Nature, Yoga for Everyone

Nature as Your Sacred Yoga Studio – Happy Earth Day

What do I do when I’m homesick for the call of the wild? When my South African roots have me longing for the serenity of the savanna, instead of driving south to the airport, I head west to the Everglades.

Within minutes of getting into a kayak, there’s this mushy thing that happens in my belly as my stomach muscles soften into instant Savasana. A soppy look appears on my face when I see my first Great Blue Heron of the day (for the umpteenth time, and yet I’m still captivated by the swaying S-curve of its neck in its pre-dinner dance). I’m mesmerized by the heart-shaped lily pads bobbing up and down in the water; a solitary white flower here and there, catching the light.

Loxahatchee-heron-yogaressaThe light. The cliché of the wide, open spaces and blazing sunsets. The stillness. That same sort of silence you experience in “the bush” in Africa. Quiet, but not quiet. Buzzing with the sounds of bird calls, frog croaks and insect chirps.

Sometimes I’ll add the clicking of my camera shutter to the ambient noises, in the hope of capturing some of nature’s splendor. Other times, I put away all cameras and devices and simply breathe it all in; taking a photo with my memory, able to recall it later in all its splendor, without my Instagram feed.

There are no roaring lions or prancing wildebeest out here, but an energetic bullfrog impressively impersonates a warthog. If I half close my eyes and squint a bit, the leathery gator looks like our crusty crocs of the Southern Hemisphere, except with better manners.

I’m not looking to replicate Africa out here on the “River of Grass”, because the Florida Everglades have their own magic. But I do feel the same joy of being connected to nature. I am grateful for easy access to this aquatic beauty that has earned the hefty titles of World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance.

Loxahatchee-everglades-yogaressaNot just on Earth Day, but on any day, if you ever doubted that Nature has the power to heal, simply spend some time outdoors to feel it soothe and revive you. A recent, annoying conversation suddenly doesn’t really matter that much. Maybe worries dissipate a little and life looks positively cheerful. Maybe you simply remember how to be in the present moment and breathe.

Loxahatchee-yogaressa-earth-day
Trade in Heron, Tree, and Tortoise poses for the real thing, as you bask fully in the Yoga of Nature. Per that sage, Albert Einstein,

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”.

Yoga teaches us awareness of the inner Self and awareness of our connection with, and impact on, the world around us; including its creatures and habitat.

Namaste.

[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]

Yoga for Everyone

Yoga Myth Busters : “Real Men Don’t Do Yoga”

If you’re a guy who won’t go near a yoga studio because you think it’s full of flexible, fit, slim, young women, that’s completely understandable. (Although I have male friends who would see that sentence as immediate motivation to rush to yoga quicker than you could say Om).

For thousands of years, yoga was taught and practiced mostly by men, in India. When it became popular in the West as a fitness craze for women in the 70s and 80s, it somehow also acquired a stigma of being a woman’s thing—of no use to men. You know, like macramé.

How ridiculous and how untrue! For decades, women have enjoyed the many yoga benefits of flexibility, strength, balance and peace of mind; while men continue to suffer from lower back pain, tight hamstrings, immobile hips and the endless stream of thoughts of a stressed-out, busy mind.

businessmen-yogaWhether it’s to supplement or replace a sweaty gym workout, or you’d just like to be able to pick up your grandchild without herniating a disc, you too can join the growing number of men in the US benefiting from yoga.

Gym dudes will see improved flexibility and increased muscular endurance from the long holds in yoga poses. Golfers will enjoy an easier swing, from more limber spine and hips.

Businessmen will discover improved concentration and focus, perhaps setting an intention for their work week with more clarity, after experiencing how using intention during yoga creates awareness and discipline.

With manic schedules and stressful responsibilities, that one hour or so of yoga may be the only time for some men to decompress, slow down, and breathe.

And don’t worry if you can only do 10 percent of what an ultra-bendy female next to you is doing. Choose instead to do 100 percent of what your body can do. That is more than enough. The general female tendency of more flexible hips makes way for the overall male tendency of more strength, so there will be poses most men can access more easily than most women—if that matters to you. You’ll know you’re really “doing yoga” when you don’t give two hoots about that kind of competition anyway, because you’re too busy enjoying how good you feel during and after yoga.

Almost convinced? Here’s a nudge that may motivate you … yoga improves your sex life. Yes, read that again. An NCBI study (pubmed/20646186) reveals yoga as “an effective method of improving all domains of sexual functions in men.”

Athletes, film stars, singers and business execs have turned to yoga; as a powerful anti-ageing tool for building stamina, improving concentration, and reducing anxiety and depression. LeBron James, Tom Brady, Sting, Adam Levine, Russell Simmons, Robert Downey, Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and many more. That’s quite a diverse group of yoga guys.

There’s a yoga mat waiting for all men; it’s simply a matter of finding a yoga space where you feel comfortable. Do some research, perhaps try a class led by a male teacher, or go with a friend—male or female. It won’t be long before Warrior and Plank Pose become a casual part of your health and fitness conversation.

Namaste.

[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]

Asana, Yoga for Everyone

Yoga Myth Busters : “I’m Not Flexible Enough To Do Yoga”

If I had received a secret yoga power for every time I’ve heard that statement, I’d be enlightened by now. As yoga teachers, we shake our heads in frustration when we hear it, because that’s as illogical as saying I’m too dirty to take a shower. It’s precisely because you’re inflexible that you need yoga.

yoga-cartoon-too-stiff-to-do-yogaCan’t touch your toes? Perfect! You’re an ideal candidate for yoga. If anything, you could benefit even more from yoga than the naturally flexible yogis, whose bones and joints genetically slot into place with minimal effort. Your stiffness means you’ll really feel the positive effects as your body starts to experience relief from being tight.

Ultra-bendy yogis can also easily injure themselves through hyperextending their joints, or going too deeply into a pose. Lucky you, Mr or Ms Creaky Joints—the more inflexible you are, the quicker and louder your inner alarm will ring when you’re reaching your limits, and so you’ll stop (if your ego is in check) and avoid injury.

Yoga isn’t about an end goal that culminates in a glamorous photo of an impossible pretzel pose, anyway. If we did manage to tuck one foot behind the head, does that make us a better person? Of course not.

What does make us feel better is releasing tension in the body, easing the mind from the busyness of the day, and taking long, relaxing breaths.

Ready to take your rigid limbs to the mat, then? Good. Some tips along the way:

  1. Patience. Cultivate buckets of it. Without patience, you may force yourself too far into a pose, and cause injury.
  2. Experiment and find a yoga class where you fit in, with an experienced and encouraging teacher who understands your body type.
  3. Don’t give up after one or two classes. I’m naturally inflexible and I promise you, with regular practice, it does get easier—to the point that it can become seductively addictive, because you feel so good during and after yoga.
  4. Explore. Be curious, instead of judgmental, about the physical mechanics of your body and how and when it feels challenged. What happens if you relax a bit in the poses, instead of trying so hard? Are you holding your breath instead of breathing with ease?
  5. Warm up before yoga, especially if the weather is cold. Try a short walk, or arrive ten minutes early to do some simple stretches.
  6. Avoid comparing and competing—with yourself as well as with others. It doesn’t matter what’s happening on the mat next to you. As long as you’re in the zone of safe alignment, measured breathing, and no pain, you will benefit from your practice.

gumby-yogaGo for it! Get your stiff and inflexible bod over to a yoga studio, recognize and smile at the other kindred spirits who can also hardly touch their knees, let alone their toes, and ease into some stretches that will make your muscles, joints and soul sigh with gratitude.

Namaste.

[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]

Meditation

Yoga Nidra and the Power of Intention

You’re in a Yoga Nidra class and you’re asked to set an intention . . . is your mind immediately paralyzed into a blank screen of zero inspiration?

yoga-nidra-meditation-0939-webIf you’re unable to conjure up, at the drop of an Om, a statement any more profound than, “I will remember my shoes when I leave yoga tonight”, all that’s needed is some reflection on why you do this thing called yoga.

Whether it’s for a kick-butt, sweaty, vinyasa class, or an affirmation for Yoga Nidra guided relaxation, intention has the power to transform your practice. It shines a mindful light on how you live your life; harnessing and feeding your hopes for more ease.

How to Discover Your Sankalpa

Your intention (or sankalpa, the Sanskrit word for resolve) could address your state of mind, or physical health, or a shift in your relationships — whatever could benefit from more joy. Think of it as a vow between you and the Universe.

If this has you grabbing a pen and paper and revving up the analytical, intellectual mind (because #driventogetitright), then relax a little and consider sankalpa is not about achieving goals. Avoid the temptation to use intention to fix something that is “wrong” with you.

Instead, connect with your emotions and beliefs. Your sankalpa already resides within you, as a heartfelt longing. Ask yourself some introspective questions, then dive deep into your heart space and simply pause and listen. Dwell on what may contribute to an effortless state of being.

After some reflection, form a precise sentence that helps support your heart’s wishes.

Your intention statement is:

• Positive

• Easy to remember

• Stated in the present tense, as if it were already true (even if it’s not)

For example, instead of, “I will stop being angry and impatient”, try, “I am patient and kind, with myself and others”.

Your sankalpa may be the same for several weeks or months, or it may be different on a particular day, when something else is occupying your thoughts. Sometimes, you’ll feel as if your self-inquiry has unlocked the secrets of the Universe. Other times, you’ll simply observe the intention to rest and create stillness in body and mind.

Examples of Sankalpa 

Resist the urge to nail Nirvana by throwing every possible thing into one long and complicated sentence. “I am happy and healthy, blissfully filled with contentment and joy for all the loving people and situations which I am blessed to receive with deep gratitude for my abundant and prosperous life” could get lost a little, out there in affirmation land. “I am happy” is a perfect alternative. Here are some other examples:Meditation-yoga

• My body is healthy, my mind is clear.

• My world is filled with joy and love.

• I believe in myself and that what I have to offer is of value.

• I sleep peacefully, and wake up rested and energetic.

How Intention Works

Yoga Nidra is a meditative sequence of observing and welcoming all sensations, emotions and thoughts.

This “conscious sleep” state is ideal for hearing positive messages, and altering negative habitual thought patterns. When you silently state your intention during Yoga Nidra, the subconscious mind receives it as if it were already true — even if the doubting mind doesn’t believe it.

The beauty of doing this practice regularly, and with sincerity, is that your positive statements linger in the subconscious mind, long after the guided relaxation is complete.

Yoga Nidra can truly become a gateway to positive change and personal transformation. And, it has the handy side effect of you knowing your heart’s calling, the next time someone cheerily instructs, “Now, set your intention!”.

Namaste.

[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]

Nature, Travel, Yoga Retreats

Muy Bien — My Top Ten (Costa Rica) continued …

(Here’s the first part of the Top Ten list in the previous post).

6.  Pipa Fria

Pipa-fria-0328iWho needs Whole Foods, when you can pick up fresh coconut water at the numerous roadside fruit stands?  Pull over immediately (smiling and pura vida-ing) and don’t be alarmed by the machete the fruit guy is holding. Watch, as within seconds, he hacks open an unripened, green coconut and transforms it into a goblet of

coconut water
Here’s how you might be used to drinking coconut water …
pipa fria
Here’s your upgrade to a whole new world of coconut

heavenly sweet water, complete with a straw he’ll pop through the top. It’s the perfect, refreshing pick-me-up; loaded with vitamins and electrolytes, and the treat continues once you’ve drunk the agua de pipa, as you use the “lid” of your coconut to scoop out the soft flesh and eat that, too. Watch the creator of coconut nirvana nifty work:

7.  Toucans

So adorable that they deserve their very own mention, even though they kind of fall under #1 Nature. These comical birds arrived in the treetops in a flashy display of color and noise, looking like they’d just rented their feathers for Halloween outfits.

toucan in flight

toucans-costa-rica

8.  Howler Monkeys

The alarm clocks of the jungle, a sound that had me smilingly coming out of sleep and ready to greet each new day. The howlers also added their grunting and calling to our outdoor yoga classes, and we’d hear them in the trees around us in the evenings, providing the perfect backdrop for a story about Hanuman.

howler monkey

9.  Fireflies

Yoga spaceYes, I know they have fireflies in other countries, but the Costa Rican fireflies were bigger than any I’ve ever seen, and seemed to have adopted the pura vida culture too, as they floated into our yoga space during Savasana; big, bright, glowing orbs of light, dipping in the air around our yoginis, adding fairy-like magic to the already idyllic surroundings.

 

10.  Yogayoga-retreat-costa-rica-0449gi

A magnificent setting like Lake Arenal in Costa Rica will heighten your experience on the yoga mat and jumpstart your prana; whether you’re rocking a joyful backbend, or you’re deep in contemplation. Eckhart Tolle describes being in nature as “a compelling portal to presence”, and it’s true. Practicing yoga in a paradise like Costa Rica will create memories you can come back to, once you’re back home and living your Other Vida.

So, there you have it. As if you ever needed any encouragement to head to “The Happiest Planet on Earth” (according to the Happy Planet Index), these ten reasons to go to Costa Rica are a mere  introduction to the beauty that awaits you in this peaceful soul of Central America. Enjoy!

Nature, Travel, Yoga Retreats

Muy Bien — My Top Ten (Costa Rica)

I tried to keep it to just Five Fab Reasons, I really did, but it was impossible. I couldn’t condense a week of immersing ourselves in the splendor of our Costa Rica yoga retreat, to just five little cameos. So, I opted for a Top Ten (out of a shortlist longlist of over thirty), and here they are, in no particular order.

iguana

1.  Nature

Magpie-jay
The cheeky magpie jay enjoys breakfast

Nature, AMPLIFIED.  Wildly-colored frogs, prehistoric-like iguanas, vibrant bird life and a stream of gigantic butterflies that look like they’ve been added by the animators at Avatar.

 

2.  Pura Vida!

Translated as “pure life”, this exclamation is used as a greeting and as a Two Thumbs Up smile of appreciation, as you acknowledge a mutual zest for life and the joy of “real living”.

Pura-Vida-5791
The always-smiling Flaco, anticipating every need on our yoga retreat

Note: You might look like a tourist, but try and sound like  a local, by pronouncing it, “poora beeda” (not pyura veeda), and feel free to adopt this as a happy mantra during your stay — I wasn’t sure if it was just a corny PR slogan whipped up by the Costa Rica Tourist Board, so I tested it the moment we landed, and received an enthusiastic pura vida! in response, from the smiling immigration tico, as he stamped my passport.

Pura-vida-0450
This gentleman, riding a horse and cart, was happy to pause and say hola to us

 

The ticos and ticas are the friendly, warmhearted Costa Ricans who echo and amplify the essence of pura vida. They’re proud of their eco-aware country, they have a great sense of humor and they seem to operate at a level of happiness that comes naturally, without trying to find it.

Their natural appreciation for people, nature and life in general, comes easily. An interesting recipe to consider, for those times when striving for happiness doesn’t work.

 

 

3.  Scenery

Arenal Volcano
Sunrise skies on fire – exactly like this, no photo enhancement required

Volcanoes and sunrises so spectacular, you’ll want to bottle them up and take them home with you. Pause long enough to take a break from the picture snapping (guilty!), and just sit and take it all in; creating an imprint on your mind of the colors and sounds around you. Costa Rica offers 20,000 square miles of abundant, unique biodiversity in a microcontinent of volcanoes, jungle, thermal springs, beaches and rainforests.

Rio Celeste waterfall
Rio Celeste waterfall

Sunrise Costa Rica

4.  Fruit

Fruit that looks, smells and tastes like real FOOD. Passionfruit, pineapple, mangoes, starfruit, papaya … they never tasted so good. A kind of juice-dribbling-down-your-chin-and-you-don’t-care good. Stop at the roadside fruit stands and indulge in fruit heaven.

Costa-Rica-fruit-stand-0678b

Papaya-web

5.  Adrenalin Rush 

This is the land that invented zip lining — because why wouldn’t you hook a pulley over a stainless steel cable and hurl yourself off a perfectly safe platform, to go whizzing through the treetops, hundreds of feet above terra firma? Pura vida, in full force.  I’d been mustering up the courage to try zip lining since my first trip to Costa Rica ten years ago, and  I kept finding (perfectly sane) excuses for not doing it.

Ziplining-costa-ricaThis time, I took the leap; inspired by our group of feisty and fun-loving yoginis, who were equally determined to try this adventure, and fortified by the very capable crew at Los Canones, who briefed us well. We listened very carefully to every instruction on how to avoid finding yourself hanging upside down, suspended above the forest, and Ziplining-costa-rica-0116how to stop in enough time to not go crashing into the next platform — all of this gave me the courage I needed to take that first step into nothingness. It’s around those few seconds that you vaguely remember reading zip lining described as “death slide”, which you then dismiss immediately, take a deep breath, an even deeper Ommmmmm, and then you’re off!Ziplining-costa-rica-0203Ziplining-costa-rica-0225

 

 

 

 

And the thrill and shriek-inducing exhilaration is immediately addictive, so that you’re eagerly looking forward to the next slide and the next one and the next one and then oh, no, you can’t believe it’s over.   Next stop: bungee jumping in New Zealand. Just kidding. Wouldn’t catch me doing that for all the pipa fria in the world.

Still need another five reasons to head to the land of pura vida? Here you go …

Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Meditation

This May Tempt You To Try “Yogic Sleep” — The Ancient Practice of Yoga Nidra

Yoga-Nidra-class-web-6
My body sleeps, but my mind stays awake … huh? How does that work? Welcome to the paradox and the power of Yoga Nidra; exploring the state in between being asleep and being awake.

This is not pretzel yoga, or kick-butt yoga, or sweat-your-bits-off yoga … it’s Anyone-Can-Do-This yoga. You need nothing more than your desire to create a sense of calm in the body and the mind — no special skills required. In fact, the most challenging element of Yoga Nidra is often the ability to stay awake!

Yoga-Nidra-Benefits-7352So, what exactly is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra places you in a state of tranquil awareness, preparing the mind to receive positive messages, at a subconscious and emotional level. In my experience, two major things happen:

1 — Relaxation

Lying on the ground (or seated), listening to a specific system of guided relaxation, your body comes to a place of complete rest, while the mind remains alert and yet calm. Even as you enter a dream-like state of consciousness, your mind stays awake; following the verbal cues, becoming aware of sensations in the body, and using sensory perception and visualization techniques.  These methods for calming the body, the subconscious mind and the sympathetic nervous system, are extremely grounding and relaxing.

2 — Intention

This is a powerful aspect of Yoga Nidra, when you introduce your intention (or sankalpa in Sanskrit).  Here, you state your affirmation for personal transformation; your wish for what you would like to be, or have, in your life — good health, calm mind, confidence, success, a change in your relationships — whatever your heartfelt desire is. Think of your sankalpa as a vow between you and the Universe, or a higher being.

Some examples are:

  • I am happy and healthy in body, mind and spirit.
  • My dreams and aspirations become reality.
  • I breathe in calmness and breathe out peace.

Yoga Nidra creates the perfect setting for you to initiate change in your life, because it is easier to alter habits in this “conscious sleep” state than in the waking state, when we are typically more resistant to change. Although you are not trying to actively fix or change anything during the Yoga Nidra practice itself, regular repetition of positive affirmations in this state, can be transformational.


Yoga-Nidra-classIf you’d like to try Yoga Nidra, join me at Simply Yoga or at Casa Mannabliss, or contact me re other Yoga Nidra events.

And for those who would like to do guided relaxation at home, I’m delighted to have just finished recording a Yoga Nidra album, accompanied by the peaceful music of Richard Brookens, available here as well as on Spotify, Amazon, YouTubeApple Music, iTunes, and Google Play.

To your continued physical, mental and emotional good health!

Namaste.

Yoga Philosophy

Inaugural International Day of Yoga – What’s It All About?

June 21, 2015 marks the first ever International Day of Yoga, formally recognized by the United Nations. The day has been devoted to this ancient discipline, to highlight the benefits of yoga “for the health of the world population”.

International-Yoga-Day

Today, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, did yoga with a crowd of over 35,000 in Delhi, and yoga events are being held in 251 cities on 6 continents.

I’ve read thatinternational_day_of_yoga 30,000 yogis and yoginis are set to do yoga asanas today in Times Square, NYC. That’s a lot of OMing, breathing and Downward Dogging!

Yoga may be an ancient tradition (over 5,000 years old), but it’s Continue reading “Inaugural International Day of Yoga – What’s It All About?”

Travel, Yoga Retreats

10 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat (on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala)

1.   Your Destination Is Dramatically Beautiful

Lake-Atitlan-Yoga-RetreatSet in the highlands of Guatemala, Lake Atitlán is celebrated as “the most beautiful lake in the world” — as famously described by German explorer, Alexander von Humboldt. It’s the deepest lake in Central America, a crater lake (caldera) formed by the very volcanoes that surround it today. The three giants rising up over the lake provide a majestic backdrop for the ever-changing colors of the day. Idyllic, unparalleled, magnificent views surround you, justifying the use of all superlatives in trying to describe its beauty.

When you pull yourself away from staring agog at the volcanic vista, you’ll notice you’re immersed in nature. The gorgeous gardens of our eco-resort are filled with exotic birds, butterflies and tropical flowers, with the added temptation of exploring the verdant green hills and traditional Mayan villages in the area.

2.   Unplug And Relax 

Yes! A reward for working hard and a much-needed break from daily stresses, a yoga retreat at Lake Atitlán allows you to invest in your wellness and top up your energy levels.

Lake-Atitlan-hikeA yoga retreat also has a smorgasbord of “additional activities”. Plenty on offer, depending on what your definition of relax is. Do you want a yoga retreat which is active and energizing, calming and contemplative, or a little of both? Notice what you naturally choose and consider doing something a little different, perhaps unplugging more than you typically would — or, at the opposite end of the frantic/lazy spectrum, perhaps getting off your bum and enjoying the natural beauty of a hike or kayak excursion. You get to decide what level of RELAX you need.

Lake-Atitlan-sunriseRelax also means UNPLUG. Less technology, more nature. Repeat that mantra. Less technology, more nature. Give yourself a technology detox, as you connect with magnificent sunrises, sunsets, star-filled night skies. And if you can’t go cold turkey on unplugging completely, at least minimize your connection with the outside world, so that it doesn’t drag you back into the busy-ness from which you’ve just traveled many miles to escape!

Disconnect from all those little white umbilical cords attached to phones, iPods, tablets, laptops, and anything else that remotely resembles something that knows how to ROFL and LMK. Yes, fellow yoga retreaters, ICW. It. Can. Wait.

3.   More Yoga!

A yoga retreat is the ideal opportunity to do more yoga than you typically would, with an already-crammed schedule at home. We offer yoga twice a day on our retreat; typically a vigorous morning practice and a quieter, more relaxing practice in the evening, with meditation.

Yoga-Retreat-Guatemala-AtitlanDon’t be intimidated by “YIKES! 3+ hours of yoga a day?” — you’ll be encouraged to abandon any grim determination more suitable to a gym workout, as you deepen the poses without aggression, but with a sense of curiosity. You’ll see progress in your yoga and open up to new experiences on your mat … which you can pack up in your suitcase and continue exploring at home.

4.   More Time To Meditate 

Meditation-yoga-retreatThe combination of having guided and/or group meditation as part of your yoga retreat program, and the simple fact of being in a place with reduced distractions, will allow you to truly explore meditation.  This could be an extension of your existing regular meditation practice, or the catalyst for establishing one.

Outside of a group setting, take a few minutes (hey! take an HOUR — why not!) in the morning and evening to be completely still and contemplative. Take this mindfulness with you on an energetic hike, or even a lively trip to the chaotic markets of Chichicastenango, and you can turn activity into a moving meditation.  Talk less. See more. Think less. Experience more.

5.   Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Life-begins-at-the-end-of-your-comfort-zoneGoing somewhere new – new country, new language, new food — all of these elements stretch us beyond the stretching of our muscles in physical yoga. Unfamiliar experiences open the door to yoga of the mind, yoga of emotion, yoga of psychology.

When we’re no longer behaving like automatons, or stuck in the rut of routine, this is an ideal time for self discovery, making space for personal growth. By stepping forward and doing unfamiliar, sometimes scary, things, we create the path towards discovery and new-found confidence.

In this new and liberating frame of mind, you might surprise yourself and find you’ve signed up for zip lining in the morning. Try new things. You’ll head home with a new perspective on life, whatever your personal yoga adventure.

6.   Healthy Eating

Scrumptious-veggiesMost yoga retreat focus on nutritious eating and the destinations we choose on Lake Atitlán, are no exception. The food is healthy, tasty, often vegetarian (with optional meat choices), and includes some local touches. You’ll enjoy delicious soups, guacamole, tamales, omelette, fresh local cheese, quesadillas and more.

At the end of your retreat, you can make a commitment to continued healthy eating and incorporate some of these elements into your diet.

7.   Coffee

Guatemala-CoffeeOkay, I know I just wrote about kickstarting a new eating routine and healthy diet and now here I am, advocating a good dose of diterpines, caffeine and kahweol.

But my grandfather used to say, “moderation in everything”, and I’m following his lead on this one. Plus … “The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults.” There we go. If Wikipedia said it, it must be true.

So, get used to saying the phrase, “Café con leche caliente, por favor” and prepare yourself for Coffee Nirvana, as you get to savor the world-famous, fragrant coffee of Guatemala.

8.   Cacao

How can you not love a country where chocolate is sacred? Arguably the first chocoholics, the Mayans saw cacao as the food of the gods (me, too!) and held annual festivals to honor the cacao god, Ek Chuah.

Guatemala-chocolate-ixcacaoCacao was the drink of choice for the Maya elites and it was used in royal and religious ceremonies. It’s even cherished enough to be written about in the sacred Mayan book, the Popol Vuh.

And here’s a fun discovery – it looks like the Maya invented the first chocolate bar snack! – “So that they could eat cacao at all times, the Mayans also created an on-the-go form by packing it tightly with cornmeal into small round slabs. Warriors carried these snacks, which their enemies envied and stole.”

I bypassed ancient Maya warriors and indulged in little snacks of cacao decadence of the modern type; rich and flavorful, heavenly bites of handmade chocolate bliss.

9.   The People of Guatemala 

The local people are welcoming, friendly, and proud of their country. You’ll see some beautiful Guatemalan faces against the vibrant colors and designs of traditional dress, especially in this region, which is renowned for the Maya people who still practice sacred and ancient traditions.
Guatemala-faces
Regional dress is worn daily, not saved for special occasions, especially in the smaller villages. Cheerful and intricate weavings; women with bold designs on skirts and headdresses, men in jaunty cowboy hats and embroidered pants. In Guatemala City, you’ll see some traditional dress juxtaposed against the mostly modern and westernized sneakers and jeans, but the villages appear to be holding on to their traditions, which is a delight to see.

Guatemala-facesIf you’re so delighted and tempted to capture some of this on camera, don’t assume you can just click away at the people you see in the villages and markets. They will cover their faces or turn away in annoyance — and wouldn’t you, if the roles were reversed? Sometimes it’s appropriate to ask permission to take photographs in exchange for a few quetzales. Assess each situation, be friendly, and graciously move on if the answer is no.

10.   New Friendships

A yoga retreat in magnificent surroundings is likely to attract people with similar intentions and attitudes to life as yours. Your group may have a diversity of backgrounds, but you all have at least two things in common: you chose to go on a yoga retreat and you picked Guatemala. You’ll meet new and interesting people and have the chance to turn them into lifelong friends.

We’ve designed our next retreat on Lake Atitlán on October 21-25 with all the above benefits in mind, so that you can return home, restored and refreshed, and motivated to take that sense of peace back with you and into your daily life.

Join us at the eco-chic Villa Sumaya!

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Asana, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Poop, Pray, Move [Part 3] – with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

MOVE …

Parivrtta-Trikonasana-Revolved-Triangle
Easing into Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana) at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga

I’ve been condensing two months of extensive yoga studies in India into 5 key areas, to simplify maintaining this healthy lifestyle, back home. Part 1 and Part 2 covered the Poop and Pray part, and now we add Move.

Surprise, surprise … in India, yoga is not typically an exercise you come to perform on your mat three times a week – it’s a way of life; more than just a workout.

Asanas (the physical yoga postures) are not yoga. They are a part of yoga. Here’s a perfect analogy, from our teacher, Yogi Sivadas: “It’s like touching a thorn on a rosebud and thinking that is all that a rose is – you’ll say ‘rose is prickly’ and you’ll miss out on smelling the perfume, because the flower hasn’t blossomed yet. If you only do asana, you won’t find the hidden beauty of yoga, which is inner peace.”  The true beauty of  yoga is hidden beyond the asanas.  The asanas are a way of purifying the body and when the flower unfolds, we experience the hidden beauty within. A sort of yoga perspective on “Stop and smell the roses”.

Rose-beauty-yogaOf course, we were on a yoga teacher training program, so we were smelling the roses AND we were touching the thorns; we were doing asanas.

Every day.

Twice a day.

Four hours a day.

Here’s the difference. We didn’t approach our asanas with the kind of fervid and fanatical drive that we so often see in yoga. Yogi Sivadas’ constant message was, “slow down, take your time, feel your breath, always be mindful about what your body needs, rest when you need to”. We listened, and ironically, our bodies became stronger and more flexible through a path of ease and mindfulness, as opposed to a grim determination to muscle our way through countless vinyasas and pretzel poses.

“Yoga pose is a steady and comfortable position. Yoga pose is mastered by relaxation of effort, lessening the tendency for restless breathing, and promoting an identification of oneself as living within the infinite breath of life.” – The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Patanjali reminds us that calm and measured breathing is a critical part of healthy yoga movement, even when we are doing challenging poses. In fact, especially when we are doing challenging poses. That’s the barometer for whether we are overdoing it. Throughout our yoga asanas, we keep connecting again and again to the breath; breathing fully and allowing a smooth and even breath to feed the body and calm the mind.

We also learnt it’s not necessary to hold a pose at its maximum, for as long as possible. I’m not a physiotherapist nor a physiology nerd, but if the muscles fatigue to the point where they’re no longer doing a good job of holding the pose, we can end up stressing the joints (NOT good!) And if we then lock the joints to maintain a pose on behalf of fatigued muscles, we’re not engaging and strengthening the muscles – instead we can end up compressing the joints (NOT good!) Finally, when we’re straining and forcing the pose, the muscles become tighter, instead of stretched. The tighter they become, and the more we push into the stretch? Perfect combination for injuries to happen (yes, here it comes again … NOT good!)

Yogafunnies-flexibilityI’ve been practicing a less zealous form of yoga for years (often being encouraged to do more, hold it longer, “work to your edge”) and yet I’ve still suffered injury in the hamstring attachments and I’ve overstretched ligaments at the back of my knees. Even when I felt I wasn’t overdoing it. Are you a knee hyperextender? Don’t know? See this excellent article from Julie Gudmestad and find out.

I love my asana practice. It makes me feel alive, it calms my mind, it connects me to my breath. After my  time in India, my asana practice is both strong AND therapeutic, a place of even more ease. I’m being kinder to my joints, I’m aware of my heartbeat and breathing, and any time I feel the need to do MORE, I pause and ask myself if what I am already doing is enough, and can I still feel the relaxation in the effort?

And when the answer is yes, I know am in that perfect place to experience the unfolding of the rose flower and inhale the heady scent of yoga.

Next up: Part 4 of Poop, Pray, Move … what else do you think is fundamental to a healthy yoga lifestyle?

Meditation, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Poop, Pray, Move [Part 2] – with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

PRAY …

Meditation-OmSummarizing two months of extensive yoga studies into five key areas may seem like oversimplifying things, but this simplicity helps me to maintain healthy habits back home. Part 1 covered the Poop part of Poop, Pray, Move.

Now, let’s add Pray. Our minds are engaged in an almost continuous internal dialogue, moving from one thought to the next – some 60,000 thoughts a day, apparently! Meditation allows us to focus inwardly, experience silence, and calm the turbulence of the mind. It requires an inner state that is still and single-focused, so that the mind becomes calm, no longer distracted; ultimately developing mindfulness and insight.

When we meditate, or pray, or take a moment every day to release from the relentless hamster wheel of the busy mind, we can move beyond stress-inducing thoughts and emotional upsets, and find inner peace and calm.

“Meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. It is the means for fathoming all the levels of ourselves and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within.” – Swami Rama

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of meditation is “The awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. I would add “without expectations” to that description, Meditationsince we often find ourselves anticipating what’s meant to happen, and what makes “A Good Meditation”. Did you see swirling colors and vivid imagery of eagles and panthers? Did a powerful voice boom out at you, sharing the secrets of the Universe, echoing in the cavern of your mind?

Any meditation is a “good” meditation when you’ve taken the time to just pause for a few minutes and bring the mind to a quieter place. Let go of any expectations and allow your meditation to be exactly as it is.

(More on that later, when I’ll post some musings on meditation. It’s a hugely personal experience and I would love to hear what meditation means to you, so please do post comments below to share with others).

Meditation was part of our daily routine at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga and Holistic Healing; most of it private, some of it in a group setting, listening to the soothing tones of Yogi Sivadas’ guided meditation. Our yoga teacher training schedule kept us busy; ten hours a day, six days a week, yet all of it was calmer against a backdrop of consciously creating harmony and ease at the beginning of every day.

Back home now and in a routine that is different to the yoga school, I continue to rely on  meditation to positively influence my life.  A regular (daily) meditation practice trains the mind to be in a state of relaxed awareness, not just during the meditation, but throughout the thoughts and actions of the day. And a relaxed mind makes for a healthier body. Provided you pooped, of course.

Next up, Part 3 of this recipe for a happy, yogic life … now, if you’ll excuse me, my meditation mat is calling and I have Oms to Om and thoughts to still.

[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 :-). ]

Ayurveda, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Poop, Pray, Move [Part 1] – with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

This is my secret recipe for inner peace and outward calm, the kind I felt during my yoga stay in India last year. I’ve summarized the most important things I learnt at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga into five essentials. Yes, we studied yoga philosophy and yoga psychology and Vedic wisdom and ancient Sanskrit and sequencing of yoga asanas – all of it fascinating and interesting and rewarding. And all of it enhanced when it was layered on top of this yoga blueprint for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

The recipe isn’t complicated. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy (isn’t that often the case?) : Poop, Pray, Move, and two other vital ingredients. 

(With an I-am-not-a-guru disclaimer inserted here. These suggestions are what work for me, and I invite you to explore and adopt those that make most sense to you.)

POOP

Please excuse the toilet language, but the reality is that poor digestion and sluggish elimination means our bodies are filled with toxins, and our minds and emotions become toxic, too. Elimination at least once, maybe twice, a day is healthy, so if that’s not happening for you, check your diet. When we eat well, we eliminate well.

Scrumptious veggies from the garden
Scrumptious veggies from our garden at home

Already eliminating happily, every day? Good for you, you pooper trouper! Nevertheless, the broader subject of diet is still crucial, as it affects not only digestion and elimination, but also our emotions and state of mind.

“We dig our graves more through our mouths than anything else.” – Swami Satyananda about our approach to food.

Our teacher, Yogi Sivadas, had an Ayurvedic and therapeutic approach to yoga and kept emphasizing how a healthy diet is the basis for a yoga lifestyle. He described eating as the most sacred part of the day, when we create an awareness and reverence for the food we’re eating, rather than shoveling it mindlessly down our gullets (my words, not his). He encouraged us to see the colors of the food, smell the aromas, imagine the taste, prepare the digestive juices for what’s coming and then eat slowly, savoring every mouthful.

Perfect pineapple
We’re lucky enough to be able to grow delicious pineapples in our own garden – be inspired to grow whatever’s possible in yours.

The Ayurvedic belief is that most emotional, hormonal and physical imbalances and agitations of the mind are caused by bad diet, poor digestion and a sedentary and/or stressful lifestyle. Doing simple things like eating dinner no later than 7 p.m. helps the digestive process. Other common sense advice was to follow as much as possible a vegetarian diet of fresh food, in modest quantities, avoiding or reducing refined foods, caffeine and alcohol.

I love a cappuccino with a chocolate croissant, and I enjoy a glass of wine, so does that make me a bad yogini? No, it doesn’t; but if I am anxious, impatient or irritable, chances are it’s because of the amount of caffeine/alcohol/refined sugar I’ve consumed. When I pay attention to my diet and reduce or remove those elements, I notice I am a mix of calm, vitality and a joy for life.

And if this sounds like advice from a health food magazine instead of a yoga teacher, Yogi Sivadas’s point was if we practice yoga, then by association we also practice Ahimsa (non-violence), which includes non-violence to the body, through a healthy diet. To “do yoga” is to start with the fundamentals of a healthy diet. As he said,

“Yoga only BEGINS when you regulate your diet and lifestyle”.

It doesn’t begin by rocking a kick-butt Astavakrasana.

Your thoughts? Your tips on following a healthy diet and yet not feel like you’re missing out? I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Next up, Part 2 of this recipe for a happy, yogic life … in the meantime, here’s to your healthy diet, digestion and elimination. I’m just off to grab me a handful of sunflower seeds and bran.

[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

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!]

Life

Yoga to the Rescue on New Year’s Day

New Year’s Eve started off perfectly, with a pre-midnight prosecco toast at home, giving us time to then join a group of yogis and yoginis and chant a continuous Om again and again, as a beautiful way to herald in 2015. (Thank you, Simply Yoga, Andi and Karen). The next treat was a walk on the beach with my husband, watching the fireworks dance in celebration of the New Year, talking of our hopes and wishes.

Party PiggySounds idyllic, right? Then the movie script changed. We got home to a mighty thumping, pumping, throbbing and pounding … words which could be easily misconstrued, so I’ll quickly add that they were all related to the raucous party noise of our next door neighbours, with their 70s music belting out into the new year and straight into our living room.

The instant disco reverberating throughout our house eclipsed the vibrations of our harmonious Oms two hours earlier. I’m the first one to whoop at the funky sound of Barry White, or boogie in the kitchen to Disco Inferno, but by 2am my tolerance for YMCA and Ring My Bell had vanished, as had my New Year Cheer. Finally, we got to sleep by 2:30.

When I woke up a few hours later to teach a yoga class, I felt like sh*t. Grumpy and bad-tempered at how shattered I felt (I am NOT good on not enough sleep), I grumbled and complained to my husband, seething and directing I-hope-they-have-monumental-hangovers curses through the hedge and into next door.  Instead of waking up with unbridled joy for the potential of the New Year ahead, I could only see it through manure-smeared spectacles as I stomped off to teach yoga.

Breathe. Om.Within a few minutes of greeting the students, the routine of yoga kicked in and came to my rescue. There’s something about the ritual of rolling out the mat, settling into a comfortable, cross-legged position, and taking those first few yoga breaths. It’s as if the body, mind and breath remember these actions and receive the signal, “Yeah! Yoga Time!”, recognizing it as the chance to relax, let go, and see the world differently.

As we began with a few calming breaths and brought the mind to a quieter place, my words about welcoming in the New Year actually felt true, not just something to say to create a nice vibe in the yoga room. We prepared to chant the sound of Om and send out good thoughts for the year ahead, for ourselves, our loved ones, and for all humanity.

With surprise, as the A-U-M resonated through my body and out through the crown of my head, I found myself including my partying neighbours in that wish, as they appeared, unbidden, in my Oms.  They had transformed from inconsiderate party animals to just another little slice of humanity, celebrating life – and my anger had disappeared in the sacred sound of Om and the calm of the breath.

These are the moments when I am eternally grateful for the practice of yoga. Sometimes I can use these tools at the exact time they’re needed to diffuse emotions, and other times they come to the rescue afterwards, sprinkling stardust on the world and making it right. Sometimes, all it takes is just a moment to sit quietly, release the mind from its busy activity, and BREATHE – and our perspective on the world can change.

This is my 2015 yoga wish for you – for today, for any day, for every day. We can change the way we feel, by taking the time to pause, sit comfortably and …

  • close the eyes
  • relax the shoulders
  • breathe slowly, in and out of the nostrils
  • release the tension in the jaw
  • take another few breaths, perhaps allowing the exhale to lengthen, without forcing it
  • bring awareness only to the breath, as the inhale and exhale rise and fall in the chest
  • invite the mind to focus only on the breath for a few minutes – and if it becomes distracted by external noises or internal thoughts, gently draw the mind away from the distraction and come back to feeling the breath come in and out of the body.

After just a few minutes of stepping away from the busy activity of the mind and choosing to breathe calmly, when we open our eyes, the world may seem a calmer place and the mind may have more clarity, in a state of relaxed alertness.

At a minimum, we will have mostly likely lowered the heart rate, lowered the blood pressure and released some tension in the body. And perhaps the yoga of pausing and breathing will become a daily habit, not just on those days where we feel blasted by the pulsating remnants of Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting. Happy New Year, everybody.

[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 :-). ]

Life

Where Are The Goats?

Yes, I’ll admit it. It’s been difficult to adjust to “normal life” after months of yoga bliss in the Himalayas. I’ve been back home now for over two months and apart from the happiness at seeing my husband, family and friends again, the re-entry into Western life has been challenging.

During the last few days of our yoga program, Yogi Sivadas had smiled and said, “People come to India and get a culture shock. Then they stay for a while. And then, when they go back to the West, they get a different culture shock!” How true. Of course there was an adjustment to life in McLeod Ganj, India, starting with the taxi ride from the airport, but it was really only a matter of days before different became normal, and unusual became part of regular life, including the mischievous monkeys as surprise visitors in our cottages.

Acclimation on coming home – some observations:

  • Where are the cows in the street, and the goats eating the adverts off the walls?
  • Gosh, it’s odd to sit on a chair, instead of cross-legged on the floor
  • Everyone is in a rush
  • Everyone seems to be complaining about something, and it’s almost always about something trivial
  • The local charity shop is the happy recipient of the pile of Clutter I Don’t Need Anymore. What made me think I NEEDED so much? (and don’t even get me started on Black Friday greed and hysteria)
  • Oh. I’m noticing it’s actually quite a challenge to be a constant “flame of consciousness”, when not everyone around me is even aware there is a candle in the room
  • How did a Starbucks chai tea latte creep into my diet again, on a regular basis?
  • Wow, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be, to stick to the healthy routine that kept me so happy in body, mind and spirit
  • The word F@*k seems to be making a more regular appearance in my vocabulary lately
  • I’m so happy to have a busy yoga teaching schedule and share some of the things I’ve learnt … now, how can I squeeze in more yoga and meditation time for me?

It soon became apparent that the shifts in lifestyle were actually less about the obvious things, like goats in the street and Tibetan monks in the shops. It’s been more about how to hold on to the simpler lifestyle I had in India, where I made do with less and yet didn’t feel I lacked anything. How I felt alive and energized every morning, even with the pressure and pace of our nine-hours-a-day-six-days-a-week schedule. How I saw life through a veil of calm and perspective, focusing only on things that mattered. Every day brought simplicity and ease into the way I thought, spoke and behaved.

The goats LOVEd eating the adverts on the walls!
The goats LOVED shredding the adverts off the walls!

And that’s the magic that I’m determined to hold on to. The goats were adorable and I miss them. But it’s the other, less tangible, pieces of the peace puzzle that I promise myself I will not lose. I’ve been preparing for the “Yoga in India” playshop I’m holding this month, and I’ve been reading through my notes of many hours spent with Yogi Sivadas, highlighting the crucial ingredients for a more balanced life.

The good news is, it’s not actually that complicated. I’ll share a summary in my next post.

[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 :-). ]