Authenticity in Yoga Teaching

Before starting to talk about authenticity in teaching yoga, let’s look first at what is personal authenticity? Authentic, that is something genuine… Authenticity; being real, being true to yourself…

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  ~Oscar Wilde

The root of the word “authenticity” in Latin language is “author”, so being “authentic” is mostly about being the “author” of your own personality.

Referring to Art (we all humans are a work of art eventually, no?), Tate Gallery shares that; ”Authenticity is a term used by philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin to describe the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction.”

Which is, no room for copying…

To put it in an another way, authenticity is living your life in such a way that every one of your actions is aligned with your real purpose. Not changing things according to other people’s beliefs, or not wearing any other people’s authenticity on you. And it is not a question of whether you have it or not. We all do, we are all authentic. As I said, we are all already a piece of art. But it is a matter of how you practice your authenticity and how much of it you want to have. No one can be you, and you cannot be anyone. That is for sure. But how much are your actions aligned with ”your” purpose, not anyone else’s?

In Bhagavad Gita Verse 3.35, Krishna says that; ”It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous” (Bhagavad -gita As It Is, Swami Prabhupada).

We cannot separate yoga from life.

Actually, it is not really necessary to make a difference between being an authentic person and an authentic yoga teacher. We cannot separate the practice of teaching from the practice of being human, but we can at least try to narrow down the scope, special to yoga teachers.

I like to approach authenticity in teaching yoga in two different ways. First one is sticking to ”being yourself”, not stepping back from it and the second one is not trying to be ”anybody else”, or in another way, not using any other person’s voice. They may sound the same but let me explain.

How to define an authentic yoga teacher?

If we look back to the definition of authenticity, it says ”living a life in such a way that every one of the actions are aligned with one’s real purpose”. It brings us to the point of living a life with yogic understanding, and here, I do not mean a yogic life with only practicing yoga poses. Basically, integrating all 8 limbs of yoga into life.

And when you live in this way, it will make you a passionate, balanced and present yoga teacher, who is being her / himself and not trying to make everyone happy, with the risk of losing authenticity.
What is this ”voice”?

Let’s take a look at authenticity from the other perspective, from the perspective of having a ”voice”.

Finding your own voice as a yoga teacher is not easy, it takes years of teaching and this ”voice” is also something that is changing and evolving over time. And it is not something that you can bring from outside, it needs to arise from within you.
But yes for inspiration…

Let’s put first things first: None of the teachings belong to one yoga teacher and we are all just servers, to the goodness and happiness of all beings. We just transmit the teachings that we learn from our teachers. When we think like this, none of us are authentic, right?
But are we not really?

The key here is, being yourself, being authentic, while creating your own voice, with the same teachings we all share.

It is all in our mind-set. For example when we learn or hear something new, first of all we need to think about: Does it really make sense to me? Can I really feel that expression, that cue? Or do we just want to use it exactly as it is because it sounds nice…

So what about first fully understanding, feeling and digesting the new things and after expressing them with our own words and authentic voice? You can use it in such a way in your flow of teaching that it can be ”yours”. And then you will let it go and another authentic teacher will take it from you and express it with his or her own style. Beautiful, isn’t it? We are all students and teachers, at the same time.

 

 

 

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:

IG: @deryadenizyoga

Facebook: Derya Deniz Yoga

Find What You Love and Love What You Find

The life of a freelance yoga instructor, self-defense teacher and adventure sports writer involves a lot of free time. I used to devote an embarrassing amount of that free time to trawling the Yoga Trade website. The secret to using the site well is to know when to daydream about an opportunity, when to seize it, and to love what you find. So when I saw a listing looking for yoga teachers to assist hiking retreats in Norway, I knew it was time to pounce. I just didn’t know that pouncing would change my life.

I’ve always wanted to visit Norway but it’s notoriously expensive and I’ve never had the money to go. I’ve lived above the 60th degree latitude so I knew what I was getting into. I’ve worked as a hiking guide, I’m a natural history nerd, I have wilderness first responder training, I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga for over 30 years. I knew I was perfect for the job. I just had to convince the woman running the retreats that I was perfect for the job.

I was at a yoga retreat in Bali when I saw the listing, so I had limited internet access and no cell reception. I crafted a carefully worded letter of introduction, gathered my CV and a few yoga photos and tried to send them off. The message didn’t appear to land, so I bombarded this poor woman at every portal I could access: YogaTrade, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and her personal email. I don’t know if she was impressed or annoyed, but she called me within a day. After a week of communication I was able to convince her to stop looking at other applications and bring me to Molde for the month of August.

As I sweated through a stint teaching yoga at a retreat center in southern Spain and traded yoga classes for surf lessons in Portugal I kept thinking about the crisp air, lush forests and sparkling vistas that awaited me in Norway. I researched the bare essentials: Molde sits on a fjord, facing south, about halfway up the coast of Norway. It’s home to 26,000 people and famous for roses. The hottest day of the year sees a balmy 60 degrees. I could expect between five and eight days of rain during August, and seventeen and a half hours of day light at the beginning of the month.

I neglected to research my remarkable hostess. Pille Mitt was born in Estonia when it was part of the USSR. She grew up under an authoritarian regime that denied the most basic freedoms I often take for granted- the ability to choose where I want to live, travel, and pursue an education or career. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Pille was able to offer exercise classes and eventually open her own gym. On-line dating brought her to Molde, Norway, where she lost the guy but found a new home. A yoga teacher training in Rishikesh opened new windows, and now she teaches at both yoga studios in town and offers yoga and hiking retreats in various locations throughout the year. “I have to stop having such a good life!” she jokes. “Time flies when you’re having fun, so my life is passing too quickly!”

I also neglected to research the hikes. The first day we warmed up with a casual stroll out of town which led to the ascent of a nearby peak. Then we hiked a mountain overlooking the next day’s destination, with the option of climbing a nearby twin summit. One day saw us ascend steep muddy slopes to the Troll’s Church, a limestone cavern with a 40 ft waterfall inside. We traveled by ferry and car, climbed mountains, crawled through caves, jumped in alpine lakes and swam in the frigid Atlantic. Each day brought stunning vistas, the option to picnic and relax or hike as hard as we could. One day was a glorious road trip up a series of hairpin turns to a precariously perched restaurant and café. We dispersed like a flock of birds and came back together to meditate on a quiet ridge.

The first group was all female, and we bonded like the loving family I never had. Two Lebanese women and an Israeli woman broke bread together every day; they are not allowed to travel to each other’s homes and would probably never have met otherwise. We pushed each other to hike harder and relax more deeply, comforted and inspired each other, learned from shared stories of triumph and failure. I’ve led groups from southeast Alaska to Southeast Asia and never experienced one with more authentic love or less bitchy drama.

Over the following month my life fell into a simple rhythm: wake up, meditate, plan yoga classes, do yoga, eat breakfast, hike all day, teach yoga, eat dinner, fall asleep, wake up and do it again. Rainy days invited a road trip, a philosophy discussion, an extended yoga class, a shorter hike. After the first group left, Pille and I had two half days free. We scheduled an outdoor community yoga class, shopped for food and went for a hike. When you’re doing what you love, you never want a day off.

Pille and I cried when I boarded the bus for Oslo. We are both intense athletic tomboy powerhouses, and were afraid we wouldn’t meet another kindred spirit until our paths crossed again. Fortunately that won’t be long. We plan to lead yoga and hiking retreats together in Alaska, Norway and California in 2020. Guests from last August have already signed up, eager to hang out with us again. We are considering offering a yoga teacher training together in 2021. The only bummer is I don’t have time to daydream about opportunities offered on Yoga Trade anymore. I’m too busy living them! Love what you find!

 

 

Leonie is an RYT-500 Yoga Alliance certified instructor who has been teaching yoga and meditation for 15 years. She loves introducing students to the joys of being present in their bodies and her teaching style skillfully combines her spiritual practice, athletic ability and infectious enthusiasm for life. Her award-winning Mindfulness and Empowerment workshops reach over a thousand students every year.  When she is not teaching, Leonie is a passionate plant-based wilderness athlete who loves to ski, surf, climb and cycle.

Join Leonie on retreat in Alaska in 2020:

https://www.mittyoga.com/retreat-in-alaska.html

 

Wellness and Healing at Home

Winter is often a hard time of year for many people with its grey skies and overabundance of darkness. The cold and precipitation can easily keep you from venturing outside, but that shouldn’t prevent you from maintaining your personal wellbeing. It is during this time of year that we look to our homes as a safe haven so it’s crucial to make necessary adjustments to further promote wellness and healing.

Looking for a place to start can be overwhelming and may seem daunting at first. But there’s no reason to let those feelings get to you and start having an adverse effect. There are many areas in your home that can aid in your personal wellness and overall well-being. Once you’ve identified which areas need the most help, just a few adjustments can make a world of difference in any room.

In Your Bedroom

Your bedroom is your sanctuary. If yours doesn’t give that feeling to you, then you’re in need of a few changes. Otherwise you will likely have a hard time fully relaxing and finding peace in there. Start with the lighting. A bedroom is a place of rest and rejuvenation so there should be no bright and harsh lighting. Instead, opt to replace your current bulbs with ones that offer soft light. This small change can instantly put you in a better and more relaxed mood to help your body fully recoup after a long day.

 

Next look toward your actual bed and make sure it’s doing everything possible to help you get your best sleep every night. If your mattress causes you back pain that makes you toss and turn throughout the night, replace it with a new and more comfortable one. Make sure your sheets, comforter, blanket and pillows are working in your favor as well. If you tend to get hot at night opt for moisture-wicking sheets, a light comforter and cooling pillow, for instance.

Doing what you can in your bedroom to ensure a good night’s rest is essential to your overall well-being. Without it, no matter what other healthy habits you adopt in your life, you are putting yourself at risk of illness, burnout and depression.

In the Kitchen and Dining Area

Food is a key aspect of wellness and healing, making your kitchen and dining area a central hub for your well-being. From the food you have in the fridge, to the tools you use to prepare it and even how you eat your meals, all play into your personal wellness level. We all know how important it is to eat healthily and limit our intake of any junk food. But sometimes we just crave something that isn’t good for us. In that case you can always stock up on and prepare healthy alternatives to your favorite junk food so you can satisfy your craving while still maintaining your healthy habits. There are also healthy alternatives to cooking. For example, using an air fryer instead of an actual fryer cuts down the amount of grease you’re putting into your body.

How you consume your meals also can impact your wellness. Try to stick to certain meal times that work with your schedule. Having designated times to eat will help your body regulate when it is hungry and can expect nourishment. Eating in your dining area is also important. Whether that’s a table in the kitchen or an actual dining room, having a place to eat will be helpful in preventing you from overeating. If you’re in front of a television eating on a TV tray for example, you’ll be more likely to over consume and feel sick later.

In the Living Room

Where your bedroom is a place for sleep and rejuvenation, your living room is a place for relaxed entertaining and activity. To promote wellness and healing in this space, look to the decor you have. Muted and neutral tones work best for wall color and furniture to give the area a calm feel. You should also ensure that the room is as organized and clutter-free as possible. Overwhelming your guests and your own senses with too many bright colors, lights and items will make the space feel too crowded to enjoy and relax in.

One decor element to make sure you include here is candles. Sporadically placing them throughout the room will spread their glow and scent throughout the entirety of the space and immediately set a calming mood once lit. Having candles made with essential oils will offer plenty of benefits as well. One with lavender will help relax those in the room, while one with lemongrass scent will help combat any headaches and inflammation.

In a Recreation Space

Whether you have a spare room that was converted to a rec room or a renovated basement, there are plenty of ways this general space can help your personal wellness and health. Turn the space into a way to start a new hobby or to even perfect one you’re already practicing. Yogi’s can even engage with their community from around the world and look for advice on or new healing and wellness practices all from the comfort of their home studio.

The best part about this space is that it is customizable to your personal needs and preferences. You can even divide the room to meet your needs, for example it can be part yoga studio and part home spa. Whatever you need and want it to be, it can be. Having this dedicated area for your hobbies will give you a place to go relieve stress and focus on yourself all without having to venture out into the cold.

 

Jennifer is passionate about wellness as it relates to home decor. She thoroughly believes that having a place to retreat to is essential for everyone. Relaxation, happiness and personality are all major principles to her and the core of what she believes a person’s space should embody.

 

Buena Vibra GIVEAWAY!

***UPDATE December 18, 2019:

Big congrats to the winner of this giveaway: @lucia088 !!! Thank you to all who entered and all those who support this flourishing community. Much love!


We are excited to announce the Buena Vibra GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to each and every one of you for helping make our community what it is.

One lucky member will receive a $200 discount code to go toward the BUENA VIBRA gathering, March 14-21, 2020 at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica + a 2 Year Yoga Trade PLUS membership ($96 value).

Join Erica HartnickAlex Lanau, and the Yoga Farm Family for 7 days and nights of Buena Vibra: nutrient dense living to nourish the soul and awaken the senses! Celebrate Flavors, Form, and Friends as we explore these realms as the foundations of wellness. The Yoga Farm is a rustic off-the-grid yoga center and sustainable living project located on Costa Rica’s southernmost Pacific coast. Set amidst beautiful tropical rainforest, overlooking open ocean, and one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, it is an ideal space for those looking to reconnect with mind, body, and nature. Passionate humans (including the Yoga Trade Founders) and incredible flora and fauna inhabit this magical land. Gather for a week of delicious good vibes! Let’s share our wisdom and grow together! Learn about more details HERE.

HOW TO ENTER:

(Please read directions carefully, it’s a 3 step process)

1. To enter, log into your Yoga Trade account and LEAVE A REPLY (post comment) below at the end of this BLOG post. In the comment, state why you are excited to attend the BUENA VIBRA gathering! You must be a Yoga Trade member to post a comment. (If you are not currently a member, you can sign up at yogatrade.com)

2. Visit the FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE and mark that you are GOING or INTERESTED.

3.  Finally, SHARE about this BLOG/EVENT GIVEAWAY post on at least one social platform of your choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Share this link:  https://yogatrade.com/buena-vibra-2020/

That’s it. You’re Entered!

Thank you for contributing to this flourishing community. We look forward to growing together!!!

The WINNER will be chosen at random (random.org) and will be announced on December 18th, 2019.

*Only ONE entry allowed per person. You must be a real human to enter. The giveaway is only valid for persons age 18 and above. The event discount code and Yoga Trade membership is transferable to another person if winner is unable to use or would like to gift it. This giveaway is not redeemable for cash. 

 

The Yoga Trade Podcast

We are so excited to share with you our latest project: The Yoga Trade Podcast! Follow along as we travel around the world exploring spirituality, wellness, sustainability and more.

Our host, Audrey Billups, Yoga Trade’s vagabond filmmaker, will be capturing the inspiring stories of wellness practitioners, yoga teachers and change makers she meets along her travels. From Tibet to Bali to Los Angeles, every two weeks, we will share with you interviews and stories from all different corners of this Earth.

Listen to Episode 1 by clicking HERE

1: So the Adventure Begins

In this first episode, our host will tell you a bit about her spiritual journey and how she began her traveling lifestyle. From living in a tent on an organic farm in Hawaii to winning Yoga Trade’s photo competition and starting to work as their videographer, it has been quite a journey!

Theme Music, Sound Editing & Mixing:

Thomàs Young, Fine Crafted Sound

 

 

Want to take part? Please send us your Yoga Trade story and we may feature it on the podcast! It’s easy, just record yourself, snap a photo, and shoot us an email. Want us to advertise your retreat, training, or product on the podcast? Reach out to us! Email: audrey@yogatrade.com 

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

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

 

Regenerative Practice: Pixie Lighthorse

Nature knows best. As we observe the natural world as being regenerative, we begin to realize that it is essential for us to mimic this mindfulness into our own daily existence. It can be easy to become repetitive and ‘mono-culture’ like in our yoga practice and other daily doings. This is one of the reasons I love attending gatherings that spark inspiration and cultivate positive change.

Being seasonally summer based in South Lake Tahoe, California makes it quite a joy to journey north to Wanderlust Squaw every July. This year was the most beloved Wanderlust experience yet! Could be a coincidence that they were also celebrating their 10 year anniversary with this ever evolving event. I was fortunate to participate in many beautiful classes and workshops, but the stand out this time around for myself was the speakeasy talk with Pixie Lighthorse. She touched on topics dear to my own heart, and engaged the community in important conversations. Her written and spoken words are wonderful resources for healers who wish to advance in their fields of study and for individuals in the self-healing process. Here, we catch up with Pixie as she shares a glimpse into her own creative and regenerative process…..

Can you briefly tell us a bit about your Earth journey thus far?

My Earth journey has had a lot of bumps and sharp turns! But I suspect not more than the average 48 year old living in the western world. What I find most exciting about living on Earth is how relationships are grown and how we strengthen them with healing and bonding. 

How has yoga influenced your life?

I practice a form called Primal Vinyasa, created by Annie Adamson of Yoga Union in Portland, OR. It integrates functional mobility training with barefoot theory, nature awareness, and some foundational principles of asana that work really well for strengthening the front of my body for daily life and ordinary moving. We call it “no more achy sounds movement practice” because it’s the antidote to cranky restricted movement—very playful and FUN. I came late to practice, and yoga has always been a little bit out of my wheelhouse. It’s changed the way I move each day and brought a lot of joy into moving and being on Earth. I was becoming a complainer with chronic stuck bits and pains. Traditional asana was too much like a competitive sport for me, my body was hurting trying to do it. 

Article Photos by: Heaven McArthur

What does a ‘regenerative practice’ mean to you?

Regenerative practice is an agricultural term (I’m also a part time rancher) that asks us to look to the soil to learn how to be. It calls for diversity on all measures: gut biome, range of motion, expansiveness, inclusive friendships with all kinds of people. It calls for honoring all of our bodies: emotional, spiritual, mental, physical in order to be fully engaged with the process of life.

How did you get into public speaking and presenting at events such as Wanderlust? 

Elena Brower connected me to Wanderlust, having read my books of prayers at gatherings around the world and seeing a positive response. In the world of yoga, just as in other communities, there is potential to heal spiritual and religious trauma. My books in the Prayers of Honoring series are that call-to-action.

What are some techniques you use to tend to your internal waters and soil?

Allowing emotions to have a place in my life has freed up a lot for me. As an adult child of an alcoholic, there is a secret ethic of “Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.”  This is toxic, and to me, it’s the Round-Up of the soul. Emotional repression is the signature of post-WWII America, and it’s tendrils have made intimate relationship increasingly sufferable the more intelligent we’ve become about what it feels like to be human. I’m deeply fed by the relationships I can count on. Inner healing for people and soil ravaged by chemicals, pesticides, and desertification bear similar results.

How do you balance nurturing yourself while designing beneficial relationships with others and nature?

I take a lot of time and space for myself. One example is that my partner and I deconstructed our co-habitation patterns so we both could have time to down-regulate our nervous systems. We stopped living in the same house and now claim quality interaction together when we have something to give. This is unconventional, but I think people are learning that it’s okay to do what works and gives life. Being with people all the time doesn’t give me life. When I tell that part of my story it’s alarming for some! It’s made a huge difference to us—the time we spend together isn’t about tolerating one another, it’s about building really great moments together.

How can we create more diversity and vitality within our daily yoga practices and life? 

Play and have fun. Life is too chaotic and too short to make movement another chore full of drudgery. Just this morning, my daughter and I made an impromptu stop at a park with a rock climbing feature before school drop off. We both got stuck up high and laughed our heads off while we navigated down. I like to make friends at the grocery store and our family pulls over to help people stranded on the road. I’m at my best when I have some room for spontaneous awesomeness. And gardening, of course. Lots of permaculture anywhere I can make a bed. 

Any tips on how to tap into creative brilliance?

Let the creative brilliance use you to tell its story. We have the most fragile aspects of our egos all tied up in our creativity, where it has no business trying to run things. I honor Creator when I sit down to write or paint and say, “Do what you will with these hands today.”  And I have to promise not to complain about what I make. We can have fun learning new skills, but our obsession with perfection is ruining all the fun. It’s making for an intellectual climate that to me, is boring and arrogant. Imagine if soil was so picky about the leaf litter that fed its worms. We must learn to do what we can with what we have and find joy in it.

What inspires you most right now?

I can’t get enough of marginalized voices. We are seeing the next major Civil Rights Movement! It shifts something so profound to center others. I’m getting tired of my own voice and tired of white males dominating the conversation about…just about everything. The inherent sagacity of black, brown, and indigenous peoples gives me life. Also, Autumn. I love the inward turning season—it’s my new year.

If you could say one sentence that everyone in the world would hear, what would it be?

Trade in your repetitive habits, forms, and mono-cultures to restore land, bodies, and vitality with diversity.

Do you have any upcoming projects or events you would like to tell us about?

Work! I am putting the final touches on my fifth book, Goldmining the Shadows, available in early October. It’s the sister to Boundaries & Protection and will make navigating the inner darkness much easier to talk about, and normalize.

Anything else you would like to share?

Yes, the Earth is a mirror for our bodies and lives. Every plant is a medicine, every animal a messenger, every direction a teacher. When the Earth suffers, we suffer. We can start healing right now, by tending our bodies’ needs and any soil that we can steward back to health.

 

 

Pixie Lighthorse is the author of five books centered on self-healing through intimate relationship with the natural world. She is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She writes to honor the unheard voices of her ancestors.

www.pixielighthorse.com

Insta @pixielighthorse

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

 

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