Presence & Prosperity Lessons from Shakti Fest 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@momomagical

Discovering the Self Through the Breath in Mysore

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

First of all, the breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Guide to Balancing Hormones

Without women and their infamous hormones, we would live on a planet empty of humans. Our hormones are a critical part of human existence, yet we really don’t hear much about them. I am nearly 35 years old, somewhere between my first period and my last. The past two years, I have taken a deeper look into hormones, menstruation, and menopause and what that means to me.

I recently attended a “Women’s Hormone Balancing” workshop led by experienced yoga therapist Tina Nance. Lets just say it was a life-changer. Tina opened the workshop by explaining that, ”Women are not meant to suffer every month. Our menstrual cycle is an organic & potent stress sensitive feedback system. When our hormones are understood & consciously nurtured, it fosters a natural, highly charged state of heightened intuition, insight, psychic skill & creativity.” Throughout the next few hours I learned that hormones are a blessing, not a curse. There are things we can do to minimize our pain & suffering. With a little awareness we can actually use this “time of the month” (menstruation) or even “time of our lives” (menopause) as an opportunity for transformation.

Here are 5 tips that every woman should be aware of, especially if you think your hormones might be a little out of balance:

1. Know The Triggers

If PMS is a monthly ordeal for you, chances are there is a hormonal imbalance. When our hormones are out of balance, our periods become difficult. This is your bodies way of communicating to you. So listen.

The 5 main triggers that affect our hormones are:

1) Stress: By limiting stress, you can eliminate or at least minimize the difficulties & discomfort that accompany your menstrual cycle. The most widespread and common trigger we see in our everyday lives is without a doubt stress. The remedy is to relax more (i.e bubble baths, naps, meditation, and time for yourself).

2) Excess sugar: Experiment with sugar and your period. Generally you will find that more sugar typically leads to more cramps, headaches, fatigue and frustration. Sugar has an inflammatory reaction in our bodies and the blood sugar rollercoaster tends to makes us more tired. Trade in glutenous cakes for a delicious banana, maca root, peanut butter smoothie.

3) Toxicity: Make a whole-hearted effort to limit toxins from your diet and lifestyle as these too can amplifies hormonal imbalances. Pay special attention to Xenoestroegens, Heavy Metals, Chemicals, Pesticides & Preservatives.

4) Over masculinization of a feminine body: By over doing & under being, we put additional stress on our hormones. By balance the yang (more active) activities with a yin-based (relaxed and passive) activity such as yin, restorative and yoga nidra we are finding a healthy balance that allows the muscles and the mind to relax, refresh and restore our hormones to a more balanced state.

5) Sexual & emotional trauma stored in the pelvic bowl: Unfortunately there are no quick fixes here. The body is a highly intelligent bio feedback system that constantly communicates to us. Mindfulness is the art of listening to these messages being sent by the body. From what we learn through mindfulness, we respond. Using meditation, counseling, relaxation, letting go, or/and any method of emotional healing we are responding, transforming, and growing into stronger and healthier women.

We must embrace the discomfort in the body, and learn from it. It is virtually impossible to eliminate all these triggers in our lives, but a little effort goes a long way. Take long bubble baths, work less, refrain from sugary sweets and replace as many stressors with relaxants as you possibly can.

2. Be Aware of Your Body’s Natural Cycle

Ever noticed that your period tends to fall on the full or new moon? A woman’s natural cycle is often times in sync with the moon’s movements. In todays modern world of hormone-altering birth controls and high stress jobs, many females’ cycles no longer naturally align with specific phases of the moon. Yet we all still have our own individual cycle occurring in our own time.

We must get in touch with our own personal cycle. For a few months, record how you feel on a daily basis. You will become aware you own natural patterns and phases. Make a chart tracking your energy levels, food cravings, tiredness, confidence, sleep patterns, and feelings during yoga practice. Month to month, moon to moon, and season to season, there are times when we are more inclined to rest, reflect, be creative, and be grumpy. There are moments of heightened clarity, increased energy and productivity. You can actually make your life a lot easier by figuring this out and flowing with it.

Here are the 4 phases of a menstrual cycle:

New moon: When a woman’s cycle is in sync with the moon, the new moon is the time for menstruation. This is a time for going inward, slowing down, letting go, retreating and relaxing. During this time, anxieties, memories, and experiences may rise up.

Waxing Moon: A time of new beginnings and growth. As our energy increases, new ideas are being planted and new processes are coming into play. This is a time when we are motivated to work harder and faster with a heightened creativity.

Full moon: Ovulation comes with a feeling of coming down, analyzing, and emotionally feeling full of pride or failure. During this time we tend to be hard on ourselves, lacking compassion for ourselves and those around us. We feel the need to make drastic changes. It is a time for transformation.

Waning Moon: A time for making reality out of the visions and impulses that came during the full moon. A time for distillation and clarity.

The purpose of recording your own patterns is to discover, honor & harmonize your own body’s rhythm without expecting to be one way all the time. Therefore, if we come across as 4 different women each month, in essence we are!

3. Yoga for Your Hormones

Yoga is a tool used to strengthen our body/mind connection. As far as yoga asana goes, when menstruating, it is a great to come to the yoga mat. If it feels appropriate to practice, then do. By practicing slowly and gently in a yin or restorative style, we nurture the body with relaxing, calming, and healing poses.

By concentrating our breath and awareness on relaxing certain parts of the body, we minimize pain, stress and irritation that might accompany hormonal imbalances. A yoga sequence used to support your hormones should focus on the kidneys, adrenals, liver, ovaries, hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal glands.

Here are 5 therapeutic asanas that can be practiced throughout your menstrual cycle and the part of your body to focus your awareness on:

1. Cat & Cow pose (Adrenals and Thyroid) While practice cat and cow, bring your attention to your adrenal glands located just above the kidneys. Your kidneys are located on the lower part of the back just below your ribs. Adrenals are the endocrine glands responsible for producing your hormones. In addition to stimulating your adrenals in this pose with the arching of your back, you are compressing and extending your neck stimulating the thyroid gland and the four parathyroid glands, all of which secrete hormones into the body.

2. Paschimotanasana/ Forward Bending Pose (Kidneys and Nervous System) Practice this pose in a restorative way. Use three bolsters between your legs and your upper body. Relax your arms and allow the head to stay long and open while rotating it to the right, resting it gently on the bolsters. Focus your breath to your kidneys, as they are elongated while in this pose. Inhale into that openness and feel the fresh prana, blood and energy refreshing your kidneys. Practicing this pose in a restorative way with bolsters has a calming effect on the nervous system.

3. Prasarita Padottanasa/ Wide Legged Forward Bend (Liver & the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Pineal Glands) Place a block on the floor and press the crown of your head into the block, stimulating three glands in the brain, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pineal glands. The idea here is to keep the pelvis facing upright, while at the same time allowing fresh blood to flow to the glands in the head by lowering the head towards the floor.

4. Restorative Butterfly (Ovaries) Bring the soles of your feet together. You can use a strap to really enhance this. Placing the middle of the strap on your sacrum, bringing the sides of the strap around on top of your legs and then under tthe pinkie side of your foot. Tighten the strap. Then lay back on on a bolster or two. This will open your entire reproductive area and chest. The ovaries are responsible for producing estrogen and estrogen levels rise through the early part of the menstrual cycle. This pose balances estrogen produced in the ovaries giving relief from cramps at the same time. Breathe into the lower belly, the pelvis area and more specifically the ovaries where you feel the stretch.

5. Childs Pose (Adrenals and Nervous System) Bring your focus to the adrenal glands. In child’s pose your adrenal glands (which are located in the lower back just below your ribs) are stretched open. Breath into this area and make a deep effort to relax on the exhale. This is one of the best poses to relax the nervous system.

4. Supplemental Support

Sometimes we still need a little extra support. Luckily, there are some wonderful natural nutritional supplements that can help. In all the major medical sciences of the world, there are supplements renowned for female related issues. In Ayurveda, Shatavari is commonly recommended as a reproductive tonic. In western herbalism, Vitex Agnu Castus is used as a tonic herb for both the male and female reproductive systems. In Traditional Chinese Medicine a supplement called Don Quai, otherwise known as female ginseng is prescribed for menstruation difficulties. Don Quai balances estrogen levels and is an antispasmodic used for cramping. Sepia is a homeopathic remedy used for all sorts of menstruation irregularities. And don’t underestimate the power of a little Magnesium (especially the ones with a little 5 HTP) to help with inflammation and mood swings.

Here are a few suggestions of foods known to benefit hormonal imbalances. Broccoli is known to break up excess estrogen. Milk thistle, globe artichokes, shizandra and dandelion root support liver performance, helping your body to detoxify. Make sure you are getting plenty of Omegas by eating flaxseed, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Finally, sprinkle some maca root in your smoothies for a little extra hormone balancing help.

5. Gab with Your Girls

Lets be honest, women like to talk. We talk about everything. Well, everything besides balancing hormones.

Until now! When we stop and think how many days of the month, year, and our entire lives are spent menstruating, we realize that we should be talking about this subject a lot more. By the number of women that attend Tina’s workshops every month, it is obvious that women of all ages and backgrounds are eager to find out more. Her passion to educate women on their hormones has fired my passion to spread what I have learned from her.

By initiating “women’s talks” in your local community as well as online blog and publications, women are learning about more sustainable and healthier alternatives to tampons, such as the“diva cup” or “moon cups.” Discussions on other women’s experiences using less known forms of birth control such as hormone- free copper IUDs. With a wide field of subjects that only affect women, such as endometriosis and menopause, we should be support system for each other and talk about what works for each other. Supporting each other makes us more empowered, more educated, and better prepared for things that can afflict us in the future.

 

 

 

Kori Hahn is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and Government of India certified Ayurvedic massage therapist. Her two greatest loves are travel and yoga. She guides surf and yoga trips around the world with Santosha Society.

Before and After Rishikesh, India

One year ago I decided to leave my country to explore the world doing Yoga. Ive been practicing asana since I was 15, but had never thought I’d ever study to become a yoga teacher. When I started the trip I didn’t know exactly what countries I wanted to visit or how this was going to play out, I just had some clues, ideas, a mental map of what I wanted to do. A MUST was going to India to do a Yoga TTC.

In my mind, I had planned to do this in December 2016, but in the middle of the trip I was in Hawaii and I decided I wanted to leave to India right at that moment (September 2016). It was something I can’t explain as a mental process, it was just a call from destiny that I had to take. One month later I was arriving in New Delhi, the capital of India. I cannot lie, at the beginning it was a real shock for me…everything. The noise, the heat, so many people, everything so crowded, the food, I was not the kind of girl that immediately falls in love with India, it was something that came with the process; in the end, I liked it that way because slowly but surely, you fall in love with things much deeper than when it’s just a crush.

Finally I was there, living one of the most intense experiences of my life. Everyday we woke up at 5:30 am and started practicing Hatha Yoga, then Pranayama; after 3 hours being up, we finally had breakfast, and then the day went on, class after class. At 8:30 pm more less, we were done, but it was really intense each day, not only because of the obvious things, but also because you are living your own process, and at the same time 15 more people like you are living their own process too; that deep journey inside yourself, a lot of intense, hard stuff comes out. In the third week, the magic happened and I was feeling much better; my ashtanga practice was improving a lot and I felt I was unstoppable; I felt I never wanted to stop practicing. Every time I went to a cafe with my friend, I could hear everybody talking about the same, even though they studied in different schools; everyone had the same issues and concerns, and I, who felt my feelings were so special, was actually feeling much the same as everybody else! ( hehe)

 

Anyway, I don´t want to talk so deeply about the TTC exactly but about what happened inside after living that experience in that part of the world with those teachers. Rishikes, India is a small city 230 kms away from New Delhi; it is a sacred city, the world capital of Yoga and it is one of the most special places I’ve been to; surrounded by the Himalayas, separated by Maa Ganga, and full of Yoga schools, Babas, Gurujis and all of us; westerners trying to learn from the source and the root. This place is pure magic, they don´t sell alcohol, or meat, and everything closes at around 9-10 pm.

Those days in that place, after that experience I wrote: How can you be the same after your eyes have seen the most beautiful and the ugliest both outside and inside yourself… I still don’t know if I’ve found my destiny but it feels like something very profound. I’m not the same person that arrived back a month ago; something has changed; priorities are not the same. I truly feel lighter inside, and I’ve finally understood what really matters in life for me. I don’t want to argue anymore with people just to be right. I want to be more patient everyday. Sitting at the banks of Mother Ganga taught me so much about letting things and people go, about having complete certainty in the process and timing of things. This doesn’t mean I never feel things anymore or that I’m a Hipster-Hippie, it means I feel things deeply in my heart but everyday the distance between my feelings, the reaction and the letting go of the control is shorter, and that is priceless. It is not all about India, but Rishikesh helped a lot. ( I think Alanis Morrissette also felt that way when singing “Thank you India”)

In my opinion, it is really important to find a School – an Ashram to study and stay where you feel like you’re at home for that month or 2 months that you´ll be living there. To this end, I can totally recommend the place where I studied: Anadi Yoga Centre, not only because of the incredible Indian Teachers with a lot of teaching experience, but they are also very concerned about sharing the Yoga knowledge in a very professional and passionate way, instilling in you the wish to do and give your best everyday, and always very open to addressing all your doubts and concerns. ( Trust me, there are many, many schools that are just businesses )

My connection with this place is so deep that I decided to go back to study more, and to live there so I could experience it in a different way this time. Totally worth it. Rishikesh, India is a place that I can also call Home, because there I feel nearer to myself, to the true being that I am.

Namaste

 

 

 

Fiorella is a Chilean Wanderlust Yogini & Travel Blogger. Her personal seal is to share about everything that has made her a happier and healthier person. Her beliefs: Kabbalah, Her Life Philosophy: Yoga. // www.fioreyogini.com @fioreyogini

Turn Your Vinyasa Flow Into a Moving Meditation

“Inhale from tadasana as you lift your arms and rise, looking up. Exhale, lowering into a forward fold, releasing your arms to your shins or to the floor. Inhale rise and half way lift, flattening the back and looking up. Exhale as you lower into chaturanga dandasana, firmly planting both hands onto the floor, making sure your fingers are open and your pointer fingers are parallel as you engage your stomach by pulling your belly button towards the spine as you step or hop back into a plank position. WITH CONTROL slowly lower half way down into a 90 degree angle with your arms, making sure your elbows are firmly pressed into the body AND keeping your spine straight, hips down and a neutral neck. Oh yeah, and make sure you are SLOWLY exhaling, evenly, while you lower.”  – Yoga Instructor

Confused yet? We haven’t even reached upward facing dog in the beginning of a dynamic sun salutation. Now if you are a seasoned yogi, you just smiled and reminisced while reading this paragraph. On the other hand, for a not so experienced yogi, this could lead to confusion, even frustration!

Vinyasa flow is a beautiful practice, filled with focused breath, creativity and strength. When you break “Vinyasa” down into ancient Sankrit, “vi” means “in a special way” and “nyasa” means “to place”. It also means “breathe to movement”. Therefore, you place your body in a special way, and breathe. Simple enough, right? However, Vinyasa classes have a tendency to have a rapid flow filled with diversity, at times leading to confusion. This is where students can easily miss the most important part, proper breath and mindfulness, mainly for beginners. Without these two crucial points, are we truly practicing Yoga…?

So here is the question; how do we reach that deep meditative peace in a vinyasa flow class? Here are a few steps in the right direction:

1.) Repetition.

Haven’t you ever heard the expression, “practice makes perfect”? Well, we are not striving for perfection in yoga by any stretch, but the more you practice, the more your mind can relax. Therefore, “practice makes peace”. Why? Because you don’t have to think so much about the “steps”, it just becomes second nature. Once your unconscious mind has picked up the sequence, it has room to focus on breath and meditation.

2.) Do your homework.

If you are a beginner to intermediate level, and truly want to engulf yourself in the magic of yoga, you must take your learning beyond a 60 – 90 minute class. Three words, books, google and YouTube! There is a world of information out there. When you find yourself struggling with a flow or a posture, research it, understand it, that way by the time you make it to your mat, you are half way there.

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3.) Patience.

“Have infinite patience and success is yours.” – Swami Vivekananda

Take some advice from the wise. These things take time. In ancient texts, Lord Shiva states there are 84 basic asanas. In this day and age, there are thousands of possible variations. In a vinyasa class, each instructor has that entire realm of options to include in a session. Every class might be different, changing out a few or many postures. In other words, be kind to yourself, and practice patience. Patience leads to peace of mind.

4.) Breath.

Yoga is not yoga, without breath. When you breathe properly, mainly utilizing your abdominal region, you are more likely to reach that meditative state by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and repair” mode. You also allow more oxygen into your blood stream.

Once you have followed these steps, you are on your way to finding the moving meditation in any vinyasa flow class! With knowledge, practice, patience and breath you can allow your mind to relax, and truly flow, like a dance through the sun salutation and the postures. When you can base your thoughts primarily on your breath, it will lead to dynamic mediation throughout an entire class, not just in final savasana.

 

 

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Melissa Andersen is the founder of Passport to the Heart Retreat, and holds yoga retreats and events worldwide. She is a passionate American yoga instructor and motivational coach with over 12 years of experience.

Practice With Consistency

Patanjali tells us that practice becomes grounded when it is pursued consistently, with earnestness, over a long period of time. For many of us, we feel as if this is almost impossible. We may have a busy work and/or school schedule, or maybe kids, family and pets that demand attention. So how are we able to maintain our daily practice consistently despite our daily lives? Now this is where Sutra 1.12 comes in- abhyasa and vairagya. Effort and non-attachment.


In order to create or maintain a practice with consistency, we first must make sacrifices. We need to practice vairagya, non-attachment. Letting go of expectations. If you believe that your practice is only your practice if you have a full hour to move through a flow or have a lengthy warm up, cool down and 10 minute Savasana, this is one of the first sacrifices we need to make. This expectation needs to be released. Some days we may only have ten minutes of free time; so we step on our mat, do one round of Sun Salutations and we’re out the door. Or maybe we only have time after a long day at work when your energy seems to be spent, so it’s legs up the wall and supine twists before you’re off to bed.


If you have children or pets that want your attention, work them into your practice. Instead of disturbing your peace by shooing them away, let them be. Even try to include them if you can. For me, I know my home practice isn’t complete without a cat laying on me and joining my Savasana.


Or maybe distractions aren’t your problem, the only time you have free is after a long and grueling day at work. Is the first thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day to jump onto your mat, flow through vinyasas or power through standing poses and inversions? Well, maybe. But for most people, that’s not the reality. You’re drained, unmotivated and tired. You just want to lay down. So what do you do? Work this into your practice! Take any last drop of abhyasa (effort) you have left. Practice vairagya (non-attachment) by letting go of the belief that a practice only counts if you flow through vinyasas and inversions. Sit your legs up the wall, stretch out the day, then head to Savasana. Is this any less “yoga” than going to class and breaking a sweat or handstands? Nope, it’s not. Sorry to break it to you, but Yoga isn’t simply a workout routine. Yoga isn’t something that fits into a box or category and it sure isn’t something that is the same for everyone. “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” (Sutra 1.2)

Yoga is simply taking the time to tend to your body, release that which no longer serves you and slow (if not stop) your racing thoughts. So whether to you this means flowing through a well rounded routine or taking ten minutes at the end of the day to surrender, any cultivation of mindfulness and release of “the mind-stuff” is Yoga. Any practice is still a practice no matter how small, and consistency is still achievable even with only ten minutes to spare. Remember that.


In conclusion, the biggest key to consistency is practicing with non-attachment. Letting go of the expectation that you need a full hour or rounded flow to practice. Let go of the expectation that you need complete silence or solitude to practice, and begin working with what you have; whether it be pets, kids, or a busy schedule. Adjust your practice to your own needs, and treat yourself gently when your energy is spent elsewhere. Approach your mat with an open mind, adjust your practice to your own needs, and peace will soon follow.

 

 

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After her battle with anxiety and depression led her to seek alternatives, Maddy has been practicing yoga daily for three years. Now she is training to become a certified instructor and shares her journey through YouTube: Sacred Synchronicities and on Instagram: @sacredsynchronicities.

5 Reasons to Teach Yoga for Free

Cover Photo: Shaunte Ditmar Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The universe always provides…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby

Life Post Yoga Retreat: Maintaining the Bliss Buzz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Home Sanctuary

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

2. Nourish Your Physical Body

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

3. Set Goals

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

4. Reconnect

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

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5. Be Gentle

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

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

 

 

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

CONNECT:

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

Access Your Highest Potential!

Inspired by World-Renowned Life Coach Trainer, Anna Suil

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

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

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

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

So what is Life Coaching all about?

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

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

Who needs a Life Coach?

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

How does it work?

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

Why does it work?

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

Where to begin?

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

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

www.marytilsonyoga.com
Instagram: @marytilson

Testimonial:

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

-Erika, Yoga Teacher, USA

 

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

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

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

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

This always makes me a little bit sad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Use a witness-observer mind.

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

2. Remember that hunger is not your enemy.

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

3. Treat yourself like a toddler.

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

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

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

5. Be tender. ‘Nuff said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Picture yourself as an eighty year old.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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