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

 

Walking Here and There

So…about five months ago my car got hit and stopped being road worthy. Honestly, it was sort of a relief once the immediate crisis of the scenario settled in my mind. Although that car hauled me around for five years it was a lemon from the time of purchase. Often, it’s mechanical oddities stressed me out, and although I wanted to be all mindful and let it go, this question of whether or not I would actually get to where I was going always rested in my mind. Probably the best thing about the car was that I developed quite a Japa yoga practice chanting Om, Sohum and the Ganesh mantra while driving around and wondering if it would make it. So, rather joyfully, I sold it for parts and pocketed the money I received for damages.

At first, I went to the bank and started the uncomfortable process of financing and that entire intrusive dance. After the dismal investigation of exaggerated car costs and interest laden payments, I had second thoughts about the whole structure of our society and the cost of cars. I am not an eco-warrior and not trying to make a statement but after a rather heated conversation with a bank official and shady vibes from more than one car salesman I decided to put one foot in front of the other and begin walking since I am lucky enough to live only twenty five minutes from work by foot.

Now, remember, I live in Alaska and this all happened in October. Winter and cold were approaching but I was determined to make a change. I purchased a warm slick jacket then made sure I had toasty gloves and hat. Smart Wool socks and beat up Extra Toughs came next. I was ready. Yes, I walked through snow and cold then into the bursting spring of Alaska. Most of all, I started to use my legs, felt connected to my body on a deeper level and saw the world around me again with fresh eyes.

When one walks, a whole vision opens up! One starts to see. Of course, we always see, but do we see? The obvious images of the same old landscape that I saw everyday now began to take on a character and a depth. The nuances of sky at different times of day initiated awakening before me, the shifts in air and the subtleties of the atmospheric moisture made sense to my body. I started to see the beauty again of Anchorage, Alaska even in the midst of grimy streets, wandering street people and dirty snow. The never ending whirl of light and darkness in this frontier landscape became real again for me as I watched the sunshine diminish in winter then return again behind the mountains as spring came back.

Then, there were the people of the street. The wandering folk of Anchorage who one sees on corners or at cross walks making their way through the elements. Sometimes drunk , sometimes moody, sometimes just getting by but always friendly, there is a certain communal aspect that they share and I get to be part of it as one of the walkers. We greet each other, sometimes just a nod or at times a random conversation about weather while waiting for a red light so we can cross some raging road.

Walking clears the mind and focuses one on the here and now. I believe this completely and this experience has furthered my conviction on this point. I think I will continue to walk and keep this connection to myself and the greater world.

Take sometime and just walk here and there. Find a way to let your feet carry you and enjoy the journey.

Om Shanti…

 

 

 

David is a vinyasa style yoga teacher and lead indoor cycling instructor at Anchorage Yoga and Cycle way in up in Alaska, the land of ice and sun. He loves to find the connection of yoga to everyday life. Check out a one if his classes.

A Guide to Balancing Hormones

Without women and their infamous hormones, we would live on a planet empty of humans. Our hormones are a critical part of human existence, yet we really don’t hear much about them. I am nearly 35 years old, somewhere between my first period and my last. The past two years, I have taken a deeper look into hormones, menstruation, and menopause and what that means to me.

I recently attended a “Women’s Hormone Balancing” workshop led by experienced yoga therapist Tina Nance. Lets just say it was a life-changer. Tina opened the workshop by explaining that, ”Women are not meant to suffer every month. Our menstrual cycle is an organic & potent stress sensitive feedback system. When our hormones are understood & consciously nurtured, it fosters a natural, highly charged state of heightened intuition, insight, psychic skill & creativity.” Throughout the next few hours I learned that hormones are a blessing, not a curse. There are things we can do to minimize our pain & suffering. With a little awareness we can actually use this “time of the month” (menstruation) or even “time of our lives” (menopause) as an opportunity for transformation.

Here are 5 tips that every woman should be aware of, especially if you think your hormones might be a little out of balance:

1. Know The Triggers

If PMS is a monthly ordeal for you, chances are there is a hormonal imbalance. When our hormones are out of balance, our periods become difficult. This is your bodies way of communicating to you. So listen.

The 5 main triggers that affect our hormones are:

1) Stress: By limiting stress, you can eliminate or at least minimize the difficulties & discomfort that accompany your menstrual cycle. The most widespread and common trigger we see in our everyday lives is without a doubt stress. The remedy is to relax more (i.e bubble baths, naps, meditation, and time for yourself).

2) Excess sugar: Experiment with sugar and your period. Generally you will find that more sugar typically leads to more cramps, headaches, fatigue and frustration. Sugar has an inflammatory reaction in our bodies and the blood sugar rollercoaster tends to makes us more tired. Trade in glutenous cakes for a delicious banana, maca root, peanut butter smoothie.

3) Toxicity: Make a whole-hearted effort to limit toxins from your diet and lifestyle as these too can amplifies hormonal imbalances. Pay special attention to Xenoestroegens, Heavy Metals, Chemicals, Pesticides & Preservatives.

4) Over masculinization of a feminine body: By over doing & under being, we put additional stress on our hormones. By balance the yang (more active) activities with a yin-based (relaxed and passive) activity such as yin, restorative and yoga nidra we are finding a healthy balance that allows the muscles and the mind to relax, refresh and restore our hormones to a more balanced state.

5) Sexual & emotional trauma stored in the pelvic bowl: Unfortunately there are no quick fixes here. The body is a highly intelligent bio feedback system that constantly communicates to us. Mindfulness is the art of listening to these messages being sent by the body. From what we learn through mindfulness, we respond. Using meditation, counseling, relaxation, letting go, or/and any method of emotional healing we are responding, transforming, and growing into stronger and healthier women.

We must embrace the discomfort in the body, and learn from it. It is virtually impossible to eliminate all these triggers in our lives, but a little effort goes a long way. Take long bubble baths, work less, refrain from sugary sweets and replace as many stressors with relaxants as you possibly can.

2. Be Aware of Your Body’s Natural Cycle

Ever noticed that your period tends to fall on the full or new moon? A woman’s natural cycle is often times in sync with the moon’s movements. In todays modern world of hormone-altering birth controls and high stress jobs, many females’ cycles no longer naturally align with specific phases of the moon. Yet we all still have our own individual cycle occurring in our own time.

We must get in touch with our own personal cycle. For a few months, record how you feel on a daily basis. You will become aware you own natural patterns and phases. Make a chart tracking your energy levels, food cravings, tiredness, confidence, sleep patterns, and feelings during yoga practice. Month to month, moon to moon, and season to season, there are times when we are more inclined to rest, reflect, be creative, and be grumpy. There are moments of heightened clarity, increased energy and productivity. You can actually make your life a lot easier by figuring this out and flowing with it.

Here are the 4 phases of a menstrual cycle:

New moon: When a woman’s cycle is in sync with the moon, the new moon is the time for menstruation. This is a time for going inward, slowing down, letting go, retreating and relaxing. During this time, anxieties, memories, and experiences may rise up.

Waxing Moon: A time of new beginnings and growth. As our energy increases, new ideas are being planted and new processes are coming into play. This is a time when we are motivated to work harder and faster with a heightened creativity.

Full moon: Ovulation comes with a feeling of coming down, analyzing, and emotionally feeling full of pride or failure. During this time we tend to be hard on ourselves, lacking compassion for ourselves and those around us. We feel the need to make drastic changes. It is a time for transformation.

Waning Moon: A time for making reality out of the visions and impulses that came during the full moon. A time for distillation and clarity.

The purpose of recording your own patterns is to discover, honor & harmonize your own body’s rhythm without expecting to be one way all the time. Therefore, if we come across as 4 different women each month, in essence we are!

3. Yoga for Your Hormones

Yoga is a tool used to strengthen our body/mind connection. As far as yoga asana goes, when menstruating, it is a great to come to the yoga mat. If it feels appropriate to practice, then do. By practicing slowly and gently in a yin or restorative style, we nurture the body with relaxing, calming, and healing poses.

By concentrating our breath and awareness on relaxing certain parts of the body, we minimize pain, stress and irritation that might accompany hormonal imbalances. A yoga sequence used to support your hormones should focus on the kidneys, adrenals, liver, ovaries, hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal glands.

Here are 5 therapeutic asanas that can be practiced throughout your menstrual cycle and the part of your body to focus your awareness on:

1. Cat & Cow pose (Adrenals and Thyroid) While practice cat and cow, bring your attention to your adrenal glands located just above the kidneys. Your kidneys are located on the lower part of the back just below your ribs. Adrenals are the endocrine glands responsible for producing your hormones. In addition to stimulating your adrenals in this pose with the arching of your back, you are compressing and extending your neck stimulating the thyroid gland and the four parathyroid glands, all of which secrete hormones into the body.

2. Paschimotanasana/ Forward Bending Pose (Kidneys and Nervous System) Practice this pose in a restorative way. Use three bolsters between your legs and your upper body. Relax your arms and allow the head to stay long and open while rotating it to the right, resting it gently on the bolsters. Focus your breath to your kidneys, as they are elongated while in this pose. Inhale into that openness and feel the fresh prana, blood and energy refreshing your kidneys. Practicing this pose in a restorative way with bolsters has a calming effect on the nervous system.

3. Prasarita Padottanasa/ Wide Legged Forward Bend (Liver & the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Pineal Glands) Place a block on the floor and press the crown of your head into the block, stimulating three glands in the brain, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pineal glands. The idea here is to keep the pelvis facing upright, while at the same time allowing fresh blood to flow to the glands in the head by lowering the head towards the floor.

4. Restorative Butterfly (Ovaries) Bring the soles of your feet together. You can use a strap to really enhance this. Placing the middle of the strap on your sacrum, bringing the sides of the strap around on top of your legs and then under tthe pinkie side of your foot. Tighten the strap. Then lay back on on a bolster or two. This will open your entire reproductive area and chest. The ovaries are responsible for producing estrogen and estrogen levels rise through the early part of the menstrual cycle. This pose balances estrogen produced in the ovaries giving relief from cramps at the same time. Breathe into the lower belly, the pelvis area and more specifically the ovaries where you feel the stretch.

5. Childs Pose (Adrenals and Nervous System) Bring your focus to the adrenal glands. In child’s pose your adrenal glands (which are located in the lower back just below your ribs) are stretched open. Breath into this area and make a deep effort to relax on the exhale. This is one of the best poses to relax the nervous system.

4. Supplemental Support

Sometimes we still need a little extra support. Luckily, there are some wonderful natural nutritional supplements that can help. In all the major medical sciences of the world, there are supplements renowned for female related issues. In Ayurveda, Shatavari is commonly recommended as a reproductive tonic. In western herbalism, Vitex Agnu Castus is used as a tonic herb for both the male and female reproductive systems. In Traditional Chinese Medicine a supplement called Don Quai, otherwise known as female ginseng is prescribed for menstruation difficulties. Don Quai balances estrogen levels and is an antispasmodic used for cramping. Sepia is a homeopathic remedy used for all sorts of menstruation irregularities. And don’t underestimate the power of a little Magnesium (especially the ones with a little 5 HTP) to help with inflammation and mood swings.

Here are a few suggestions of foods known to benefit hormonal imbalances. Broccoli is known to break up excess estrogen. Milk thistle, globe artichokes, shizandra and dandelion root support liver performance, helping your body to detoxify. Make sure you are getting plenty of Omegas by eating flaxseed, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Finally, sprinkle some maca root in your smoothies for a little extra hormone balancing help.

5. Gab with Your Girls

Lets be honest, women like to talk. We talk about everything. Well, everything besides balancing hormones.

Until now! When we stop and think how many days of the month, year, and our entire lives are spent menstruating, we realize that we should be talking about this subject a lot more. By the number of women that attend Tina’s workshops every month, it is obvious that women of all ages and backgrounds are eager to find out more. Her passion to educate women on their hormones has fired my passion to spread what I have learned from her.

By initiating “women’s talks” in your local community as well as online blog and publications, women are learning about more sustainable and healthier alternatives to tampons, such as the“diva cup” or “moon cups.” Discussions on other women’s experiences using less known forms of birth control such as hormone- free copper IUDs. With a wide field of subjects that only affect women, such as endometriosis and menopause, we should be support system for each other and talk about what works for each other. Supporting each other makes us more empowered, more educated, and better prepared for things that can afflict us in the future.

 

 

 

Kori Hahn is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and Government of India certified Ayurvedic massage therapist. Her two greatest loves are travel and yoga. She guides surf and yoga trips around the world with Santosha Society.

Can I Be Every Woman? Breakfast with Saraswati and Lakshmi

Breakfast, in our world, is rarely just french toast and scrambled eggs.

Although sometimes, I wish it could be.

Today, for example, it was Saraswati and Brahma, with a side of Lakshmi and Vishnu. Black coffee with sugar for him, decaf herbal tea for me.

Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, has always been my inspiration. My guiding light in pursuing my deepest purpose and exploring the passions of my intellect. My unquenchable desire for learning, the perfectionism toward eloquence in my words. The feeling that as long as I’m continuing to learn and write and teach and share, my world is overflowing with abundance and lacking for nothing. Often, it has meant that I spend my days alone, in peacefully reverent introversion, devoted to my work. Like Saraswati in her fateful relationship with Brahma, I can’t be bothered to shower lovers with my unbridled energy if it means giving up the sacred dreams that move through me in work, words and knowledge manifest. For abandoning my dreams would be nothing short of a slap in the face to Saraswati and the gifts of knowledge she has bestowed upon me. I’ve always believed that partnership is meaningful when it helps us both move closer to realizing the spiritual purpose of our soul’s work here on Earth. So when I find myself sacrificing my work to dote lovingly on my man and the needs of maintaining our home, my sense of self-worth suffers and feminist resentment builds deep inside me, as if Saraswati had whispered sweetly in my ear: ‘what the fuck are you doing with your life?’

The intellectual, the knowledge-seeker, the wordsmith, forever the student and more frequently now, the teacher. Saraswati energy is what I believe I was born with, my innate gifts to develop and share with the world. It is an honor and a blessing to experience my work as connected to such a divinely powerful goddess and the wisdom she carries in the grace of her infinite presence. In the humility of gratitude, I bow to this insatiable quest for knowledge in action.

While my Saraswati side comes easy, as if effortless, it’s the Lakshmi in me that I seek to cultivate, reminding me that savoring the experience of the present in loving partnership and deep, soulful connection are also dreams I wish to realize in this lifetime. That it isn’t all work, work, work. That joy and plenitude live in the being. here. now.

I recall a former lover’s words, still heavy in my heart: ‘You know, if you could just relax, you’d be a lot easier to be around.’ It was hard to hear when he said it five years ago. And it’s still hard to hear, today. Mostly because he’s right. And that’s not easy to admit.

Relax. Just be. Easy to be around. Hmmm. Yeah, that’d be nice.

Lakshmi is the epitome of that relaxing. That contentment in presence. And she doesn’t come naturally to me. Not with all the doing and thinking stirring Saraswati in my insides. That relaxing is often a chore. I see Lakshmi and she makes it look so breezy. And her man is so satisfied just by having her by his side. She rewards her lover Vishnu with her divine gifts of contentment and care, and in the presence of her love, he is wanting for nothing. Lakshmi, you bountiful minx, how can I live a little more like you?

By the grace of divine intervention, and the will to follow my heart despite the earthly obstacles before us, I’ve been blessed with the strong and protective presence of a man whose gaze speaks histories already written in time, and tells of futures all our own to create together. His warmth and affection are a dream to behold; his lessons often ruthless in ego-slaying storms of emotion. My devotion to our union is unwavering. To me, he is love incarnate; it’s as simple as that. And I want to love him, and satisfy him, forever. Or at least as long as he lets me.

As the epic story goes, Saraswati refused to set her dreams aside to cater to her lover Brahma’s emotional needs. Eventually, he tired of her not prioritizing him above her own work, and sought love elsewhere, where his needs for devotion and a more doting lover were fulfilled. Unwilling to abandon her passions, Saraswati remained on her own, joyfully married to her work, instead. She loved Brahma deeply, but his needs entailed a sacrifice she was unwilling to make to keep him by her side.

Faced with a choice like that, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d choose the same. Saraswati couldn’t live with herself if she abandoned her gifts and dreams for a man. And neither could I.

And that’s what scares me the most.

When I pour myself into my work, I often fear that my lover will tire of not being the absolute center of my universe, like Brahma did, leaving Saraswati to her own contented being as he sought a lover who could better fulfill his need for devotion above all else. It scares me because I aspire so deeply to be both. To be every possible woman living and breathing in me. To have it all – my dreams, my thirst for knowledge, my work shared with the world, a beautiful relationship with the man I choose to love. To honor the Saraswati in my nature, and nurture the Lakshmi lurking in the depths of my desire for spiritual union and lifelong partnership. Is it too much to ask? Will I have to choose? It’s the question that plagues my headspace and keeps me up howling with the moon.

And even the waitress at the cafe where we sat sharing breakfast this morning started looking a little bit like Lakshmi, and my heart sank as I watched her catch my lover’s eye as she placed his coffee dotingly before him, with three sugars, just like he likes it. I never make him coffee. And I think he should eat less sugar.

“Do you want to hear a story about Saraswati and Lakshmi?” I asked him between bites of scrambled egg.

He raised an eyebrow and shrugged his shoulders up, like ‘Sure, why not?’

So I told him an abbreviated version and tried to make it sound like I wasn’t talking about me. And as soon as I finished, he swallowed his last sip of too-sweet coffee and smiled.

“Don’t worry,” he said, reaching an arm around my shoulder to draw me closer to his heart. “You are a perfect balance of both. And I would never want it any other way.”

I laughed and let him hold me.

Maybe it was my imagination, but that next bite of french toast somehow tasted just a little bit sweeter.

 

 

 

 

Tara is a surfer, writer, activist and PhD candidate specializing in sustainable surf tourism. She facilitates workshops, writing circles and educational surf trips with soul in Central America. Read her work at www.tarantulasurf.com / @tarantulasurf

Before and After Rishikesh, India

One year ago I decided to leave my country to explore the world doing Yoga. Ive been practicing asana since I was 15, but had never thought I’d ever study to become a yoga teacher. When I started the trip I didn’t know exactly what countries I wanted to visit or how this was going to play out, I just had some clues, ideas, a mental map of what I wanted to do. A MUST was going to India to do a Yoga TTC.

In my mind, I had planned to do this in December 2016, but in the middle of the trip I was in Hawaii and I decided I wanted to leave to India right at that moment (September 2016). It was something I can’t explain as a mental process, it was just a call from destiny that I had to take. One month later I was arriving in New Delhi, the capital of India. I cannot lie, at the beginning it was a real shock for me…everything. The noise, the heat, so many people, everything so crowded, the food, I was not the kind of girl that immediately falls in love with India, it was something that came with the process; in the end, I liked it that way because slowly but surely, you fall in love with things much deeper than when it’s just a crush.

Finally I was there, living one of the most intense experiences of my life. Everyday we woke up at 5:30 am and started practicing Hatha Yoga, then Pranayama; after 3 hours being up, we finally had breakfast, and then the day went on, class after class. At 8:30 pm more less, we were done, but it was really intense each day, not only because of the obvious things, but also because you are living your own process, and at the same time 15 more people like you are living their own process too; that deep journey inside yourself, a lot of intense, hard stuff comes out. In the third week, the magic happened and I was feeling much better; my ashtanga practice was improving a lot and I felt I was unstoppable; I felt I never wanted to stop practicing. Every time I went to a cafe with my friend, I could hear everybody talking about the same, even though they studied in different schools; everyone had the same issues and concerns, and I, who felt my feelings were so special, was actually feeling much the same as everybody else! ( hehe)

 

Anyway, I don´t want to talk so deeply about the TTC exactly but about what happened inside after living that experience in that part of the world with those teachers. Rishikes, India is a small city 230 kms away from New Delhi; it is a sacred city, the world capital of Yoga and it is one of the most special places I’ve been to; surrounded by the Himalayas, separated by Maa Ganga, and full of Yoga schools, Babas, Gurujis and all of us; westerners trying to learn from the source and the root. This place is pure magic, they don´t sell alcohol, or meat, and everything closes at around 9-10 pm.

Those days in that place, after that experience I wrote: How can you be the same after your eyes have seen the most beautiful and the ugliest both outside and inside yourself… I still don’t know if I’ve found my destiny but it feels like something very profound. I’m not the same person that arrived back a month ago; something has changed; priorities are not the same. I truly feel lighter inside, and I’ve finally understood what really matters in life for me. I don’t want to argue anymore with people just to be right. I want to be more patient everyday. Sitting at the banks of Mother Ganga taught me so much about letting things and people go, about having complete certainty in the process and timing of things. This doesn’t mean I never feel things anymore or that I’m a Hipster-Hippie, it means I feel things deeply in my heart but everyday the distance between my feelings, the reaction and the letting go of the control is shorter, and that is priceless. It is not all about India, but Rishikesh helped a lot. ( I think Alanis Morrissette also felt that way when singing “Thank you India”)

In my opinion, it is really important to find a School – an Ashram to study and stay where you feel like you’re at home for that month or 2 months that you´ll be living there. To this end, I can totally recommend the place where I studied: Anadi Yoga Centre, not only because of the incredible Indian Teachers with a lot of teaching experience, but they are also very concerned about sharing the Yoga knowledge in a very professional and passionate way, instilling in you the wish to do and give your best everyday, and always very open to addressing all your doubts and concerns. ( Trust me, there are many, many schools that are just businesses )

My connection with this place is so deep that I decided to go back to study more, and to live there so I could experience it in a different way this time. Totally worth it. Rishikesh, India is a place that I can also call Home, because there I feel nearer to myself, to the true being that I am.

Namaste

 

 

 

Fiorella is a Chilean Wanderlust Yogini & Travel Blogger. Her personal seal is to share about everything that has made her a happier and healthier person. Her beliefs: Kabbalah, Her Life Philosophy: Yoga. // www.fioreyogini.com @fioreyogini

Turn Your Vinyasa Flow Into a Moving Meditation

“Inhale from tadasana as you lift your arms and rise, looking up. Exhale, lowering into a forward fold, releasing your arms to your shins or to the floor. Inhale rise and half way lift, flattening the back and looking up. Exhale as you lower into chaturanga dandasana, firmly planting both hands onto the floor, making sure your fingers are open and your pointer fingers are parallel as you engage your stomach by pulling your belly button towards the spine as you step or hop back into a plank position. WITH CONTROL slowly lower half way down into a 90 degree angle with your arms, making sure your elbows are firmly pressed into the body AND keeping your spine straight, hips down and a neutral neck. Oh yeah, and make sure you are SLOWLY exhaling, evenly, while you lower.”  – Yoga Instructor

Confused yet? We haven’t even reached upward facing dog in the beginning of a dynamic sun salutation. Now if you are a seasoned yogi, you just smiled and reminisced while reading this paragraph. On the other hand, for a not so experienced yogi, this could lead to confusion, even frustration!

Vinyasa flow is a beautiful practice, filled with focused breath, creativity and strength. When you break “Vinyasa” down into ancient Sankrit, “vi” means “in a special way” and “nyasa” means “to place”. It also means “breathe to movement”. Therefore, you place your body in a special way, and breathe. Simple enough, right? However, Vinyasa classes have a tendency to have a rapid flow filled with diversity, at times leading to confusion. This is where students can easily miss the most important part, proper breath and mindfulness, mainly for beginners. Without these two crucial points, are we truly practicing Yoga…?

So here is the question; how do we reach that deep meditative peace in a vinyasa flow class? Here are a few steps in the right direction:

1.) Repetition.

Haven’t you ever heard the expression, “practice makes perfect”? Well, we are not striving for perfection in yoga by any stretch, but the more you practice, the more your mind can relax. Therefore, “practice makes peace”. Why? Because you don’t have to think so much about the “steps”, it just becomes second nature. Once your unconscious mind has picked up the sequence, it has room to focus on breath and meditation.

2.) Do your homework.

If you are a beginner to intermediate level, and truly want to engulf yourself in the magic of yoga, you must take your learning beyond a 60 – 90 minute class. Three words, books, google and YouTube! There is a world of information out there. When you find yourself struggling with a flow or a posture, research it, understand it, that way by the time you make it to your mat, you are half way there.

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3.) Patience.

“Have infinite patience and success is yours.” – Swami Vivekananda

Take some advice from the wise. These things take time. In ancient texts, Lord Shiva states there are 84 basic asanas. In this day and age, there are thousands of possible variations. In a vinyasa class, each instructor has that entire realm of options to include in a session. Every class might be different, changing out a few or many postures. In other words, be kind to yourself, and practice patience. Patience leads to peace of mind.

4.) Breath.

Yoga is not yoga, without breath. When you breathe properly, mainly utilizing your abdominal region, you are more likely to reach that meditative state by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and repair” mode. You also allow more oxygen into your blood stream.

Once you have followed these steps, you are on your way to finding the moving meditation in any vinyasa flow class! With knowledge, practice, patience and breath you can allow your mind to relax, and truly flow, like a dance through the sun salutation and the postures. When you can base your thoughts primarily on your breath, it will lead to dynamic mediation throughout an entire class, not just in final savasana.

 

 

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Melissa Andersen is the founder of Passport to the Heart Retreat, and holds yoga retreats and events worldwide. She is a passionate American yoga instructor and motivational coach with over 12 years of experience.

The Importance of Eco-Friendly Athletic Wear for Yoga and Beyond

Cover Photo:

Yoga Slackers: Sam Salwei and Raquel Cruz Hernandez

Photographer: Eric Ward

Many of us choose yoga as a form of exercise, not only because it’s low-impact and improves our overall health, but because we value a natural lifestyle. Thanks to athletic clothing produced with man-made materials like polyester and nylon though, microfibers have been leeching into our oceans. Yes you read that correctly.

Scientists studying our lakes and oceans, have discovered that man-made, plastic-based fibers in clothing are showing up at an alarming rate in our precious ecosystem. Whereas natural fibers, like organic cotton, are better at breaking down in the environment, without leaving harmful microscopic microfibers behind.

After extensive research and speaking to some Yoga professionals (thanks truecoretx.com and yogatrade.com), I found some retailers who value eco-friendly, sustainable, comfortable, and fashionable athletic wear for yoga and beyond.

Solid Sustainable Brands To Know

Anjali is a NYC based fashion retailer which broke out in 2006. Focusing on yoga wear, this company founded by married couple Julissa Carranza and Kristinn Sigridarson, creates stylish fair-trade, sustainable clothing made from organic cotton, soy, modal, and recycled polyester. The tout their clothing is sweat shop labor free, as the pieces are produced in NYC and LA. Both women and men can enjoy selecting comfortable garments from Anjali, when they plan on getting into their next downward dog or tree pose.

Earth Yoga is based in Malibu, California, and is another brand to check out. The founder has been practicing yoga for over ten years, so it is only fair to support a devoted yogi. Founder Noreen Austin offers reasonably priced yoga clothing, created from environmentally responsible polyester fibers from recycled bottles. You can choose from tops, bottoms, and comfortable hoodies.

Green Apple, based in Manhattan Beach, California, stands out as a sustainable choice. All of the clothing made by Green Apple is vegan and biodegradable. You can find tops, jackets, and bottoms made with chemical-free bamboo and organic cotton. The founder of Green Apple has a background of over two decades in the athletic apparel business.

 

– Since 1992, retailer prAna made a commitment to produce clothes for yoga that are biodegradable, maintain a sustainable business model, and reduce their greenhouse emissions. This company not only offers yoga clothing, but accessories, jackets, dresses, and swimwear. Clothing from prAna is made from organic cotton, hemp, and Jacquard among other fabrics.

Inner Wave produces mainly organic and biodegradable yoga clothing. All their clothes are produced in LA, California, and the company believes that your inside should match your outside. Women and men can find tops, bottoms, and even jewelry. Sustainable and eco-friendly choices never felt this good.

Reflect Your Values Effortless

Sustainability is a major part of finding our balance and lessening our carbon footprint. We not only want to choose to sustain our bodies with exercise and diet, but we also want to choose sustainable actions that reflect our best selves.

When we support retailers that make clothing that reflect our care for our health and our planet, we send a resounding message to the world.

Thanks to the efforts of some awesome yoga practitioners, finding eco-friendly clothing that matches your values and meets your budget is easier than ever before. As yoga lovers and health-conscious individuals are becoming more mindful about their lifestyle choices, retailers are listening and acting in kind.

“We live in an age where we can not only bring meaningful change to our lives, but by our choices, we can make a meaningful impact on our world.”

A healthy lifestyle is not just about exercise and a healthy diet, but making conscious choices that make a better you inside and out. Choosing to wear eco-friendly clothing is a great way to make an impact on the planet and your workout.

 

 

Melanie Nathan is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, writer for Huffington Post and beginner yoga enthusiast. Connect with her on Twitter to learn more.

Practice With Consistency

Patanjali tells us that practice becomes grounded when it is pursued consistently, with earnestness, over a long period of time. For many of us, we feel as if this is almost impossible. We may have a busy work and/or school schedule, or maybe kids, family and pets that demand attention. So how are we able to maintain our daily practice consistently despite our daily lives? Now this is where Sutra 1.12 comes in- abhyasa and vairagya. Effort and non-attachment.


In order to create or maintain a practice with consistency, we first must make sacrifices. We need to practice vairagya, non-attachment. Letting go of expectations. If you believe that your practice is only your practice if you have a full hour to move through a flow or have a lengthy warm up, cool down and 10 minute Savasana, this is one of the first sacrifices we need to make. This expectation needs to be released. Some days we may only have ten minutes of free time; so we step on our mat, do one round of Sun Salutations and we’re out the door. Or maybe we only have time after a long day at work when your energy seems to be spent, so it’s legs up the wall and supine twists before you’re off to bed.


If you have children or pets that want your attention, work them into your practice. Instead of disturbing your peace by shooing them away, let them be. Even try to include them if you can. For me, I know my home practice isn’t complete without a cat laying on me and joining my Savasana.


Or maybe distractions aren’t your problem, the only time you have free is after a long and grueling day at work. Is the first thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day to jump onto your mat, flow through vinyasas or power through standing poses and inversions? Well, maybe. But for most people, that’s not the reality. You’re drained, unmotivated and tired. You just want to lay down. So what do you do? Work this into your practice! Take any last drop of abhyasa (effort) you have left. Practice vairagya (non-attachment) by letting go of the belief that a practice only counts if you flow through vinyasas and inversions. Sit your legs up the wall, stretch out the day, then head to Savasana. Is this any less “yoga” than going to class and breaking a sweat or handstands? Nope, it’s not. Sorry to break it to you, but Yoga isn’t simply a workout routine. Yoga isn’t something that fits into a box or category and it sure isn’t something that is the same for everyone. “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” (Sutra 1.2)

Yoga is simply taking the time to tend to your body, release that which no longer serves you and slow (if not stop) your racing thoughts. So whether to you this means flowing through a well rounded routine or taking ten minutes at the end of the day to surrender, any cultivation of mindfulness and release of “the mind-stuff” is Yoga. Any practice is still a practice no matter how small, and consistency is still achievable even with only ten minutes to spare. Remember that.


In conclusion, the biggest key to consistency is practicing with non-attachment. Letting go of the expectation that you need a full hour or rounded flow to practice. Let go of the expectation that you need complete silence or solitude to practice, and begin working with what you have; whether it be pets, kids, or a busy schedule. Adjust your practice to your own needs, and treat yourself gently when your energy is spent elsewhere. Approach your mat with an open mind, adjust your practice to your own needs, and peace will soon follow.

 

 

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After her battle with anxiety and depression led her to seek alternatives, Maddy has been practicing yoga daily for three years. Now she is training to become a certified instructor and shares her journey through YouTube: Sacred Synchronicities and on Instagram: @sacredsynchronicities.

The End of the Road

Coming face to face with your insecurities, fears and anxieties isn’t something you expect to do the minute you land in paradise.

My husband and I recently accepted jobs in a place that is so remote, it is quite literally at the end of the road. Cambutal is a small fishing village on the pacific coast of Panama. Greener than green trees, empty beaches, incredible surf, wild horses, no phone service and a whole lot of Spanish speakers make up this unique place here on earth. Within this petite village lies Sansara, a luxury ocean front yoga and surf retreat where we currently ‘work’ (I air quote this word because it certainly doesn’t feel like work).

I have dreamed about working at this sacred space since seeing an opportunity pop up on Yoga Trade a year ago. After a long time of trying to match dates we finally made it to this tropical oasis. Our home here is incredible, the job is fulfilling, the people are phenomenal and the surroundings are breathtaking. It is everything I dreamed of and more. So, why was it the first two weeks here I felt the need to RUN?

The beginning weeks were a struggle, I cried and cried some more. I was so frustrated and angry with myself. ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ ‘This is paradise, how on earth can you feel this way?’ ‘You finally have everything you ever wanted!’ I felt low, and nervous and scared and confronted. But for the life of me, could not figure out why.

Until one day I finally opened up to a friend here in Cambutal. I explained how I felt and my confusion at the situation. She told me that this happens to everyone when they first arrive. I asked why? She gently explained that because this place is so isolated, you somehow feel more exposed. Without all the distractions from modern life you find your self face to face with the real you. The good, the bad and everything in between. She went on to describe how at some point everyone here has had to deal with underlying issues that they have carried around for years. That everyone has had rise up to meet their fears, worries and insecurities. They have had to really meet themselves for the first time and embrace every side of their personalities. To deal with their past, honour the present and surrender to their future.

And here I was, coming face to face with everything I had been running away from. I have always struggled with anxiety, depression and fear of the future, but this time there was nowhere to hide. There were no distractions, no TV, no internet, no shopping centres or busy, bustling streets. It was just me and my thoughts. Me and my fears. Me and everything I had worked so hard to keep below the surface.

I was comforted at the thought that others had experienced what I was going through, but also petrified at the journey ahead. What if I couldn’t accept myself? What if I couldn’t handle meeting the real me? What if I ran?

But, I didn’t. I stayed. I cried. I meditated. I listened. I cracked. I watched. I surrendered. I accepted. Then, I healed.

The end of the road has been my rebirth.

Because of this experience I am creating like never before. I am writing again and painting again. I have made some big, exciting life decisions. I am growing and learning each and everyday. I am loving deeper and living fuller.

In modern day life we have so many distractions. Anything negative we feel or experience can be dulled through distraction. Alcohol, TV, magazines, FaceBook, Drugs, shopping…the list goes on. What we do not realise is that these negative or undesirable parts of ourself need to be dealt with, they are here for a reason, they want your attention. You can never truly know yourself until you have seen the whole divine, spectrum of your soul. You need to know your dark side in order to shine brighter. You need to understand your fears to fully overcome them. You need to debunk any lies within, to unleash your truth. You need to face your past in order to create a luminous future. You need to deal with any emotional junk to make room for new, exciting and rewarding ideas.

Sometimes it is ok to step into the dark, to experience the bad, to sit with the uncomfortable, to listen to the unthinkable. This is were we grow the most. This is where we get to know ourselves on a deep, profound level. This is the place we spark our brightest light.

If you get a chance this year, disconnect. Disconnect from everything and everyone. Be alone, sit in silence, listen to the whispers of your soul and be brave enough to wholeheartedly accept yourself. Don’t be scared to feel it all.

You are not alone in this journey, you are not broken, you are being reborn.

I had to disconnect from everything to reconnect to myself.

I had to get seriously lost, in order to be found.

I had to reach the end of the road just to see how far I had actually come.

 

 

 

Vicky Simpson is a yoga teacher, travel blogger and avid explorer. She lives a minimalistic, nomadic lifestyle with her husband Micky. Vicky travels the world teaching in yoga retreats, hosting workshops and writing of her adventures along the way.

http://theyogiandthechef.com/