Learn to Handstand. Learn to Love.

I am currently midway through the final week of the online course 6 Weeks to Handstand with Kyle Weiger. During the past few weeks I have felt new areas of my body ‘wake up’ and strengthen. I am slowly but surely seeing progress in my handstand form and shape. But the biggest take-away thus far is that although these drills and exercises are making me physically stronger, this course is really about learning to love. We all have the ability to change our ‘state’ anytime and we can begin to see results in any area of our lives in as little as 6 weeks. This series is about much more than nailing a handstand, it is about diving deep into; curiosity, doing the work, dedication, self-care, integrity, and keeping the flame alive! These are great teachings that can be applied to all areas of life. I reached out to Kyle to learn more about his story, and he was kind enough to share some wonderful insights. Big thanks Kyle for the inspiration. May we all keep loving the journey!

Tell us a little bit about your yoga background?

I got into yoga after literally 6 years of a friend nagging me because he said I spent too much time in the gym and I needed to work on my flexibility too. Little did I know that his persistence would change the entire trajectory of my life. Well played, Sir.

Can you share with us about your initial curiosities with handstand and your handstand journey thus far?

It definitely started with yoga. I had an obsession for learning all the arm balances and Handstand was one that I played with often. However, it wasn’t until I got into Gymnastics training, and Circus after that, where I realized just how differently each modality approaches the pose.

Gymnastics was the first time the idea of “the line” was drilled into me, and watching and training with Circus hand balancers was where I first realized it’s so much more than just a single pose. Handstanding is its own art form, and my current journey has me exploring it from this angle.

Do you see your approach to learning to handstand as a metaphor and a way to approach life in general?

Oooh! My favorite question!! Yes yes yes! This is one the BIGGEST things I talk about in my workshops.

SPOILER ALERT: BEING ABLE TO DO A HANDSTAND DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON…

Rather, I use it as a teaching tool to reflect on how I handle tough situations. When things get challenging, do you get frustrated and quit? Or do you learn to laugh at yourself, be willing to put in the work, and approach things with a light-hearted attitude.

Check out a video I did on this very topic: 

What is your favorite verbal cue to say to someone learning to handstand?

“GET TALLER”…..It’s the simplest cue, but it will immediately fix a lot of inflection points in the body. When you get taller, you press through the heel of your hand which will activate your traps and straighten out through the shoulder.

Meditation and journaling is a huge part of your practice. Tell us more…

Journaling is a daily activity for me, particularly the act of gratitude journaling. I like to give my attention and focus to all the things I am grateful for in this life. Whether it’s a deep conversation I recently had with my BFF, or if my Handstand felt significantly strong during a certain day, or if I pull my winter jacket out of the closet and find a $5 bill in it. I seriously write so much in there, so i go through journals like crazy.

As far as meditation, some yoga practitioners may disagree with me when I say that Handstand can be meditative. It requires your attention to direct to a single point of focus, a single task, and you have to be fully present or else you come out of balance.

Thus, seated meditations using visualization exercises are huge for me! So when I get upside down I can re-access that state of presence and purpose.

You are an entrepreneur and and have created a successful online business. Can you share some of your daily practices for finding the balance between wellness, community, work, and play?

This is also one of my favorite things to talk about. I’m actually in the midst of writing a course just for yoga professionals on how to do exactly what I did by using bare-bones resources.

At first, it wasn’t balanced…at all. It was a huge grind 12 months ago to get the product up. With launching a business, there’s no way around it but through it. That’s just how these things go.

Then over time, I found myself working on my website less and traveling to do workshops more.

I think it’s a lofty goal to have every individual day be perfectly balanced. Rather, I look at it in phases or waves. When I first launched 6 Weeks To Handstand with a $200 marketing budget and no clue if it was going to sell, it was a very stress-heavy & work-heavy phase of my life. Now I’m in more of a play-more-laugh-more kind of phase.

Those two balance each other out in the big picture, so I’m ok with sprints or bursts of hard work to have access to more abundance later.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m moving more and more into the role of business consulting in the fitness industry. My business background is in Sales & Marketing, Paid Ad Campaigns, and Email Funnels. I want to share what I know with other people in our space. And of course I’ll never stop teaching Handstand!!!

Who or what are some of your biggest inspirations?

My biggest inspirations are my friends: I have a few pretty special people in my life that I draw inspiration from every single day: Clayton, Del, Katy, Ali, Madison, Bobby…you know who you are:)

As far as Handstanding, there are sooooo many talented people out there, but the coaches I’ve learned the most from are Miguel Santana, Yuri Marmerstein, Andrey Moraru, and Janchivdorj Sainbayar.

Anything else you’d like to share…

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abe Lincoln

 

 

Kyle Weiger is on a mission to show you that you are far stronger than you think you are. And not just in a rainbows-and-unicorns-motivational-speaker kind of stronger….more like a belief-shattering breakthrough “Holy Sh*t! I can’t believe I just did that!” kind of stronger. Kyle teaches Handstand course workshops around the world at Yoga Studios, Festivals, CrossFits, and Fitness Facilities alike. Regardless of the setting, his methodology and approach to learning Handstand just flat out works for students of all shapes and sizes.

kyleweiger.com

Connect on IG:  @kyleweiger

 

Finding Salvation in the Storm

The following is the story of my journey from a life plagued by burnout, addiction, depression and anxiety into a life of self-healing and finding salvation through yoga and a plant based diet.

I moved to Oakland to attend a graduate school program that would prepare me to be a public school teacher in urban communities. I was very intentional about the route I took into teaching. I choose a program that would provide me with a year of supervised student teaching and one that explicitly included courses on the profession of teaching and how issues of race and inequality impacted teaching and learning. I was a bright eyed young teacher and believed that with the proper training I would be prepared to work in some of the harshest conditions in the country. I wanted to teach because I wanted to create a narrative in my classroom that countered the narrative the larger society had about the students I worked with. I believed deeply in the importance of the work I was doing and I was committed to doing all I could to best serve my students. All the training in the world never be enough to prepare me for the conditions I would encounter as a teacher. Because I was young and didn’t yet know myself, I did not have the tools to deal with the emotional stress and trauma of the job.

In some respects, I had a lot of success as a teacher. I took on extra roles outside the classroom. I was creative with my curriculum, and I had strong relationships with my students. I was often described as passionate, dedicated and caring. Early in my career I had a colleague pull me aside to tell me that I needed to protect my passion because it would lead to my burn out. I remember feeling resentment at that statement as I felt like my passion set me apart from other more experienced teachers who appeared to me as more withdrawn from their work and therefore not as effective.

In my first year teaching one of my advisees was shot and killed. My room became the place where students came to mourn. I was tasked with holding space for her friends who were grieving her loss. The classroom does not exist in isolation from the community it serves. I became immersed in the constant trauma, violence and loss experienced by the students who graced my classroom. I continued to take on extra roles outside the classroom and seek ways to ease the pain of my students, all the while ignoring my own. I felt like the harder I worked the more I could do to help my students. I could not have been more wrong.

Numbing my emotions with work, alcohol and unhealthy relationships became my way of coping. I also developed an Adderall addiction, as I was fueled by the idea that the more productive I was the more valuable I was as a teacher. I was taking high doses of Adderall every day and using alcohol and marijuana to fall asleep at night. I was completely neglecting my physical, emotional and spiritual needs all under the façade that my work was more important than me.

I was on a one-way track to a breakdown, which thankfully came. I landed in a psychologist’s office reading me the results of my psychological evaluation. I was suffering from severe burnout, depression and anxiety as well as a substance abuse issue. The psychologist was ready to prescribe psych meds on the spot. At this point I had moved home and began practicing yoga twice a day. I had also begun to change my diet, and stopped taking Adderall all together. After my experience with Adderall the last thing I wanted was more pills. I told the doctor that I wanted to see if I could use yoga and diet to manage my mental and emotional health.

Two years later I am free of all substances and am more happy and connected to my passions and purpose than ever. I have been able to create a life for myself where my health and happiness are at the forefront. I traveled to Costa Rica to become a certified yoga instructor and currently teach regular yoga classes at a local studio here in Baltimore, Maryland. I am currently enrolled in a holistic health-coaching program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and am excited about expanding my capacity to support other peoples wellness journey through coaching. I have also been trained to teach yoga to people in recovery through Y12SR’s training. I have established a strong support group of people supporting me on this new journey. I am proud to say I am currently managing my addiction, depression and anxiety with yoga and a holistic lifestyle.

There was a moment of darkness when I could not imagine how I would ever move forward. My entire identity was wrapped up in my teaching career and my students. I had completely run myself into the ground. But I am here to tell you that there is another way to live, and that sometimes our biggest obstacles are actually here to direct us towards a life beyond our wildest imagination. You can find salvation in the storm. Yoga, a plant based diet and holistic self-care practices have saved me from a life of addiction, burn out, depression and anxiety. I am proud of my transformation.

At the end of each yoga class I teach, after savasana, I invite students to roll onto one side into a fetal position. I remind students that fetal position is a posture that symbolizes renewal and rebirth and is a reminder to us that every day, every practice, every breath is a chance to begin again. What will you do with yours?

 

Maya Semans is a former inner city high school English teacher turned yoga instructor and holistic health coach on a mission to share the power of yoga and wellness with women and communities impacted by burn out, addiction, and trauma. Located in Baltimore, Maryland.

Connect with Maya on IG: @ana_may_a

 

Maya participated in our Mentorship Program with Mary Tilson. Receive a consultation with Mary when you sign up for the Yoga Trade PLUS membership.

LEARN MORE:

Yoga Trade PLUS

Wanderlust: Inspiration for Yoga Teachers

One of the worlds largest yoga and lifestyle gatherings returns to the Lake Tahoe area July 19-22, 2018!

Wanderlust Squaw Valley is a high-vibe place to unite with the international yoga community through asana and meditation classes, personal growth workshops, music, and outdoor adventure.

It is important as a yoga teacher to continue to learn, to diversify knowledge, and to stay inspired and curious. Get out of the comfort zone and take classes and workshops that you normally may not. Connect with the intelligence of the granite, the pines, and the fresh mountain air.

Evolve your practice as a teacher and a student.

Some of the teachers and presenters this year include: Elena Brower, Eoin Finn, Shiva Rea, Chelsey Korus, Light Watkins, Noah Levine, Garth Stevenson, and DJ Drez.

A wonderful experience as a YOGA TEACHER as the event is over-flowing with wisdom, creativity and inspiration. Meet new friends and reconnect with old ones in this magical setting in the Sierras. Share the spirit of WANDERLUST. See you there!

Article Photos By Pete Longworth for Wanderlust Festival

Learn more and buy tickets here:

WANDERLUST SQUAW VALLEY

Connect with other Wanderlust events and happenings around the world:

wanderlust.com

FB: @wanderlust

IG: @wanderlustfest

 

Mastering the Business of Yoga

So much gratitude for the human connections made possible through the path of yoga! Here with catch up with Amanda Kingsmith, the founder of M.B.Om. Amanda has created a functional wonderland for business minded yogis including; a podcast, a blog, a community group, a yoga business bootcamp, and more. Learn more about her story, insights, and the good and important work she is up to!

Can you tell us a bit about your yoga background?

I started practicing yoga with my mom in my second year of university. Having come from a competitive dance background, I enjoyed the body-mind connection, but I didn’t feel overly challenged in the classes that we were going to. So, I started going to hot yoga. I practiced hot yoga for a number of years until I started working in corporate and began going to a studio that was close to my office. My once a week classes quickly turned into daily classes and it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

Fast forward about 2 years, I had traveled to South America for 6 months and relocated to a small mountain town in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I started working for lululemon and was working as a part-time studio manager for a local yoga studio, and practicing almost everyday. It was at that point that I decided that I wanted to take my yoga teacher training.

Nearly a year later, I traveled to Canggu, Bali to do my 200-hour YTT and haven’t looked back since!

What is M.B.Om and how did this idea come about?

M.B.Om stands for Mastering the Business of Yoga, and it’s a play on “M.B.A or Masters of Business Administration”. It’s a podcast and blog that focuses on teaching yoga teachers the business side of the yoga industry, and helping them to learn more business skills and recognize that it is possible to create a sustainable living in the industry.

The idea came about soon after I returned from my yoga teacher training. I came back excited to teach, but I didn’t really know where to start. Luckily, I was well connected in the town I lived in and was able to get teaching gigs fairly easily. However, about 5 months later, my boyfriend and I relocated to the southern U.S. and I had to start over again. I found myself pulling a lot of what I knew from my business degree and my life working in marketing in the corporate world into my yoga career, but I was still struggling. I also felt that I couldn’t be alone in my struggles, so I decided to start an interview based podcast to talk with successful yoga teachers on how they created successful careers as a way to teach yoga teachers (and myself) how to be successful in the yoga world.

As an entrepreneur, how do you set healthy boundaries for yourself as well as keep motivated and creative?

Creating boundaries for myself has been one of the hardest parts of entrepreneurship and remote work. Some of the boundaries that I set for myself are:

  • At least one day off a week, usually Sundays, to spend with my boyfriend and go out and explore wherever I am based.
  • No calls in the mornings – my mornings are my time for meditation, yoga, journaling, making a big, healthy breakfast, checking emails, and getting my day started. If I need to, I will work around this, but in general I find that having my mornings for myself is really important for my productivity and organization.
  • My daytimer – I would be lost without my Passion Planner. It has all my calls, to-do lists, tasks that need to get done, etc., and I’ve found having a solid calendar system has been really key for my success as an entrepreneur.
  • Power Hour on Sundays, where I spend an hour getting my week organized and getting clear on what I need to get done, when I have calls, etc. This hour really sets me up for success.
  • Regular bedtime and wake up time (which is always a work in progress).
  • Once I “shutdown” and stop working for the night, I don’t check emails again.
  • I respond to emails within 24-48 hours.

In terms of staying motivated and creative, I turn to podcasts, books, yoga classes with other teachers, blog posts from some of my favorite health and wellness bloggers, and time in nature for inspiration. Some of my favorite podcasts right now are Being Boss, From the Heart – Conversations with Yoga Girl, Biz Chix and the occasional episode of the Tim Ferris show. I love following Lee from America and Alison Wu for health and wellness inspiration, and the Bulletproof weekly newsletter is one of my favorites for healthy recipes.

She Means Business by Carrie Green is one of my favorite business books, and The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden is easily one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. If I’m ever super low on motivation and creativity, I read Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh! 

The Digital Nomad/Location Independent scene is SO hot right now;) Do you think it is a sustainable long term way to live and healthy for local community? What are your thoughts of the future of digital nomad life?

Good question! I think that digital nomad life appears much more glamorous than it actually is. There are photos popping up on Facebook and Instagram of people working beachside with a drink in their hands or lounging by an infinity pool, and the reality is that computers are not waterproof, they will die and overheat, and you always need a good wifi connection (which the beach rarely has!).  

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to live wherever I want, but I think that it’s important to note that digital nomad life doesn’t look so different from life at home – it just means you work from another country. I pretty much always work from my house, a coffee shop or a co working space though, never the beach! For me, this is the perfect balance of building a business and growing my career, while still being able to feed my love of travel and experiencing new countries.

I think that everyone is a bit different when it comes to lifestyle preferences. There are a lot of people who prefer to have a home and take vacations, while others prefer to roam. For me, I have always loved to travel and I don’t ever foresee myself living a life that doesn’t involve travel. However, travel will probably always look different depending what life stage I’m in. Right now, I’m loving spending winters somewhere warm and summers home in Canada, and taking some smaller trips throughout the year. At some point, I might want to have a place I call home for most of the year, but we’ll see.

I think that as humans we crave connection and we also crave community. Working remotely and having a location independent lifestyle means that you have to work a little bit more for your community because your community isn’t always right there in front of you. My boyfriend and travel partner, Ryan and I find that we feel most connected to a place when we can dive into the local community and become a part of it, and I think that as long as people are diving into and supporting their communities, local communities will continue to thrive.

I don’t think that the location independent lifestyle will ever die out, especially as it becomes easier and easier to do with technology, but I think we’ll see a lot of people trying it and finding that it’s not for them. For me personally, I’m excited to see what happens with the world as people move, travel and explore more. I think that exploring and learning about different cultures is one of the greatest ways to remember that we are all humans, regardless of language, race, gender, etc.

Your podcast is super successful! Congrats! What does it take to start and operate a functional podcast?

Thank you!

First off, starting a podcast is not as hard as most people imagine! All you need is an idea, a properly sized logo, a decent microphone and some recording / editing software.

Once you’ve got your podcast going, the most challenging part is staying on top of it. A successful podcast needs to have content released on a regular schedule and this can be one of the hardest parts when you have a busy schedule and lots of other things going on in your business. Now that podcasts are picking up more traction, there are a ton of editing companies, and I think that if you are starting a podcast as just one part of your business, it’s worth it to pay someone to produce it for you (especially if learning to produce audio doesn’t excite you and you’re already really busy).

For me, one of the biggest challenges when I first started was finding guests. I interviewed nearly every yoga teacher I knew before I started to gain some traction. It’s important to know that podcasting can be a big learning curve without very much direct return off the get go, but if you stick with it, you will gain a community of listeners (your tribe!), and have the opportunity to have conversations with people you may never otherwise have had the chance to have.

Although I love that my podcast is making me money now, it was 100% worth it just from a networking standpoint before I ever made a cent.

Yoga and Entrepreneurship can be seen as a paradox, although so many yogis are creating their own business to sustain themselves. Thoughts on this?

This has been a major focus of mine in 2018, as I completely agree that yoga and entrepreneurship don’t naturally blend themselves well. One of the biggest things that I try to instill to yoga teachers is that they are already building businesses, whether they like it or not.

Your students are your customers, your classes are your products, your teaching style is your brand, and when you teach more classes, offer workshops or retreats, you are naturally putting people through a sales funnel and selling to them. People get quickly turned off by marketing, sales funnels, and selling, but I want people to remember that we can offer a service that is authentic to us, sell it in a way that sticks to our values and feels true to ourselves and yoga, and create a brand while still staying true to the practice and lineage that is yoga.

In 2018, money is our currency exchange, and teaching yoga is simply an exchange. We exchange our service for money. If we can remember that, I think that we are all a lot better off in terms of building sustainable businesses and being able to continue offering yoga to our students.

I also like to think of teaching yoga as a form of entrepreneurship. We are our own service and brand and we work under the umbrella of studios to offer our service to customers. At the end of the day, we are not employees, we are entrepreneurs building heart-centered businesses with the goal of helping people heal and feel better in their bodies.

Who are some humans that currently inspire you?

I am lucky to have a lot of humans in my life that inspire me.

My boyfriend, Ryan Ferguson, is a constant source of inspiration for me. He reminds me to always make decisions based on my values even when those decisions are the hardest ones, pushes me to follow my dreams constantly, and challenges me to look at life differently.

I feel really fortunate to work with T.K. Coleman, the Director of Education for Praxis. He has taught me so much about working with other people, value creation, and how to be a good coach. He’s literally one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met!

I am also really inspired by one of the studio owners I work for, Jeff Mah. He’s an incredible yoga teacher, human, and mentor and he’s been one of the biggest inspirations for my own yoga career and business.

I’ve never met Carrie Green, but I am continuously inspired by her work. “She Means Business” was a game-changer for my business and I am constantly in awe by the her ability to drop so much value in a just a few words or a really short video. Whenever I need business inspiration, I turn to Carrie Green.

I’ve also never met Rachel Brathen, but I love her brand, her business and her podcast. She has a way of being authentic and telling it like it is that I love and that reminds me to be honest in the way that I portray myself, especially online.

Ayn Rand’s work has always inspired me. Not only is she an incredible author, but she is able to write fiction with deep philosophical narratives weaved through it, like no other author that I’ve ever read before. People often hate on Ayn Rand, but I think that anytime you can create a ton of controversy through something like a novel, you’re doing something right.

Similarly, Harry Potter is my favorite series of books and something that I turn to for inspiration time and time again, so it would be unfair to leave J.K. Rowling off this list. If I can create something in my lifetime even half as powerful as the Harry Potter series, I will die happy.

Where do you see M.B.Om and yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I hope to be financially sustainable with my online business, be teaching yoga regularly, and continue to be traveling regularly. I’m not quite sure where “home” will be yet, but I know that I will continue to venture back to the Canadian Rockies often.

I hope that in 10 years, discussing the business side of yoga will not be quite so taboo. I hope that every yoga teacher feels comfortable talking about money and business and that conversations around business are more prevalent in 200-hour YTTs. At the very least, I hope to be leading my own YTTs, where I can guarantee that there will be a business component (amongst the rest of it, because business is not the only important part!).

I hope that M.B.Om is at the top of the iTunes charts for “Careers” and that I have 10x as many listeners (assuming podcasts are still a thing – who knows, right?!). Either way, I hope that what I am doing is creating a wave in the yoga industry where I can help yoga teachers create sustainable long-term businesses so that they can teach yoga through until their 90’s and help heal the world. People need yoga and yoga teachers need to make money to keep teaching yoga, which is why learning about business is so, so important.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I also co-host a podcast called The World Wanderers with my boyfriend, Ryan. We have been doing the podcast for about 4 years and on top of sharing all of our travels around the world, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to a ton of amazing people who have created businesses related to travel, who travel full-time, who travel with their kids, who have become full-time travel bloggers, and much more. If you like travel, as well as yoga, please feel free to check it out!

CONNECT:

M.B.Om: Mastering the Business of Yoga

FB: @masteringthebusinessofyoga

IG: @masteringthebusinessofyoga

 

Power of Community: Shakti Fest 2018

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

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

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

Filmmaker:  Audrey Billups

Find Purpose With a Mindful Gap Year

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

What is your definition of a gap year?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes Intrepid Gap unique?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

FB:  intrepidgap

IG:  intrepidgap

 

The Women of Bali

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

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

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

Donate HERE

Gather Amongst the Joshua Trees

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

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

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

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

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

See you there!

 

 

 

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

thenomadicfilmmaker.com

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

Dive Deep With a Single Breath

Cover Photo: SzJanko Photography

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

Super excited to join in for the Freediving and Yoga Retreat in Bali //November 11 to 17 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: JF Gutierrez

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

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

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

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

Can you recall one of your most memorable dives?

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

Where is your favorite place to dive?

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

Anything else you’d like to share?

We have some amazing retreats and trainings coming up later this year! Discover your true potential in this unique 6 days all-inclusive Yoga and Freediving Retreat by the Sea led by Gabrielle GQ & Natalie Rudman  November 11 to 17 2018 in BALI. You will be breathing a lot; exploring various pranayama that can be applied both in the practice of Yoga and Freediving, connecting your mind and body through Yin Yoga and Vinyasa Flows, eating delicious local vegan food and learn how to explore the ocean on a single breath!

JOIN US!

Learn more about the November Bali Retreat HERE

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

Sustainable Yoga Travel – It’s Our Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we do?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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