The Power of Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

Photos: @michaelvidoli

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Practicing with Yoga Teachers from Different Backgrounds

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

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

Freedom to Try New Things

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

More Time to Work on Your Craft

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

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

Exposure to New Styles of Yoga and Modalities Healing

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

Teaching People from Different Cultures

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

 

 

 

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

Wander to Find Your True North: Squaw Valley 2019

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

The time is now to WANDER MORE!

Photography credit: Wanderlust

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

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

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

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

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

IG: @wanderlustfest

 

 

 

 

Scott Nanamura: Diamond Heart Yoga

I first met Scott Nanamura in 2006 in South Lake Tahoe, California when I started going to his yoga classes at what at that time was ‘Mountain Yoga’. His intelligently sequenced classes both physically and mentally challenged me (in a good way) and were filled with intriguing philosophical insights. He captured my attention as a teacher. His teachings have definitely been pivotal for me on the path of yoga. In 2015, my beloved friends and Yoga Trade partners Pat and Christie visited Tahoe during a road trip. It was then they mentioned that they wanted to host a Yoga Teacher Training at the sustainable living center in Costa Rica they manage, and were looking for a teacher that would be a good fit. It just so happened that Scott was staying in his RV / mobile acupuncture office in the driveway at the house I was living in at the time! It was that summer that Pat & Christie met Scott and a synergistic relationship began. The following year Scott traveled to Central America to facilitate his first international Teacher Training and has been on a roll ever since! If you are looking to practice with a wise, grounded, focused, extremely knowledgeable yoga teacher with a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine, check out Scott and his offerings around the world! Here, we catch up with him to learn more of his story. Thank you for sharing the teachings and your light Scott! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga background?

I actually took my first yoga class 44 years ago, in a small college town in a college course. I didn’t stick with it at the time, but it planted a seed of curiosity. A year and a half later when I moved to Lake Tahoe, I met a yoga teacher and started studying with him, his name was Doug Swenson. At the time, he had written one of the earlier books in English on yoga, and he was a very well know Ashtanga Yoga Teacher.

My yoga path continued and it waxed and waned for many years taking classes from many teachers, many different styles, until I took a class with some friends of mine, and they taught a style called Tibetan Heart Yoga. THY (Tibetan Heart Yoga) very strongly brought back the component of the wisdom teachings and subtle body teachings with the asana practice. All of the previous classes I had taken hadn’t done that. It was all a separate component. The Tibetan Heart Yoga really connected with my heart in a deep way and it spurred me onto really wanting to study its system and style much deeper. For the next 5 years I dove into more of the TBY system, studied Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and deepened my knowledge of Hatha Yoga at the same time.

What allowed you to take the leap of faith and start an international yoga teacher school?

I had been teaching yoga for 10 years and I also had a private acupuncture practice. All the while teaching Tai Chi and buddhist philosophy at a local college, and I wanted to combine all these methodologies ,so I could teach these all in one place at one time. This is when I had the thought of combining modalities into a Teacher Training. I gravitated towards the teachings of Buddhism and used it in the yogic philosophy, because of the way Buddhism explains the ideas and concepts, it made it easier to understand the yoga teachings. I also had a lot of teachers come up to me in the past asking for week retreats, intensives & workshops to go deeper into the subjects that were lacking in their trainings, which is what inspired me to start Diamond Heart Yoga.

In a sometimes saturated yoga world, what makes your trainings stand out from the rest?

In these trainings and retreats I draw from a deep experience of extensive training from a masters degree in TCM, Traditional Tibetan Buddhism and Yoga philosophy. With my many years of training in TCM, Tai Chi and yoga, comes a rich background in Anatomy and Functional Anatomy. Over the years of taking classes, teaching classes & leading teacher trainings all over the world, I’ve noticed that the Anatomy, Functional Anatomy & philosophy is a missing component in many trainings, and these components are key to further a teacher’s knowledge to be able to inspire their students to have a richer & transformative experience in class.

What have you learned from your travels over the last few years?

I think everyone should travel in their lifetime, it allows you to see how other people live around the world. When you live in an industrialized country, it’s easy to forget how grateful to be for everything you have. Many of the people around the world don’t have those things. So everywhere I travel, it allows me to be grateful for everything we have and to stop complaining about the little things.

What are some of the challenges you face as a yoga teacher trainer?

I think one of the biggest challenges is having students coming into the trainings with a full cup. These are the ones that learn the least and come in with the biggest egos. I guide them to become good students again by emptying their cup and becoming a sponge as they learn away of thinking that comes from a completely different culture that’s been passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years.

Where does the name ‘Diamond Heart’ come from?

The Diamond in your heart center represents wisdom, combined with the idea of the lotus that represents compassion. Wisdom and compassion are like 2 wings of a bird. They go hand in hand together, which understands the ultimate truth to purify any negative energy that may arise. Allowing us to create the kind of world we want to see in the future, by dedicating our lives to serving others.

What upcoming trainings are you most excited about?

We are very excited to reconnect with the Balinese culture and lifestyle in July & August, but all the other venues we have chosen are also magical locations around the world. After Bali, we have Morocco, Spain, Sri Lanka and then back to Bali to end 2019. On the calendar for 2020, we have Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and more to announce. Every location has its own kind of magic and we are excited for each and every one, but in the end, the students are the ones that make the trainings!

How do you see modern day yoga evolving over the next 10 years?

I would like to see more of the lifestyle and philosophy components return to the forefront in the studios & trainings. As a teacher trainer that travels the world doing trainings, I have seen the monetization of this ancient practice morph into the business of making money as a yoga teacher. Over the next 10 years I see this process growing, where the business of yoga will grow just as any other business, It has become a form of commerce. For some people, yoga studios have become something sacred to them, and it has become their church and as more people learn about the philosophy, more people will turn to this ancient form of wisdom.

Who have been some of your greatest teachers?

Some of my greatest teachers are Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally, Lama Sumati Marut, Lama David Fishman, Lama Brandy Davis, Doug Swenson and all of my students including my son Aki’o.

Do you have a favorite mantra to live by?

I have a few…
Om Thank You Ah Hung
Om It’s like this now Ah Hung

Anything else you’d like to share?

Using the wisdom from Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we can start to identify our limited belief system and move towards a more conscious belief system that opens your heart to connect with others, leading a more selfless altruistic lifestyle, creating the ultimate happiness that everyone yearns for deep inside their heart.

 

 

Scott Nanamura: My background includes a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine which includes, Acupuncture, Herbology, Nutrition, Exercise Therapy (Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong), and Remedial Therapy (massage, Tui Na). I have additionally completed Tibetan Buddhism courses, been practicing yoga for 40 years and teaching for 15. I have worked to cultivate the unique ability to bring ancient teachings into a modern setting, to touch the human heart. I work to inspire students to practice with awareness and intention on the mat, and to use the teachings off the mat in everyday life situations. My goal when teaching is to converge compassion and wisdom, art and yoga.

Connect:

diamondheart.yoga

FB: @diamondheartyoga

IG: @diamondheartyoga

 

Postcards From the Mat: Real Deal on Home Yoga Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/books

-Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita

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

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

Good Luck Yogis and Yoginis and Practice On!


 

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

Permaculture, Pachamama, Privilege: Deep Ecology of Wellness

Getting off the boat at Deep Ecology of Wellness, we were greeted with freshly cut coconuts, a perfect beginning to what would be an immersive, insightful, and inspiring week.

Article Photography by: Ashley Drody

I was one among thirty participants and ten teachers who spent a week living out the Deep Ecology of Wellness retreat organized by Yoga Trade at Punta Mona. The Punta Mona Center for Regenerative Design and Botanical Studies is an off-the-grid permaculture farm and educational retreat center on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Launched in 1997, it is considered one of the most established and bio-diverse permaculture farms in Central America, with over 300 varieties of fruit and nut trees, as well as over 150 medicinal plants. Punta Mona’s mission is to practice and teach a simpler, regenerative way of living.

For most of us during this gathering, it was our first immersion into a permaculture-based lifestyle. As we learned during the workshops, permaculture is a holistic design system for creating sustainable human settlement and food production systems. It combines three key aspects:

1. An ethical framework
2. Understandings of how nature works
3. A design approach

Applying the permaculture principles to human relationships, communities, social systems, and networks is known as social permaculture. According to our teachers, social permaculture can be considered “the art of designing beneficial relationships” and includes the interrelationship among humans, plants, animals and the Earth. It thus comes with no surprise that permaculture stems from a strong emphasis on indigenous wisdom regarding how to live lightly on the planet.

At Punta Mona, every day began with yoga. A lovely tree-enclosed yoga shala housed our sessions allowing us to not only connect with our breath and bodies but also the natural environment around us.

In addition to fantastic yoga instructors, we were blessed with an incredible line up of passionate and wise workshop facilitators. I share a few of the highlights below:

– Founder of Punta Mona, Stephen Brooks, shared with us his excitement for fruit trees and knowledge of the jungle during tours around the land.


– Lala Palmieri, herbalist and co-leader of the Village Witches gave us an eye-opening tour of herbs, plants, flowers and their medicinal properties.


– Co-founder of the Permaculture Action Network, Ryan Rising, gave us the 101 on permaculture design, principles, and ethics. He also facilitated an “asset mapping” activity where we quickly realized how many of our needs can easily met by others in our communities and networks.


– Self-proclaimed Mother Nature representative and Village Witch, Sarah Wu, guided us on an insightful shamanic journey exploring deep ecology.


YogaSlackers power duo Sam and Raquel not only taught us how to do yoga on an inch-wide piece of fabric but also shared their tips on conscious-traveling as modern-day nomads.


Jess Taing, an experienced Kirtan teacher, facilitated a restorative mantra singing circle.


– Sustainable-surfer, yogini, and writer activist, Tara Ruttenberg, catalyzed us into deep introspection during an open dialogue on the important topic of privilege and responsibility.

Mary Tilson, an international retreat leader, helped us explore the complex topics of addiction, trauma, and ways to recovery.

– Bodyworker Lynn Alexander led us through a powerful breathwork workshop, in which many of us were able to deeply connect with our energy bodies and release old emotional experiences.


– Yoga Trade co-founder, Erica Hartnick, showered us with her love and visionary ideas, in particular during our opening and closing ceremonies.

Incredibly, the wisdom-sharing did not stop there. Mealtimes turned into fascinating discussions during which many of the participants shared their own expertise and experiences. For instance, I learned more about Ayurveda during one dinner conversation than during my entire lifetime.

In one of our final sessions, a question came up regarding how to take back and implement all that we had learned during this week into our daily lives. I share three main take-aways:

1) Privilege and Responsibility

There is no doubt that those of us lucky enough to travel for pleasure have been granted privileges in life that a majority of the world’s population does not share. The question is how do we respond to that privilege. Shame and guilt, which some privileged people often feel, are closed-hearted emotions that do not help anyone. It is okay to take time to mourn the suffering of others, but then it is critical to move into radical acceptance. It is not our fault that we have privileges, but it is our responsibility to be aware of them and use them for the betterment of the world. As Tara shared in her workshop, one way to do this is through mapping our privileges to better understand them and how they play out in our lives as travelers. You can read more about this in her recent post.

2) Asset Mapping

To improve individual and family well-being requires communities, neighborhoods and their residents to be involved as co-producers of their own well-being. Everyone has something to contribute and we need everyone’s “gifts and assets”. Using the principles of Asset-Based Community Development and asset mapping we can help create powerful community partnerships to build healthier, safer and stronger neighborhoods and communities. At the most basic level, you can carry this out in your community by bringing people together and asking them three questions: What assets do you have? What skills do you have? What do you need? Then have people share and see what needs can be met by the skills or assets of others! You can also follow a more detailed process using this toolkit.

3) Healing Through Herbs

Herbal medicine traces its roots back to earliest civilizations. While conventional medicine often treats symptoms of acute illnesses, herbalism fosters preventative health and addresses the roots of chronic health problems. With little effort, time, or money, you can grow our own herbs, make your own medicines, and care for yourselves and families. Why not start your own herbal garden today?! See a list of medicinal herbs that you can grow here.

 

Naima Ritter:  My mission is to help people deeply connect with themselves, with others, and with the universal flow of life. As a Conscious Living Coach, I help other people reawaken their inner sparks and embark on journeys towards tapping the full potential of their lives, in particular through seven levels of awareness and action around grounding your energy, sacred sexuality, BEing/DOing, loneliness, conscious communication, positive thinking, and spirituality/higher purpose. After completing a Masters in International Development Management at the London School of Economics, I co-founded Conscious Co-Living, a consultancy that supports the development of co-living spaces built around connection, authentic relationships, and harmony with the natural world. Born in Guatemala and raised in the USA to Costa Rican and German parents, I consider myself a multi-cultural child of the universe. When not deliberating on the state of the world, I can often be found dancing, acro-yogaing or trying to plan a much needed global drumbeat movement revolution. 

CONNECT:

Finding Importance Thru Simplicity

Lessons from a Yoga Trade Experience:

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

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

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

Entrepreneurship and Evolution of Yoga: Adi Shakti

At first thought, the mix of entrepreneurship and yoga may seem like a paradox. Mixing business and yoga!? But really, when we are able to free ourselves from duality, we see that all things, including entrepreneurship and yoga are deeply connected. How incredible is it to be able to weave threads of yoga into our businesses and everyday livelihood. Also, a current theme in yoga evolution today is that of leadership. Taking responsibility as a teacher of yoga to not only teach students how to keep calm in challenging physical postures, but also how to step off the mat, lead with the heart, and ignite positive change within community. We are fortunate to live in a time where there are many extraordinary teachers of yoga offering many amazing things. Here with catch up with with one of these extraordinary yoga warriors; Adi Shakti. This woman and teacher blends her journey to purpose, devotional service, and professional development in a beautiful way. Continue to read and be inspired by her story and actions:

Tell us about your yoga journey…

I am a philosopher by nature, and I have been obsessed with the big questions since I was a little girl. I lost a lot of people I loved early in my life – and it made me terribly curious about the WHY of our human experience. Why are we here? And what are we to do with this life? This led me to higher study of the great thinkers through my time at University, and eventually I stumbled across the yogic philosophy. I had never found a philosophy that also gave such a clear path to not only knowing God, but also to having a direct experience of God. Through lifestyle, the body, the breath, and the practice of meditation. I was fascinated.

This is what started my journey into the lifestyle and philosophy. I did my initial training with the Shambhavananda discipline in Chicago, and a couple of years later spent a few months in India where I studied with my master Yogrishi Vishvketu. Since then, I have continued my own studentship and have also started my own yoga school where I have educated other seekers at the 200 hour, 300 hour, Pre-Natal and Trauma Informed professional certification levels. I am now partnered with Yoga Journal teaching Trauma Sensitive Facilitator Skills Training certifications around the United States – to focus even more on the BIG question – How can the yoga community serve as a powerful vehicle for social change? And this is my passion and focus currently.

When did you start Passion Yoga School and how did it come about? Can you share some of the highs and lows of creating and operating a yoga school?

The school started in 2014, and I began the logistics of running the business shortly before I moved back to the small Caribbean town I call home in Costa Rica. I wanted to offer phenomenal education, and I wanted the quality and style of what we were offering to dance to a radically different drum. I wanted authenticity, shared intimacy, tears, jungle mud, sexual liberation education, conscious business growth mastermind, trauma sensitive discussion, and to start a MOVEMENT of passionate soulworkers – rather than just crank out more physical practice focused teachers more concerned with the brand on their back than the soul in their teachings (sorry not sorry). I wanted to offer pristine education on the bio-mechanics of the physical body – but I wanted my students to leave with a profound understanding that this is just the FIRST STEP, and that our job as teachers is to work with the body as a vessel for profound emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

This was the vision, and we started at super small platforms where people would provide their own room and board in the town. And in 2017, we FINALLY manifested our own Experimental Yogic Living Center deep in the jungle. Permaculture baby. Dry toilets, beautiful recycled container housing – and all the jungle we need to chant, scream, cry, dance, sweat and do our primal work without complaints from the neighbors.

It’s NOT always easy. And sometimes the work that we do is misunderstood, and sometimes that is difficult to handle as a sensitive leader who carries so much. We talk sex, money, race, privilege, respect for the lineage, working with broken hearts, and there is a lot of CHARGE around all of these topics. Sometimes, I am the target of people’s frustration with the way things are in the world, and I am always always being invited to step up and do what I do better. Sometimes, it’s exhausting. And I am committed (radically) to the process of receiving feedback, doing the work I need to do to put my ego aside – and sort through my own inner truth system to see how, when and if I need to change the route of this ship based on others (sometimes very mean) invitations for growth. You can learn more about Passion Yoga School here.

What wisdom do you have to share with yoga teachers who want to start teaching Yoga Teacher Trainings?

Have accountability. Whatever it is that you are doing – you can do it with more awareness. You can create a more loving container. We all have blind spots to the triggers of our students, and it is our responsibility to dig deeper and deeper into what it means to truly hold SACRED, SAFE, INCLUSIVE space. Commit to studentship, even as you sit at the front of the room. Know that every student will be a different medicine FOR you, and will perhaps need a different medicine FROM you. Honor your boundaries, lead by example. HONOR YOUR LINEAGE, and surround yourself by other colleagues who will quickly call you on your bull shit when you aren’t showing up the way you need to be.

What is Soul Work and why is it important?

SoulWork is the journey from inner inquiry to purpose clarity. It is about excavating the deep and complicated layers of ancestral patterning, the trauma from this life and others, and committing to constantly renewing our connection to Earth, God, the Great Spirit (whatever you want to call it). Without a commitment to diving into the shadow, our limiting patterns of mind / behavior, or taking RADICAL responsibility for our inner condition – we remain puppets on a string. We go into default mode and continue to perpetuate the agenda of those outside of us. The revolution starts within. When we are connected to our own power and have a community of others who reflect that back to us – that’s when the purpose work TRULY starts. Then, we can get clear on how we are meant to live our lives, and do it with integrity, clarity, courage, and purpose.

We’ve collaborated with Yoga Journal on our new project – SoulWork. And we are coming to the United States this Fall 2019! We are hosting Trauma Sensitive Facilitator Skills Trainings across 4 cities (DC, Chicago, Denver + LA). These are 4 day intensives where we educate soul seekers on how to facilitate transformation with integrity + how to grow their conscious businesses with our SoulWork model + leading SoulWork circles. You can learn more about that here.

You can also subscribe to our SoulWork podcast here – to start learning a TON more about everything I am sharing here.

In what ways do you see the global yoga community evolving over the next 10 years?

We want to be a big part of shaping this direction. What I see trending, and what I intend to continue to advocate for – is the global yoga community being a POWERFUL vehicle for profound social change. Yoga teachers who are properly educated in the true power of the practice to transform people’s lives – hold an incredible platform, voice, and impact in their local communities. If this leadership is developed and their voices are amplified (and this is what we specialize in supporting through our professional development intensives) – I believe that we will continue to see the work come off of the mat and organize more into a socio-political movement. Diversity, accessibility, inclusivity. Bringing health of body, discipline of mind, and freedom of spirit tools and practices to the MASSES – not just the upper-middle class white woman. It’s time to TRULY take the teachings mainstream, and the time is now.

What qualities do you believe make an extraordinary yoga teacher?

A commitment to constantly fine tuning and expanding your own awareness. What’s that mean? YOU ARE WILLING TO CALL YOURSELF ON YOUR SHIT. You become more and more committed to living your life in alignment with your own values. How you shop, how you build your business, how you care for the Earth. It becomes about walking the talk – truly living your practice. Being nice to waiters. Giving back in your communities. Being an advocate for the things that are important to you.

I always tell my students – I could give a damn how you teach a down dog (even though you’ll leave our programs having that DOWN by like day 2). What is important to me is how students FEEL being in your class. Do they feel WELCOME? Do they feel SEEN? Do you create an environment where people can come and GRACE can do her work in allowing healing to unfold. Get out of your own way – hold space like a boss – and invite in a deep deep journey inside for your students.

You are also involved with several other projects including Selva Fitness and Shakti Seva. Tell us more…

Selva Fitness is my fitness company where we offer online education + global fitness retreats. I love to go deep deep deep, and I also found myself taking my life a little too seriously, so I wanted to start a company focused on FUN. That’s what Selva Fitness is about. Fitness, fun, and feeling sexy, strong + confident in your body. You can check out Selva Fitness here.

Shakti Seva is our non-profit extension. We started a community center for the indigenous community (upon their request after submitting a proposal) near our home here in Costa Rica. We host volunteers (mostly Costa Ricans) who dedicate 3 months to live in the tiny (tiny tiny) village and work with the community children. We also have built a classroom for my teacher’s school in India, are advocates for the work our partners are doing to support women transitioning out of human trafficking in Kolkata, and we are currently re-organizing with the help of Yoga Journal to give back to local urban organizations making yoga more accessible to a diverse audience.

How do you balance all of your work and projects with your own personal well being?

Fitness. I train like a freakin’ athlete, (pretty much) every day. And I eat well. And I have incredible relationships. And regular orgasms. And I freaking LOVE what I do. Work is work – but it’s also my hobby, my purpose, my passion, my baby. It’s not easy. I’m not always good at the life / work balance thing. But, I’m getting better at getting pickier about what gets my focus + energy every single day, and maybe someday I’ll be less crazy. (I kind of doubt it.)

What are you most curious about right now?

I’m curious if I’ll get to hold YOU (yes you – the one reading this right now) close to my heart one day. I share my story because I want to connect with you. I want to hear YOUR story, learn your fears, your desires. I want to know where you hurt, why you hurt. I want to grow with you, learn from you. I want to see if there are ways that my life experience can add more depth to your life, too. Come see me in the world? Please?

You can see my schedule of events here.

Follow Adi on Instagram – @adi_shakti_rising

 

Adi is a teacher’s teacher, philosopher + serial entrepreneur whose work and life is based out of an experimental yogic living permaculture center on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. She has trained hundreds of yoga teachers in the 200 hr, 300 hr, Lifestyle Social Entrepreneurship, Pre-Natal and Trauma Informed professional focus areas through her company, Passion Yoga School. She has also led international programs across the globe – including to Thailand, Cambodia, India, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Adi is the founder of SoulWork and producer of SoulWork: the Film – focusing on the journey from deep inner inquiry to clarity around social purpose and responsibility. She is also the Executive Director of Shakti Seva Inc, a 501c3 organization focusing on uplifting the indigenous community near her home among other global projects.

 

Living Simply: Ngalung Kalla

With the recent and rapid rise in technology, there are fewer places in the world we can be completely off-the-grid. Places to slow down, to enjoy the quiet, to learn from the elements. These types of sanctuaries are becoming a sort of endangered species. Yet, there are some amazing people out there who are walking the path of their dharma to keep these kinds of places alive. People that prioritize living simply, hope to create a better world, believe in harmonizing with nature and realize the benefits of multi generational environments. People that have a desire (vision), make an intention, and take action! The Sea family are some of these people. In just several years, they have brought their dream into reality and have created a full-on inspirational wonderland and educational/retreat center in Sumba, Indonesia. If you are someone who is curious, finds delight in exploring, and enjoys connecting with natural rhythms, you will love the magic of Ngalung Kalla.

From the words of Ngalung Kalla visionary, Christian Sea:

“We aim to be a small family owned and community led retreat where people can come to a very remote place and have an unforgettable experience. We offer accommodation, fresh local grown healthy food, excellent guiding to areas unknown, and empower visitors to live more simply and enjoy life more fully. We strive to do so in a low impact way utilizing solar power, permaculture principles, efficient and indigenous design, and local materials and staff whenever possible.

A trip to Sumba is not complete without a stroll through one of the incredible villages. A look inside one of their houses, a chat with an elder, maybe even a shot at the betelnut experience. We are not your average hotel. Nor are we your above average hotel. In fact, we don’t consider ourselves anywhere within that spectrum. We are a retreat away from the modern world and anything else. We consider ourselves (and are) a part of this unique community and our aim is to share this incredibly authentic life and place with you.

The majority of the people here still have “Marapu” as their religion. This literally means “the way of the ancestors” and is an animist system of medicine men/women, priests, kapus (Adat), and many associated ceremonies at the right times of year (also common for births/deaths/marriages). They use the moon, the tides, the animals, plants, the land, the forest and many other aspects of nature in determining their steps. It’s a very magnificent existence really. Their lives are still very much devoid of currency exchanges. Instead they use the things they can raise (food and animals), and make (hand woven fabric and mats, spears, knives, jewelry, etc.) for trades. What a beautiful concept!”

 


 

Newly certified yoga teacher and world traveler, Amanda Bertucci connected to a work exchange opportunity thru Yoga Trade and spent two months at Ngalang Kalla in 2018. Below, we catch up with Amanda as she shares about her experience:

Can you tell us what a typical day was like for you at Ngalung Kalla?

At Ngalung Kalla, your body clock is reset to align with nature. Live by the sun and eat when hungry. My morning would typically start between 5 to 6am, either on the boat, in the ocean or the yoga deck, during or just following sunrise. The yoga class schedule is determined nightly for the following day and caters to what the guests desire (sunrise yoga, dawn patrol surf or dive, early bird-watch hike, sleep in). Typically, if not on a paddle board or meditating on the floating pontoon in the bay, I would be found stretching on the deck. Waves crashing, flowers falling, tropical breeze from the overhead trees circulating calming aromas, this space is unlike anywhere I have ever practiced and meditative in itself. 

Following practice is smoothie and breakfast time! Fresh coconut water, papaya, and spirulina, and either a sweet or savory healthy brekkie combined with the shining sun supplements. A complete energy source for the day. The retreat is located in a bay shared with a local village and is home to some pretty special snorkeling and a premium right-hander surf spot and inside learner’s wave. This is usually where I’d be throughout the day, if not running around with the kids or exploring the jungle on a land mission.

Afternoons start with a yummy lunch usually followed by a boat adventure, surf, hike to the cool springs, tidepools, village, or mellow hammock hang time with a book. For the yogis we’d sometimes have multiple practices a day or kiddie yoga if the little ones want to wind down. Often, I’d find myself in the kitchen during the scorching parts of the afternoon, laughing with the local women as they would teach me to speak Bahasa Indonesian.

In the evening, we all gather by the campfire and watch the sky change colors as the sun sets over the bay. Cellphones, computers, and televisions are non-existent and not necessary when surrounded by the Ngalung Kalla family of like-minded, wonderful people. Conversations never fall flat and there is always the possibility of creating a special connection with someone new. “Sumba Midnight” is usually around 8pm after the sun has set and dinner has everyone feeling happy and satisfied. By this time, I know I’m ready for an ocean lullaby and dreamy sleep. Gratitudes to the island, this life and stoked to do it all again tomorrow.

What is your biggest take away from your time spent there?

Embrace the simplicity, less is more. Take quick efficient showers. Shout out to Christian on this one for a much-appreciated lesson of where the water we shower with comes from. From a hand dug well, water is carted and carried and can in fact run out if not conscious of our usage. In the villages, women and children of all ages walk for miles to and from the well with heavy loads of water for their families. Food for thought next time turning on a tap. Another big takeaway is understanding that what we need, we have. We are all so very capable of more than we may realize and give ourselves credit for. Openness to learn more about that which we don’t understand can change our lives in more ways than money. Leave mama nature better than you find her. Please and thank you. Less if not any plastic, more environmentally conscious (homemade and waste-free when possible) products, and please double check that your sunscreen is reef safe!

Describe the Sea family…

When you visit Ngalung Kalla, you are literally visiting the home of the Sea family. Three young girls; Deha (9), Kamali’i (7), and baby Wren Kaleleyanu (1), all raised on the island, fluent in Bahasa Indonesian and crazy intelligent. Full on jungle girls, kind, fearless and full of life. Credits to the radical parent duo Ka’ale and Christian who have lived on Sumba the past 14 years after moving over from Hawai’i. Deha will tell you that the animals are part of the family and I certainly agree! More than 20 “pets”, not including the geckos, toads, wolf snakes, mice and other creature friends they adopt. Five dogs, chickens, a pigeon, goats, ducks, and Lily the pig, Kamali’i’s sidekick and best mate. All cared for by Deha and Kamali’i. Some of my favorite days were spent with the girls, frolicking barefoot through the jungle, using fallen logs to jump over and splashing around in desolate cool water springs. Dressing up with monstera leaves and dancing around. Enjoying nature’s obstacle course.

Can you explain the benefits you see for families to visit Ngalung Kalla?

I think visiting a place like Ngalung Kalla and seeing how simple and doable sustainable living can be, is inspiring for anyone and everyone, especially families! To slow down and reconnect with nature is not only a humbling and grounding experience for adults, but an important part of childhood development and connecting to the roots. Socializing with new friends, talking about the environment, witnessing a beautiful culture, and creating bonds with animals. The lack of modern day distractions allows families to be completely present with each other and experience compassion and gratitude for being able to enjoy something so magical, together.

Did your relationship with nature change at all while you were there?

Totally! And once again I have my two favorite little jungle sisters to thank for that. I’ve loved being outdoors and surrounded by nature since I was really young – digging out worms in the garden to save them from the birds soaring above. At Ngalung Kalla, sleeping in the open air, showering outside and counting on one hand the time I even wore shoes, truly strengthened this bond. My curiosity about permaculture and living off the land heightened and in the same moment I realized how little I was among the vast ocean and jungle. I know that my life course is directed to living as closely with nature as possible.

What’s next for you?

Following two months at Ngalung Kalla, I spent a short time travelling before fully immersing myself into the yoga community on Bali and taking the time to expand my personal practice. I’ve always been a kinesthetic learner and teach based on experience rather than theory. I spent a month of daily Mysore with an incredible mentor, expanding my practice to new branches of asana and meditation and finding my niche. While I love the challenge of an intense practice, my teaching style guides me in the direction of active restorative and conscious vinyasa. Healing pain and ailments in the body through simple, balanced movements, while strengthening the core through combined breathwork. I will be returning to teach at Ngalung Kalla for March and April 2019. As of now I do not have further plans and will be feeling out opportunities, open to what the universe has to offer as I continue traveling and teaching.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I consider Ngalung Kalla to be the most epic and untouched oasis I have been lucky to have come across on my journey through life and around the world. Picture this: you get off a plane only 50 minutes from Bali, to an island untouched and uncrowded. Inhabited mostly by locals in homes so beautifully created by the land’s offerings that they are camouflaged within the surrounding nature. Ngalung Kalla is an eco retreat with that same naturalistic design, with a focus on permanent agriculture and operating as sustainably as possible. Fresh, organic, home-grown fruits and veggies and a coconut grove that would bypass any palm tree lover’s wildest dreams. My favorite thing about Ngalung Kalla, besides the ocean view villa, delicious fresh food and killer weather, is the ability to learn something new everyday if you’re willing. There truly is something for everyone. For me it was tying different knots, finally learning to play chess (thanks Kama!), operating the boat, identifying wildlife, plant medicine and of course, surfing. This time around I’ll be spending more time in the garden. In my opinion, raw luxury is the best way to describe Ngalung Kalla; rugged and natural with comforting amenities like a hot shower and cozy bed. The retreat isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of place and each individual is bound to have a different experience and gain a new perspective on a unique type of life. But that’s just my take. My suggestion: fly way outside of your comfort zone, explore the beauty Sumba and Ngalung Kalla have to offer and get inspired!

Connect with Amanda and follow her on Instagram here:  @amandabertucci

 


 

Ngalung Kalla is a remote family owned and operated eco-retreat and farm in West Sumba, Indonesia. They provide an adventurous, healthy, comfortable experience for guests. The center is designed with maximum respect for the Earth and consideration for the local climate and people. The local indigenous culture and community have a high priority in all aspects of this retreat’s design and implementation. It is a wonderful place for families, friends, and solo travelers. Experience simple goodness. Visit Ngalung Kalla!

Website:  ngalungkalla.com

IG:  @ngalung_kalla

Check out this exciting and upcoming event they are offering in March 2019!

 

 

Surf Into Yoga: Rochelle Ballard

Words from Rochelle Ballard. Originally published in The Current.

When I was a young girl growing up on Kauai, life was simple and pretty sweet. My biggest adversity was being caucasian, a racial minority in Hawaii. Other than feeling some insecurities and inferiority at times, I was in an environment where the world was my oyster in a small shell. As kids we grew up playing in the tropical jungles of our backyards and riding our bikes to the beach to surf and play when school was out.

Around that time, my next door neighbor was a yoga teacher and a massage therapist. One day, at 16, I experienced my first surfing injury; I fell awkwardly on a wave, felt a pinch in my muscles and pain shot through my body, which shortened my breath and restricted my back and neck.  

The next day, I walked next door to my neighbor’s house to see what she could do to get rid of the pain and limitations I was feeling. She massaged me, shared some yoga postures, and most importantly, taught me about my breath and how to use it with awareness.  

A couple years went by, and by that time I was out of high school and decided that I wanted to be a wellness facilitator. I immediately returned to my next door neighbor to learn more about Yoga and massage training courses. I also learned from some great teachers in Hanalei, those who taught me deep tissue, lomi lomi, and sports massage.  

As I continued developing my skills as a wellness facilitator, I set out on the World Professional Surfing Tour to pursue my dreams of becoming a world class surfer and traveling the world, in search of the best waves and cultural experiences. During the first few years of my professional surfing career, I split my time between competing and practicing bodywork on the most elite male surfers on tour.  

After a fews years, I decided to further focus on my surfing career, applying my learnings and experience with wellness into my own progression of athleticism. Yoga became an integral part of program, as it enabled me to focus my mind and body, calm my peaking adrenaline, fears, anticipations, and disappointments.  My breath work and the sequences of Ashtanga, Hatha, and Pranayama, brought my mind and body into each present moment. As a professional athlete, the demands of travel, pressure of competition, and constant body exertion continued to draw me into a deeper practice of yoga. I remember taking classes whenever I had the opportunity, but it was my personal practice, listening to my body, exercises with breath, and dedication to trusting my instincts that grew my experience with yoga.  

By the end of 2006, I had been on the world championship surfing tour for 17 years. It was then that I decided to retire, and when it became time to change career gears, I chose to refocus my energy on wellness, including practicing massage again.  

From here, it was a natural step for me to document my practice in the form of an instructional yoga video inspired by surfing. Throughout my surf career, I’d made surf videos with my sponsors and ex husband. I’d also devoted time to give back to the sport and to the younger generations. This came naturally to me, so I surrounded myself with a team to execute the project. John Roderick, Chanelle Sladics, Leah Dawson, Jianca Lazarus, and my brother Hoku Gordines all contributed to creating the first Surf Into Yoga project. Jack Johnson, Donavon Frankenreiter, John Swift, and Kai Walsh, all surf friends, gifted their music to the project as well. The visual imagery of this film, the beautiful blue waters and waves of Hawaii, Indonesia and Micronesia, established the surfing inspiration and brought a dynamic feeling to the video. The beauty of the island elements – white sand beaches, black lava rocks, and lush tropical environments were captured in all instructional sequences. This was intentional – we wanted to give people from all over the world, from cities, rural towns, and inland locations an opportunity to experience the serenity and feel the aloha of these places.

This project was only the beginning of Surf Into Yoga. From the video concept stemmed a lifestyle business that at its core is an integration of surfing and yoga. Today, I’ve molded my two greatest passions together in synchronicity, and every day I get to share my experiences with my clients – the adversity of competing, stories from traveling the world, learning to be the most dynamic athlete I could be, focusing on preventing injury, and recovering from injury.  Surf Into Yoga is my way of giving back to the world, one person at a time, with exclusive attention. My business clientele extends to my visiting and resident clients, friends, family, the youth and non-profit groups for at risk kids and the less privileged.

Each day, it is my pledge to continue dedicating my life to my passion for surfing and wellness and I do this with aloha in my heart and a continued inspiration to share and learn.

Aloha.

SURF! Join Rochelle Ballard and the Yoga Trade Founders March 23-30, 2019 at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica for a week of SURF COACHING, Yoga, and Sustainable Living!!!

https://www.yogafarmcostarica.org/surf-with-rochelle-ballard-and-yoga-trade/

 

 

Rochelle Ballard’s integrative Surf Into Yoga approach to wellness is born out of the knowledge and abilities acquired over 20 years of athletic triumph, injury, recovery, and victory. In the last 10 years she has apprenticed with facilitators and healer’s in the practice of Lomi Lomi, Chi Nei Sang, Polarity, Deep Tissue, Aroma touch Essential Oils, and Reflexology. Rochelle believes that healing comes from within one’s own desires to allow for change and growth. The best form of healing comes from joy, laughter and gratitude. Through forgiveness, prayer and meditation we are able to accept and acknowledge. By changing our habits, ways of thinking, eating, and movement, we are able to create long lasting dynamic physical changes.

surfintoyoga.com

@surfintoyoga

 

This piece was originally published in THE CURRENT by Yoga Trade. You can download it here:

https://yogatrade.com/the-current/