you a festival pass in exchange!

Connect with community, connect with nature, and connect with your Self. Join us at Shakti Fest this May 10 – 14 in Joshua Tree, California.

See you there!

 

 

 

Audrey Billups is a filmmaker, international yoga teacher, and Yoga Trade’s videographer. Her passion for yoga, travel, and film has brought her to many corners of the world. Follow along with her travels and work:

thenomadicfilmmaker.com

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

Dive Deep With a Single Breath

Cover Photo: SzJanko Photography

The ocean is one of my greatest teachers. Over recent years, I have been fascinated by the concept of free diving and the mental strength and grace I observe in those who practice exploring depths beneath the surface on a single breath. This past March, I arrived in Bocas Del Toro, Panama after spending an adventurous week sailing from the San Blas islands. As I took a morning stroll from the humble place I was staying, I noticed a sign outside of the Bocas Dive Center that read, “Free Your Soul – Try Free Diving”. This sign immediately drew me in, so I walked closer to read the details. I found out there was a yoga class on the water front deck that evening at sunset and that the yoga teacher was also one of the free dive instructors. I went to yoga and it was just what I needed, a wonderful class! I stayed afterwards to chat and found out more about the free diving course details. This led me to extend my time in Bocas by 24 hours so that I could at least take a one day class in free diving. The course blew me away! The instructors Gabrielle and Ariel are amazing humans and incredible teachers. With their guidance, teachings, and support, I made it down to 13 meters in one day! I am super inspired by the passion that radiates from Gabrielle and Ariel and their creation of Blue Chitta. They offer courses, trainings, and retreats all over the world that create space to experience full body and mind potential. Free diving is a fantastic compliment to yoga and meditation and I look forward to training with these two more in the near future. Learn more about this aquatic duo and what they do in the interview below…Thanks for diving deep!

Super excited to join in for the Freediving and Yoga Retreat in Bali //November 11 to 17 2018!

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to the earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

Can you tell us a little about your yoga background and how you met?

We both have a pretty strong yoga background, we started practicing about 8 years ago when we were still in the  scuba-diving business. We found something very special in the yoga practice, a deep feeling of inner peace & an opportunity to make the impossible a possibility. Ariel did his first Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Course in 2011 in Rishikesh India and started to teach yoga in Eilat, Israel soon after completing the training. We met in Eilat in 2011 in the dive shop where Ariel was working. I was a dive master at the time and I went to dive the Red Sea on my way to Thailand. We met in the public shower after the dive, he offered me soap and later on tea, we straight away had a special connection. That weekend, I went to my first Ashtanga Yoga Class led by Ariel in Hebrew! I continued my trip and made it to Thailand where I started practicing yoga more regularly in the local studios. A year later, Ariel moved to the same island I was living on (Koh Tao), to become a freediving instructor and started teaching yoga at the local yoga studio. I went to India to do my first TTC with Sivananda and a couple months after I completed a second TTC in Ashtanga and started working full time as a yoga teacher. By the end I was head teacher at the studio, teaching most of the classes from Hatha to Yin with a special love for Vinyasa & inversions. Ari was teaching freediving full time and spending his free time teaching Ashtanga Yoga or giving Thai Massage. We also started to practice and teach AcroYoga, a community based practice that blends the wisdom of Yoga, fire of Acrobatics and love and kindness of Thai Massage. In 2014, we founded Yoga Shak Montreal, a peaceful oasis in the city center of Montreal, a yoga studio dedicated to sharing good vibes through Yoga & Meditation.

You both started as scuba divers? Why did you make the crossover to free diving?

Getting more into yoga brought a change in our lifestyles. The scuba-diving business is very hard work, a lot of sophisticated equipment involved and the day usually ends at the bar at what they call ”Beer O’clock”. It was fun for a few years but after a while we started looking for something else. Evolution is an ongoing process. We would skip ”Beer O’clock” to practice yoga and meditation, we started to feel much more connected to our bodies and realized the power of the mind. When we came across freediving we felt like it was the perfect combination for us; mixing meditation, breath-control, our love for the ocean and offering a much more balanced life-style as well as a sense of freedom. Letting go of our heavy sophisticated equipment just made sense, it was part of our evolution, like a snake letting go of it’s old skin.

Photo: JF Gutierrez

Why do you feel yoga and freediving work so well together?

For us, yoga and freediving are two sides of the same thing, and at the same time are very complementary. The same principles apply in both yoga and freediving; using the breath to unlock the body and the mind to their full potential, creating space between the sensations and the reaction, and moving from fear to trust. They both bring us a deep sense of freedom, inner peace and Oneness. Practicing yoga and meditation is a part of most freedivers’ routine because it enhances their ability to stay calm under pressure, increase their lung capacity and keeps their body strong and healthy. Freediving is like taking the yoga practice into the ocean. The water is a very cleansing element, it brings up to the surface our deepest fears and gives us the opportunity to let them go, creating space for new beginnings and eventually bringing a great sense of empowerment. In both freediving and yoga, we get to let go of what is no longer serving us and to realize the limitless potential of our body & mind!

What kind of experience does one need to start free diving?

None. What we love about the way we teach our courses is that they are adapted to each student. We’ve had students who were terrified of the water…one woman could not even put her face in the water without panicking. With her, we worked on breaking mental blocks, creating new patterns of reaction and learning to trust the ocean. It took a little bit longer but after a few weeks she made it to 24 meters without any stress or fear and with a beautiful technique. Some people just want to learn the basics skills so they can go explore the reef safely and comfortably, others want to push their limit and dive as deep as they can…whatever it is, our general goal is to see some kind of improvement during the course and meet everyone’s individual needs and expectations. Knowing how to swim is a good start, but some people have even learned how to freedive before they could swim! Freediving is such a vast world, there is something for everyone and this is why we can allow ourselves to adapt the courses to each individual.

Can you recall one of your most memorable dives?

One of our best dives was in Mexico…we went freediving with a friend, we took a local boat to the reef and when Ariel did his first dive of the day to about 30 meters, he came back up with four dolphins spinning around him! I could not believe it! The dolphins were so curious, they were talking and singing and playing around with us for about an hour. They were copying our every move, if we would dive they would dive, if we would jump they would jump, spin they spin, it was spectacular! There is something magical with having a connection with dolphins; they establish a very strong eye contact and you instantly realize that they are much smarter than we can imagine. We can hear them communicating underwater with their whistle and it feels like we can understand what they are saying. In the end of the day they are mammals just like us, our bodies are very similar and react with the same adaptations when we dive into the sea on a single breath. I think this is why freediviers and dolphins have a special connection, they remind us that we are all the same, part of a whole, WE ARE ONE! <3
Another spectacular dive was Ariel’s first competition dive in Free2Be Comp. in Eilat. Competitions are very stressful for everyone; organizers, athletes and coaches. This was Ariel’s first competition and he announced a 60 meter dive. As his coach, I was at the surface waiting for him while he was diving down, not allowed to dive with him or else he would be disqualified. This would be an ”easy” dive for him regularly and he’d been going to this depth and deeper many times before, but to dive down alone on a single breath with all the adrenaline and the stress of everyone around was a whole new thing. He had about three minutes to breathe before he went down. The safety team was making sure he was hooked correctly to the line with his lanyard and counting the time down until it was his time to take a big breath and dive down. For the whole way down Ari was alone, leaving the stress and tension behind him, focusing only on his equalization, the present moments and letting go of any unnecessary stress or expectations. At the surface we were counting the time, after about 75 seconds we felt the turn, the safety team went down to meet him at about 30 meters on his way up. I still wasn’t sure if he had made it all the way down or not. Eventually I saw him coming up, as he winked, I knew. Once he surfaced he had 15 seconds to do three things in this specific order; 1- Clear his airway (take his noseclip off), 2- Give the OK hand signal to the judges, 3- Say the words ”I AM OK”. He did it perfectly without any signs of hypoxia or weakness. Following this, he had another 15 seconds to show the judges and the crowd the tag he had picked up at the bottom plate while keeping his airways above the wavy waters. He did all of this like a Boss! He looked so fresh and clean that the judges told him he should have gone for a deeper dive!

Where is your favorite place to dive?

Next to big animals!!! We were teaching in Mozambique, Africa for a while and on almost every dive we would see humpback whales and it was mind blowing every single time! Diving with Mantas in Bali is always EPIC and the dive with the dolphins in Mexico was definitely one of the best! But the ocean is unpredictable and the same spot can look completely different from one day to the another.

Anything else you’d like to share?

We have some amazing retreats and trainings coming up later this year! Discover your true potential in this unique 6 days all-inclusive Yoga and Freediving Retreat by the Sea led by Gabrielle GQ & Natalie Rudman  November 11 to 17 2018 in BALI. You will be breathing a lot; exploring various pranayama that can be applied both in the practice of Yoga and Freediving, connecting your mind and body through Yin Yoga and Vinyasa Flows, eating delicious local vegan food and learn how to explore the ocean on a single breath!

JOIN US!

Learn more about the November Bali Retreat HERE

 
Blue Chitta was founded in 2014 by Ariel Kedmi & Gabrielle GQ, two Nomad Ocean Lovers who want to share their passion for Freediving, Yoga & Thai Massage with the world! Blue represents the infinity of the sea and the sky and the love of the ocean. In India and in the Yogic Philosophy, Blue is a divine colour; the color of All-inclusiveness. Sadhguru says that anything that is vast and beyond our perception tends to be blue & this is why so many gods in India are shown as blue-skinned. Chitta is a sanskrit word that means consciousness or the connection between the Heart and the Mind.  Blue Chitta is about revealing the full potential of our mind, body and soul! Since 2014, Blue Chitta has been offering freediving and yoga trainings around the globe, from Africa to South East Asia passing through the Red Sea and all the way to the Caribbean!  Always looking to create life-changing experiences whether it’s through workshops, retreats, courses or trainings! 
IG/FB / @BlueChitta

A Yoga and Surfing Adventure Story

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

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

I opted for the first one.

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

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

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

We planned a ‘trip of a lifetime’.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

wavestrengthyoga

 

You Are The Writer Of Your Own Life

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

They could see the bigger picture.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The Butterfly Yogini

Clare Fitzgerald

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

Instagram: Butterfly_yogini

Love. Inspire. Grow. Heal. Transformation.

How Yoga Travel Humbles The Control Freak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

https://www.samanthanaturalhealth.com/

IG: @samimigliozzi

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