Reasons to Practice Mindfulness

Everyone’s heard of mindfulness these days. For most of us who practice yoga, mindfulness is an integral part of our practice. After all, being mindfully aware of our body as we move through the sequence of poses is what really allows us to deepen our practice. But did you know that mindfulness can be just as useful when practiced off the mat?

For me personally, I’ve found there were five main ways that mindfulness affected me once it became part of my daily life. If you’re already practicing mindfulness, you might find you can relate. And if you’re not, they might inspire you to give it a try!

Here’s my list of five reasons to practice mindfulness:

1. Helps Deal with Criticism Better

Not a lot of us openly embrace criticism, in fact, most of us loathe it. The reason for this is because we just don’t want to hear any negative feedback – it makes us feel bad, and it can even make us panic. However, being more mindful helped me to ground myself and to respond with the right presence to any kind of criticism. Essentially, it assisted me with bypassing that ancient ‘fight or flight’ reptilian brain response. Instead of stressing about it, I could just take it all in and keep moving along with my day as normal.

2. Improves Listening Skills

I’ll say it: sometimes I plain suck at really listening to what people are trying to tell me. I mean sure, I hear them, but I’ve found myself (more than just a few times) letting information in the one ear and right out the other. I’m betting you can relate. The problem is that when we’re distracted, we don’t give others the attention they deserve. Mindfulness helped me focus on doing ONE thing at a time, and giving it my all, even if it was just listening to a friend talk about her holiday plans or let off steam about her job.

3. Boosts Relationships

With the enhanced self-awareness I was cultivating thanks to mindfulness, I was able to be a better team player, which meant that I started getting along better with the people around me. (Even the ones who’d always rubbed me the wrong way before.) I started being more patient with them and just kinder in general. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I finally started understanding what the term ‘compassion’ really meant.

4. Leadership

Well not a leader of thousands per se, but it greatly enhanced my leadership skills, and that’s something that we all need to work on if we want to help others. By being more mindful, I was able to recognize toxic patterns and negative thoughts. By recognizing them, I was able to choose healthier beliefs instead of automatically believing the old, limiting ones. This helped me become more confident in myself, which is vital for leadership.

5. Controls Stress Levels

Stress is a massive issue, and one that easily turns into full-blown nightmares. Simple techniques such as closing my eyes and just focusing on my breathing are what helped me deal with my stress at work. This helped me control the effects that stress was having on my mind and my body. In fact, it not only managed them, it helped me reverse the effects.

Final Thoughts:

I just showed you a few great benefits of mindfulness and how it transformed me personally, and I sincerely hope that this post has encouraged you to start your own mindfulness practice. It’s really simple yet very effective!

 

 

 

Megan is a DIY health & beauty enthusiast and yoga addict. When she’s not trying to master the perfect headstand, she loves to write. You can find her work at Gold Mountain Beauty, where she is responsible for the blog, Instagram and Pinterest.

 

 

Presence & Prosperity Lessons from Shakti Fest 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@momomagical

5 Myths About Soul-Searching Travel

After living abroad and traveling the world for almost four years now, I came to realize that the most important thing I discovered was myself. I learned more about the world, life and my true self than ever before. All because I decided to leave my comfort zone and finally follow my dreams.

By now, you’re probably thinking you know where this is going: “Oh gosh, here’s another girl who decided to quit her job, sell all her stuff, and leave everything behind, to travel the world and find herself!” Did I just read your mind?
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my story is a bit different. I had neither a well paid corporative job back home nor a two year savings. I didn’t have much stuff to sell either. And I certainly didn’t leave everything and everyone behind to travel solo.

Does this mean I didn’t embark on a true soul-searching journey? On the contrary. I don’t have to follow a script written by someone else to go on a journey of self-discovery. And you don’t have to do it either. What kind of lessons will you be learning if you’re just following other people’s path anyway?

I think there are too many misconceptions about traveling and self-discovery. And that’s why I put together this list of what I consider to be the 5 biggest myths about soul-searching travel, and what it really means to explore your true self while wandering the globe.

 

#1 You have to quit your job

You probably stumbled upon some version of this quit-my-job-sold-my-stuff-traveled-the-world story so many times already in the Internet that it seems everyone is doing it these days. You probably dream about doing the same thing yourself, don’t you? But the truth is most people who travel or move abroad don’t quit their jobs to see the world. Most people can’t afford, or just don’t want, to do that. Most importantly, you don’t need to in order to travel or find yourself.
When I moved from Portugal to Switzerland, with my boyfriend, two suitcases and a little more than 500 Euros on my bank account, the first thing I had to do was actually to find a job, so I could apply for a residence permit, and survive in one of the most expensive countries in the world. I also had to learn German and work my ass off to be allowed to stay here, pay my bills and be able to travel. So it’s perfectly possible to have a job – and a home and a family – and travel. For many of us it’s the only way to do it! You can travel and do some important soul-searching without even having to permanently move abroad or disrupt your entire life. At least until you are absolutely sure that’s what you want to do.

 

#2 You have to go alone

I’m sure you’ve also read the thousand headlines that go something like this: “How traveling solo changed my life” or “Why solo traveling is the best way to find yourself”. Again, it seems like that’s the only way to do it. But it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, solo travel is great. I’ve done it myself and I would definitely recommend you try it at least once in your lifetime, if that’s something that appeals to you. If it’s not, go with your friends, your sister, your soul-mate, your kids, or your dog. As long as you go! Nowadays I mostly travel with my boyfriend. And that doesn’t mean I don’t learn valuable lessons about myself during these trips, because I do. In a way, traveling with another person and spending most of your time together is even more challenging than traveling alone. You certainly learn more about tolerance and respect, compromising and setting boundaries than going solo.

 

#3 You have to travel long term

Another myth about soul-searching travel is that you have to be on the road for a year or two, or at least a couple of months, to really learn about yourself. I mean, that truly sounds amazing, but what happens if you, like me and many people, can’t take a gap year or a sabbatical leave? What happens if all you can manage is a two week vacation from work, and, if you’re lucky, a couple of weekends per year to get away? Well, you use that time to travel and find out new things about the world and yourself. On our first year in Switzerland, my boyfriend and I had zero vacation time. But we used almost every weekend and day off to go somewhere new. We made day trips to all major cities in Switzerland, we spent time in the mountains, and visited Germany and Italy. So much that we ended up knowing the country better than many locals. Some Swiss friends were amazed with how much we managed to see in such a short period of time. So it’s not about how long or how far you travel. It’s about what you learn on the way.

 

#4 You have to visit a spiritual destination

You hear about soul-searching travel and you immediately think about Tibet, India or Japan. You imagine yourself chanting with Buddhist monks, practicing yoga in an ashram or meditating in a Zen temple. You can’t possibly soul-search lying by the pool of a Mexico resort or wandering through the crowded streets of New York, right? Well, that’s one way to see it. The other way is that every experience teaches you something valuable about the world, yourself and others. Every place, every culture and every person has its own lessons to deliver, as long as you’re aware of that. One of my aha moments happened when I decided to take a solo trip to Athens for three days. See, I didn’t go to Bali, or Kenya, or Siberia. I went to the busy and chaotic capital of Greece, and it turned out to be a really empowering trip, that taught me that all I need to go somewhere or do something is myself. Sometimes the most valuable insights happen when and where you least expect them.

 

#5 You have to find your true calling

There was a time when I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had been a journalist. I had been a yoga teacher. But at that point none of that seemed to be enough. I wanted more. I wanted to learn new things, I wanted to travel and see the world, I wanted to find myself, but I had no idea how. I kept reading articles about how to find my true calling, how to uncover my purpose in life, how to discover that one thing I was meant to do. And I kept getting anxious. Until one day it suddenly hit me: I don’t have to choose only one thing, I don’t have to find one calling, I can have as many callings and do as many things as I want to. I can be a writer, and a yoga teacher, and a traveler, and whatever more the future holds for me. That’s the beauty of existence. So that’s why I don’t travel to find my true calling anymore, and why you shouldn’t either. You should travel to live all sorts of experiences, try all kinds of things that appeal to you, and find everything that gives meaning to your life.

There are no rules for your own soul-searching journey. There’s no correct way to do it. Because all journeys are journeys of the self. Like every new experience in life, every trip is an opportunity to explore the world and who you are, to get out of your comfort zone and into yourself. You don’t have to go far, to go alone or to leave everything behind. You just have to go, and all the lessons will arise.

 

 

 

 

Vanda is a journalist turned yoga teacher turned travel blogger. Combining her passion for writing, traveling and self-discovery, she writes about living abroad, exploring the globe, and the soul-searching that arise from both. Connect at theyogiwanderer.com

Walking Here and There

So…about five months ago my car got hit and stopped being road worthy. Honestly, it was sort of a relief once the immediate crisis of the scenario settled in my mind. Although that car hauled me around for five years it was a lemon from the time of purchase. Often, it’s mechanical oddities stressed me out, and although I wanted to be all mindful and let it go, this question of whether or not I would actually get to where I was going always rested in my mind. Probably the best thing about the car was that I developed quite a Japa yoga practice chanting Om, Sohum and the Ganesh mantra while driving around and wondering if it would make it. So, rather joyfully, I sold it for parts and pocketed the money I received for damages.

At first, I went to the bank and started the uncomfortable process of financing and that entire intrusive dance. After the dismal investigation of exaggerated car costs and interest laden payments, I had second thoughts about the whole structure of our society and the cost of cars. I am not an eco-warrior and not trying to make a statement but after a rather heated conversation with a bank official and shady vibes from more than one car salesman I decided to put one foot in front of the other and begin walking since I am lucky enough to live only twenty five minutes from work by foot.

Now, remember, I live in Alaska and this all happened in October. Winter and cold were approaching but I was determined to make a change. I purchased a warm slick jacket then made sure I had toasty gloves and hat. Smart Wool socks and beat up Extra Toughs came next. I was ready. Yes, I walked through snow and cold then into the bursting spring of Alaska. Most of all, I started to use my legs, felt connected to my body on a deeper level and saw the world around me again with fresh eyes.

When one walks, a whole vision opens up! One starts to see. Of course, we always see, but do we see? The obvious images of the same old landscape that I saw everyday now began to take on a character and a depth. The nuances of sky at different times of day initiated awakening before me, the shifts in air and the subtleties of the atmospheric moisture made sense to my body. I started to see the beauty again of Anchorage, Alaska even in the midst of grimy streets, wandering street people and dirty snow. The never ending whirl of light and darkness in this frontier landscape became real again for me as I watched the sunshine diminish in winter then return again behind the mountains as spring came back.

Then, there were the people of the street. The wandering folk of Anchorage who one sees on corners or at cross walks making their way through the elements. Sometimes drunk , sometimes moody, sometimes just getting by but always friendly, there is a certain communal aspect that they share and I get to be part of it as one of the walkers. We greet each other, sometimes just a nod or at times a random conversation about weather while waiting for a red light so we can cross some raging road.

Walking clears the mind and focuses one on the here and now. I believe this completely and this experience has furthered my conviction on this point. I think I will continue to walk and keep this connection to myself and the greater world.

Take sometime and just walk here and there. Find a way to let your feet carry you and enjoy the journey.

Om Shanti…

 

 

 

David is a vinyasa style yoga teacher and lead indoor cycling instructor at Anchorage Yoga and Cycle way in up in Alaska, the land of ice and sun. He loves to find the connection of yoga to everyday life. Check out a one if his classes.

Before and After Rishikesh, India

One year ago I decided to leave my country to explore the world doing Yoga. Ive been practicing asana since I was 15, but had never thought I’d ever study to become a yoga teacher. When I started the trip I didn’t know exactly what countries I wanted to visit or how this was going to play out, I just had some clues, ideas, a mental map of what I wanted to do. A MUST was going to India to do a Yoga TTC.

In my mind, I had planned to do this in December 2016, but in the middle of the trip I was in Hawaii and I decided I wanted to leave to India right at that moment (September 2016). It was something I can’t explain as a mental process, it was just a call from destiny that I had to take. One month later I was arriving in New Delhi, the capital of India. I cannot lie, at the beginning it was a real shock for me…everything. The noise, the heat, so many people, everything so crowded, the food, I was not the kind of girl that immediately falls in love with India, it was something that came with the process; in the end, I liked it that way because slowly but surely, you fall in love with things much deeper than when it’s just a crush.

Finally I was there, living one of the most intense experiences of my life. Everyday we woke up at 5:30 am and started practicing Hatha Yoga, then Pranayama; after 3 hours being up, we finally had breakfast, and then the day went on, class after class. At 8:30 pm more less, we were done, but it was really intense each day, not only because of the obvious things, but also because you are living your own process, and at the same time 15 more people like you are living their own process too; that deep journey inside yourself, a lot of intense, hard stuff comes out. In the third week, the magic happened and I was feeling much better; my ashtanga practice was improving a lot and I felt I was unstoppable; I felt I never wanted to stop practicing. Every time I went to a cafe with my friend, I could hear everybody talking about the same, even though they studied in different schools; everyone had the same issues and concerns, and I, who felt my feelings were so special, was actually feeling much the same as everybody else! ( hehe)

 

Anyway, I don´t want to talk so deeply about the TTC exactly but about what happened inside after living that experience in that part of the world with those teachers. Rishikes, India is a small city 230 kms away from New Delhi; it is a sacred city, the world capital of Yoga and it is one of the most special places I’ve been to; surrounded by the Himalayas, separated by Maa Ganga, and full of Yoga schools, Babas, Gurujis and all of us; westerners trying to learn from the source and the root. This place is pure magic, they don´t sell alcohol, or meat, and everything closes at around 9-10 pm.

Those days in that place, after that experience I wrote: How can you be the same after your eyes have seen the most beautiful and the ugliest both outside and inside yourself… I still don’t know if I’ve found my destiny but it feels like something very profound. I’m not the same person that arrived back a month ago; something has changed; priorities are not the same. I truly feel lighter inside, and I’ve finally understood what really matters in life for me. I don’t want to argue anymore with people just to be right. I want to be more patient everyday. Sitting at the banks of Mother Ganga taught me so much about letting things and people go, about having complete certainty in the process and timing of things. This doesn’t mean I never feel things anymore or that I’m a Hipster-Hippie, it means I feel things deeply in my heart but everyday the distance between my feelings, the reaction and the letting go of the control is shorter, and that is priceless. It is not all about India, but Rishikesh helped a lot. ( I think Alanis Morrissette also felt that way when singing “Thank you India”)

In my opinion, it is really important to find a School – an Ashram to study and stay where you feel like you’re at home for that month or 2 months that you´ll be living there. To this end, I can totally recommend the place where I studied: Anadi Yoga Centre, not only because of the incredible Indian Teachers with a lot of teaching experience, but they are also very concerned about sharing the Yoga knowledge in a very professional and passionate way, instilling in you the wish to do and give your best everyday, and always very open to addressing all your doubts and concerns. ( Trust me, there are many, many schools that are just businesses )

My connection with this place is so deep that I decided to go back to study more, and to live there so I could experience it in a different way this time. Totally worth it. Rishikesh, India is a place that I can also call Home, because there I feel nearer to myself, to the true being that I am.

Namaste

 

 

 

Fiorella is a Chilean Wanderlust Yogini & Travel Blogger. Her personal seal is to share about everything that has made her a happier and healthier person. Her beliefs: Kabbalah, Her Life Philosophy: Yoga. // www.fioreyogini.com @fioreyogini

The Importance of Eco-Friendly Athletic Wear for Yoga and Beyond

Cover Photo:

Yoga Slackers: Sam Salwei and Raquel Cruz Hernandez

Photographer: Eric Ward

Many of us choose yoga as a form of exercise, not only because it’s low-impact and improves our overall health, but because we value a natural lifestyle. Thanks to athletic clothing produced with man-made materials like polyester and nylon though, microfibers have been leeching into our oceans. Yes you read that correctly.

Scientists studying our lakes and oceans, have discovered that man-made, plastic-based fibers in clothing are showing up at an alarming rate in our precious ecosystem. Whereas natural fibers, like organic cotton, are better at breaking down in the environment, without leaving harmful microscopic microfibers behind.

After extensive research and speaking to some Yoga professionals (thanks truecoretx.com and yogatrade.com), I found some retailers who value eco-friendly, sustainable, comfortable, and fashionable athletic wear for yoga and beyond.

Solid Sustainable Brands To Know

Anjali is a NYC based fashion retailer which broke out in 2006. Focusing on yoga wear, this company founded by married couple Julissa Carranza and Kristinn Sigridarson, creates stylish fair-trade, sustainable clothing made from organic cotton, soy, modal, and recycled polyester. The tout their clothing is sweat shop labor free, as the pieces are produced in NYC and LA. Both women and men can enjoy selecting comfortable garments from Anjali, when they plan on getting into their next downward dog or tree pose.

Earth Yoga is based in Malibu, California, and is another brand to check out. The founder has been practicing yoga for over ten years, so it is only fair to support a devoted yogi. Founder Noreen Austin offers reasonably priced yoga clothing, created from environmentally responsible polyester fibers from recycled bottles. You can choose from tops, bottoms, and comfortable hoodies.

Green Apple, based in Manhattan Beach, California, stands out as a sustainable choice. All of the clothing made by Green Apple is vegan and biodegradable. You can find tops, jackets, and bottoms made with chemical-free bamboo and organic cotton. The founder of Green Apple has a background of over two decades in the athletic apparel business.

 

– Since 1992, retailer prAna made a commitment to produce clothes for yoga that are biodegradable, maintain a sustainable business model, and reduce their greenhouse emissions. This company not only offers yoga clothing, but accessories, jackets, dresses, and swimwear. Clothing from prAna is made from organic cotton, hemp, and Jacquard among other fabrics.

Inner Wave produces mainly organic and biodegradable yoga clothing. All their clothes are produced in LA, California, and the company believes that your inside should match your outside. Women and men can find tops, bottoms, and even jewelry. Sustainable and eco-friendly choices never felt this good.

Reflect Your Values Effortless

Sustainability is a major part of finding our balance and lessening our carbon footprint. We not only want to choose to sustain our bodies with exercise and diet, but we also want to choose sustainable actions that reflect our best selves.

When we support retailers that make clothing that reflect our care for our health and our planet, we send a resounding message to the world.

Thanks to the efforts of some awesome yoga practitioners, finding eco-friendly clothing that matches your values and meets your budget is easier than ever before. As yoga lovers and health-conscious individuals are becoming more mindful about their lifestyle choices, retailers are listening and acting in kind.

“We live in an age where we can not only bring meaningful change to our lives, but by our choices, we can make a meaningful impact on our world.”

A healthy lifestyle is not just about exercise and a healthy diet, but making conscious choices that make a better you inside and out. Choosing to wear eco-friendly clothing is a great way to make an impact on the planet and your workout.

 

 

Melanie Nathan is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, writer for Huffington Post and beginner yoga enthusiast. Connect with her on Twitter to learn more.

Practice With Consistency

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


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


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


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

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


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

 

 

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

The End of the Road

Coming face to face with your insecurities, fears and anxieties isn’t something you expect to do the minute you land in paradise.

My husband and I recently accepted jobs in a place that is so remote, it is quite literally at the end of the road. Cambutal is a small fishing village on the pacific coast of Panama. Greener than green trees, empty beaches, incredible surf, wild horses, no phone service and a whole lot of Spanish speakers make up this unique place here on earth. Within this petite village lies Sansara, a luxury ocean front yoga and surf retreat where we currently ‘work’ (I air quote this word because it certainly doesn’t feel like work).

I have dreamed about working at this sacred space since seeing an opportunity pop up on Yoga Trade a year ago. After a long time of trying to match dates we finally made it to this tropical oasis. Our home here is incredible, the job is fulfilling, the people are phenomenal and the surroundings are breathtaking. It is everything I dreamed of and more. So, why was it the first two weeks here I felt the need to RUN?

The beginning weeks were a struggle, I cried and cried some more. I was so frustrated and angry with myself. ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ ‘This is paradise, how on earth can you feel this way?’ ‘You finally have everything you ever wanted!’ I felt low, and nervous and scared and confronted. But for the life of me, could not figure out why.

Until one day I finally opened up to a friend here in Cambutal. I explained how I felt and my confusion at the situation. She told me that this happens to everyone when they first arrive. I asked why? She gently explained that because this place is so isolated, you somehow feel more exposed. Without all the distractions from modern life you find your self face to face with the real you. The good, the bad and everything in between. She went on to describe how at some point everyone here has had to deal with underlying issues that they have carried around for years. That everyone has had rise up to meet their fears, worries and insecurities. They have had to really meet themselves for the first time and embrace every side of their personalities. To deal with their past, honour the present and surrender to their future.

And here I was, coming face to face with everything I had been running away from. I have always struggled with anxiety, depression and fear of the future, but this time there was nowhere to hide. There were no distractions, no TV, no internet, no shopping centres or busy, bustling streets. It was just me and my thoughts. Me and my fears. Me and everything I had worked so hard to keep below the surface.

I was comforted at the thought that others had experienced what I was going through, but also petrified at the journey ahead. What if I couldn’t accept myself? What if I couldn’t handle meeting the real me? What if I ran?

But, I didn’t. I stayed. I cried. I meditated. I listened. I cracked. I watched. I surrendered. I accepted. Then, I healed.

The end of the road has been my rebirth.

Because of this experience I am creating like never before. I am writing again and painting again. I have made some big, exciting life decisions. I am growing and learning each and everyday. I am loving deeper and living fuller.

In modern day life we have so many distractions. Anything negative we feel or experience can be dulled through distraction. Alcohol, TV, magazines, FaceBook, Drugs, shopping…the list goes on. What we do not realise is that these negative or undesirable parts of ourself need to be dealt with, they are here for a reason, they want your attention. You can never truly know yourself until you have seen the whole divine, spectrum of your soul. You need to know your dark side in order to shine brighter. You need to understand your fears to fully overcome them. You need to debunk any lies within, to unleash your truth. You need to face your past in order to create a luminous future. You need to deal with any emotional junk to make room for new, exciting and rewarding ideas.

Sometimes it is ok to step into the dark, to experience the bad, to sit with the uncomfortable, to listen to the unthinkable. This is were we grow the most. This is where we get to know ourselves on a deep, profound level. This is the place we spark our brightest light.

If you get a chance this year, disconnect. Disconnect from everything and everyone. Be alone, sit in silence, listen to the whispers of your soul and be brave enough to wholeheartedly accept yourself. Don’t be scared to feel it all.

You are not alone in this journey, you are not broken, you are being reborn.

I had to disconnect from everything to reconnect to myself.

I had to get seriously lost, in order to be found.

I had to reach the end of the road just to see how far I had actually come.

 

 

 

Vicky Simpson is a yoga teacher, travel blogger and avid explorer. She lives a minimalistic, nomadic lifestyle with her husband Micky. Vicky travels the world teaching in yoga retreats, hosting workshops and writing of her adventures along the way.

http://theyogiandthechef.com/

5 Reasons to Teach Yoga for Free

Cover Photo: Shaunte Ditmar Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The universe always provides…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby

9 Yoga & Mindfulness Podcasts That Will Feed Your Soul

Have you heard of “beginner’s mind?”

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

This is how we stay young.

This is how we stay open.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are grateful.

Yogaland Podcast

https://www.acast.com/yogaland

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

J. Brown Yoga Talks

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

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

Chitheads: Embodied Philosophy

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

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

Awake In The World: Michael Stone

https://michaelstoneteaching.com/podcasts/

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

10% Happier with Dan Harris

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

 

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

Meditation In The City: A Shambhala Podcast

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

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

Tara Brach

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

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

Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg

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

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

Sounds True: Insights At The Edge

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

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

 

 

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