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

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.

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

 

Co Living and Working for Wellness Professionals

My journey as a traveling yoga teacher has brought me to numerous yoga and wellness ‘communities’ around the world. I appreciate well run communal environments and have learned so much about ‘living yoga’, wellness, healthy cooking, permaculture, and sustainability from many of these places. I have also made many wonderful connections this way. Although nature and yoga are at my core, one of my current interests includes growing and evolving on a ‘professional’ level and as a business artist. Another interest is to connect and create relationships with humans outside the ‘yoga bubble.’

I have been intrigued by the Co Living/Co Working Community, Outsite for sometime, and  finally booked a stay at the Santa Cruz location in November. Upon walking into the ‘Greenhouse’ (Outsite Santa Cruz has two locations), I felt a warm and friendly vibe. The house has an open layout, high ceilings, redwood beams, and magnificent lighting. The location couldn’t be better and offers fantastic walkability options. The house is set two blocks from the ocean and the much loved West Cliff bluffs. It is the perfect recreation spot for walking, biking and surfing, and the beach can be accessed directly from the house via the magical Bethany Curve trail. Also, within walking distance are heaps of dreamy spots for wellness enthusiasts including; New Leaf Community Market, Santa Cruz Yoga, and Bantam Restaurant (Don’t Panic, It’s Organic!). The property boasts a lovely kitchen, beautiful communal space, a hot tub, bikes, surfboards, chickens, a plethora of books, board games, and a piano!

In community living situations it’s really all about the people. I was fortunate to meet a couple standout souls during my short stay here who inspired me with their stories and spirit (this included meeting a former Olympic Windsurfer who is now getting his MBA at UC Berkeley!).

If you are a yoga teacher or wellness entrepreneur looking to bring fresh perspectives and professional concepts into you life, here are some reasons why you may want to book a stay at a Co Living/Co Working space such as Outsite:

Diversity and Community

I love being part of the global yoga community, but it is also refreshing to meet people outside the world of yoga. A space like this brings all sorts of people together. It is much more than sharing a work space; these types of environments are special in that we can cook with, adventure with, and be challenged by the people we meet. It is a breeding ground for innovative ideas and different ways of thinking.

Collaboration and Networking

You never know who you will meet when booking a stay, and this is all part of the fun! Guests at Outsite can be Entrepreneurs, Developers, Designers, Artists, and Academics. Most people that stay here tend to have a great balance of work and play. As a yoga teacher and/or wellness professional this can be a great place to meet others that have valuable and different skills from ourselves to learn from.

Practice Openness and Be Part of a Social Movement

It can be challenging to share physical space. We know from the practice of yoga, that it is beneficial to be open and live from our hearts. Also, we know from asana that much of a yoga practice is about how to be more receptive when put in uncomfortable positions. If the idea of sharing house space with strangers sounds ‘uncomfortable’ to you, it may be a perfect way to practice some yoga and get out of your comfort zone. With housing costs on the rise, this way of living may become more of the ‘norm’ in the near future, and it can be exciting to be a part of it.

Location Independence and Flexibility

The reality is, more and more people are working from their laptops which means a lot of people have the opportunity to live anywhere they can get online. A perfect example of this are our friends Brandon and Anne aka The Yoga Nomads, who have created a successful online business. What an extraordinary time to live! Co Living/Co Working communities such as Outsite provide ‘flexible stability’. Have certainty that you always have a place to stay and a community, but choose when and where you will stay.

(After a morning of work, a housemate and I adventured up the coast)

Balance of Productivity and Fun

Often my most productive work is done in these kinds of collaborative environments. There is something about the sparks of energy that can be cultivated when a group of creatives come together. Many ‘digital nomads’ often spend much of their work time alone zoning out into cyber space. I find that many people (including myself) that work solo can sway easily to the extremes of imbalances, either by working too much and not finding self care or becoming lazy with a lack of motivation. Working in a community we can hold each other accountable. We can have time for focused work and then have fun and get out and play by surfing, hiking, biking, exploring, practicing yoga, making group dinners, or having dance parties!

Sustainability and Opportunities to Share Your Trade

With rental and home prices being quite high (especially in California), this a great way of living in amazing spaces while keeping our costs down. The concept of co living is nothing new, just they way we are doing it is. Many of us are realizing that living in isolated boxes (such as track homes in suburban neighborhoods) is not a sustainable way to live. As a society we are shifting toward wanting to live closer to the land and our food and water sources, or when in urban environments leaving smaller footprints. While staying at a co living community, we also have the opportunity to ‘share our trade’ with housemates. Most members of Yoga Trade are yoga teachers or have some kind of wellness trade. Offer to teach a yoga class, cook a healthy breakfast, or give someone a massage. Be of service, have meaningful experiences, and share the practice.

We will conclude with some inspiring words from Britt, the Operations Manager at Outsite. He is also the Community House Manager in Santa Cruz, and I was privileged to meet him and ask him a few questions:

Yoga Trade:  How would you describe the Outsite experience in a few sentences?

Britt:  Outsite is your new home if you’re traveling. It’s a community of traveling professionals looking for connection and a consistent experience. You’ll find comfort, new friends, and new hobbies as you explore our variety of locations around the world. Our locations are smaller than a hotel and more familiar. Our team, members, and guests are eclectic and friendly.

Yoga Trade:  What new Outsite location are you looking forward to most and why?

Britt:  I’m most excited about our upcoming location in Bali, Indonesia. I’ve never been there, and it seems like an adventurous paradise. We’ll be opening in Canggu, so it’s a prime spot. We’ll have authentic Bali architecture and furniture, yet modern fixtures and a pool!

Yoga Trade:  Where do you see yourself and Outsite five years from now?

Britt:  I hope we have more locations and more members, and it continues to thrive as a wonderful network. I see us having more locations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. I see us as a more recognized option for accommodation and community. I see myself still based in California, developing more partnerships and creating more events to bring together the Outsite Community.

Outsite currently provides several desirable locations (especially alluring for surfing yogis): Santa Cruz, Lake Tahoe, Venice Beach, San Diego, New York City, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica. New locations on the way include; Bali, Lisbon, and Baja!

Check out their affordable memberships and rates and connect here:

https://outsite.co/flex-membership/

FB: outsiteco

IG: outsiteco

Hope to practice the balancing act of work and play and share creative house space with you soon!

 

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!

 

Yoga Retreats: An Escape From Reality or Deeper Engagement?

The first yoga retreat I attended was intended to be a mere pit-stop on a lone trip around South East Asia. I was not-so-fresh out of university and in need of some serious TLC. My shoulders were permanently up to my ears, jaw always tightly clenched and the worries of the world sat in my stomach like lead stewing in acid. I arrived with tonsillitis, my pasty white skin contrasting sharply with the ruby red rash all over my body. In short, I was a mess.

I’d barely practised yoga before, but decided on a whim to try a retreat as a kick-start to a trip I’d imagined would be full of cocktails on beaches and partying with strangers. My focus was the location; little beach huts on a gorgeous Thai island, idyllic gardens stretching into sand and sea. On day one, I reluctantly dragged myself from the beach for the first yoga class, relatively disinterested and quietly cursing over the time I was losing to bask in the sunshine. It therefore came as a total surprise that whilst lying in Savasana at the end, I couldn’t stop tears from rolling down my cheeks. One by one at first, slowly but surely erupting into quiet sobs that came from depths I didn’t know existed.

After the class, I shyly loitered around the teacher, waiting to ask what had just happened to me. I felt uncomfortable and vulnerable and had no idea where this explosion of emotion had come from. Was I somehow doing yoga wrong? Only an hour before, I’d been lounging on the beach without a care in the world…or so I thought. I was told it was normal, common even, for deep emotional trauma to be released during yoga. This certainly had never happened to me at the gym, and I couldn’t help but wonder why this class was any different.

Curious, I persisted. I observed as layers of tension melted away day by day. I watched as my body and mind somehow became stilled by my previously shallow and laboured breath. What fascinated me the most was how deep the transformation seemed to be going in such a short space of time. I arrived feeling depleted and lost, but left only days later totally full; full of joy and calm and hope and excitement and energy, sensations I hadn’t felt for a long time. The experience ended up colouring my entire trip, moulding my decisions and steering me towards more fulfilling choices than I perhaps previously had in mind. Decision number one? Book another yoga retreat.

When I arrived at the next retreat centre in Cambodia only weeks later, I connected instantly. The place gave me tingles. The community at Hariharalaya practice and teach integral yoga, living yoga both on and off the mat – a concept although new to me at the time, resonated like nothing before. I was hungry to learn, eager to go deeper into this practice that had rapidly become so important to me. I could write essay after essay on what arose for me during that week, but suffice to say that my time at Hariharalaya was significant, eye-opening and life-changing. I left there a different person, evolved in some way I wasn’t quite sure of. How was this possible in only one week?

Despite travelling hundreds of kilometres to Indonesia after I left Hariharalaya, I knew I had to go back. Within weeks, I turned around and turned up again, excited for what I thought was to be round two of a personal transformation. But this time, something quite different occurred to me. I had been so focused on the power of yoga, I hadn’t noticed the power of a retreat. Of the particular format which, over mere days can prompt radical transformation; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

It was only by going to this same place a second time that I realised this. The first time I had been lost in my own metamorphosis – which by the way, is by no means a onetime thing! This second time, I couldn’t help but observe others. I watched as people, just like me, arrived frazzled and fatigued, tight and tense. Not in all cases, of course, but for the large part, it transpired that people had come as a means of release and relaxation, escape from their daily lives. As time passed, those who had made nervous small talk on the first day slowly crept out of themselves, sharing with sincerity and support. Others became more introverted, tucking themselves away and tapping into creative outlets. Some delved deep into yoga, others delved deep into novels. But each and every person radiated a satisfaction and content which grew exponentially as each day passed. Day by day, I watched as this new family opened up, blossoming in the light of the space that was held for them.

This, to me, is the root of what a retreat does: it holds space for transformation. It guides, teaches and nurtures, coaxing innate qualities to burst forward. Yoga is the tool, the practice around which all of this comes together. For many, there is neither time nor motivation to practice yoga every day, allowing the huge benefits of doing so to be revealed only during a retreat. Although tasty food and exotic locations often provide the temptation to book, it is this space that people come for, often unknowingly. It seems these days that we don’t allow ourselves enough time and space to explore creativity and spirituality, to play, to connect with nature and ourselves. It is this which I find so inspiring about retreats; that a formula so simple can provoke such a profound response.

The word retreat comes from the Latin retrahere, meaning ‘pull back.’ People’s perceptions of a retreat are no doubt shaped by the spectrum of its synonyms, from sanctuary and seclusion to withdrawal, isolation and hiding. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a retreat as a “process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.” In many ways, this is what I was doing when I booked my first retreat. I mindlessly entered my card details as procrastination from the endless difficulties of university work, daydreaming of myself on a beach in Thailand. The sad fact is that many of us feel the need to withdraw or pull back from fast-paced, high-pressure lifestyles in order to be able to process what is going on around us.

Whilst this may be the reason that some of us choose to go on a yoga retreat, it is certainly not its purpose. Whether we realise it or not, by consciously setting time aside to step out of usual routines and their accompanying anxieties, we are prompted to journey inward. Retreats offer us an environment in which we are able to listen to ourselves without distraction, to realise, reassess and refocus. This might expose depths of ourselves which have been overlooked. Suppressed energies can surface, and as such, going on retreat is not always easy. It is not an escape from reality, but a deeper engagement with it.

In taking the time to stop, listen and reflect, new perspectives naturally arise. As Marcel Proust once wrote, “the voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” This to me beautifully captures the longer-term benefits of going on retreat. Even though we must return to that from which we have withdrawn, we do so with new eyes. We go back to our roles, relationships and responsibilities with a fresh perspective. In this sense, the process of withdrawal on retreat is tactical; sometimes it is important to withdraw in order to advance.

 

 

 

Rachel Bilski is the co-founder of Shanti Niwas, a yoga collaborative currently holding yoga retreats and classes in Portugal. You can follow her musings on yoga, travel and life on the Shanti Niwas blog: www.shantiniwas.com/snblog

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!

You Are The Writer Of Your Own Life Travels through Ireland, the UK, India, Australia, and New Zealand

It has been such an incredibly beautiful journey with many lessons and blessings along the path.

 

This journey began back in Ireland after returning home for nearly 2 years, my soul was longing for something else, somewhere else and I wasn’t too sure what. I just knew I needed to go. It was almost like a ticking in my heart saying now is the time. The only thing I could do was listen to that calling and follow my heart; “It’s time to spread your wings and fly Clare.”

 

On one of our random sunny days in Ireland, I headed for Kilkenny Castle and went straight to the gardens to connect with Mother Earth, I got my laptop out and started to apply for yoga jobs on Yoga Trade around the world. Seeing which places I felt energetically drawn to at the time. Boom! Done, dusted, Sorted. I left it in the hands of the universe and waited knowing in my heart I would be leaving very soon. My family and friends thought it couldn’t be possible to move somewhere in 3 weeks without a job and somewhere to live. I trusted though…my soul knew.

 

A few days later I received a phone call from the UK. I moved there 3 weeks later! Aww Wee!

 

Scotland was so beautiful, almost like taking a step back in time, I knew I had been there before, there was a strange familiarity about the place perhaps in a past life. I was exactly where I needed to be. I spent a few weeks working, connecting with people and spending time with the elementals in parks and beaches. My heart still felt saddened though, something was missing… Yoga in some parts of the western world was becoming more money based instead of love based. Humanity is becoming addicted to technology, asana, and the outside world. We are creating insecurity and losing our self worth instead of being present with each other, finding the magic within coming from a place of love, healing, connection and safety. When we come from a place of love the abundance will flow.

 

One day I was having a conversation with a friend and I just said I don’t think this is for me, I blurted out…“MY SOUL IS BROKEN.”

 

Wow… who said that and where did it come from? (These were powerful words and I didn’t know to what extent at the time)! I surprised myself with the words that came out of my own mouth. It was a relief though and I felt this beautiful sense of peace wash over me. I felt happy and light again. That was my catalyst for CHANGE.

 

“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.”

 

I welcomed transformation into my life. Once I acknowledged how I felt and accepted it, a whole new world started to open up. My energetic vibration lifted higher and therefore I created new energy pathways to be revealed to me.

 

I was asked to facilitate a workshop with another teacher, “Awaken Your Inner Goddess” two days later in the most amazing studio in Edinburgh. My heart jumped with joy and that little voice inside roared YES, I WOULD LOVE TO! Again I was wondered who said that. I didn’t even have time to think about it in my head, did I know enough, what would I teach? It meant I was moving into the unknown, taking it one step at a time, allowing my heart to lead the way. Change can both be little scary, very exciting and totally worth it. I was a self employed yoga teacher teaching my truth and everyone’s truth is different and I totally respect that. I connected with the most amazing and loving souls, learning and growing from each other with plenty of fun and giggles along the way, I was finding my love for yoga again.

 

I was ready to move into my new home. My heart started to do that thing again though, you know the ticking thing before I left Ireland. I went and sat near the biggest tree in the meadows that day and began meditating hoping to pick up some inner wisdom and clarity from the tree. I did get the odd intrigued look from a few people…either they wanted to join in on my peaceful looking meditation or else just thought I was totally nuts.

 

I closed my eyes and tuned in, there was something else coming, there was something more I had to learn and it wasn’t here, this was just the start of the story. I was feeling a bit panicked as I was meant to be moving into my new home and decisions needed to be made soon.

 

It was full moon that night so I went out to the park and did my full moon ritual, writing down what I wanted to let go of and burning the paper as a way of releasing it to the ethers.

 

I sat on a bench and my conversation with Mother Moon that evening went something like.. .”I really like it here but why do I have this feeling. If I’m not meant to be here, something better happen will soon and when I say soon I mean before tomorrow night because if I move into my new place, then I’m not leaving for the next 6 months.” Feeling I needed to be firm so she knew my seriousness and of course having so much love and gratitude in my heart at the same time. (I really didn’t think much could happen in one day though, come on, I was really testing the universe here.)

 

In bed that night I awoke in the middle of the night, I leaned over and picked up my phone to check the time. I had an email on the screen. “Possible New Opportunities” it read. I opened it, it was an email from INDIA asking if I would be interested in a Yoga Therapist position in an Ayurveda Hospital in Kerala. What the….! The excitement! I emailed back straight away. I must have applied for this job online before I got here…although I really don’t remember applying for it. We organised a Skype call for an interview the following evening, it just felt right in my heart. They emailed back a day later to say they would love to offer me the position if I was still interested. That inner voice popped out again, YES PLEASE! I could see this was becoming a bit of a pattern and I had no control over it, my heart and the universe were leading me and there was nothing I could do only surrender and trust.

 

They could see the bigger picture.

 

It was time to say see you later to everyone in Scotland for the time being. I’m forever grateful to my yoga family there that showed me the light again, reminding me of that beautiful, powerful and wise divine goddess energy always present within me, guiding me on my path.

 

I accepted the job, packed up my car and left the next day to head back to The Emerald Isle to apply for my visa. India here I come.

 

My conscious self was still a little in disbelief, I was offered a job to go teach yoga in the Motherland. This is a yogi’s dream come true. Wow! Did I really manifest this and was it really happening? Such Magic! The gratitude in my heart, I felt just completely at peace, loved, safe, protected and guided.

 

I often think if I didn’t honor my heart that time and continued on with my broken soul, my disheartened spirit, if I resisted change and didn’t take the chance where would I be now….? This was such a valuable lesson going forward for me to always be true to myself and speak my truth with a courageous heart.

 

I try to apply this in all areas of my life now, it’s not always easy as I am only human after all. As much as I can, I live in the heart, I express how I really feel with kind and honest words, look for the blessings in every lesson experienced here, to be my true authentic self no matter what and remembering to always have fun along the way.

 

If I’m not honoring all those things, I’m hiding the true me and well then, what’s the point? I’m living a life that doesn’t truly make me happy, I’m not accepting or loving myself and may miss out in the opportunities and possibilities that are for my Soul Purpose and healing which is leading me to our over all goal in this life, that one thing we are all looking for and need in this world…. LOVE. When we raise our vibration to love, we send out an energetic field that affects those around us that we care about, healing one heart at a time. And with that Heart energy, it has a positive Ripple Effect healing humanity. We really do have the power to change OUR world. You are the writer of your own life!

 

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

 

 

The Butterfly Yogini

Clare Fitzgerald

Founder and Director at Solas – Heart And Soul Of Who We Are

Instagram: Butterfly_yogini

Love. Inspire. Grow. Heal. Transformation.

How Yoga Travel Humbles The Control Freak

By the grace of the universe I found yoga at fourteen years old, and since then I have held on to it for dear life to remind myself to loosen my grip a little bit, to breathe, to recognize that I am being held, to trust in the beat of my own heart, to trust in the beat of, well, everything.

We won’t dive too deeply into where these control patterns stem from (some Buddhists such as Pema Chodron believe it all comes back to our fear of – and lack of control over – death), but those of us who have experienced them know how easy it can be to trick ourselves into believing we have quit controlling for good. Who, us? We don’t control our environment! We let things happen and let people be free, autonomous individuals! We let the Universe flow! Until something happens that makes us feel less-than the grand image of ourselves we’ve created. Then the clawing, the biting, the manipulating, the screaming, the full-on emotional breakdown ensues and we quickly point our well-meaning fingers to how that situation or that person was just not working for us fairly. You get the picture.

Then back to our mats. Back to our breath. Back to letting go of that “I”-ness. But in the comfort of our daily lives, even this can be a facade. It’s easy to be a zen master when we know what to expect. Same classes each week, same group of smiling yogis, same bed to come back to at night. Nothing to shake us up or knock us off our “path.”

This is when we need to travel most. When I first joined Yoga Trade, I no doubt brought my control issues right along for the ride. I tried only to “choose” the opportunities that seemed the best and most outstanding. I wanted to cross countries off my list. I wanted to be around people that I thought would be a good fit for who I imagined myself to be.

It turned out it wasn’t working (surprise). The harder I tried to manifest my ideal situation, the less I felt like I was getting what I was looking for. So I packed up my things & decided to trek Europe with three friends instead. I was free to make my own choices – this situation was full of less surprises. How sad that we think this is what we want, when in fact we are simply stifling the magic from flowing in.

About one week – just one – into this no-destination backpacking affair, my counterparts and I decided our goals were wildly different – none of us were willing to relinquish that control of our Selves (surprise again) – and we amicably went separate ways. How could I have gone into travel thinking I knew what I was getting into, and ending up here so quickly? The lesson is – as anyone who’s traveled has learned – we always do. I spent a hot second in Barcelona feeling victimized by the Universe (“Why isn’t this trip going as I planned?!”) and going back and forth over whether to just call it quits and buy a ticket home. Whatever choice I made felt like a massive weight on my shoulders that would profoundly impact my worthiness as a human. The struggle to make the “right” (read: “perfect”) decision was real.

Welcome divine intervention. I received an email from a Yoga Trade member in Italy that had previously turned me down, but whose lead yoga teacher had gotten sick & couldn’t host the week-long retreat she was scheduled to lead and that began in less than 48 hours. So I hopped on the first train from Barcelona to Rome and made the trek to the profoundly quiet and peaceful mountain city apartment that would be my home for the next three weeks as I led some of the most brilliant and incredible yogis I’ve ever had the privilege to teach, not one, but three, consecutive yoga retreats.

The universe really drove it home for me (in case I hadn’t gotten it already) when the day after my arrival in Italy (which happened also to be my birthday) a fabulous Italian dinner that had been put on by my colleagues at the retreat was interrupted by shouts & music from outside. Rushing from our table, we found every inhabitant of the tiny town dancing in the streets during what must have been one of the few big celebrations of the year. At midnight that night on my birthday, these warm and welcoming residents of Casperia lit hundreds of heart-shaped lanterns and released them into the sky, where they floated out over the hills of vineyards and sunflower farms, competing with the stars, and appearing to laugh at me, at all of us, as if to say, “How could you – any of you – be anywhere but here?”

I learned much more about myself leading those retreats than I could have wandering the streets of Europe alone. Like most of us do, I quickly realized our path is an endless organic unfolding of free will – balanced quite evenly by natural intervention. Fate, serendipity, whatever you choose to call it, there is no doubt it should make us feel relieved, excited even, that we are absolutely not in full control. We can find joy in the fact that the Universe has plans for each of us that are so much grander, and more beautiful, and more perfectly designed to bring us to our greatest good, than any we could ever create on our own.

Travel with an open heart, an open mind, and a sense of abandon. Abandon what you know, what you want, what you think things should be. Because the truth is, things will always be exactly as they should.

 

 

 

Samantha Migliozzi is an E-RYT 200-hour that has been teaching for over seven years locally in New England and abroad. She has been a dedicated Yoga Trade user since its outset and has visited 15 countries in the past three years.

https://www.samanthanaturalhealth.com/

IG: @samimigliozzi