5 Reasons to Teach Yoga for Free

Cover Photo: Shaunte Ditmar Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The universe always provides…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby

9 Yoga & Mindfulness Podcasts That Will Feed Your Soul

Have you heard of “beginner’s mind?”

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

This is how we stay young.

This is how we stay open.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are grateful.

Yogaland Podcast

https://www.acast.com/yogaland

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

J. Brown Yoga Talks

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

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

Chitheads: Embodied Philosophy

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

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

Awake In The World: Michael Stone

https://michaelstoneteaching.com/podcasts/

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

10% Happier with Dan Harris

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

 

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

Meditation In The City: A Shambhala Podcast

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

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

Tara Brach

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

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

Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg

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

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

Sounds True: Insights At The Edge

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

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

 

 

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

The Inner Spark

Letting go, moving on, closing a chapter, becoming a new person, starting from scratch, changing direction or starting down a new path. Whatever phrase fits you best…we will all at some point experience “it”.

We all have, at some point had to ‘let go’ in our lives and it is likely there will be many more to come, however it is the letting go part that truly scares us, as we are forced to trust what the future brings. We are fearful of the unknown and of making wrong decisions that may lead to ‘failure’. This often results in us clinging on to what we used to have and finding reasons to continue hanging on to it.

We seem to forget the saying that, “every time a door closes, another one opens”. When we are faced with a scary situation, we delve so deep into it, that we fail to see the bigger picture and so allow our emotions to take control and lead us blindly.

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Your emotions are the tears of your heart. Let them surface, allow them to flow but don’t let them take control. Consciously and mindfully tell yourself, “Sadness is running through me”. Be aware of the emotion, accept it and just as consciously, let it go again.

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When a scary “moving on” situation arises in your life, take a step back. Although it seems hard at this very moment,

It•Is•Not•The•End•
Right now, life is giving you the chance of starting over new, of recreating yourself and the life you are living. Peeling off all those outer layers and embracing the YOU, you have been from birth. The YOU that through all your life’s happenings has hidden in the deepest most sacred corner of your heart and is now breeching the surface like a free diver catching a breath of fresh air.

There is never really an end to anything…not even death can be called an ending. What is an ending anyways? Ever wondered? I ask myself that question every time I close a chapter. To me, it means change and yes, change can be scary but change can also be exciting. It depends how you wish to see it and how you let it into your life.

In fact, what you call an “ending” is in reality, a multicolored, sparkling, glittery, loud and clear, explosive ‘new years’ style firework wake up call; from you, to you.

So brush off the dust and move your sweet ass into gear and explore the vast wonderland hidden inside you. To be more precise; it is a blessing in disguise.

There is no other beautifully bittersweet way to make you realize that you’ve grown. Congratulations! BAM!! In reward, change is knocking at your door. You have become something bigger and now life wants you to take action according to your personal growth.

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Don’t go and cut your hair, move home, buy a cat or talk more spiritually. Sit•And•Listen. There will be a constant struggle with your emotions telling you otherwise, telling you to go back to who you used to be. That’s ok. These emotions are again, •just•running•through•you•not•defining•you•. What will define you are your actions. Whether you choose to listen to that inner ticking time bomb, that silent firework, that wake up call, or whether you will allow your emotions to take control again.

No matter what you choose, your emotions will always be there with you and that is the greatest gift we have.
Don’t get me wrong but that •Inner•Spark• though, will only arise occasionally, just once every so often, here and there…if you care to notice it.

Maybe it’s in that silent morning hour when the world is still asleep but your mind is wide awake, or when the sun disappears behind the ocean and contentment is running through you. Maybe it appears when the elevator door closes in front of you and you realize it is just you and the four walls around you or maybe it arrives when life just wants to tell you, it knows better than you do.

My question to you my friend is; will you listen? Will you trust? Will you have faith?

 

 

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Danae Borsani is a German/ Italian Yogi, lives on Mallorca and is a passionate Yoga teacher and Blogger, soulseekergirl.com about what she does best: The Art of Yoga, Food, Travel and Health. She inspires her readers toward a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.

Divine Sisterhood

Now, more than ever, we are being called to stand up, speak our truths and live with compassion, authenticity and fearless hearts. Many of us are feeling a call to live more sustainably and protect the earth, to learn/share integrated practices which help us to live from a place of love and not fear. Our individual efforts are 100% needed for a collective shift…

This is why I teach yoga and meditation.

I know that these teachings have given me tools to step out of my personal addictions, and help me to make better decisions daily.

And with my own healing, I can offer more support and love to those around me. I can live a life of service and have the most positive impact in the world.

Most importantly, I know that these practices bring people together in community and that ideas become more powerful when shared…

This shift in consciousness is the rise of the Divine Feminine. The energy of the female is potent — She gifts us the qualities of creativity, intuition, protection, holistic thought, collaboration, empathy and unconditional love…all of which have been ignored and abused within our society for far too long.

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While men have an equally important role to play, it is women’s time to gather in sisterhood to encourage mass collaboration and love as the qualities our society will recognize and hold sacred moving forwards.

This is why I share the practices of yoga and mindfulness through retreat immersions around the world. I want EVERY human to first treat themselves with the love and respect they deserve through heathy lifestyle habits: high vibe nourishment through diet, sleep patterns, physical movement and time for reflection and relaxation to bring awareness to the parts of us we need to nourish (or begin to nourish) daily. I want women to learn to accept themselves exactly as they are, to see themselves as a beautiful and unique Goddess and live with more sweetness. Most important, I want everyone to experience the gift of sacred community: what it feels like to be seen, heard and felt from a place of neutrality. When we feel nourished from within and supported from those around us, we naturally rise into our highest selfs.

This is the power of Divine Sisterhood. Our sisters provide the platform for loving-kindness and a safe haven of support. Our sisters help shape-shift us into better partners, mothers and daughters. They remind us of our power and responsibilities as women of the world. They hold us accountable without shame or blame. They honor our uniqueness and help us integrate with tenderness. The power of sisterhood is fierce, creative, loving and a change-maker…and this energy resides within each one of us.

As we are all a direct mirror reflection of one another, it is imperative we take initiative and become mentors for the world. Women must celebrate and collaborate with one another in order to encourage those around us to follow suit.

And when enough of us support one another to take action, the system will naturally adapt to support us. There is a ripple effect which will spread far and wide.

But it begins on an individual level…

It is our birth right to step into our highest selves — to be happy, healthy and give back to the entire eco-system that is our global family. This is a call to action to create more Divine Sisterhood in our lives. Together, women can change the world. I feel it. I believe it with every single cell in my being. Things are just getting good and I am so honored to be here, right now, alongside you.

The Divine Goddess within me, recognizes the Divine Goddess within each and every one of you.

 

 

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Lauren Lee is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Lauren Lee and friends for this amazing week THRIVE: A Soul-Fueled Immersion for Wellness Entrepreneurs, March 4th-11th in COSTA RICA!

raiseyourbeat.com/thrive

 

 

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Access Your Highest Potential!

Inspired by World-Renowned Life Coach Trainer, Anna Suil

p1030097Anna Suil is a true master of how to live a vibrant, joyful and balanced life. I began training with her for purposes of personal-development, but have since found great value in integrating the tools of Life Coaching into my work as a Yoga Teacher and Retreat Leader.

I’ll be the first to admit, that the idea of a Life Coach is one I shied away from at first, and certainly never a title I sought for myself. It was the inspiring story of my teacher Suil that gave me an entirely new perspective.

As a young adult, Suil committed herself to the path of yoga & meditation, studying under an impressive list of spiritual teachers including Baba Ram Das, Goenka, and Buddhist masters in India, Nepal, Japan and Korea. She continued her formal education with a degree in Psychology, which enabled her to effectively spread the teachings of the East to a Western audience. Among the many hats she has worn in her lifetime, Suil is now a Life Coaching Trainer with an expertise in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a technique which trains the brain to rewire itself towards positive thought patterns and behaviors in order to maximize our human potential.

In the last year, Suil’s audience has made a drastic shift from the leading corporate CEOs in Asia to a community of health and wellness practitioners at Yandara Yoga Institute, a humble training center in the desert of Mexico. Needless to say, she means it when she says that Life Coaching is a valuable tool for everyone. As Suil makes the shift into retirement, her teachings are being carried forth across a wide spectrum for personal and professional development.

So what is Life Coaching all about?

Here are a few FAQs boiled down specifically for the Yoga Trade community!

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Life Coaching is a tool to access your highest potential – those hidden jewels within each and every one of us just waiting to be uncovered!

Who needs a Life Coach?

Short answer: everyone. Because of its holistic approach to well-being, the tools can be applied uniquely to each individual encompassing work, leisure time, romantic relationships, family & friends, and so forth. Having someone shed light on areas that may have been hiding in the subconscious can lead to a better understanding of how to maximize fulfillment in every moment.

How does it work?

A coach supports a client in achieving their goals by first identifying what they are and then exploring options unique to their situation in order to set a clear path moving forward. Rather than offering direct advice, clients are challenged to find solutions within themselves, thus gaining the skills to be more efficient in reaching future goals.

Why does it work?

We are multi-dimensional beings, and as our lives become more and more fragmented between work, play and relationships, the perspective of a skilled coach helps keep clients on track and most importantly, stay accountable!

Where to begin?

Coaching can take place in person, online or even involve travel experiences and retreats which facilitate the process by taking clients outside of their normal surroundings to help spark creative solutions.

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If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Mary Tilson at info@marytilsonyoga.com

www.marytilsonyoga.com
Instagram: @marytilson

Testimonial:

“I had never thought of consulting a life coach before but was presented the opportunity at a training program I was attending and feel very lucky to have had the chance. Mary helped me realize that there are tangible steps we can take in order to live the life we want. She helped coach me into identifying what these steps were for me in a way that made me feel very comfortable as I had a big part in identifying what I was comfortable with and what I thought was possible. I loved the fact that I left the meeting with an actual list of things to do daily to help me reach my goals. It wasn’t just talking fluff. It was actually creating a realistic plan to help me achieve what I want. Mary was professional, nonjudgmental and understanding. I would recommend her life coaching services with the highest praises.”

-Erika, Yoga Teacher, USA

 

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Mary Tilson is a world traveling Yoga Teacher, Retreat Leader, and one of Anna Suil’s certified Life Coaches. She is currently the Yoga & Wellness Director of Nihiwatu, Travel+Leisure’s “No1 Hotel in the World” on Sumba Island, Indonesia.

Hot Yoga Isn’t Punishment: 10 Tips for Making Friends With Your Body During a Hot Yoga Class

Friends, friends: it’s that time of year.

I’ve taught Saturday and Sunday mornings for seven years now, and every December around this time folks roll into class ready to sweat out every canape and martini they half-drunkenly inhaled at the office holiday party the night before. Sometimes they’re wearing six layers of clothing in a 99-degree room so as to “detox” all the pinot and the feta and the gingerbread, armed with liters of coconut water and a couple of big towels for mopping up the evidence.

This always makes me a little bit sad.

I mean, I totally get it. I remember countless hazy, hungover twentysomething mornings spent rolling into Bikram classes feeling like I needed to do the same thing. Too many yoga practices that felt like atonement for the night before.

A decade later, as a hot yoga teacher myself, I cringe to think that my class could ever be complicit in my students’ self-abasement.

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So here I am to remind you: hot yoga is not a punishment.

You are not here to flog yourself for everything you consumed last night — especially in this season of overindulgence. You’re not here to beat your body into submission. You’re not here to burn enough calories that you “can have” that extra slice of pie tonight at Grandma’s.

You do not have to “detox” every bit of sugar you’ve eaten in the last month. Your body already has a great built-in system for that. It’s called your liver.

Get this: your body is your friend. Gulp, what? Yes, your friend. Your ally. Your buddy-for-life. Why not start celebrating it rather than shaming it?

Rather than making your yoga practice a participant in the kind of soul-sucking cycle wherein you eat and drink delicious things and then punish your body for eating them, how about you shift your mindset? Then, your yoga can become less a fitness regimen and more an opportunity to lovingly check in with your body and your mind in the midst of what is already often a frantic, busy holiday season. An opportunity to get quiet. To listen a little more. To offer your body grace for getting up in the morning and getting dressed and trudging through ice and snow and staying healthy and awake and alive in some of the darkest, coldest days of the year.

Portland, Oregon studio owner (and former Olympic ice skater) Jamie Silverstein has written a powerful article about this. In “Cut the Fat Speak: An Open Letter to the Yoga Community and Message for the Holiday Season,” she writes:

“Every time we speak in terms that portray food, exercise, reward, even love (!) as part of an economy of exchange, we are latently affirming a message of, “You are not good enough as you are.” Every time we employ a rhetoric of action-consequence we effectively say, “You are not enough.” Simply, this is not yoga….

On a more personal note, as a recovered anorexic/bulimic and eating disorder (ED) recovery advocate, I feel that this language is not only maladaptive, but that it also reinforces a dangerous ideal. Both from my personal practices and my work in the ED recovery field, I’ve encountered how the negative conditioning an exercise-exchange economy adversely affects people. It is often tantamount to verbal abuse. This is ironic, because as yogis, we are committed to ahimsa.”

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And living with ahimsa means creating less suffering, even for ourselves, right?

One of my favorite meditation teachings (I think it comes from Ethan Nichtern, but it might’ve been Susan Piver, too) is the notion that meditation is the process of making friends with ourselves. How beautiful is that? I know, I know; it sounds kind of cheesy at first. But when you really think about it, meditation (and yoga) are all about shifting the kind of negative self-talk that many of us are already pretty good at into a more compassionate, patient voice that greets ourselves as a beloved friend.

Here are a few tips for making friends with your body during a hot yoga class:

1. Use a witness-observer mind.

Notice what you’re thinking, without getting stuck in it, or thinking it’s you. Your thoughts are just thoughts. They come and go. They’re not YOU. (This is pretty much the whole definition of yoga: learning to no longer identify with the fluctuations of your mind.) And once you figure that out, life is so much easier.

2. Remember that hunger is not your enemy.

You don’t have to resist it, or avoid it, or chew 17 sticks of gum or drink 8 Diet Cokes a day to avoid actually eating anything. Hunger is actually a good thing. It reminds you to nourish yourself! Food can be a friend. Food can be celebration, and solidarity, and community, and holiday ritual. Food is here to fuel you, not punish or taunt or numb you. You don’t need to sweat it all away.

3. Treat yourself like a toddler.

Picture your favorite 1-year-old learning how to walk. They fall on their cute little butts constantly, don’t they? They wipe out and belly flop and totally lose it all the time, and what do they do? They giggle, push themselves back up, and try again. Can you imagine if you spoke to a toddler the way you speak to yourself when you fall out of a tough balancing pose? (“Come on, dummy, you are a such a failure! You suck. You might as well just give up because this yoga thing is so not for you.”) Of course not, right? When they wipe out, you just smile and help them up and say, “Way to go, buddy! You’re doing great. Keep trying. You’re doing it!”

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4. Three key words: Isn’t that interesting?

When you fall out of Pincha Mayurasana and CRASH, shaking the whole studio with your stunning wipe-out, notice it and smile and say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” When your muffin top spills over the waistband of your yoga pants more than it did a month ago, rather than beating yourself up, notice it and say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” This notion of “interesting” cuts the judgment: it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. It can shift everything in your day-to-day.

5. Be tender. ‘Nuff said.

With yourself, with your body, with your practice, with one another. Silverstein adds, “If you are struggling with self-acceptance this holiday season, as many of us do, let that be okay, too. Unfortunately much of our body-rhetoric and internal dialogue is harsh and prescriptive. Know you are not alone. Self-compassion cannot live in an antagonistic environment. The healing comes when we learn to acknowledge these voices without doing what they say.”

6. When you fall out of the pose, just get back in.

No big deal. No drama. No judgment. Whether we’re talking about a pose, or a healthy lifestyle, or anything else you’re trying to make into a positive habit. You are not the worst yogi that ever was. You just fell out, and now you’re gonna get back in. Get lost, start over. As Pema Chodron says, “Feel the feeling. Drop the storyline.” And then move right along.

7. Let go of the idea that a hot yoga practice is a detox.

I’m pretty ready to scrap that loaded “D” word already. Try to release the notion that your yoga practice is atonement for everything else you put into your body. It’s not here to wring out every “toxin.” It’s not here to sweat your “sins” out. It’s here to lovingly, patiently bring your body into balance, unraveling the knots, letting the prana (or life force) flow freely again.

8. Think of this practice as a celebration rather than a punishment.

I’m ever-grateful to my longtime friend and student Stacy, who suggested this to me once when we were hiking in Point Reyes. She noted that when I teach I often respond to people’s pained faces (when they’re clearly being hard on themselves in a pose). And then she said, “Rachel, what about the opposite? What about the moments wherein you maneuver yourself into a new pose for the first time, and you’re bowled over with awe and excitement at the amazing things your body can do? Things you never thought it capable of doing? So much that you just want to cry from the wonder?” I love this. Try approaching your practice with a spirit of “Holy shit, this is amazing!” rather than “Dammit, I suck.” Everything changes.

9. Picture yourself as an eighty year old.

If you’re lucky enough to live that long, you probably won’t be able to do any of this asana stuff. But you’ll still be trucking around this same old body, and you can choose to beat it up or love on it. Your call. I don’t know of anything that ever gets softer or kinder or more open from being beaten down, though. (At the risk of being a walking yoga cliche, let me quote Rumi, who said it best: “Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are. You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.”)

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10. If you’re a teacher, commit to using body-positive languaging.

Silverstein offers an inspiring pledge for teachers: “This season, I am committing to nourishment. I am committing to nourishment not just through physical food, but through language and action. I and my studio (The Grinning Yogi) promise to offer a message of acceptance and nourishment starting NOW. We are pledging the following:
* We will NOT teach from a voice rooted in an exchange economy of food, guilt, calories, indulgence, or anything related to not “being enough” as you are.
* We will create a safe-haven for our friends to feel empowered so they can take effective steps in promoting their own self-care and overall wellness.
* We will open a dialogue about what real nourishment is.
* We will remind our friends that food is food, love is love, and yoga… yoga is a GIFT!”

I am proud to commit to this pledge, and to make my hot yoga classes a sanctuary and a refuge from body-shaming. So come on in. Bring your perfectly-original body along. Share the love. You’re all welcome here.

 

 

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

So, You Want To Make A DIFFERENCE??

So, You Want To Make A DIFFERNENCE??

First of all, you are alive; accept it.

The absolute most important thing is to know is yourself.

Love yourself as a creation of supreme existence. Cherish and Love yourself and YOUR LIFE. It is a gift that you chose and are choosing to accept.

Live it.

Let change move you into higher grounds, and allow others to change.

Number two, some suggestions:

Quit smoking FOR THE AIR, let your body benefit.

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Never buy paper towels again FOR THE TREES. Use a towel. Or save and use your napkins that are otherwise getting tossed.

FOR THE OCEAN: Everything you touch that is plastic, THINK about whether you need that thing. Can you live with out it? If so, then you don’t need it!
that includes:
-Your daily starbucks coffee drink (bring your own cup)
-To go salads (make your own)
-The straw from lunch (just let your server know that you don’t use straws when you sit down)
-Plastic containers of detergent (you can buy powdered detergent in a cardboard box), etc, etc.

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Take a shower every other day, or at least take short showers — your body cleans itself naturally. Use essential oils like a victorian princess.

Make your own cleaning and beauty supplies: https://www.diynatural.com

Walk or ride a bike whenever you can — your transit might be the best part of your day and a beautiful way to spend time with yourself.

Eat wisely, you are what you eat. Consider and respect the animal on your plate. Consider and respect the extra box of organic spinach grown hydroponically and transported across three states. Consider and respect the tomatoes from your neighbor, from the hand of an immigrant farm worker, from a can. Consider your organic, processed health bar you bought on sale. Consider eating whole foods and growing your own.

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And how about new clothes? It is not unlikely that you never need to buy another article of clothing ever again, considering you can live naked from the moment you were conceived until your last breath.

The truth is we are not far removed from anything; not from the Great Depression Era that only a few generations ago forced every single individual in the U.S. to conserve and save everything, food, water, clothes, paper, and everything was a commodity, nothing was wasted. Ask your Grandma.

Nor are we removed from the indigenous peoples world wide that live traditionally to this day.

We are not far removed from the hunger, the happiness, the hate, the humanity.

Wether you choose to see it or not, we live with thousands of individuals and families who live on the streets, scraping their lives together;
and maybe in the past that was even you —
maybe it will be you in the future…

You are not separate from the animals.
You are not separate from the grasses, cactus, fruit trees.
You are not separate from the war, from the tsunami.

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Know this and grow with it. Feel it.

Sulking gets us no where. LOVE MOVES.

Let the shadow push you to the light.

Connect with others in GENUINE experiences. You are your greatest judge. Release from your culture and live through your heart.

Your heart is the culture of all beings. Open it. Relax and breathe into it.

I like to imagine the powerful energy field around my heart and visualize it connecting with people, even when I’m in a conversation with someone that I don’t agree with, even when I see or hear politicians that I don’t agree with, with my family members, with hate, with pain, because love is more powerful.

Open your heart to spread the connective energy. The planet needs it now.

The first, the last, the only step to make the REAL difference in the world today, in your friend group, in your family is to OPEN YOUR HEART TO YOURSELF.

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You don’t need to read a book, or take a class, or fight, or even think about a thing; you must look within. This is the absolute most important thing that has ever existed in yours or anybody’s life.

Make a difference and:

“Know Thyself”
–Socrates

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby

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

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

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

Here are a few unexpected revelations:

1. Yoga history is a total mash-up.

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

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

2. Patanjali probably wasn’t just one dude.

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

3. Yogis weren’t always mainstream.

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

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

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

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

 

4. Asana itself is quite new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mind. Blown.

6. Women are often invisible in yoga history.

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

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

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

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

7. Context is everything.

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

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

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

9. There is no “one true yoga.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

11. There are so many reasons to be hopeful.

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

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

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

Truth & Unity: Lessons from Yoga & Travel

Yoga is the tool I use to clarify who I really am. Illusion, delusion and in-authenticity melt away in the fiery physical, mental and spiritual work, and I am left with an honest expression of myself. With continued practice, I cultivate sensitivity around this honesty and find contentment in who I really am. Living yoga unifies the seemingly fragmented pieces of myself, such as mind and body, which soothes cognitive turmoil about who I am and who I want to be. I welcome these realizations because as difficult, constant and often painful self-realization work may be, it leaves me cleansed, whole and vibrant.

Living yoga may have its painful aspects – it is painful to vulnerably admit that an idea or belief we hold is not true. Whether it be damaging self-talk, delusions about ourselves, or external stories we’ve woven into the fabric of our lives, living yoga uncovers these falsehoods. For me, it is not always easy or painless to admit I was wrong and need to work harder at staying in alignment with my passions and purpose.

Travel is the tool I use to uncover the truth about the world and my relationship with others. Prejudices, falsehoods and cultural stereotypes dissolve in the authentic experience of mindful travel. Adventurous travel challenges me to open-up to new experiences with equanimity and endless occasions to expand my boundaries.

Just as yoga has the potential to uncover truth and unify our inner world, travel has the potential to uncover truth about humanity and unify us with the rest of the world.

I believe that travel is more important now than ever to connect with people, cultures and stories. Just as yoga can be a tool to uncover truth and unify ourselves, travel is vital for challenging unquestioned beliefs and shattering the lines of separation between us and the world. If we can be vulnerable, step outside of our comfort zones and connect with people, we open ourselves up to expand our preconceptions and will experience a deeper connection with humanity. Suddenly, the folks that seemed so different on TV are right in front of us – there are no screens or walls to separate us from them – and our assumptions or prejudices are directly challenged. We might discover that we share the same longing for love, expression and freedom just as they do. We may uncover similarities in our fears and misunderstandings about each other. The divisive designations of “us” and “them” begin to dissolve when we connect to each other through our shared passions.

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Similarly, with yoga, the gifts of truth and unity are abundant in travel. About 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to disperse confusion and fear around a culture and religion that was not understood by many, including myself. Misunderstanding and assumption created fear and before long, the divide was a gaping hole of separation and judgment. At a time when it seemed standard to fear Muslims, I had a choice to either continue my inexperienced assumptions or to uncover truth for myself.

So, off I went to study Islam for several weeks in Morocco.

What I discovered as a single woman traveling solo through a Muslim country was that in fact, Muslims are human beings going about their daily lives and businesses with similar concerns, passions and motivations as myself, my peers and every other human being I’ve ever met. I shared tea and smiles with an old shop keeper in Rabat over humorous silence because neither of us spoke a common language. This man was curious, kind and gentle toward me – qualities I work to embody in myself. Next, I learned about the progress of women’s rights over dinner with a sophisticated, educated woman in Marrakesh. She was divorced, shared custody of her children and held a government position. We talked about gender roles in Morocco and women’s increasing opportunities. Then I visited a mud-brick school that tantalized my false preconceptions about education in countries outside of the States, but the school yard was filled with smiling elementary students proudly exclaiming that they spoke 3 or more (sometimes upwards to 6) languages while I humbly spoke my one. Lastly, I met a nomadic Berber family in the Sahara Desert and purchased a handmade scarf from them. Their tradition of weaving scarves was an expression of cultural passion, creatively embodied by proud people, even while living in a nomadic tent.

When I returned from Morocco, I was more connected to myself and the world around me. I had uncovered truth, dispersed assumptions and shattered boundaries in my own mind. I discarded the fear, prejudice and confusion that weighed me down and clouded my perspective of reality. The work I put into uncovering truth through travel rewarded me with a freedom from separation and a new perspective to share with everyone. My adventure in Morocco was the first important travel I did – I say important because it was not about resorts, shopping or nightlife. The purpose of that mindful travel was to uncover truth within myself and unify me with the world around me. It taught me how rewarding and fulfilling it is to explore the world and experience other cultures.

It is how we apply these lessons from yoga and travel that enriches our lives. Sharing our experiences and connecting to more people is how we unify. It is through living yoga and mindful travel that we shatter our preconceptions about ourselves and the world around us and open ourselves up to a more meaningful, authentic life.

 

 

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Sarah is the October – December Yoga Trade Travel Representative! Sarah loves to explore herself and the world through the lenses of yoga and travel – constantly challenging herself to uncover truth and unity within and around her.

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A Consolation to the Future

Many moons ago when I was about 14 years old, I was creating a collage in my room out of a (unbeknownst to me) relatively common Japanese print from a series that I had acquired from a garage sale. I had barely finished when my dad came to me and asked if I wanted to go to the Museum of Fine Art (in downtown St. Pete, Florida). It was Sunday funday, and of course I wouldn’t miss a chance to ride downtown and hang with pops. Well, upon entering the museum I noticed a girl wearing the same shorts as me (unusual and dorky pastel plaid hand-me-downs) and then being drawn to the nearest gallery room I immediately noticed on the wall, framed, and maybe even a part of the permanent collection there, a collage made from the exact same Japanese print that I had been cutting up in my room.

And I thought to myself, “Huh…huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh…”

Coincidences. We can only stop to wonder the complexities and intricacies of telepathic and psychic connections. From knowing who’s on the other end of the line before you answer a phone call, to encountering an object or picture during the the day that you recall encountering in your dream the night before. Even if you don’t believe in it, coincidences happen to everyone at one point or another. It’s as if we are surrounded by the invisible coincidences but only sometimes notice. Like how sometimes we know when and where we’ll see our loved ones. Or even when one has passed.

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The “concept” of interconnectivity has recently been a major topic of discussion in technology and yet has been a reality since the beginning of time. One could argue (me being one, among countless Indigenous peoples, groups and beliefs; Tibetan monks; even the Bible talks about it) that in ancient times, and those who contemporarily practice the age old techniques have, can, and do psychically connect to people, places, animals, and things. Just like the internet.

With the advent of the internet we take for granted that this “concrete” and “real” mechanism is actually the manifestation of the desire that humans have had throughout the millennia; which is to be connected.

And now it is taking us to bewildering places. Take for example artificial intelligence (A.I.): We only thought about these ideas of robots preforming surgeries as kids and now those thoughts are becoming a reality.

And we don’t even know how it works!

It is so perplexing that even the scientist and engineers who created the actual robots have absolutely no idea how in a split second A.I. can pull information from areas of the internet that no one even knew existed before. Or from up to date articles published in the exact same moment on the other side of the planet. Facial recognition, diagnosing disease, building other robots. The concerns and excitements stretch for miles across one’s imagination.

And to add to the overflowing mixed bag of emotionally loaded technological frontiers in our increasingly smaller and more intelligent world, is another childhood fantasy: traveling to Mars. Except now it’s not just for fun. It’s for survival.

We might never know the capabilities and extent of our own technology. It might expand just as our universe is doing constantly and into infinitum.

If you are like me and are felling overwhelmed and overloaded with all the happenings of the world and all the hate filled headlines in the news, there’s the catch to it all. The end of strife and worry for the concerned individual:

Aliens. That’s right; ALIENS. You don’t think there are aliens among us? You are correct in the literal sense; they don’t walk, they float. All around us, reproducing and communicating right before our very eyes. In fact, I ate them for lunch yesterday and love them on my pizza. They are invisible and are known on every continent, in every ecological zone on this planet, and most likely on other planets too since they are known to be able to survive in outer space. You know what i’m talking about!

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Mushrooms.

Mycology is the study of mushrooms, considered “the hidden kingdom” for not only their mysterious ways, but also the fact that what we see as little mushrooms, fun to eat and pick and look at, are actually apart of a huge network of underground mycelia (vegetative web-like branching hyphae). Like veins, mycelia connect across large areas underground (a few square miles and larger in a lot of instances), and surface as the many varieties we encounter. From portobellos to the psychotropic psilocybe cubensis (magic mushrooms) to aminita muscara (Super Mario brothers-looking poisonous red with white spots) to mold. They are everywhere. At one point we thought they couldn’t grow in Antarctica only to be stumped by the few species that appeared practically overnight in a research outpost. There are even species that eat plastic!

Mushrooms and mycelia are the connectors of life. They help things decay and most likely help everything to live! They are the actual telephone lines between trees and forests. Not a plant, and not quite an animal; they are alive, they are magic, they can survive in outer space, they are the bridge between plant and animal, life and death. They will be here long after we’re gone, cleaning up our mess that we didn’t have time to before we leave to Mars…

As exemplified by our co-inhabiters on this planet, life is complicated in this increasingly speedy world. Directing our attention inward is almost the last thing we want to do. In fact to some of the younger generations, we practically can’t. In lieu of peaceful meditative expanses of time spent in a park and in nature, we must hurry to the next event. In place of restful sleep, we’re barraged with stressors throughout the day that inhibit our relaxation. So much so that a solution among many, has been going away to “grounding camp” — actually attending an organized group where you and other humans who need the space to tune in do so by unplugging and doing things in real time, with your hands and feet and your mind, away from the screen. And these thing are helpful! In creating a beautiful world we must be that beautiful world. We must emit positivity, and the way to do so is by creating positivity inside of each and every single one of us.

Scary, exciting, daunting, confusing. Take a moment to understand the connectivity. Though this lifetime, if you are reading this, although you might not be lucky enough to be a mushroom, we can all turn to mushrooms as prime examples of connectivity, showing us the ropes of peacefully and joyfully existing among our neighbors as different as they may seem. Popping up when we’re needed and receding when our job is done. Appearing as an individual and yet sharing life and energy in an invisible network. With everything. All together. As one.

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I encourage everyone to read and learn more about the intensely interesting and connective hope that mushrooms bring to this planet, and also to consider this: Every single thought you have is connected to every single thing that we know of and more; micro or macro; visible or not. Your thoughts become your reality, hence A.I. and traveling to mars. So in your world, what would you like to see happen? Senseless killing, zombies, aggression? Or restoring harmony with all the visitors on this planet? Protecting environments, diversity of plants and animals, providing nourishment to the creatures that nourish us? Clean water, clear mind, creative future? Visualizing peace means actually visualizing (and making collages!), because we’re secretly and invisibly connected to everything.

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YOUR TURN…

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
-Alan W. Watts (1915-1973)

 

 

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

IG: @scrambby