Redefining Freedom: An Empowering Change in Perspective

For a long time, there has been a calling in my heart that was not easy to hear, listen to, and answer. For many years, I have been on a journey of global travel and simultaneously an internal journey of self-discovery, personal growth, yoga, spiritual practices, and redefining freedom. This exploration of the world and myself was my entire lived experience for several years as I pursued life as a full-time nomad.

What initially sparked my interest in travel was personal growth. Whether this was a fully conscious decision or not, I knew at some level that I was not living in alignment with my most authentic self, and that I had some discovery to do. I knew from personal experience that pushing myself out of my comfort zone (and I mean FAR out) was always the fastest route to growth.

So I left the country and pushed myself into new and overwhelming experiences, jobs, places, and practices. I found a passion for yoga, and became a travelling yoga teacher, finding many amazing opportunities through Yoga Trade. I discovered permaculture, became a body worker, and found myself among communities of people who not only shared my passions, but made me feel at home in this world.

Life became an experience of absolute freedom, as I learned to trust the Universe and myself more and more, and learned to let go of plans and expectations. I often had no idea where I would be a month from now, and followed the inspirations and opportunities that presented themselves to me. The world became my oyster as I learned that I could literally do anything I wanted, and go anywhere I dreamed.

But after several years of living this way, something shifted. I no longer yearned for constant new and foreign experiences to delight my senses. I no longer sought to move my heart and my body every few months.

With the freedom of absolute choice, came an inner knowing of discernment. I began to learn about myself and my preferences, my passions, my goals and my dreams. I was no longer a lost girl who needed to experience everything to learn what life was about. I had clarity.

Suddenly, unlimited choice became burdensome rather than freeing. As I gained awareness of my authentic self and the things I was most passionate about, I wanted to create, cultivate, and build something. Moving every few months kept me in a state of constant readjustment, which was something I was well adapted to handle. I knew the practices, people, places, and experiences I needed to carve out to create a happy existence in each new place, and doing so was no longer out of my comfort zone.

Instead of making me free, constant movement was holding me back from expanding into a woman who could take all I had learned and apply it. I was being called to find stillness, to focus my energy on creating and building and honing in on my passions and purpose.

It was really difficult for me to accept this knowledge at first. I had confused my authentic identity, which I found through my inner and outer journey, with the act of travel. I had confused the concept of freedom with the act of being free of commitment to any single place or path.

Ultimately, listening to my heart has guided me to end my full time travels and commit to a particular path that feels in total alignment with my passions and purpose. The most empowering shift in perspective I have experienced throughout this transition has been shifting my relationship with the concept of freedom.

Freedom of choice provided me with the clarity to know who I am, what I love most, what my gifts and talents are, where my community is, how I want to feel, and how I want to exist and move through the world. I fully endorse anyone who is willing and courageous enough to walk into the unknowns of exploration that solo travel provides, and to truly discover themselves through the freedom of choice.

For me, now armed with the knowledge of clarity, freedom looks very different.

There is a new kind of freedom that comes from knowing yourself so deeply, and committing to the things, places, people, and paths that fully align with your soul.

Commitment and learning to stay still have opened up a whole new realm of creativity and opportunity. There is freedom that comes from knowing the difference between something that is right for me and something that is a beautiful idea for someone else. There is freedom in saying no to things that are not my passion. There is freedom in becoming so clear on what I want, that anything outside of that does not need to be experienced to know it isn’t right.

Remembering that I am free, even though I am no longer floating through life with no fixed address empowers me to embrace my experience. This transition is big and scary, and SO FAR out of my comfort zone. I still have a lot of work to do to cultivate the lifestyle, community, career, partnership, and home of my wildest dreams. Sometimes I feel daunted and overwhelmed, and my self-doubt has me asking myself “what the heck am I doing here?” and “why did I give up a life of total adventure for this?”

In these moments, I graciously remind myself that all of the lessons and growth of the road led me here. That those adventures, challenges, and new experiences taught me who I am, and what I am meant to do in this world. I am finding the discipline to dedicate myself to what I now know is right for me.

And now, freedom looks like consciously choosing and committing to walk the path that I have fully chosen. Freedom means I know myself and belong to myself so deeply, that I have the courage to do exactly what I am meant to do.

 

 

 

Hannah is a wild soul, nature lover, plant enthusiast, yogi, and community builder. She is passionate about facilitating healing through connecting humans with each other and the natural world. She is now pursuing full time studies as a Clinical Therapeutic Herbalist in Canada, and plans to begin offering re-wilding retreats for women in Costa Rica in 2020.

@rewildthesoul

How Fear Can Open New Doors

What is fear, how can we define it? Or, let’s ask this: Why do we fear? From what, when, and how do we fear and how can it open new doors?

Fear:

Noun: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.
Verb: being afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or harmful.

”Fear is the cheapest room in the house,
I would like to see you in better conditions.”
-Hafiz

Basically, fear is a feeling that arises from a dangerous situation or threat and causes changes in the metabolism and eventually in behavior.

Fear is the natural and necessary reaction of the body to situations where it feels danger and wants to survive; which actually thanks to fear, the race of human being survived until today. But in our daily lives – let’s say ‘most of the time’, we do not deal with or confront the things that truly threaten our lives. At least for most of us, these situations are less than before. But we still deal with an unnecessary feeling of fear daily, and maybe sometimes we do not even understand where it comes from.

According to research, most common fears in society are; failure, being alone, rejection, flying, heights, spiders, clowns (I can relate to that) and death. Fear of the unknown. For example, why are we afraid of a spider? Probably, we do not know if it is going to harm us or not, so we react with fear. But for some of us, spiders are not a source of fear at all. But why?

Because most of our fears also depend on our lifestyle, country, family, traditions and so on. Seth Norrholm, a transnational neuroscientist at Emory University, states that; “You get evidence from your parents and your environment that you need to be scared of these things.” Drastic, isn’t it?

Sometimes, we can feel all the reactions of the body to fear. Even in a ‘normal’ moment without any special situation, we can feel like something serious is happening. Increase in heart rate, a butterfly effect in the stomach, sweating. These are the fight or flight responses of the body to deal with danger. I can easily write these down because I have been there before. I have even experienced fear of having fear. And this is where we tend to call these moments anxiety or panic attacks. But fear, this very basic human feeling, is it something that we really need to be afraid of?

If we let it affect our lives negatively, the answer is yes…

But we can use our fears as a source of change, as an opportunity to grow.

Can fears really open the doors to new paths?

My answer to this is: Yes!

Let’s look at what ancient yogic texts say about fear?

Patanjali says in Yoga Sutra 2.3 that; ”Ignorance, egoism, attraction and aversion, and fear of death are the afflictions which cause suffering.” (Interpretation by Swami Vishnu – Devananda).

Sutra 2.9 explains more about ‘abhinivesah’ which is translated as ‘blind clinging to life’ by Swami Venkatesananda and ‘attachment to life’ by Iyengar.

Iyengar interprets the Sutra 2.9 as follows: “Self – preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men.” He continues, “While practicing asana (yoga poses), pranayama (breath) or dhyana (meditation), the person penetrates deep within itself. S/he experiences unity in the flow of intelligence, and the current of self-energy. In this state, s/he perceives that there is no difference between life and death, that they are simply two sides of the same coin. Through this understanding, s/he loses his attachment to life and conquers the fear of death.”

Can yoga, when practiced with all its limbs, be the way to deal with our fears? My answer to this also, yes…

But how?

In my past, I had a huge fear of death, which now I learned to deal with. The fear was coming from the unknown. Not knowing what’s going to happen after it. And without any awareness by my side, this fear restrained me from many things, affected my social life, and in the end came to a point of anxiety.

I cannot say to you that all fears come from this, and you can handle them the way I did (in my case, yoga and meditation were the tools to cope). But I firmly believe that attachment to life and obscurity of death hinder us from many things; especially using our full potential for life. Most of the time we may not even be aware of it. Isn’t it ironic that attachment to life makes us unable to fully live our lives?

Yoga practice brings us to the moment, to the here and now. Where there are no worries of tomorrow or resentment of yesterday.

Fear is such a personal feeling that it is not easy to define its reasons in general for every other person. Generalizing it might be dangerous and we ourselves need to get to the roots of our own fears. It is not an easy journey for sure. And there might not be short cuts.

Fear in yoga practice:

I remember my first yoga asana class. I stepped into the studio with fear, with the hope of finding a solution to my fears (ironic, isn’t it?). I lay down in my first Savasana, in the dark class, hearing the noise of my heart, beating with fear. But I knew that there was something special on that mat, at that moment that if I wouldn’t give up, would take me to another path. Which it did…

This doesn’t mean that now I have no fears. I still have, A LOT! But yoga taught me to look into its roots and how to deal with it. And only if I want to deal with it…

We can start by labeling the fears – do they come from survival instincts or are they irrational? And we need to keep in mind that one is not less important than the other one. If it affects our life, coming from a survival instinct or not, fear is fear!

And let’s remember. We are human beings that have all types of feelings, even if we tend to call them negative or positive, most of the time. But the important thing is; what that feeling tries to tell you, and are you brave or willing enough to look at it? That’s where the game changes.

 

 

Derya’s passion for lifelong learning and her curiosity about different cultures, different bodies and energy work brought her to Southeast Asia 3 years ago. She started her yoga and Thai yoga massage journey in Turkey and has been sharing her love for these two abroad in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Once she found “home” within herself, all countries became her home. Derya’s passion is movement and her goal is to show the strength, gracefulness and beauty of being in a body when it is aligned inwardly and supported by a steady breath. She wants to inspire her students with the possibility of waking up every morning with an enthusiasm and thirst for learning new things.

Connect:

deryadenizyoga.com

IG: @deryadenizyoga

 

Meditation As A Lifesaver

It was the day before my birthday (May 21st, 2019) and I decided to celebrate at Shipwreck Beach on Kaua’i. I didn’t expect to go cliff diving that day, but it ended up happening and meditation practices saved me. I remember looking at the cliff and saying to myself, “That shit is way too high, I’m not jumping off of that.” About five seconds after my thought, two guys walked by and were talking about jumping. So I went ahead and followed them. Before I got to the cliff, I read a warning sign:  Diving or Jumping May Lead to Serious Injury or Death. The first guy jumped and his friend looked at me and nervously chuckled as he said, “Well, I had to make sure he made it before I jump.”  He then jumped in, then I followed landing perfectly in the sea.

All was well, until I swam back to the surface and realized that both my contacts flew out of my eyes due to the impact. At that point I was blind. I could, however, make out a slight blur of the two guys swimming like torpedo dolphins for a split second before they were out of my sight. I began to swim back to what I believed was the shore. I swam like a turtle, because that’s how I swim. I began to notice that the strong waves and current were pulling me toward the cliff’s gigantic rocks. I wasn’t making any distance from the cliff. I then realized I was going into a panic. I was over exhausting my mind with fear. This was causing me to use an excessive amount of energy.

I knew I had to find a way back to a calmer state of mind, so I started focusing on my breath. I began to find myself in a meditative state of being fully present. I couldn’t see the beach, but I could feel the current of the waves pushing me toward the shore. I knew the currents were too strong to fight head-on. So, instead I swam sideways, parallel to the current. I thought to myself, “This is how people die and, if I’m going to die. I’m going to die in gratitude enjoying every moment I have left.” This time I swam like a dignified turtle. With every stroke, I started to use a simple breathing mantra I do when meditating – “Inhale Thank, Exhale You.” I began observing my thoughts changing. I would not allow myself to die here! I thought to myself, “I won’t die here! I will live to heal others.” My strokes became graceful and strong. I then began to see the beach. I made it back to land and felt a deep gratitude for being alive!

Shortly after the experience, I came up with the vision of guiding a 200hr Meditation & Yoga Teacher Training + Peruvian Shamanic Ceremony in Peru, January 4th-24th, 2020. I am inviting anyone who wants to take yoga beyond the mat and into the sea of life to come. The way I teach my students is based on the core philosophy of yoga, bringing the practice back to its roots. Yoga for me is not solely about the asanas, but the remaining seven limbs of the practice as well. The eight limbs of yoga will be discussed and practiced during this teacher training.

The first limb of yoga is Yama, which signifies the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The five yamas are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non stealing), Brahmacharya (continence), and Aparigraha (noncovetousness). The second limb of yoga is Niyama, which emphasizes self- discipline. The five niyamas are Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas
(spiritual austerities), Svadhyaya (study of one’s self), and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrendering to the source of creation).

The third limb of yoga is the most commonly known in Western society, Asana. Asanas are the physical postures of yoga. Yogic philosophy believes that the body is the temple, so taking care of the physical body is essential. Asanas, however, do not only assist with physical well-being, but they assist with developing concentration and discipline which is used in meditation. The fourth limb of yoga is one of my personal favorites, Pranayama. Pranayama is commonly known as “breath work”. These specific breathing techniques enable us to send prana or “life force” throughout the body. I am trained in many different breath work techniques and I enjoy sharing them with others.

The fifth limb is Pratyahara, meaning withdrawal or transcending the senses. Practicing Pratyahara allows us to see life from a larger perspective – to transcend beyond our emotional and mental stimulus. Each limb of yoga prepares us for the latter, therefore the next limb is Dharana. Dharana is the sixth limb of yoga and it means concentration. Pratyahara helps set us up for this deep concentration that Dharana teaches us. Dharana is used when we heal a specific energy center in the body, by giving all of our attention and awareness to it. When we are deeply concentrated on a particular mental object or energy, we can listen to the messages that it is trying to communicate with us. This brings us to our seventh limb of yoga – Dhyana, which is meditation. So, using Dharana, we are able to access Dhyana and a deep state of contemplation. Dhyana is more immersed in the everythingness and nothingness at the same time. It does not take much focus but more immersion and letting go. This is where you can see deeper aspects of the self, and your relationship to all. Last but not least, the eighth limb of yoga is Samadhi, meaning ecstasy or some people call it “nirvana”. The purpose of all of these practices encompassed as an ultimate state of bliss. The overall journey of yoga is to reach a state of divine peace.

After practicing yoga for over a decade, I have fallen in love with sharing this unique practice with the world. The reservoir of unlimited peace is within all of us, and it would be an honor to guide you into finding this peace within yourself. Yoga teacher trainings are great for anyone, regardless if you plan to teach yoga in the future or not. They help develop a consistent practice of yoga in all aspects of life, beyond the mat. I am looking forward to this teacher training in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

Aloha and Namaste. 

 

 

 

 

Wolf Kinsmen, the founder of HĀ Yoga, has over a decade of experience in yoga & meditation. He has taught and trained all over the world. In addition to his yoga training, he has studied Shamanic practices while in the Amazon of Peru and received the name ‘Smiling Wolf’ from Don Howard. He completed the Wim Hof Method Advanced Instructor Training and was told by Wim Hof that he is a ‘healer’. He considers himself a lifelong student of nature! He learns from teaching others. He does this through being himself and giving a genuine experience wherever he happens to be.

Connect:

https://hayogallc.com/

IG: @hayogallc

 

Yoga Journal: Live Be Yoga Tour

Just as Yoga continues to evolve itself, Yoga Journal has surely come a long way since it’s creation in 1975 by the California Yoga Teachers Association. In 2016, Yoga Journal created the Live Be Yoga Tour. The aim of the tour is to send out ambassadors to shine a light on the real talk, real issues, real work, and real fun taking place in yoga’s diverse communities, large and small, across the United States. In April of this year, Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt embarked on the cross-country journey together to forge new conversations in yoga. We had already connected with Brandon thru Yoga Trade and wanted to learn more about this inspiring journey! Here, we catch up with both Lauren and Brandon to get an insight to what life is really like on the road, to catch a glimpse of their experience, and to hear the modern day yoga wisdom they are learning along the way. May we all continue to show up for every part of the voyage with open hearts!

Can you briefly tell us about your yoga background?

Lauren: I started practicing yoga during college in Cleveland, Ohio during an extremely challenging time in my life. I grew up as a competitive figure skater and when I stopped skating I had a major identity crisis at the age of 17, wondering who I was without the sport. When I walked into the yoga studio that day, I was at an ultimate low – emotionally, mentally and physically. Over time, the mat became my savior and the practice brought me home to myself. To this day it continues to do that very thing.

Brandon: Yoga truly found me – in every way possible. When I was very young, my mom would take me to meditation gardens and yoga classes. Looking back on my life I can see that this seed that was planted would be paramount for my journey ahead. Yoga and meditation was always something I practiced here and there, until my entire life felt like it had an atom bomb dropped onto it. In the midst of incredible challenges, yoga found me again and asked for its deepening and devotion. Over the past couple years I have worked towards integrating a daily practice, which has now become my anchor and rock in this world. Incredible healing took place when I took on this commitment and as a result, all I cared about and wanted to do was share these tools to help repair people’s spirits and bring them back hOMe. Over the past couple years, I have lived nomadically sharing yoga wherever I may be. Most recently, I have become a brand ambassador, alongside Lauren Cohen, for Yoga Journal magazine and have embarked upon a 6 month yoga tour exploring the state of yoga in America today. 

How did you connect to the Live Be Yoga Tour and what is the mission?

Lauren: I had a friend that did the tour last year and got to hear about his experience. The idea of combining three of my greatest  loves – yoga, travel and writing – seemed like an amazing opportunity. My mission with the tour is to provide meaningful and inspiring content about how yoga is impacting various communities around the country.

Brandon: It had been a while since I was on Yoga Trade’s website and I went to go explore some opportunities. I had just gotten back traveling internationally for a while, was visiting my family and figuring out what was next for me. Also, after living with your parents for a while reminds you of how much you love them and then why you left home in the first place! I was starting to get antsy and ready to embark upon the next adventure. I saw an opportunity on Yoga Trade for the Live Be Yoga Tour by Yoga Journal Magazine and I immediately lit up inside and just knew that this was going to be that “next thing” for me. So, I went through the application process and after quite an extensive interview procedure, I got the gig! The mission of the tour is about building community and having important, relevant conversations within the yoga community today. It is a very general intention and mission, however, it gives us freedom to really explore a variety of topics as we travel from city to city. 

How do you define seva and why do you feel it is important on the path of yoga?

Lauren: I think of seva as selfless service and I view it as a huge component of yoga. The deeper we get into our personal practice the more we begin to care for and know ourselves, which then allows us to more readily and powerfully be there for others. In this way, yoga truly has a ripple effect. We are all connected and yoga is about union in every sense of the word.

Brandon: Seva is when you serve through the heart selflessly. You take such great care of your Self that your cup is overflowing. When that happens, your heart is open, without effort. You effortlessly want to just help, give and share whatever you can with others. It is a humble act of kindness and can be done in many ways – offering to clean a yoga studio for free, giving your lunch to a homeless person, just doing any kind of good deed without expecting any kind of reward or return. Simply doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

What have been some of the most inspirational tour experiences yet? 

Lauren: For me, so much of the tour has been about the relationships I’ve been able to cultivate. Meeting Brandon and finding a close friend and support system in him has been such a gift. As far as actual tour content goes, my favorite interview was our very first interview with Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor – they set the bar quite high in our conversation about what it means to really “live” yoga and to take the practice off the mat. 

Brandon: Getting to sit down with Santosh Manikur when we were in Salt Lake City was refreshing and helped Lauren and I to feel jovial again. The tour has its challenges and we were at a bit of a low point before meeting Santosh. I wrote an article here about our experience with why meeting him was so inspiring. 

What are some of the challenges you face while on the road?

Lauren: Being away from those I love and not teaching much!

Brandon: Being on the road sounds like a lot of fun – and it definitely is! But there is another side to the coin. Traveling constantly takes its toll on you, mentally, emotionally and physically. There are also new kinds of pressures having to be “on” all the time for events. Plus, being in a new city every week is very ungrounding. We have had to learn to simplify our lives as much as possible so when we pack and unpack every week it’s not completely overwhelming. While it has been challenging at times, it’s also taught us to compartmentalize our emotions in a way that is healthy. We’ve learned to put our own issues aside and focus of service and doing the best we can.

Who are the yoga teachers and what are the practices that spark you up right now?

Lauren: I have done quite a bit of training with Jason Crandell and Janet Stone. Right now, I am most excited about Tias Little and diving more into the subtle body and meditation.

What types of big and important conversations are you hearing currently from the U.S. yoga community? 

Lauren: 

*How to make yoga feel more inclusive and accessible to all. 

*What it means to take the practice off the mat and make it a life practice.

*How yoga brings people together in community and why that is such a powerful and important thing.

*Skepticism around where yoga is going; that it’s all about the physical practice and part of a trendy workout. 

What does ‘with great privilege comes great responsibility’ mean to you? 

Lauren: Know your impact, be in integrity and stay humble – we must take responsibility for ourselves and know that what we say and do has great impact, even if we can’t see it at first. And, the more we are in a leadership role, the more impact we can have.

If you could express one sentence to every new yoga teacher, what would it be?

Lauren: Remain a student above all else. Stay curious and humble and trust the teachings to guide you.

How can people get involved with y’all and the tour?

Feel free to follow us on social @livebeyoga or check it out online at: 

https://www.yogajournal.com/livebeyoga

To connect directly:

www.laurencohenyoga.com

@lc_yoga

www.brandonspratt.com

@brandonspratt

 

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is about as multi-faceted as a diamond. It is as valuable too. It is so much more than an accepted apology. In forgiveness lies freedom. Freedom from past experiences and from expectations we have on the people and events in our lives. Forgiveness offers liberation as we open up a narrowed perspective and reclaim our power.

Perhaps one of the most surprising “facets” of forgiveness is the type directed at oneself. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it because it always came easy to me. Being of the people pleasing nature and not wanting to confront the uncomfortable parts of my life are aspects of my patterning that adopted forgiveness with ease. Forgiveness allowed me to brush things under the rug that I didn’t want to face – hurt feelings, sadness, loneliness, disappointment. “It’s okay. Apology accepted.” This process served me very well for quite awhile, until the metaphorical rug burst open in a slew of ugly crying and intense ache. It ripped open so widely that forgiveness begged to be examined. Self forgiveness was at the top of the list.

I am coming to learn, as with most things, that forgiveness is an opportunity. One of the stories my teacher, Scott Nanamura of Diamond Heart Yoga, used to tell us is one about a hot burning coal. Holding onto anger (or anything for that matter) is like holding onto a hot burning coal – you get burned. All you have to do is let go. And as with most yoga antidotes, easier said than done!

I was talking with a friend about an experience she had in deciding to bravely face some traumas she wanted to release. In the process of confronting her experiences, she told me how surprised she was that her anger in the situation landed on herself. In this experience, where she was undoubtedly the “victim,” she found it overwhelming how much anger she had toward herself for allowing her power to be taken from her. She had allowed it to be taken in the form of fear that had marked her life for over 20 years. In this realization, she saw that the only way she could reclaim her power was to forgive.

Photos: @michaelvidoli

Herein lies the opportunity – if we choose forgiveness, we have a chance to discover deep healing. We will never be able to change the actions of outside circumstances. By going inward and really being with the traumas of our lives, we can uncover the hurt and fear, the sadness and pain. We can look at our past perspectives with the lens of this now moment – offer comfort and let go.

Quite often forgiveness needs to be directed at oneself. We hold ourselves at such a high standard – I know I do. Some of the best advice I ever received was to “be gentle with yourself”. I can sit in disappointment over my actions in the past, or I can look a little deeper and remember exactly how I was feeling in that moment many years ago. Quite often, the woman dealing with whatever problem was afoot was rather scared and uncertain and really was just doing the best she could at that moment in time.

It is important to be clear that intricately woven into the fabric of forgiveness are necessary boundaries. Forgiveness is not allowing behavior that does not serve your highest good. Boundaries teach us how to honor ourselves and allow others to see the light in us. Each and every time I entered into the space of “auto-forgive”, I was stepping out of alignment and I felt the consequence. It came in the form of resentment, distrust, anger, and many other negative thought patterns. Today I am learning to sit before I forgive. I realize forgiveness, not bitterness, is where I would like to be. I also realize it takes time. I cultivate awareness around my part and the pain. I accept the very real hurt that exists. And then, I take action in a way that allows me to own my journey toward freedom. I move into a space where my personal power is paramount – protected by divine boundaries of honesty and trust.

This practice takes a tremendous amount of courage. It takes facing the darkest parts of ourselves. What made it worth it for me was realizing that when I cling onto the metaphorical hot burning coal, I do not allow myself the opportunity to collapse that which doesn’t serve me. My antiquated pattern of easily forgiving was not really forgiveness at all, but fear of acknowledging hurt. This habit forced me to give some of my power away. I am learning to bravely acknowledge the opportunity in the pain and suffering. By acknowledging a hurt, I am able to bring awareness and validation to my feelings. I can accept the reality of a situation. Then, I can make a choice. These days, my choice is to find forgiveness, let go of the hot burning coal and anything else that keeps me from standing in my full power.

 

 

Writer. Yogi. Forest Wanderer. Solo Mama. Stephanie has been practicing yoga for over 10 years and teaching yoga since 2017. She blends yogic wisdom with her writing and has been featured several times on Teach.Yoga. Along with her 200hr YTT, she holds a teaching certification for children’s yoga. Stephanie is also a forest school teacher and co-owner of The Creative Wild Forest School in South Lake Tahoe. She is a Cedarsong certified teacher. @writeyoga

5 Ways My Yoga Trade Experience Made Me a Better Yoga Teacher

One of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and altering experiences I have had in my journey as a yoga teacher has been the time I spent teaching abroad. For years I dreamed of the opportunity to combine my two favorite things: travel and yoga. This past year I made my dreams into a reality, thanks to a platform called Yoga Trade. In reflection, my time spent teaching abroad was one of the most influential and expanding experiences. It was a catalyst for me to become the teacher I am today. Here are 5 ways my Yoga Trade experience offered me the space to flourish and grow.

Practicing with Yoga Teachers from Different Backgrounds

There are many travel destinations all over the world that offer a strong yoga community. These communities are filled with yoga teachers and practitioners from all different countries, lineages, languages, etc. Each teacher came from a different training or framework. This allowed me to look at yoga from new angles, to hear different backgrounds of connection to this practice, and to open me up to other dogmas.

I live and teach in an average American city. I feel there is little diversity within the yoga community. Most people have been trained between the same few studios, under the same teachers, and practice within the same circles. Being able to get out of my bubble expanded my relationship and understanding of yoga.

Freedom to Try New Things

Teaching yoga in a tourist location made for an influx of students everyday. There were only a few people in the area that came regularly to my classes. Most of the students were on holiday, therefore they were only in that location for a few days. This gave me the chance to constantly try something new. I found when teaching in a hometown studio you seem to get the same clientele. It can sometimes feel like they have more rigid expectations and ideas of what your teaching style offers. Tourists that come to class are looking for an experience and probably do not have any preconceived ideas of what you offer. You can try out different breathing techniques, cueing, meditation styles that you may not normally have the confidence to try in your home teaching spot. I think we grow the most from those times when we feel uncomfortable and go for something new. If you fall flat on your face chances are those students may be moving onto the new destination the next day anyway. Learn from your mistakes, recalibrate, and keep going.

More Time to Work on Your Craft

Many yoga teachers can relate on the desire to want to have more time to spend in our own sadhana or improving our teaching techniques. In Western culture, it can be challenging to financially support ourselves while only teaching yoga. We juggle many different jobs or roles to make it all work, and the energy left over can go into our personal growth and practice. My Yoga Trade gig allowed me to financially support myself while abroad so I could shift all my attention to yoga.

In my experience I was receiving accommodation for free and a little money per class. This money was enough to feed me and indulge every once in awhile. I was actually able to slow down and focus on just teaching yoga. My list of responsibilities abroad greatly diminished. I wasn’t constantly pulled in so many places, so I had extensive time to spend becoming a better student and teacher.

Exposure to New Styles of Yoga and Modalities Healing

Living in a diverse yoga community creates a wide range of spirituality offerings, workshops, lineages of yoga, modalities of healing, etc. People from all over the world sharing their personal knowledge, truth, and practice. There is ample opportunity to try something you have never even heard of before. From these experiences you will gain a more open heart and mind. You may even find your new calling.

Teaching People from Different Cultures

As a yoga teacher, you probably can relate what works for you at one studio, may not work for you in another. We are constantly working to give our best offerings, but even in your hometown it can be different based on age, demographics, locations, etc. Teaching people from different cultures can be another learning curve. Will your cueing make sense to someone who’s second language is English? How can you get really clear and intentional with your message so a wide range of people can receive it? Being able to work through these types of questions and scenarios only sharpens your teaching skills and makes you more accessible to a wider range of people.

 

 

 

Colleen is a 500RYT, lifestyle blogger, wellness warrior, jetsetter, bohemian fashionista and soul searcher. She has traveled to 37 different countries and has studied or taught yoga in 8 of them. She is always looking for a new adventure, a challenge for personal growth, and a hip outfit. You can find her at www.mindbodycolleen.com or IG: @mindbodycolleen

Wander to Find Your True North: Squaw Valley 2019

Join in July 18-21, 2019 at Squaw Valley, California for the 10th Anniversary of Wanderlust Festivals.

The time is now to WANDER MORE!

Photography credit: Wanderlust

With one of the founders of Yoga Trade being from the Tahoe area, we have been attending this amazing Lake Tahoe festival since it’s inception and are grateful for the positive effects it has had on our journey of yoga. How do you continue your education and stay inspired as a yoga teacher and student?

Squaw is a highlight of the summer season for Wanderlust. The festival is spread across six peaks in the dramatic Sierra Nevada mountain range, overlooking the pristine lake. There is an energy here that transcends its natural beauty and a vibrancy that radiates from the people who make the gathering what it is. Feel-good FUN is a simple way to describe this event.

The community at Wanderlust Squaw is a colorful family with open minds and open hearts. Come find your crew at Squaw in a mid-mountain meditation, a pool party at 8,200 feet, or a late-night concert under the stars. Plug in to the energy and connect to what’s beyond.

This year some exciting additions and presenters include; Full Day Immersions, Heart-Pumping HIIT Classes, Silent Disco, MC Yogi, the Yoga Slackers, Seane Corn, Elena Brower, and Thievery Corporation, to name a few!

Check out the EVENT SITE for TICKETS and lineup and hope to see you there!!!

IG: @wanderlustfest

 

 

 

 

7 Mindful Reasons to Live #VanLife

#VanLife. This catchy phrase has become a worldwide sensation, and for good reason. Perfectly placed Instagram photos of cozy quarters overlooking landscapes seemingly made by the gods. The thought of whisking away on a whim at any given day to whatever location is calling, alluring, and sexy. Who wouldn’t want to live that nomadic lifestyle? It certainly drew me in, which is why I quit my 9-5 cubicle job in the city and moved to New Zealand for a year in 2017.

Why van life? There are so many reasons to quit the monotonous everyday life to live and work remotely in steel on wheels, but I’m here to tell you living in a van isn’t easy. And it usually isn’t a perfectly tricked out space with power and a water heater and storage and a kitchen (unless you have a lot of time and money). Converted vans are high cost, so sometimes it’s a half hazard attempt. My story included converting a 1997 Honda CRV that cost $2,000 with a $200 additional budget into a ‘camper van’ and made it work for myself and my somewhat spacious partner.

Van dwelling is not about taking impeccable photos and showing everyone how enlightened you’ve become. It’s about letting go and allowing yourself to fall back in love with everything inside of you. It’s about knowing the discomfort of wet shoes, wet socks, wet blankets, one foot of headroom, little storage space and never knowing when it’s going to stop raining. Yet, still finding love at that moment. It’s about forgetting to change the oil and breaking down in the middle of a mountain pass, 20 kilometers from the next village only to find out the village has no mechanic.

There are pros and cons. Sometimes it’s impressive cliffs jutting from the ocean and night skies so clear you feel like part of the stardust. And other times it’s stealth camping in a gas station parking lot with your lawn chair and bunsen burner, while people getting gas stare at you. Because the area mechanic won’t be in until the next morning to give you a tow. Do not decide to leave your life to live this so called “dream” because of the hashtag and to follow a modern-day trend.

Live in a van because…

You’re sick of wasting so much…

Wasting water, wasting food, wasting electricity, and wasting time. All of these things are so precious, but we waste them every day. How many times have you gone to the grocery store hungry and bought so much food that some of it goes bad? Do you shower every day or leave the water running down the sink when you brush your teeth? How many hours a month do you spend sitting in front of the television, use a blow dryer, a microwave, or forget to turn off a light? We’re all guilty on occasion, but the best way to learn is just to do. You know you’ve done away with wastefulness when you look in your food box or mini cooler and see a pack of Spicy Thai Noodles, a carrot, some oatmeal, and raisins and feel you’re living a gourmet lifestyle. Or when you and your friend casually wash each other’s hair with your water bottles at campsites. When you have less you waste less and this is a principle I’ll take with me through the rest my travels.

You want to foster personal growth beyond the span you ever thought possible…

When you give up luxurious things for a minimalist lifestyle, knowing they’re just one job application away but choose to stay in your current state of discomfort, that is growth. When a wet, smelly, cramped car becomes cozy and safe compared to a kingsize bed and apartment, that is change. You begin to look at the world, your self, and your relationship with the things that surround you differently. Van life essentials are food, water, sleep, a good book, and a warm beverage. You don’t need a shower every day, wearing a pair of leggings for two weeks is okay, and it’s uncanny the number of meals you can cook with one pan and one pot.

You want to feel so uncomfortable that you can’t remember what it’s like to put on a pair of dry socks…

Eventually, you’ll grow to find so much love in so many varieties of discomfort. Experience the pains of loneliness, the craving for more than one sharp knife, the inability to sit up straight in bed. Unfortunately, the discomfort heightens in inclement weather. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a week straight of New Zealand rain in the Southland…but it doesn’t stop. Everything is wet, hiking becomes dangerous and many times you can’t even see the road in front of you. You can only do so many activities from the comforts of your passenger seat, which fosters immense amounts of creativity. Finding gyms with a pool and sauna, going to see a movie, or checking out a book at a library. When’s the last time you even went to a library? You learn many ways to keep all the essential parts of your body clean and how to do laundry in bathrooms. Sometimes you pull up to a McDonald’s and buy a coffee and use their bathroom. Sometimes you use gym locker rooms, and sometimes you get lucky and find cheap campgrounds with coin showers. And occasionally you break down and stay in a hostel.

Because you’re tired of wanting MORE…

We live in a world of constant mores. More money, more clothes, more amenities. More space in cars, apartments, shopping centers. You get the point. Are you tired of always feeling the need for more? Well, let me tell you. Living in a small space with limited amenities gives you the ability to understand what you actually need to survive and be completely content. Clothing? I survived out of a 50-liter backpack and actually gave a lot of things away as I was traveling. A fancy kitchen? A fold-out table with a propane burner, one pot, one pan, a few cheap knives and utensils, and cutlery will do. And to be honest, cooking out of my SUV was a challenge. It took major trial and error to figure out how long I could actually keep fresh food and the most viable way to cook a full meal with one burner. People living and loving van life may not have fancy things, but what they do have is freedom, stories, extra money, and time for travel.

Because you’re missing connection…

I’m talking about real connection. With nature, with people, and with yourself. We are so enveloped within our day to day hectic lifestyle that often times we don’t take a minute to stare at the blooming hydrangea outside of our office. Or admire the perseverance of a baby goose learning from her mother. Hell, a lot of times we don’t even have time to give our grandmother a call. But between the push notifications, emails, alarms, and constant immersion into the land of modern humans, we need a release. Seriously, or you’ll burn out. Connecting with nature is good for us, science says so. There are these things called positive and negative ions that are in everything we see. Positive ions come from things like cell phones and microwaves, negative ions are in nature, especially moving water and forests. We need the energy from negative ions to keep our circadian rhythms intact, to release stressors, and to have a healthy relationship with ourselves and those around us.

To find love and gratitude for the little things…

If you’re looking to be so moved and so challenged and so uncomfortable that you can’t possibly muster up any other emotion than raw love, #VanLife is for you. There was this time I was traveling alone around Wanaka and Queenstown and was having the best time of my life. The sun was shining, I made a kick-ass dinner and reconnected with friends from earlier travels. Then, something felt a little off, a little funky in my tummy, and as you can imagine I was nowhere near a pharmacy. By midnight I’d already taken several trips to the one campsite bathroom, which was a good 30 meters away. Things were coming out of both ends, not nice things and this persisted all night long. Then this sweet woman was washing her hands around five in the morning, she must have either heard me or noticed I looked like the walking dead and offered me peppermint tablets for my stomach, electrolyte packets, and crackers. She was a godsend. After I was able to muster up enough energy to drive another 10 kilometers from the campground to Wanaka and check myself into a hostel for a night. I don’t think I have ever appreciated a private bathroom with a flushing toilet so much in my entire life.

But mostly, do it for yourself…

You are ultimately the one affected most by this paradoxical shift. Not your parents, not your friends, not your Instagram followers…you. This decision will undoubtedly shift your way of looking at yourself and society as a whole. I wrote my first published article while living in a van. I decided I wanted to become a yoga instructor, I realized living in a big city no longer suited me and neither did a cubicle. I reflected on attachment issues, selfish tendencies, and stubborn habits. I fought introverted loneliness and sand flies and a stomach virus. But I emerged myself. My real self. The self I’d been searching for 25 years to find.

The concept behind a van life of doing whatever you want when you want while traveling is a myth. Factors like weather, vehicle break downs, and money are real things. Van life is about growth and connection and learning to live with simple things, like tiny sleeping quarters. Adventure is being open to the road and the Earth and the people you meet along the way. It’s a lot of free campsites and rolling with the punches and learning to allow control to be a thing of the past. Tapping into the ebb and flow of the world around you changes you, it molds you. Van life brings about what you need over what you want.

In all honesty, I prefer it that way.

 

 

Nicole Sheree grew up surrounded by forest and Michigan’s Great Lakes, so it’s no wonder she ran away from her marketing career in the city for New Zealand with just a backpack and yoga mat in 2017. She rediscovered herself, her love of writing, and passion for yoga while living in a 1997 Honda CRV on the South Island. She is now a 200-hour RYT, photographer and content writer for Book Retreats as well as a contributor to publications such as The Thought Catalog. Her art features the human experience through a yogic lens. When she’s not striking a pose in a country far far away you can find her munching on mangos or sipping a strong cup of coffee while lost in a forest or swimming in the nearest body of water. 

IG: @nnicolesheree

Postcards From the Mat: Real Deal on Home Yoga Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/books

-Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita

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

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

Good Luck Yogis and Yoginis and Practice On!


 

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

Finding Importance Thru Simplicity

Lessons from a Yoga Trade Experience:

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

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

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