Factors to Consider Before Becoming a Yoga Teacher

So you have decided to become a yoga teacher and are considering enrolling in a yoga teacher training program. Great Vision! But amidst this excitement, have you done detailed research about being a yoga teacher or joining a yoga teacher training program? It is important to take some time contemplating your journey so you can be better prepared for it. Here are some crucial factors to consider before starting on the path.

Why Yoga Teacher Training?

Teacher training programs are open to all yoga aspirants. Yoga teacher training programs give you a deeper knowledge of yoga, both theoretical and practical. With a detailed knowledge of the practices, you will be best prepared for the real world of yoga teaching.

Consider The Place Of Origin

Yoga teacher training programs are available at various beautiful locations across the globe. But nothing is better than getting trained from the land of its origin. So considering India for a Yoga Teacher Training is highly recommended. Nothing is better than getting rejuvenated in the lap of nature and yogic enlightenment.

Setting the Goal Is The First Step

Before entering a teacher training program, it is important to know what you need. Teacher training programs are a great way to grow your practice, which you can use for the self or to become a yoga teacher. It is important to know what kind of training you want and set your goal accordingly. It is very important to have a vision which helps you to remain dedicated.

What Kind Of Yoga Style Do You Want To Master?

Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, the list of yoga styles is very long. Follow your heart and practice the style you feel most connected with. This will also benefit your future students because the most wonderful experiences of yoga come from yoga teachers who love what they are teaching. Choosing a yoga style is important. Starting with a 200 hour yoga teacher training is best. If you have more time (two months), then you can directly opt for a 500 hour yoga teacher training.

Not A Regular Job If You Are Planning To Pursue It Professionally

Becoming a yoga teacher is not the regular, conventional job. Even though it is not the regular 9 to 5 thing, there is a demand for discipline and commitment. You can have versatile schedules, but when your teaching sessions come into form, you might have to extend your teaching hours. It can be difficult for those leaving their regular jobs to become full-time yoga teachers.

Travel, Teach, And Practice

Yoga and traveling is a perfect combination. As a yoga teacher, you can travel and teach students of different countries. It is not compulsory for all yoga teachers to travel and teach. You can also open up a yoga studio or teach private home sessions. You can teach and take classes in countries around the world including; India, Nepal, Bali, Thailand, etc. These locations provide the ideal escape for transformative experiences.

Consider the Investment

If you are planning to become a full-time yoga teacher, it would be great to get trained from a Yoga Alliance Certified School. But registered training programs can be costly, so it is important for you to set a budget and consider the investments. The cost also varies from certification duration – starting from 200 hour yoga teacher training, 300 and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings. Once you complete your training you can register yourself with a yoga governing organization, such as Yoga Alliance.

It is important to take time to research these various factors before taking up yoga teaching. Ask a lot of questions and make sure it feels right before becoming a yoga teacher .

As Rod Stryker said, “There is no doubt that the foundation of being a great yoga teacher is being a great yoga student.”

 

Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveler in India. He provides yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature, and the Himalayas.

Power of Community: Shakti Fest 2018

In the middle of the Californian desert, I found myself at a heart-centered celebration:  Shakti Fest.

For three days, men and women from all corners of the world gathered to sing sacred music, grow their yoga practice, and honor the divine feminine in us all. My most significant take-away was the power of community for spiritual growth and support. Take a look at our video as we catch up with Shakti Fest’s executive director, Sridhar, and yoga teachers, Kia Miller and Govind Das to discuss the alchemy of gathering in community.

Video Music:  Jai Ma (Down to the Sea Mix) by Govind Das & Radha

Filmmaker:  Audrey Billups

Find Purpose With a Mindful Gap Year

Meet Co Founder of Intrepid Gap, Simone Levine. Intrepid Gap is a holistic gap year counseling service that integrates a mind-body-heart approach and builds lasting relationships with all those they work with. Read on to learn more about her inspiring story and this creative work that blends experience, passion, purpose, service, and perseverance. 

What is your definition of a gap year?  

A gap year is when you take some time during a transition in your life to focus inwards by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and into the world. Traditionally, this happens between high school and university, but it can also happen after university, retirement, or another time in your life when you are seeking to slow down, focus on your own dreams and goals, and explore the world and yourself. According to research, 2 months or longer is the recommended time to really dive in and immerse yourself in experiences that will be both enriching and meaningful, with lasting results.  

Did you personally have a gap year experience? What were the results?  

I did! After university I was unclear as to what I wanted to do with my life. Having just spent basically my entire life in a classroom studying some subjects that I enjoyed, and many that I didn’t, I knew I needed to get out into the world and learn more by doing. I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina and started out with a TEFL course. This turned into a year of me teaching English to Argentinian adults, learning Spanish, and in my down-time traveling around South America, including Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru. The results?! Well…I learned that regardless of the country or language, we are all basically in search of the same things: love, happiness, and connection. I learned how to communicate across cultures and barriers. I learned about my own innate strengths and talents. I finally got direction for how I wanted to spend my energy in my career: in cross-cultural exchange and training.   

Is it possible to integrate practicing and/or teaching yoga within a gap year?  

Absolutely! First off, yoga can happen anywhere and everywhere, whether that be through a personal practice or through immersing in a yoga teacher training or teaching job. For me, I always have a yoga mat rolled up and attached to the outside of my backpack. There are retreat centers, teacher training courses, spas, and hotels all over the world that are always seeking yoga teachers and practitioners to come and join them. I’d say that one of the most direct ways to incorporate reflection, self-actualization, and mindfulness into your gap year is by participating in some sort of yoga-inspired opportunity for at least part of your gap year!

A lot of students dream of gap years but have difficult times figuring out how to make the finances work. Any suggestions?  

I completely understand how challenging the money conversation can be. Many people believe that taking a gap year has to cost an arm and a leg, but the reality is that there are many different options depending on your budget. You can spend upwards of 50k USD on a gap year and at the other end of the spectrum you can actually make money on your gap year! One way to do a gap year on the cheap is to look for work trade opportunities (working in exchange for room and board). Work at an organic farm picking fruit, teach yoga at a retreat center, lend a helping hand at the reception of a hostel, B&B, or hotel, or be an au pair or nanny for a local family. You can see more suggestions here:  Gap Year Options That Won’t Break the Bank 

What are some resources you would recommend for someone who is interested in taking a gap year?  

The gap year industry is quickly growing, which means that there are more and more options out there each day. That said, it can be challenging to know which ones are legit and which ones not. Our best recommendation is to work with a gap year counselor who has specific, safe, and vetted program partner relationships and can walk you through the process.  However, if you want to do the research on your own, you can find a lot of free information available through the Gap Year Association

What makes Intrepid Gap unique?  

We are holistic gap year counselors — meaning we set people up with gap year placements around the world that are in line with their own individual passions, dreams, strengths, and goals. We integrate a mind-body-heart approach with every individual. Not only do we connect you with customized, vetted, and meaningful experiences around the world, but we also support you emotionally from start to finish. Most gap year counselors just set you up with a placement and then send you on your way. Taking a gap year can be challenging both physically and emotionally, and we are here to guide you through the process in order to make it meaningful, intentional, and exponentially worth your while. In addition, we are environmentally conscious, socially aware, and culturally sensitive.  

What are some of the most inspiring gap year opportunities you have heard of lately?  

Good question! There are so many options and each person will be inspired by different experiences.  However, that being said, my personal favorites are:

-Teach yoga at an amazing retreat center through yogatrade.com

-Monitor lions, hyenas, leopards and mega herbivores (elephants and white and black rhinos) at a national park in South Africa, as well as contribute towards anti-poaching initiatives and collect data to assess the health of the park ecosystem.

-Volunteer at an intentional community in Southern India with building maintenance, renewable energy, primary and secondary education, village outreach, architecture, organic farming, animal care, and more.

-Intern along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia doing admin, writing, social media, and multimedia projects to conserve the reef.

-Backpack through the Andes mountains with a small group while learning about the outdoors and yourself.

Take your gap year to the next level and visit us at INTREPIDGAP.COM

 

 

Simone Levine is the Chief of Endless Opportunities and Lead Counselor at Intrepid Gap. She is an explorer, a photographer, a student and teacher of yoga, a group facilitator, lover of the ocean, and a believer in our capacity as a human race to create positive change in the world. After working in the gap year and experiential education industries for her entire adult life she decided it was time to turn her own dream into a reality (start a business doing what lights her fire!), and there was born Intrepid Gap.

FB:  intrepidgap

IG:  intrepidgap

 

The Women of Bali

Their sacred melody drifts across the Island of the Gods, over endless rice terraces, past rumbling volcanos, and crashing seas. Balinese women’s lives play out as a moving meditation. They spend their days crafting offerings from bamboo leaves, stomping rhythmically in dance, and toiling in the rice fields under the bright Bali sun.

Local women of Bali often greet you with their infectious smiles, however, behind many of those smiles, are years of struggle and pain. After experiencing many hardships herself, Ibu Sari wanted to bring women together and empower women in difficult situations. PKP Women’s Centre is dedicated to providing education and meaningful activities to guide Balinese women into leading happy, fulfilling lives.

In support of these women, Yoga Trade has collaborated with Yoga Design Lab and The Nomadic Filmmaker to create this video to raise money for PKP Women’s Centre. Any donations are greatly appreciated! Let’s help these women grow, prosper, and receive the support that all women deserve.

Donate HERE

Gather Amongst the Joshua Trees

One of the things I cherish most about being a yoga teacher is the ability to be an eternal student. There is no endpoint to this path, we are constantly evolving, discovering, and soaking in all the lessons life gives us. Through years of traveling and soul-searching, the importance I find in community grows more and more. Community encourages personal growth and fosters the eternal student within us all.

In two weeks, amongst the magical Joshua trees, surrounded by the expansive desert, like-minded individuals from around the globe will gather as community at Shakti Fest. At this yoga and sacred music festival, we will honor the divine feminine in all of us. This world renowned festival offers countless opportunities for attendees to push their boundaries and discover their potential.

There will be yoga classes taught by world class yoga teachers including Shiva Rea, Mark Whitwell, and Kia Miller. Festival goers will be able to practice devotional chanting with enchanting Kirtan artists such as Jai Uttal, MC Yogi, and Govind Das & Radha. There will be workshops covering diverse topics such as Vedic astrology, women’s sexuality, and tantric energy. Participants will also be able to experience the healing effect of sound baths and discover the Eco Artisan Village with abundant vegetarian and vegan food vendors, eclectic yoga gear, and artisan jewelry.

An opportunity for transformational growth, Shakti Fest encourages attendees to connect and learn from each other. If you feel called to take on a more active roll and give back, Shakti Fest also offers Seva positions, where your service grants you a festival pass in exchange!

Connect with community, connect with nature, and connect with your Self. Join us at Shakti Fest this May 10 – 14 in Joshua Tree, California.

See you there!

 

 

 

Audrey Billups is a filmmaker, international yoga teacher, and Yoga Trade’s videographer. Her passion for yoga, travel, and film has brought her to many corners of the world. Follow along with her travels and work:

thenomadicfilmmaker.com

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

Dive Deep With a Single Breath

Cover Photo: SzJanko Photography

The ocean is one of my greatest teachers. Over recent years, I have been fascinated by the concept of free diving and the mental strength and grace I observe in those who practice exploring depths beneath the surface on a single breath. This past March, I arrived in Bocas Del Toro, Panama after spending an adventurous week sailing from the San Blas islands. As I took a morning stroll from the humble place I was staying, I noticed a sign outside of the Bocas Dive Center that read, “Free Your Soul – Try Free Diving”. This sign immediately drew me in, so I walked closer to read the details. I found out there was a yoga class on the water front deck that evening at sunset and that the yoga teacher was also one of the free dive instructors. I went to yoga and it was just what I needed, a wonderful class! I stayed afterwards to chat and found out more about the free diving course details. This led me to extend my time in Bocas by 24 hours so that I could at least take a one day class in free diving. The course blew me away! The instructors Gabrielle and Ariel are amazing humans and incredible teachers. With their guidance, teachings, and support, I made it down to 13 meters in one day! I am super inspired by the passion that radiates from Gabrielle and Ariel and their creation of Blue Chitta. They offer courses, trainings, and retreats all over the world that create space to experience full body and mind potential. Free diving is a fantastic compliment to yoga and meditation and I look forward to training with these two more in the near future. Learn more about this aquatic duo and what they do in the interview below…Thanks for diving deep!

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to the earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

Can you tell us a little about your yoga background and how you met?

We both have a pretty strong yoga background, we started practicing about 8 years ago when we were still in the  scuba-diving business. We found something very special in the yoga practice, a deep feeling of inner peace & an opportunity to make the impossible a possibility. Ariel did his first Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Course in 2011 in Rishikesh India and started to teach yoga in Eilat, Israel soon after completing the training. We met in Eilat in 2011 in the dive shop where Ariel was working. I was a dive master at the time and I went to dive the Red Sea on my way to Thailand. We met in the public shower after the dive, he offered me soap and later on tea, we straight away had a special connection. That weekend, I went to my first Ashtanga Yoga Class led by Ariel in Hebrew! I continued my trip and made it to Thailand where I started practicing yoga more regularly in the local studios. A year later, Ariel moved to the same island I was living on (Koh Tao), to become a freediving instructor and started teaching yoga at the local yoga studio. I went to India to do my first TTC with Sivananda and a couple months after I completed a second TTC in Ashtanga and started working full time as a yoga teacher. By the end I was head teacher at the studio, teaching most of the classes from Hatha to Yin with a special love for Vinyasa & inversions. Ari was teaching freediving full time and spending his free time teaching Ashtanga Yoga or giving Thai Massage. We also started to practice and teach AcroYoga, a community based practice that blends the wisdom of Yoga, fire of Acrobatics and love and kindness of Thai Massage. In 2014, we founded Yoga Shak Montreal, a peaceful oasis in the city center of Montreal, a yoga studio dedicated to sharing good vibes through Yoga & Meditation.

You both started as scuba divers? Why did you make the crossover to free diving?

Getting more into yoga brought a change in our lifestyles. The scuba-diving business is very hard work, a lot of sophisticated equipment involved and the day usually ends at the bar at what they call ”Beer O’clock”. It was fun for a few years but after a while we started looking for something else. Evolution is an ongoing process. We would skip ”Beer O’clock” to practice yoga and meditation, we started to feel much more connected to our bodies and realized the power of the mind. When we came across freediving we felt like it was the perfect combination for us; mixing meditation, breath-control, our love for the ocean and offering a much more balanced life-style as well as a sense of freedom. Letting go of our heavy sophisticated equipment just made sense, it was part of our evolution, like a snake letting go of it’s old skin.

Photo: JF Gutierrez

Why do you feel yoga and freediving work so well together?

For us, yoga and freediving are two sides of the same thing, and at the same time are very complementary. The same principles apply in both yoga and freediving; using the breath to unlock the body and the mind to their full potential, creating space between the sensations and the reaction, and moving from fear to trust. They both bring us a deep sense of freedom, inner peace and Oneness. Practicing yoga and meditation is a part of most freedivers’ routine because it enhances their ability to stay calm under pressure, increase their lung capacity and keeps their body strong and healthy. Freediving is like taking the yoga practice into the ocean. The water is a very cleansing element, it brings up to the surface our deepest fears and gives us the opportunity to let them go, creating space for new beginnings and eventually bringing a great sense of empowerment. In both freediving and yoga, we get to let go of what is no longer serving us and to realize the limitless potential of our body & mind!

What kind of experience does one need to start free diving?

None. What we love about the way we teach our courses is that they are adapted to each student. We’ve had students who were terrified of the water…one woman could not even put her face in the water without panicking. With her, we worked on breaking mental blocks, creating new patterns of reaction and learning to trust the ocean. It took a little bit longer but after a few weeks she made it to 24 meters without any stress or fear and with a beautiful technique. Some people just want to learn the basics skills so they can go explore the reef safely and comfortably, others want to push their limit and dive as deep as they can…whatever it is, our general goal is to see some kind of improvement during the course and meet everyone’s individual needs and expectations. Knowing how to swim is a good start, but some people have even learned how to freedive before they could swim! Freediving is such a vast world, there is something for everyone and this is why we can allow ourselves to adapt the courses to each individual.

Can you recall one of your most memorable dives?

One of our best dives was in Mexico…we went freediving with a friend, we took a local boat to the reef and when Ariel did his first dive of the day to about 30 meters, he came back up with four dolphins spinning around him! I could not believe it! The dolphins were so curious, they were talking and singing and playing around with us for about an hour. They were copying our every move, if we would dive they would dive, if we would jump they would jump, spin they spin, it was spectacular! There is something magical with having a connection with dolphins; they establish a very strong eye contact and you instantly realize that they are much smarter than we can imagine. We can hear them communicating underwater with their whistle and it feels like we can understand what they are saying. In the end of the day they are mammals just like us, our bodies are very similar and react with the same adaptations when we dive into the sea on a single breath. I think this is why freediviers and dolphins have a special connection, they remind us that we are all the same, part of a whole, WE ARE ONE! <3
Another spectacular dive was Ariel’s first competition dive in Free2Be Comp. in Eilat. Competitions are very stressful for everyone; organizers, athletes and coaches. This was Ariel’s first competition and he announced a 60 meter dive. As his coach, I was at the surface waiting for him while he was diving down, not allowed to dive with him or else he would be disqualified. This would be an ”easy” dive for him regularly and he’d been going to this depth and deeper many times before, but to dive down alone on a single breath with all the adrenaline and the stress of everyone around was a whole new thing. He had about three minutes to breathe before he went down. The safety team was making sure he was hooked correctly to the line with his lanyard and counting the time down until it was his time to take a big breath and dive down. For the whole way down Ari was alone, leaving the stress and tension behind him, focusing only on his equalization, the present moments and letting go of any unnecessary stress or expectations. At the surface we were counting the time, after about 75 seconds we felt the turn, the safety team went down to meet him at about 30 meters on his way up. I still wasn’t sure if he had made it all the way down or not. Eventually I saw him coming up, as he winked, I knew. Once he surfaced he had 15 seconds to do three things in this specific order; 1- Clear his airway (take his noseclip off), 2- Give the OK hand signal to the judges, 3- Say the words ”I AM OK”. He did it perfectly without any signs of hypoxia or weakness. Following this, he had another 15 seconds to show the judges and the crowd the tag he had picked up at the bottom plate while keeping his airways above the wavy waters. He did all of this like a Boss! He looked so fresh and clean that the judges told him he should have gone for a deeper dive!

Where is your favorite place to dive?

Next to big animals!!! We were teaching in Mozambique, Africa for a while and on almost every dive we would see humpback whales and it was mind blowing every single time! Diving with Mantas in Bali is always EPIC and the dive with the dolphins in Mexico was definitely one of the best! But the ocean is unpredictable and the same spot can look completely different from one day to the another.

Anything else you’d like to share?

We have some amazing retreats and trainings coming up later this year! In June 2018, we have a Vinyasa + Meditation Yoga Training here in Bocas del Toro in a beautiful Eco-Lodge where the Jungle meets the Sea. We are organizing Freediving Courses & Deep Training in August & September in the Red Sea in Eilat and in November we are offering a unique Freediving + Yoga Retreat in beautiful Bali! 

JOIN US!

 
Blue Chitta was founded in 2014 by Ariel Kedmi & Gabrielle GQ, two Nomad Ocean Lovers who want to share their passion for Freediving, Yoga & Thai Massage with the world! Blue represents the infinity of the sea and the sky and the love of the ocean. In India and in the Yogic Philosophy, Blue is a divine colour; the color of All-inclusiveness. Sadhguru says that anything that is vast and beyond our perception tends to be blue & this is why so many gods in India are shown as blue-skinned. Chitta is a sanskrit word that means consciousness or the connection between the Heart and the Mind.  Blue Chitta is about revealing the full potential of our mind, body and soul! Since 2014, Blue Chitta has been offering freediving and yoga trainings around the globe, from Africa to South East Asia passing through the Red Sea and all the way to the Caribbean!  Always looking to create life-changing experiences whether it’s through workshops, retreats, courses or trainings! 
IG/FB / @BlueChitta

How Every Yoga Teacher Can Benefit From a Permaculture Design Course

As a student and teacher of yoga, I am consistently  called to continuing education. This January, I completed a Permaculture Design Course at Punta Mona: A Center for Regenerative Design and Botanical Studies. It is situated in a unique and remote location where the rainforest meets the Caribbean sea in Costa Rica. The property has one of the largest collections of useful plants in the country and is a beautiful place to deeply connect with nature. Besides the center and facilitators being top quality, there are also these draws: daily yoga classes, the ocean front location, and the fact it’s called “The land of freedom!”

What is Permaculture?

“Permaculture is the art of designing beneficial relationships.”  -Starhawk

“Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.”   -Wikipedia

We can create and nurture beneficial relationships many places in our lives; in our gardens, our home design, our community, our businesses, on our yoga mats, etc. Permaculture can be applied to all aspects of our lives and society. It teaches us to observe patterns so we can design our lives with a holistic mind set and return back to the basics and live simply.

Permaculture helps us gain practical life tools to see the land as a canvas for opportunity and to see the Earth with fresh eyes. Practicing this philosophy is a great step in an important life long journey to see the world in a new way.

Permaculture Ethics:

Earth Care: Cultivating a deep respect for nature.

People Care: Self care for ourselves and others.

Future Care: Living with the intention to create a positive legacy.

Fair Share: Letting go of the competitive mind set and thinking about ‘co-opertition’.

The basic curriculum in the course includes class topics such as; ethics, principles, design, soil health, water strategies, plants, energy, earth works, and social systems.

How Permaculture Compliments a Yoga Practice:

-Ignites progressive thinking and regenerative design.

-Empowers leadership and positive action.

-Encourages creative problem solving. “The problem is the solution.”

-Inspires a return to the basics. Simple living.

-Builds resiliency practices.

Participating in a Permaculture Design Course creates space for amazing potential to birth new projects and collaborations. It is a wonderful place to build lifelong friendships that have optimisitc solution based perspectives.

Grow. Expand. Take Action.

Create your guild!

Deepen your practice as a student and a teacher by blending Permacutlure Design into your life on and off the mat.

Visit this educational paradise!

Punta Mona:

puntamona.org

FB: puntamonacenter

IG: @puntamona

 

 

 

Erica Hartnick grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, and enjoys all things wild and free. She teaches nature inspired yoga and leads mindful adventures in California and Costa Rica. She gets excited about; LEARNING, intense weather, glassy ocean peaks, pillows of fresh powder snow, crystal clear water, positive people, cultural travel, thriving vegetable gardens, fresh mint chip ice cream, nature’s glory, LIVING YOGA, and connecting with others. She is passionate about the collaboration with friends that led to the creation of Yoga Trade, and is devoted to connecting the yoga community with infinite opportunities!

 

Yoga Scholarship Giveaway

***UPDATE, January 5, 2018***

Thank you ALL so much for participating and sharing your yoga and wellness trades around the world.

We have picked the winner at random today and the lucky human is…..

Chantal Ashley

@chantalashley

Congratulations Chantal!!!

You have won a $1,200 Scholarship to continue your education at Yandara Yoga Institute!

Keep shining everyone. Be inspired, yearn to learn, dream big, and share your gift that is YOU! Much love from the Yoga Trade fam!

——————————————————————-

Yoga Trade is excited to announce our $1,200 Yoga Scholarship Giveaway!

One lucky member will receive a $1,200 Scholarship to put toward furthering yoga education at Yandara Yoga Institute (based out of Baja, Mexico).

This Scholarship can be applied to any of Yandara’s Teacher Trainings at any of their locations (they offer Yoga Alliance certified 200 hour trainings and 300 hour trainings). The Scholarship may also go toward any of their Continuing Education weeks which currently include; Life Coach Training, Meditation & Kundalini, Yin/Restorative & Bhakti, and Vision Quest. It is part of our mission to inspire yoga teachers and wellness professionals to continue to learn and become masters within their trade. We would like to say a huge THANK YOU to this community and for all the support from around the world.

 

 

HOW TO ENTER:

(Please read directions carefully, it’s a 3 step process)

1. You must be a Yoga Trade member. (If you are not currently a member, you can sign up at yogatrade.com)

2. To enter, log into your Yoga Trade account and LEAVE A REPLY (post comment) below at the end of this blog post. In the comment, state how you feel being part of the Yoga Trade community is beneficial, or how the Scholarship will benefit you as well as other people. Within your comment, feel free to also link to one of your favorite Yoga Trade StoriesPhotos, or your own articles or videos about Yoga Trade Experiences.

3. Give us a like on our Facebook page (facebook.com/yogatrade), and share about this GIVEAWAY on at least one social media platform of your choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest).

That’s it. You’re Entered!

We are SUPER GRATEFUL for all of you. Thank you for contributing to this flourishing community. We also want to send a big HEART HUG and THANK YOU to the Yandara Family for sharing their wisdom and teachings through the years. Yandara is one of the seeds that grew to spark the creation of Yoga Trade!

The WINNER will be chosen at random (random.org) and will be announced on January 5th, 2018.

*Only ONE entry allowed per person. You must be a real human to enter. The giveaway is only valid for persons age 18 and above. The Scholarship must be used within 2 years from when it is received. The Scholarship is transferable to another person if winner is unable to use. Scholarship is not redeemable for cash. 

 

Yoga Retreats: An Escape From Reality or Deeper Engagement?

The first yoga retreat I attended was intended to be a mere pit-stop on a lone trip around South East Asia. I was not-so-fresh out of university and in need of some serious TLC. My shoulders were permanently up to my ears, jaw always tightly clenched and the worries of the world sat in my stomach like lead stewing in acid. I arrived with tonsillitis, my pasty white skin contrasting sharply with the ruby red rash all over my body. In short, I was a mess.

I’d barely practised yoga before, but decided on a whim to try a retreat as a kick-start to a trip I’d imagined would be full of cocktails on beaches and partying with strangers. My focus was the location; little beach huts on a gorgeous Thai island, idyllic gardens stretching into sand and sea. On day one, I reluctantly dragged myself from the beach for the first yoga class, relatively disinterested and quietly cursing over the time I was losing to bask in the sunshine. It therefore came as a total surprise that whilst lying in Savasana at the end, I couldn’t stop tears from rolling down my cheeks. One by one at first, slowly but surely erupting into quiet sobs that came from depths I didn’t know existed.

After the class, I shyly loitered around the teacher, waiting to ask what had just happened to me. I felt uncomfortable and vulnerable and had no idea where this explosion of emotion had come from. Was I somehow doing yoga wrong? Only an hour before, I’d been lounging on the beach without a care in the world…or so I thought. I was told it was normal, common even, for deep emotional trauma to be released during yoga. This certainly had never happened to me at the gym, and I couldn’t help but wonder why this class was any different.

Curious, I persisted. I observed as layers of tension melted away day by day. I watched as my body and mind somehow became stilled by my previously shallow and laboured breath. What fascinated me the most was how deep the transformation seemed to be going in such a short space of time. I arrived feeling depleted and lost, but left only days later totally full; full of joy and calm and hope and excitement and energy, sensations I hadn’t felt for a long time. The experience ended up colouring my entire trip, moulding my decisions and steering me towards more fulfilling choices than I perhaps previously had in mind. Decision number one? Book another yoga retreat.

When I arrived at the next retreat centre in Cambodia only weeks later, I connected instantly. The place gave me tingles. The community at Hariharalaya practice and teach integral yoga, living yoga both on and off the mat – a concept although new to me at the time, resonated like nothing before. I was hungry to learn, eager to go deeper into this practice that had rapidly become so important to me. I could write essay after essay on what arose for me during that week, but suffice to say that my time at Hariharalaya was significant, eye-opening and life-changing. I left there a different person, evolved in some way I wasn’t quite sure of. How was this possible in only one week?

Despite travelling hundreds of kilometres to Indonesia after I left Hariharalaya, I knew I had to go back. Within weeks, I turned around and turned up again, excited for what I thought was to be round two of a personal transformation. But this time, something quite different occurred to me. I had been so focused on the power of yoga, I hadn’t noticed the power of a retreat. Of the particular format which, over mere days can prompt radical transformation; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

It was only by going to this same place a second time that I realised this. The first time I had been lost in my own metamorphosis – which by the way, is by no means a onetime thing! This second time, I couldn’t help but observe others. I watched as people, just like me, arrived frazzled and fatigued, tight and tense. Not in all cases, of course, but for the large part, it transpired that people had come as a means of release and relaxation, escape from their daily lives. As time passed, those who had made nervous small talk on the first day slowly crept out of themselves, sharing with sincerity and support. Others became more introverted, tucking themselves away and tapping into creative outlets. Some delved deep into yoga, others delved deep into novels. But each and every person radiated a satisfaction and content which grew exponentially as each day passed. Day by day, I watched as this new family opened up, blossoming in the light of the space that was held for them.

This, to me, is the root of what a retreat does: it holds space for transformation. It guides, teaches and nurtures, coaxing innate qualities to burst forward. Yoga is the tool, the practice around which all of this comes together. For many, there is neither time nor motivation to practice yoga every day, allowing the huge benefits of doing so to be revealed only during a retreat. Although tasty food and exotic locations often provide the temptation to book, it is this space that people come for, often unknowingly. It seems these days that we don’t allow ourselves enough time and space to explore creativity and spirituality, to play, to connect with nature and ourselves. It is this which I find so inspiring about retreats; that a formula so simple can provoke such a profound response.

The word retreat comes from the Latin retrahere, meaning ‘pull back.’ People’s perceptions of a retreat are no doubt shaped by the spectrum of its synonyms, from sanctuary and seclusion to withdrawal, isolation and hiding. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a retreat as a “process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.” In many ways, this is what I was doing when I booked my first retreat. I mindlessly entered my card details as procrastination from the endless difficulties of university work, daydreaming of myself on a beach in Thailand. The sad fact is that many of us feel the need to withdraw or pull back from fast-paced, high-pressure lifestyles in order to be able to process what is going on around us.

Whilst this may be the reason that some of us choose to go on a yoga retreat, it is certainly not its purpose. Whether we realise it or not, by consciously setting time aside to step out of usual routines and their accompanying anxieties, we are prompted to journey inward. Retreats offer us an environment in which we are able to listen to ourselves without distraction, to realise, reassess and refocus. This might expose depths of ourselves which have been overlooked. Suppressed energies can surface, and as such, going on retreat is not always easy. It is not an escape from reality, but a deeper engagement with it.

In taking the time to stop, listen and reflect, new perspectives naturally arise. As Marcel Proust once wrote, “the voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” This to me beautifully captures the longer-term benefits of going on retreat. Even though we must return to that from which we have withdrawn, we do so with new eyes. We go back to our roles, relationships and responsibilities with a fresh perspective. In this sense, the process of withdrawal on retreat is tactical; sometimes it is important to withdraw in order to advance.

 

 

 

Rachel Bilski is the co-founder of Shanti Niwas, a yoga collaborative currently holding yoga retreats and classes in Portugal. You can follow her musings on yoga, travel and life on the Shanti Niwas blog: www.shantiniwas.com/snblog

A Prayer for Those Who Dance With Death: The Vulture, the Goddess, and Me

“Awareness of death is the very bedrock of the path. Until you have developed this awareness, all other practices are useless.”
– His Holiness the Dali Lama

While we may not want to admit it, death is part of every yoga practice. In fact, traditional yoga seeks to honor the process of one’s death as a part of one’s spiritual life. Many yoga classes are designed to energetically mimic the cycle of life: birth, action, death, and even re-birth during a single session. The cycle of the class is a mirror of repetitive traits and mistakes known as samaras, or energetic wheels we may become trapped in through this and other lifetimes. Yet, the topic of death is something I routinely avoided with my students and in my own practice with myself. When talking about death and yoga, how can we become more connected and less afraid?

As a yogini, when I lie down in savasana and when I direct my students to do so, I have a choice. I can avoid the topic of death or address it. Savasana itself is a practice and is quite literally, corpse pose. Although often seen as the portion of class where we take it nap, it is also the rehearsal of the ultimate freedom from our corporal existence. While in savasana, we are engaged in the surrender and acceptance of who we have been and what we can no longer control. On the surface, one might merely let go of the physical effort of the yoga class; savasana contains the possibility of training the mind to let go of life its self. In every class these moments are an opportunity to avoid or embrace death – and a mirror of how we individually deal with other uncomfortable truths.

Symbology & Reality

My personal passive/aggressive-interest/avoidance dance with death came to an end about a year ago, when I moved to Central America. That’s when I became in contact with death daily, in the form of vultures. Parked on the street corners, in the garbage bins, and on the beaches, vultures are about as common in Costa Rica as pigeons in New York City. To me, and to many others, they are literally death personified. These scavengers are often viewed as ugly, evil, and undesirable. They perform the work of an unpaid undertaker for those who have no one to take care of their final rights, disposing of and devouring bodies in decay. Like most, I was originally put off and frightened by them. Their naked heads lurking atop trash heaps, and beady eyes peaking over animal carcasses intimidated me. All l I could see was death and decay. Over time, I began to realize that my recoiling at the presence of vultures was merely a manifestation of my own fear of confronting death. What was the difference between my recoiling at vultures and my denial of natural life cycles. Or my unwillingness to accept what I fear and don’t fully understand? The answer was: not much. Vultures, I realized, just like death aren’t going anywhere, even if I (we) look the other way. So I decided to stop avoiding death and vultures…and look into mythology and tradition.

The Goddess

How could yoga help me move beyond fear and avoidance with death? I first looked to the ancient text of the Bhagavad Gita, which offered a beautiful story of bravery and devotion. The protagonist Arjuna heads into battle facing certain death with only courage and faith in the Lord on his side. He learns that attainment of freedom from the bondage of life is possible by doing one’s duty. While both epic and beautiful, his story did not help move me from fear to acceptance of death. Maybe I wasn’t as strong or brave as Arjuna? Or maybe, I what I needed was a different kind of inspiration. I found the inspiration I was searching for in stories about the goddess. The goddess, in all her forms provided just the metaphor I needed to get more comfortable with the topic of death on a personal level.

Each goddess we study in the yogic tradition, both Hindi and Vedic, brings with her certain qualities we may hope to evoke in our practice and embody in our daily lives. Durga showcases our inner strength, Lakshmi our ability to cultivate abundance, Parvati our vast internal well of love. Who better to teach us about death and transformation than Kali? Kali is our wild side. She represents our uncensored self. She is confident and limitless. Kali is a symbol of the death of our ego. Subsequently, she is often depicted with Shiva on the cremation grounds. In one interpretation of Kail she is portrayed as the embodiment of time (Kaal is the word for time in Sanskrit.) In this version, her body is the color black representing an all-consuming presence: one of which all things are born and into which they will all dissolve. However, she also possesses a soft side, which seeks to nurture us by liberating the soul. She dances to relieve our souls of our temporary bodies.

While the mortal nature of our bodies and the liberation from them might still sound a bit disturbing, it is in this dance and celebration that I found peace. Death is the great equalizer. Death allows our mortality to be a gift. Contemplation of death and mortality is the beginning of truly loving our lives. So when we honor the strength, abundance and self-love that different goddesses embody, we are honoring these same aspects of ourselves. Similarly, when we contemplate the destruction and transformation Kali can represent, we are allowing conversation about and the contemplation of death to rise to surface. The conversation allows us to be more present in each moment. This contemplation contains within it celebration of the limited time we have, and an understanding of how deeply we can love our experience.

To the Dancers

So the prayer is this: I pray when we step on our mat to practice that we embrace the natural cycles of both life and death. I pray we can find courage in acceptance and not fear. I pray this acceptance leads us to a deeper appreciation of it all; the horrors, the beauties, and the deep love that always surrounds us on this wild ride we call life.

 

Meghan’s passions are education and service. She currently lives with her husband in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica where they both teach yoga and work with Ninas Para el Exito; a rural girls empowerment program in the jungle.