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

 

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

A Yoga and Surfing Adventure Story

I have always shared a sentiment with close friends about how yoga and surfing simultaneously saved and ruined my ‘life’. A shift in perspective changes it all into a grand adventure story.

Back in 2014, I had every ‘thing’. Great job, beautiful house and loving relationship. At the age of 25, I was set…..Well, so, that’s what everyone thought. Living in the big city, I would find myself craving to be out in nature and next to the sea. As I talked with friends and family they said, “Jodi, C’mon, you need to be realistic.” – As a dreamer, this word killed me. – I believe people telling me to be realistic pushed me further to listen to that little voice inside. My intuition was telling me to search for something real. With no clue what I was looking for, I knew I had to follow that feeling. At the time I kept contemplating, do I give up my love for my dream, or give up my dream for love?

I opted for the first one.

To say it was easy would be a lie. With many tears shed and a heavy heart, I was on my way, soon realising that less was more. I was struggling with my health at the time due to irregular eating, sleeping and flying patterns. A trusted friend had approached me and told me a surf camp in Sri Lanka was looking for a yoga instructor. Having already trained as a yoga teacher the previous year, I decided to take the next step. After some serious soul searching and contemplation, I quit my air hostessing job of five years and jumped on the opportunity. My next chapter began.

Guiding yoga classes in the mornings and having all day to surf in the tropical waters of Sri Lanka made me realise that I was on the right track. I found a peace and serenity, which further fuelled my desire to follow this new lifestyle. After five months, the season was coming to an end and I was not sure what was in store next…The security of my old life had given way to something far more unpredictable. Scary yes, but what would an adventure be without such feelings?

One thing was for sure. I knew I wanted to continue this path of sharing my love for yoga. The UK was calling as I had a magical crew of friends down in Cornwall that I had met many moons ago in Costa Rica, so over the pond I hopped. Sharing my yoga classes on the golden sands of the Atlantic coast was nothing but fresh and invigorating. This is where I met my current partner who shares my passion for surfing, camping, nature and adventure.

We planned a ‘trip of a lifetime’.

Travelling down the coast of Central America. Starting in LA and making our way down to Costa Rica over four months on a shoestring budget. Always remembering less was more. My dream had become my reality, with meeting so many authentic characters and sharing it all with my partner in crime.

Having spent another lush summer in the UK, fast forward to where I am now – the in-house yoga instructor at Surf Star Morocco – A surf camp that embodies their love for the surf, nature and life. It’s The enchanting Morrocan land of the right-hand point breaks. My daily routine consists of guiding a morning flow to wake the surfers up to hit the waves all day then taking them through a yin/restorative class in the evenings to rejuvenate their bodies & minds for the following day. I am currently in sync with mama nature, rising with the sun and tucked in by 8 pm most nights. Fuelling my body with the fresh food made with love that the camp prepares daily. So, the moral of my story is create your own reality and don’t listen to others when they tell you that you need to be “realistic”. As for me, there is nothing more real than feeling the wind on my face and the waves on my toes. Listen to your intuition and follow your dharma & remember that the best ‘things’ in life are not ‘things’.

Knowing that the path of Yoga has brought me around the world, from teaching on an eco-farm in Costa Rica to the sublime Moroccan coastline. It has physically opened me up and mentally allowed me to overcome insecurities & vulnerabilities of being open to love as it’s all around us and within each and everyone one of us. I am forever grateful to be shredding the radical!!!

 

 

 

Jodi is a yogini from Canada that started her adventures into this trade from Yandara, Mexico. She is currently travelling the globe in the pursuit of waves and sharing her path of yoga. You can find her here on FB here:

wavestrengthyoga

 

A Surfin’ Yogi Family

I met the Estes family in Costa Rica when they were a happy family of four. Now a happy family of five, Dustin and Lauren are raising three beautiful daughters, Shaylee, Sunny, and Sage. This is one of the most inspirational families I have known. They are loving, kind, creative, full of spunk, spirited entrepreneurs, and the ultimate freedom chasers! They have dedicated their lives to the ocean and yoga has also played an important role. The first year I met them, I participated in one of their ‘Surfin’ Yogi’ weeks and had a blast. Dustin definitely brings the love and fun into surfing while Lauren brings her innovative simplicity, peace, and holistic wellness to everyone around her. And the kids…well, you just have to meet them! Besides being hilarious, their zeal and imagination is contagious. I still remember two amazing one liners that Dustin called out to me while paddling for waves…”Look where you want to go!” and “Paddle to the peak!” Amazing words for surfers, yogis, and wisdom for life in general. This family is a true example that you can carve your own path and live the life of your dreams, as long as there is love. Here we catch up with Dustin Estes to learn more about this impactful Surfin’ Yogi Family.

Cover Photo:  Angelo Regalbuto

How would your describe your family to someone that has never met any of you?

LOUD. Haha! Definitely different from a lot of families out there. We homeschool (unschool), and travel quite a bit. We own a surf school so summers are SUPER BUSY, and the rest of the year is pretty calm, which I think can be quite different from a lot of families, where summer is their downtime, and the rest of the year is work/busy time. Also, since we own a business together and homeschool, we are always together. It can get pretty trying sometimes but at the end of the day it is pretty special to have so much quality time with each other and our kids, and we are very close because of it.

Can you tell us the story of how you and Lauren met?

When I first moved to St. Augustine my friend and I were eating at the new taco shop in town and Lauren was behind the counter. When we left I told my buddy that the babe behind the counter was “definitely into me.” He said, “No way dude, she was into me.” We were both in love, which I later found out was a common theme when people meet Lauren. I ended up getting a job at the taco shop, probably sub-consciously to win her over. She said she didn’t remember us ever coming in. Haha. I guess she wasn’t into either of us, but I ended up winning her over in the end. We dated for a couple months and went on a trip together to Costa Rica, and when we came home Lauren was pregnant with Shaylee (our oldest), so we decided to make a life together and have never looked back.

What are some of the top values within your family?

Time would probably be number one. We find it super important to spend quality time together. Life is so short that we don’t want to work it away, go on a one week vacation every year, and only see our kids and grandkids over Christmas break. We travel, we surf, we camp, we read together, watch movies together, explore together…really we do everything together as a family.

Also, it is really important to us that our kids learn to treat everyone with kindness and respect. It sounds a little cliche, but especially with the way things have been going on in the country lately, it is really important that they understand that everyone is different, and that is okay, and sometimes just being kind to someone can change their day for the better. I know it does for me all the time!

Why do you feel the ocean is so important for wellness?

Oh my gosh…it is everything to us. It provides us with an income, a hobby, a passion, quality time, etc…It is how I’ve met almost all of my friends and people who are important to me in my life. We have shaped our whole life around the ability to jump in the water and go surfing any given day. I’m so thankful for it on a daily basis.

How has yoga influenced your family?

It definitely plays an important role. Lauren has a pretty regular practice, and honestly it was one of the things that attracted me to her so much at the beginning of our relationship. Just the fact that she was so healthy and calm and kind. And I think she owes a lot of that to her practice. Because things can get so hectic around the house, with work, and homeschooling and just always being on top of each other, it is the one thing where she can go in the other room, and just spend some time practicing yoga and meditating, and it really helps.

Also, on a different note it is how we have connected to some of our best friends in the world. Our Surfin’ Yogis camp in Costa Rica has brought us so many lifelong friendships that I am eternally grateful for.

Why do you believe surfing and yoga go so well together?

I think with both you are trying to find some sort of flow. Whenever I find I’m doing my best surfing I am in a really good flow and connection with the ocean. When I’m not having the best time, it’s typically because I’m in my head and not connecting well. But when I have those days where I’m super in sync with the ocean and the flow, I find my life to go really well and vice versa. While I don’t practice a ton of ‘yoga’, it seems that the people in my life who do are generally in a good state of mind and seem to have good outlooks on life. I find a lot of surfers are similar….and when you combine the two, well you’re just winning! Also, being flexible and strong is so important to surfing, and there are not many things that make you strong and flexible like a good asana practice.

What are other ways you try to bring holistic health and sustainability into your everyday lives?

Lauren is an herbalist, so she is always shoving tinctures and teas down our throats. She has a side business called Tribe Apothecary, where she makes natural “Conscious SunCare” and organic herbal products. Our oldest daughter is the only one of our 3 that has ever been to a doctor. We took her to some check ups with a pediatrician when she was an infant because that’s what we were told to do, but other than that the rare times we get sick Lauren treats us.  That’s not to say there is not a place for going to a medical doctor because there definitely is! We have just been fortunate enough to not have to go down that road.  

Lauren has been vegan since she was 12 years old, and so the girls have been mostly vegan their whole life as well. We have chickens so sometimes they will eat the eggs (from our healthy, happy backyard hens) and when my friends or I catch fish, Sunny and Sage (our younger two) will sometimes eat a little of that. I try to eat consciously, but slip from time to time. We recycle!

Who or what inspires you most right now?

That’s an endless list. I’m super inspired by people who find ways to live a quality life while not giving into the pressure of what our society says is a “good life.”  Also, people who give back unselfishly. That’s a big lesson I’ve been learning lately. I think it was Tony Robbins who said, “If you won’t give away 10 cents out of a dollar, what makes you think you’ll give away a million dollars out of ten million dollars.” I really like that because you don’t have to be, or wait until you are rich to donate time and/or money. Here are some of the people we admire:

Dustin:

Liz Clark – She is just a badass and an awesome role model for Women and everyone.

Kelly Slater – He could just sit back and relax, surf, and do whatever he wants, but he is committed to awareness and sustainability, and I admire the way he lives his life.

Shane Dorian – I’ve never met him, but as far as being a good dad and living life on your own terms there seemingly is no one doing it better.

Pat McMahon – Good friend who always has some interesting thing going on. Whether it’s building a house, making mead, brewing beer, designing a farm, going somewhere epic to surf, making a surf film…I could go on and on and on…Always looking up to this guy.

Walter Coker – A local photographer/writer in my hometown who is super conscious and has kind of seen it all. He is an amazing photographer and is just a legend.

Lauren:

Christie Carr – Christie lives from her heart and is constantly engaged in the activities that matter to her. Her excuses are few and her motivation is abundant!

Aviva Romm –  An herbalist, midwife and author who went through medical school even though she already had a successful practice and 3 children. Now as an M.D. can better influence the medical field through holistic care.  

Stephen Harrod Buhner – Pioneering author, teacher and advocate on heart centered perception and plant intelligence. He gives words to and validates feelings (and truths) that our society does not place enough importance on

Favorite words to live by?

Lauren“Occupy your heart.”  A daily mantra to remember to let the heart guide, not to over think it all, and in try to live in the moment.

Dustin“If you want to change your life, you have to first change yourself.” Just reminds me to get off my ass and do something cool or positive if I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated.

Funniest thing you’ve heard one of the kiddos say this month?

Oh my! Sage (our 4 year old) comes up with great ones daily. Lauren has a video of her on her Instagram telling us why koozies are great, “Cuz they keep your hands warm and your drinks cold.”  Pretty much sums it up.

Anything else you’d like to share…

Come visit us in Costa Rica this winter for our Surfin’ Yogis camps! Also check out tribeapothecary.com for some goodness.

And I would also like to add that there are a million different ways to live your life and raise your kids. The way Lauren and I do it suits us, and isn’t perfect for everyone, and we mess up ALL THE TIME. As long as you love them and show them the respect that you want them to show you in return, then you are doing it right.

Surf with the Estes Family at one of their upcoming weeks at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica!

 



 

 

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

Wild & Free: Meet Movement Enthusiast Rod Cooper

Need a little inspiration to set your life in motion? Meet Rod Cooper, Founder of The Movement Collective in Newcastle, Australia. At a first glance of Rod’s inspiring practice, many assume he has a long history of gymnastics or martial arts. But as we learned after chatting with him, it wasn’t too long ago that Rod was a beginner himself. Read the interview below to hear Rod’s inspiring philosophy on overcoming fears and limitations of the body, and how small feats in your practice pave the way for real life transformation.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a movement teacher and studio owner?

 

I’ve been practicing Movement for around 4-5 years with no previous experience in gymnastics or yoga.

 

Since discovering the Ido Portal Method and the movement world I have shifted my mindset from just fitness to a more creative and artist approach to my life and practice. I have been obsessed with discovering what my body is capable of, not just what it looks like.

 

I know how much the movement practice has changed my life and wanted to share this with everyone I possibly could. That’s where the idea for the Movement Collective came from. I wanted to create a space in my home town Newcastle, Australia where people are given the tools and environment to not only improve the physical body but completely change their perspective on what we should be practicing and what we are capable of as humans.

 

Why do you feel movement is important? How do you differentiate movement from yoga or other forms of exercise?

 

For me, Movement incorporates everything that we can possibly practice taking inspiration from gymnastics to yoga, martial arts, circus arts, dance. Not only that, even some things as subtle as breath work and spinal waves, or joint articulation are a part of the practice. It’s important for our development to always be learning new skills, increasing, strength, mobility and body awareness. We don’t see it as exercise or punishment for our body, it’s an endless journey continuously improving in all areas.

 

We’re blown away by your photos and videos on Instagram (peep Rod’s incredible moves if you haven’t already!) What would you say to a complete beginner to get motivated?

 

I started out watching plenty of YouTube clips to get motivated, there are endless videos and images on social media to show you where you can get to and also some awesome tutorials to help you along the way. Take a movement class if there is a gym close by or check out yoga, gymnastics or martial arts studios in your area. We are also developing some online content so stay tuned for that.

At Yoga Trade, we value truly living yoga. In the case of movement, how does your physical practice translate to your life beyond the mat or studio?

 

For me Movement is my life, I crave my own personal practice every day and always look forward to getting everyone together in the class environment we have created at The Movement Collective.

 

It’s not an accident I do what I love and love my job, I have designed my life exactly the way I want to live. That always includes movement whether that be teaching, personal practice or in a group of like-minded people.

 

What have been your greatest lessons in creating your business and dream life?

 

Trust your heart/gut, I have done this from the start and everything always works out. If you work as hard as I do to achieve the life or goal you want, absolutely nothing can stop you from achieving it.

 

Find what you love and do that.

 

What’s one fun fact our readers may not know about you from following you online?

 

Before starting the Movement Collective I was a professional beer brewer, I still like a good craft beer from time to time. No back flips under the influence though…..that’s never a good idea. 🙂

 

Your upcoming retreat with Sjana Elise at Nihiwatu looks incredible! Can you tell us a bit more about what we can expect?

 

I really want to share as much as possible with the people attending the retreat while still keeping it fun and relaxed. Expect handstands, animal movements, spinal health exercises, acrobatics and the rest is a secret. I can’t wait to get back to Nihiwatu.

 

You can find out more about the retreat at:  www.nihi.com/retreats

 

To visit Rod at his home studio visit: The Movement Collective

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Tilson is an international yoga teacher, retreat leader, and passionate world traveler. After completing over 1,000+ training hours in both Eastern and Western approaches to yoga, she is acknowledged for making her teaching accessible to all levels.

Wild & Free: Meet Australian Yogi Sjana Elise

“I’m so humbled to have had things work out the way they have, and I am extraordinarily blessed to make a life out of something I love.“ –Sjana

I had the opportunity to connect with Sjana Elise earlier this year when she came out to visit Nihi Sumba Island, a remote luxury island retreat located east of Bali in Indonesia.

Sjana has acquired over 1.3 million followers on Instagram over the last few years by simply sharing what she loves – yoga! Yet despite her quick rise to social media fame, she remains the same sweet, bubbly personality you find on her daily Instagram posts and stories, which are filled with inspiration to get outside, move your body and live joyfully.

After overcoming her own struggles with depression in her teen years, Sjana has become an advocate for developing healthy habits to maintain balance of mind, body and spirit. She offers classes live at her home studio in Australia, you can also now practice with her using her newly launched SWEAT App, and she’s running her first Wild & Free Retreat this October with Movement Teacher Rod Cooper at Nihi Sumba Island!

Read on for some personal insight into Sjana’s journey including fun facts you might not know about her and what exciting news she has coming up next:

Can you share more about your journey with yoga and how you went from zero to 1.3 million followers on Instagram?

To be honest, it all happened rather organically. I never set out with an intention to do, be or achieve anything in particular, it just happened as a positive consequence of doing what I loved and following my passion.

After going through a rough time with depression and anxiety around the age of 15-16, I ended up leaving school early, taking up yoga as a means of recovery, gaining early acceptance into university and studying a Bachelor of Arts. After about two years of studying a bunch of random topics, I settled on photo journalism and ended up moving interstate to complete that course. I continued to take images, and also began taking self-timered images of the yoga poses I was learning (usually on the beach at sunrise or sunset). I was working full time as a waitress also, and idling through the days fairly smoothly. However, life has a funny way of working its magic. And before I knew it, I was being asked to travel around the world and take images to promote a certain brand, company, resort, airline, trip, country or tourism board. As the true power of social media became more and more evident, I became busier and busier, and soon found myself in my current position. Throughout my battles with depression and remaining focused throughout all the unforgivable travel hours (although the opportunities are incredibly amazing, as any avid traveler will tell you, it can also be exhausting at times!) yoga has been the one thing that never fails to ground me.

How do you use your influence in a positive way?

I understand that any social media presence effectively has power. And with that power comes a great responsibility to my followers.

I try my best to live as an example. I know that a lot of young women and influential girls follow me, and I hold it as my purpose (and passion) to be a positive role model and show them just how powerful, strong, capable, unique and BEAUTIFUL they are.

This is everything from remaining honest and transparent, living in a way that reflects my values and respects the values of others, removing judgement and criticism in any/all areas of my life, sharing inspiration I find, involving myself in projects that will ultimately help to positively affect the lives of others, being kind and mostly just being genuine, raw and relatable.

I want girls to know that I am just like them; and that if they want a friend or “sister” figure — then I am here for them.

What have been the greatest lessons learned while developing such a strong voice in the IG yoga community?

I would probably have to say understanding the power of social media itself. It has the ability to be a truly remarkable tool for growth, change and transformation through mass media and marketing. But it also has the ability to be a huge burden and a way for people (young women especially) to become overwhelmed by what they are seeing, and consciously or subconsciously compare their own lives to everyone else’s highlights.

I think my journey with social media and Instagram in particular has been the awakening of an awareness about finding balance and using social media platforms in a healthy and safe way.

Social media is only part of our stories…it’s what we choose to show.

(Yes, I too used to have an unhealthy relationship with social media and allowed myself to negatively judge and compare my own life. EVEN when others were doing that same thing to me.)

What is your best advice for aspiring yoga teachers looking to grow their presence online in a mindful and authentic way?

Just BE YOU! Honesty and transparency is not only respected, but more often than not it is seen as strength not weakness. Being flawed is something that actually adds to our overall charm. Don’t be afraid to speak and live your truth online as well as on your mats.

Where do you find the most inspiration to share with your network?

Inspiration is all around us! And it is entirely unpredictable. I never know where or when it will hit me; I could be having a friendly conversation with a stranger and find something they say to be endlessly fascinating, I could be in savasana deep into my practice and be awakened by an epiphany or I could be strolling along the beach and a familiar scent could work its way through my nostrils and pull at some heartstrings…that’s the best part of inspiration. The fact that you never know where you’ll find it!

Can you tell us about your new role as a SWEAT trainer?

As a SWEAT trainer my role is to provide health, fitness and yoga programs and content to the biggest female fitness community in the world. And my program is now available for women to use globally.

I consider my role as a SWEAT trainer to include being a “sister” for anyone who is seeking encouragement, support, motivation or even just a friendly hug. I want women all over the world to know that my program and I are here for them.

What is your favorite quote or words you live by?

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Never fails to ground and humble me.

Fun fact your followers might not know about you?

I used to be an American Style Cheerleader. I actually competed at the World Championships one year. (I was a base, not a flyer though. Which means I did the catching, not the flips in the air!)

We know you have an AMAZING retreat coming up! Can you tell us a bit more about that and what we can expect?

I do I do! I am so excited because this will be my first time officially hosting a retreat! AND I am actually going to be co-hosting with the extraordinary Rod Cooper (@rodjcooper) to make it a yoga and movement retreat. It’ll be five days at the luxury Nihiwatu Resort on Sumba Island in Indonesia. We’ll have daily yoga on one of the most amazing yoga pavilions you will ever see. Daily movement and locomotion classes, world class surfing, hikes, waterfalls, organic chocolate-making classes, snorkeling and the awesomeness of staying in your own private villa. It’s going to be so much fun and no doubt transformational for anyone who joins us.

I can’t wait to share the experience with you!

 

You can find out more at www.nihi.com/retreats

 

 

 

 

Mary is an international yoga teacher, retreat leader, and passionate world traveler. After completing over 1,000+ training hours in both Eastern and Western approaches to yoga, she is acknowledged for making her teaching accessible to all levels.

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.

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

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

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

Here are a few unexpected revelations:

1. Yoga history is a total mash-up.

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

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

2. Patanjali probably wasn’t just one dude.

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

3. Yogis weren’t always mainstream.

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

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

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

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

 

4. Asana itself is quite new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mind. Blown.

6. Women are often invisible in yoga history.

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

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

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

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

7. Context is everything.

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

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

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

9. There is no “one true yoga.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

11. There are so many reasons to be hopeful.

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

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

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

What To Do When You’re Teaching In 15 Minutes & You’ve Got Nothing To Give

Teachers, does this sound familiar?

You’re drained, running on empty, burning the candle at both ends. You’ve taught 12 classes already this week, and with four to go, you wonder what you have left to give anyone.

You haven’t gotten much sleep. You’ve not eaten all day and you’re super low-blood-sugar. Or maybe you’re just feeling kind of quiet and blue; your dog just went in for surgery to remove a lump, or your grandmother is ailing, or you just found out you didn’t get that job (or that date) you really, really wanted.

Whatever the case — your gas tank is empty, and you’re feeling decidedly short on the kind of chutzpah required to power through being an inspiring yoga-guru for the next 90 minutes. How are you supposed to emcee a dance party when you’d rather curl up under the covers and hibernate?

I’ve been mentoring a few [awesome] teachers lately as they study for their 500hr certifications, and this is one of the topics that has repeatedly come up. Most of us wellness professionals can relate to this, yeah? If you teach long enough, you’ll surely experience burnout at some point. It’s the nature of the biz. (And the nature of being human, to be honest.)

For newer teachers especially, who are often hustling from location to location teaching 10-15 classes a week, it’s not an option to cut back to a more reasonable number. Add in urbanity, commuting, and a high cost of living, and you need to keep teaching a robust regular schedule to afford to pay your rent and eat a decent meal now and then, too. The luxury of cutting back to just a few inspired classes a week is one that’s often only available to established teachers with large followings, or folks with another full-time job that takes the financial pressure off yoga teaching.

Wellness professionals — whether yoga teachers, Pilates teachers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, you name it — well, we give a lot. The very nature of our craft is that you put yourself out there, physically AND emotionally. You can’t just hide in a cubicle with your headphones on and fritter the workday away online waiting for the clock to hit 5pm so you can escape to your sofa. You need to show up, in every way — whether you’re feeling en fuego or exhausted.

The upside for those of us who really love teaching is that so much comes back to us, too. How lucky are we to do the kind of work that makes us feel MORE alive when we finish? Many times over the years I’ve walked into a class feeling kind of neutral (shall we say sattvic, or quietly balanced, to keep it Ayurvedic?), and walked out feeling buzzingly-alive, connected, inspired. How cool is it that we get to do that kind of work? It really is a blessing.

Here are a few things to remember on the days when you might struggle for inspiration:

1. Take a deep breath.

Are you breathing? Chances are, probably not. Take a few good deep ones. You’re gonna be fine.

2. Eat a little snack.

Seems silly, I know. But check in. Have you eaten enough today? Grab an apple or a Lara Bar or a handful of almonds or, yes, even a Snickers. (And enjoy the hell outta that Snickers.) It might just give you the oomph you need.

3. Grab a chai or a cup of coffee.

Sure, there’s caffeine in there, which can provide a little motivational kick in the pants when you need it. But it’s more than that. It’s the concomitant ritual of self-care that goes a little deeper. Sit down quietly with the chai and notice, “Oh hey, I feel quiet and/or flat today,” and give yourself the space to be just that. (This is meditation, yo. Witnessing the feelings you’re feeling without thinking they’re YOU. Realizing they will always pass.) Taking just those few minutes of focusing, of slowing down, can make all the difference. Sometimes just pushing pause on the constant multi-tasking hustle can re-energize you.

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4. Realize that it’s not YOU doing the work.

It’s easy to get caught up in the illusion that you’re putting on a show, that you’ve gotta come up with some brilliant original material and hold people’s attention for a good 90 minutes. False. Let that shiz go. This is not your rodeo. You’re just being a vessel for spirit. You’re offering your hands, your body as a vehicle for the divine. And your job is to show up, get out of the way, and let the yoga move through you.

 

5. “Knees down, Hips back, Child’s Pose.”

Keep it simple, sweetheart. Stick to the basics. No need to blast ‘em with some ninja-complicated sequence. No need to reinvent the wheel. The simplest yoga poses can go so far. When I was first starting to teach and feeling the pressure to impress, an early mentor of mine told me, “Rachel, it’s easy. Knees down, hips back, Child’s Pose.” Done. I think of that sometimes even still.

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6. Remember: you don’t have to be a charismatic preacher.

That’s not your job. And teaching yoga is not a performance. Nobody’s paying $15 to jump around and entertain them for an hour. The students you are blessed to serve just want someone to help them get out of their heads and into their bodies. They want to stop thinking about their lives for an hour. They want you to tell them how to move so that their bodies and minds feel better when they walk out the door. It’s not about you, and it was never about you. So let go of the idea that you need to put on a Super Bowl half-time show complete with pyrotechnics and rainbows shooting out your butt. All you need to do is lead a solid, strong practice.

7. Take it one pose at a time.

I remember teaching during the very early days of my pregnancy, before anyone yet knew. I was feeling so nauseous and weak, but couldn’t tell anyone. A few minutes into some of those first trimester classes, I’d think to myself, “Ohmygosh, how am I going to make it 87 more minutes?” Rather than getting caught up in the enormity of the energy output you need to garner, come back to this moment. Come back to this very breath. Instruct the low lunge you’re holding folks in for the next five breaths. Make it to the other side. Take it step-by-step, pose-by-pose, without looking ahead to the scope of the class remaining. You’ll be ultra-present and deeply involved, and it will flow by smoothly before you even realize it’s over.

8. Don’t put on a perky mask. Let yourself be real.

I’ve long said: Yoga doesn’t mean you have to be perky all the time. Yoga means you get to be REAL.

Some of my favorite teachers are exactly that because they allow themselves to be who they are. They don’t try to fit some archetypal image of who they think a yoga teacher “should” be. Perhaps the most intimate and most inspiring thing you can do is to let yourself be real, too. If you’re feeling quiet, let yourself be quiet. If you’re feeling vibrant, by all means, radiate, baby. But don’t feel like you need to put on a charade when you walk in the door. People want a teacher who’s human, not a machine.

Virginia Woolf said it best: “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”

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9. Let go of the need for a theme.

Some schools of yoga encourage you to always teach around a theme, a heartfelt quote, a peak pose. I say: screw that. You don’t need to come wielding Hafiz. Leave the hastily-scribbled Rumi instagram quote in your purse. Don’t stay up all night devising the most pretzel-y sequence that ever was.

Provide a well-rounded practice with equal parts warm-ups, standing poses, seated poses, backbends, and forward folds, and you’ll be fine. Sometimes the nugget of wisdom you were searching for comes up when you least expect it, when you’re there three breaths into Camel Pose. Let it.

10. Trust in the inherent wisdom of the practice.

Everything students need is already there in the practice. You are just driving the bus. The school bus has it all, already. In fact, it’s tricked out, man.

The first yoga sutra, Atha Yoga Anusasanam, means exactly this. You chant that simple sutra to open the class and in so doing say: “Ok, I’ve got everything I need, already, right here, as I am. In this jiggly body. With these tight hamstrings. With this bum shoulder. And this racing mind. Now is the time for the yoga to begin.”

That’s what’s so awesomely radical about yoga, of course. You don’t NEED expensive shoes. You don’t NEED a climbing wall. And, in spite of what the ads tell you, you don’t NEED the $108 pants. All you need is your breath, a little space, and your bare feet. From there, you build the heat, you open it up, you slow it down, you wring it out.

Leading the practice is the same way. Even if you come into the room and just start counting the breaths, instructing the poses, folks will get exactly what they need. They don’t require you to balance spinning plates and juggle elephants while wearing sequins. And sometimes…

11. Silence says more than you ever could.

When in doubt, hand it over to silence. Let the stillness fill students’ hearts and minds. Don’t resort to anxious chattering to try to fill it up. How does that classic saying go? “Don’t speak unless you can improve upon the silence.” Yup. That’ll do.

 

 

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

The Dharma of Cycle

Beginnings, always the hardest part of writing anything.

Ok, let’s start with me just introducing without any bold bragging that I am a yoga teacher at a thriving yoga studio at the end of the world in Anchorage Alaska. I love this place immensely and the community surrounding it. This is my path, career and I believe what I was meant to do; let’s say my dharma. Disclaimer! I can’t say that I am the best at asana or probably don’t seem very yoga if you met me but this is a magic life for sure. When I was fortunate to start working as one of the studio’s yoga instructors I began to write an affirmation every morning, “I earn my way as a yoga teacher and with everything that comes with it.” That was some years ago.

This journey into working at this studio is the theme of this streaming consciousness attempt at a paper, more precisely the dharma and how it rolls out before me.

Fast forward to the immediate…

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One year ago my yoga studio opened a second venture, an indoor cycle center and put together a team of top notch instructors. Since I taught spin and group fitness classes on the side already in local gyms it seemed natural for me to want to be part of the team. I went through the process and became not only one of the cycle teachers (which we call Motivators) in addition to my yoga instructing but in the end the lead cycle teacher with many duties that support the studio’s operation. So, here I am a yoga instructor (that being my first love) still teaching asana then everyday going from this realm to the cycle studio where I wear a different hat yet for the same mission.

At first, it seemed like a contrary activity and sort of a conflict of interests since it seems very different on the surface. But on a deeper and more insightful level it is the same path and a furthering of my understandings of yoga as one might traditionally understand and its connection to the larger word. Since we are owned by a yoga studio we joke and say that we are yoga on a bike. In fact, we dangle a mandala from the center handle bar mast of the instructor bike on stage in front of the cycle room. But in all honesty, the yoga theme is kept a little covert since most people who come to a cycle are looking for a different external experience than those seeking the mat. This goes for the instructors as well. They too don’t want to hear about the yoga symbolism or philosophy behind what they teach very much, instead they are seeking something that is the same but in a far different colored package.

So, here comes my intention in full throttle-I do earn my way as a yoga professional in my life but the interesting thing is that more than two thirds of my day is involved with indoor cycle. Yet, if I go deeper past the surface, it is just a vibrant extension of my path as a yoga teacher and the intention “to earn my way as a yoga teacher with everything that come’s with it” has come true, especially when I think about the practice of yoga beyond asana. Dharma continues to unfold as it will before me and if I may be as bold to declare, that for anybody who is open and loving what they do will find the same to be true too.

 

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How to describe David? He teaches yoga and indoor cycling for sure but as a full time employee of Anchorage Yoga and Cycle he does so much more such as mentor new teachers, fix broken down cycles, client outreach and the list goes on.