Mask of Light and Ho’oponopono

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I Love You.

Please Forgive Me.

I’m Sorry.

Thank You.”

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

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

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

We all have this light within us.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

How To (Actually) Make Money As A Yoga Instructor

Let’s face it, nobody goes into yoga teaching to become rich. But yoga instructors can make money! 

It’s true.

There are dozens of yoga teacher millionaires and countless more that earn enough money to live comfortably in a first world country…

…which, compared to many yoga teaching gigs right now, is pretty impressive.

And it’s my job to help these teachers make money. As a digital marketer, I work with people in the yoga industry to help them get traffic to their websites, connect with others in the industry, and grow their virtual wallets every step of the way.

Since I truly believe that teaching yoga does not need to be an act of service and that we all gotta eat without killing ourselves, I’ve made it my mission to help other yoga teachers succeed too.

So here is my best advice for yoga teachers who want to earn more money than the poverty-level wages they’re currently earning in this industry.

1. Know Your Worth

This may seem obvious and maybe even a little fluffy, but it’s the biggest piece of advice that I can give right now. So many of us are drawn to the yoga industry because we believe in its healing powers and we want to promote good in the world.

But that doesn’t mean that your profession needs to be an act of Seva.

It also doesn’t mean that you need to charge exorbitant prices just to reflect your worth.

Instead, take stock of what expertise you have, how much time and energy you put into your work, and what would make all of it worthwhile.

When you’re working as a freelancer, it’s super easy to feel like you need to accept any and all work that comes your way. Full-time teaching gigs in exchange for shared accommodations is hardly worth your time. 

You can find part-time teaching gigs for accommodations, food, and even pay, so why settle for something that provides less.

Even if you’re brand new and you’re not expecting pay at first, make sure that you’re valuing your time and energy in other ways. By setting firm boundaries like this, you are not only helping yourself but also every other yoga teacher in the industry. We lift each other by lifting ourselves.

Here are a few helpful resources to help you decide what you want to charge:

2. Get Online, Now

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that the whole world is moving online. No matter what your feelings about it are, your potential customers and students will be online with or without you.

And if you wanna make money with them, then you need to be online too.

The difficult part about this is that working online takes time. No matter how good you are at teaching yoga, writing about yoga, or editing yoga videos, it takes time to build an audience. 

Understanding and even befriending the algorithms of social media and Google takes time. Finding your audience takes time. Establishing trust takes time.

So, my advice? Get online right now.

Even if you don’t want to teach online right now, you’ll be glad you did it in two or three years when you start making money online.

Whether you build yourself a website with a blog like this one that you’re reading, or you create a YouTube channel, it’s important to understand that it’s a long-game and that any work that you do right now will continue to pay itself off for years to come.

Here are some helpful resources to get you started with going online:

3. Start Making Virtual Connections

Listen, as much as we all wish that the yoga industry was immune to popularity contests, that’s just not the case.

It’s all about who you know, not what you know.

So even if you know the best alignment cues, play the best music, teach the best translation of the Bhagavad Gita…

…if you don’t know enough people to give your best to, then you will be teaching in a vacuum.

This is even more true with online stuff.

Both the Google and YouTube algorithms bank on how many people you virtually know and how many of them are engaging with you. Just like you need to network at your local yoga studio or gym to find new students, you absolutely must network online for the same reasons.

By making virtual connections, you will

  • Strengthen your website, making it easier for students to find (and hire) you
  • Increase your reach on social media
  • Get more views on YouTube
  • Find teaching gigs around the world
  • Make solid connections with other like-minded yoga teachers

I know this might sound too good to be true, but since this is literally my day job for at least one millionaire yoga teacher, I can assure you that it works.

Here are a few ways to start networking right now:

    • Guest Posts – There’s a reason you see all of the most famous yoga teachers on all of the yoga publications… because they are networking! Find your favorite yoga blogs and shoot them an email to see if they accept guest writers. Explain that you are a yoga teacher who is simply trying to increase her exposure and ask what would be the most helpful topic to contribute. Oh, and just a warning: there will be a lot of rejection. Like dating, blogging is a numbers game. The more pitches you make, the more success you will have.
    • Yoga Challenges – Connect with other yoga teachers on social media and see if they’d be interested in doing a yoga challenge with you. By getting a group together, you’re not only exposing yourself to their audiences, but you’re also supporting them in growing their audiences too. It’s a fun way to get some buzz started around your brand that costs you nothing.
    • Yoga For A CauseYogis love good deeds. It’s a major part of the practice, after all. Creating a yoga program that does good is something that everyone can get behind. Just like yoga challenges bring in lots of different yogis to work together, so does a charity. You can create a program that supports a cause and then rally the troops to get involved.

4. Refine Your Niche

Not everyone is going to like you and you’re not going to like teaching everyone.

And that’s okay. In fact, that makes things super easy.

Instead of trying to become the yoga teacher for everyone, focus on being the yoga teacher you would want. Narrow in on your favorite things about yoga and heavily incorporate that into your brand.

Why?

Because there are other people out there who are obsessed with the same aspects of yoga as you are and are craving more knowledge and more guidance on the topic. It’s how I found my Tantra yoga teacher training (I’m obsessed with classical Tantra) and it’s how my clients found me (a digital marketer who is also a yoga practitioner).

Plus, when you teach your favorite stuff, your passion and glow will shine through. I can tell you that there is no paid ad, no marketing scheme, and absolutely no brand name that can out-compete that glow that comes from authentic and unbridled passion.

Here are a few successful yoga teachers who have found their niche:

5. Become A Teacher Trainer

Maybe this is obvious, but maybe it’s not, so it’s worth listing here. Assisting on teacher trainings makes you a respectable amount of money compared to teaching individual yoga classes. So it makes sense to work a few teacher trainings into your yearly schedule if you want to make good money as a yoga teacher.

If you haven’t already, start taking the steps to complete a 500-hour yoga teacher training course to make you eligible to teach other yoga teachers.

I recommend finding a course that teaches on the concepts you’re most passionate about (to stay aligned with Tip #4) and one that can legitimately teach you about the yoga business.

And if you have your eyes on a yoga school that you’d like to work with, then see if they have an advanced teacher training program that you can join. This would help you network (Tip #3), refine your niche (Tip #4), and qualify you to teach at teacher trainings (Tip #5).

6. Stay Active Both Online And In Real Life

If you’ve made it this far in the list, then great job!

Now, don’t stop there.

Make yourself a spreadsheet and keep track of all of the networking and outreach that you do each week. Create a content plan for your blog, social media, or YouTube channel and consistently make new content. Reach out to yoga gigs via YogaTrade and continue to grow your experience and your network.

This is an on-going process that will fill all of your time outside the yoga studio. If you treat it like a full-time job, it will soon pay you like one (I promise).

Final Thoughts

If you’re just trying to spread more yoga and meditation in the world, then this online stuff can seem a little exhausting. But the more that you network, the more that you can spread yoga and meditation!

If you have any questions or would like some guidance, I’m more than happy to have a chat. You can find me on Linkedin. I’ll help connect you with the right resources to grow your brand and your income because I honestly believe there is enough room for all of us to succeed.

 

 

 

Author Bio | Marquis Matson

I’m a digital nomad and yoga practitioner. I can’t change the world in big and impressive ways, but I can use my privilege, my resources, and my access to promote good in the world and help others. So I’m on a mission to help spread yoga and meditation to the world by helping people discover yoga. You can find me on Linkedin or on my plant-based blog, RealRawKitchen

 

Can Yoga Lead the Way to Sustainable Tourism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Footnote:

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

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

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

 

4 Key Predictions for the Future of Retreat Travel

Yoga and wellness retreat offerings ground to a halt beginning in March 2020, as resorts closed worldwide and global travel came to a near stand-still.

A recent study by retreat registration & payment platform WeTravel found that 50% of retreat leaders have cancelled between half and all of their scheduled retreats, trainings, and similar destination-based offerings for the remainder of the year. Some hope to forge ahead with travel plans in late 2020, while others have moved their retreats online or postponed them until next year.

According to the same study, however, there’s reason to be optimistic. Wellness travel providers are generally confident about retreat travel’s rebound, especially when compared to travel operators more broadly.

Retreat leaders have been more resilient and creative in dealing with the current realities; for example, in quickly pivoting to online programming to stay connected to their communities. Their survey responses also show that they see the timing and strength of the industry’s rebound in a more positive light.

So, what does this mean for the industry rebound and the future of retreat travel in the longer term?


Prediction #1: Virtual Retreats Are On The Rise And Here To Stay

While virtual retreats are currently the only option in many geographies where people are still mandated to shelter in place, they are also an innovation many industry insiders believe will outlast the current COVID19 pandemic.

For new retreat leaders, they provide a low-stakes option for breaking into the industry. For newer and veteran players alike, they represent a means of supporting communities still in lockdown, while carrying reduced logistical burdens and financial costs.

For retreat participants, they stand to provide relief from months of sheltering in place. Furthermore, for those who have long-term health, mobility, financial, or circumstantial constraints to travel, they may present the first feasible route to participation in a retreat experience.

Even if online retreats don’t have quite the same feel as “being there,” creative use of technology can greatly enrich the virtual experience. Retreat leaders can activate the senses and invoke the sights and sounds of nature with carefully selected audio and visual material. They might also opt to provide suggestions for in-home rituals around taste, smell, and touch (e.g., recipes, essential oils, and self-massage).


Prediction #2: Yoga & Wellness Retreats Will Be On The Leading Edge Of Travel’s Rebound

According to WeTravel’s survey, most respondents are confident that business will pick up again before the end of the year. Close to 50% of rescheduled offerings are slated to occur between September and December 2020, with the majority of the remainder scheduled for early-to-mid-2021.

On the demand side of the equation, masses of people are now in acute need of time and space to decompress, detoxify, and take a step back from the intense pressures of professional and domestic responsibilities. Retreats are an ideal space for this work and healing.

Likewise, local retreats timed for the early COVID-recovery period are a feasible option for many organizers. As the destination itself is often secondary or supplementary to thoughtful retreat programming that promotes mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, retreat leaders may find highly suitable venues close to home.

In these cases, participants are more likely to be able to use personal rather than public transportation. The logistical and financial considerations involved make close-to-home retreats inviting to a wider audience.

Options for local retreats generally include both urban, suburban, and more remote destinations. The latter, which inherently offer a greater degree of physical distancing, as well as the opportunity for reconnection with nature, are likely to go over well in the coming months.


Prediction #3: When Global Travel Returns, There Will Be Changes To How Retreat Leaders Select Service Providers

As retreat leaders hatch retreat plans for the post-COVID era, they will undoubtedly pay greater attention to the contractual responsibilities and obligations of their partners, including retreat centers, logistics managers, transportation providers, and insurance companies, amongst others.

Considerations for retreat venue selection are likely to include deeper research into recent or upcoming facility refurbishments, hygiene policies, and foodservice methods (e.g., less reliance on buffet service). Guests may have preference for single rooms and/or the availability of compelling outdoor recreation and practice spaces.

The retreat insurance industry, and travel insurance industry in general, have been forever changed by COVID-19. Industry experts predict an uptick in demand for “cancel for any reason” policies; while these have always been among the pricier options for travel insurance, they are expected to become more expensive in the future. Retreat leaders and participants alike are encouraged to shop broadly for insurance going forward, read the fine print, and purchase accordingly.


Prediction #4: Retreat Groups Will More Closely Examine Their Ecological Footprint and Local Economic Impacts

In the wake of the height of the COVID19 pandemic, many wellness professionals and practitioners alike have paused to reflect on the relationship between our own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of the systems, natural and commercial, that support us as travelers.

As a result, retreat groups are bound to give more careful consideration to the ecological footprint of their travel plans. Additionally, they are likely to be more mindful of sustainability considerations and the possibility of overtourism.

In the ideal situation, visitors will consciously support sustainable business models that play an active role in safeguarding local foodways and ecosystems, and justly share the financial rewards of travel with local populations.

Responsible consideration of these factors is crucial to sustainable travel that supports human well-being across the board, rather than simply for those who have the means to visit destinations aboard in hopes of enriching their personal well-being.


 

Jen Corley (CYT-500) heads the wellness travel division at WeTravel.com, the operator of an online booking and payment platform for retreat travel. When she’s not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Evan, and French bulldog, Taco.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It worked.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel Your Feelings—Navigating The Grief of Cancelled Travel Plans

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

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

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

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

The Wonderful Skills of A World Traveler Yogi

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

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

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

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

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

All Things Are Temporary

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

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

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

 

 

 

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

@ebsnotebook 

 

This Is Where We Learn to Trust

This article was first published by Vira Bhava Yoga 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

International Yoga Teachers: Ron Reid and Marla Meenakshi Joy

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

How many yoga trainings and retreats have you led?

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

Which one was the most memorable and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

THE ART OF INTEGRATION: SPANNING THE 8 LIMBS

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Homemade Wellness Shots

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

Here is what you are gonna need to feel fabulous:

Wellness Shots: Liquid Gold

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

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

Wash and peel the turmeric and ginger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Living in the Flow of Life: Connect to Source

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

Cover Photo: Jennifer Harter

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

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

So how do we get there?

Photo: Michelle Rodriguez

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

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

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

Four Steps for Living in the Flow of Life

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

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

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

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

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

And so it is.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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