The Personal Journey That Led To Open a Yoga Therapy School

From a very young age, I questioned the meaning of life. I wondered how I should live, and how other people were living around the world. I wanted to know more about different realities and ways of thinking so I could make my mind up about how I wanted to live my own life. I simply wasn’t ready to live life the way I saw it in Canada, the only home I’d ever known.

 

We all have different stories, different questions. For me, it wasn’t that my life wasn’t good, but that the North American lifestyle didn’t make much sense to me. All around me, I saw people working themselves into the ground at jobs they didn’t even like. All for a huge house, a beautiful car, a lot of clothes, and two weeks of vacation per year. Some people are satisfied living that life, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted to live a simple life, without having to fight for status and wealth. I needed to find something to dedicate myself to—a livelihood that would give me purpose and meaning in the world we live in. This is why after completing a course of study in physical rehabilitation, I decided to travel.

 

Working in the physiotherapy ward of Ziguinchor Regional Hospital in Senegal, I experienced culture shock for the first time. There, I saw people sharing everything, though they had nothing. People welcomed me as if I were their sister. I saw entire villages—not just parents—taking care of children. I met people who smiled even when they didn’t know how they would find a way to eat the next day. I saw people praying to a God I couldn’t see, people who had faith in life though it offered them few opportunities. I understood that there was so much more to life than focusing on material wealth. I could decide to live a life of abundance without having to sacrifice all my time to a meaningless job, instead dedicating that time to taking care of myself, others, and my environment. I understood just how lucky I was to have so many choices.

 

I continued my journey, alternating between working in physiotherapy clinics in Montreal and leaving for months at a time to travel through Asia, Oceania, and Central America. I was on a spiritual quest. Meditation was already part of my life, after I’d had a rough time coming to terms with my own family history. I wanted to go deeper within myself to find inner peace. I needed the tools necessary to deal with uncontrollable external factors.

 

That’s when yoga came into my life. At first, I didn’t even know that yoga was a way of living. I always thought it was like Pilates, just exercises in front of a mirror. I wasn’t interested in that. However, during my year of traveling, I ended up in Nepal and in India, where I hoped to participate in a meditation retreat. As I researched meditation centers, I found out I had the wrong idea about yoga, and I realized that it could actually bring together my knowledge of the human body and my desire to find peace of mind. Suddenly, I was excited to learn more.

 

In India, I went to a Yoga Teacher Training Course in Goa and a Vipassana retreat in Kolhapur, where I was taught about breath and consciousness. I learned how to move with awareness, how to maintain a clear state of mind, how to look inwards, how to let go, how to accept. When I returned home, I felt rich with all the knowledge I’d gained. I saw how my approach with my physiotherapy patients changed, and I began to learn all I could about yoga therapy, reiki, and conscious communication.

 

I felt I’d finally found a path that made sense for me, a path through which I could evolve in a personal, professional, and spiritual way. Three years after my first visit to Asia, I returned to India, where I met a beautiful woman named Rita. Rita’s life in India was miles away from my own, but somehow, our paths were meant to cross. We had the same desire to share our knowledge and experiences with like-minded people. We shared the belief in yoga therapy – a tool for preventing imbalances and restoring well-being. In founding Yoga Chikitsa in Nicaragua, we decided to make our shared vision a reality.

 

Today, I continue to remind myself that in life, change is the only constant. Things are forever evolving and transforming, which is why this school will be a reflection of the many beautiful souls that have passed through its doors, and all of the learning and life-changing experiences that have happened under its roof.

 

 

 

Josy is a Certified Physical Rehabilitation Therapist, Yoga teacher, Alternative Medicine Practitioner, Therapeutic and Energetic Masseuse, and she also practices Vipassana Meditation. She is also the Co-Founder of Yoga Chikitsa Nicaragua.

 

Devoted to Bhakti

I’ve been carrying an energy with me for the last four months that I can’t, and don’t want to shake. My breath feels more fluid, my mind more clear, my heart more open. This all began at Shakti Fest this past May, and integrating the lessons and practices has certainly not been a walk in the park. Rather, I’ve been on a dedicated journey that takes patience, practice, and work to fully live into — a journey that I feel grateful and honored to participate in.

Lucky for me, and thousands of other devotees, another opportunity to sink deeper into these practices is right around the corner. This year’s Bhakti Fest West, the sister festival to Shakti Fest, is happening in just 2 weeks in Joshua Tree, CA (Sept 6-11, 2017)!

Bhakti means devotion, and at Bhakti Fest that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what will unfold, and has been unfolding for the past 9 years. Bhakti Fest gathers a community of mindful folks from all over the world to practice the art of yoga, meditation, music, breath work, sound healing, and much more. One of the only fully vegetarian festivals, that is also drug and alcohol free and family friendly — this is a safe place to enliven your senses in pure form.

Bringing some of the best spiritual teachers of our time to one sacred place, including Seane Corn, Mark Whitwell, Kia Miller, and Michael Brian Baker, as well as internationally renowned musicians Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, MC YOGI, and Donna De Lory is just part of why this festival feels like a total dream.

Yet what seems to be the most impressive part of this festival is that it’s actually a non-profit. While we are celebrating, Bhakti Fest will be donating a percentage of its revenue to charities including Food for Life Vrindavan, Love Serve Remember Foundation, Ramana’s Garden, and the Seva Foundation.

It’s an “everybody wins” event that I’m personally stoked to experience as a teacher, practitioner, and lifelong student.

Participate in the SEVA program by working in exchange for a ticket (A Yoga Trade opportunity)! A fantastic way to make meaningful connections and enjoy the festival by sharing your trade: bhaktifest.com/participate/

Transform, deepen, and come play with us!

Tickets for Bhakti Fest West 2017 are available at:  https://tickets.brightstarevents.com/event/bhakti-fest-west-2017.

 

 

 

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.

IG : @momomagical 

Wild & Free: Meet Movement Enthusiast Rod Cooper

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Find what you love and do that.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Wild & Free: Meet Australian Yogi Sjana Elise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you use your influence in a positive way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite quote or words you live by?

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Never fails to ground and humble me.

Fun fact your followers might not know about you?

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Leprosy & Lessons in Love: Meditation In Action

With fear on my mind and love in my heart, I choose to follow people who live to benefit more then just themselves.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, in total health and abundance but I became aware of the unsatisfactory nature of a life without service to others.

Nathan & Zohar, run meditation in action projects around the world known as Sangha Seva Retreats.

They first came to Anandwan in 2004 as volunteers and have been facilitating groups of people to experience and contribute to the community every year since.

Anandwan (‘Forest of Joy or Bliss’) is a leprosy rehabilitation center in Mararashtra, India. Baba Amte, a saintly man, founded Anandwan in 1951 with the mission of providing a life for people with Leprosy that went beyond offering medical support but a way for each individual to be wholly integrated in society.

All Photography by Shilpa Shah

Leprosy is the oldest known disease and is extremely misunderstood and stigmatized all over the world but particularly in India – as being grotesque, highly contagious and even a personal curse of God or Karma.

Historically, India has had the highest population of the disease with many afflicted people being rejected and disregarded from society – left to fend on their own support, in times of dire need of the support of others.

Baba Amte fiercely started this project with 6 patients living on donated government land- without even a water source. With the power of love in his heart, within only 2 years the land completely transformed into a self-sufficient community – apart from sugar, salt, and oil.

Therefore, you can imagine the jobs that were manifested – from making on-site homemade mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, fabrics, housing and furniture, homemade specialized wheelchairs, custom-made shoes for all these differently shaped mended bodies and feet, bio-waste methane system turning cow and food waste into gas to cook with, growing food and cooking for all these many mouths – all day, every day!

The community has grown to host approximately 3,000 individuals with a range of differences in the body and mind (children, elderly, with physical and mental disabilities) that may have not had a safe place in the world without Anandwan.

Anyone can live here with the guidelines of not taking any intoxicants, non-violence, and being willing to work, if able. Baba said “give people a chance – not charity,” which from my observation seems to be clearly successful.

As a part of the meditation-in-action mission, 17 international volunteers, joined together for 3 weeks to practice meditation while consciously living and working in various workshops throughout the Anandwan community.

I choose to work in the elderly home in the mornings and alternating between the hearing and the visually impaired school in the afternoon.

Besides working with other people, I had to deal with my own suppressed internalized fear I was unknowingly hosting around touching elderly people’s bodies. It really had nothing to do with Leprosy as in retrospect I remembered that I also felt this sense of rejection at my grandma’s retirement home in Toronto. The look of fragility and potential weaknesses somehow gave me the impression of it not feeling safe to touch the bodies of these human beings. Maybe some unconscious fear of “catching” whatever they have even if it was just my own projection of their pain and suffering. As it turns out, odds are as a human being, if I’m super lucky, I will indeed catch the state of old age regardless of physical contact will people or not.

Baba was known to say that the real leprosy to fear is this leprosy of the mind.

The illusive walls between where the being behind ‘their’ skin and mine – began to fade away. I realized that my intention was to share moments of connection, not “fix” anyone or anything.

Through breaking down my own barriers of fear I shared in the most precious exchanges of love during this project.

They, like you and me and all other beings- simply want to experience happiness- feel love, less suffering, less pain. Something we can all naturally offer to each other – but as I can see it must start with the fragile being behind our own skin.

The human beings living at Anandwan showed me strength and joy through the endurance of suffering and pain. Maybe it really is the challenges that strengthen the spirit. All I know is the light and love radiating from these people felt so bright that I couldn’t even see the different abilities, shapes of bodies or sense capabilities in all their various forms.

We all have opportunities to dive into these unfamiliar environments and into the power of love that exists beyond the discernment of our mind that constantly creates distinctions between good, bad, less or more, like or dislike, into this golden thread that ties us all together – the aliveness that exists in meeting each moment with full awareness- of life, exactly as it is.

“Namaste” – the people of Anandwan say here with their hands at their heart and I couldn’t imagine a greeting that was more appropriate. I see you – as a pure divine living, breathing, feeling being – as significant a life as the one I consider “my own.”

May we all find ways of stepping outside our own fears and into the transformation power of love – for ourselves and for each other.

 

 

 

Sacha Bryce, BSc, RYT, is a Holistic Yoga Therapist based in Toronto, Canada. She has travelled the globe studying, teaching and living Integral Yoga. Her mission is to share the power of the practice to liberate herself and others from suffering.

IG: @sachabryceyoga

Exams to Evaluate Your Yoga Level: A Paradox?

I’m approaching the end of my 3 year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training, and lately I’m struggling with this paradox of having an exam in yoga. To strive and train for an exam, is to me, so in contradiction with the ‘yoga philosophy’.

Six years ago I started practicing yoga to heal myself from an serious back-injury after doing so many back-bends as a contortionist in a circus. Today, practicing yoga asanas makes me feel good, it makes me feel alive and I feel much more aware and clear-minded.

Every morning, when I step on my yoga mat, I like to do some wake-up stretches and unwinding of my body. I’m feeling the state of my body this morning, and I’m just flowing and slow dancing to wake my body up and get the sleepy stiffness away. This kind off moving wouldn’t look like yoga, but it feels good. I move in an intuitive way.

Next, I’ll start with one of the 6 sequences I’m repeating every week, always in the same order. Because it’s Iyengar and this is supposed to be the most logic and best order for the body’s balance. Those have been elaborated by one of the most senior students of B.K.S. Iyengar.

Usually at this point my mind starts working, instead of “citta vrtti nirodaha” (YS 1.2) which is often translated simply as, ‘Yoga is the ability to calm/direct/restrain the fluctuations of the consciousness/mind’. Mostly I’m criticizing myself, because through the Iyengar Yoga method I’ve gained so much knowledge about how each pose is supposed to be, all the details I should be aware of. So instead of being right here on my mat, at ease with myself, offering myself the best I’ve have to give for today, I’m doing all the opposite.

Because of that exam. Because of the pressure. Because of the expectations.

 

Here is the paradox: Yoga is about the path, not about any goal. A perfectly executed advanced pose is not going to bring me enlightenment. NEVER! But, that exam is waiting for me. Therefore, I have to raise my practice to a certain yoga level, because I really want to pass that exam. But the yoga I loved so much, is gone, because of this exam.

 

Yoga is about the path, not about a goal.

This exam is a part of my path. So what can I get out of this struggle. Instead of going in a downward negative spiral, every struggle can be an opportunity to grow.

 

What causes trouble in this situation, is the mind, the mind and it’s thoughts. So the question then becomes – HOW do we calm or restrain the mind to achieve this desired state of yoga? Well the simple answer is: do your yoga practice. Simple. Just keep doing a regular and sustained yoga practice and all will come – as the late Sri. K. Patthabhi Jois would say. But we are creatures of wanting to know everything and sometimes the simple answer just doesn’t cut it!

 

Patanjali actually describes the five fluctuations (functions or states) of the mind (or five vrittis) to help us better understand the workings of the mind. He says these five vrittis can be painful or non-painful. They are:

1. Valid Cognition (Pramana) 

(Knowledge should be acquired through direct experience for accepting any knowledge as correct.)

2. Misconception (Viparyaya) 

(Learning to dissolve our personal subjective frame of the way we see things, so we can start seeing things for what they truly are.)

3. Imagination (Vikalpa)

(Imagination, doubts, indecsion, daydreaming…. these are all our own creations, but our mind might start believing them for being true. We create an imagined world for ourselves based on our way of thinking. This ‘power of positive thinking’ may appear new age, however the yoga sutras has been teaching for thousands of years the importance of controlling the mind! Through this control, we can liberate ourselves from suffering.)

4. Sleep (Nidra)
(When the mind is not in one of the first three vrittis, it might be in the nidra state: the mind is directed inward, operating at a very subtle level. B.K.S Iyengar says that “sleep is the non-deliberate absence of thought-waves or knowledge”. )

5. Memory (Smriti)
(The Yoga Sutra 1.11 is translated as “Memory is the mental retention of a conscious experience” or “memory is a recollection of experienced objects”. All conscious experiences leave an impression on the individual and are stored as memory. It is not possible to tell if a memory is true, false, incomplete or imaginary. Think about a different people who will recall the same event, they all might remember it differently. Memory can influence your present situation more than you might realize, by holding onto certain impressions (conditionings), it’s very likely we can’t experience the now AS IT IS…without bias, judgement or criticism.)

So, how can this knowledge serve us in calming the fluctuations of the mind?

 

By being able to become an observer, stepping out of yourself and observing and recognizing these different functions of the mind, without being attached, upset or frustrated, slowly you will learn how the mind works. Once you are able to observe without reaction, you will be able to differentiate the mind and all of its fluctuations from your true nature. You aren’t the mind and it’s thoughts, emotions, imaginations, memories and fluctuations. No, behind the fluctuations of the mind, you might catch a glimpse of your true self. The true self which is only emptiness, and at the same time contains everything. You might discover there is no separation between ‘Me’ & ‘You’.

 

So the most simple answer to calming the mind and finding peace with life’s paradoxes is to do your practice. Do your practice, and stay the observer – On your yoga-mat, off the yoga-mat, all day, all night. Yoga is all the time, meditation is all the time. Through a regular and sustained practice, life will unfold the way it is meant to.

 

 

 

 

 

Yara will be a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor from October 2017 on. She is a certified Myofascial Energetic Release (M.E.R.) Therapist. She is Dutch, currently living in France. As a former circus-artist she loves to play, move and travel around the world.

From Perfectionist To Perfect

“Yoga is about progress, not perfection”.

I see this phrase – and others that say essentially the same thing – a lot on social media, and at first glance, I like it. I like it a lot. Finally, someone is telling me that I don’t have to be perfect! I can screw up, and no one will mind! I can fall out of Headstand rather than elegantly lowering myself back down into Child’s pose, and it’s ok. I can wobble in Tree pose, and fart in Happy Baby, and puff rather than glide my way through Surya Namaskar (and, by the way, I don’t even have to use Sanskrit names that I can’t pronounce, let alone remember), and it’s all fine. And as a relatively new yoga teacher, the initial idea of progress not perfection is doubly appealing. It means that next time I lose track of which leg goes forward first, I shouldn’t worry about it. If I forget where we are in that sequence I so carefully prepared, and a class of 40-odd students are sweating in Downward Dog while they wait for me to tell them what to do next, it’s ok. I can laugh it off. I can demonstrate firsthand to my students that even yoga teachers don’t get it right all the time. Everyone messes up occasionally, and it’s all ok.

It felt great, until I realised something…that implicit in that phrase, there was an assumption that it wouldn’t always be this way. I would progress. I would get better. Not only that, but that I would want desperately to get better, and that I would work hard to do so. I would put in the hours on my mat until I became more flexible, stronger, and able to come down out of headstand like the textbooks say you should. I wouldn’t fart in Happy Baby, and my Sun Salutations (or Surya Namaskar, now) would be effortless. And I definitely, definitely wouldn’t forget what comes next in the sequence I teach.

1

I realised that, in today’s western (yoga) world, being imperfect is acceptable up to a point. After that – if your progress isn’t fast enough or good enough – yoga becomes just one more thing that you can’t do. Time to give up and try something else that you might have better luck with.

Yet this is almost the exact opposite of what yoga teaches us (or is supposed to teach us), and that is that everything is already perfect. Not perfect for now, or good enough for now, but perfect in the present moment.

We are all already under so much pressure in our lives to be perfect….or at least, if we can’t be perfect, to at least want to be. We are always striving to be better in some way. To have more money, to have a better house, to get a better job that’s higher up the ladder, to be better parents, better siblings, better children, better teachers. To be better people. And in a way, that’s natural and good. Ambition is what gets us out of bed in the mornings. The desire to grow is what keeps us learning and exploring. The desire to nail that headstand is, perhaps, what keeps us coming back to our mats, at least to start with. Without progress in some form or another, millions more of us would still be dying of the flu, and I wouldn’t be typing this now.

But our desire for progress has become all-consuming, and the word “progress” itself cannot be criticized. If something is labelled as “progressive”, then the overriding feeling is that it must be good whether we like it or not. Sometimes, it feels like the worst thing we can do is to “not progress”. We must always be moving on to the next even better thing, and we become very attached to doing so. Then if, for some reason, that progress doesn’t happen, we suffer. We suffer even if it does happen, because it’s never long before a new desire for something even bigger and better and “more progressive” kicks in, and the whole cycle starts over again. We very rarely stop and take a moment to appreciate what we already have, and to appreciate where we already are….and even rarer is the feeling of being satisfied with that.

If we let it, yoga gives us that feeling. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to improve our asanas, or that we don’t want to grow and learn in our practice. But those precious hours on the mat are our time – perhaps the only time some of us get – to be ourselves, warts and all. Yoga gives us the space and time to be who we are, not who we pretend to be. It gives us the opportunity to discover who that person is. It isn’t the time to push, or to berate ourselves for, yet again, not being good enough or not making fast enough progress. Maybe we will eventually be able to do headstand without crashing down out of it….in fact, if we keep practicing, the likelihood is that we will. Yoga, though, can also show us that it is futile to become attached that hope. Instead of constantly chasing after a new goal, yoga shows us that we have a choice, and we could choose to believe that wherever we are in our practice is perfect. It’s where we are now, in the present moment – and being aware of the present moment and acknowledging it, candidly and truthfully and authentically, is part of what yoga is really about.

Progress? Or perfection? I’m going with perfection…..just not the type of perfection we are so used to thinking about and aiming for. Not a perfectionist style of perfection, but a perfect-in-the-present-moment type of perfection. It’s hard. I haven’t managed it yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. I suspect there will always be a part of me that worries about making mistakes as a teacher, that pushes to be better, stronger, more flexible, and that berates the other part of me for not doing well enough. But I am starting to accept that all I can do is show up, in the moment, as I am. Perfect.

Or, at least, good enough.

 

IMG_0310

 

 

Ali is a certified yoga teacher, crystal healer, writer, editor and dreamer at http://kriyashakti.net. When not on the yoga mat, she can usually be found reading, drinking tea, or on a beach (ideally all three). She is currently based in the U.K.

Presence & Prosperity Lessons from Shakti Fest 2017

Basking in the sunshine, camping under the stars, and moving my body with amazing yoga teachers is what I came to Shakti Fest for – what I left with was a new clarity on how to approach living yoga beyond a mat, retreat, spiritual text, or paycheck.

I’ve been practicing yoga for twelve years, teaching for seven, and grappling with the money question for lifetimes beyond this current reality. How do I teach yoga, be of service to the world, and also make enough money to pay my rent? I find myself oscillating around this frequently, which takes me out of my practice and keeps me stuck in my monkey mind (or maybe it’s my money mind?).

After spending a weekend immersed at Shakti Fest – studying, chanting, dancing, and practicing with some of the most inspiring yoga teachers, workshop facilitators, and kirtan artists, I believe I’m closer to the answer than ever before: living yoga is living service – meaning serve first, live yoga off the mat, and prosperity will come. Also, as advised to me by Shakti Fest’s executive producer, and world renowned yoga teachers Shiva Rea and Kia Miller: “Don’t quit your day job!”

In Sanskrit, yoga, which derives from the word yuj, means “to unite” or “to join.” The Sanskrit word, seva (“selfless service”), derives from two words: saha, meaning “with that,” and eva, meaning “too;” combined seva means “together with” or “unity.”

Just serve, and then you will make money? Some might call that naive…but some of the great teachers have lived by and are still living by this concept and it works.

“I say teach yoga, but teach it with a passion,” said Shakti Fest’s Executive Producer, Sridhar Steven Silberfein, when asked about how to make teaching yoga sustainable. “Teach it with a love that you want to help change people and turn people on to a better way of life. Not ‘what am I gonna get from it’– we’ve got to stop that concept. Everything will come to you at the right time, it’s just our anxieties and desires built up from our ego mind that want everything right now.”

Silberfein started Shakti and Bhakti Fest, the largest yoga and kirtan festivals in the USA, as well as several other businesses that combine business and yoga (a health food store, natural skin care line, and a recording label to name a few).

“Basically we wake up in the morning, we produce, direct, edit, and write our own story and we star in it. That’s all we do everyday – just think about ourselves. Hardly any time is spent thinking about another person or a group of people. So by coming here we are building spiritual community, a safe haven.”

Shakti Fest is a place where people can come back to themselves, center in, and as they reconnect with themselves, they connect with others, and unite with their community with more integrity. In addition to Shakti Fest being an incredible venue for yogic practices and sacred community, it also lives service through its seva program – where people can volunteer in exchange for festival tickets and camping. Shakti Fest also donates all of the proceeds (after paying for expenses) to orphanages in India to support young girls who are living in poverty. Silberfein is dedicated to living a simple life so we can give back and practice seva as much as possible.

“Service to me is an attitude of being” said Kia Miller, internationally renowned Kundalini and Hatha Yoga teacher. “When I’m fully present to the moment I’m able to serve the moment from my full being. When I’m living my life from that place then I’m naturally by extension being of service.”

She also recognizes the difficulty in combining business and yoga. “You don’t want to put all the pressure on making your rent by teaching yoga. It’s helpful that you have something else that’s paying your rent and your food bills for a little while. When you are really in alignment and you’re serving and you’re giving to people I find that there is just a natural prosperity that follows that.”

Miller believes that acting out of service is not separate from any other way of being.

“Everything you’re doing is coming from a connected place of service as opposed to separating it out and living your life here and being a certain way, and then serving over there, and then feeling bad about yourself or beating yourself up because you’re not serving in the way people perceive people should serve.”

Her message is loud and clear: stop trying so hard and instead just be present in the moment, present for yourself, and ultimately present for your community. The more we live from a place of connectivity and unity, the more we are truly practicing yoga at its core meaning.

A lot easier said than done, right?! Miller suggests the simple act of doing a daily yoga practice to ground into this concept. She says “Just keep practicing. If your well runs dry, then try something new. There are so many different approaches to yoga and I think it’s important that we keep open to everything and not become too narrow. We want to be narrow enough that we can dig a deep well but we don’t want to lose the ability to be receptive to all.”

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been integrating concepts I learned at Shakti Fest into my daily practice and I’ve noticed a big shift. I feel more aligned to myself and therefore more capable of connecting with others out of integrity. As for paying the rent, I’ve let go of the concept of trying so hard to make yoga my profession, but rather my living. I now know that the more I live yoga, and live seva, the money will come. I’m also working on getting a day job…

The annual Shakti Fest and Bhakti Fest happen every May and September in Joshua Tree, California to bring song, dance, yoga, chanting, meditation, workshops, and delicious vegetarian and vegan food together.

For more information or to buy tickets for Bhakti Fest this September, please visit their website:

http://bhaktifest.com/
Bhakti Fest – September 7-11, 2017
Shakti Fest – May 10-14. 2018

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.  

@momomagical

5 Myths About Soul-Searching Travel

After living abroad and traveling the world for almost four years now, I came to realize that the most important thing I discovered was myself. I learned more about the world, life and my true self than ever before. All because I decided to leave my comfort zone and finally follow my dreams.

By now, you’re probably thinking you know where this is going: “Oh gosh, here’s another girl who decided to quit her job, sell all her stuff, and leave everything behind, to travel the world and find herself!” Did I just read your mind?
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my story is a bit different. I had neither a well paid corporative job back home nor a two year savings. I didn’t have much stuff to sell either. And I certainly didn’t leave everything and everyone behind to travel solo.

Does this mean I didn’t embark on a true soul-searching journey? On the contrary. I don’t have to follow a script written by someone else to go on a journey of self-discovery. And you don’t have to do it either. What kind of lessons will you be learning if you’re just following other people’s path anyway?

I think there are too many misconceptions about traveling and self-discovery. And that’s why I put together this list of what I consider to be the 5 biggest myths about soul-searching travel, and what it really means to explore your true self while wandering the globe.

 

#1 You have to quit your job

You probably stumbled upon some version of this quit-my-job-sold-my-stuff-traveled-the-world story so many times already in the Internet that it seems everyone is doing it these days. You probably dream about doing the same thing yourself, don’t you? But the truth is most people who travel or move abroad don’t quit their jobs to see the world. Most people can’t afford, or just don’t want, to do that. Most importantly, you don’t need to in order to travel or find yourself.
When I moved from Portugal to Switzerland, with my boyfriend, two suitcases and a little more than 500 Euros on my bank account, the first thing I had to do was actually to find a job, so I could apply for a residence permit, and survive in one of the most expensive countries in the world. I also had to learn German and work my ass off to be allowed to stay here, pay my bills and be able to travel. So it’s perfectly possible to have a job – and a home and a family – and travel. For many of us it’s the only way to do it! You can travel and do some important soul-searching without even having to permanently move abroad or disrupt your entire life. At least until you are absolutely sure that’s what you want to do.

 

#2 You have to go alone

I’m sure you’ve also read the thousand headlines that go something like this: “How traveling solo changed my life” or “Why solo traveling is the best way to find yourself”. Again, it seems like that’s the only way to do it. But it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, solo travel is great. I’ve done it myself and I would definitely recommend you try it at least once in your lifetime, if that’s something that appeals to you. If it’s not, go with your friends, your sister, your soul-mate, your kids, or your dog. As long as you go! Nowadays I mostly travel with my boyfriend. And that doesn’t mean I don’t learn valuable lessons about myself during these trips, because I do. In a way, traveling with another person and spending most of your time together is even more challenging than traveling alone. You certainly learn more about tolerance and respect, compromising and setting boundaries than going solo.

 

#3 You have to travel long term

Another myth about soul-searching travel is that you have to be on the road for a year or two, or at least a couple of months, to really learn about yourself. I mean, that truly sounds amazing, but what happens if you, like me and many people, can’t take a gap year or a sabbatical leave? What happens if all you can manage is a two week vacation from work, and, if you’re lucky, a couple of weekends per year to get away? Well, you use that time to travel and find out new things about the world and yourself. On our first year in Switzerland, my boyfriend and I had zero vacation time. But we used almost every weekend and day off to go somewhere new. We made day trips to all major cities in Switzerland, we spent time in the mountains, and visited Germany and Italy. So much that we ended up knowing the country better than many locals. Some Swiss friends were amazed with how much we managed to see in such a short period of time. So it’s not about how long or how far you travel. It’s about what you learn on the way.

 

#4 You have to visit a spiritual destination

You hear about soul-searching travel and you immediately think about Tibet, India or Japan. You imagine yourself chanting with Buddhist monks, practicing yoga in an ashram or meditating in a Zen temple. You can’t possibly soul-search lying by the pool of a Mexico resort or wandering through the crowded streets of New York, right? Well, that’s one way to see it. The other way is that every experience teaches you something valuable about the world, yourself and others. Every place, every culture and every person has its own lessons to deliver, as long as you’re aware of that. One of my aha moments happened when I decided to take a solo trip to Athens for three days. See, I didn’t go to Bali, or Kenya, or Siberia. I went to the busy and chaotic capital of Greece, and it turned out to be a really empowering trip, that taught me that all I need to go somewhere or do something is myself. Sometimes the most valuable insights happen when and where you least expect them.

 

#5 You have to find your true calling

There was a time when I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had been a journalist. I had been a yoga teacher. But at that point none of that seemed to be enough. I wanted more. I wanted to learn new things, I wanted to travel and see the world, I wanted to find myself, but I had no idea how. I kept reading articles about how to find my true calling, how to uncover my purpose in life, how to discover that one thing I was meant to do. And I kept getting anxious. Until one day it suddenly hit me: I don’t have to choose only one thing, I don’t have to find one calling, I can have as many callings and do as many things as I want to. I can be a writer, and a yoga teacher, and a traveler, and whatever more the future holds for me. That’s the beauty of existence. So that’s why I don’t travel to find my true calling anymore, and why you shouldn’t either. You should travel to live all sorts of experiences, try all kinds of things that appeal to you, and find everything that gives meaning to your life.

There are no rules for your own soul-searching journey. There’s no correct way to do it. Because all journeys are journeys of the self. Like every new experience in life, every trip is an opportunity to explore the world and who you are, to get out of your comfort zone and into yourself. You don’t have to go far, to go alone or to leave everything behind. You just have to go, and all the lessons will arise.

 

 

 

 

Vanda is a journalist turned yoga teacher turned travel blogger. Combining her passion for writing, traveling and self-discovery, she writes about living abroad, exploring the globe, and the soul-searching that arise from both. Connect at theyogiwanderer.com

Panama Sail Adventure: Living Yoga at Sea

Five years ago in Indonesia, on the very same trip the idea for Yoga Trade was born, I also met Captain Bryan Blaze. His sense of adventure instantly captivated me. Bryan, a seasoned sailor, was living part time in Indo and part time in Panama. In 2012, I remember him telling me about a passion project he was focusing on in Central America. We kept in touch intermittently. It has been inspiring to stay in contact with a fellow free-spirited entrepreneur who has persevered and made a grand vision a reality. Bryan is the Founder of Nirvana Surf Yoga and captain and owner of the Green Flash Catamaran based out of Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Last March, divine timing was on our side and a group of incredibly creative yogis came together in the archipelago to board the Green Flash to spend 3 nights of living yoga at sea. In addition to Bryan and I, our group was comprised by; Diego, an acro yoga teacher, traveler, and photographer from Venezuala. Judita, a globetrotter, ocean lover, and sailor from the Czech Republic. And Simone, a wellness travel educator, photographer, and soul sister from Oregon. This experience was one for the books and a good reminder that sometimes the most profound yoga revelations come when we integrate yoga into our everyday activities and adventures.

All photos by Simone Levine and Diego Barbato

Our first night was spent moored just off of Bastimentos Island. The beauty of the first light and colorful glow awoke me in the morning. I rose and went to the deck to watch the sun rise over the jungle island. It was amazing to practice meditation with the sounds of sweet hooting birds and gentle waves making playful sounds against the boat. Together we snacked on a light and healthy breakfast and then went to land to share a lovely asana practice at Red Frog beach.

 

The journey continued as we headed toward the Zapatilla Islands and eventually further south. Although we did not score swells ideal for surfing on this trip, we were blessed with phenomenal water clarity and we happily immersed ourselves in all its glory. Daily activities included; cruising around on the SUPs, snorkeling, and swimming. We tapped into our childlike states attempting flips and back dives off the boat. We took some goofy underwater mermaid shots and even played a round of underwater karaoke. We explored an uninhabited island and were graced by the presence of beautiful sea life.

The colors of the water from these days will continue to inspire my dreams and and imagination beyond this lifetime.

 

Our last night we ended up in a stunning bay where a local village resides. The new moon and favorable conditions delivered shooting stars and magnificent bioluminescence. The following morning we paddled into land and took a short hike to yet another picture perfect beach. We played around with some acro yoga, body surfed, and connected with a few local people. In the afternoon, the winds began to pick up a bit and we enjoyed a peaceful sail. My favorite memory comes from this afternoon…while swaying in the hammock listening to the sound of a tibetan chime, I realized we were flowing in synch with a pod of dolphins! Sailing has a magical way of bringing us in touch with presence and gratitude for this amazing world in which we live!

 

 

 

Benefits of Integrating Yoga and Sailing:

 

RELATIONSHIPS

While living on a boat, there are not many places to run or hide. This dynamic allows relationships to become magnified. Not only the relationships with ourselves but also our relationships with others. This can be challenging at times, but this also causes growth. Constant changes and ‘unknowns’ are thrown into the mix while sailing. As individuals and as a group we must adapt and deal with the situations at hand. The art of designing beneficial relationships is our choice, and being on a boat can help unveil work that needs to be done while helping us form special human connections.

BALANCE

Simple balance poses such as Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana), take on a whole new personality while cruising on water. For yogis who have practiced for a while, sailing brings unique approaches to postures. It is a great way to work on strengthening our smaller, secondary muscles. Also, being in the middle of the sea allows us to observe in great depth our emotional and spiritual balance. If you have yet to experience much sailing or time on the ocean, it is a great way to view things with new perspectives.

 

EXPLORATION

The ocean is teeming with life. Humans have barely scratched the surface when it comes to ocean exploration, and to some, the ocean feels like the final frontier here on earth. What better place to practice yoga than a place like this, where we can simultaneously explore our inner world while appreciating and exploring our outer existence here on this planet.

 

LEARN NEW SKILLS & LIVING YOGA

There is so much to learn about sailing. Navigation, wind, mechanics, etc….and this is only the beginning. Just like yoga, and many things in life, sailing allows us to be a forever student. It allows us to strengthen our problem solving skills, keep positive mindsets, and make do with what we have. It can give us confidence in realizing we do know more than we think if we have patience to reach new discoveries. Also, we can practice living our yoga by becoming aware that what we get out of an experience is a direct result of what we put into it.

 

BE IN TUNE WITH THE ELEMENTS

Living in fresh air and on a boat makes it easy for us to get in tune with the natural elements and our own circadian rhythm. Waking up with the sunrise, stargazing at night, feeling the winds, riding the currents, and becoming intuitively in touch with the swell, helps us feel deeply connected. It is from this place of deep connection that creative energy and flow is the most potent.

 

SUSTAINABILITY

By being immersed in and surrounded by mother ocean, it allows us to naturally form a deep respect for her and the entire natural world. We become more aware of the impact many modern life normalities can have, and start looking to alternative and more regenerative ways to live and thrive. Pondering, ‘all we need is less’ can be quite easy to do while sailing on a boat, and a great place to begin our pledge to living more simply and sustainably.

I left Bocas Del Toro with a full heart and beaming with gratitude for this opportunity and for the time spent with old and new friends.

Take your practice deeper by integrating yoga philosophies into everyday life.

There is a place inside of you where magic grows…KEEP THAT PLACE ALIVE!

To join in on a yoga at sea adventure or to bring a retreat group of your own on the Green Flash Cat, visit Nirvana Surf Yoga for more information:

NIRVANASURFYOGA.COM

 

 

 

 

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

 

Article Photography by: Simone Levine and Diego Barbato