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

Sustainable Yoga Travel – It’s Our Responsibility

“Surfing Macroeconomic Theory: Waves attract surfers. Surfing attracts energy. Energy attracts people. People attract capital. Investment attracts development. And so it goes. A quick survey from outer space would likely show an inordinate number of major coastal cities expanding outwards in concentric waves from a quality surf break.” — Steve Barilotti, Author

While yoga and surf travel have become leading niche markets in the global tourism industry, rarely do we stop to ponder the impact our destination lifestyles have on the coastal communities and natural environments where we travel to indulge our soulful meanderings.

Have you ever noticed that many of your favorite international yoga epicenters are also world-class surf spots? And similarly, do you find it strange – or even admittedly comforting – that many of these places, as they grow and develop to cater to surf and yoga tourists, end up looking and feeling the same in terms of accommodations, food and available amenities? Interestingly, yoga tourism tends to follow in the wake of surf tourism, after the initial exploratory phase when infrastructure and amenities begin to take root and surf destinations turn into towns built around surf and yoga experiences for tourists. After all, both surfers and yogis are often chasing the same sort of environment for a pristine nature immersion away from the crowds. In that search, however, we end up contributing to the complete transformation of both cultural and natural landscapes in the places we love to travel for surf and yoga.

As a sustainable tourism consultant, I’ve written extensively on the detrimental impacts of surfing tourism on coastal communities around the world, calling for locally defined standards for sustainable tourism and alternatives to development in surfing destinations. Now that yoga travel has become an international phenomenon to be reckoned with, it’s time we also interrogate the foundations of our travel-to-practice-and-teach-yoga lifestyle while exploring the potential for greater sustainability in the ways we approach our next yoga travel adventure.

First and foremost, let’s be realistic and not sugar-coat the environmental damage associated with the jet-set travel lifestyle common to many of us living a semi-nomadic yoga life. Fossil fuels and carbon emissions are the leading cause of climate change, and every time we hop on a long-distance flight to live our dreams in yoga paradise, we are contributing to the irreversible destruction of the planet. In addition, most of us are guilty of consuming more single-use plastics while traveling than when we’re at home. And, we’re less likely to prioritize sustainable producers if it means forfeiting convenience while we travel. Often, the result is a net increase in unsustainable consumption habits when travelling versus staying at home. While we practice mindfulness on the yoga mat, it’s also our responsibility to be mindful of our consumption habits when traveling, taking care to support Earth-minded service-providers and producers wherever humanly possible. Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you should let your sustainability priorities slide by the way-side.

Next, it’s important to be aware of how we carry our modern lifestyles and cultural attributes with us in the places we travel to practice and teach yoga, with powerful (and not always positive) effects on local people and the natural environment. Among the challenges that local communities face as more and more visitors flood to previously isolated locations are: loss of culture as locals seek to emulate the modern lifestyle and attain tourism-centered livelihoods, social inequality and marginalization resulting from upward pressure on prices forcing locals out of tourist zones, and rampant development responding to heightened tourist demand with little concern for nature. While we fulfill our yoga travel dreams, it’s important to be honest with ourselves in recognizing the impact we have on local places and people, no matter how positive our spiritual intentions may be.

Yes, surf and yoga tourism can help create jobs for local people and potentially contribute to deeper spiritual awareness as locals begin learning to surf and practicing yoga themselves. However, it’s most frequently the case that the majority of businesses in surf and yoga destinations are owned by foreigners and not by locals, which contributes to deep social inequalities and further marginalization of local people as the town grows and develops around tourism. This is why seeking out locally owned businesses and service providers is a vital first step in bringing greater sustainability to the way we travel – in yoga destinations and beyond.

What can we do?

There are a few ways to lessen your footprint while travelling, all of which relate to adopting an attitude geared toward minimizing excess consumption and respecting local ways of life and livelihood. This means prioritizing locally owned businesses and behaving as if you are a guest in someone else’s home wherever you go. Do your homework when booking accommodations and tours, as well as in choosing places to eat and shop, supporting locals as a means to improve their economic wellbeing and ensure that more money stays within the town’s economy. Eat local as much as possible, avoiding the imported goods you are familiar with at home. After all, there’s a reason you’ve left your comfort zone, and eating local is one of the easiest ways to contribute to greater sustainability while you travel.

Learn the local cultural standards and attune your actions accordingly, taking care to stay respectful in honoring cultural differences. Take an interest in the culture so local residents can feel that their way of life is beautiful and intrinsically valuable, not somehow backwards or less than in the ways it differs from the dominant modern lifestyle. This will also contribute to a more authentic travel experience if locals see that tourists are taking a real interest in their culture and not just looking for the same creature comforts curated to mimic modern amenities and help tourists feel at home.

And finally, hold your foreign service providers and fellow travelers accountable to sustainable practices, including waste water treatment, solid waste management, minimizing consumption and avoiding the use of single-use plastics. If you see foreign business owners cutting corners on essential sustainability practices and harming the natural environment in the process, say something. As a guest, you have an important role to play in helping hold business owners accountable to the environment, especially in places where regulation is lax, non-existent or unenforced.

Similarly, bring your own containers for to-go orders at restaurants, and ask the juice bar to fill up your water bottle instead of using a disposable plastic cup. Most importantly, avoid the temptation to lecture locals about sustainability – they are not to blame for the piles of trash left by visiting tourists. Instead, lead by example and encourage your travelling yogi comrades to do their part in leaving as little trace as possible in the places we love to practice and teach around the world.

When it comes to sustainable yoga travel, we are the change we have been waiting for.

 

 

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

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!

 

Paramahansa Yogananda: Focusing The Power Of Attention For Success

I bought Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, “Autobiography of a Yogi” earlier on in my yoga journey, but didn’t actually get around to reading it for a couple of years. I had developed a consistent yoga practice from the second I hit the mat. I’ll never forget the first thought that entered my mind when I picked my head off the mat that first time in the studio, “I am going to do this practice everyday, for the rest of my life.” I have been averaging 5x per week, every week, since I started 4+ years ago. I started during a rough patch in my life, like many who find yoga, and it changed everything in the best possible way.

When I first started, I didn’t know who Paramahansa Yogananda was. I didn’t know this great teacher, who sailed thousands of miles away from his home, crossing a massive ocean, to bring the science of yoga to the west – all because his teacher, Swami Sri Yuketswar, asked him to.

I started reading “Autobiography of a Yogi,” after a couple of years of practice on a whim. Right after I was about to finish the book, one of my favorite teachers asked me if I wanted to meet a Kriya Master at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Oceanside, CA – Yogiraj Satgurunath Siddhanath. After reading that book, I jumped at the opportunity.

Ever since then, I finish every book I read by Paramahansa Yogananda within a couple of days. Especially this book, “Focusing the Power of Attention for Success.” In this book, he talks about some of the spiritual loads behind our thoughts, and how we can focus them for success through meditation (available on Amazon for $1.)

“These informal talks and essays offer inspiring and practical guidance for living our lives in a spiritually harmonious way—with grace and simplicity, with an inner equanimity in the face of life’s seeming contradictions, and above all with joy, secure in the knowledge that we are at every moment in the embrace of a loving Divine Power.”

Here are 7 quotes from the book below, that I found to be very helpful and interesting for focusing the power of my attention for success.

1. Sharing Your Success

Success has a relation to the satisfaction of the soul in the context of the environment in which one lives; it is a result of actions based on the ideals of truth, and includes the happiness and well-being of others as part of one’s own fulfillment. Apply this law to your material, mental, moral, and spiritual life and you will find it a complete, comprehensive definition of success.

Our success must not hurt others. Another qualification of success is that we not only bring harmonious and beneficial results to ourselves, but also share those benefits with others.

Likewise, the attainment of material success means more than that we are individually entitled to enjoy our prosperity; it means that we are morally obligated to help others to create a better life as well. Anyone who has the brains can make money. But if he has love in his heart, he will never be able to use that money selfishly; he will always share with others. Money becomes a curse to the miserly, but to those who have heart it is a blessing.

Henry Ford, for example, makes a lot of money, but at the same time he doesn’t believe in charity that simply encourages people to be lazy. Rather, he provides work and livelihood for many. If Henry Ford makes money by giving others prosperity too, he is successful in the right way. He has greatly helped the masses; American civilization owes much to him.

Even the greatest saints are not fully redeemed until they have shared their success, their ultimate experiences of God-realization, by helping others toward divine realization. This is why those who have that attainment are dedicated to giving understanding to those who don’t understand.

2. Meditation Removes Mental Limitations #1

Reading worthwhile books is much better than spending time on foolishness. But better than reading books is meditation. Focus your attention within. You will feel a new power, a new strength, a new peace – in body, mind, and spirit. Your trouble in meditation is that you don’t persevere long enough to get results. That is why you never know the power of a focused mind. If you let muddy water stand still for a long time, the mud will settle at the bottom and the water will become clear. In meditation, when the mud of your restless thoughts begins to settle, the power of God begins to reflect in the clear waters of your consciousness.

Do you know why some people are never able to acquire health or make money, no matter how hard they seem to try? First of all, most people do everything half-heartedly. They use only about one-tenth of their attention. That is why they haven’t the power to succeed. In addition, it may be their karma, the effects of their past wrong actions, that has created in them a chronic condition of failure. Never accept karmic limitations. Don’t believe you are incapable of anything. Often when you can’t succeed at something it is because you have made up your mind that you cannot do it. But when you convince your mind of its accomplishing power, you can do anything! By communing with God you change your status from a mortal being to an immortal being. When you do this, all bonds that limit you will be broken. This is a very great law to remember. As soon as your attention is focused, the Power of all powers will come, and with that you can achieve spiritual, mental, and material success.

. . .

Meditation Removes Mental Limitations #2

When a problem thwarts you – when you can find no solution and no one to help you – go into meditation. Meditate until you find the solution. It will come. I have tested this hundreds of times, and I know the focusing power of attention never fails. It is the secret of success. Concentrate, and don’t stop until your concentration is perfect. Then go after what you want. As a mortal being you are limited, but as a child of God you are unlimited. Connect your concentration with God. Concentration is everything. First go within; learn to focus your mind and to feel the power of God. Then go after material success. If you want health, first go to God and connect yourself with the Life behind all life; then apply laws of health.

Commune with God and then go after health or money or seeking a partner in life.

To get response from God, you must meditate deeply. Each day’s meditation must be deeper than the previous day’s. Then you will find that as soon as your attention becomes focused, it burns out all deficiency from your mind, and you feel the power of God come over you. That power can destroy all seeds of failure.

3. A Universal Religion of Love is the Real Answer

“He who watcheth Me always, him do I watch; he never loses sight of Me, nor do I lose sight of him.” In every nook of nature, hidden in the flowers and peeking through the sparkling windows of the moon, my Beloved plays hide-and-seek with me. He watches me always through the screen of nature, the veil of delusion.

Never ignore the Lover behind all lovers. Let not your heart beat with the emotion of the world, but with the thrill of divine love. That love is unsurpassable. The moment divine lose possesses your heart, your entire body becomes blissfully still: “When the Master of the Universe came into my body temple, my heart forgot to beat, the cells of my body forgot their duties. They were transfixed, listening to the voice of Life Immortal – the Lover of all life, the Life of all lives. My heart, my brain, all the cells of my being were electrified, Immortalized with His Presence.” Such is the love of the Lord.

A universal religion of love is the real answer. Love makes you victorious; it makes you a conqueror. Jesus was one of the greatest conquerors of all, wasn’t he? A conqueror of hearts.

Photos from:  http://www.paramhansayogananda.com

4. The Power Behind All Power

First and foremost, be successful with the Master of the Universe. You become so engrossed in material duties, you say you have no time for God. But supposed God says He has no time to beat in your heart, to think in your brain. Where will you be? He is the Love behind all loves. He is the Reason behind all reason. He is the Will behind all wills, the Success behind all success, the Power behind all powers; the blood in your veins; the breath behind your words. If He takes His power away, my voice will be silent and I shall speak no more. If His power doesn’t express through our hearts and brains, we will lie dumb forever. So remember, your most important duty in life is your duty to God.

5. The Practicality of Seeking God First

Faith is intuitive conviction, a knowing from the soul, that cannot be shaken even by contradictions.

The practical purpose behind the scriptural injunction to see God first is that once you have found Him, you can use His power to acquire the things your common sense tells you are right for you to have. Have faith in this law. In attunement with God you will find the way to true success, which is a balance of spiritual, mental, moral, and material attainment.

6. Let No One Take Your Happiness Away From You

“Your happiness is your success, so let no one take your happiness away from you. Protect yourself from those who try to make you unhappy. . . . Conscience is intuitive reasoning, reporting the truth about yourself and your motives. When your conscience is clear, when you know you are doing right, you are not afraid of anything. A clear conscience mirrors a certificate of merit from God. Be immaculate before the tribunal of your conscience and you shall be happy and have the blessing of God.

If you don’t make money, it is because you don’t really concentrate on it; similarly, if you aren’t happy, it is because you don’t concentrate on being happy. The mule that carries a bag of gold on its back doesn’t know the value of that load. Likewise, man is so absorbed in toting the burden of life, hoping for some happiness at the end of the trail, that he does not realize he carries within him the supreme and everlasting bliss of the soul. Because he looks for happiness in “things,” he doesn’t know he already possesses a wealth of happiness within himself.”

7. Keep Your Attention Concentrated

Watch your time. Don’t waste it. You decide to make a quick trip to town to get something you need, but how easily other things distract you. Before you know it you have been gone for hours. At the end of the day, you see how your attention was scattered. It lost all its accomplishing power. The mind is like a bag of muster seed. If you spill those seeds on the floor it is hard to pick them up again. Your concentration must be like a vacuum cleaner, drawing those scattered seed-thoughts together again.

When you have finished your duties at the end of the day, sit quietly alone. Take a good book and read it with attention. Then meditate long and deeply. You will find much more peace and happiness in this than in restless activities in which your mind runs a riot in all directions. If you think you are meditating, when all the while your mind is scattered, you delude yourself. But once you learn to concentrate on God, there is nothing like it. Test yourself. Go on a picnic, go into town, socialize with friends; at the end of the day you will be nervous and restless. But if you cultivate the habit of spending time alone at home in meditation, a great power and peace will come over you. And it will remain with you in your activities as well as in meditation. Seclusion is the price of greatness.

 

 

Yogi, teacher, DJ, writer. Fascinated with experiential study of yoga, meditation, neuroscience, & spirituality.

Connect:

http://shamsandtabrizi.com 
https://www.instagram.com/shamsandtabrizi/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_YLP2Q3dk4iMjI4IlfKHsQ/vide

Yoga, Creativity, and the Art of Making Mistakes

As a yoga teacher, I consider myself a pretty creative person. I’m constantly designing, making, shifting, adapting. My body is the paint, my yoga mat the canvas. Sometimes my sequences are pretty black and white, other times I add a few splashes of red, and sometimes the whole class is one glorious sweep of colour. And sometimes – more often than not, admittedly – it feels like I have the equivalent of artist’s block. I can feel it, there, this amazing new sequence, bubbling underneath the surface, but I can’t access it. I don’t know why, and it’s frustrating as hell. So that’s when I dig into the “archives”, repeating the same things, the same paintings, the same colours from months ago.

(Cover Image by Alex Beattie)

Not very satisfying.

And then I came across this quote:

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~ Scott Adams

This hit me hard. In a culture that doesn’t easily accept mistakes, where does that leave creative life? Having been brought up to be a perfectionist – when anything less than was considered not good enough – where did that leave my creative life? And as a yoga teacher, what did that mean for my classes and for my practice?

The short answer? It meant a complete overhaul of the way I approach my mat and my life.

When habits are ingrained almost from birth, they can be horrendously tough to break. My habit – my almost subconscious habit, by now – was to believe that I had to be perfect to be any good. Whatever I created had to be just so. If there was a line out of place, a glare on the photo, a hollow in the middle of the cake, a song that didn’t really fit in the playlist, or an asana that didn’t quite work in the sequence, it could put me out of joint for the rest of the day worrying and grumping about it.

But the result wasn’t the perfection that I craved. The result was that I became almost too scared to create anything.

To create, you have to let go. To create means to surrender to whatever comes up, and then try and express that as best you can in whatever way you can. It can be as terrifying as it is liberating. And most artists don’t actually have to share their work. If they don’t like it – if it’s one of those mistakes that they decide not to keep – the world never has to see it. But as a yoga teacher, you’re creating in the spotlight. Even the most carefully planned class has to have an element of spontaneity and surrender to circumstances. Going with the flow and being willing to make mistakes in front of a room full of students who are looking to you for guidance is a whole different ball game to painting in your living room, but I realised it had been striking the fear of God into me both on and off the mat. No one can create when they’re wound up and anxious.

Giving yourself permission to make mistakes isn’t an easy thing to do. Giving yourself permission to admit that you actually like those mistakes and want to keep them is even harder. It involves a huge amount of trust in yourself – not trusting that you won’t make a mistake, but trusting that when you do you’ll be able to adapt, be flexible, and flow with it. We are yogis, after all, and those tings are what yoga is supposed to teach us. Because without trust, without risk, without a bit of playfulness and imagination, and yes, without a few mistakes, even the most technically perfect asana sequence / painting / poem / cake (delete as appropriate) will be dry and a bit boring.

Mistakes are how we grow, and growth is, naturally, creation. And since Nature never worries if there’s a tree out of place, then why should we?

 

 

 

 

Ali is a yogini, writer, photographer, and professional day dreamer. When not on the mat, she can usually be found either with her nose in a book or planning the next adventure (or both).

http://www.purepranaayurveda.com/

The Power of Story: Writing Rituals to Complement Your Yoga Practice

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The practice of yoga teaches us the importance of developing regular rituals to enhance our transcendent state of flow as a means of accessing the intuition and divine guidance of our highest self. Yoga is a journey of unravelling and re-writing. Of profound honesty and integrity beyond a blissfully ignorant harmony. A peaceful warrior path of self-knowing – not exactly for the faint of spirit.

As a writer, surfer and yogini, the fluid experience of flow, style and self-expression is fundamental to the living art I know more certainly as my soul’s every day survival. And I’ve come to understand that like the liquid dance of life and death swirling around the epicenter of the stories in our hearts, the sensory feeling in the cultivation of our creativities is primal to our health and wellbeing as humans – particularly as women, and especially as yogis, both on and off the mat.

As meditation, mantra and asana practice allow us to clear our minds of chatter and connect with spiritual wisdom, developing a writing practice is a powerful complement to finding greater flow in living our yoga. As many of us know, our sacral and throat chakras (svadishthana and vishuddha, respectively) are fundamentally aligned at the junctures of creativity and voice, cultivation and expression – the sacred seeds of our most profound personal power. Writing is one of the most meaningful ways to access this sacral-throat chakra connection while attuning our energetic bodies to the unique rhythms of our divine creativity.

For women in particular, our stories allow us to speak our authentic truths loudly and unabashedly where the historical silencing of our profound knowing remains nothing short of normal, even in this modern day and age. In expressing otherwise obscured realities as a platform for sharing our deepest source of truth, our stories are our power.

And similarly, our stories matter. In the paradoxical place of knowing the self beyond the self – the sat nam at the core of our spiritual being – we are able to discern between the stories in our joyful hearts that speak of purpose, fulfillment and meaning, versus the life-defeating stories in our polluted minds that keep us living small, in constant fear of our own innate greatness. Ultimately, the stories we write and believe about ourselves create our realities, our identities, as well as our inner and outer experiences of the world. And perhaps most important to the process of self-knowing is the willingness to observe our stories with compassion and awareness, granting ourselves the permission to abandon with love the old stories that no longer serve us, and the soul-space to craft the warrior courage within to write ourselves anew.


Writing is first and foremost a conversation with the self, a place for sitting with our truth, expressing unexpressed selves, unearthing realities that live in our consciousness, and transforming thought, experience and emotion into story, art and, inevitably, life. Writing is the thinking, the doing, the knowing and the being. The creativity and the creation. Flow, style, and expression in connection with oneself, in subtle yet profound union with divine. The space where the boundary between the thinking-perceiving self and the higher spiritual self becomes blurred into words, prose, poetry, and memoir. In that sense, writing is a lot like yoga, if you think about it. Which is exactly why developing a regular writing practice provides a beautiful complement to living your yoga both on and off the mat.

So where might we begin? New rituals start as a process of commitment, acknowledging that the benefits may not become visible without days, weeks or months of practice. Am I willing to commit to a 21, 30 or 40-day sadhana of daily journaling? Will I write in the morning, or perhaps in the evening? Will I give myself a set amount of time, a number of pages objective, or allow for more flexibility in my ritual? Am I writing for myself or for an audience? These questions can help determine the specific commitment you choose to create with yourself, honoring the unique, personal nature of any writing practice.

Next, I encourage you to experiment with the bounds of your own creativity. Do you feel called to write in the early hours of the day, in the blissful moments between dream time and waking life? Or do you receive energetic downloads of creative thought in the evenings just before bed? Do words come to you in full sentences and organized trains of thought, or are you a free-form creative with a habit for snap-shots of words and poetic phrases? Do you need to write and write until you get it all out, in order to make any sense of yourself, your thoughts, your dreams and your life? Do you feel inspired after a long walk, a seated meditation or lively asana practice? We all have different moments and means of accessing our creativity, and regular writing practice allows us to explore the sources and sensations of thoughts and perceptions as they materialize into art in the form of words on the page. Mix it up and allow yourself the flexibility to discover the moments of the day you feel most inspired in your creative flow.

Finally, I invite you to approach your writing practice as a profound act of self-empowerment, an integral part of your self-care regimen. Honoring our more introverted, yin aspects of the self, we tap into the vital potential within us to express, heal and evolve. Writing offers a means of channeling our energies and transforming deep-seated stories as a fluid process of catharsis and self-healing. Once you’ve scratched the surface of certain subjects that speak to you – be they personal, political or planetary – you can deepen into the more obscure pieces that give your writing its own authentic artistry as distinctly yours, while honoring your mind’s spiritual connection to the collective consciousness being channeled through you in your words and stories.

Who am I when nobody’s watching? And what do I have to say when nobody’s listening? These are the questions at the heart of developing your personal writing practice. And as you deepen into your daily writing rituals, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that writing is both the journey and the destination, all in the space of a few lines on the page.

Are you feeling particularly called to nurture your writing rituals as a complement to your yoga practice on and off the mat? Join Tara on retreat in Costa Rica for an intimate experience cultivating your inner artist while developing the courage and confidence you need to write yourself anew.

Cover and flyer photo by Jennifer Harter

Revive Retreats presents: Power of Story: Surf + Yoga + Writing Retreat for Women / March 10-18, 2018 / Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Full retreat details: www.tarantulasurf.com/surf-trips-retreats

 

 

 

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.

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!

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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.