Can Yoga Lead the Way to Sustainable Tourism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Footnote:

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

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

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

 

Yoga Philosophy as a Path of Self-Realization in the Real World

Yoga has been my exercise, hobby, and side-gig for nearly my entire adult life.  Through cross-planet moves, falling in love and getting my heart broken, a global pandemic (say what?!), losing loved ones and jobs, career changes, and quarter life crises — yoga has been there every step of the way.  Subtly and sneakily, the teachings have pierced me.  What began as a love affair with the way my body felt after a sweaty and stretchy yoga “workout” has turned into a greater understanding of how my mind and heart are able to navigate the difficult moments life has thrown at me.  

What a time – right now in the midst of our mandated hibernation during COVID-19, to ground down and deepen our own practice.  While so many in the world are suffering and in a state of fear, I’ve had the opportunity to dive even further into my yoga practice. Despite job losses, housemate conflicts, economic disasters, and a global moral crisis of racism and brutality, yoga has stuck with me, and me with it.  Inspired by my teacher, Bhavani Maki, I’ve committed to a daily meditation practice that has significantly transformed my life and kept me grounded during the most ungrounding time of my life.  

Though I’ve been studying, practicing, and teaching yoga all this time, my understanding of yoga was confused and ungrounded.  Yet, thankfully, I’ve been able to begin again, with fresh eyes… 

1:1 Atha yoga anushasanam

At last, we have finally arrived at this most auspicious moment.  Verily, it has taken our entire lifetime to come to this point, where we accept the invitation to follow along with the process of Yoga, and smooth out the rough edges of the personality.  This awakes a deep feeling of love and respect for those who walked the path before us, and shed the light that we might follow.

This is the first Yoga Sūtra of Patanjali, translated by my teacher and mentor, Bhavani Maki.  Her teachings of the Yoga Sūtra have profoundly impacted my relationships to myself and to others, and supported me through a time of great transition.  Both in person and online, I’ve studied yoga, philosophy, chanting, and modern day psychology with her.  When I signed up for her online Yoga Sutra Mentorship Program last August (we meet weekly on Zoom) I had no idea that this would be the glue that held me together during a “stay at home” order for months of COVID-19.  Deepening my understanding of the Sūtra has absolutely been a form of therapy for me, as it gives me insight into my habits and patterned behavior and shows me what I can modify, what needs to be released, and what is pure and perfect just as it is.

Bhavani is an international author and teacher of yoga asana, yoga psychology, and yoga philosophy.  She has dedicated her life to learning and actualizing the path of yoga through her studies with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, Professor Narayanacharya, Baba Hari Dass, and Rama Jyoti Vernon, among others.  Although first introduced to the Yoga Sutra in 1996, she has been deeply interested since 1999.  Beyond her education, experience, and accolades, she is just an absolute joy and breath of fresh air in the yoga world.  She exudes a level of humility that is inspiring and makes a seemingly overwhelming and ancient text relatable to almost anyone.  Read on for an exclusive interview with Bhavani about the wisdom of the Sutra and how to integrate them in modern day life:  

What are the Yoga Sūtra?

The Sūtra are a map of human consciousness with practical insights in how to maximize Yogīk practice for breakthrough experiences for internal freedom to enjoy life in its fullness. Patañjali reveals that deep, personal inquiry are both the means and the experience of embodying our true spiritual realization.

What are the benefits of learning the Yoga Sūtra?

While the techniques of Yoga are well expounded upon in the West, there is little guidance offered to integrate these practices with our personal psychology. The Sūtra are traditionally recognized as the definitive guide, offering perennial wisdom in navigating life’s challenges through the cultivation of viveka khyāti, discriminating wisdom. Yoga practice without the Sūtra are like going on a road trip without a map to navigate.

What does your personal yoga practice look like?  

I start each morning with Gayatri Mantra, Pranayama, Mudra, meditation and silent Japa (repetition) of the Sūtra. I then study more Sūtra and work on my current manuscript. Afterwards, I practice a variety of asana that usually includes inversions. 

Is it possible to practice/teach yoga without understanding the Yoga Sūtra? 

The Sūtra and the asana cannot be separated. If we are mature in our practice of awareness, we access some amount of the Sūtra through practical insight. However, one who is without a teacher and the teachings (Sūtra) is known as “anatha” – misfortunate. To have them is a tremendous blessing that galvanizes our efforts to maximize the possibilities of Yoga’s benefits.

What is your best advice for teachers to weave the teachings of the Yoga Sūtra into their classes and personal practices?

The Sūtra articulate practical wisdom. They provide a focus for intentional learning and expand perspective. A little bit of study goes a long way to being productive in our practice and creating integration and coherency in our psyche. As a teacher, when we open our class with reference to a Sūtra, we bring awareness back to Yoga’s intention of skillful internal posture. 

So many yoga teacher trainings incorporate very little yoga philosophy in their teachings.  How might yoga teachers supplement their education to get a deeper understanding of the philosophy behind yoga?

10 minutes of daily study can go a long way! My book the Yogi’s Roadmap can be opened and read at random like an oracle. Many teachers tell me they open it for inspiration before they practice or teach a class and weave insights into the practice.

What are your best resources/teachers for studying the Sūtra?

My personal favorites are: Rama Jyoti Vernon’s translations “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Gateway to Enlightenment” Books 1 & 2. Also, I love Venkateshananda’s book “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali”. Kofi Busia has many interesting resources on his website. I offer 13 recorded talks that are live recordings from my teacher trainings. My personal book “The Yogi’s Roadmap” is written in conversational form in the spirit of mouth to ear transmission that is non-linear and in context of how the Sutra are useful in reference to Yoga practice and modern life.  My most comprehensive offering to date is my Online Yoga Sutra Mentorship program that’s a live zoom class each week and recorded for those who can’t attend the live session. Each class is devoted to a single Sutra. 

What is your best advice to new yoga teachers?

Teach to learn! When my teacher asked me to teach, she made me promise to study a minimum of 20 minutes daily. This is of course in conjunction with consistent practice. Choose your teachers carefully and commit to study with them for a minimum of 5 years. 

So there you have it — yoga is about integration, and couldn’t we all benefit from a roadmap to help us find our true center? I’m still on the path and always will be, but with such wise mentorship and learning I’ve found ways to navigate this life with heart and integrity (or at least I try!). 

To join in the movement and study with Bhavani online to take your teaching and/or practice to the next level, please visit www.bhavanimaki.com.  She has several workshops, teacher trainings, classes, and mentorships all available online now.

 

 

 

Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, gap year counseling, practicing and teaching yoga, and teaching mindfulness and survival skills in the great outdoors.

 

 

 

 

Authenticity in Yoga Teaching

Before starting to talk about authenticity in teaching yoga, let’s look first at what is personal authenticity? Authentic, that is something genuine… Authenticity; being real, being true to yourself…

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  ~Oscar Wilde

The root of the word “authenticity” in Latin language is “author”, so being “authentic” is mostly about being the “author” of your own personality.

Referring to Art (we all humans are a work of art eventually, no?), Tate Gallery shares that; ”Authenticity is a term used by philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin to describe the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction.”

Which is, no room for copying…

To put it in an another way, authenticity is living your life in such a way that every one of your actions is aligned with your real purpose. Not changing things according to other people’s beliefs, or not wearing any other people’s authenticity on you. And it is not a question of whether you have it or not. We all do, we are all authentic. As I said, we are all already a piece of art. But it is a matter of how you practice your authenticity and how much of it you want to have. No one can be you, and you cannot be anyone. That is for sure. But how much are your actions aligned with ”your” purpose, not anyone else’s?

In Bhagavad Gita Verse 3.35, Krishna says that; ”It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous” (Bhagavad -gita As It Is, Swami Prabhupada).

We cannot separate yoga from life.

Actually, it is not really necessary to make a difference between being an authentic person and an authentic yoga teacher. We cannot separate the practice of teaching from the practice of being human, but we can at least try to narrow down the scope, special to yoga teachers.

I like to approach authenticity in teaching yoga in two different ways. First one is sticking to ”being yourself”, not stepping back from it and the second one is not trying to be ”anybody else”, or in another way, not using any other person’s voice. They may sound the same but let me explain.

How to define an authentic yoga teacher?

If we look back to the definition of authenticity, it says ”living a life in such a way that every one of the actions are aligned with one’s real purpose”. It brings us to the point of living a life with yogic understanding, and here, I do not mean a yogic life with only practicing yoga poses. Basically, integrating all 8 limbs of yoga into life.

And when you live in this way, it will make you a passionate, balanced and present yoga teacher, who is being her / himself and not trying to make everyone happy, with the risk of losing authenticity.
What is this ”voice”?

Let’s take a look at authenticity from the other perspective, from the perspective of having a ”voice”.

Finding your own voice as a yoga teacher is not easy, it takes years of teaching and this ”voice” is also something that is changing and evolving over time. And it is not something that you can bring from outside, it needs to arise from within you.
But yes for inspiration…

Let’s put first things first: None of the teachings belong to one yoga teacher and we are all just servers, to the goodness and happiness of all beings. We just transmit the teachings that we learn from our teachers. When we think like this, none of us are authentic, right?
But are we not really?

The key here is, being yourself, being authentic, while creating your own voice, with the same teachings we all share.

It is all in our mind-set. For example when we learn or hear something new, first of all we need to think about: Does it really make sense to me? Can I really feel that expression, that cue? Or do we just want to use it exactly as it is because it sounds nice…

So what about first fully understanding, feeling and digesting the new things and after expressing them with our own words and authentic voice? You can use it in such a way in your flow of teaching that it can be ”yours”. And then you will let it go and another authentic teacher will take it from you and express it with his or her own style. Beautiful, isn’t it? We are all students and teachers, at the same time.

 

 

 

Derya’s passion for lifelong learning and her curiosity about different cultures, different bodies and energy work brought her to Southeast Asia 3 years ago. She started her yoga and Thai yoga massage journey in Turkey and has been sharing her love for these two abroad in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Once she found “home” within herself, all countries became her home. Derya’s passion is movement and her goal is to show the strength, gracefulness and beauty of being in a body when it is aligned inwardly and supported by a steady breath. She wants to inspire her students with the possibility of waking up every morning with an enthusiasm and thirst for learning new things.

Connect:

IG: @deryadenizyoga

Facebook: Derya Deniz Yoga

How Yoga Has Helped Me to Become a Better Man

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

Like many, I started to consider yoga.

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

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

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

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

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Confident Leader.

An Empathetic Person.

A Student of Life.

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

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

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

Yoga is a practice for the mind.

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

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

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

I become a better man when I am full present:

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

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

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

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

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

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

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

I am not listening.

I am not present.

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

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

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

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

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

How Yoga Has Helped me to Become A Better Man

Yoga Has Given Me Mental Clarity

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

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

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

I simply need to quiet my mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Chris Boudreau

The Yoga Trade Podcast

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

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

Listen to Episode 1 by clicking HERE

1: So the Adventure Begins

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

Theme Music, Sound Editing & Mixing:

Thomàs Young, Fine Crafted Sound

 

 

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

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

What Does it Mean to Heal?

Heal the mind, body, and soul, yes, we’ve all heard that before. And if you’ve ever experienced heart ache, disease, or depression you know first-hand how impossible and nagging those words can sound. What do these words even mean? Is this a concept? Or could it be a process?

There is an absolute boat load of distractions today and every day. So much so that we pile pain on top of pain on top of disorder on top of dysfunction resulting in disorientation and confusion. Healing our internal wounds seems insurmountable in a world of endless contradictions. One might say, “How can I heal myself if the world is such a mess?” Even a daily yoga practice with spiritual intentions can be neatly stacked on top of the deep disillusionment that many yearn to unravel, leaving one relentlessly yearning.

And the truth is; healing is personal. Healing is slow and uncomfortable. Healing perpetually creates new steps to take, new roles to fill, new rules to follow; in a whirl-wind of self-care, protective measures, precautionary diets, exhausting exercises. Fortunately, and undoubtedly, no matter how daunting the issue may be, healing will above all push you to newer heights whether your responses realize it or not. Fabricated or strained, any slight recognition of needing to heal will set you on the path to living a more fulfilling life.

And this is the point, right? To live?

To live a FULFILLING life.

As I began to dip my pinky toe in the murky waters of my own existence, I have come to know that every human is a package of functional anomalies. How anyone is able to “hold it together” is absolutely and quite literally beyond me. Miraculous. And I myself am living the stigma of people thinking that I “have it together” and can tell you first hand that “having it together” is illusory; a subjective judgment. No individual knows the intricacies of the deck of cards that have been dealt to another. No one. Only you know how you feel and therefore only you can act consciously to heal yourself.

We have been taught so much dysfunction from the moment we were born, from family (or lack thereof), society, school, friends, loved ones, and have been expected to translate it into health and leadership. Success. Progress.

Are you kidding me?

Feeding into the external world without a solid internal foundation can be overwhelming and deadly. Society gives many options and expectations but only you can assess your needs; feel your true direction.

We are in critical times ALWAYS – and have always been! There is no mystery. There is no solution. “The end” is always near. Fear surrounding this is the ultimate external hang-up.

The only thing that existence needs from you is to truly be.

Science now shows what indigenous and traditional peoples have always known; that within us we carry the lives of our ancestors in our very DNA. So not only are we dealing with the child within us, the dysfunction of our upbringing and family life, but we also deal with the inherited damage that has traveled through space and time and now resides physiologically within us.

What?

Yeah, all the crappy feelings you have that bombard you from all sides and of which you never knew where, why, or how you felt this way; these are unseen forces, empathic resonances; basically, there is more to what you feel than what meets the eye. To accept this is the key, because there is no time to dwell on it.

Allow me to rephrase this; no longer are we burdened to deal with shortcomings or distress – we are graciously presented with the opportunity to complete the cycle, to conclude the damage, to evolve beyond survival and blossom into harmony; a thriving harmony that is so effortless, so genuine, so real.

This is what healing has to offer. It extends into the past and into the future. Lovingly addressing the suffering that humanity has perpetuated. Healing yourself first is necessary to healing the world. When the plane is going down, the clear instructions are to put your oxygen mask on first before trying to help anyone else. This is a strong reminder that until we heal ourselves, we cannot be expected to try to heal anyone or anything else.

I invite you to accept this responsibility. Within this vessel of a human body; these tissues, these issues, these differences, these grievances, there is only one truth. You are alive.

The healing potential is not solely limited to our own personal family timelines; there is no limit – this is EVERYTHING. Like mycelia of a forest, a network of communication is constantly buzzing and emanating from your every move. All of your thoughts and dreams and ideas are electric. Like a school of fish; a flock of birds – the entirety of existence is connected electrically. So, don’t be fooled to think that you can get away with plundering your own potential – you are infinitely connected, and eternally supported.

My heartfelt suggestion to every human is to meditate. Develop a daily practice and stick with it. Be responsible and compassionate to yourself which in turn extends to others. Your true-life potential lies within you.

Lay down the pipe, put down the drink, ditch the Prozac, skip the party and go within. Everyday spend time with yourself. Everyday!
I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed; Be patient.

Make the time to be responsible about the only thing you are responsible for: you. Taking care of yourself first is the most responsible thing you can do for anyone else, any animal, any forest- for the entire planet.

YOU are worth it.

With the teachings of those who have come before us, the sages, the gurus, our teachers, parents, grandparents, community leaders, the internet and any transfer of knowledge, we have the miracle of understanding. We have the human miracle of listening. We have the knowledge to know that we put one foot in front of the other. We know that the answers are not external, however the guidelines given to us are very useful. You are not alone. We all must begin from with-in. Every individual must Begin.

Begin to be aware.
Breathe.
Be.

A few links to help you on your journey:
https://www.wopg.org/

https://www.chakraboosters.com/

https://www.medicalmedium.com/

https://www.louisehay.com

https://www.drmorsesherbalhealthclub.com/

And in the wise words of Jimi Hendrix:

“There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.”
“No reason to get excited,”
The thief, he kindly spoke.
“There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
The hour’s getting late.”

 

 

 

Abigail Tirabassi is a star-gazing artist, surfer, traveler, philosopher, drawn to elevating the human vibration through her own healing; St.Pete, FL/Pavones, CR. IG: @scrammby

Regenerative Practice: Pixie Lighthorse

Nature knows best. As we observe the natural world as being regenerative, we begin to realize that it is essential for us to mimic this mindfulness into our own daily existence. It can be easy to become repetitive and ‘mono-culture’ like in our yoga practice and other daily doings. This is one of the reasons I love attending gatherings that spark inspiration and cultivate positive change.

Being seasonally summer based in South Lake Tahoe, California makes it quite a joy to journey north to Wanderlust Squaw every July. This year was the most beloved Wanderlust experience yet! Could be a coincidence that they were also celebrating their 10 year anniversary with this ever evolving event. I was fortunate to participate in many beautiful classes and workshops, but the stand out this time around for myself was the speakeasy talk with Pixie Lighthorse. She touched on topics dear to my own heart, and engaged the community in important conversations. Her written and spoken words are wonderful resources for healers who wish to advance in their fields of study and for individuals in the self-healing process. Here, we catch up with Pixie as she shares a glimpse into her own creative and regenerative process…..

Can you briefly tell us a bit about your Earth journey thus far?

My Earth journey has had a lot of bumps and sharp turns! But I suspect not more than the average 48 year old living in the western world. What I find most exciting about living on Earth is how relationships are grown and how we strengthen them with healing and bonding. 

How has yoga influenced your life?

I practice a form called Primal Vinyasa, created by Annie Adamson of Yoga Union in Portland, OR. It integrates functional mobility training with barefoot theory, nature awareness, and some foundational principles of asana that work really well for strengthening the front of my body for daily life and ordinary moving. We call it “no more achy sounds movement practice” because it’s the antidote to cranky restricted movement—very playful and FUN. I came late to practice, and yoga has always been a little bit out of my wheelhouse. It’s changed the way I move each day and brought a lot of joy into moving and being on Earth. I was becoming a complainer with chronic stuck bits and pains. Traditional asana was too much like a competitive sport for me, my body was hurting trying to do it. 

Article Photos by: Heaven McArthur

What does a ‘regenerative practice’ mean to you?

Regenerative practice is an agricultural term (I’m also a part time rancher) that asks us to look to the soil to learn how to be. It calls for diversity on all measures: gut biome, range of motion, expansiveness, inclusive friendships with all kinds of people. It calls for honoring all of our bodies: emotional, spiritual, mental, physical in order to be fully engaged with the process of life.

How did you get into public speaking and presenting at events such as Wanderlust? 

Elena Brower connected me to Wanderlust, having read my books of prayers at gatherings around the world and seeing a positive response. In the world of yoga, just as in other communities, there is potential to heal spiritual and religious trauma. My books in the Prayers of Honoring series are that call-to-action.

What are some techniques you use to tend to your internal waters and soil?

Allowing emotions to have a place in my life has freed up a lot for me. As an adult child of an alcoholic, there is a secret ethic of “Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.”  This is toxic, and to me, it’s the Round-Up of the soul. Emotional repression is the signature of post-WWII America, and it’s tendrils have made intimate relationship increasingly sufferable the more intelligent we’ve become about what it feels like to be human. I’m deeply fed by the relationships I can count on. Inner healing for people and soil ravaged by chemicals, pesticides, and desertification bear similar results.

How do you balance nurturing yourself while designing beneficial relationships with others and nature?

I take a lot of time and space for myself. One example is that my partner and I deconstructed our co-habitation patterns so we both could have time to down-regulate our nervous systems. We stopped living in the same house and now claim quality interaction together when we have something to give. This is unconventional, but I think people are learning that it’s okay to do what works and gives life. Being with people all the time doesn’t give me life. When I tell that part of my story it’s alarming for some! It’s made a huge difference to us—the time we spend together isn’t about tolerating one another, it’s about building really great moments together.

How can we create more diversity and vitality within our daily yoga practices and life? 

Play and have fun. Life is too chaotic and too short to make movement another chore full of drudgery. Just this morning, my daughter and I made an impromptu stop at a park with a rock climbing feature before school drop off. We both got stuck up high and laughed our heads off while we navigated down. I like to make friends at the grocery store and our family pulls over to help people stranded on the road. I’m at my best when I have some room for spontaneous awesomeness. And gardening, of course. Lots of permaculture anywhere I can make a bed. 

Any tips on how to tap into creative brilliance?

Let the creative brilliance use you to tell its story. We have the most fragile aspects of our egos all tied up in our creativity, where it has no business trying to run things. I honor Creator when I sit down to write or paint and say, “Do what you will with these hands today.”  And I have to promise not to complain about what I make. We can have fun learning new skills, but our obsession with perfection is ruining all the fun. It’s making for an intellectual climate that to me, is boring and arrogant. Imagine if soil was so picky about the leaf litter that fed its worms. We must learn to do what we can with what we have and find joy in it.

What inspires you most right now?

I can’t get enough of marginalized voices. We are seeing the next major Civil Rights Movement! It shifts something so profound to center others. I’m getting tired of my own voice and tired of white males dominating the conversation about…just about everything. The inherent sagacity of black, brown, and indigenous peoples gives me life. Also, Autumn. I love the inward turning season—it’s my new year.

If you could say one sentence that everyone in the world would hear, what would it be?

Trade in your repetitive habits, forms, and mono-cultures to restore land, bodies, and vitality with diversity.

Do you have any upcoming projects or events you would like to tell us about?

Work! I am putting the final touches on my fifth book, Goldmining the Shadows, available in early October. It’s the sister to Boundaries & Protection and will make navigating the inner darkness much easier to talk about, and normalize.

Anything else you would like to share?

Yes, the Earth is a mirror for our bodies and lives. Every plant is a medicine, every animal a messenger, every direction a teacher. When the Earth suffers, we suffer. We can start healing right now, by tending our bodies’ needs and any soil that we can steward back to health.

 

 

Pixie Lighthorse is the author of five books centered on self-healing through intimate relationship with the natural world. She is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She writes to honor the unheard voices of her ancestors.

www.pixielighthorse.com

Insta @pixielighthorse

Scott Nanamura: Diamond Heart Yoga

I first met Scott Nanamura in 2006 in South Lake Tahoe, California when I started going to his yoga classes at what at that time was ‘Mountain Yoga’. His intelligently sequenced classes both physically and mentally challenged me (in a good way) and were filled with intriguing philosophical insights. He captured my attention as a teacher. His teachings have definitely been pivotal for me on the path of yoga. In 2015, my beloved friends and Yoga Trade partners Pat and Christie visited Tahoe during a road trip. It was then they mentioned that they wanted to host a Yoga Teacher Training at the sustainable living center in Costa Rica they manage, and were looking for a teacher that would be a good fit. It just so happened that Scott was staying in his RV / mobile acupuncture office in the driveway at the house I was living in at the time! It was that summer that Pat & Christie met Scott and a synergistic relationship began. The following year Scott traveled to Central America to facilitate his first international Teacher Training and has been on a roll ever since! If you are looking to practice with a wise, grounded, focused, extremely knowledgeable yoga teacher with a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine, check out Scott and his offerings around the world! Here, we catch up with him to learn more of his story. Thank you for sharing the teachings and your light Scott! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga background?

I actually took my first yoga class 44 years ago, in a small college town in a college course. I didn’t stick with it at the time, but it planted a seed of curiosity. A year and a half later when I moved to Lake Tahoe, I met a yoga teacher and started studying with him, his name was Doug Swenson. At the time, he had written one of the earlier books in English on yoga, and he was a very well know Ashtanga Yoga Teacher.

My yoga path continued and it waxed and waned for many years taking classes from many teachers, many different styles, until I took a class with some friends of mine, and they taught a style called Tibetan Heart Yoga. THY (Tibetan Heart Yoga) very strongly brought back the component of the wisdom teachings and subtle body teachings with the asana practice. All of the previous classes I had taken hadn’t done that. It was all a separate component. The Tibetan Heart Yoga really connected with my heart in a deep way and it spurred me onto really wanting to study its system and style much deeper. For the next 5 years I dove into more of the TBY system, studied Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and deepened my knowledge of Hatha Yoga at the same time.

What allowed you to take the leap of faith and start an international yoga teacher school?

I had been teaching yoga for 10 years and I also had a private acupuncture practice. All the while teaching Tai Chi and buddhist philosophy at a local college, and I wanted to combine all these methodologies ,so I could teach these all in one place at one time. This is when I had the thought of combining modalities into a Teacher Training. I gravitated towards the teachings of Buddhism and used it in the yogic philosophy, because of the way Buddhism explains the ideas and concepts, it made it easier to understand the yoga teachings. I also had a lot of teachers come up to me in the past asking for week retreats, intensives & workshops to go deeper into the subjects that were lacking in their trainings, which is what inspired me to start Diamond Heart Yoga.

In a sometimes saturated yoga world, what makes your trainings stand out from the rest?

In these trainings and retreats I draw from a deep experience of extensive training from a masters degree in TCM, Traditional Tibetan Buddhism and Yoga philosophy. With my many years of training in TCM, Tai Chi and yoga, comes a rich background in Anatomy and Functional Anatomy. Over the years of taking classes, teaching classes & leading teacher trainings all over the world, I’ve noticed that the Anatomy, Functional Anatomy & philosophy is a missing component in many trainings, and these components are key to further a teacher’s knowledge to be able to inspire their students to have a richer & transformative experience in class.

What have you learned from your travels over the last few years?

I think everyone should travel in their lifetime, it allows you to see how other people live around the world. When you live in an industrialized country, it’s easy to forget how grateful to be for everything you have. Many of the people around the world don’t have those things. So everywhere I travel, it allows me to be grateful for everything we have and to stop complaining about the little things.

What are some of the challenges you face as a yoga teacher trainer?

I think one of the biggest challenges is having students coming into the trainings with a full cup. These are the ones that learn the least and come in with the biggest egos. I guide them to become good students again by emptying their cup and becoming a sponge as they learn away of thinking that comes from a completely different culture that’s been passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years.

Where does the name ‘Diamond Heart’ come from?

The Diamond in your heart center represents wisdom, combined with the idea of the lotus that represents compassion. Wisdom and compassion are like 2 wings of a bird. They go hand in hand together, which understands the ultimate truth to purify any negative energy that may arise. Allowing us to create the kind of world we want to see in the future, by dedicating our lives to serving others.

What upcoming trainings are you most excited about?

We are very excited to reconnect with the Balinese culture and lifestyle in July & August, but all the other venues we have chosen are also magical locations around the world. After Bali, we have Morocco, Spain, Sri Lanka and then back to Bali to end 2019. On the calendar for 2020, we have Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and more to announce. Every location has its own kind of magic and we are excited for each and every one, but in the end, the students are the ones that make the trainings!

How do you see modern day yoga evolving over the next 10 years?

I would like to see more of the lifestyle and philosophy components return to the forefront in the studios & trainings. As a teacher trainer that travels the world doing trainings, I have seen the monetization of this ancient practice morph into the business of making money as a yoga teacher. Over the next 10 years I see this process growing, where the business of yoga will grow just as any other business, It has become a form of commerce. For some people, yoga studios have become something sacred to them, and it has become their church and as more people learn about the philosophy, more people will turn to this ancient form of wisdom.

Who have been some of your greatest teachers?

Some of my greatest teachers are Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally, Lama Sumati Marut, Lama David Fishman, Lama Brandy Davis, Doug Swenson and all of my students including my son Aki’o.

Do you have a favorite mantra to live by?

I have a few…
Om Thank You Ah Hung
Om It’s like this now Ah Hung

Anything else you’d like to share?

Using the wisdom from Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we can start to identify our limited belief system and move towards a more conscious belief system that opens your heart to connect with others, leading a more selfless altruistic lifestyle, creating the ultimate happiness that everyone yearns for deep inside their heart.

 

 

Scott Nanamura: My background includes a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine which includes, Acupuncture, Herbology, Nutrition, Exercise Therapy (Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong), and Remedial Therapy (massage, Tui Na). I have additionally completed Tibetan Buddhism courses, been practicing yoga for 40 years and teaching for 15. I have worked to cultivate the unique ability to bring ancient teachings into a modern setting, to touch the human heart. I work to inspire students to practice with awareness and intention on the mat, and to use the teachings off the mat in everyday life situations. My goal when teaching is to converge compassion and wisdom, art and yoga.

Connect:

diamondheart.yoga

FB: @diamondheartyoga

IG: @diamondheartyoga

 

5 Reasons to Practice Yoga While You Travel

Versed travelers know well how difficult it can be to stick to your regular daily preferences when you go away for a few days, or even weeks. You fill those hours with as much sightseeing as possible, trying to see, taste, and feel the energy of this new destination you’re visiting. Is it, then, realistic to find the time and the patience you normally have for staying true to your yoga practice and healthy eating choices?

Surprisingly for many, it actually is quite possible and doable. In fact, if you need further convincing to continue with your yoga morning flows even when there’s an exciting tour for early birds, keep reading to inspire yourself and stay healthy and fit on the go.

Immersing yourself in the moment

Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga combines incorporating your natural breathing pace with the movements and asanas you perform. As an essential ingredient to a healthy yoga practice, breathing represents an opportunity for increased, deepened mindfulness. When you let yourself enjoy the present moment, while soothing your body and mind through controlled breathing, you can truly experience your adventure on a new level. Take some time in the morning to start your day with yoga, and it will help you retain that awareness of your surroundings and the joy of new experiences. With better awareness, you can do your best not only to rejoice in the beauty of those new localities you visit, but also to stay mindful of your carbon footprint, in an effort to become a more sustainable yoga traveler.

Connecting with the local culture

Although Asia is known as the birthplace of many notable philosophies that focus on peace and serenity, many of its local hotspots are now very fast-paced and bustling with visitors. However, when you take a trip to some of its most renowned destinations, you’ll see that Asia strives to retain its Zen essence. What’s even more relevant is that you, as a traveler, are more than welcome to become a temporary part of that community. For instance, practicing yoga in Hong Kong is still a staple of modern life, and it has become simplified with the use of apps that let you join a class you desire, no matter where you come from. That way, you can taste the true life of Hong Kong beyond the typical highlights, and experience its innate, life-loving rhythm that you’d otherwise miss in its urban eco-system.

Inspiring reflection

How many times have you caught yourself overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and authenticity of your travel destination? A yoga routine lets your mind process these events and emotions, and in fact become much more grateful for the opportunity. In the haste to see the world, we often take it for granted. Yoga helps you stay rooted in your ability to appreciate the present moment and the gift of travel, which we tend to leave behind as soon as we hit the road.

Experiencing relaxation amidst stress

As beautiful as it is, travel also often comes with a hefty dose of stress. It may be caused by anticipation, waiting for your next flight, or by the mere change of perspective. We tend to get used to a certain way of life, and leaving it all behind for a limited amount of time can be a challenge for those who like their routines. Whatever the underlying cause may be, practicing yoga can help you soothe your stress reactions and be more resilient to any other potential triggers. This is especially relevant when you visit hectic spots such as Baghdad or Cairo, where the tension is practically palpable. Yoga is a simple, yet powerful way to stay calm in such environments and see the world through a new lens.

Staying healthy and vibrant

Not every journey is a luxurious one, nor it should be. However, when you do put your body through a lot by taking exceptionally long bus rides, spending hours in sweltering heat, or trekking for hours, yoga can help alleviate the pain. Even daily sightseeing can cause sore muscles, and add to that dehydration if you don’t drink enough water, and your body will start craving a soothing yoga session.

Even though yoga in its essence is so much more than a simple stretching, devoting a fraction of your time just to unwind in comfortable stretching positions will help your muscles heal. That way, you can renew your energy for the next day’s adventure and keep the pain at bay.

 

Sophia Smith is beauty blogger, an eco-lifestyle lover and a food enthusiast. She is very passionate about natural skincare, yoga and mindful living. Sophia has contributed to a number of publications including Mother Earth Living and How to Simplify.

Power of Community: Shakti Fest 2018

In the middle of the Californian desert, I found myself at a heart-centered celebration:  Shakti Fest.

For three days, men and women from all corners of the world gathered to sing sacred music, grow their yoga practice, and honor the divine feminine in us all. My most significant take-away was the power of community for spiritual growth and support. Take a look at our video as we catch up with Shakti Fest’s executive director, Sridhar, and yoga teachers, Kia Miller and Govind Das to discuss the alchemy of gathering in community.

Video Music:  Jai Ma (Down to the Sea Mix) by Govind Das & Radha

Filmmaker:  Audrey Billups