Inspirational

Make Your Home An Ashram

Desperate for a weekend break, a getaway, an escape from it all? Here’s how to go on a yoga retreat while you’re at home. When we asked Yogi Sivadas how to package up the peace of our yoga school and take it with us, one of his suggestions was, “Make your home an ashram.” Excellent idea! Create peace in your home and make it the sort of sanctuary that whispers words like blissful and escape – just like those tempting ads that pop up on your screen and have you salivating. Start by blocking out two to three days on your calendar, as if you were unavailable. Tell your friends and family you’ll be incommunicado.

Then, follow the guidelines below – and I know I’m at risk of falling into the category of a click-baiting yoga blogger who shouts out, “Five Tips On How to Go on a Yoga Retreat at Home!”, but c’est la vie, here they are:

Peaceful garden buddha1.  Make Your Home An Ashram. Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a luxurious mansion, you can transform your home into a peaceful refuge. Without doing a massive clear out (now’s not the time), tidy your home as if guests you love were imminent and you’d like the place to look welcoming. Hide the clutter and make a promise to do the decluttering thing later. Think of the places that make you feel most tranquil and replicate some of that, in your own home. Music, chimes, candles, flowers, incense, if that’s your thing.  Ornaments, photos, snuggly blankets – choose to be surrounded by objects of beauty and comfort, which doesn’t necessarily mean spending money.

Salad2.  Eat Well. Plan your meals ahead of time; choosing simple, fresh, organic-where-possible, preferably-vegetarian (easily digested) ingredients and menus. Go for flavor and not complexity. My yoga friend, Karen, throws together scrumptious meals quicker than you can say Namaste and it’s always about simple, fresh flavors, usually involving a handful of herbs and/or an interesting twist, like edamame beans scattered on top of a salad. If you’re no domestic goddess in the cooking department, then stock up on ready-made, healthy options – including frozen, if the food is good quality. Also eat at times that make it easier on your digestive system (here’s why), i.e. breakfast between 9am-10am, lunch 1-2pm, dinner no later than 7pm.

snore 3.  Sleep Well. Set a schedule for sleeping, and your body will thank you for it. The recommendation for a healthy sleeping pattern which has worked for me, is to be asleep by latest 10pm and wake up by 6am. If the thought of pre-birdsong-alarm-call freaks you out on your three-day home retreat, then go to bed even earlier and you’ll find it’s easier to get up and join the dawn chorus. If you need extra sleep during the day, take a little nap/s to recharge the batteries.

4.  Treats. This is a yoga retreat, remember? So scatter little pamperations (no such word, but there should be) and decadent spoil-me-please activities during your break; like an at-home massage, a DIY home facial, spending a solid two hours reading that book that’s been calling you – anything that makes you feel indulged, relaxed and fabulous. Daisies

5.  Unplug. Less technology, more nature. Repeat the mantra. Less Tech, More Trees. Sit under one, hug one, gaze at one from your apartment window, or do whatever connects you with nature – sunsets, sunrises, stargazing, butterflies, beach walks, flowers. Immerse in nature in your own back yard or local park and breathe it in, drink in the colors, enjoy the sounds. “Unplug” means disconnect from all those little white umbilical cords attached to phones, iPods, tablets, PCs, television, radio and anything else that remotely resembles something that knows how to ROFL and LMK. Yes, folks, ICW. It. Can. Wait.

The physical yoga is the obvious part of a yoga retreat, so we’ll take that as a given, assuming you’re going to slot in an hour or so of easy and gentle yoga stretches and calming breathing (perhaps one kick-butt vinyasa to begin with, if that helps you burn off some stress). See if you can use this break to be good to yourself, indulging in nourishing things, which may include a gentler yoga practice than you’re used to. Guatemala Yoga Retreat When your home is an ashram, every day of the year can be an escape from the daily grind, even if only for a few minutes at a time. Your home can become the kind of place that invites you to be reflective, to relax, to meditate.

Living in a peaceful environment makes it easy to schedule these little mini-retreats regularly and they’ll keep you going until you’re able to go on that uber-yummy yoga retreat in an exquisite location. Like the retreats I’ve been happily hosting with my yoga friend, Karen, in fabulous places like Lake Atitlán in Guatemala and Lake Arenal in Costa Rica  😉

Relax. Replenish. Rejuvenate.  =  Retreat.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books!]

Inspirational, Travel, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Meeting The Dalai Lama at 36,000 Feet

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama beckons me to come closer

Prepare yourself for every superlative and cliché in the book, as I try to describe the experience of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama this week; an extraordinary and outrageously special experience (you see? I’ve already started with the hyperbole).

My journal entry says, “I’m not sure if ‘holy crap!’ are appropriate words to use in the same sentence as the Dalai Lama … but holy moly (holy guacamole? Holy Gautama?), I met His Holiness the Dalai Lama on my flight to Delhi today”. Since the experience was much more profound than that, I will now try to give it due reverence.

During my advanced yoga teacher training in McLeod Ganj, India, I was optimistic that I would get a chance to see His Holiness, since his residence was on our doorstep. Over two months, like a DalaiGroupie. I checked his official itinerary online, applied through the web site for a “private audience” (although I would have been happy to be one in a cast of thousands), visited the security office in the town, asked local Buddhists, monks and nuns (who had now become my friends) if they knew of any unscheduled appearances, and when I had a chance to visit the Buddhist temple adjacent to his home, I’d stay alert, just in case he felt a spontaneous urge to venture out and have some time with his peeps.

It was not meant to be. The harder I searched, the more elusive he was.

Finally, it was the end of my stay and time for me to accept I was not going to see HHDL. There’s some irony in that acceptance, since the Buddhist and Yoga philosophy of non-attachment suggests that to avoid suffering, we should detach from our desires to the point that if they remain unfulfilled, we can still be content. Best we accept, with grace, the things we can’t change – no Dalai Lama as part of my yoga teacher training? Okay, then, I could live with that … it had still been an unforgettable seven weeks at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga.

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Taking it all in.

And so, on the Dharamsala to Delhi flight, I was staring out the window, saying goodbye and thank you for my special Himalayan yoga experience, when I noticed the American couple sitting behind me were now taking selfies with two Tibetan monks in the front row. I thought, “Oh, isn’t that sweet; they’ve obviously not seen many monks yet and this is still a novelty for them”.

Half an hour later, without really knowing where the question came from, I found myself casually asking them if there was any specific reason they were taking photos of “the two monks”, and they stared at me and said, “Uh, YES. That’s the Dalai Lama”. My jaw dropped. I hadn’t even noticed them boarding the aircraft, I’d been so lost in my Goodbye-McLeod-Ganj thoughts. To Art and Amy from DC … THANK YOU!

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Note how strongly I was gripping his hands 🙂

All these weeks of wishing and hoping to see him, and now here he was, two rows in front of me, within an easy yoga stretch. The next slice of time (2 minutes? 2 years? 2 seconds?) passed in a daze (cliché, but true). I found myself crouching down in the aisle, waiting shyly and not wanting to disturb him, while simultaneously also wanting to sit in his lap and ask him for All The Answers to All The Questions.

He looked up and reached out towards me, beckoning me to come forward. I knelt down, simply holding his hands and staring at him. His grip was firm and strong and when I looked at the photos afterwards, I realized I was crushing his hands in my white-knuckled grasp, not wanting to let go.

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Smiles

Friends have asked me what I said to him and he to me, but there was no need for words. There was nothing I wanted to say. I simply held his hands and gazed at him; his deep, brown eyes alert and filled with light and wisdom, and a mischievous smile on his face.

I drank it all in. I felt his presence as pure; his spirit kind, humble and compassionate. It felt like I was bathing in his energy, on the receiving end of unconditional love and I wanted nothing more than to return this love to him, from my heart. (Yes, I warned you about the superlatives).

At some point, I placed my palms together in “Namaste”, and stumbled back to my seat. I sat for a while, not even looking at the photos my fellow American passenger had taken of me. I sat and absorbed what had just happened, and my eyes filled with tears as I realized how blessed I was to have experienced this. As many people pointed out, it was the perfect end to an already-perfect yoga adventure in India.

Once we had landed in Delhi, I looked down to notice I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt after I had floated back to my seat. But somehow, I think our flight was in safe hands.

Om_Mani_Padme_Hum_mantra


My Favorite Music and Books

Some of my favorite recommendations for good meditation music and yoga reads. Click to explore

Bliss Om Namah Shivaya Robert Gass

Yoga-Music-Blissfull-Mantras-Jane-Winther

Sa-Ta-Na-Ma-Richard-Brookens

 

 

 

Dalai-Lama-Archbishop-Tutu-Book-of-Joy Bhagavad-Gita-Stephen-Mitchell  Bhava-Ram-Warrior-Pose-Book