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.

 

 

Presence & Prosperity Lessons from Shakti Fest 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@momomagical

A Guide to Balancing Hormones

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

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

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

1. Know The Triggers

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

The 5 main triggers that affect our hormones are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Be Aware of Your Body’s Natural Cycle

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

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

Here are the 4 phases of a menstrual cycle:

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

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

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

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

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

3. Yoga for Your Hormones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Supplemental Support

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

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

5. Gab with Your Girls

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Practice With Consistency

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


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


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


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

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


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

 

 

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

5 Reasons to Teach Yoga for Free

Cover Photo: Shaunte Ditmar Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The universe always provides…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby

9 Yoga & Mindfulness Podcasts That Will Feed Your Soul

Have you heard of “beginner’s mind?”

It’s the Zen Buddhist notion that we should approach the world as novices, childlike, open to learning, no matter how much we know about a certain subject. Beginner’s mind means stepping into our lives with a brand-new, wide-open mind, eager to receive, ready to evolve.

This is how we stay young.

This is how we stay open.

As teachers, one of our most important responsibilities is to keep learning.

In yoga philosophy, we call this svadhyaya, or self-study.

These days, for me, svadhaya means a couple of things: home practice, and podcasts.

For wellness professionals and yogis who are teaching or working overseas, or living in isolated rural areas, these are two essential tools to keep in your self-study toolkit.

Home practice can be self-led or guided by any number of the awesomely-diverse and accessible streaming resources we’re lucky to have these days: anything from YogaGlo to YogaDownload to Yoga International to Yoga My Love.

Since I’m a teacher and have a pretty strong self-practice, I tend to just unroll my mat and do my own thing, especially since oftentimes I don’t know whether I’ll manage a 20-minute or a 2-hour practice (depending how my kid’s naps go).

As for podcasts: it’s easy to give technology a bad rap, but podcasts are such a great populist development. Most of them are FREE (whaaaa?!?), they’re available when you are (2am or 2pm, either way, they’re right there), and you can listen to them anywhere from Cambodia to Costa Rica to California, as long as you’ve got a device and a WiFi signal.

Whereas back in the day you used to have to travel for hours or days to learn from many of the world’s most studied experts, nowadays all you have to do is turn on your phone. It’s pretty righteous.

And I’ve discovered that just listening to teachers’ stories can often be the most instructive. I love hearing about the circuitous paths that have taken wellness professionals from former careers in business and finance, academia and medicine, coffee shops and surfboards, to lifelong vocations in Sanskrit studies and Bhakti Flow. It’s truly inspiring to witness the way in which each of these renowned teachers has arrived upon his or her dharma. (Not to mention that it sure makes you realize that even in the moments you feel like you’re totally lost, you’re still on the path.)

Listening to these yoga pros is also a great way to find a sense of connection and a spirit of sangha (or community), especially if you’re living in another country or a rural area without a ton of colleagues who “get” what it’s like to be a yoga teacher. I’m amazed by how a podcast conversation with a studio owner in Boston or a longtime teacher from New Mexico can leave me nodding my head in agreement, saying “YES, that’s exactly it.”

Sometimes just knowing you’re not the only yoga teacher who struggles with things like commodification, the influence of social media, or the increasing fitness-emphasis of the yoga world can be a total balm for the soul. And in this turbulent political moment, I’ve also been comforted to hear teachers and writers get a little more explicitly political in their conversations. Podcast interviews often offer an intimate, unguarded look into the minds of some of the world’s most respected thinkers and teachers.

That said, here’s the list of my favorite nine smart, thoughtful yoga, meditation, and mindfulness podcasts. These are my go-to episodes. They will feed your soul and make you feel connected in moments of despair or disenchantment.

Listen to them driving to work, walking to the grocery store, riding the bus, cleaning the kitchen. Dial one up when you roll out your mat and you’ll get an hour’s worth of learning while you do your moving meditation, too. You can’t go wrong.

Finally: a big shout-out to the hardworking, dedicated folks curating these podcasts, who do so much to create intelligent content, provide a sense of connection, and share learning opportunities for so many of us listeners out here.

We are grateful.

Yogaland Podcast

https://www.acast.com/yogaland

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This new-ish podcast comes to us via San Francisco-based global teacher Jason Crandell and his wife and business partner, Andrea Ferretti, a former editor at Yoga Journal. I’ve been delighted to follow each episode since Yogaland debuted last year as “a place where you’ll hear uplifting yoga stories, conversations about life issues and how yoga can help, sound health and wellness advice, and occasional super nerdy yoga talk.” Andrea’s interviews are smart and well-informed, her guests are top-notch folks from across the yoga world, their topics range from anatomy to nutrition to yoga philosophy, and Jason & Andrea’s rapport is sweet, self-deprecating, and down-to-earth. Fave past episodes include Andrea’s interview with Kate Holcombe on breast cancer and the Yoga Sutra, and Stephanie Snyder’s two episodes on mothering, loving your whole story, and using chanting in class.

J. Brown Yoga Talks

http://www.jbrownyoga.com/yoga-talks-podcast/

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This is another can’t-miss series featuring “candid conversations about yoga and beyond with outspoken teacher and writer J. Brown.” His guests range from old-school teachers like Mark Whitwell to NYC yoga-scene icon Cyndi Lee to “restorative yoga queen” Judith Hanson Lasater. I appreciate that he bookends podcasts with his (sometimes very personal) reflections. I’ve never met J., but listening to his podcast and hearing how he juggles owning a studio, parenting, and deciding whether to stay in gentrifying NYC or move his family somewhere more affordable make me feel connected. His podcasts have become a sort of “living history” of folks from the 1990s NYC yoga scene in particular, many of whom have transitioned from teaching butt-kicking power vinyasa to gentler, more sustainable flows. I’ve learned so much just from listening. Do give it a try.

Chitheads: Embodied Philosophy

http://www.fivetattvas.com/chitheads/

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Jacob Kyle’s new podcast also debuted fairly recently (last year, if I remember correctly), and it’s also excellent. (Props for the clever tongue-in-cheek name, too.) Chitheads features “interviews with leaders, elders, and teachers from the yoga and wider wisdom community on eastern philosophies, consciousness studies, social justice, and the human spiritual condition.” Kyle comes from a background in legit academic philosophy, which lends a sharp critical eye to his approach (much-needed in the yoga world these days). I appreciate his intelligence and his emphasis on the intricacies of yoga history and philosophy. Past episode highlights include his interviews with Sharon Salzberg, Philip Goldberg, Edwin Bryant, and Michael Stone.

Awake In The World: Michael Stone

https://michaelstoneteaching.com/podcasts/

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Speaking of…Michael Stone is the best of the best, “a cross between a spiritual teacher and a public intellectual.” Whether you’re reading his books, taking an online course, or following him on Instagram, you’re going to find rich, thoughtful, grounded material. Michael’s original Centre of Gravity podcast (now “Awake In The World”) was one of the first I discovered years ago. It’s a collection of his lectures and teachings delivered in Canada and at various global sanghas and retreats. They’re fantastically-rich in yoga philosophy, rooted in ancient texts, and peppered with fascinating insights from Buddhism and psychology. Not to mention a gentle sense of humor and a deep recognition of the fact that our relationships and our families are fertile ground for waking up. Check out Michael’s stellar series of lectures on Yoga & Trauma Sensitivity featuring Molly Boeder-Harris for some much-needed insights on this current hot topic in the yoga world.

10% Happier with Dan Harris

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/10-happier-with-dan-harris/id1087147821?mt=2

 

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Dan Harris is a gem: “a fidgety, skeptical ABC newsman who had a panic attack live on Good Morning America, which led him to something he always thought was ridiculous: meditation.” Totally self-deprecating, totally at home in the television world, this ABC anchor has done much to take the “woo-woo” out of meditation. Check out this excellent podcast, in which he interviews Average Joes like the Dalai Lama (what?!?), Robert Thurman, and George Mumford, famous NBA meditation coach. Harris is as committed to his practice as he is humble and funny, and he curates a great interview. Can’t recommend this one highly enough for the down-to-earth factor alone.

Meditation In The City: A Shambhala Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/meditation-in-city-shambhala/id635143127?mt=2

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This podcast series from Shambhala NY is a fab resource for the urban-dwelling Millennial, with lecture topics like “Buddha With A Smartphone” and “If the Buddha Grew Up in New York.” Its aim is to “help dispel the myths about meditation, with down-to-earth, real life teachings that show us the benefits of meditation in our everyday life.” Seek out lectures from folks like Ethan Nichtern and Lodro Rinzler, two of my favorite thirtysomething Buddhist teachers, who both do wonderful work merging old-school philosophy with new-school realities.

Tara Brach

https://www.tarabrach.com/talks-audio-video/

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Tara Brach’s bio describes her as “a leading western teacher of Buddhist (mindfulness) meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening.” That about nails it. Tara’s podcast was one of the first I discovered several years ago, and I quickly consumed her entire podcast library, which is a lovely blend of lectures and audio meditations. Come for her calming, gentle voice, and stay for the timeless, psychology-infused wisdom.

Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg

https://sharonsalzberg.com/metta-hour-podcast/

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If you’ve studied Buddhism, you’ve heard of Sharon Salzberg. Sharon is one of the premier teachers of the generation of folks who really brought Buddhism to America in the 1960s and 1970s. She’s as humble and unassuming as she is brilliant and perceptive. This collection of her talks, which “feature Buddhist philosophy in a practical, common sense vernacular,” includes lectures with Ethan Nichtern and Congressman Tim Ryan. You can’t go wrong with Sharon, especially as you are building a foundation for a lifelong practice. She is a gift to the curious student, young or old.

Sounds True: Insights At The Edge

http://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom

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Tami Simon “interviews spiritual teachers, visionary writers, and living luminaries about their newest work and current challenges.” You’ll find a rich cross-section of spiritual activists, teachers, and writers interviewed here. Just listening to this excellent podcast alone will provide a powerful, diverse spiritual education. Check out episodes with Jack Kornfield, Seane Corn, Thomas Moore, and Marianne Williamson for a start.

 

 

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

Return To Center

Amidst a time of great change, it becomes easy to find yourself feeling lost. We have all been there. If not, you most likely will be at one time or another. But don’t worry or fear, for this is all but a part of the process. You know the saying “Not all who wander are lost.”? Well although this may be true, I sure am lost. Is “lost” necessarily a bad thing? No, of course not. The word “lost” simply has negative connotations attached to it from years of misunderstanding.


So what do you do when you’re lost? Well, you return to what is familiar to you. Sometimes this leads people to revert back to old habits. I, myself, am not ashamed to admit this is exactly what I have done. Quite recently, as well. When I am lost, I revert back to something I know all too well and something that comes quite naturally to me; my state of anxiety and depression. In this case, I have realized that it is because it gives me a sense of familiarity; a sense of security. We are often taught to react to situations in a certain way. For example, if there’s a conflict in the family or you lose a close friendship, it is often implied that you must feel sad. This situation was “bad”, so immediately you must grieve. There is nothing wrong with grieving. Of course, it is natural and can be a healthy coping mechanism. However, there may come a time when you rely on feelings of grief and depression as a crutch due to their sense of familiarity. Now this is what I’ve done.

Return to center. So, what does this mean to you? To me, returning to center means exactly that. Return to center. “Center” meaning the stillness and contentment of my inner Being; of our inner Being. We all have different ways of doing so. For me, yoga and meditation has helped me immensely. I am writing this right now as a result of a deep yoga session. Before that, I was constantly reflecting back on previous events. What “should” have been done or if things could have been handled differently in the past. I felt lost, and the first thing I needed to do was admit that to myself; so that’s exactly what I did.

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Once again, what do we do when we are lost? We return to what is familiar to us. Although at first I was subconsciously reverting back to the familiar state of depression, I decided to roll out my yoga mat. Through this, I was able to to cultivate mindfulness and slow (if not stop) those negative thoughts right in their tracks. Now I know that we all roll out our mats for different reasons, but I feel as if this is something that can connect us all. Whether you roll out your mat simply to gain flexibility, aid in anxiety relief, or to cultivate awareness, we are all returning to what we know; whether or not this was our sole intention. We return to our inner stillness; our true nature.

The point being, never be afraid to admit that you are lost. There is no shame in being lost, for tremendous growth may follow. The most important thing to remember is to never breed resistance. Accept whatever comes your way as neither good nor bad. If it is what you wanted, express gratitude and say thank you. If it is not what you wanted, say thank you for the lesson and grow. If you find yourself being sucked back into old destructive habits, do not shame yourself. Simply accept this fact and use this awareness to put you back on track. Look within. Roll out your mat. Return to center.

 

After her battle with anxiety and depression led her to seek alternatives, Maddy has been practicing yoga daily for three years. Now she is training to become a certified instructor in hopes of helping others that may be found in similar situations.

The Inner Spark

Letting go, moving on, closing a chapter, becoming a new person, starting from scratch, changing direction or starting down a new path. Whatever phrase fits you best…we will all at some point experience “it”.

We all have, at some point had to ‘let go’ in our lives and it is likely there will be many more to come, however it is the letting go part that truly scares us, as we are forced to trust what the future brings. We are fearful of the unknown and of making wrong decisions that may lead to ‘failure’. This often results in us clinging on to what we used to have and finding reasons to continue hanging on to it.

We seem to forget the saying that, “every time a door closes, another one opens”. When we are faced with a scary situation, we delve so deep into it, that we fail to see the bigger picture and so allow our emotions to take control and lead us blindly.

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Your emotions are the tears of your heart. Let them surface, allow them to flow but don’t let them take control. Consciously and mindfully tell yourself, “Sadness is running through me”. Be aware of the emotion, accept it and just as consciously, let it go again.

It•does•not•define•you•

When a scary “moving on” situation arises in your life, take a step back. Although it seems hard at this very moment,

It•Is•Not•The•End•
Right now, life is giving you the chance of starting over new, of recreating yourself and the life you are living. Peeling off all those outer layers and embracing the YOU, you have been from birth. The YOU that through all your life’s happenings has hidden in the deepest most sacred corner of your heart and is now breeching the surface like a free diver catching a breath of fresh air.

There is never really an end to anything…not even death can be called an ending. What is an ending anyways? Ever wondered? I ask myself that question every time I close a chapter. To me, it means change and yes, change can be scary but change can also be exciting. It depends how you wish to see it and how you let it into your life.

In fact, what you call an “ending” is in reality, a multicolored, sparkling, glittery, loud and clear, explosive ‘new years’ style firework wake up call; from you, to you.

So brush off the dust and move your sweet ass into gear and explore the vast wonderland hidden inside you. To be more precise; it is a blessing in disguise.

There is no other beautifully bittersweet way to make you realize that you’ve grown. Congratulations! BAM!! In reward, change is knocking at your door. You have become something bigger and now life wants you to take action according to your personal growth.

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Don’t go and cut your hair, move home, buy a cat or talk more spiritually. Sit•And•Listen. There will be a constant struggle with your emotions telling you otherwise, telling you to go back to who you used to be. That’s ok. These emotions are again, •just•running•through•you•not•defining•you•. What will define you are your actions. Whether you choose to listen to that inner ticking time bomb, that silent firework, that wake up call, or whether you will allow your emotions to take control again.

No matter what you choose, your emotions will always be there with you and that is the greatest gift we have.
Don’t get me wrong but that •Inner•Spark• though, will only arise occasionally, just once every so often, here and there…if you care to notice it.

Maybe it’s in that silent morning hour when the world is still asleep but your mind is wide awake, or when the sun disappears behind the ocean and contentment is running through you. Maybe it appears when the elevator door closes in front of you and you realize it is just you and the four walls around you or maybe it arrives when life just wants to tell you, it knows better than you do.

My question to you my friend is; will you listen? Will you trust? Will you have faith?

 

 

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Danae Borsani is a German/ Italian Yogi, lives on Mallorca and is a passionate Yoga teacher and Blogger, soulseekergirl.com about what she does best: The Art of Yoga, Food, Travel and Health. She inspires her readers toward a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.

Divine Sisterhood

Now, more than ever, we are being called to stand up, speak our truths and live with compassion, authenticity and fearless hearts. Many of us are feeling a call to live more sustainably and protect the earth, to learn/share integrated practices which help us to live from a place of love and not fear. Our individual efforts are 100% needed for a collective shift…

This is why I teach yoga and meditation.

I know that these teachings have given me tools to step out of my personal addictions, and help me to make better decisions daily.

And with my own healing, I can offer more support and love to those around me. I can live a life of service and have the most positive impact in the world.

Most importantly, I know that these practices bring people together in community and that ideas become more powerful when shared…

This shift in consciousness is the rise of the Divine Feminine. The energy of the female is potent — She gifts us the qualities of creativity, intuition, protection, holistic thought, collaboration, empathy and unconditional love…all of which have been ignored and abused within our society for far too long.

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While men have an equally important role to play, it is women’s time to gather in sisterhood to encourage mass collaboration and love as the qualities our society will recognize and hold sacred moving forwards.

This is why I share the practices of yoga and mindfulness through retreat immersions around the world. I want EVERY human to first treat themselves with the love and respect they deserve through heathy lifestyle habits: high vibe nourishment through diet, sleep patterns, physical movement and time for reflection and relaxation to bring awareness to the parts of us we need to nourish (or begin to nourish) daily. I want women to learn to accept themselves exactly as they are, to see themselves as a beautiful and unique Goddess and live with more sweetness. Most important, I want everyone to experience the gift of sacred community: what it feels like to be seen, heard and felt from a place of neutrality. When we feel nourished from within and supported from those around us, we naturally rise into our highest selfs.

This is the power of Divine Sisterhood. Our sisters provide the platform for loving-kindness and a safe haven of support. Our sisters help shape-shift us into better partners, mothers and daughters. They remind us of our power and responsibilities as women of the world. They hold us accountable without shame or blame. They honor our uniqueness and help us integrate with tenderness. The power of sisterhood is fierce, creative, loving and a change-maker…and this energy resides within each one of us.

As we are all a direct mirror reflection of one another, it is imperative we take initiative and become mentors for the world. Women must celebrate and collaborate with one another in order to encourage those around us to follow suit.

And when enough of us support one another to take action, the system will naturally adapt to support us. There is a ripple effect which will spread far and wide.

But it begins on an individual level…

It is our birth right to step into our highest selves — to be happy, healthy and give back to the entire eco-system that is our global family. This is a call to action to create more Divine Sisterhood in our lives. Together, women can change the world. I feel it. I believe it with every single cell in my being. Things are just getting good and I am so honored to be here, right now, alongside you.

The Divine Goddess within me, recognizes the Divine Goddess within each and every one of you.

 

 

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Lauren Lee is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Lauren Lee and friends for this amazing week THRIVE: A Soul-Fueled Immersion for Wellness Entrepreneurs, March 4th-11th in COSTA RICA!

raiseyourbeat.com/thrive

 

 

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Access Your Highest Potential!

Inspired by World-Renowned Life Coach Trainer, Anna Suil

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

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

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

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

So what is Life Coaching all about?

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

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

Who needs a Life Coach?

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

How does it work?

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

Why does it work?

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

Where to begin?

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

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

www.marytilsonyoga.com
Instagram: @marytilson

Testimonial:

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

-Erika, Yoga Teacher, USA

 

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