Mask of Light and Ho’oponopono

Lately my sister will call me on a video chat while she’s driving home in the evening, phone is in the hands free stand on her dash, and as the sun is setting the light that hits her face with the visor down, illuminates only her mouth, cheeks and nose, like a Mask of Light, replacing the disposable or cloth rendition that has been the norm for many lately. As soon as she calls me and sees herself on the screen she says, “Oh! I’m wearing my Mask of Light again”, and then sings, “Maaassk of LLiiiiiight”, right on cue and it’s a fun way to begin a conversation that can sometimes be a relaying of how strange life is now… 

As many folks in the states and worldwide are experiencing the stressors of the bewilderment, with the world seeming like it stopped; raging confusions under the surface, identity crisis’ and fears of the unknowns to say the least; many of us are finding (if we didn’t already know) that self-care is ultimately the key to bypassing the emotional rollercoasters. Eating well, inner journeys, outer journeys, healing circles, singing circles, expressive creativity in painting, dance, cooking; these are just some of the infinite ways to develop our modes of self-maintenance. Daily practices are key in tapping into the kindness and compassion that open the flood gates of creating peace in our lives. 

Back in the month of March it seemed as if many of us were holding our breaths for things to “get back to normal”. Now, many of us have realized that there is no normal to go back to: the unsettling remorse in conjunction with anticipation for what may come is keeping our nervous systems exhausted; and maintenance becomes vital. 

In February, I went to Maui, Hawaii, and participated in a course learning traditional Hawaiian massage, called Lomi Lomi. One of the most important take-aways from Hawaiian/Pacific Island healing practices that I have learned since being drawn to these indigenous traditions is Ho’oponopono. Ho’oponopono translates as “to make very right” in the Hawaiian language. If you are unfamiliar with this practice, it is a way of clearing resentments and bringing forth forgiveness, within yourself, your family, and your community at large. When we carry negativity within us it tends to leak out and seep into our surroundings, draining our own energy. To clear this and become neutral again, allows our light to shine and allows us to see the light in others as well. 

Traditionally used in a family or village setting, I once heard a story that a non-indigenous friend of mine told me from when he was in Fiji. He said, while living in a small village that one day, before going on a hunting excursion the entire village came together to clear any negativity held onto from the past, present, or future through a Ho’oponopono practice. After the ceremony was completed the fishers went out to hunt in their fishing boats. What might normally seem like a stroke of luck, a large shark appeared. The shark circled the boat for a moment and then surfaced belly up, literally surrendered itself to the boat. The fishers knew their ceremony was heard and their efforts appreciated, as they deeply understood and lived in the profound power of the Ho’oponopono practice. With gratitude, the offering was accepted and the fishers collected the shark that the entire village would share. 

Practicing Ho’oponopono would originally entail a village or families that could come together physically. Now with contemporary traveling conveniences many communities have individuals who have scattered throughout the world, making the physical connection more difficult. However, there has been consolidated adaptation of Ho’oponopono, which is saying these beautiful words:

“I Love You.

Please Forgive Me.

I’m Sorry.

Thank You.”

Written about in a book by Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and Joe Vitale, I personally use these four phrases with very tangible intentions and have clear and sometimes immediate confirmation. I imagine I am gazing into a particular person’s eyes, interjecting their name while I repeat the saying, holding the utmost respect for the peace and happiness that I believe every person deserves. Or, I imagine a place bright and clear of negativity. Or a situation, free of pain, full of ease. Saying these cleansing words transforms everything.

Ho’omana Spa on Maui is where I studied Hawaiian healing, and I encourage anyone interested in going deeper with Ho’oponopono, or learning Lomi Lomi massage to look into the courses they offer, as it has changed my life and created a viable income for me while also being able to share an ancient and transformative healing modality. 

While on Maui, my kumu (which means teacher in the Hawaiian language) shared with us a Ho’oponopono meditation technique. She began by telling us a story. She said when she was learning the Hawaiian healing traditions (that she is now a masterful teacher of) that she would go to her kumu’s house to practice and learn. Upon arrival, her kumu would ask her everyday: “Pehea ka la?”,  “how is your light?” Referring to the light that we have within. It was a constant, daily reminder to check in with herself and clear any negative energy that she may be carrying around.

We all have this light within us.

My kumu proceeded to teach us her Bowl of Light Meditation, which is an adaptation from the Bowl of Light story in the book, “Tales from the Night Rainbow”. With a straight back, sit quietly and become mindful. Close your eyes and enter your own body (you can imagine a drop of water dripping from above your head through your body into your pelvic floor) and with every breath, relax deeper and deeper, slow yourself down from the day and attune to your own frequency. 

She began; Imagine inside of you that there is a bowl. Whatever your bowl looks like is perfect, it is your own bowl. Now, look inside of your bowl. What do you see in your bowl? This Bowl is shining your light from within, and for the things that are potentially obscuring your light, imagine them as stones. These stones in your bowl represent the feelings you might be holding onto, those resentments, jealousies, negative self-talk, bad memories: each stone holding a story of its own. Pick up a stone. Study this piece of you. Look at each crevice and touch each crag. Know this stone, and when you feel complete with this stone, with this emotion, then you are ready. You may discard this stone- sending it off with loving appreciation for what it has taught you. You have opened yourself up to clearing, and the light from your bowl can beam through the new space you have made. This is your light! Lovingly remove the stones that have been weighing down your bowl, and let your light shine. 

You may close this meditation by sending timeless gratitude into the ether.

This and other daily practices open our hearts. When walking outside to encounter the day, and floating on that physical mask onto your face, remember to check in with your light. Let your light shine from within. This is what we have to share. While our mouth-smiles may be in hiding to the outside world, our inner smile can shine even brighter. Now is a time to put differences aside and shine brighter than ever, to elevate and feel enlivened; and of course, in sharing your light you will inevitably bring others along with you!

 

 

 

Abigail Tirabassi is a star-gazing artist, surfer, traveler, philosopher, drawn to elevating the human vibration through her own healing; St.Pete, FL/Pavones, CR. IG: @scrammby

Can Yoga Lead the Way to Sustainable Tourism?

As I walk through the streets of Zurich, Switzerland, on a sunny Saturday in early June – about a month after the Swiss Covid-19 lockdown ended – I overhear two women sitting in a café talking about the summer vacation plans they had to cancel (Well, I guess we can go to the nearby mountains, could be fun if it’s just for one year!), and a young couple strolling in front of me, loudly telling each other how they couldn’t wait to get to the beach. Travelling has become an indispensable part of our modern lives, and it is not going away anytime soon; Covid-crisis or not. 

Between 1950 and 2018, the number of global international tourist arrivals has increased 56-fold, from 25 million to 1.4 billion. According to a 2018 article published in Nature Climate Change, tourism’s global carbon footprint accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transport, shopping and food being the main contributors. The United Nations World Travel Organization projects in a recent report that only the transport-related CO2 emissions attributable to tourism will grow 25% by 2030. Against this background, the UNWTO states that it is “committed to accelerate progress towards low carbon tourism development and the contribution of the sector to international climate goals”. How? Well, that is yet to be determined. Awareness and optimization are the path forward, according to the UNWTO; yet, as of now it seems as if we had not even crossed the starting line of such path. 

In order for global emissions to be brought under control, we are going to rely increasingly on travelers whose world view revolves around sustainability. Maybe the global travel ban that was forced upon all of us by Covid-19 opened an opportunity to reflect about why and how we travel, and to make more mindful decisions about our travel activities. To determine what sustainable and mindful travel could look like, it is worthwhile examining the practices of traveling yogis, a small but growing fraction of global tourists whose lifestyle (including travel) choices have been innately sustainable as part of their belief system for a long time. 

In recent years, yoga has become the new trendy fitness hype that claims to not only make you stronger physically, but also healthier mentally and spiritually enlightened. There are so many offerings of yoga classes all over the world (and since Covid-19 even online) that it is possible to quickly throw in a 45-minute power yoga session in between business meetings, that should be a workout substitute, balance out emotions, and calm the mind all at the same time. It is no wonder that in this context, there is less space to learn about the original teachings of yoga. 

The Yamas, constituting the first of an eight-fold path to a purposeful and meaningful life, are the moral and ethical guidelines of yoga. They are often translated and interpreted as: (1) non-violence or “do no harm” (also known as ahimsa), (2) truthfulness, (3) non-stealing, (4) self-control or a voluntary restraint of power, and (5) non-possessiveness. In comparison, the most pointed definition of sustainability I have come across is “living in symbiosis with our ecosystems so that we minimize our negative impact, instead building positive relationships that replenish the environments (including social ones) around us.” 

Thinking about what it actually means to live by the Yamas, the overlap with sustainable living according to the above definition is remarkable: (1) Sustainable systems seek to minimize negative impacts on others and the environment, and hence minimize harm. (2) Achieving sustainability goals requires understanding how the systems we live in function, interact and depend upon each other, and being truthful about our own contributions to the systems’ functioning or failure. (3) Taking something from the environment requires giving something back; lacking restoration, what we actually do is stealing from the environment and other creatures living in it. (4) Sustainable systems require that we not take more (and exercise the power to take more) than we need, thus practicing self-control. (5) Living sustainably requires re-assessing the way we ascribe meaning to things (possessions) and consume them. (see footnote at bottom)

Hence, sustainable living is deeply ingrained in the yoga teachings, and yoga practitioners who take their practice and philosophy seriously will be challenged to think critically about the carbon footprint and other unintended negative consequences of international travel. 

I was curious and interviewed over 25 yoga retreat leaders, yoga teacher training leaders, retreat participants, and yoga retreat centers (from the Americas and Europe), asking them how they think about this seeming friction. It turns out that the answer is quite nuanced. The yoga teachers and retreat leaders are in pivotal positions because they are the ones who choose the destinations and places to visit, and they get to shape the type of education that they convey to their participants. Most retreat leaders stated that their students often do not specifically ask for a “sustainable retreat”. They just want to immerse themselves into their yoga practice in an energetically rich location and serene surroundings away from their everyday life. However, over 90% of the yoga retreat leaders interviewed named environmental sustainability as a mandatory criterion when choosing the destinations and retreat centers they visit, and 80% specifically look for centers / hotels that offer organic, vegetarian, local food (which also leads back to environmental sustainability).

Importantly, most retreat leaders explained that while their participants might not go into the retreat with a focus on sustainability, this experience very often initiated a shift in their mindset, and they started changing their life choices and embarking on their own sustainability journey after a retreat. This was attributed partly to the educational piece about social and environmental sustainability that is ingrained in the yoga teachings, but mostly to its combination with the fact that the participants could experience and see first-hand at the retreat center what it means to have implemented sustainable practices, and how they themselves can take action.

Traditionally, most yoga retreats originating from Europe have been oriented towards India, Bali and Thailand as travel destinations, whereas, according to the European retreat leaders I interviewed, more European retreat centers have emerged in the last couple of years and there is an increasing demand for local retreats that can be reached not only by air, but also by other means of transportation such as train or cars shared between several retreat participants. From a US perspective, while Bali has also been a popular destination, retreats in Latin America are much more common due to the proximity relative to Asian countries. Costa Rica is nowadays one of the first and most established retreat destinations, with other countries such as Mexico and Brazil rapidly catching up. 

A country that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years is Peru. Since the 1990’s, the number of tourists visiting Peru has increased from below 0.5 million to 4.4 million in 2019. According to data published by the World Travel & Tourism Council, the contribution of tourism to Peru’s 2019 GDP was 9.3%, and 7.5% of all Peruvian jobs were in the travel and tourism industry. Especially in Cusco, the closest city to the World Heritage site Machu Picchu, tourism is critical for the economy and has helped alleviating poverty significantly. 

Cusco and Peru’s Sacred Valley having become a hub for sustainable yoga retreat centers, I focused part of my research on their sustainability practices. One example is Willka T’ika, founded in 1995 as one of the pioneers in the region with a mission towards sustainability, community and Quechua heritage protection. In addition to using solar panels for energy generation, its buildings are constructed from local adobe material which is energy efficient to reduce the need for heating and cooling. 80% of the ingredients used to prepare the vegetarian meals are organically grown in its own gardens (whereas the rest is sourced from local farmers), and all employees are Quechua from the neighboring community, most of whom have been with the retreat center for two decades. They also teach sustainable farming and irrigation practices to local communities, which has proven to be particularly important during the pandemic, since it increased food security and resilience among the local population. Currently, Willka T’ika is implementing a “zero emissions” program which provides an opportunity for guests to offset all carbon emissions from running the retreat center and transportation within Peru.

There are many examples around the globe that show how tourism can greatly benefit nature and wildlife (a sample is described in a blog post by Sustainable Travel International). This does of course still not deal with the carbon footprint from fuel-based travel, particularly air travel. But as one yoga teacher put it: Everything is a sacrifice. You always have to give something up to get something. What we need to do is start thinking more thoroughly about what kind of travel is worth leaving such a large carbon footprint and what’s not.” 

Covid-19 may have been a trigger for many to reconsider which flights and what travel activity is worth exposing oneself to the risk of infection. If we also started weighing our personal desire to consume against the effects thereof on the planet (do we really need to fly from London to New York for a weekend shopping trip, considering that the amount of CO2 generated per passenger exceeds the annual carbon footprint of an average person in 56 countries?), chose the places where we stay when travelling more wisely, and returned home not with a suitcase full of new consumer goods, but rather with new ideas and inspiration about leading a more responsible, purposeful and meaningful life as described by the Yamas, this could go a long way. 

 

 

Marie-Cristine is currently pursuing an MBA and MS in Environment & Resources at Stanford Graduate School of Business / School of Earth and Environment. Originally a lawyer from Switzerland, she embarked on a journey of continued education and personal growth, striving to work towards sustainable development goals. She loves being active, especially outdoors, colorful food (such as fruits, veggies and ice cream) has found yoga practice as a way to balance herself.

 

 

Footnote:

https://amaramillerblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/taking-yoga-off-the-mat-sustainability-and-the-yogic-path/ 

https://www.sustainablelafayette.org/post/the-correlation-between-yoga-and-environmental-sustainability

https://www.yogitimes.com/article/how-yoga-take-care-environment-go-green

 

Yoga Philosophy as a Path of Self-Realization in the Real World

Yoga has been my exercise, hobby, and side-gig for nearly my entire adult life.  Through cross-planet moves, falling in love and getting my heart broken, a global pandemic (say what?!), losing loved ones and jobs, career changes, and quarter life crises — yoga has been there every step of the way.  Subtly and sneakily, the teachings have pierced me.  What began as a love affair with the way my body felt after a sweaty and stretchy yoga “workout” has turned into a greater understanding of how my mind and heart are able to navigate the difficult moments life has thrown at me.  

What a time – right now in the midst of our mandated hibernation during COVID-19, to ground down and deepen our own practice.  While so many in the world are suffering and in a state of fear, I’ve had the opportunity to dive even further into my yoga practice. Despite job losses, housemate conflicts, economic disasters, and a global moral crisis of racism and brutality, yoga has stuck with me, and me with it.  Inspired by my teacher, Bhavani Maki, I’ve committed to a daily meditation practice that has significantly transformed my life and kept me grounded during the most ungrounding time of my life.  

Though I’ve been studying, practicing, and teaching yoga all this time, my understanding of yoga was confused and ungrounded.  Yet, thankfully, I’ve been able to begin again, with fresh eyes… 

1:1 Atha yoga anushasanam

At last, we have finally arrived at this most auspicious moment.  Verily, it has taken our entire lifetime to come to this point, where we accept the invitation to follow along with the process of Yoga, and smooth out the rough edges of the personality.  This awakes a deep feeling of love and respect for those who walked the path before us, and shed the light that we might follow.

This is the first Yoga Sūtra of Patanjali, translated by my teacher and mentor, Bhavani Maki.  Her teachings of the Yoga Sūtra have profoundly impacted my relationships to myself and to others, and supported me through a time of great transition.  Both in person and online, I’ve studied yoga, philosophy, chanting, and modern day psychology with her.  When I signed up for her online Yoga Sutra Mentorship Program last August (we meet weekly on Zoom) I had no idea that this would be the glue that held me together during a “stay at home” order for months of COVID-19.  Deepening my understanding of the Sūtra has absolutely been a form of therapy for me, as it gives me insight into my habits and patterned behavior and shows me what I can modify, what needs to be released, and what is pure and perfect just as it is.

Bhavani is an international author and teacher of yoga asana, yoga psychology, and yoga philosophy.  She has dedicated her life to learning and actualizing the path of yoga through her studies with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, Professor Narayanacharya, Baba Hari Dass, and Rama Jyoti Vernon, among others.  Although first introduced to the Yoga Sutra in 1996, she has been deeply interested since 1999.  Beyond her education, experience, and accolades, she is just an absolute joy and breath of fresh air in the yoga world.  She exudes a level of humility that is inspiring and makes a seemingly overwhelming and ancient text relatable to almost anyone.  Read on for an exclusive interview with Bhavani about the wisdom of the Sutra and how to integrate them in modern day life:  

What are the Yoga Sūtra?

The Sūtra are a map of human consciousness with practical insights in how to maximize Yogīk practice for breakthrough experiences for internal freedom to enjoy life in its fullness. Patañjali reveals that deep, personal inquiry are both the means and the experience of embodying our true spiritual realization.

What are the benefits of learning the Yoga Sūtra?

While the techniques of Yoga are well expounded upon in the West, there is little guidance offered to integrate these practices with our personal psychology. The Sūtra are traditionally recognized as the definitive guide, offering perennial wisdom in navigating life’s challenges through the cultivation of viveka khyāti, discriminating wisdom. Yoga practice without the Sūtra are like going on a road trip without a map to navigate.

What does your personal yoga practice look like?  

I start each morning with Gayatri Mantra, Pranayama, Mudra, meditation and silent Japa (repetition) of the Sūtra. I then study more Sūtra and work on my current manuscript. Afterwards, I practice a variety of asana that usually includes inversions. 

Is it possible to practice/teach yoga without understanding the Yoga Sūtra? 

The Sūtra and the asana cannot be separated. If we are mature in our practice of awareness, we access some amount of the Sūtra through practical insight. However, one who is without a teacher and the teachings (Sūtra) is known as “anatha” – misfortunate. To have them is a tremendous blessing that galvanizes our efforts to maximize the possibilities of Yoga’s benefits.

What is your best advice for teachers to weave the teachings of the Yoga Sūtra into their classes and personal practices?

The Sūtra articulate practical wisdom. They provide a focus for intentional learning and expand perspective. A little bit of study goes a long way to being productive in our practice and creating integration and coherency in our psyche. As a teacher, when we open our class with reference to a Sūtra, we bring awareness back to Yoga’s intention of skillful internal posture. 

So many yoga teacher trainings incorporate very little yoga philosophy in their teachings.  How might yoga teachers supplement their education to get a deeper understanding of the philosophy behind yoga?

10 minutes of daily study can go a long way! My book the Yogi’s Roadmap can be opened and read at random like an oracle. Many teachers tell me they open it for inspiration before they practice or teach a class and weave insights into the practice.

What are your best resources/teachers for studying the Sūtra?

My personal favorites are: Rama Jyoti Vernon’s translations “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Gateway to Enlightenment” Books 1 & 2. Also, I love Venkateshananda’s book “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali”. Kofi Busia has many interesting resources on his website. I offer 13 recorded talks that are live recordings from my teacher trainings. My personal book “The Yogi’s Roadmap” is written in conversational form in the spirit of mouth to ear transmission that is non-linear and in context of how the Sutra are useful in reference to Yoga practice and modern life.  My most comprehensive offering to date is my Online Yoga Sutra Mentorship program that’s a live zoom class each week and recorded for those who can’t attend the live session. Each class is devoted to a single Sutra. 

What is your best advice to new yoga teachers?

Teach to learn! When my teacher asked me to teach, she made me promise to study a minimum of 20 minutes daily. This is of course in conjunction with consistent practice. Choose your teachers carefully and commit to study with them for a minimum of 5 years. 

So there you have it — yoga is about integration, and couldn’t we all benefit from a roadmap to help us find our true center? I’m still on the path and always will be, but with such wise mentorship and learning I’ve found ways to navigate this life with heart and integrity (or at least I try!). 

To join in the movement and study with Bhavani online to take your teaching and/or practice to the next level, please visit www.bhavanimaki.com.  She has several workshops, teacher trainings, classes, and mentorships all available online now.

 

 

 

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, gap year counseling, practicing and teaching yoga, and teaching mindfulness and survival skills in the great outdoors.

 

 

 

 

A Non-Intentional, Intentional Community: How a YTT Fostered Community During a Crisis

In response to a few cases of COVID in Peru, the Peruvian president closed the borders to all travel entering and leaving the country. For us, this was half way into a 200 hour YTT. 20 students were from the US, Canada, and Europe. The 4 teachers were from Peru and the US. We were in the village of Moyobamba in the Amazonica region. Moyobamba is located 3 hours from the nearest airport in Tarapoto. And, Tarapoto is about 2 hours by air from Lima.

The President’s announcement came as a surprise. We realized that our flights home were cancelled. There was no way to get to Lima. Essentially by 8 PM that day we were stranded in Peru.

The 200 YTT was at halfway point and we would be there for an indefinite period of time. I was curious to see how the group would evolve. I wanted to see if the group would maintain interest in and focus on YTT, how group dynamics would evolve, and what would happen as this YTT became an involuntary community due to an international crisis.

That night the group met. At that time the borders had been closed for the next 15 days, which would extend 11 days after YTT ended. As the news sank in, we realized that we would be where we were for the remainder of the week then would need to find alternate living arrangements.

The following morning, our thinking was widely divergent. One overarching concern was where would people live. Some began to search for ways to get home. Others were looking for housing. Some wanted to prepare for the Zombie apocalypse. The first day of the new reality found the group lacking cohesion. The teachers decided to continue the YTT. Students participated and all made an effort to focus. But many told me that they were feeling distracted. At the same time, most in the group found comfort to the consistency of daily yoga practice, meditation, and meals together. Although there was internal turbulence, the structure of the program and its communal nature created a container where folks felt cared for while continuing to study yoga. Everyone seemed to be at peace with the new reality.

There was a wide variety of emotion. One person cried nightly. A nurse felt guilty that she was not in the US helping. One who believed that the-world-as-we-knew-it was coming to an end welcomed the opportunity to start over. Several said that they did not feel stranded since it had been their intention to stay in Peru after the YTT. Several came to this YTT during periods of transition and found it comforting to know that their time for transition would be longer. Others were concerned. One woman began to worry about job security. One woman was concerned for her son (she was able to make arrangements for him to be at his father’s house). Some who did not speak Spanish were concerned about staying on their own.

A shift occurred when the owner of the hotel agreed to keep the hotel open for our group until the end of the “National State of Emergency”. Most remarked that they felt very relieved when they learned that we could stay together and at that location. This bought a palpable sense of relief.

For the remaining days of the YTT students and teachers were both engaged and distracted. Everyone completed the YTT and there are now 20 certified yoga teachers. All completed their projects, practicum assignments, classes, did their practice teaching. At the same time they were engaged in creating this new non-intentional, intentional community.

After the YTT ended, we settled into our life. We had a pool. We had yoga class every morning, sometimes led by one of the students or a teacher. Each night we had restorative yoga or a movie, a trading blanket, or ecstatic dance. We made a running trail. One participant, a chiropractor, saw everyone who wanted an appointment. A massage therapist, offered massages to one person daily. A reading group started. Some began art projects. Some studied Spanish. One woman led a daily cardio- HIIT workout. Others started AB/core workouts. The combination of being in a safe place, in a town where there was no Coronavirus, with like-minded people, fostered more the feel of a yoga retreat than being stranded in the jungle in a third world country. A community evolved. People took on roles, friendships developed. While there was plenty to do it was easy to find time alone. Except for the fact that this was caused by a terrible pandemic it seemed quite nice.

A week after the YTT ended everyone was involved in the community. No one felt anxious. Many spoke of how supportive the community had become. Everyone was using time productively. For some that meant reflecting on the next steps in their lives. For some it mean study. Several learned that they could work remotely, full or part time. Some did but continued to make time for discussions, yoga, fitness classes, journaling, etc. Several decided to read books about yoga. No one felt bored or useless.

The end happened quickly. The night before we were to leave the hotel, the Irish embassy picked up the one Irish citizen. The next day the American embassy arranged transportation for 7 Americans. Within a day the Canadian embassy picked up the Canadian citizens and transported an American to Lima. One group who had planned to stay longer did. And, three teachers and the one male student stayed in Peru.

An obvious question is: How was this experience shaped by the intensive YTT? There is no basis of comparison, but it seems that the intense focus on yoga shaped and informed the experience of being stranded together.

Several remarked that they were changed by practicing yoga twice daily, having morning and afternoon meditation class, studying asana, yoga philosophy, etc. Indeed, this is the point of an immersive experience.

Whenever a group comes into a stressful situation it would seem logical that emotions would elevate and that stress would take its toll on individuals and on the group. I did not see that happening. I expected more evidence of stress. I expected cliques to develop. I expected to hear more criticisms. But, I noticed almost none.

As I reflect on my own experience, although a leader and caring for others, I also felt supported and cared for by this forced community. I think that this happening at the end of a YTT that focused on living the yogic lifestyle dramatically impacted the group’s evolution. It gave us the opportunity to live as an intentional community built upon common values and practices. It gave us the opportunity to live as a community of yogis.

It worked.

 

Before becoming a yoga teacher, Dr. Loren Thomas retired twice; once from being a school district superintendent and then from being a college faculty member. He began to practice yoga in 1997 and was inconsistent for years. But, upon retiring, yoga became his daily passion. He now teaches yoga and teaches in YTTs, focusing on philosophy and meditation. In addition to career and yoga, he is an avid marathon runner, rock climber, cyclist. He found that the combination of meditation and his outdoor physical activities supported him in his work as an active professional. He now works to promote healthy habits, a positive approach to aging, enjoyment of life. He encourages everyone to be active and pursue what calls to them.

 

Listen to Episode 9 of the Yoga Trade Podcast to hear COMMUNITY VOICES and other pandemic stories from the global yoga and wellness community.

 

The Art Of Staying Put: How World Traveler Yogis Can Tap into Their Skills to Survive COVID-19 Confinement

Like a row of dominos you accidentally start, country after country around the world have made decisions we never thought possible: they are urging us to stay home for the good of all and have closed their borders.

For once, those of us who usually have the privilege to travel around the world freely, in search of new experiences, work, and play, have to remain in one place. We have had to make our own decisions and ask, with a new sense of panic, concern, or necessary cold-headedness: Where to now?

For a lot of people, the underlying organization required to set up for a stay at home of an unknown duration at home requires little energy, at least at first. Sure, apparently hoarding on toilet paper was a thing to worry about. In the west, many headed to the supermarket to stock up on basic necessities, picked a friend to spend the confinement with, and even a location where to spend. But the rest was pretty straight-forward as long as you have a roof over your head you call home.

The privileged yogi nomads and travelers of our earth have not had it all that straightforward. We’ve had to ask ourselves what to do if our home countries decided to close its borders—do we go back now? Where to, exactly? We’ve had to ask around if our home countries would offer repatriation, and, considering our options, if it would be okay to refuse a potential offer. Where is home when you’ve been on the road for a while, hopping from country to country in search of work and life experiences? What kind of work can I do now that I’m not allowed to move anymore? Where will I get my income from once my current job ends? Will the owners of the Yoga Farm kick me out?

And do you even have to stay in confinement when the country you’re currently in… doesn’t really have one in place yet?

Feel Your Feelings—Navigating The Grief of Cancelled Travel Plans

Once you’ve somewhat figured out the practical side of things and decided where you’d remain for a bit, reality hits. Airlines have emailed to say your flights were cancelled. The yoga studio you were supposed to work at in your next destination isn’t able to receive you anymore. The friends you were going to take a trip with are heading home. Travel plans are cancelled, and you suddenly have an empty calendar.

I’m a slow traveler myself and prefer to stay in one country for a while before I move on to the next. In the beginning, when confinement rules started popping up here in China, I wasn’t too worried about my next travel plans. The situation would get better, and we’d be able to hop on a train to keep exploring China in no time.

Well, not quite. Next week, friends were supposed to fly in to visit Shanghai, and we were going to take a trip somewhere to the mountains. I have a list of places I’d like to visit around China—Tibet, the “Avatar” mountains (Zhangjiajie), Hong Kong for a Vipassana meditation retreat. Everything is canceled until further notice, and it has come with disappointment.

So right now, it’s okay to be sad, and yes, grieve. We will get used to the new normal, eventually, but it’s okay to take some time to feel the sadness, the disappointment, the anger even. The rest will come when it does.

The Wonderful Skills of A World Traveler Yogi

World traveler yogis have more than one trick up their sleeve. Exploring the globe comes with its set of challenges, and when you’re on the other side of the planet, away from familiarity and comfort, you have no other option but to go with it (with a little help from our friend, our yoga practice). Over time, you build the skill set to face the next challenges that will come—right now is one of these challenges. Let’s see how we can navigate this COVID-19 situation with ease.

Adaptability
Traveler yogis have, without a doubt, an incredible ability to adapt to new situations, places, faces, and atmosphere. Right now, we’re called to adapt to our new normal and to go with the flow. What has our yoga practice to teach us here? How can it support us to navigate new rules, new settings, new obstacles? We’ve done it time and time again—now is as good a time as any to rely on that skill.

Online communication
Some of us have years of experience making long-distance relationships work through video calls, regular emailing, and photo sharing. Some of us might even remember the times when emailing or bad internet connection on Skype were the only options available. Now, with dozens of calling platforms, social media, and an internet connection available in all corners of the world, it’s easier than ever to check in with loved ones, and even play games together, even miles apart from each other. Let’s make the most of that possibility!

Resourcefulness
If you want to travel the world in search of new experiences, there’s no way you’ll find what you need by staying put and watching time pass by. You have to get out there, reach out to people, make new connections, come up with a plan, find a balance between what the world is saying you do and what your gut is telling you to do. Right now, how can your ability to problem-solve and find a way to get what you most long for help you with your current situation? How can you feel in control rather than like you’ve lost your freedom?

Compassion and empathy
Traveling isn’t just a way to discover new places, you discover new cultures, new ways of life, and learn from the countries that so kindly open their doors to us. For once, we see how it feels to be refused entrance to another country. We also think of the people who spend more of their time outside all over the Asian and African continents, while we are cozied up in our homes. How we cultivate our compassion towards the populations who have it more difficult than we do? And how is this changing our perspective?

All Things Are Temporary

If there’s one thing we learn by traveling the globe and having a yoga practice, it is that things never really last. Emotions come and go, landscapes come and go. Nature reminds us that every time a new season comes and goes, and every yogi will agree that our yoga practice evolves the same way, urging us to respond to our needs and desires in the moment.

May we all remember this right now, and that we can rely on ourselves, our mats and meditation cushions, nature around us, and our loved ones across the globe to go through this. It won’t last forever, and sooner than later, we’ll have to adapt to yet another new normal.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

 

 

 

Ely is a slow traveler and location independent entrepreneur. She is a digital content creator and the co-founder of Shut Up & Yoga, an online magazine that aims to bring humor and critical thinking to the worlds of yoga, wellness, and personal development. She is a curious bee and loves to experiment with different outlets and media to explore her mind, move, breathe, learn, and play. If you travel to Shanghai, her current home, you might find her squatting down trying to chat with the local street cats…

@ebsnotebook 

 

This Is Where We Learn to Trust

This article was first published by Vira Bhava Yoga 

The day after I returned from India, I received a text from a good friend of mine who had been in the jungle of Colombia on a vision quest. It said simply, “can you talk soon, I’m feeling like its important to touch base,” even though both he and I recognized that our profound experiences needed time to be assimilated and integrated before we could share them. But, even in knowing this, he was insistent. “Actually, can you talk now?” And as soon as I said yes, the phone rang. Our conversation was brief but profound. He acknowledged that we weren’t ready to share the details of our experiences, but there was a wisdom that he encountered on the mountain that felt urgent. He said, “The tita (shaman) told me something that I know is true for you too, and I need to share it right now.” He said, “Kel, our religion is trust.”  

We exchanged maybe 10 words after that and hung up the phone. Now less than two months later, we are standing in the middle of the biggest test of trust that we can imagine. In the days and weeks that have followed that conversation, I have been sinking deeper and deeper into that reflection. Rather than moving out in reaction to the immensity of the global crisis at our door, I’ve found myself moving more deeply inward. The world as we know it is crumbling. Our illusions and identities are being challenged to say the least, and our ideas of safety and comfort, of being in control are shattering. So now what?? Do we move on the tide of fear, or slip into the current of trust? Can we release the idea that we are (or were ever) in control, and be present for what is happening? Can we be guided by new notions of what is real and important? What would happen if we release the requirement that the external world is the measure of our safety and security, and move inward to find what is real? What if the whole world learned to listen to the soft and quiet whisper of our hearts, and heed it’s requests. This might just be bigger than us. Bigger than doctors or healthcare systems, bigger than governments or elections.  This might be bigger than conflicts and solutions. What would it take to change our world, truly? I think we are in the middle of finding out. 

Maybe you’ve been one of the ones striving to make a difference, to change the systems, to dismantle the patriarchy. So I ask you, what if this is what success looks like? What if we are standing at the precipice of the “new” world that we’ve been so diligently trying to coax into being?  What if the “new” world is NOT simply a fixed and repaired version of the old one? What if no election, act, or law can bring the change we desire, no amount of success or effort or investment can actually bring about the safety we seek?  What if THIS is it?  A terrifying experience which is bringing us all onto the same team, demanding that we step back from the constant pursuit of happiness and SEE what we have right in front of us.  An invitation to value the lives we have created and cultivated.  An opportunity to STOP or at the very least SLOW DOWN and re-evaluate. It’s true that some things won’t survive, that even with the best intentions, businesses might close, systems might fail, we might lose things, we might lose people. If we are truly committed to a better world, accepting these truths is primary, and feels very lonely and scary. And this, this is where we must remember. This is where we build the container that can hold both doubt and hope. THIS IS WHERE WE LEARN TO TRUST.  Not in the ease, the beauty, or even the battle or fight, trust emerges from the depths of surrender. So the invitation couldn’t be more clear. At this time of urgent and cataclysmic change, will we find the courage to let go of what was and enter the mystery of the unknown?

We have an opportunity right now to live into that change, not resist it. To loosen the grip on what we thought we depended on, and begin to take rest in uncertainty. What if our world will NEVER be the same? Will we fight to maintain the past, to rebuild the failing structures and systems, to turn a blind eye to all that is being brought forth at this time? If we are thinking about how things will go back to “normal” after this time of fear and isolation is over, we might be wrong. Moving into the time of the light doesn’t just mean bringing everything out of the shadows, it means actively engaging in the process of keeping it in the light. The world is ripe for change.  Everyone on every side of the fence or aisle is frustrated, angered by the state of the world, distrustful, afraid. And now, we have been offered something that is out of our control to help us remember what is real, what is true, what is meaningful. Will we cower in fear, hide and retract, will we divide and blame, or will we rise, find new ways to band together and support each other? Can we become the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible?

These are radical times, many are saying unprecedented. We are being called to let go of our illusions, release our misunderstandings, and learn to trust the ground on which we stand. Learn to love, cultivate real and meaningful connection, return to a sense of what is essential and lasting. Make love, laugh, dance. Trust our hearts to guide us, challenge ourselves to move into the discomfort of the situations at hand. Stretch the lens of our own perceptions, and surrender the attachment to control. Can we find refuge in the real, the here and now, and stop hiding and running? Can we defy the endless striving and arrive where we are?  The world has caught up to us, what will we do with it? The challenge now is to explore TRUST with a force that is as unprecedented as the times in which we are living. Dare to discover the place that can hold our fears and doubts alongside the power of our desires and dreams. Enter into the scary places willingly and without expectation, and see what we find. There is no better time than NOW to try. NOW might be all we have. 

 

 

 

 

This article was written by Kelly Golden, the founder of Vira Bhava Yoga. These times of uncertainty are strengthening our practices, our commitments, and our TRUST. We truly believe in what we practice, and we are ready to offer it from an unwavering desire to share the tools that support us in the chaos of the unanswerable questions, the fears, and the insecurities, and may be able to support you too. Though we cannot predict how things will evolve, we have spent the last year moving our programs onto a digital format, which means we are ready to meet you where you are at. We have been training mentors to meet students virtually, and provide support in times of struggle. We have created an online “studio” where we are collecting practices from Vira Bhava Yoga teachers across the country to provide support and steadiness when you feel wobbly. We have opened access to our much of our online content (via the website and Facebook), and are prepared to move our in-person trainings to a virtual format if necessary. We are equipped and ready, and truly believe that this work is more important now than it has perhaps ever been. We are living experiments of the teachings of Tantra, and are finding the ways in which these teachings and practices support us on every level. We want to share them with you. If you are ready to try something different, to trust beyond the tangible, to dive headlong into the unknown to seek the truth, you’re in the right place. At Vira Bhava Yoga, our religion is trust. We commit to elevating our practices, cultivating steadiness, and leaning into trust for ourselves and for you. So, if you need something or someone to lean into, we are here for you.

 

International Yoga Teachers: Ron Reid and Marla Meenakshi Joy

Here we get an inside glimpse into the lives of international yoga teachers, Ron Reid and Marla Meenakshi Joy. Join them in Costa Rica this April!

How many yoga trainings and retreats have you led?

We started teaching internationally in 2001….in Europe…before many other American yoga teachers hit the scene over there. The energy was so fresh and yoga was still so new there…so it was an exciting time to be there, and there was so much enthusiasm and openeness to learn , in a field where up until that time, in those places, there wasn’t a lot of information about the practice. It’s hard to say how many, but a lot, as we would travel twice a year…Europe, Asia, India, and also the States. They ranged from weekend workshops, Master Classes, Teacher Trainings, and Conferences. We also travelled and did Kirtan all around the world, and spread our love of both yoga and music.

Which one was the most memorable and why?

Each time was so unique and memorable! A lot of places we would return to for a good ten years. Then as the scene changed and more international teachers started visiting these places, we started to switch to returning to a studio every 2 years. Our experienced ranged from staying in a camper van while teaching outside of London England in the country side, to staying at a 19th century convent in Malaga, Spain at an eco-retreat (which then became a canvas Teepee), to such amazing retreats as singing and playing music for two weeks at a retreat at Sting’s villa in Tuscany! Those two weeks were out of this world crazy…as Sting and Trudy Styler own about a quarter of Tuscany…so their property was out of this world incredible, and we sang during Savasana and every night in Sting’s chapel.

What are your students most excited about during the retreats and trainings in a foreign country?

To be able to be a part of a different culture, experience their amazing cuisine, learn some of the languages, and generally have the space and time away from their regular responsibilities to really dive into their practices, and be transformed by the experience. It is truly the highest honour I find as a teacher to guide students through this process and really just watch and witness them flower and bloom! And I find we get very close, like a family on retreat, and those memories are life-changing and remain as an incredible imprint in their memories and lives. When it comes to Costa Rica, it has a quality of “pura vida” to it where it deeply connects the students to nature and thus themselves, so its like a return Home! Home to themselves.

Tell us about something that happened on retreat that was funny;)

One of our students, among other talents, was a rapper! So he started rapping one evening at dinner when we were all at a restaurant last year in Costa Rica, and it was amazing! He also got up with a live band one night with a whole crowd of people and did an impromptu rap with the band and included all that he had learned in the yoga room into the rap…it was hilarious!!

What is the level of students who usually sign up for your trainings and how do you adjust to the students who have a less active yoga practice?

We generally expect a wide range of students at trainings, especially one such as this that involves travel as well. We always adjust to the student in the room and adapt the practice to their level. Our teaching method includes adaptation and modification, meaning that students may be practicing different versions of the same pose or sequence.

What do you love about the trainings and retreats you have already led in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a very special place. The natural beauty that surrounds you and the abundance of energy that you feel from that is ideal for yoga practice. We find that students are able to take their practice to a whole new level.

 

Join Ron and Marla April 12-24, 2020 in Costa Rica!!!

Use the code ‘YOGATRADECR‘ to receive $200 off from the whole retreat or $100 off from the 6 day training.

THE ART OF INTEGRATION: SPANNING THE 8 LIMBS

Choose from 6 day to 12 day training or a retreat option. Includes 12 or 6 nights high-end double accommodation in a boutique hotel, most meals and yoga with Ron Reid and Marla Meenakshi Joy in the beautiful beach surf village in Nosara, Costa Rica. Reserve your space HERE.
More details on tianayoga.com website.

 

Ron Reid has been practicing yoga for over 30 years and teaching since 1988. He is the co-owner and director of the Downward Dog Yoga Centre in Toronto, Canada. Ron has studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sharath both in India and North America and was one of the first Canadian teachers to be authorized by Pattabhi Jois. Ron is one of Canada’s top teachers, as well as a celebrated international master teacher. His approach is inspired, informed and non-dogmatic.

 

 

 

 

 

Marla Meenakshi Joy, owner and director of Downward Dog Yoga Centre, spent years in the Himalayas studying meditation, Sanskrit, and Yoga Philosophy. Practicing and studying Ashtanga for over 20 years with some renowned teachers, she began teaching in 1999 in teacher training programs across Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Asia, as both a teacher of Philosophy and Sanskrit, Chanting and Meditation, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, and Restorative yoga. As a celebrated songstress, she also leads Kirtan with her band SWAHA, and has recorded 5 CDs.

 

Homemade Wellness Shots

Wellness is all the rage these days and what better way to keep up with the trends than by slamming homemade wellness shots??? Heck yeah!!! In lieu of the hard stuff, swap out your trusty tequila for this majestic moonshine. Like tequila, this too will give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside without the hangover or drama. This drama-free delight is packed with everything you need to conquer your day and the world, one shot at a time.

Here is what you are gonna need to feel fabulous:

Wellness Shots: Liquid Gold

Yields approx. 4 cups.
Will keep in fridge for 3 or 4 days but you will drink it all before that I promise.

-A pound of organic turmeric
-A pound of organic ginger
-Enough organic limes/lemons to make a cups worth
-3 organic oranges
-Black pepper

Wash and peel the turmeric and ginger.

Dish gloves might help combat dyed orange hands from the turmeric and ginger burn:)

Pass the ginger and turmeric through a juicer. Don’t have a juicer? Buy THIS ONE.

Masticating juicers are better for juice extraction than the more popular centrifugal models, but if all you have is a centrifugal one, then use that.

The goal is to extract a cup of juice each from the turmeric and ginger. So keep juicing until you get the desired amount.

Next squeeze the citrus. I hand squeeze myself but if you know a better way, then go for it! Keep squeezing until you get a cup of orange juice and a cup of lime/lemon juice.

Mix It all together with a 1/4 tsp of fresh black pepper and pour it into a quart sized bottle. Line up shot glasses and pass them around the table after every meal with your friends. CELEBRATE your COMMITMENT to WELLNESS!

***For maximum absorption, the shots are best served by adding a drop of cold-pressed liquid coconut oil. 

 

 

Constantly curious and always exploring, Alex Lanau has been the head chef at Pavones Yoga Center, spreading the gospel of nutrient dense foods all day, everyday. Creating simple and inventive plant based meals as a reminder that cooking is not something to be intimidated by. With his practical approach and attention to detail, his edible art has converted countless carnivores to the dark side of the leafy greens. When he is not cooking for hungry yogis in various parts of the world, he is painting murals, eye gazing the sun and sea, and hanging out with his four legged furry son.

Join Alex at the Buena Vibra gathering March 14-21, 2020 at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica!

 

Living in the Flow of Life: Connect to Source

Yoga. Dance. Surfing. Diving. Writing. Meditation. Running. Climbing. Swimming. Chanting. Painting. Breathwork. Hiking. While distinct in form, practices like these (and many others!) have one powerful thing in common:  – from the inside-out – with the sensuous, circadian rhythms of life. Flow experiences can catch us at any time, in virtually any environment. Those vibrant moments of connection between the body, spirit and surroundings that bring us into closer communion with Divine. The ultimate high that requires no external substance – only breath, mindful presence, and the free-form flow of energy moving in and through us, reminding us just how thin our skin actually is when we allow our physical selves to exist as vehicles for the alchemy of energetic creation, expression, movement and release vital to our existence, wellbeing and co-evolution as human-animals living this collective life-world, together.

Cover Photo: Jennifer Harter

Flow is a transformative encounter with transcendence, where the perceiving and physical bodies blend into the ether of the natural environment, through the beyond-conscious energetic experience of sensation and absolute presence. Living in flow, as a collective, we become, in the words of David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous, “a community aware of its place in an accompanying cosmos.” While we can’t always plan for the moment when a flow experience will find us, we can cultivate a lifestyle based on free-form experiences that connect us purposefully to an ego-transcending existence, bringing us a little bit closer to living in the flow of life.

Living in a state of flow isn’t rocket science. In fact, once we begin to clear our lives of all the everyday distractions by committing to and crafting our personal practice, we find that experiences of pure presence become almost second-nature, bridging the ethereal sacred with the quotidian mundane by getting out of our own way and letting energy move through us. Living in the flow of life is where we re-connect to the divine magic of Source, manifest in our natural surroundings, our relationships, and in the pure light that burns within each of us. And if we’ve chosen a spiritual path, that’s the sort of Source-connected life we desire to live, am I right?

So how do we get there?

Photo: Michelle Rodriguez

In the rush and hustle of everyday life, devotion to your personal practice as a central part of a flow-based lifestyle might feel like a pipe dream, at best. Sure, you make it to the Vinyasa class at the gym a few times a week, but truth be told, between work commitments, family, travel and a social life, intentional flow experiences often take a backseat. Still, carving out specific time during the day to prioritize your daily practice – whatever that looks like to you – holds a world of benefits for achieving greater peace of mind, managing stress and living more intimately connected to nature, the elements, your inner wisdom and divine purpose on the Planet.

In the words of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: “It is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.” In yogi terms, he’s talking about our commitment to our Sadhana spiritual practice, and the way we live the ethical philosophy of Ishvara Pranidhana, our surrender to the current of life beyond the distractions of the ego. Cultivating a life aligned with practice, purpose and presence, we live more fully in the flow of the more-than-human life-world and the universal cosmos of which we are an integral part.

So how can you bring more flow into the work of art that is your life? As someone who has crafted a personal and professional lifestyle around a purpose-driven commitment to the movement and flow experiences of surfing, yoga, writing and dance, I offer these practical steps to support you along this journey of great freedom, discipline, trust, discernment and deep surrender.

Four Steps for Living in the Flow of Life

Step 1: Identify the practices that pique your interest and connect you mindfully to a state of flow. For those of us choosing a yoga-based spiritual path of connection, liberation and evolution, it’s important to cultivate a Sadhana practice based on the free-form experiences that speak most powerfully to who we are. Experimenting with different styles of yoga, nature-based activities, meditation techniques, breathwork, journaling and movement modalities can help narrow down the world of flow-based possibilities to the experiences that resonate most deeply. Keeping an open mind as we differently navigate our senses, states of consciousness and energetic expressions is a practice of surrender in itself, trusting our body and spirit to connect with the flow-based practices that will best support us in shedding the sticky parts of our ego-conditioned selves, opening space for both subtle and powerful energies to move in and through us. Once you know what resonates with you, choose one practice and go deep, or compose your personal sadhana by selecting a few.

Step 2: Commit to creating your sadhana and sticking to it. Be realistic! Surrendering to the flow of life in alignment with your spiritual purpose doesn’t mean succumbing to nihilism, apathy or inaction. In fact, committing to your sadhana requires the discipline of a valiant will, drawing from the strength of your solar plexus – the wellspring of vital energy you’re projecting out into the body through your practice, and beyond the self, into the world. Depending on the experiences we choose to incorporate into our flow-based lifestyle, our sadhana might be rigid in daily repetition, or it might look different each day, each week or each month. And we can always remove elements that aren’t working and add others that inspire our curiosity. Sky’s the limit! For example, my practice most days includes an early morning surf, followed by a hatha-based asana flow and 30 minutes of free-form journaling. Lately I’ve incorporated open-ocean swimming and long beach walks a couple of times per week, a morning Kundalini class every Thursday, an ecstatic dance celebration at least two Fridays per month, kirtan whenever possible, and a sweat lodge ceremony at least twice per year. Both discipline and enjoyment keep me in integrity with my sadhana, and when my body is aching for a break, I’ll skip one or two of my regular activities, but not all of them. Writing, for example, is the one everyday practice I’m rigidly disciplined about. Be sure to leave room for rest, and women will want to adjust your practice to attune to the regular changes of your moon cycle, as well. Get creative and stay realistic with your commitments to keep yourself on track. Even twenty minutes per day is an important place to start!

Step 3: Rearrange your life, as much as possible, to prioritize your flow-based practices. For some of us, embracing a flow-based lifestyle might mean quitting our 9-to-5 jobs that don’t align with our sense of purpose or fulfillment in life, so that we can make time for all the things that do. Or it might inspire us simply to trade Saturday nights at the bar for sunrise meditation and an early hike on Sundays. But for most of us, the realignment in our life priorities can be a gradual shift with profound results for our long-term sense of wellbeing. This is the time to take a genuine inventory of the ways we spend our days, who we spend them with, and toward what purpose in life? Surrendering to a flow-based lifestyle can be powerfully transformative to the point that we are willing to be completely honest with ourselves and take full responsibility for the way we wish to show up in our lives. Prioritizing free-form and flow-based experiences is a practice of deep truth in alignment with purpose and an embodied presence of being that requires our deliberate action and intentional awareness each step of the way. As we know, our daily habits become who we are. What are you choosing? What are you ready to replace? What will you prioritize in your life today? What about tomorrow?

Step 4: Embody a flow-based lifestyle. This doesn’t mean selling all your possessions and moving across the world to become a monk. (Though for some of us, it might!) Embodying a flow-based lifestyle is the natural progression of your sadhana becoming the foundation for your life. The more you’re able to clear away life-defeating distractions and prioritize the flow experiences that bring you into communion with Source, the easier it becomes to access a regular state of flow, even in mundane activities like walking the dog, making breakfast or folding the laundry. Engaging with mindful presence in your sadhana practices creates a level of deep awareness with important spillover effects for daily life. The more you endeavor to embody a flow-based lifestyle, the more connected you become to the natural world in your ability to listen intuitively to the signs around you and receive Divine guidance, express and move energy through your body, and live more boldly in a place of truth beyond the ego. Sure, our sadhana takes us on a fast-track to encountering the flow states we desire, but living in the flow of life is more profoundly about connecting the everyday moments we live outside of our practice with the same mindfulness, purpose and presence we cultivate through our intentional flow experiences. And as we change our lives from the inside out – on and off the mat, in the ocean and on the land, dangling from a boulder or digging our hands into the dirt, on the dance floor and in the dreamscape – we recover our essence as an integral part of the more-than-human earth community, an entire life-world bound together in the sacred flow of universal energy and cosmic evolution. We are the dreamers and the dream.

As we step more fully into living in the flow of life, may we endeavor to fulfill the prophetic vision of David Abram, that: “the recuperation of the incarnate, sensorial dimension of experience brings with it a recuperation of the living landscape in which we are corporally embedded…. [A]s we reacquaint ourselves with our breathing bodies, then the perceived world itself begins to shift and transform.”

And so it is.

 

 

Tara Ruttenberg is a writer, surfer, and yogini based in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Tara created Tarantula Surf (www.tarantulasurf.com / @tarantulasurf) as a space for authentic story sharing and engaging with new social living paradigms.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Tara and FLOW This July:

Wake Up & Write!

A Writing Immersion for Planetary Wellbeing in a Changing World

 

 

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