Off the Mat – Activated after Bhakti Fest

It was one of my very first yoga classes that my teacher spoke about practicing yoga “off the mat.” I initially came to yoga to get in shape, lose some weight, and start a new exercise routine, with no intentions to get in touch with myself or find any sort of spirituality in the process. I remember thinking to myself, “ of course you can practice yoga off the mat, you just do the poses on the ground anywhere else!” Easy peasy.

It wasn’t until that moment in savasana that my mind got quiet, I felt my body, and my breath became my own sacred white noise, that I realized that yoga is far more than a twisted posture in a peaceful room. Class after class I would reach that feeling I couldn’t describe and still barely can, that feeling of connection to myself and everything else around me. It started to come to me in different postures, and then in meditation, and then I started to feel it after class, when I’d stumble onto the bustling streets of NYC and still feel that sensation of deeper connection. The people or situations that once agitated me no longer carried so much weight. And there it was: I was practicing yoga off the mat.

This photo and cover photo by: Monique Feil

Thousands of downward dogs later and now I understand why practicing yoga off the mat is not only important, but necessary. My understanding for what yoga actually is has been completely transformed— I now know that yoga is a way of a life, a way of a service, and truly a way of activating our own lives to reach outside of ourselves and into the world. After attending Bhakti Fest in September, my beliefs were absolutely validated and certainly expanded, as this festival lives and breathes yoga off the mat.

As the mantras were being chanted and the mala-wearing yogis were saluting the sun as it spread its rays through the Joshua Trees, there was devastation happening around the world. Hurricanes destroyed the eastern side of our beautiful country and wildfires scorched the old growth forests of the West, while ice caps were simultaneously melting at rapid speed in the arctic. This, amongst the heavy political strife in ours and so many other countries around the world, pushed me to wonder how chanting and deep breathing in a Southern California desert could possibly contribute to this polarized world we are living in in a positive way. While I felt a shift inside myself, how could that reach outside of myself?

Photo by: Monique Feil

So many teachers, musicians and artists at Bhakti Fest were tuned into this same question, and addressed it quite directly. From MC Yogi’s lyrical genius, singing “love is righteous, and it might just save the whole world from this global crisis,” to Michael Brian Baker’s plea to protect our planet and its people by supporting Chase Iron Eyes to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline and drop all charges against water protectors. This festival is not just about feeling good, but also about being real with our own innate power and using it for good.

After taking a class with Sianna Sherman, focused on creating change off the mat and in the world, we spoke more in depth about how yoga can inspire compassionate activism. Sianna teaches Rasa Yoga, “an alchemical fusion of mantra, mudra, asana, Bhakti, tantra, soul alchemy and earth ceremony.” One of its goals she said is “to remember that we are a collective tribe and also earth guardians, and we are here to protect and serve the earth and each other.” She spoke about using yoga as a pathway to better understand our own shadows and the power of turning towards, rather than away, from our own pain and anger. These practices teach us how to work with our own emotions and stay centered so that when it’s time to be a voice of change and to be of true service to the world, we are not pulled out of ourselves, but rather grounded and activated from within. “If we use our power and really consciously work with our own emotional fluency and literacy, and emotional intelligence, then we can change all the energy inside, including all the anger and rage—so we can truly create positive change,” said Sherman. What we’ve seen happen far too often is that “rather than using our power consciously, we end up polarizing and dehumanizing the other point of view and righteously standing only in our own narrow perspective” she said.

Sherman’s sweetie and beautiful musician, Masood Ali Khan, also had a strong take on the matter of change-making. He shared about how the sustainability of our world “is coming closer and closer to its death if we don’t make a move. This is a call for us to rise up.” He went on to say that in order to create change we need to move as a family and a community, so we can expand fast. “We need to make changes now, because it’s going to be too late if we wait. And you know the way that the planet is going— a week, two weeks could be too late, who knows what the next storm might bring,” said Khan.

Photo by:  Simone Levine

Bhakti Fest was really a place to gather people together to open their hearts and minds in order to activate change off of the mat. And while we came together to chant the mantras and pray, a very important medicine for the self, according to Breathwork facilitator and founder of the The Breath Center, Michael Brian Baker, “it is not enough to actually create change in our world as we need it now.” He went on to say, “we’ve reached this critical mass where things are shaking and going on, and if you look at it from a spiritual standpoint, the right brain would tell you that spirit incarnated into this physical form in order to take action, because spirit without a container can not create change on a material plane.” The call is loud and clear: it’s time to take action now!

As I left Bhakti Fest on a high of feeling the good vibes and inner transformation, I knew there was much more for me to do. I signed some petitions for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and am honing in on what lights me up so I can practice my yoga off the mat from my own center, a center that is truly ignited.

Learn more and connect with Bhakti Fest:

bhaktifest.com

 

 

 

 

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

IG :  @momomagical

The Personal Journey That Led To Open a Yoga Therapy School

From a very young age, I questioned the meaning of life. I wondered how I should live, and how other people were living around the world. I wanted to know more about different realities and ways of thinking so I could make my mind up about how I wanted to live my own life. I simply wasn’t ready to live life the way I saw it in Canada, the only home I’d ever known.

 

We all have different stories, different questions. For me, it wasn’t that my life wasn’t good, but that the North American lifestyle didn’t make much sense to me. All around me, I saw people working themselves into the ground at jobs they didn’t even like. All for a huge house, a beautiful car, a lot of clothes, and two weeks of vacation per year. Some people are satisfied living that life, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted to live a simple life, without having to fight for status and wealth. I needed to find something to dedicate myself to—a livelihood that would give me purpose and meaning in the world we live in. This is why after completing a course of study in physical rehabilitation, I decided to travel.

 

Working in the physiotherapy ward of Ziguinchor Regional Hospital in Senegal, I experienced culture shock for the first time. There, I saw people sharing everything, though they had nothing. People welcomed me as if I were their sister. I saw entire villages—not just parents—taking care of children. I met people who smiled even when they didn’t know how they would find a way to eat the next day. I saw people praying to a God I couldn’t see, people who had faith in life though it offered them few opportunities. I understood that there was so much more to life than focusing on material wealth. I could decide to live a life of abundance without having to sacrifice all my time to a meaningless job, instead dedicating that time to taking care of myself, others, and my environment. I understood just how lucky I was to have so many choices.

 

I continued my journey, alternating between working in physiotherapy clinics in Montreal and leaving for months at a time to travel through Asia, Oceania, and Central America. I was on a spiritual quest. Meditation was already part of my life, after I’d had a rough time coming to terms with my own family history. I wanted to go deeper within myself to find inner peace. I needed the tools necessary to deal with uncontrollable external factors.

 

That’s when yoga came into my life. At first, I didn’t even know that yoga was a way of living. I always thought it was like Pilates, just exercises in front of a mirror. I wasn’t interested in that. However, during my year of traveling, I ended up in Nepal and in India, where I hoped to participate in a meditation retreat. As I researched meditation centers, I found out I had the wrong idea about yoga, and I realized that it could actually bring together my knowledge of the human body and my desire to find peace of mind. Suddenly, I was excited to learn more.

 

In India, I went to a Yoga Teacher Training Course in Goa and a Vipassana retreat in Kolhapur, where I was taught about breath and consciousness. I learned how to move with awareness, how to maintain a clear state of mind, how to look inwards, how to let go, how to accept. When I returned home, I felt rich with all the knowledge I’d gained. I saw how my approach with my physiotherapy patients changed, and I began to learn all I could about yoga therapy, reiki, and conscious communication.

 

I felt I’d finally found a path that made sense for me, a path through which I could evolve in a personal, professional, and spiritual way. Three years after my first visit to Asia, I returned to India, where I met a beautiful woman named Rita. Rita’s life in India was miles away from my own, but somehow, our paths were meant to cross. We had the same desire to share our knowledge and experiences with like-minded people. We shared the belief in yoga therapy – a tool for preventing imbalances and restoring well-being. In founding Yoga Chikitsa in Nicaragua, we decided to make our shared vision a reality.

 

Today, I continue to remind myself that in life, change is the only constant. Things are forever evolving and transforming, which is why this school will be a reflection of the many beautiful souls that have passed through its doors, and all of the learning and life-changing experiences that have happened under its roof.

 

 

 

Josy is a Certified Physical Rehabilitation Therapist, Yoga teacher, Alternative Medicine Practitioner, Therapeutic and Energetic Masseuse, and she also practices Vipassana Meditation. She is also the Co-Founder of Yoga Chikitsa Nicaragua.

 

Pat Bailey: Live The Life You Love

Living the life you love is a delicate balance of following your heart and dedicated work. The most inspiring humans I connect with are living this balance. Pat Bailey is one of these humans. Pat is a student and teacher of yoga, a traveler, a poet, a photographer, and an amazing business woman. She has created a life she loves thru manifestation, devotion, and consistent effort. Here we catch up with Pat to learn from her experiences and creative offerings. HELL YES PAT! Thank YOU for shining bright and sharing your wisdom!

What led to the creation of The Hell Yes Life? Was there a defining moment?

I created The Hell Yes Agency, an Influencer Marketing Agency, a few years ago after figuring out how to monetize my brand as an Influencer and creating a team doing the same. The Hell Yes Life was born, as an extension of this brand, at the end of last year to encompass all of the “Hell Yes” things I am doing, and to share my wisdom and expertise in various ways. I wish I could say there was a “defining moment” that led to the creation of my current projects, but it was and is more like synchronicity and a culmination of 46 years of living, learning and teaching that has come together as a practice that evolves and changes daily.

Can you give us some insight into how you combine yogic principles and entrepreneurship?

For a long time, as a corporate person and maybe like many people, I juggled my personal feelings and approach to life with the 9 to 5 corporate paradigm. My heart projects and longing to live a deeper, more meaningful life were always on the back burner while I was going through the motions of working for a secure paycheck. It never felt authentic to me and eventually, after several attempts, I decided to jump and trust and I left the corporate world to create and live a more authentic, heart-forward life. As I was getting closer and closer to jumping I completed my 200HR Bhakti Vinyasa Flow Yoga Teacher Training with Rusty Wells, and it was here that I began to hear my heart clearly.

It was natural to begin creating this life I wanted to live with my heart first in a yogic way, because I am a yogi first. And, more than that, I knew that I was on the right path, and continue to feel this way, because there was no compromise or putting anything on the back burner this time – I could be all of the parts of me at once combining yoga, business and creative endeavors that my heart loves. Because choreographing this dance, balance, beautiful blend of two complimentary things comes easily to me I knew this was something I was supposed to share with others. I feel deeply that this is part of my dharma.

The two are interdependent, not separate. When we separate yogic principles from anything entrepreneurial is when things are harder, not authentic and maybe (I would argue) not as successful or fulfilling for us.

Kindness, Truthfulness, Righteousness, Wisdom, Simplicity, Gratitude, Humility and Self-discipline are core “yogic principles,” and the traits of most successful entrepreneurs.  The work that I do with students in my Hell Yes Academy is based on these principles and applying them to branding, and creating a more heart-forward and authentic life. I begin, just like every yoga class begins: with an invitation for students to set clear intentions for what they want to experience/create. And every bit of the three months together is a blending of yogic principles and successful business, branding and entrepreneurial skills.

Why do you think a lot of yogis struggle with their relationships with ‘business’ and money? Any tips on how to work through this?

I’ve thought a lot about this, both personally as a yogi and as a entrepreneur and coach. It is unfortunate that so many yoga teachers struggle with this because it is keeping them from living their dharma more deeply and sharing their talents, skills and practice with more people.

In my experience, yogis struggle with the promotion of their “business” and accepting and/or asking for proper compensation because they feel like it is not “yogic.” When I hear this I instantly think and feel like they are not acting from their heart space but rather their ego space.  If in your heart as a yoga teacher you feel deeply that you are living your dharma by sharing your practice with as many people as you can, then it is your absolute, divine responsibility to promote what you do to everyone you meet in order to fulfill this dharma. The fact that this intention is seen as, or turns into, a “business” somehow clouds the intention for some. If this is the clear intent, then you aren’t promoting your “business” or collecting compensation for yourself, you are doing this for a higher purpose.

There is incredible grace and beauty in humility and sometimes many of us navigating yoga and business find it hard to balance the two. A successful yoga teacher, living her dharma with confidence and heart, promotes her yoga as a business from her heart space and graciously and humbly accepts the hard-earned compensation knowing she is deserving because she is utilizing her wisdom, life and vessel to do so. Do you see how a shift in thought, approach, and clear intention can change how you think, feel and maybe act on this subject?

I invite yoga teachers who struggle with promoting their business, or themselves and asking for/accepting money to do it, to think about their dharma, their intentions for sharing their practice, and to do the asking and earning from their heart place – not their ego. There are plenty of causes and organizations to donate excess compensation to for yoga teachers collecting more than they need. Imagine a yoga teacher collective consciousness that stepped into this shift in thinking, that shared their practice/dharma with more people, and that gave their excess to deserving causes.

How important is manifestation to you? Do you practice it daily?

Manifesting is everything to me. Realizing that I am creating my reality every moment with a single thought is powerful. When I feel out of flow, off balance, sad or anything that is not authentic, I remind myself that I have the power to shift this with a single thought. This has been a lifelong practice for me ever since I was a little girl.

Because the power of manifestation, the practice of doing so, and the positive results are so important to me, and the outcome of the life I have created and model living, I incorporate this teaching into my work with students, on and off the mat.

Can you share some of the positives and negatives of living life as a digital nomad?

A few of the most positive aspects of living life as a digital nomad are the adventure and the incredible freedom, independence and empowerment that it gives you. When you let go of a home, a place, a set/small community, the idea of an office, etc. and you open up to the possibility of having all of these things and more in a bigger place and different way: anywhere in the world, this is an incredible feeling. Big magic and shifts happen when you surrender into this intention; the world literally opens up to you. I feel this happening every single day and this, and the feeling of lightness and open possibility, are my very favorite things about being a digital nomad.

A common misconception about being a digital nomad is that it’s easy, and many people don’t realize that in order to do it successfully you have to plan ahead and create revenue streams for yourself which you can earn while being anywhere in the world. If you can combine passive income, and on-going income with opportunities while you travel this is ideal. And, because this sometimes takes more work and hustle than the traditional 9 to 5 corporate job, it is not easy.

Digital nomads are true entrepreneurs, and in my opinion the ultimate independents. One of the compromises of this way of life is sometimes community. If building a solid community in one place to share your practice is an important intention for you this will be difficult if you choose to be a digital nomad. Instead you might set an intention to build smaller communities around the world, and a larger “global” community.

How do you maintain a healthy relationship with technology?

With A LOT of discipline! Because being online, and plugged into the grid is a big part of what I do dharma-wise and for my livelihood, I spend a lot of time utilizing technology – technology is also an essential part of being a digital nomad. How I balance a healthy, spiritual, creative and happy life while utilizing technology daily has everything to do with the routines, habits, rituals, and schedule/intentions I set and practice every day. I share this technique and some inspiration for doing this with my students in the academy. It comes down to discipline, some days I’m better at this than other days – it’s a practice!

What does a typical morning look like for you? Do you have morning rituals?

Yes, I believe in the power of a morning ritual for setting the tone and clear intention for the day.  Doing this every morning has saved me some days when I feel isolated, anxious, unsure, etc. I meditate every single morning, this is part of my morning ritual. The first hour of each day is a no tech hour, it’s my yummy time to go inside of myself and find love there for me. I started this devoted practice three years ago when I was healing from a broken heart and now it is part of my daily habit/ritual. This grounds me when I feel out of flow. Sometimes I add a listen to an inspirational podcast or video to the end of this meditation and it becomes moving meditation. I might do this while practicing yoga, making breakfast or taking a shower. I try to have a modest, healthy breakfast each morning. After this, I plug in much like someone might read the morning paper. The morning paper for me consists of blog articles from a running list I have saved, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (in that order). The end of my morning ritual always includes setting a clear intention for the day and reminding myself that my job as a manifestor and spirit living a heart-forward life is to be happy as much as possible each day, and I make a very short list of 1 or 2 things I will accomplish for the day. Then I start my day.

If you could tell all aspiring entrepreneurs just one sentence of wisdom, what would it be?

How about two (long) sentences? I think Patanjali’s wisdom is most powerful for all of us but especially for aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly in the yoga/heart space:

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

What trends or changes do you foresee within the next 5-10 years for the yoga and wellness community/industry?

I’m very excited that the conversation about “mindful work,” and “mindfulness in the workplace” is now prevalent and nearly mainstream. The conversation began in a whisper about three years ago, and now many CEOs, start-ups and even bigger companies and brands are recognizing the benefits and outcomes and the conversation is now broad, bold and really creative and exciting. It is because of this that my teachings and approach to yogic branding are appreciated and respected.

The collective shift happening right now to move away from old paradigms and into more heart-forward, heart-based living with the lovers of these lives designing their own lives will continue. Every single day an old wall dissolves and innovative alternatives are erected. This is because more of us want something deeper, something more meaningful; this is because we are all listening now more than ever before – collectively and globally, but especially in the yoga and wellness community/industry.

Because the grid is being redesigned, the sky is the limit! The most aware and innovative and ready professionals in the yoga and wellness community/industry will be creating and hosting transformative “experiences” instead of the traditional “retreat” and they are doing this already, right now. Offices are now in cafes and on the beach, yoga is happening virtually and it is becoming medicine prescribed by doctors to patients. The value of yoga is increasing, and this will continue. The practice and teaching of yoga is increasing, and this will continue.

Who and/or what inspires you most right now?

I am inspired greatly by free-thinkers, innovators, and disruptors. I look to them to stretch my way of thinking, to challenge what I think and know to be possible. I am in-awe of Jason Silva and mesmerized every time I witness one of his videos knowing that I am watching someone in pure flow sharing it with the world in a courageous and impeccably authentic way. He inspires me greatly. I am inspired by Tim Ferris and his invitations to think about how we think about work. My current muses also include writers like Rupi Kaur, Arthur Rimbauld and Ayn Rand.  They are bold, courageous, independent and incredibly talented.

Tell us about your upcoming New Year’s Retreat with Mary Tilson…

Xinalani is a very special place, I discovered it on retreat myself with Rusty Wells, my teacher, a few years ago. The energy of this paradise in Mexico will set the tone for this retreat that Mary Tilson (Yoga Trade Travel Rep) and I are creating to share with students. For me, one of the most exciting things about this experience is that I am co-creating it with Mary, a yoga teacher and forever student, that I respect greatly. Together we are blending teachings for a practice on and off the mat that will invite students to take ownership of their lives and begin thinking about ways that they can create, and as the retreat is called:   “Live the Life You Love.”

The retreat takes place at the end of the year, December 30 – January 6, a very important and auspicious time for cutting cords and setting clear intentions, for celebrating and letting go.   Mary and I will be taking every opportunity during this time together to share our wisdom and create sacred, inspirational space for the group to feel empowered and supported to follow their hearts and it is our hope that each person leaves with a plan for ways that they can begin living a life that they love.

 

Connect with Pat:

Live the Life You Love

IG:

@patbailey

@thehellyeslife

Devoted to Bhakti

I’ve been carrying an energy with me for the last four months that I can’t, and don’t want to shake. My breath feels more fluid, my mind more clear, my heart more open. This all began at Shakti Fest this past May, and integrating the lessons and practices has certainly not been a walk in the park. Rather, I’ve been on a dedicated journey that takes patience, practice, and work to fully live into — a journey that I feel grateful and honored to participate in.

Lucky for me, and thousands of other devotees, another opportunity to sink deeper into these practices is right around the corner. This year’s Bhakti Fest West, the sister festival to Shakti Fest, is happening in just 2 weeks in Joshua Tree, CA (Sept 6-11, 2017)!

Bhakti means devotion, and at Bhakti Fest that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what will unfold, and has been unfolding for the past 9 years. Bhakti Fest gathers a community of mindful folks from all over the world to practice the art of yoga, meditation, music, breath work, sound healing, and much more. One of the only fully vegetarian festivals, that is also drug and alcohol free and family friendly — this is a safe place to enliven your senses in pure form.

Bringing some of the best spiritual teachers of our time to one sacred place, including Seane Corn, Mark Whitwell, Kia Miller, and Michael Brian Baker, as well as internationally renowned musicians Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, MC YOGI, and Donna De Lory is just part of why this festival feels like a total dream.

Yet what seems to be the most impressive part of this festival is that it’s actually a non-profit. While we are celebrating, Bhakti Fest will be donating a percentage of its revenue to charities including Food for Life Vrindavan, Love Serve Remember Foundation, Ramana’s Garden, and the Seva Foundation.

It’s an “everybody wins” event that I’m personally stoked to experience as a teacher, practitioner, and lifelong student.

Participate in the SEVA program by working in exchange for a ticket (A Yoga Trade opportunity)! A fantastic way to make meaningful connections and enjoy the festival by sharing your trade: bhaktifest.com/participate/

Transform, deepen, and come play with us!

Tickets for Bhakti Fest West 2017 are available at:  https://tickets.brightstarevents.com/event/bhakti-fest-west-2017.

 

 

 

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

IG : @momomagical 

Big Moves and Big Changes: How Transition Brings Positive Transformation

Many people fear transition. However, it is possible to use a period of transition as a way to change your life for the better. When we find ourselves in situations that either make us unhappy or are simply unsustainable, our strong feelings about the situation can generate a sense of momentum and purpose. This transformational momentum allows us to surge forward towards the change we so deeply crave.

Here are some tips for how you can use a major life transition, such as an upcoming big move, to replace bad habits with positive ones:

Getting Focused

If you’re looking to harness the power of transition to transform your life, it can be helpful to start by getting some clarity and focus. Ask yourself the following questions:
Who do I want to be? What type of life do I want to have?
Who am I? What type of life do I currently have?
What is the difference between the life I have right now and the life that I want to have?
What steps do I need to take to get there?

Home environment

From being uprooted to having to get settled into a new location, it’s no secret that moving is tough. Take this as an opportunity to make your new home environment a health environment. One way you can do this is by making your home environment as stress-free, healthy, and tidy as possible. These changes will lead to your home being a happier environment.

Social Connection

If we are making a cross-country or long distance move, we may worry about leaving our loved ones behind. We might even wonder whether people will like us or whether it will be difficult for us to make new friends in our new location. These types of concerns are very understandable. Humans are social creatures, and recent research has shown that the brain cannot differentiate between social pain and physical pain.

Although it can be uncomfortable at first, be patient with yourself. After a big move, it will take you some time to make friends, find a new social activities that you love, and explore your new neighborhood. Over time, you will begin to make new friends while (hopefully) also nourishing your existing relationships. This will boost your overall life satisfaction, reduce feelings of loneliness, and might even boost your immune system. In the words of behavioral researcher, Vanessa Van Edwards, “Connection nourishes us and makes us better humans.”

Mental Health

Your home environment and social connections also play a role in your mental health. As part of the healthier choices you are making, you might also consider ending any toxic relationships – or at the very least, start implementing some healthy boundaries. This will help you reduce stress, fatigue as well as contribute to overall happiness.

In conclusion…
To conclude, there are many benefits to transitions. As you’ve hopefully learned after reading this article, the current and upcoming changes in your life will build character and push you beyond your comfort zone. This provides you with an important gift: the unique opportunity to make some real changes and see positive transformation in your life.

 

With SpiritFinder, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.

She Will Rise

Kelsey is the Creator of She Will Rise: a community of women who are rising from the ashes of their past into the brilliance of their future. The community offers Trauma Therapy, Group Coaching, Retreats, and a Podcast. I met Kelsey in 2010, at a very dear place to my heart, Yandara in Baja, Mexico. I was there for one month taking a training and she was there teaching and working. Her strength and vibrance inspired me. We did not really stay in touch but years later, life brought us back together. We had both continued on the paths of living yoga and were simultaneously working on creative projects within the wellness world. Love had led me to the location that she was living. The connections that are made through yoga and wellness are amazing, and it is exciting and magical to grow and evolve together. Here we catch up with Kelsey, to learn from her story and wisdom. Thank you Kelsey for sharing your bright light!

Tell us about the inspirations that led to the creation of the She Will Rise Podcast…

 

On my own path of recovery I didn’t like or fit into the conventional systems or route, they just didn’t work for me. I had to make it up as I went a long and find my own way. I now call this intuitive recovery.  I had to learn how to listen to my heart AND ALSO my body AND ALSO my soul. It was hard for me as I didn’t meet a lot of people doing what I was doing and I felt like I was crazy at times. I knew that what I was doing was working for me but I lacked support and I felt very alone. As I developed the She Will Rise Intuitive Recovery Programs and Retreats I found other women offering amazing things too. I have always been comfortable sharing my story and I saw other women were starting to share theirs too. I thought, “what if there was a free resource for women where they could listen to other unique stories of recovery and have access to many tools and techniques so they could find their own unique and intuitive way through their trauma?” That is when the She Will Rise Podcast was born.

 

How has yoga helped shape your path?

 

I have heard a lot of people say that yoga saved their  life, I truly believe it saved mine. I was 23 and suffering from some pretty serious injuries from snowboarding. I couldn’t sit down for longer than an hour and I would wake up in pain every day. My friend dragged me to an Ashtanga yoga class after much convincing. I had dabbled with yoga by myself for many years before but never really went to classes. So I went and I cried the whole class because it hurt but felt good at the same time. I woke up in no pain so I went back. My body got stronger and had less pain. Then I tried a yin class…it was emotionally excruciating for me and I cried through every class for months. I was going to 6-8 classes a week because I was feeling so much emotional and physical relief. I was sold and in a year decided I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I have had some of my greatest physical healings, emotional breakthroughs and spiritual awakenings in practicing yoga and I can see myself having it in my day to day practice for the rest of my life.

Why do you feel called to create a space specifically for women?

 

I am a woman who has experienced a lot of abuse from men and I know a lot of other women have experienced the same thing and do not feel safe when men are around them. When women gather and are in a safe and sacred space to open up, magical things happen. The way women or female identified people feel, create, heal, dance and play is unique and it is different. The essence of who you are whether feminine or masculine needs to be initiated, honored and held with love. There is something remarkably strong about a compassionate sisterhood based in holding the highest vision for each other and I want to be a part of that.

How has the process of holding these conversations with women helped in your own growth and healing?

 

I believe our stories are medicine. When we hear a woman’s story of what she has been through it helps us feel like we are not alone and we might find the tools or words of inspiration that we are looking for. This is also true for me. I learn SO much from every woman I interview, their strength, courage and vulnerability deeply touches the parts in me that need just that to keep going. The friendships that are being made from the interviews and also the programs are so supportive, it is truly amazing.

Do you have any words of wisdom for women in wellness that are thinking about starting their own creative entrepreneurial projects?

 

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Don’t be afraid to hire someone who can do a task in an hour which would take you days. Stay connected to your values and practice integrity. Base your business around this. Look to others who are inspiring to you and surround yourself with supportive people. Stay away from comparison and jealousy of other women in the same field, there is absolutely enough clientele for you and the people you are meant to work with are out there waiting for you. Promote and support your colleagues; cross promotion is a powerful tool. Find a deep WHY.  Why are you are doing what you are doing?  Align the ‘why’ with your values and write it down everywhere!

 

WHAT and/or WHO sparks you up most right now?

 

All the amazing women I am interviewing for the podcast.  They are all so different, some of them students, mothers, big and little business owners, entrepreneurs, and they all have an amazing story to tell. They inspire me so much! I am also deeply immersed in earth based magic and ceremony and learning more to live with the circadian rhythms, following the moon cycles and living with the seasons. Then there are the animals in my life, my dogs, and the horses I work with and ride. I am now offering Animal Communication as a part of the programs I offer and it is profound the healing and therapy animals have to offer us.

 

 

Learn more and connect with Kelsey and this beautiful community:

Kelsey is a recovered addict and sexual abuse survivor who is dedicating her life to breaking the silence around these issues by sharing her story and supporting women to work through their trauma. She is the Creator of She Will Rise. Hear from courageous women who share their stories of a painful experiences and traumas, and how they work through it. The She Will Rise Podcast offers tools, resources and gifts to listeners. Stories are medicine. Together we are stronger.

www.shewillrise.community

IG:  @shewillrise.community

Wild & Free: Meet Movement Enthusiast Rod Cooper

Need a little inspiration to set your life in motion? Meet Rod Cooper, Founder of The Movement Collective in Newcastle, Australia. At a first glance of Rod’s inspiring practice, many assume he has a long history of gymnastics or martial arts. But as we learned after chatting with him, it wasn’t too long ago that Rod was a beginner himself. Read the interview below to hear Rod’s inspiring philosophy on overcoming fears and limitations of the body, and how small feats in your practice pave the way for real life transformation.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a movement teacher and studio owner?

 

I’ve been practicing Movement for around 4-5 years with no previous experience in gymnastics or yoga.

 

Since discovering the Ido Portal Method and the movement world I have shifted my mindset from just fitness to a more creative and artist approach to my life and practice. I have been obsessed with discovering what my body is capable of, not just what it looks like.

 

I know how much the movement practice has changed my life and wanted to share this with everyone I possibly could. That’s where the idea for the Movement Collective came from. I wanted to create a space in my home town Newcastle, Australia where people are given the tools and environment to not only improve the physical body but completely change their perspective on what we should be practicing and what we are capable of as humans.

 

Why do you feel movement is important? How do you differentiate movement from yoga or other forms of exercise?

 

For me, Movement incorporates everything that we can possibly practice taking inspiration from gymnastics to yoga, martial arts, circus arts, dance. Not only that, even some things as subtle as breath work and spinal waves, or joint articulation are a part of the practice. It’s important for our development to always be learning new skills, increasing, strength, mobility and body awareness. We don’t see it as exercise or punishment for our body, it’s an endless journey continuously improving in all areas.

 

We’re blown away by your photos and videos on Instagram (peep Rod’s incredible moves if you haven’t already!) What would you say to a complete beginner to get motivated?

 

I started out watching plenty of YouTube clips to get motivated, there are endless videos and images on social media to show you where you can get to and also some awesome tutorials to help you along the way. Take a movement class if there is a gym close by or check out yoga, gymnastics or martial arts studios in your area. We are also developing some online content so stay tuned for that.

At Yoga Trade, we value truly living yoga. In the case of movement, how does your physical practice translate to your life beyond the mat or studio?

 

For me Movement is my life, I crave my own personal practice every day and always look forward to getting everyone together in the class environment we have created at The Movement Collective.

 

It’s not an accident I do what I love and love my job, I have designed my life exactly the way I want to live. That always includes movement whether that be teaching, personal practice or in a group of like-minded people.

 

What have been your greatest lessons in creating your business and dream life?

 

Trust your heart/gut, I have done this from the start and everything always works out. If you work as hard as I do to achieve the life or goal you want, absolutely nothing can stop you from achieving it.

 

Find what you love and do that.

 

What’s one fun fact our readers may not know about you from following you online?

 

Before starting the Movement Collective I was a professional beer brewer, I still like a good craft beer from time to time. No back flips under the influence though…..that’s never a good idea. 🙂

 

Your upcoming retreat with Sjana Elise at Nihiwatu looks incredible! Can you tell us a bit more about what we can expect?

 

I really want to share as much as possible with the people attending the retreat while still keeping it fun and relaxed. Expect handstands, animal movements, spinal health exercises, acrobatics and the rest is a secret. I can’t wait to get back to Nihiwatu.

 

You can find out more about the retreat at:  www.nihi.com/retreats

 

To visit Rod at his home studio visit: The Movement Collective

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Tilson is an international yoga teacher, retreat leader, and passionate world traveler. After completing over 1,000+ training hours in both Eastern and Western approaches to yoga, she is acknowledged for making her teaching accessible to all levels.

Wild & Free: Meet Australian Yogi Sjana Elise

“I’m so humbled to have had things work out the way they have, and I am extraordinarily blessed to make a life out of something I love.“ –Sjana

I had the opportunity to connect with Sjana Elise earlier this year when she came out to visit Nihi Sumba Island, a remote luxury island retreat located east of Bali in Indonesia.

Sjana has acquired over 1.3 million followers on Instagram over the last few years by simply sharing what she loves – yoga! Yet despite her quick rise to social media fame, she remains the same sweet, bubbly personality you find on her daily Instagram posts and stories, which are filled with inspiration to get outside, move your body and live joyfully.

After overcoming her own struggles with depression in her teen years, Sjana has become an advocate for developing healthy habits to maintain balance of mind, body and spirit. She offers classes live at her home studio in Australia, you can also now practice with her using her newly launched SWEAT App, and she’s running her first Wild & Free Retreat this October with Movement Teacher Rod Cooper at Nihi Sumba Island!

Read on for some personal insight into Sjana’s journey including fun facts you might not know about her and what exciting news she has coming up next:

Can you share more about your journey with yoga and how you went from zero to 1.3 million followers on Instagram?

To be honest, it all happened rather organically. I never set out with an intention to do, be or achieve anything in particular, it just happened as a positive consequence of doing what I loved and following my passion.

After going through a rough time with depression and anxiety around the age of 15-16, I ended up leaving school early, taking up yoga as a means of recovery, gaining early acceptance into university and studying a Bachelor of Arts. After about two years of studying a bunch of random topics, I settled on photo journalism and ended up moving interstate to complete that course. I continued to take images, and also began taking self-timered images of the yoga poses I was learning (usually on the beach at sunrise or sunset). I was working full time as a waitress also, and idling through the days fairly smoothly. However, life has a funny way of working its magic. And before I knew it, I was being asked to travel around the world and take images to promote a certain brand, company, resort, airline, trip, country or tourism board. As the true power of social media became more and more evident, I became busier and busier, and soon found myself in my current position. Throughout my battles with depression and remaining focused throughout all the unforgivable travel hours (although the opportunities are incredibly amazing, as any avid traveler will tell you, it can also be exhausting at times!) yoga has been the one thing that never fails to ground me.

How do you use your influence in a positive way?

I understand that any social media presence effectively has power. And with that power comes a great responsibility to my followers.

I try my best to live as an example. I know that a lot of young women and influential girls follow me, and I hold it as my purpose (and passion) to be a positive role model and show them just how powerful, strong, capable, unique and BEAUTIFUL they are.

This is everything from remaining honest and transparent, living in a way that reflects my values and respects the values of others, removing judgement and criticism in any/all areas of my life, sharing inspiration I find, involving myself in projects that will ultimately help to positively affect the lives of others, being kind and mostly just being genuine, raw and relatable.

I want girls to know that I am just like them; and that if they want a friend or “sister” figure — then I am here for them.

What have been the greatest lessons learned while developing such a strong voice in the IG yoga community?

I would probably have to say understanding the power of social media itself. It has the ability to be a truly remarkable tool for growth, change and transformation through mass media and marketing. But it also has the ability to be a huge burden and a way for people (young women especially) to become overwhelmed by what they are seeing, and consciously or subconsciously compare their own lives to everyone else’s highlights.

I think my journey with social media and Instagram in particular has been the awakening of an awareness about finding balance and using social media platforms in a healthy and safe way.

Social media is only part of our stories…it’s what we choose to show.

(Yes, I too used to have an unhealthy relationship with social media and allowed myself to negatively judge and compare my own life. EVEN when others were doing that same thing to me.)

What is your best advice for aspiring yoga teachers looking to grow their presence online in a mindful and authentic way?

Just BE YOU! Honesty and transparency is not only respected, but more often than not it is seen as strength not weakness. Being flawed is something that actually adds to our overall charm. Don’t be afraid to speak and live your truth online as well as on your mats.

Where do you find the most inspiration to share with your network?

Inspiration is all around us! And it is entirely unpredictable. I never know where or when it will hit me; I could be having a friendly conversation with a stranger and find something they say to be endlessly fascinating, I could be in savasana deep into my practice and be awakened by an epiphany or I could be strolling along the beach and a familiar scent could work its way through my nostrils and pull at some heartstrings…that’s the best part of inspiration. The fact that you never know where you’ll find it!

Can you tell us about your new role as a SWEAT trainer?

As a SWEAT trainer my role is to provide health, fitness and yoga programs and content to the biggest female fitness community in the world. And my program is now available for women to use globally.

I consider my role as a SWEAT trainer to include being a “sister” for anyone who is seeking encouragement, support, motivation or even just a friendly hug. I want women all over the world to know that my program and I are here for them.

What is your favorite quote or words you live by?

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Never fails to ground and humble me.

Fun fact your followers might not know about you?

I used to be an American Style Cheerleader. I actually competed at the World Championships one year. (I was a base, not a flyer though. Which means I did the catching, not the flips in the air!)

We know you have an AMAZING retreat coming up! Can you tell us a bit more about that and what we can expect?

I do I do! I am so excited because this will be my first time officially hosting a retreat! AND I am actually going to be co-hosting with the extraordinary Rod Cooper (@rodjcooper) to make it a yoga and movement retreat. It’ll be five days at the luxury Nihiwatu Resort on Sumba Island in Indonesia. We’ll have daily yoga on one of the most amazing yoga pavilions you will ever see. Daily movement and locomotion classes, world class surfing, hikes, waterfalls, organic chocolate-making classes, snorkeling and the awesomeness of staying in your own private villa. It’s going to be so much fun and no doubt transformational for anyone who joins us.

I can’t wait to share the experience with you!

 

You can find out more at www.nihi.com/retreats

 

 

 

 

Mary is an international yoga teacher, retreat leader, and passionate world traveler. After completing over 1,000+ training hours in both Eastern and Western approaches to yoga, she is acknowledged for making her teaching accessible to all levels.

Leprosy & Lessons in Love: Meditation In Action

With fear on my mind and love in my heart, I choose to follow people who live to benefit more then just themselves.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, in total health and abundance but I became aware of the unsatisfactory nature of a life without service to others.

Nathan & Zohar, run meditation in action projects around the world known as Sangha Seva Retreats.

They first came to Anandwan in 2004 as volunteers and have been facilitating groups of people to experience and contribute to the community every year since.

Anandwan (‘Forest of Joy or Bliss’) is a leprosy rehabilitation center in Mararashtra, India. Baba Amte, a saintly man, founded Anandwan in 1951 with the mission of providing a life for people with Leprosy that went beyond offering medical support but a way for each individual to be wholly integrated in society.

All Photography by Shilpa Shah

Leprosy is the oldest known disease and is extremely misunderstood and stigmatized all over the world but particularly in India – as being grotesque, highly contagious and even a personal curse of God or Karma.

Historically, India has had the highest population of the disease with many afflicted people being rejected and disregarded from society – left to fend on their own support, in times of dire need of the support of others.

Baba Amte fiercely started this project with 6 patients living on donated government land- without even a water source. With the power of love in his heart, within only 2 years the land completely transformed into a self-sufficient community – apart from sugar, salt, and oil.

Therefore, you can imagine the jobs that were manifested – from making on-site homemade mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, fabrics, housing and furniture, homemade specialized wheelchairs, custom-made shoes for all these differently shaped mended bodies and feet, bio-waste methane system turning cow and food waste into gas to cook with, growing food and cooking for all these many mouths – all day, every day!

The community has grown to host approximately 3,000 individuals with a range of differences in the body and mind (children, elderly, with physical and mental disabilities) that may have not had a safe place in the world without Anandwan.

Anyone can live here with the guidelines of not taking any intoxicants, non-violence, and being willing to work, if able. Baba said “give people a chance – not charity,” which from my observation seems to be clearly successful.

As a part of the meditation-in-action mission, 17 international volunteers, joined together for 3 weeks to practice meditation while consciously living and working in various workshops throughout the Anandwan community.

I choose to work in the elderly home in the mornings and alternating between the hearing and the visually impaired school in the afternoon.

Besides working with other people, I had to deal with my own suppressed internalized fear I was unknowingly hosting around touching elderly people’s bodies. It really had nothing to do with Leprosy as in retrospect I remembered that I also felt this sense of rejection at my grandma’s retirement home in Toronto. The look of fragility and potential weaknesses somehow gave me the impression of it not feeling safe to touch the bodies of these human beings. Maybe some unconscious fear of “catching” whatever they have even if it was just my own projection of their pain and suffering. As it turns out, odds are as a human being, if I’m super lucky, I will indeed catch the state of old age regardless of physical contact will people or not.

Baba was known to say that the real leprosy to fear is this leprosy of the mind.

The illusive walls between where the being behind ‘their’ skin and mine – began to fade away. I realized that my intention was to share moments of connection, not “fix” anyone or anything.

Through breaking down my own barriers of fear I shared in the most precious exchanges of love during this project.

They, like you and me and all other beings- simply want to experience happiness- feel love, less suffering, less pain. Something we can all naturally offer to each other – but as I can see it must start with the fragile being behind our own skin.

The human beings living at Anandwan showed me strength and joy through the endurance of suffering and pain. Maybe it really is the challenges that strengthen the spirit. All I know is the light and love radiating from these people felt so bright that I couldn’t even see the different abilities, shapes of bodies or sense capabilities in all their various forms.

We all have opportunities to dive into these unfamiliar environments and into the power of love that exists beyond the discernment of our mind that constantly creates distinctions between good, bad, less or more, like or dislike, into this golden thread that ties us all together – the aliveness that exists in meeting each moment with full awareness- of life, exactly as it is.

“Namaste” – the people of Anandwan say here with their hands at their heart and I couldn’t imagine a greeting that was more appropriate. I see you – as a pure divine living, breathing, feeling being – as significant a life as the one I consider “my own.”

May we all find ways of stepping outside our own fears and into the transformation power of love – for ourselves and for each other.

 

 

 

Sacha Bryce, BSc, RYT, is a Holistic Yoga Therapist based in Toronto, Canada. She has travelled the globe studying, teaching and living Integral Yoga. Her mission is to share the power of the practice to liberate herself and others from suffering.

IG: @sachabryceyoga

Reasons to Practice Mindfulness

Everyone’s heard of mindfulness these days. For most of us who practice yoga, mindfulness is an integral part of our practice. After all, being mindfully aware of our body as we move through the sequence of poses is what really allows us to deepen our practice. But did you know that mindfulness can be just as useful when practiced off the mat?

For me personally, I’ve found there were five main ways that mindfulness affected me once it became part of my daily life. If you’re already practicing mindfulness, you might find you can relate. And if you’re not, they might inspire you to give it a try!

Here’s my list of five reasons to practice mindfulness:

1. Helps Deal with Criticism Better

Not a lot of us openly embrace criticism, in fact, most of us loathe it. The reason for this is because we just don’t want to hear any negative feedback – it makes us feel bad, and it can even make us panic. However, being more mindful helped me to ground myself and to respond with the right presence to any kind of criticism. Essentially, it assisted me with bypassing that ancient ‘fight or flight’ reptilian brain response. Instead of stressing about it, I could just take it all in and keep moving along with my day as normal.

2. Improves Listening Skills

I’ll say it: sometimes I plain suck at really listening to what people are trying to tell me. I mean sure, I hear them, but I’ve found myself (more than just a few times) letting information in the one ear and right out the other. I’m betting you can relate. The problem is that when we’re distracted, we don’t give others the attention they deserve. Mindfulness helped me focus on doing ONE thing at a time, and giving it my all, even if it was just listening to a friend talk about her holiday plans or let off steam about her job.

3. Boosts Relationships

With the enhanced self-awareness I was cultivating thanks to mindfulness, I was able to be a better team player, which meant that I started getting along better with the people around me. (Even the ones who’d always rubbed me the wrong way before.) I started being more patient with them and just kinder in general. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I finally started understanding what the term ‘compassion’ really meant.

4. Leadership

Well not a leader of thousands per se, but it greatly enhanced my leadership skills, and that’s something that we all need to work on if we want to help others. By being more mindful, I was able to recognize toxic patterns and negative thoughts. By recognizing them, I was able to choose healthier beliefs instead of automatically believing the old, limiting ones. This helped me become more confident in myself, which is vital for leadership.

5. Controls Stress Levels

Stress is a massive issue, and one that easily turns into full-blown nightmares. Simple techniques such as closing my eyes and just focusing on my breathing are what helped me deal with my stress at work. This helped me control the effects that stress was having on my mind and my body. In fact, it not only managed them, it helped me reverse the effects.

Final Thoughts:

I just showed you a few great benefits of mindfulness and how it transformed me personally, and I sincerely hope that this post has encouraged you to start your own mindfulness practice. It’s really simple yet very effective!

 

 

 

Megan is a DIY health & beauty enthusiast and yoga addict. When she’s not trying to master the perfect headstand, she loves to write. You can find her work at Gold Mountain Beauty, where she is responsible for the blog, Instagram and Pinterest.