The Inner Spark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Divine Sisterhood

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

This is why I teach yoga and meditation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it begins on an individual level…

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

raiseyourbeat.com/thrive

 

 

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Access Your Highest Potential!

Inspired by World-Renowned Life Coach Trainer, Anna Suil

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

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

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

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

So what is Life Coaching all about?

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

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

Who needs a Life Coach?

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

How does it work?

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

Why does it work?

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

Where to begin?

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

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

www.marytilsonyoga.com
Instagram: @marytilson

Testimonial:

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

-Erika, Yoga Teacher, USA

 

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

So, You Want To Make A DIFFERENCE??

So, You Want To Make A DIFFERNENCE??

First of all, you are alive; accept it.

The absolute most important thing is to know is yourself.

Love yourself as a creation of supreme existence. Cherish and Love yourself and YOUR LIFE. It is a gift that you chose and are choosing to accept.

Live it.

Let change move you into higher grounds, and allow others to change.

Number two, some suggestions:

Quit smoking FOR THE AIR, let your body benefit.

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Never buy paper towels again FOR THE TREES. Use a towel. Or save and use your napkins that are otherwise getting tossed.

FOR THE OCEAN: Everything you touch that is plastic, THINK about whether you need that thing. Can you live with out it? If so, then you don’t need it!
that includes:
-Your daily starbucks coffee drink (bring your own cup)
-To go salads (make your own)
-The straw from lunch (just let your server know that you don’t use straws when you sit down)
-Plastic containers of detergent (you can buy powdered detergent in a cardboard box), etc, etc.

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Take a shower every other day, or at least take short showers — your body cleans itself naturally. Use essential oils like a victorian princess.

Make your own cleaning and beauty supplies: https://www.diynatural.com

Walk or ride a bike whenever you can — your transit might be the best part of your day and a beautiful way to spend time with yourself.

Eat wisely, you are what you eat. Consider and respect the animal on your plate. Consider and respect the extra box of organic spinach grown hydroponically and transported across three states. Consider and respect the tomatoes from your neighbor, from the hand of an immigrant farm worker, from a can. Consider your organic, processed health bar you bought on sale. Consider eating whole foods and growing your own.

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And how about new clothes? It is not unlikely that you never need to buy another article of clothing ever again, considering you can live naked from the moment you were conceived until your last breath.

The truth is we are not far removed from anything; not from the Great Depression Era that only a few generations ago forced every single individual in the U.S. to conserve and save everything, food, water, clothes, paper, and everything was a commodity, nothing was wasted. Ask your Grandma.

Nor are we removed from the indigenous peoples world wide that live traditionally to this day.

We are not far removed from the hunger, the happiness, the hate, the humanity.

Wether you choose to see it or not, we live with thousands of individuals and families who live on the streets, scraping their lives together;
and maybe in the past that was even you —
maybe it will be you in the future…

You are not separate from the animals.
You are not separate from the grasses, cactus, fruit trees.
You are not separate from the war, from the tsunami.

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Know this and grow with it. Feel it.

Sulking gets us no where. LOVE MOVES.

Let the shadow push you to the light.

Connect with others in GENUINE experiences. You are your greatest judge. Release from your culture and live through your heart.

Your heart is the culture of all beings. Open it. Relax and breathe into it.

I like to imagine the powerful energy field around my heart and visualize it connecting with people, even when I’m in a conversation with someone that I don’t agree with, even when I see or hear politicians that I don’t agree with, with my family members, with hate, with pain, because love is more powerful.

Open your heart to spread the connective energy. The planet needs it now.

The first, the last, the only step to make the REAL difference in the world today, in your friend group, in your family is to OPEN YOUR HEART TO YOURSELF.

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You don’t need to read a book, or take a class, or fight, or even think about a thing; you must look within. This is the absolute most important thing that has ever existed in yours or anybody’s life.

Make a difference and:

“Know Thyself”
–Socrates

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby

Healing with Iyengar Yoga

“Yoga lets us cure what need not be endured, and endure what cannot be cured,” said B.K.S. Iyengar. The great yogi, who lived to be nearly ninety-six, passed away in August of 2014. But his teachings continue to live and thrive within the Iyengar Yoga community, where teacher training is rigorous and the practice is specialized to accommodate everyone, including those with unique disabilities.


What sets Iyengar Yoga apart from most types of yoga widely practiced throughout the U.S. are timing (poses are held longer), focus on alignment (detailed instructions help the individual to move deeper within the structure of a pose), the use of props (wall ropes, blocks, straps, blankets and chairs), and specific sequencing (intelligent sequencing that can be tailored around various physical needs a practitioner may have).

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“B.K.S. Iyengar not only was a teacher for eighty years, but his practice was uninterrupted for that entire time. There aren’t many people in the world who could say that,” says Vanessa Bacher, an Iyengar Yoga instructor living in Santa Barbara, California. “He was a very sick boy—he had tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria just to name a few of the serious ailments he suffered from—and was not expected to live beyond his teenage years. He essentially cured himself from all of these various ailments through his dedication to the practice of yoga.”

Vanessa, a petite and charismatic woman with a mane of wavy blonde hair and bright, aquamarine eyes, first discovered Iyengar Yoga over ten years ago, while still in her early twenties. Hailing from Colorado, she had put herself through college and went on to live and work overseas on the Caribbean island of St. John. There was no knowledge or practice of yoga to speak of there at the time, but Vanessa had brought along a book of standard yoga poses and began to practice daily on the white sand amongst the palms; it became an integral part of her lifestyle. She experienced a jolt of culture shock upon her return to the states, though, leaving behind the relaxed island vibes for the stressful pace of life back in America. Seeking solace in nature, she went to stay with her aunt, who lived and taught Iyengar Yoga in the small mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado.

Vanessa credits the experience of studying under her aunt as the pivotal chapter that, though she didn’t know it at the time, decided her life’s purpose.

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“The first class I took, I felt like I was reborn. I felt like I had been completely dissected and put back together again in a better way. From the moment I stepped into the classroom I felt transformed.”

During her two years in Crested Butte, Vanessa found an inspiring mentor in her aunt. Still, she felt that relying on a relative to guide her was keeping her in too tight of a comfort zone—she wanted to deepen her practice and carve out her own path. She set out on a six-month journey through Southeast Asia and India, studying at the base of the Himalayas in an intensive program with a couple of senior Iyengar Yoga instructors. It was the first of many pilgrimages that shaped the course of her professional and spiritual life.

“In the Iyengar system in India they have “Medical Classes” that I would assist and there would be people with MS so severe that they were essentially paralyzed,” Vanessa explains. “They didn’t have (the technology that we do)—they had rickety wooden chairs from the 1940s. Someone would carry them in and we would assist them and strap them to the wall, and place them over all of the brilliant props that B.K.S. Iyengar invented.”

In India, Vanessa was a firsthand witness to countless instances of the miraculous healing powers of Iyengar Yoga, but one story in particular has stuck with her over the years.

“A woman came to study with my teachers and she was a novice in the practice,” Vanessa recalls. “She came in with her feet bandaged—she had some sort of foot disorder where she couldn’t separate her toes. She had stability issues and trouble walking. When she came into the class the teacher said, “Take those bandages off your feet” and she said, “I can’t, I’ve worn them all my life. The doctor prescribed them to me; I have a disorder.” The teacher said, “Nonsense, if you’ve signed up for this intensive and want to participate, take those off.” He was quite strict with her and really put her through the paces. Within three weeks, she was able to separate her toes. Tears were streaming down her face; she could walk with ease and stability. This moment always stayed with me, proof that we have this incredible, innate ability to heal ourselves and that this practice teaches us to be more in tune and find the resources within rather than depending on any sort of crutch.”

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These experiences had a profound impact on Vanessa; they stirred something in her and planted the seeds for her own future as a healer.

“Mr. Iyengar taught me that happiness is to give more than you receive,” she says, continuing on to describe how the guru’s influence drove her to gain devotion to something greater than herself and lead a life of increased integrity. Her desire to help others benefit from the practice of Iyengar Yoga is palpable in the passionate tone in which she speaks of it.

“What moves me the most about it is that it’s absolutely made for any age, any body type, any ailment,” she says. “The practice is that diverse and has that much depth that it’s approachable for anybody. I always tell people that yoga has very little to do with just striking a beautiful pose. It is about the communication that you have to build with yourself to travel deeper towards that inner Self.”

“The path to bliss isn’t all rainbows and lotus flowers. I knew that it would take dedication.”

When Vanessa returned from India she made her home in Denver, beginning a cycle of intense practice abroad followed by intermittent lapses in practice back home and frequent disillusionment over the vastness of knowledge that she did not yet possess.

“I think it took me years to really cultivate the dedication that is necessary in the Iyengar practice,” says Vanessa. “Frankly I just wasn’t mature enough. But, over the years I chiseled away at the practice and became more devoted.”

She refers to her periods of not practicing as her “Dark Ages.”

“When I was not practicing I got very depressed. I felt like I had found this path that transformed me and then I let it go; I was not honoring my truth.”

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Photo: Chris Orwig

It was only through loss that she found her path again and determinedly set out on it for good. Vanessa had moved to Santa Barbara, California for a relationship and left everything behind in Denver—her home, her family, her job. When the relationship did not work out, she found herself alone in a new city.

“The only thing I really had that stayed with me was my practice,” she recalls of that time. “I clung to it, basically, because it was all that I had. I decided then that no matter what happened, I would never let it go again. I knew that without it I felt lost and started practicing more than I ever had.”

Her new instructor at the Santa Barbara Iyengar studio recognized Vanessa’s natural affinity in the classroom.

“He said, ‘you know this is what you’re meant to do, right? It’s in every fiber of your being.’ Then he asked me what I wanted to do about it.”

She expressed her hesitancy to the instructor. The Iyengar teacher-training would entail at least three years of schooling to become a certified instructor, which for Vanessa would mean frequent trips driving back and forth to the Iyengar Institute in Los Angeles. Once the first hurdle of certification is passed, the training is not over. There are many levels in the system; instructors continue to study, train and go up for subsequent certifications for many years to come.

But ultimately, Vanessa was not daunted.

“My instructor said that in his experience, sometimes the longer, more arduous route is the best route,” she reflects. It was advice that echoed the words of her father.

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Photo: Kayla McKenzie

“My father always said, ‘stay the course and it will pay off.’ I’ve definitely sacrificed quite a lot for the practice; the path towards enlightenment isn’t an easy one. The path to bliss isn’t all rainbows and lotus flowers. I knew that it would take dedication.”

Her instructor offered to mentor her, so Vanessa embarked on the three-year teacher training under his mentorship, traveling regularly to the Iyengar Institute in Los Angeles. After completion, it would take her two more years to become certified. She continued to work late nights as a restaurant server five nights a week, getting up early in the mornings to practice or teach.

“I felt half asleep in the mornings and dead on my feet at night. I continued until I was able to teach a little more and work in the restaurant a little less, but that is what yoga is all about. Yoga is the balance of two opposing actions. So in life I was balancing two complete polar opposites and that juggling act is yoga.”

Today, Vanessa’s mornings and evenings are filled with leading classes at two public yoga studios as well teaching various private lessons, a life in which she finds true fulfillment. When asked what words of advice she might have for someone interested in embarking on a similar journey with Iyengar Yoga, Vanessa says simply, “show up and don’t give up.”

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You can contact Vanessa Bacher by email at vanessabbacher@yahoo.com or Instagram @vbacher. If you live in Santa Barbara, or are visiting the area, consider taking an Iyengar class with her at one of the following locations:

Iyengar Yoga Studio of Santa Barbara

2718 De La Vina St.

Santa Barbara CA, 93105 USA

(805) 569-2584

 

The Santa Barbara Yoga Center

32 E. Micheltorena St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 965-6045

Author Bio:

Biopic

 

 

Lili Rauh aspires to find and create beauty and meaning in everyday life. Currently located in South Lake Tahoe, Lili loves to write, cook and entertain and ultimately hopes to combine all of her passions in one sustainable career. www.lilirauh.com

The Heart is Nomadic

As your desire is, so is your will.

As your will is, so is your deed.

As you deed is, so is your destiny.

~The Upanishads

 

A Broken System

About 3 weeks ago I went to two different public school interviews. I last taught in public schools two years ago, but upon completing my Master’s Degree in literacy education, I figured I owed it to myself to at least TRY to go back.
Both interviews were for English as a Second Language positions in North Carolina, a state plagued with a reputation for being ranked 48th in education on a national average. I left both interviews more depressed and lost than I’ve felt in a long while. As I sat at those conference tables and was asked the exact same questions verbatim in both interviews I thought: I don’t belong here, I don’t want this job, I’m never going back. Each question was so generic, so scripted, and lacked any real fire or room for growth, expansion, or facilitation of a holistic experience in the education system.

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Intentions and Goals: To Fuel Your Soul

Rewind about 6 months to this spring. My friend Michelle and I are sitting on the floor with poster boards, old magazines, glue, and tea. We had discussed getting together to make vision boards for several weeks and had taken time to get extremely specific about our goals and desires. I have to admit, I was embarrassed about my desires. Some of what I wanted seemed too lofty, some too stereotypical, and some (gasp) even too traditional. But we spent the better part of several hours cutting and pasting like dutiful middle school children unaware that our desires, once planted firmly on poster board for all to see, were quickly beginning to weave themselves into our future plans.

 

Getting Truthful

I am always looking, searching, and dreaming. More than once a month I look at International teaching boards, Yoga jobs available on Yoga Trade, Indeed.com, LinkedIn, the list goes on. A major part of my vision board or desire map is that my life’s work be infused with passion. I am not the sort of person who is fulfilled by a traditional role. I am constantly searching for how I can make a difference, become involved with international education, and support myself while doing so. I’ve expended quite a bit of energy and filled the ears of many friends with my desire to combine my two loves: International ESL education and yoga. I’ve expressed this over and over again. Truthfully, the vision I had for myself was earning an a part time position at the local university ideally in the international education department and to be able to still continue to teach yoga on a weekly basis. But, the universe had other plans for me.

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The Core of Desire

When I read the job posting by an organization called Peace Through Yoga looking for an ESL instructor in Costa Rica, I paused. This sounded just like me. As it turns out, it sounded just like me to my future employers too. They were kind enough to put off two other candidates, to speak with me. Not only did they answer my questions but they met (via Skype) my boyfriend, my dog, and my expectations. With only 48 hours to make the decision, my boyfriend Ryan and I poured over all the options; what happens if we go, what happens if we don’t, and ultimately kept coming back to the same place? All our conversation, all our calculations, and all our internal guides were telling us to go! So, a few hours later we found ourselves eating dinner, signing the contract, and planning on moving our lives, our work, and our dogs to Hone Creek, Costa Rica!

Stay tuned for Part II…

 

 

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Meghan is a traveling yoga instructor and water woman. She has been wandering and teaching for over a decade. She is currently the lead teacher at Chicas Poderosas a girls’ empowerment school run by Peace Through Yoga in Hone Creek, Costa Rica.

@yogaroam

Helping Others, One Handstand at a Time

It all started with a handstand. Paige Elenson was on a family trip in Africa when she connected with some fellow inversion junkies in passing. They shared tips and tricks and contact information to keep in touch. Little did they know, this chance encounter was about to turn entire lives upside down.

Paige saw first-hand the power of connection that yoga offers the world. The cross-cultural, knows no boundaries, no age, makes you laugh while upside down kind of connection that empowers and keeps people coming back for more and more and more. Inspired by this connection, Paige returned to Kenya and founded Africa Yoga Project (“AYP”) in 2007.

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What AYP does is nothing short of miraculous. The organization educates, empowers, elevates and expands employability with youth in Africa using the transformational practice of yoga. AYP creates opportunities for youth to step into their greatness and become self-sustaining leaders in their communities. Today, the organization employs more than 100 teachers, offers 300 weekly classes, and reaches 6,000 students weekly.

Wow. Just wow. What’s just as incredible is how much this organization inspires people across the world to show up and contribute to the cause. I found out about AYP at Baptiste trainings in June and October 2016. During these trainings I learned about Baron Baptiste’s own trip to Kenya and met AYP teacher training graduates Patrick, Millie and Walter. Hearing their stories and having their support during my own training really struck me. One of the main teachings in Baptiste yoga is “be up to something bigger than yourself”. Seeing others embodying and living from this idea was extremely powerful and I felt called upon to be a part of this cause, to support other teachers and give back to the practice that has given so much to me.

In between trainings I did my research on the different options to get involved, as there are quite a few! There really is something for everyone, from those looking to travel, mentor, or provide financial support. Ultimately, I decided to assist the 200hr teacher training in April 2017 in Nairobi. As a voluntary assistant, I’m also responsible for fundraising before my trip, which is totally new for me! Although it sounds a little daunting, I’m truly excited to to spread the word about AYP to my local community at studios, gyms, and through community events over the next few months. I think it’s a great way to drive awareness for AYP and connect my students with yoga on a global scale.

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Here are a few ways you too can get involved with this game changing organization:

  • Donate to the cause – Every. Little. Bit. Counts. Contributions make the community outreach efforts of AYP possible, such as scholarships, food programs, building projects, medical assistance, and employment.
  • Be an Ambassador – Have a special skill or expertise? Lead a trip of Seva Safari volunteers to Kenya to share this with the AYP community.
  • Join a Seva Safari – Great for those looking to travel to Kenya and assist an ambassador’s project you’re interested in. Check out your options, connect with the safari leader, and commit to an amazing and unique experience.
  • Assist a teacher training – Note that you must be Baptiste Level 1 and Level 2 certified to be involved on this program.
  • Mentor a yoga teacher – Connect with a newly certified teacher to help them on their teaching journey.
  • Host a fundraising event – Share AYP with your local community through donation based classes, a happy hour or anything in between.
  • Follow @africayogaproject – Stay up to date on all things AYP!
  • Share this post with your friends – You might just inspire someone to get involved too!

If you feel compelled, called, or are ready to be up to something bigger than yourself too, reach out to programs@africayogaproject.org to find out even more. Maybe I’ll even see you in Nairobi in April!

Handstands, hugs and happiness!

 

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Siobhan is a yoga teacher based in Chicago. You can follow her Africa Yoga Project fundraising here and her whole yoga loving life on Instagram. She finds joy in creative and powerful vinyasa, dark chocolate and spending time with family and friends.

11 Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Yoga

I’ve spent the last year fine-tuning and teaching a History of Yoga workshop curriculum. It’s meant listening to endless history podcasts, combing through interviews with senior teachers like Judith Hanson Lasater and Richard Rosen, reading arresting new scholarship from academics like Mark Singleton and James Mallinson, and thumbing through primary texts like Light on Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita.

You know that old cliché about how if you really want to learn something, you should teach it? It’s true. I’ll never look at my yoga practice the same way again. And after reading this, you may not, either.

Here are a few unexpected revelations:

1. Yoga history is a total mash-up.

It’s quintessentially postmodern. (That’s a big word that basically means questioning long-standing truth narratives and lifting up identity politics and personal narrative as sources of insight and wisdom. Whew, right?) Postmodernism reminds us to think critically and take every perceived notion of “truth” with a grain of salt. It’s personified by creative artists like animator Sanjay Patel and hip-hop musician MC Yogi, both of whom blend ancient and contemporary Hindu traditions in electric cultural mash-ups of their own.

Postmodernism reminds us that our job as yoga historians is to ask: who preserved yoga history in this particular way? What purpose or agenda did that preservation serve? And whose voices are missing here?

2. Patanjali probably wasn’t just one dude.

That guy most of us know as the granddaddy of yoga philosophy, the scholar-priest who codified the Yoga Sutra for the first time? The one who likely lived sometime in the 2nd or 3rd century? Yeah, no. He very possibly didn’t exist. The compilation of the Yoga Sutra that historians have long attributed to him was likely the work of many priestly men. (But, then again, who really knows for sure?)

3. Yogis weren’t always mainstream.

In fact, as recently as the early 20th century, yogis were often perceived as wild renegades, dangerous rogues, and unruly highwaymen rife with black magic. No reasonable, respectable person wanted to be around them.

Those sadhus who stood on one leg in the middle of a river for two years straight? The same ones who practiced expelling their semen and then recalling it (yes, really)? They’re a world apart from the pastel-clad soccer moms and the lithe former ballet dancers you see now splashed on yoga magazine covers.

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When Swami Vivekananda came to speak at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago — the moment that’s often recognized as the birthplace of yoga in America — he hesitated to speak of any postural (or hatha) yoga, focusing mainly on meditation and pranayama, for fear of alienating Westerners. That’s how unpopular and renegade most yogis were.

Even 40 years ago, many yogis were often still perceived as countercultural hippies. It’s only been within the last two decades or so that they’ve really found their place in bourgeois mainstream America. And now, of course, they’re at the center of a mass cultural phenomenon.

 

4. Asana itself is quite new.

Most of the poses you know so well from class — like Downward Dog or Triangle — are relatively contemporary creations. (As in, maybe a hundred or so years old.) Truth be told, the body didn’t even really get involved in yoga until maybe the 13th or 14th centuries. Prior to that, any asanas were probably seated poses like Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus) or Virasana (Hero), the kind designed for ease of pranayama and meditation.

Hatha yoga poses developed sometime in the Middle Ages, right around the writing of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, when an explosion of Tantric philosophy finally brought the body into the picture. (And yes, Tantra is about so much more than sex, in spite of notorious stereotypes that’ve arisen over the years.) Even those poses were still fairly simple, though they did much to challenge the sacred/profane binary that had previously denigrated the body as less holy than the spirit. Once Tantra emerged, the body finally became a locus for the sacred; literally, a temple for the divine.

Most of the standing poses we practice now, though? They’ve only been around a few hundred years at most. And many of them are much newer than that.

5. The practice as we know it is a total hybrid.

British military exercises. Scandinavian gymnastics. European curative medicine. Indian nationalist bodybuilding techniques. Freudian and Jungian somaticization of the emotions. Toss in New Age spirituality and a pop cultural emphasis on positive thinking, and you’ve got a diverse practice that spans the globe.

If you’ve ever heard your teacher wax poetic about how early yogis were doing sun salutations on the banks of the Ganges River 5000 years ago, now you know: they’re full of crap. Nobody was doing Surya Namaskara A 5000 years ago.

Whenever I teach sun salutations now, I point out that Mark Singleton and his fellow academics have doggedly uncovered the reality that Surya Namaskara A and B are maybe a hundred years old at best. (Check out Singleton’s book, “Yoga Body: The Origins Of Modern Posture Practice,” for the ultimate in recent scholarship on the history of contemporary asana.)

Mind. Blown.

6. Women are often invisible in yoga history.

And it’s the job of contemporary historians to bring them back into the picture.

Michelle Goldberg’s 2015 biography of Indra Devi, “The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West,” was a crucial first step into reclaiming the feminine side of yoga history. Goldberg is more often known as a writer of politics and religion, so she brings a particularly sharp cultural lens to excavating the “woman factor” here.

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Turns out Devi, née Eugenie Peterson, the Russian-aristocrat-turned-world-traveller, fought to study with Krishnamacharya, only to be turned away because she was a woman. The reason she was finally allowed to stay was that the Maharaj of Mysore stood up for her. Devi was one of Krishnamacharya’s key disciples, right up there with BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and TKV Desikachar, though she isn’t often included in that nexus of primary teachers responsible for spreading yoga across the West.

Dive into Goldberg’s book for more dishy history, like how Devi opened the first yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947, taught starlets like Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson, and later ended up moving to Mexico and Buenos Aires.

7. Context is everything.

Your understanding of yoga history depends so much on your cultural context, your moment in time, and your teacher’s perspective. When you learn yoga history from me (as a white, cisgendered, upper-middle-class woman in the world), you’ll get a mish-mash of self-consciously postmodern, progressive, queer, countercultural, intersectional perspectives. If you’d studied with premier German yoga historian Georg Feuerstein 30 years ago, you’d have gotten a whole different (incredible) vault of knowledge. Neither is right or wrong. Both are useful. That’s why we need to continue seeking out new teachers and new sources. Always. Don’t get complacent. Curiosity is key.

8. “Yoga is about half-Indian and half-Californian.”

I overheard this tongue-in-cheek quip some time ago on a podcast by Lucas Rockwell, listening to an interview while I did my home practice, and laughed out loud. No truer words have been spoken. One thing we know for sure is that yoga originated in India. That’s undeniable. But, as for the spread of yoga in the West? California has been hugely influential: a fertile soil for New Age thinking, body insecurity (hello, Hollywood), and health fads, all of which exploded across the country thanks to the power of celebrity. You can think of the evolution of yoga in America less as a movement from East to West and more as an ongoing dialogue, a cultural conversation between the two.

9. There is no “one true yoga.”

There are only variations on a theme, ever-evolving.

If old-school yogis from the 4th century walked into your Monday happy hour Power Vinyasa class, they’d have zero idea what the heck you were doing jumping around doing push-ups. They certainly wouldn’t recognize it as yoga. Just as, for most contemporary gym rats, sitting around meditating for hours at a time and living the ascetic, celibate life of a wandering yogi doesn’t sound much like the $16 drop-in class we’d willingly toss on our credit cards.

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So if somebody says their yoga is “right” and yours is “wrong,” or that that Vino & Vinyasa event or your Dog Yoga class or the brewery-hosted Yin workshop isn’t legit, have no fear. Yoga is in constant co-creation. It will continue to evolve. There is no one right way.

10. The history of yoga is a history of scandal.

I know, I know; it seems incongruent, given the fact that yoga, at its heart, is an ethical system for being clear-mindedly in the world, for lending ease and peace to all sentient beings, and for causing as little suffering as possible. But, as with all institutions and systems like the church or the government, when there are patriarchal guru relationships ensconced in sometimes-unhealthy power dynamics, shit happens.

The deeper you dig, the more you realize the history of yoga is rampant with sexual assault, abuse, harassment, and impropriety. A quick rundown of even the last 75 years reveals sordid sexual scandals, substance abuse, frozen pensions, adultery, exploitation, an epidemic of narcissistic gurus, and more.

I hesitated to include those scandals the first few times I taught new teacher trainees. I didn’t want to cast a shadow on the history of a beloved practice. This last time around, though, in light of the current events unfolding in the Presidential election, I realized it was essential to include the shadow side along with the light. The burgeoning teachers and I had a fascinating, sobering conversation about sex, power, ethics, and what it means to be a teacher of integrity. It was immensely rewarding.

You can’t leave this ugly stuff out because it feels uncomfortable. It’s just as much a part of the practice — and its legacy — as any of the good.

 

11. There are so many reasons to be hopeful.

Look at all the incredible spin-offs coming out of the yoga tradition right now. Yoga for veterans! Trauma-informed yoga! Yoga Trade! Political activist organizations like CTZNWELL and Off The Mat, Into The World. Yoga in prisons and senior centers and elementary schools. Decolonizing Yoga. The Yoga and Body Image Coalition. Transgender and queer-informed yoga philosophy. Weekly yoga classes at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco that attract some 700 people of all faiths, living, breathing, stretching together in sacred stillness.

There are great things happening in the name of yoga everywhere you turn. Keep learning. You’re as much a part of it as Patanjali and his priestly cohort. Maybe even moreso.

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

Truth & Unity: Lessons from Yoga & Travel

Yoga is the tool I use to clarify who I really am. Illusion, delusion and in-authenticity melt away in the fiery physical, mental and spiritual work, and I am left with an honest expression of myself. With continued practice, I cultivate sensitivity around this honesty and find contentment in who I really am. Living yoga unifies the seemingly fragmented pieces of myself, such as mind and body, which soothes cognitive turmoil about who I am and who I want to be. I welcome these realizations because as difficult, constant and often painful self-realization work may be, it leaves me cleansed, whole and vibrant.

Living yoga may have its painful aspects – it is painful to vulnerably admit that an idea or belief we hold is not true. Whether it be damaging self-talk, delusions about ourselves, or external stories we’ve woven into the fabric of our lives, living yoga uncovers these falsehoods. For me, it is not always easy or painless to admit I was wrong and need to work harder at staying in alignment with my passions and purpose.

Travel is the tool I use to uncover the truth about the world and my relationship with others. Prejudices, falsehoods and cultural stereotypes dissolve in the authentic experience of mindful travel. Adventurous travel challenges me to open-up to new experiences with equanimity and endless occasions to expand my boundaries.

Just as yoga has the potential to uncover truth and unify our inner world, travel has the potential to uncover truth about humanity and unify us with the rest of the world.

I believe that travel is more important now than ever to connect with people, cultures and stories. Just as yoga can be a tool to uncover truth and unify ourselves, travel is vital for challenging unquestioned beliefs and shattering the lines of separation between us and the world. If we can be vulnerable, step outside of our comfort zones and connect with people, we open ourselves up to expand our preconceptions and will experience a deeper connection with humanity. Suddenly, the folks that seemed so different on TV are right in front of us – there are no screens or walls to separate us from them – and our assumptions or prejudices are directly challenged. We might discover that we share the same longing for love, expression and freedom just as they do. We may uncover similarities in our fears and misunderstandings about each other. The divisive designations of “us” and “them” begin to dissolve when we connect to each other through our shared passions.

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Similarly, with yoga, the gifts of truth and unity are abundant in travel. About 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to disperse confusion and fear around a culture and religion that was not understood by many, including myself. Misunderstanding and assumption created fear and before long, the divide was a gaping hole of separation and judgment. At a time when it seemed standard to fear Muslims, I had a choice to either continue my inexperienced assumptions or to uncover truth for myself.

So, off I went to study Islam for several weeks in Morocco.

What I discovered as a single woman traveling solo through a Muslim country was that in fact, Muslims are human beings going about their daily lives and businesses with similar concerns, passions and motivations as myself, my peers and every other human being I’ve ever met. I shared tea and smiles with an old shop keeper in Rabat over humorous silence because neither of us spoke a common language. This man was curious, kind and gentle toward me – qualities I work to embody in myself. Next, I learned about the progress of women’s rights over dinner with a sophisticated, educated woman in Marrakesh. She was divorced, shared custody of her children and held a government position. We talked about gender roles in Morocco and women’s increasing opportunities. Then I visited a mud-brick school that tantalized my false preconceptions about education in countries outside of the States, but the school yard was filled with smiling elementary students proudly exclaiming that they spoke 3 or more (sometimes upwards to 6) languages while I humbly spoke my one. Lastly, I met a nomadic Berber family in the Sahara Desert and purchased a handmade scarf from them. Their tradition of weaving scarves was an expression of cultural passion, creatively embodied by proud people, even while living in a nomadic tent.

When I returned from Morocco, I was more connected to myself and the world around me. I had uncovered truth, dispersed assumptions and shattered boundaries in my own mind. I discarded the fear, prejudice and confusion that weighed me down and clouded my perspective of reality. The work I put into uncovering truth through travel rewarded me with a freedom from separation and a new perspective to share with everyone. My adventure in Morocco was the first important travel I did – I say important because it was not about resorts, shopping or nightlife. The purpose of that mindful travel was to uncover truth within myself and unify me with the world around me. It taught me how rewarding and fulfilling it is to explore the world and experience other cultures.

It is how we apply these lessons from yoga and travel that enriches our lives. Sharing our experiences and connecting to more people is how we unify. It is through living yoga and mindful travel that we shatter our preconceptions about ourselves and the world around us and open ourselves up to a more meaningful, authentic life.

 

 

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Sarah is the October – December Yoga Trade Travel Representative! Sarah loves to explore herself and the world through the lenses of yoga and travel – constantly challenging herself to uncover truth and unity within and around her.

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A Consolation to the Future

Many moons ago when I was about 14 years old, I was creating a collage in my room out of a (unbeknownst to me) relatively common Japanese print from a series that I had acquired from a garage sale. I had barely finished when my dad came to me and asked if I wanted to go to the Museum of Fine Art (in downtown St. Pete, Florida). It was Sunday funday, and of course I wouldn’t miss a chance to ride downtown and hang with pops. Well, upon entering the museum I noticed a girl wearing the same shorts as me (unusual and dorky pastel plaid hand-me-downs) and then being drawn to the nearest gallery room I immediately noticed on the wall, framed, and maybe even a part of the permanent collection there, a collage made from the exact same Japanese print that I had been cutting up in my room.

And I thought to myself, “Huh…huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh…”

Coincidences. We can only stop to wonder the complexities and intricacies of telepathic and psychic connections. From knowing who’s on the other end of the line before you answer a phone call, to encountering an object or picture during the the day that you recall encountering in your dream the night before. Even if you don’t believe in it, coincidences happen to everyone at one point or another. It’s as if we are surrounded by the invisible coincidences but only sometimes notice. Like how sometimes we know when and where we’ll see our loved ones. Or even when one has passed.

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The “concept” of interconnectivity has recently been a major topic of discussion in technology and yet has been a reality since the beginning of time. One could argue (me being one, among countless Indigenous peoples, groups and beliefs; Tibetan monks; even the Bible talks about it) that in ancient times, and those who contemporarily practice the age old techniques have, can, and do psychically connect to people, places, animals, and things. Just like the internet.

With the advent of the internet we take for granted that this “concrete” and “real” mechanism is actually the manifestation of the desire that humans have had throughout the millennia; which is to be connected.

And now it is taking us to bewildering places. Take for example artificial intelligence (A.I.): We only thought about these ideas of robots preforming surgeries as kids and now those thoughts are becoming a reality.

And we don’t even know how it works!

It is so perplexing that even the scientist and engineers who created the actual robots have absolutely no idea how in a split second A.I. can pull information from areas of the internet that no one even knew existed before. Or from up to date articles published in the exact same moment on the other side of the planet. Facial recognition, diagnosing disease, building other robots. The concerns and excitements stretch for miles across one’s imagination.

And to add to the overflowing mixed bag of emotionally loaded technological frontiers in our increasingly smaller and more intelligent world, is another childhood fantasy: traveling to Mars. Except now it’s not just for fun. It’s for survival.

We might never know the capabilities and extent of our own technology. It might expand just as our universe is doing constantly and into infinitum.

If you are like me and are felling overwhelmed and overloaded with all the happenings of the world and all the hate filled headlines in the news, there’s the catch to it all. The end of strife and worry for the concerned individual:

Aliens. That’s right; ALIENS. You don’t think there are aliens among us? You are correct in the literal sense; they don’t walk, they float. All around us, reproducing and communicating right before our very eyes. In fact, I ate them for lunch yesterday and love them on my pizza. They are invisible and are known on every continent, in every ecological zone on this planet, and most likely on other planets too since they are known to be able to survive in outer space. You know what i’m talking about!

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Mushrooms.

Mycology is the study of mushrooms, considered “the hidden kingdom” for not only their mysterious ways, but also the fact that what we see as little mushrooms, fun to eat and pick and look at, are actually apart of a huge network of underground mycelia (vegetative web-like branching hyphae). Like veins, mycelia connect across large areas underground (a few square miles and larger in a lot of instances), and surface as the many varieties we encounter. From portobellos to the psychotropic psilocybe cubensis (magic mushrooms) to aminita muscara (Super Mario brothers-looking poisonous red with white spots) to mold. They are everywhere. At one point we thought they couldn’t grow in Antarctica only to be stumped by the few species that appeared practically overnight in a research outpost. There are even species that eat plastic!

Mushrooms and mycelia are the connectors of life. They help things decay and most likely help everything to live! They are the actual telephone lines between trees and forests. Not a plant, and not quite an animal; they are alive, they are magic, they can survive in outer space, they are the bridge between plant and animal, life and death. They will be here long after we’re gone, cleaning up our mess that we didn’t have time to before we leave to Mars…

As exemplified by our co-inhabiters on this planet, life is complicated in this increasingly speedy world. Directing our attention inward is almost the last thing we want to do. In fact to some of the younger generations, we practically can’t. In lieu of peaceful meditative expanses of time spent in a park and in nature, we must hurry to the next event. In place of restful sleep, we’re barraged with stressors throughout the day that inhibit our relaxation. So much so that a solution among many, has been going away to “grounding camp” — actually attending an organized group where you and other humans who need the space to tune in do so by unplugging and doing things in real time, with your hands and feet and your mind, away from the screen. And these thing are helpful! In creating a beautiful world we must be that beautiful world. We must emit positivity, and the way to do so is by creating positivity inside of each and every single one of us.

Scary, exciting, daunting, confusing. Take a moment to understand the connectivity. Though this lifetime, if you are reading this, although you might not be lucky enough to be a mushroom, we can all turn to mushrooms as prime examples of connectivity, showing us the ropes of peacefully and joyfully existing among our neighbors as different as they may seem. Popping up when we’re needed and receding when our job is done. Appearing as an individual and yet sharing life and energy in an invisible network. With everything. All together. As one.

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I encourage everyone to read and learn more about the intensely interesting and connective hope that mushrooms bring to this planet, and also to consider this: Every single thought you have is connected to every single thing that we know of and more; micro or macro; visible or not. Your thoughts become your reality, hence A.I. and traveling to mars. So in your world, what would you like to see happen? Senseless killing, zombies, aggression? Or restoring harmony with all the visitors on this planet? Protecting environments, diversity of plants and animals, providing nourishment to the creatures that nourish us? Clean water, clear mind, creative future? Visualizing peace means actually visualizing (and making collages!), because we’re secretly and invisibly connected to everything.

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YOUR TURN…

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
-Alan W. Watts (1915-1973)

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby