Can Yoga Lead the Way to Sustainable Tourism?

As I walk through the streets of Zurich, Switzerland, on a sunny Saturday in early June – about a month after the Swiss Covid-19 lockdown ended – I overhear two women sitting in a café talking about the summer vacation plans they had to cancel (Well, I guess we can go to the nearby mountains, could be fun if it’s just for one year!), and a young couple strolling in front of me, loudly telling each other how they couldn’t wait to get to the beach. Travelling has become an indispensable part of our modern lives, and it is not going away anytime soon; Covid-crisis or not. 

Between 1950 and 2018, the number of global international tourist arrivals has increased 56-fold, from 25 million to 1.4 billion. According to a 2018 article published in Nature Climate Change, tourism’s global carbon footprint accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transport, shopping and food being the main contributors. The United Nations World Travel Organization projects in a recent report that only the transport-related CO2 emissions attributable to tourism will grow 25% by 2030. Against this background, the UNWTO states that it is “committed to accelerate progress towards low carbon tourism development and the contribution of the sector to international climate goals”. How? Well, that is yet to be determined. Awareness and optimization are the path forward, according to the UNWTO; yet, as of now it seems as if we had not even crossed the starting line of such path. 

In order for global emissions to be brought under control, we are going to rely increasingly on travelers whose world view revolves around sustainability. Maybe the global travel ban that was forced upon all of us by Covid-19 opened an opportunity to reflect about why and how we travel, and to make more mindful decisions about our travel activities. To determine what sustainable and mindful travel could look like, it is worthwhile examining the practices of traveling yogis, a small but growing fraction of global tourists whose lifestyle (including travel) choices have been innately sustainable as part of their belief system for a long time. 

In recent years, yoga has become the new trendy fitness hype that claims to not only make you stronger physically, but also healthier mentally and spiritually enlightened. There are so many offerings of yoga classes all over the world (and since Covid-19 even online) that it is possible to quickly throw in a 45-minute power yoga session in between business meetings, that should be a workout substitute, balance out emotions, and calm the mind all at the same time. It is no wonder that in this context, there is less space to learn about the original teachings of yoga. 

The Yamas, constituting the first of an eight-fold path to a purposeful and meaningful life, are the moral and ethical guidelines of yoga. They are often translated and interpreted as: (1) non-violence or “do no harm” (also known as ahimsa), (2) truthfulness, (3) non-stealing, (4) self-control or a voluntary restraint of power, and (5) non-possessiveness. In comparison, the most pointed definition of sustainability I have come across is “living in symbiosis with our ecosystems so that we minimize our negative impact, instead building positive relationships that replenish the environments (including social ones) around us.” 

Thinking about what it actually means to live by the Yamas, the overlap with sustainable living according to the above definition is remarkable: (1) Sustainable systems seek to minimize negative impacts on others and the environment, and hence minimize harm. (2) Achieving sustainability goals requires understanding how the systems we live in function, interact and depend upon each other, and being truthful about our own contributions to the systems’ functioning or failure. (3) Taking something from the environment requires giving something back; lacking restoration, what we actually do is stealing from the environment and other creatures living in it. (4) Sustainable systems require that we not take more (and exercise the power to take more) than we need, thus practicing self-control. (5) Living sustainably requires re-assessing the way we ascribe meaning to things (possessions) and consume them. (see footnote at bottom)

Hence, sustainable living is deeply ingrained in the yoga teachings, and yoga practitioners who take their practice and philosophy seriously will be challenged to think critically about the carbon footprint and other unintended negative consequences of international travel. 

I was curious and interviewed over 25 yoga retreat leaders, yoga teacher training leaders, retreat participants, and yoga retreat centers (from the Americas and Europe), asking them how they think about this seeming friction. It turns out that the answer is quite nuanced. The yoga teachers and retreat leaders are in pivotal positions because they are the ones who choose the destinations and places to visit, and they get to shape the type of education that they convey to their participants. Most retreat leaders stated that their students often do not specifically ask for a “sustainable retreat”. They just want to immerse themselves into their yoga practice in an energetically rich location and serene surroundings away from their everyday life. However, over 90% of the yoga retreat leaders interviewed named environmental sustainability as a mandatory criterion when choosing the destinations and retreat centers they visit, and 80% specifically look for centers / hotels that offer organic, vegetarian, local food (which also leads back to environmental sustainability).

Importantly, most retreat leaders explained that while their participants might not go into the retreat with a focus on sustainability, this experience very often initiated a shift in their mindset, and they started changing their life choices and embarking on their own sustainability journey after a retreat. This was attributed partly to the educational piece about social and environmental sustainability that is ingrained in the yoga teachings, but mostly to its combination with the fact that the participants could experience and see first-hand at the retreat center what it means to have implemented sustainable practices, and how they themselves can take action.

Traditionally, most yoga retreats originating from Europe have been oriented towards India, Bali and Thailand as travel destinations, whereas, according to the European retreat leaders I interviewed, more European retreat centers have emerged in the last couple of years and there is an increasing demand for local retreats that can be reached not only by air, but also by other means of transportation such as train or cars shared between several retreat participants. From a US perspective, while Bali has also been a popular destination, retreats in Latin America are much more common due to the proximity relative to Asian countries. Costa Rica is nowadays one of the first and most established retreat destinations, with other countries such as Mexico and Brazil rapidly catching up. 

A country that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years is Peru. Since the 1990’s, the number of tourists visiting Peru has increased from below 0.5 million to 4.4 million in 2019. According to data published by the World Travel & Tourism Council, the contribution of tourism to Peru’s 2019 GDP was 9.3%, and 7.5% of all Peruvian jobs were in the travel and tourism industry. Especially in Cusco, the closest city to the World Heritage site Machu Picchu, tourism is critical for the economy and has helped alleviating poverty significantly. 

Cusco and Peru’s Sacred Valley having become a hub for sustainable yoga retreat centers, I focused part of my research on their sustainability practices. One example is Willka T’ika, founded in 1995 as one of the pioneers in the region with a mission towards sustainability, community and Quechua heritage protection. In addition to using solar panels for energy generation, its buildings are constructed from local adobe material which is energy efficient to reduce the need for heating and cooling. 80% of the ingredients used to prepare the vegetarian meals are organically grown in its own gardens (whereas the rest is sourced from local farmers), and all employees are Quechua from the neighboring community, most of whom have been with the retreat center for two decades. They also teach sustainable farming and irrigation practices to local communities, which has proven to be particularly important during the pandemic, since it increased food security and resilience among the local population. Currently, Willka T’ika is implementing a “zero emissions” program which provides an opportunity for guests to offset all carbon emissions from running the retreat center and transportation within Peru.

There are many examples around the globe that show how tourism can greatly benefit nature and wildlife (a sample is described in a blog post by Sustainable Travel International). This does of course still not deal with the carbon footprint from fuel-based travel, particularly air travel. But as one yoga teacher put it: Everything is a sacrifice. You always have to give something up to get something. What we need to do is start thinking more thoroughly about what kind of travel is worth leaving such a large carbon footprint and what’s not.” 

Covid-19 may have been a trigger for many to reconsider which flights and what travel activity is worth exposing oneself to the risk of infection. If we also started weighing our personal desire to consume against the effects thereof on the planet (do we really need to fly from London to New York for a weekend shopping trip, considering that the amount of CO2 generated per passenger exceeds the annual carbon footprint of an average person in 56 countries?), chose the places where we stay when travelling more wisely, and returned home not with a suitcase full of new consumer goods, but rather with new ideas and inspiration about leading a more responsible, purposeful and meaningful life as described by the Yamas, this could go a long way. 

 

 

Marie-Cristine is currently pursuing an MBA and MS in Environment & Resources at Stanford Graduate School of Business / School of Earth and Environment. Originally a lawyer from Switzerland, she embarked on a journey of continued education and personal growth, striving to work towards sustainable development goals. She loves being active, especially outdoors, colorful food (such as fruits, veggies and ice cream) has found yoga practice as a way to balance herself.

 

 

Footnote:

https://amaramillerblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/taking-yoga-off-the-mat-sustainability-and-the-yogic-path/ 

https://www.sustainablelafayette.org/post/the-correlation-between-yoga-and-environmental-sustainability

https://www.yogitimes.com/article/how-yoga-take-care-environment-go-green

 

4 Key Predictions for the Future of Retreat Travel

Yoga and wellness retreat offerings ground to a halt beginning in March 2020, as resorts closed worldwide and global travel came to a near stand-still.

A recent study by retreat registration & payment platform WeTravel found that 50% of retreat leaders have cancelled between half and all of their scheduled retreats, trainings, and similar destination-based offerings for the remainder of the year. Some hope to forge ahead with travel plans in late 2020, while others have moved their retreats online or postponed them until next year.

According to the same study, however, there’s reason to be optimistic. Wellness travel providers are generally confident about retreat travel’s rebound, especially when compared to travel operators more broadly.

Retreat leaders have been more resilient and creative in dealing with the current realities; for example, in quickly pivoting to online programming to stay connected to their communities. Their survey responses also show that they see the timing and strength of the industry’s rebound in a more positive light.

So, what does this mean for the industry rebound and the future of retreat travel in the longer term?


Prediction #1: Virtual Retreats Are On The Rise And Here To Stay

While virtual retreats are currently the only option in many geographies where people are still mandated to shelter in place, they are also an innovation many industry insiders believe will outlast the current COVID19 pandemic.

For new retreat leaders, they provide a low-stakes option for breaking into the industry. For newer and veteran players alike, they represent a means of supporting communities still in lockdown, while carrying reduced logistical burdens and financial costs.

For retreat participants, they stand to provide relief from months of sheltering in place. Furthermore, for those who have long-term health, mobility, financial, or circumstantial constraints to travel, they may present the first feasible route to participation in a retreat experience.

Even if online retreats don’t have quite the same feel as “being there,” creative use of technology can greatly enrich the virtual experience. Retreat leaders can activate the senses and invoke the sights and sounds of nature with carefully selected audio and visual material. They might also opt to provide suggestions for in-home rituals around taste, smell, and touch (e.g., recipes, essential oils, and self-massage).


Prediction #2: Yoga & Wellness Retreats Will Be On The Leading Edge Of Travel’s Rebound

According to WeTravel’s survey, most respondents are confident that business will pick up again before the end of the year. Close to 50% of rescheduled offerings are slated to occur between September and December 2020, with the majority of the remainder scheduled for early-to-mid-2021.

On the demand side of the equation, masses of people are now in acute need of time and space to decompress, detoxify, and take a step back from the intense pressures of professional and domestic responsibilities. Retreats are an ideal space for this work and healing.

Likewise, local retreats timed for the early COVID-recovery period are a feasible option for many organizers. As the destination itself is often secondary or supplementary to thoughtful retreat programming that promotes mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, retreat leaders may find highly suitable venues close to home.

In these cases, participants are more likely to be able to use personal rather than public transportation. The logistical and financial considerations involved make close-to-home retreats inviting to a wider audience.

Options for local retreats generally include both urban, suburban, and more remote destinations. The latter, which inherently offer a greater degree of physical distancing, as well as the opportunity for reconnection with nature, are likely to go over well in the coming months.


Prediction #3: When Global Travel Returns, There Will Be Changes To How Retreat Leaders Select Service Providers

As retreat leaders hatch retreat plans for the post-COVID era, they will undoubtedly pay greater attention to the contractual responsibilities and obligations of their partners, including retreat centers, logistics managers, transportation providers, and insurance companies, amongst others.

Considerations for retreat venue selection are likely to include deeper research into recent or upcoming facility refurbishments, hygiene policies, and foodservice methods (e.g., less reliance on buffet service). Guests may have preference for single rooms and/or the availability of compelling outdoor recreation and practice spaces.

The retreat insurance industry, and travel insurance industry in general, have been forever changed by COVID-19. Industry experts predict an uptick in demand for “cancel for any reason” policies; while these have always been among the pricier options for travel insurance, they are expected to become more expensive in the future. Retreat leaders and participants alike are encouraged to shop broadly for insurance going forward, read the fine print, and purchase accordingly.


Prediction #4: Retreat Groups Will More Closely Examine Their Ecological Footprint and Local Economic Impacts

In the wake of the height of the COVID19 pandemic, many wellness professionals and practitioners alike have paused to reflect on the relationship between our own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of the systems, natural and commercial, that support us as travelers.

As a result, retreat groups are bound to give more careful consideration to the ecological footprint of their travel plans. Additionally, they are likely to be more mindful of sustainability considerations and the possibility of overtourism.

In the ideal situation, visitors will consciously support sustainable business models that play an active role in safeguarding local foodways and ecosystems, and justly share the financial rewards of travel with local populations.

Responsible consideration of these factors is crucial to sustainable travel that supports human well-being across the board, rather than simply for those who have the means to visit destinations aboard in hopes of enriching their personal well-being.


 

Jen Corley (CYT-500) heads the wellness travel division at WeTravel.com, the operator of an online booking and payment platform for retreat travel. When she’s not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Evan, and French bulldog, Taco.

A Non-Intentional, Intentional Community: How a YTT Fostered Community During a Crisis

In response to a few cases of COVID in Peru, the Peruvian president closed the borders to all travel entering and leaving the country. For us, this was half way into a 200 hour YTT. 20 students were from the US, Canada, and Europe. The 4 teachers were from Peru and the US. We were in the village of Moyobamba in the Amazonica region. Moyobamba is located 3 hours from the nearest airport in Tarapoto. And, Tarapoto is about 2 hours by air from Lima.

The President’s announcement came as a surprise. We realized that our flights home were cancelled. There was no way to get to Lima. Essentially by 8 PM that day we were stranded in Peru.

The 200 YTT was at halfway point and we would be there for an indefinite period of time. I was curious to see how the group would evolve. I wanted to see if the group would maintain interest in and focus on YTT, how group dynamics would evolve, and what would happen as this YTT became an involuntary community due to an international crisis.

That night the group met. At that time the borders had been closed for the next 15 days, which would extend 11 days after YTT ended. As the news sank in, we realized that we would be where we were for the remainder of the week then would need to find alternate living arrangements.

The following morning, our thinking was widely divergent. One overarching concern was where would people live. Some began to search for ways to get home. Others were looking for housing. Some wanted to prepare for the Zombie apocalypse. The first day of the new reality found the group lacking cohesion. The teachers decided to continue the YTT. Students participated and all made an effort to focus. But many told me that they were feeling distracted. At the same time, most in the group found comfort to the consistency of daily yoga practice, meditation, and meals together. Although there was internal turbulence, the structure of the program and its communal nature created a container where folks felt cared for while continuing to study yoga. Everyone seemed to be at peace with the new reality.

There was a wide variety of emotion. One person cried nightly. A nurse felt guilty that she was not in the US helping. One who believed that the-world-as-we-knew-it was coming to an end welcomed the opportunity to start over. Several said that they did not feel stranded since it had been their intention to stay in Peru after the YTT. Several came to this YTT during periods of transition and found it comforting to know that their time for transition would be longer. Others were concerned. One woman began to worry about job security. One woman was concerned for her son (she was able to make arrangements for him to be at his father’s house). Some who did not speak Spanish were concerned about staying on their own.

A shift occurred when the owner of the hotel agreed to keep the hotel open for our group until the end of the “National State of Emergency”. Most remarked that they felt very relieved when they learned that we could stay together and at that location. This bought a palpable sense of relief.

For the remaining days of the YTT students and teachers were both engaged and distracted. Everyone completed the YTT and there are now 20 certified yoga teachers. All completed their projects, practicum assignments, classes, did their practice teaching. At the same time they were engaged in creating this new non-intentional, intentional community.

After the YTT ended, we settled into our life. We had a pool. We had yoga class every morning, sometimes led by one of the students or a teacher. Each night we had restorative yoga or a movie, a trading blanket, or ecstatic dance. We made a running trail. One participant, a chiropractor, saw everyone who wanted an appointment. A massage therapist, offered massages to one person daily. A reading group started. Some began art projects. Some studied Spanish. One woman led a daily cardio- HIIT workout. Others started AB/core workouts. The combination of being in a safe place, in a town where there was no Coronavirus, with like-minded people, fostered more the feel of a yoga retreat than being stranded in the jungle in a third world country. A community evolved. People took on roles, friendships developed. While there was plenty to do it was easy to find time alone. Except for the fact that this was caused by a terrible pandemic it seemed quite nice.

A week after the YTT ended everyone was involved in the community. No one felt anxious. Many spoke of how supportive the community had become. Everyone was using time productively. For some that meant reflecting on the next steps in their lives. For some it mean study. Several learned that they could work remotely, full or part time. Some did but continued to make time for discussions, yoga, fitness classes, journaling, etc. Several decided to read books about yoga. No one felt bored or useless.

The end happened quickly. The night before we were to leave the hotel, the Irish embassy picked up the one Irish citizen. The next day the American embassy arranged transportation for 7 Americans. Within a day the Canadian embassy picked up the Canadian citizens and transported an American to Lima. One group who had planned to stay longer did. And, three teachers and the one male student stayed in Peru.

An obvious question is: How was this experience shaped by the intensive YTT? There is no basis of comparison, but it seems that the intense focus on yoga shaped and informed the experience of being stranded together.

Several remarked that they were changed by practicing yoga twice daily, having morning and afternoon meditation class, studying asana, yoga philosophy, etc. Indeed, this is the point of an immersive experience.

Whenever a group comes into a stressful situation it would seem logical that emotions would elevate and that stress would take its toll on individuals and on the group. I did not see that happening. I expected more evidence of stress. I expected cliques to develop. I expected to hear more criticisms. But, I noticed almost none.

As I reflect on my own experience, although a leader and caring for others, I also felt supported and cared for by this forced community. I think that this happening at the end of a YTT that focused on living the yogic lifestyle dramatically impacted the group’s evolution. It gave us the opportunity to live as an intentional community built upon common values and practices. It gave us the opportunity to live as a community of yogis.

It worked.

 

Before becoming a yoga teacher, Dr. Loren Thomas retired twice; once from being a school district superintendent and then from being a college faculty member. He began to practice yoga in 1997 and was inconsistent for years. But, upon retiring, yoga became his daily passion. He now teaches yoga and teaches in YTTs, focusing on philosophy and meditation. In addition to career and yoga, he is an avid marathon runner, rock climber, cyclist. He found that the combination of meditation and his outdoor physical activities supported him in his work as an active professional. He now works to promote healthy habits, a positive approach to aging, enjoyment of life. He encourages everyone to be active and pursue what calls to them.

 

Listen to Episode 9 of the Yoga Trade Podcast to hear COMMUNITY VOICES and other pandemic stories from the global yoga and wellness community.

 

Find What You Love and Love What You Find

The life of a freelance yoga instructor, self-defense teacher and adventure sports writer involves a lot of free time. I used to devote an embarrassing amount of that free time to trawling the Yoga Trade website. The secret to using the site well is to know when to daydream about an opportunity, when to seize it, and to love what you find. So when I saw a listing looking for yoga teachers to assist hiking retreats in Norway, I knew it was time to pounce. I just didn’t know that pouncing would change my life.

I’ve always wanted to visit Norway but it’s notoriously expensive and I’ve never had the money to go. I’ve lived above the 60th degree latitude so I knew what I was getting into. I’ve worked as a hiking guide, I’m a natural history nerd, I have wilderness first responder training, I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga for over 30 years. I knew I was perfect for the job. I just had to convince the woman running the retreats that I was perfect for the job.

I was at a yoga retreat in Bali when I saw the listing, so I had limited internet access and no cell reception. I crafted a carefully worded letter of introduction, gathered my CV and a few yoga photos and tried to send them off. The message didn’t appear to land, so I bombarded this poor woman at every portal I could access: YogaTrade, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and her personal email. I don’t know if she was impressed or annoyed, but she called me within a day. After a week of communication I was able to convince her to stop looking at other applications and bring me to Molde for the month of August.

As I sweated through a stint teaching yoga at a retreat center in southern Spain and traded yoga classes for surf lessons in Portugal I kept thinking about the crisp air, lush forests and sparkling vistas that awaited me in Norway. I researched the bare essentials: Molde sits on a fjord, facing south, about halfway up the coast of Norway. It’s home to 26,000 people and famous for roses. The hottest day of the year sees a balmy 60 degrees. I could expect between five and eight days of rain during August, and seventeen and a half hours of day light at the beginning of the month.

I neglected to research my remarkable hostess. Pille Mitt was born in Estonia when it was part of the USSR. She grew up under an authoritarian regime that denied the most basic freedoms I often take for granted- the ability to choose where I want to live, travel, and pursue an education or career. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Pille was able to offer exercise classes and eventually open her own gym. On-line dating brought her to Molde, Norway, where she lost the guy but found a new home. A yoga teacher training in Rishikesh opened new windows, and now she teaches at both yoga studios in town and offers yoga and hiking retreats in various locations throughout the year. “I have to stop having such a good life!” she jokes. “Time flies when you’re having fun, so my life is passing too quickly!”

I also neglected to research the hikes. The first day we warmed up with a casual stroll out of town which led to the ascent of a nearby peak. Then we hiked a mountain overlooking the next day’s destination, with the option of climbing a nearby twin summit. One day saw us ascend steep muddy slopes to the Troll’s Church, a limestone cavern with a 40 ft waterfall inside. We traveled by ferry and car, climbed mountains, crawled through caves, jumped in alpine lakes and swam in the frigid Atlantic. Each day brought stunning vistas, the option to picnic and relax or hike as hard as we could. One day was a glorious road trip up a series of hairpin turns to a precariously perched restaurant and café. We dispersed like a flock of birds and came back together to meditate on a quiet ridge.

The first group was all female, and we bonded like the loving family I never had. Two Lebanese women and an Israeli woman broke bread together every day; they are not allowed to travel to each other’s homes and would probably never have met otherwise. We pushed each other to hike harder and relax more deeply, comforted and inspired each other, learned from shared stories of triumph and failure. I’ve led groups from southeast Alaska to Southeast Asia and never experienced one with more authentic love or less bitchy drama.

Over the following month my life fell into a simple rhythm: wake up, meditate, plan yoga classes, do yoga, eat breakfast, hike all day, teach yoga, eat dinner, fall asleep, wake up and do it again. Rainy days invited a road trip, a philosophy discussion, an extended yoga class, a shorter hike. After the first group left, Pille and I had two half days free. We scheduled an outdoor community yoga class, shopped for food and went for a hike. When you’re doing what you love, you never want a day off.

Pille and I cried when I boarded the bus for Oslo. We are both intense athletic tomboy powerhouses, and were afraid we wouldn’t meet another kindred spirit until our paths crossed again. Fortunately that won’t be long. We plan to lead yoga and hiking retreats together in Alaska, Norway and California in 2020. Guests from last August have already signed up, eager to hang out with us again. We are considering offering a yoga teacher training together in 2021. The only bummer is I don’t have time to daydream about opportunities offered on Yoga Trade anymore. I’m too busy living them! Love what you find!

 

 

Leonie is an RYT-500 Yoga Alliance certified instructor who has been teaching yoga and meditation for 15 years. She loves introducing students to the joys of being present in their bodies and her teaching style skillfully combines her spiritual practice, athletic ability and infectious enthusiasm for life. Her award-winning Mindfulness and Empowerment workshops reach over a thousand students every year.  When she is not teaching, Leonie is a passionate plant-based wilderness athlete who loves to ski, surf, climb and cycle.

Join Leonie on retreat in Alaska in 2020:

https://www.mittyoga.com/retreat-in-alaska.html

 

Buena Vibra GIVEAWAY!

***UPDATE December 18, 2019:

Big congrats to the winner of this giveaway: @lucia088 !!! Thank you to all who entered and all those who support this flourishing community. Much love!


We are excited to announce the Buena Vibra GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to each and every one of you for helping make our community what it is.

One lucky member will receive a $200 discount code to go toward the BUENA VIBRA gathering, March 14-21, 2020 at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica + a 2 Year Yoga Trade PLUS membership ($96 value).

Join Erica HartnickAlex Lanau, and the Yoga Farm Family for 7 days and nights of Buena Vibra: nutrient dense living to nourish the soul and awaken the senses! Celebrate Flavors, Form, and Friends as we explore these realms as the foundations of wellness. The Yoga Farm is a rustic off-the-grid yoga center and sustainable living project located on Costa Rica’s southernmost Pacific coast. Set amidst beautiful tropical rainforest, overlooking open ocean, and one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, it is an ideal space for those looking to reconnect with mind, body, and nature. Passionate humans (including the Yoga Trade Founders) and incredible flora and fauna inhabit this magical land. Gather for a week of delicious good vibes! Let’s share our wisdom and grow together! Learn about more details HERE.

HOW TO ENTER:

(Please read directions carefully, it’s a 3 step process)

1. To enter, log into your Yoga Trade account and LEAVE A REPLY (post comment) below at the end of this BLOG post. In the comment, state why you are excited to attend the BUENA VIBRA gathering! You must be a Yoga Trade member to post a comment. (If you are not currently a member, you can sign up at yogatrade.com)

2. Visit the FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE and mark that you are GOING or INTERESTED.

3.  Finally, SHARE about this BLOG/EVENT GIVEAWAY post on at least one social platform of your choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Share this link:  https://yogatrade.com/buena-vibra-2020/

That’s it. You’re Entered!

Thank you for contributing to this flourishing community. We look forward to growing together!!!

The WINNER will be chosen at random (random.org) and will be announced on December 18th, 2019.

*Only ONE entry allowed per person. You must be a real human to enter. The giveaway is only valid for persons age 18 and above. The event discount code and Yoga Trade membership is transferable to another person if winner is unable to use or would like to gift it. This giveaway is not redeemable for cash. 

 

How Yoga Has Helped Me to Become a Better Man

How can I become a better man? How can I become a better version of myself?

Like many, I started to consider yoga.

Yes, it’s a form of exercise, and yes, it’s a discipline that can improve your flexibility. Yoga also improved mobility and anatomical awareness. Yoga is something that every man should include in their training routine. In my experience, yoga enhances the quality of their journey of life.

But what about your mental strength? What about the skills that you can’t see or touch?

From an outsider’s point of view, the yoga world has been dominated by women. This has been the case since the early seventies when yoga came on the scene in fitness classes,

So on my journey to become a better man, my instincts told me that yoga could help to unlock that door.

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

I didn’t know the real answer to these questions until a few months back.

I know I had to leave and travel. For some reason, I thought the “Pura Vida” of Costa Rica would give me some clarity on what I’m searching for.

I was hoping that the yoga in Costa Rica would give me some better direction. Help me to become a better version of myself. To become a better man.

It was in the Osa Peninsula at this yoga retreat where I found the intangible tools of yoga and how to use them to enhance my life even more.

My background is in adventure tourism. I have worked as a raft guide, ski, snowboard, and rock-climbing instructor. The all “manly” kinds of sports. Right?! I thought so.

How Yoga Has Helped me to be the best version of myself

My father was a shining example of what it meant to be a good man. He taught me how to be a:

A Confident Leader.

An Empathetic Person.

A Student of Life.

I’ve recognized this is only the tip of the iceberg on my journey of what it means to become a better man.

Here on the Osa Peninsula, I discovered two skills that I now use to improve the quality of life.

I have learned that yoga is not only about physical postures; it is a way of life.

Yoga is a practice for the mind.

Yoga is a philosophical practice to help me to become a better version of myself.

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

Here are two ways yoga has helped me to become a better man.

I become a better man when I am full present:

I have a real hard time being present. To be indeed unequivocally present.

Being at this beautiful beachfront yoga retreat, I have been challenged to be present.

In these past few months, I’ve become more aware of my surroundings and enhanced the quality of my relationships. I have a strong desire to be able to hold space for those who want to share with me.

I value my relationships as one of my top priorities. I appreciate my relationships with my family, friends, and lovers. There are times where I take them for granted, and I mentally check and don’t give them my undivided attention.

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

I am super good at listening at the right moments to give them the sign that I’m paying attention to. But if you’d ask me what the discussion was about 5 minutes later, I would not be able to tell you.

I have noticed that when people are talking to me, my mind is immediately thinking about my response.

I am not listening.

I am not present.

During my time here in Costa Rica. I am now in pursuit of living my life breathing in each moment I have. It is so essential that I treasure the time and moments I get with the people I care about. There is no guarantee of tomorrow.

I choose to treat every day as if it’s my last and be more present.

This philosophy and daily meditation have given me the skills to give my loved ones all my energy and focus. I am more present to everything that we do or say together.

I forget about the past; I drop anxiety of the future. I’m able to find joy in the now.

I am not dwelling about the past or fantasizing about the future. I am living a more yogic life by elevating my awareness of the spectacular nature here on the Osa.

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

Yoga Has Given Me Mental Clarity

Another skill I acquired through meditation is the increased clarity of life.

When I am quiet, answers to life’s questions come to me.

This yoga environment has engendered a space to create goals, design the plan, and then execute it proficiently. I am so much more aligned because I have found a way to get out of my own way.

I simply need to quiet my mind.

Easier said than done, which is why I have yoga part of my morning routine to conquer the day.

Starting the day by waking up the body with a routine brings clarity.

I sit on the beach or by the pool, focusing on each part. Everything becomes loose. I fire up my muscles with short and powerful yoga series that helps me improve flexibility and mobility. After I have increased my heart rate, I then bring it back down through a 15 to 20-minute meditation practice.

I am still very much a novice, and I know I won’t have the luxury of meditation in Costa Rica forever. I use different techniques available online to assist and guide me.

The journey of becoming a better man has led me to this point.

The jungles of Costa Rica provide such a real and potent environment for learning and self-reflection.

I have learned the importance of being present. In this space, I can apply it to every engagement of my life. Because of yoga, I learn the skills to stay grounded.

And appreciative of the opportunities that I am blessed with today.

The ability to be present with a calmer and clearer mind is such a powerful tool for me on my journey of becoming a man. These tools have given me a positive and focussed direction.

The direction I am looking for is not something I can buy or read about.

The direction is something that I can only acquire if I choose to be disciplined with my yoga.

By Chris Boudreau

The Yoga Trade Podcast

We are so excited to share with you our latest project: The Yoga Trade Podcast! Follow along as we travel around the world exploring spirituality, wellness, sustainability and more.

Our host, Audrey Billups, Yoga Trade’s vagabond filmmaker, will be capturing the inspiring stories of wellness practitioners, yoga teachers and change makers she meets along her travels. From Tibet to Bali to Los Angeles, every two weeks, we will share with you interviews and stories from all different corners of this Earth.

Listen to Episode 1 by clicking HERE

1: So the Adventure Begins

In this first episode, our host will tell you a bit about her spiritual journey and how she began her traveling lifestyle. From living in a tent on an organic farm in Hawaii to winning Yoga Trade’s photo competition and starting to work as their videographer, it has been quite a journey!

Theme Music, Sound Editing & Mixing:

Thomàs Young, Fine Crafted Sound

 

 

Want to take part? Please send us your Yoga Trade story and we may feature it on the podcast! It’s easy, just record yourself, snap a photo, and shoot us an email. Want us to advertise your retreat, training, or product on the podcast? Reach out to us! Email: audrey@yogatrade.com 

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

5 Ways My Yoga Trade Experience Made Me a Better Yoga Teacher

One of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and altering experiences I have had in my journey as a yoga teacher has been the time I spent teaching abroad. For years I dreamed of the opportunity to combine my two favorite things: travel and yoga. This past year I made my dreams into a reality, thanks to a platform called Yoga Trade. In reflection, my time spent teaching abroad was one of the most influential and expanding experiences. It was a catalyst for me to become the teacher I am today. Here are 5 ways my Yoga Trade experience offered me the space to flourish and grow.

Practicing with Yoga Teachers from Different Backgrounds

There are many travel destinations all over the world that offer a strong yoga community. These communities are filled with yoga teachers and practitioners from all different countries, lineages, languages, etc. Each teacher came from a different training or framework. This allowed me to look at yoga from new angles, to hear different backgrounds of connection to this practice, and to open me up to other dogmas.

I live and teach in an average American city. I feel there is little diversity within the yoga community. Most people have been trained between the same few studios, under the same teachers, and practice within the same circles. Being able to get out of my bubble expanded my relationship and understanding of yoga.

Freedom to Try New Things

Teaching yoga in a tourist location made for an influx of students everyday. There were only a few people in the area that came regularly to my classes. Most of the students were on holiday, therefore they were only in that location for a few days. This gave me the chance to constantly try something new. I found when teaching in a hometown studio you seem to get the same clientele. It can sometimes feel like they have more rigid expectations and ideas of what your teaching style offers. Tourists that come to class are looking for an experience and probably do not have any preconceived ideas of what you offer. You can try out different breathing techniques, cueing, meditation styles that you may not normally have the confidence to try in your home teaching spot. I think we grow the most from those times when we feel uncomfortable and go for something new. If you fall flat on your face chances are those students may be moving onto the new destination the next day anyway. Learn from your mistakes, recalibrate, and keep going.

More Time to Work on Your Craft

Many yoga teachers can relate on the desire to want to have more time to spend in our own sadhana or improving our teaching techniques. In Western culture, it can be challenging to financially support ourselves while only teaching yoga. We juggle many different jobs or roles to make it all work, and the energy left over can go into our personal growth and practice. My Yoga Trade gig allowed me to financially support myself while abroad so I could shift all my attention to yoga.

In my experience I was receiving accommodation for free and a little money per class. This money was enough to feed me and indulge every once in awhile. I was actually able to slow down and focus on just teaching yoga. My list of responsibilities abroad greatly diminished. I wasn’t constantly pulled in so many places, so I had extensive time to spend becoming a better student and teacher.

Exposure to New Styles of Yoga and Modalities Healing

Living in a diverse yoga community creates a wide range of spirituality offerings, workshops, lineages of yoga, modalities of healing, etc. People from all over the world sharing their personal knowledge, truth, and practice. There is ample opportunity to try something you have never even heard of before. From these experiences you will gain a more open heart and mind. You may even find your new calling.

Teaching People from Different Cultures

As a yoga teacher, you probably can relate what works for you at one studio, may not work for you in another. We are constantly working to give our best offerings, but even in your hometown it can be different based on age, demographics, locations, etc. Teaching people from different cultures can be another learning curve. Will your cueing make sense to someone who’s second language is English? How can you get really clear and intentional with your message so a wide range of people can receive it? Being able to work through these types of questions and scenarios only sharpens your teaching skills and makes you more accessible to a wider range of people.

 

 

 

Colleen is a 500RYT, lifestyle blogger, wellness warrior, jetsetter, bohemian fashionista and soul searcher. She has traveled to 37 different countries and has studied or taught yoga in 8 of them. She is always looking for a new adventure, a challenge for personal growth, and a hip outfit. You can find her at www.mindbodycolleen.com or IG: @mindbodycolleen

Work Trade, Travel and Yoga

Work Trade is an incredible way to experience the world. Whether you head off to an exotic destination, or simply make a new connection in place closer to home, you are opening up to growth. It can be a chance to get a little (or a lot) out of your comfort zone and explore your edges both externally and internally, especially through the lens of a yoga practitioner.

There are really practical reasons to explore volunteering, work trade and paid positions to extend the length of a trip as well as open access to a variety of destinations. Plus work trade is also an incredible opportunity to delve deep into your yoga practice, to gain new lessons and reflections through selfless service, karma yoga and mindfulness. It’s one thing to visit a place as a traveler, tourist, an outsider of some sort; and it is very different to actually slow down, spend time and actually “be” in a place.

Expand your horizons

Meet people from different parts of the world, different countries, and a variety of cultures. This exposure leads to improving your social skills, and the ability to speak and connect with strangers. You’ll grow as an individual, learn many new things as well as form some very genuine bonds with these new friends.

Acquire experience in the field

Taking advantage of opportunities to do work trade can really boost your confidence and ease the performance pressure if you’re newer, or brand new, to your field. Learning and growing while actually doing the work is incredibly valuable, it equates to on-the-job-training. This adds a great deal to your career and life path with expertise and a great set of skills.

Get out of your bubble

Make new contacts. See what else is out there, network and mingle with new faces and places. It is a wonderful thing to feel supported and connected in a community, and it is equally fantastic to go out into the world and discover community everywhere. You will be inspired by the people you meet, and that stimulates genuine energy and creativity in your life. You might find yourself surprised at the new interests, skill sets and influences that are discovered along the way, and you will no doubt meet people that will become part of your lifelong story.

Better sense of accomplishment

One thing about volunteering is you often find yourself liberated to do the best that you can, and not to overthink, or add anxiety to your work. There is a great sense of contributing, and that is one of the greatest motivators. It leads to job satisfaction and pride in your work in a way that allows the work to flow through you, unencumbered.

Only way to do it is in person

When you stay somewhere long enough to get to know your surroundings, and can tap into a sense of actually living there, your perspective changes. You begin to see some of the same people daily and form relationships, as well as have the opportunity to get to know the local food, culture and landscapes. It feels more intimate to be a part of a place rather than to only pass through. And you’ll often find yourself having actual free time to live life, rather than feeling caught in the intensity of busy-ness and daily grind of your normal routines and stressors.

As you take advantage of evolving, growing and receiving wisdom from opening up it shapes your yoga practice. Being immersed in the present moment, fostering the ability to pay attention, concentrate and develop more awareness all add incredible fuel for igniting your yoga fires! This can manifest in witnessing both the challenge, and liberation, of shedding old layers of thought, habits, and patterns – which is priceless. What an incredible call to practice yoga on the daily? Plus you get to give back a little piece of your heart and soul in the exchange, and receive direct experience in the art of karma yoga. Karma yoga is living your life as your path. Open up to your life as a spiritual being having a human experience – ALL OVER THE WORLD!

Photography by: Lanny Headrick

 

 

Aimee Joy Nitzberg has been an avid lover of yoga since her first classes back in Boulder, CO in 2000. She knew she had a problem when she was skipping out of work to go to yoga class. She decided to plunge in, quit her job and set off on an incredible adventure which has included daily practice and working full-time in the yoga field for almost 20 years.  This opened up great opportunities to study with extraordinary, masterful teachers and to travel around the world.  She loves sharing yoga as a way of serving and honoring the grace of all the gifts that she has received, and as one of her favorite ways to connect and share with others. Currently, she resides in South Lake Tahoe with her mountain man and spends as much time outdoors as possible with their yogi doggie.

10 Insights From the One Who Thought They’d Never Teach Yoga

I remember very vividly, standing on the beach with a couple of my girlfriends about to go surf. It was one of those complete cloud-free sunny mornings. Far off, the waves broke over the reef.

“It looks okay, but I’m so tired and sore,” one friend complained. “I still have noodle arms from surfing twice yesterday.”  Two-a-day sessions were the norm for these girls, and yesterday having been dragged around by their enthusiasm, I shrugged and half-agreed. My arms were pretty much toast too.

“We should probably stretch before we paddle out,” the other suggested. “Hey you do yoga, lets do that.” “Yeah, you teach us.”

“Ha .. . no way! I don’t teach yoga,” I blurted out. “Are you crazy, I would never be a yoga teacher.”

In the moment, what I said felt to be complete and utter truth.

Sure, I liked yoga. And sure, I practiced. But was I the beginnings of a teacher? Err, doubt it. Did I even like yoga that much? Uhh well . . .Let alone the talking? To groups of people? To tell them what to do? For at least an hour? Agrhh, no thank you!

Hmm. We stood there, staring at our toes buried in the sand, still hesitant to paddle out.

“Fine, we can do a few things,”  I said as I probably rolled my eyes. Then for the next few minutes I stumbled awkwardly  through leading a few stretches that, at times, resembled yoga asana. Soon after, we paddled out into the icy Pacific . . .

And while my words that morning, “I will never be a teacher”, left an impression deeply etched into my psyche, flash-forward a few years later, something else deeper within would beg very differently of me. Just after the New Year, I broke the news to my same surfer friends.

“Ladies, I’m out. . .I can’t do this anymore.  I’m quitting my job. . . ” I hesitated and then told them my plans, “I’m off to yoga teacher training in Mexico. I already turned in my notice, I leave next month!”  

With large eyes and disbelief, “you’re doing what?!” they asked. Sure they were open-minded, but they weren’t exactly the type to forgo the stability of a salary and leap completely into the unknown.  I wasn’t sure I was that type either, but here I was about to do it.

Eight years later and here I am, a yoga teacher. Mine isn’t a story of overnight success, but more of a bumpy road, ups and downs, twists and turns, periods of teaching, periods of hibernation, periods of discovery and re-inspiration. It hasn’t been clear cut or logically defined, but still, I lean into this journey of becoming a guide for our yoga practice.

So for the ones who thought they’d never teach yoga, but then listened to a different calling deep in their heart. . .

And for those who started this journey, but are now questioning why. . .  

Here are a few insights that I will tell my younger self when time travel becomes a reality. Until then, perhaps they will help you as you forge your unique path.

1. Begin

Start here, where you are. Start now. You don’t have to teach yoga everyday, but you must begin.

At this point, consider yourself a guide as you lead class. And let yourself think out of the box to find a comfortable space to teach in and gain experience.

Try getting out of the studio and teach in less intimidating locations for less intimidating audiences. Hold a class in nature – at a park or at the beach. Offer some lunchtime yoga at your work. Host an informal class during a weekend getaway with friends. Not all classes have to be 90 or 60 minutes. Maybe 30 minute practices are the perfect place for you to start.  

So begin, and little by little, you will become more comfortable with your voice, your instructions, your sequences, your knowing and your not knowing.

2. Get on the schedule

After you log those initial hours and sub some classes at your local studio, step up and get on the regular schedule. Teach.

But also know that sometimes plans, ideas, and goals change. And this is okay.

For example, during my early yoga years, I loved fast vinyasa classes. My favorite classes were led by talented teachers who moved us quickly through inspiring flows. They guided us effortlessly (it appeared) through well thought out sequences, each unique day in and day out.  

That’s the kind of yoga I knew.  That’s the kind of yoga I liked. That’s the kind of yoga I expected to flow out of me as I taught. But, reality check, that kind of yoga didn’t.

I kept at it for awhile, stumbling, refining, improving little by little. But eventually I decided to stop trying.

. . . for awhile (like more than a year awhile).

But guess what?

3. Interruptions and pauses are OKAY

Stepping away from what you were trying to be or trying to achieve is fine. These breaks can turn into periods of learning, refinement, re-dedication and growth. These breaks are a hibernation of sorts, where if you give yourself time and support, your inspiration to walk the teachers path will come back in the right way and in the right time.

For me it was while rediscovering yin yoga. During one such hiatus, a few years after my original yoga teacher ambitions, I last-minute enrolled in a yin yoga training and it shifted everything.

4. Be yourself. Find an aspect that you believe in, something that draws you in and be with that

In yin, I found a great balance of being able to teach slow and to talk less – a way of teaching that was very fitting for my natural introvert personality. In addition, I was able to more solidly grasp the main teachings and less complicated practice. So when I taught yin I kept it simple and my critical, perfectionist self was much more able to tolerate my teaching ability.

Additionally, in the yin practice, I admired how it gave students space. Lots and lots of space to feel your body, to observe your mind, and to go within slowly to be with what was. The practice pretty much forces you to slow down, and then naturally invites you to move deeper into the inner space.

Sometimes I feel this aspect of yoga is lost in western vinyasa flows, but is so needed in our fast-paced modern culture. So in my rediscovery of the yin approach, I was lured back into wanting to share this type of experience of yoga with others.

So when you’re re-inspired and reconnected to why you want to teach . . .

5. Get on the schedule (again)

That’s right, when the time feels right, get on the regular schedule again. Then, give yourself time to teach and evolve your craft. Teaching over time is how you gain experience.

6. Evolve

When you are ready, immerse yourself into your next level of teaching. Sometimes this takes initiative on your part. Sometimes it happens with a gentle push from those you work with.

For me, the next phase in my teaching came while living in Costa Rica.

Teaching abroad can be magic for a few reasons.

If you are not teaching frequently then these short term opportunities are a great way to immerse yourself and teach more consistently, perhaps even daily.

In addition, many of these opportunities are for teaching travelers. This means you will get to teach a wide variety of people, at many levels in their practice. And sure sometimes you will be thrown waaayyyy out of your comfort zone, but luckily you will figure out how to handle this. In fact, as you step into it, I bet you will surprise yourself.

Teaching abroad allows you to get out of your normal surroundings and step into teaching yoga in a whole new way. So yes, hello yoga trade opportunities!  

But that reminds me . . .

7. Don’t quit your day job (in the beginning)

If you are fresh out of a YTT, do yourself a favor and don’t create more stress than is necessary. Having multiple streams of income while you are gaining experience and refining your craft is key.  

For me, having remote web design work has allowed me the funds to cover expenses and to continue to invest in my yoga education. I have also been able to find a nice balance between creativity on and off a computer, while escaping burnout from either side.

Plus, in the beginning, it was very helpful to not have to force myself to teach before I felt ready.

And who knows, maybe those at your current job are great students for your first teaching gigs. I have many times been surprised by who is curious and interested to see what this yoga thing is all about. Could it be you to introduce them to yoga? Could it be your experience and view of yoga that inspires them into the practice?

So again, it’s key to know what  aspect of yoga you really want to share. What messages are you passionate to teach?

8. Know what excites you

If you more consciously know what excites you about the practice, and more consciously weave those messages through your teachings, then you will effortlessly stay within your realm of inspiration. When you are connected to your inspiration, others will resonate and be inspired too.

In the beginning, since I am not a huge talker and speaking in front of groups is out of my comfort zone, I struggled with understanding why I actually wanted to teach.

But eventually, I realized I was excited and wanted to talk to students about the energy healing benefits of yoga and the related practices of sound healing and Reiki.  

Sure, I enjoy yoga asana, but what lights me up is sharing my understanding of certain benefits, for example, how movement and breathwork prepare you for meditation, how your subtle energy body has time to balance and heal itself, how you can use sound for reaching deep states of peace, how you can be fully with your experience to transform it. . .  

These are the conversations that I get excited about. And these are the sparks of joy, that as a teacher, are so important to feel.

Not every student will be sparked on your idea of this or that. But you will resonate with some. And if you make a difference in only one life, wouldn’t that still be success?

So what lights you up?

9. Know and then be. Experience, evolve and expand

There’s no need to be rigid in claiming what you believe in and what you have to share through your teachings. Keep immersing in the practices. Keep learning. Keep growing. Let your message and depth evolve.

And whether you’re sure or not sure if you have truly discovered what lights you up, stay open to your next level of growth, as a person, as a yogi, as a teacher.

You don’t have to figure it out in one day, you probably will be unraveling this your entire life. This is a life practice with bits and pieces of delicious goodness to taste and savor along the way. Give yourself time to experience. To practice. To learn. To grow. To connect with community, to connect with spirit, to connect with your deepest part of self, your soul essence.

This will lead you to the true magic of your soul. And upon touching into this, you will understand, this is your gift to share with the world, through your teachings.

10. Start here. Start now. Go on, take your next step . . .

Here are a few upcoming opportunities for learning, growth and connection within the YT community:

1 – Deep Ecology of Wellness  

2 – Yoga Trade + Membership 

3 – Learn Reiki energy healing & surfing on Retreat w/ Neomi 

Cover Photo:  Shaka Costa Rica 

About Neomi:

 

Neomi simply wishes to help make the world a more beautiful place by helping others to discover the love that rests deep within their heart. Sometimes this love is hidden, very far out of sight and under many layers. But, with the practices of surf and soul – especially the energy healing practices of sound and Reiki – she believes all people can access and experience their soul essence, their soul power, their soul light and love.

 

 

Join Neomi for a SurfSoul Retreat this August in Costa Rica. Throughout the week you will journey into your next level of wholeness – a vibrant expression of feeling deep happiness, love and joy for life through yoga and surf adventures.

In this small group retreat, you will dive into both inner and outer adventures. You will learn to surf, practice yoga and meditation, experience crystal singing bowl sound healing and learn the sacred art of Reiki energy healing.

Check out her website for more information about this: Surf and Soul Adventure