How to Pack Yoga into Your Holiday

The holiday countdown has begun, yippee. Passport, check! Toothbrush, check! Yoga mat, check? You can practically smell the mossy mountainous forest or taste the salty sea air. For a few weeks, months or years we relish a change of scenery. A highlight in our calendar, holidays give us a break from the daily rhythm (or grind) of our routine life.

But first you have to pack, and then get there and back (sorry, too soon). Long plane, train,  or any type of automotive journeys are cumulative to stress build up and pain.

Ideally we practice in the same place, at the same time, but let’s get realistic, when you’re on the move and in holiday mode it can be somewhat more challenging. Don’t quit it mighty warrior. As Yogis we all carry the wisdom and benefits of Yoga through our own personal experiences. We know good karma cultivates, well, good karma. And Yoga well, why halt something which makes you feel good and love, when the whole reason you went on holiday was to, well, feel good and love?

Sure, your practice might have to evolve, be itsy-bitsy, minus your favorite spanks, but at the same time you might unearth a humble warrior and victory will be yours.
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“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
- Rumi

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Here are my top travel tips to keep calm and Yogi on through your holiday journey.

Get grounded on the move

You of course, not the mode of transport. Nadi Shodhana, alternative nostril breathing will help encourage a calmer emotional state, increase the intake of oxygen and regulate your body’s thermometer. A little subtle exercise such as Sukshma Vyayama can be practiced seated and works to alleviate stiffness, muscular tension and stimulate blood flow.

Suyra Namaskar

Rise and shine Yoga

Surya Namaskar as a whole sequence offers numerous benefits, stimulating and balancing all the systems of the body. By synchronizing the breath with the flow, even if it's only for a few minutes each morning, will increase mental clarity by bringing fresh oxygenated blood to the brain. Get involved, get others involved. Rally up hotel guests and start your day the way you mean to go on.

A photo posted by Yogi Surprise (@yogisurprise) on

Inspiring travel snaps

After much dedication and practice, you’ve nailed that pose! What better way to celebrate than by taking a timeless snap to capture the memory somewhere amazing. Better still, include your Yogi Surprise box, and share your photo for your chance to win a Yoga retreat.

Practice in private

Creating the right space is important, so if privacy is your thing, have a word with your hotel manager. In my experience, they are generally happy to accommodate a space for you to enjoy a few moments of tranquility.

Pack lighter gear

To practice Yoga, all we really need is ourselves. A lighter travel mat or even a scarf won’t burden your weight load. The Gaiam, super grippy Yoga gloves from June’s Yogi Surprise box is ideal.

Find a class, try something new

We are generally more open to the art of possible on holiday. Embrace the adventurist within you, go seek and find a Yoga class. It could be a new style, something edgy, whatever. Consider this; have you ever not learned something in a class, even if it’s not your style?

Break up your practice

The beauty of Yoga is that we carry it with us. At any point in the day, when you feel the need or wish, why not drop down into your down-dog and practice some core work or restorative poses?

Watch, listen, read

Punch Yoga podcast video’ into your search engine and you’ll get a colossal 1.6m results. Ok, that is overwhelming, but the second result lists a great article from Elephant Journal on 10 of the best. Finding your online Guru is great because you get to see and try so much without having to spend a penny. Engaging books hold knowledge which can serve you long after you’ve turned the final page. Books like “Light on Yoga” by BKS Iyengar and “The Yoga Sutras” of Patañjali can be read slowly, with compassion and openness. Even if our sense of concentration is short, you can return time and time again.
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“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Spontaneity can unlock endless possibilities. Surrender and enjoy the adventure and remember the joy Yoga brings. Try to avoid getting embarrassed, listen to your body and mind, loose the ego, feed the soul and get involved.

 


Check Your Ego with These 3 Simple Methods

In the Yoga Sutras, the ego called asmita carries negative connotations. It occupies our consciousness feeding our emotions with thoughts of me and mine; “I am”, “I want”, “I need”, “I hate”.

My Guru once told me that Yoga teachers can’t be Yogis because they feed their ego. Well, let me tell you that this notion ruffled my feathers and unbalanced my crane pose, Bakasana. While losing patience with my crane, my ego kept rearing its ugly head taunting me, infuriating me, hurting me. It was a downward disenchanting spiral, and my sense of self-esteem (just another definition for ego) dwindled.

I pondered and wondered. If the ego is bad then why do we strive to:

egoHere’s a supposition, the ego is a paradox.  Just as we strive for balance in Yoga, we also strive for a balance within ourselves and daily lives. Balance cannot exist without extremities; good and bad, love and hate, easy and difficult.

Okay, now I surrender. It is what it is, however something inside my sense of self changed, and that has changed everything, mindfulness of the ego. Now I catch myself, check myself and use 3 principles to check that ego, be it off or on the mat.

Check your ego with these 3 top tips:

1. Just breathe

Breathing with intent, long inhalation and deep exhalation is one of the basic pleasures of being alive in the present moment. It calms and unites the body and mind as one. Breathing is one of the supreme gifts Mother Nature bequeathed, allowing us to take universal pranic energy and guide it within.

2. Believe yourself

Intentions, wishes, and dreams whatever you perceive them to be. They really truly can come true. Not all at once, but here in lies the splendor of life’s journey. The secret tonic to success is imagination and confidence to open your eyes and head down the path of your dreams.

3. Simply Be

Svadhyaya is the practice of inward reflection, honest self-observation and learning. Whatever you do, wherever you are, find contentment and simply be there, because that’s exactly where you need to be.

On some days my crane is steady, patience and still, on other days it’s the opposite. Just as the crane perches on a rock by a river, hoping to catch prey, he may not always be successful, but he will always persevere.


The Powerful Intention of Namaste

Namaste

Namaste ’is sometimes uttered before commencing a Yoga class or more commonly spoken at the end. It has been used as a greeting by many religions, meditation and yoga classes for an age. Perhaps Namaste invokes a feeling within you of gratitude and respect, perhaps not. Whatever you feel, the intention and meaning of Namaste go far beyond the direct translation of the word itself which we as Yogis should not be ignorant to.

It was in India where the gravitas and meaning of the word Namaste, also known as Namaskar captivated my heart. Here, I discovered that Namaste conveys far more connotations than a formal greeting used to meet or vacate another’s presence.

Like most Sanskirt words, Namaste bears multiple meanings.  Namah means 'bow', 'reverential salutation' or 'adoration' and te means 'to you'. Therefore, Namaste literally means ‘bowing to you’. Let’s break this down, starting with you and the reference of the word. You, your soul, also known as ātmā, induces a deeper spiritual sense hence, Namaste could be interpreted when the soul in one person acknowledges and pay obeisance to the soul in another.

Namaste handsWe all know actions speak louder than words, and in the case of Namaste they really do. It is by joining our hands together in Namaskar mudra, prayer pose that a higher level of awareness is expressed. The joining of the two palms epitomizes the left and right hemispheres of the brain representing unification. What's more, joining the fingers symbolize the 5 elements  (fire, wind, space, water and earth), the building blocks from which all is created. The placement of our hands is equally meaningful too. We can rest our thumbs on our sternum over our Anahata, heart chakra, the center of unconditional love and compassion. Or above the eyebrow center, Ajna, third eye chakra which deals with energy for spiritual reflection and insight. Furthermore, gracefully closing our eyes and bowing our heads helps us to honor the gesture with surrender, which we can either offer to another or to ourselves during Yoga practice and meditation.

On the surface, Namaste is a simple gesture, but when performed with intent and devotion, it embraces the highest manifestation of selfless honor, peace and love. Recognizing the one universal truth, that the life-force or Devine is within us all. How beautiful is that!

Although there are many meanings, they essentially convey the same message. And so in the spirit of embracing the meaning of Namaste, discover what it means to you, and then advocate it with devotion and serenity.

Namaste Yogis! AKA ‘the Divine light in me acknowledges the Devine light in you.’
Namaste Yogis


3 Ways to Empower Your Child with Yoga

empower-child-with-yoga
Children are busy little bees. Think how their lives have changed compared to when you were at school. Old school gadgets are going, technology is encouraged, and thanks to the internet they have access to lots more ‘stuff’. All this razzle dazzle plus pre and post school clubs to worry about. How often do kids get a moment to calm down and connect with their inner child?

I was recently invited to a summer fair and whilst I was setting up, focusing on creating a shanti environment a bunch of kids literally blew the doors open and stormed in. It was a tornado of hyperactivity. I was panicked, what to do, and please don’t dirty the mats I thought to myself. The solution was obvious really. The intention of the day was family fun, so I surrendered. I took my first kids Yoga class and well, it was sooo much fun!

Fun, a word we as ‘adults’ could do well to remember once in a while. Bring a little fun into your practice. If you have children, the school summer holiday is a perfect opportunity to get them involved by sharing what you love with whom you love the most.

Connect with your kids and inner child, when you do, making it fun will be child’s play. Here are some ideas to get those creative juices flowing.

 

Take it easy

Simplicity is the magic key. Not too much, not too tough, make it just right. Row your boat gently down the stream (Paripurna Navasana), spread your wings and fly like a butterfly (Purna Titli Asana), lie as still as possible in dead man’s pose (Savasana).

 

Tell a story

Make it up, get warmed up by marching to a magical land where people sit on invisible chairs (Utkatasana) and use your bow and arrow (Akarna Dhanurasana) to scare away the bad guys. Or, get inspiration from the mythology of the asanas. Take our beloved tree pose (Vrikshasana), a story of power, sorrow, beauty and love, when the demon King Ravana kidnapped Queen Sita.

 

Make it fun

Dress up or down, stay in your pajamas for extra comfy morning Yoga. Make some noise and ‘hiss’ like a cobra snake, ‘moo’ like a cow, ‘woof’ like a dog and wag that tail in downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).

You get the idea, get creative and use your imagination. Embrace your inner child and in a fun-loving way, teach your precious child. Who knows where the journey will lead.
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“All grown-ups were once children, but only few of them remember it.”
-Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

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Get Down with Your Dog

You might have attended a Yoga class where the teacher has passionately discussed an asana, followed by an awe inspiring demonstration, stating 'this is the final pose'. Of course a teacher’s intention is to guide and inspire us. Yet, governed by our state of spirit, mind and body, this can either dishearten or inspire us.

Let me level with you right now by admitting that I'm guilty of admiring Yogis who can put their heels on the ground in Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward-facing dog. The reason is simple, I haven’t got there yet…

One day during a Yoga class, I experienced one of those moments where I forgot to breathe and my ego reared its ugly head to challenge me. The class were asked to gather around my mat, then invited to critique my pose. One student suggested that I may never push my heels through the ground. This caused a healthy debate, to which I replied breathless from my pose ‘You may not be at peace with it, but I am’. A statement which intended to be funny was, actually, a barking retaliation from my ego (valuable lesson learned).

Here’s the thing. Adho Mukha Svanasana is technically a resting posture, one we find our way back to throughout many popular sequences. It works the entire body and therefore exposes our weaknesses. This gives us knowledge which we can use to seek our wisdom. So why not embrace downward-facing dog and make it your best friend?  On a physical level, some people will find grounding their heels in downward-facing dog a challenge from hunching their spine or having tight neck and shoulders. Some people may have muscle tightness, or skeletal limitations. On an emotional level it may well be linked to instability, fear or stress.

Downward-facing dog

We are unique living breathing creatures of the universe, not machines. Every time we step on the mat to practice Yoga, our poses will always look and feel different. It’s a rather striking point, which we all too soon forget.

In the spirit of greeting the challenge, here are some pointers to help tame your dog and bring those heels down.

  • Isolate your area of improvement eg; if it’s your shoulders, practice other poses in Pashchima Namaskarasana, reverse prayer pose
  • Pedal your feet each time you practice downward-facing dog and hold the pose for a tiny bit longer
  • Raise one leg up at a time to increase the stretch on each side
  • Bring the floor to your heels by rolling your mat or folding a few blankets
  • Shorten your stance by reducing the space between your hands and feet
  • Work with the wall, pushing your heels against the wall

The important factor regardless of whether you can or cannot root down your heels is practice with intent, and you will still get the same benefit from the pose. Use your mind and body to find the space you want to grow into. Space is infinite, and infinity is an abstract descriptor without limits and endless possibilities. So just remember to breathe, believe and be, knowing that with time dedication and practice it will come.


Villa Del Palma Loreto

Win a 5 day, 4 night Wellness Retreat in Baja California

Yogi Surprise has partnered with retreats around the world – from Jamaica to Costa Rica to Hawaii – and this month, we're sending one lucky winner to Baja California for an exclusive, ultra-wellness and healing getaway designed to realign body, mind, and spirit.

Inside the July Yoga Retreat at Baja California

Villa del Palmar is located on the eastern side of the Baja peninsula near the Bahía de Loreto National Park, which is home to some 800 species of protected marine life, including sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins. Here, a serene and beautifully maintained natural environment meets a "million-star" resort (rated #8 in the top 41 places to visit in 2011). With a focus on rest, relaxation, and wellness, the resort maintains a blissful, balanced atmosphere. As said by Claudine Riemer, director of the resort’s Sabila Spa and Wellness Center, “There is no better location for serenity, meditation and tranquility than Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. It is the perfect backdrop for yoga and meditation practice.”

  • 5 days, 4 nights at Villa del Palmar
  • Daily healthy cuisine
  • 1 Healing Consultation with a resident MD
  • 1 Healing water session
  • 4 guided yoga & meditation classes
  • 1 Sensorama session
  • 1 Aloe Vera private ritual session
  • 4 Juice therapy sessions
  • Unlimited Access to Daily fitness classes
  • 1 guided hiking tour
  • Unlimited access to hydrotherapy sessions
  • 1 Welcome Spa Kit
  • 10% off air travel from LAX to LTO when you book through Villa del Palmar

 Learn How to Win this Retreat >


Blossoming with Summer

 

Mother nature has her transcending routine. The sun sets and rises each day. With the summer solstice just passed, the apple trees branches hang low, bearing the weight of their fruit. It seems everything is in abundance: family, friends, food, sunlight, old hangouts, new hot spots, must do’s. Our senses, emotions and body all embrace the warmth which the summer season has to offer.

Welcome the summer with loving open arms. Give yourself (and yours) some love and stay top of your game this season. Here are just a few ideas to get you going...

Love Your BodyLove your body

 

1. TLC pampering:

Do things that make you feel beautiful and special.  This is an essential ingredient to loving your body, and keeping your temple in tip-top condition. Pamper yourself. Light candles, play some music, sing along if you wish. Fashion your favorite hair style, use your favorite Yogi Surprise products and use that perfume saved for special occasions. Feel special now, there’s no time like the present.

dress for success yogi2. Dress for success:

Add a splash of color in your daily wardrobe. It’s about feeling comfortable, gorgeous and confident all day long. Think chakra, think Anahata ‘Heart’ chakra, think green, the color of harmony, growth, abundance, and nature.

3 Food-loving:

Increase your vitamin and mineral intake by complimenting your diet which is a sweet seasonal fruit smoothie. Spinach, blueberries, coconut milk, with a pinch of honey and a pinch of cinnamon is my favorite.

Summer Yogi Camel Pose4. Strike a love body Yoga pose:

Pump up your lung capacity, stimulate your thyroid glands, whilst toning your abs and quads with full power Ustrasana, camel pose.

Love your mind

1. Set your intention

set you intentionHow do you like to start your day? We all have our ideal routine and experience shows us time and again that we reap the rewards when we proactively roll this into our lives. So take time out to organize your thoughts and create space. Summer always yields a busier schedule. You may have 101 things-to-do today, but what if you could only do 3? Set your intention, draw knowledge from your Yogi self and live a more mindful and intentional life.

2. Gratitude meditation

Unwinding after your day, pause for a moment in reflection. Quietly say, think or write down what you’re grateful for. Think of as many events or people as you can, big or small, it doesn’t matter, it’s the way you feel. As your gratitude grows, it gives rise to your inner joy and opens your heart. Try this just before bed and dream sweetly.
headstand summer yogi

3. Strike a loving mindful Yoga pose

Boost your mental power by practicing Shirshasana (head stand), the king of all asanas.

Love your energy

1. Eating

Eating can have a profound effect on our energy levels. The color from blue, purple and red berries, for example, comes from anthocyanins, an energy boosting powerful antioxidant.  Fiber from foods like nuts, beans, grains, fruit, assist to level out your energy levels and can aid your digestion.

2. Sleeping

Sleep, we all do it, we all need it, but do we get the recommended 7-8 hours a night? Getting a good night’s sleep helps our bodies to repair our heart and blood vessels and has also been connected to improving our memory. Yes, please I really need more restful, peaceful, sleep-full nights! Three things have become integral to my wind-down, bedtime routine:

  1. No caffeine after 3pm, ok 4-5pm at a push.
  2. No devices 1 hour before bed time.
  3. Writing down my hit list for the next day.

summer yogi inhale joy exhale love

4. Breathing

Awareness of breath connects body and mind to the present moment, to say it has enhanced my life is an understatement. I use this technique all the time and constantly advocate it to my loved ones. The next time you catch yourself having a ‘moment’ where your tension levels rise, check yourself and take a few moments to just breathe. Inhale peace, exhale love – dispel that negative energy.

5. Strike a energy giving Yoga pose

‘Soham’ is used to represent ‘Inhale’ and ‘Exhale’ and in Sanskrit actually means ‘I am that’. The next time you do Marjaryasana, cat pose, practice saying ‘Soham’ 10 times with your normal breath flow, then do another 10 rounds at a fast pace for an instant Yoga energy pick me up.

Love your karma

Karma in Sanskrit means action, work or deed. It is one of the four ancient paths of Yoga.  When we work and live our lives in a selfless fashion, we help other souls and ours too. Karma Yoga is the path of self-transcending action. A path we all walk, albeit unknowingly or mindfully. Take mindful action, smile, send a note of appreciation, be kind to someone you dislike. The results might just amaze you.

Love your environment

1. Home

Now is the time to get involved with that DIY you’ve been meaning to do. If it’s a beast, consider the fun you could have getting loved ones to lend a helping hand. Even the smallest things, such as changing your table setting to reflect the best of summer, can make a perky difference.
Get Outdoors

2. Outdoors

It’s blooming wonderful outside. There are lots of communities organising fabulous events, sporting events and activities, festivals in all shapes and sizes. If smaller crowds are you thing, bring it home. Connect with family and friends by hosting your own mini festival. A BBQ or picnic to celebrate the season is a great opportunity to get creative with your themes.

3. People Power

What a privilege it is to surround yourself with wonderful people. People inspire people, so get connected with others who make you feel good. Think shiny happy people.
eat seasonally yogi yoga summer

4. Eating seasonally

Take a leaf out of Ayurveda philosophy. Eating locally and seasonally helps to sustain and support your local environment. It can be more cost effective on your wallet and tastes far better too. Superfoods including corn, tomatoes, strawberries and peaches are bang in season right now. Enjoy!

5. Outdoor Yoga

summer yogi outdoor yogaWarmer, longer sunny days are perfect for a spot of outdoor Yoga. Suggest to your teacher hosting a class outside, or start a Yoga club with family and friends. Part of the fun is picking a Shanti spot and enjoying what you love in the heart of Mother Nature.

 

A YOGI’S GUIDE TO BLOSSOMING WITH SUMMERThe relationship you have with your-self will last a lifetime, so make it count and acquire, retain and invest your energy wisely. Identify the aspects in your life that carry less value. If you can cut them out or adjust your priorities, you’ll find more energy and less stress, pathing the way for love, light and happiness.

 


3 Effective Forms of Alternative Healing

3 effective forms of alternative healing

North America is a hub for diversity in all things, be they religious beliefs, race and culture, or forms of medicine used to treat various illnesses.

In our Western world, the more conventional type of healing comes from doctors who prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to cure the various ailments of life. If you’re sick, you are most likely to be given specific drugs, like antibiotics such as penicillin. And while this approach does work, there are considerably more ways to treat a human. These “alternative” methods of healing are actually ancient practices that have been proven to be just as effective, if not more so than traditional medicine.

Many alternatives to pharmaceuticals are derived from various Asiatic cultures, and are time tested as being effective. The biggest difference between Eastern and Western forms of healing is that while Western medicine tends to treat one aspect of the human body, Eastern medicine takes a more holistic approach to healing, meaning the treatment of mind, body, and soul all together. Thankfully these healing methods are taught in the U.S. and are growing ever more popular as time goes on.

So what are some forms of alternative healing, and how have they come to rise in our Western world?

Methods of Alternative Healing: New Age or Ancient Wisdom?

Naturopathy

Naturopathy is the most widely known practice of alternative medicine used in the U.S. It involves treating ailments using naturally occurring herbs and spices, rather than pharmaceuticals. The belief of naturopathy is that the Earth naturally provides remedies to fix a person’s ailments, as well as using techniques like yoga or meditation to make a person better. Instead of using man-made chemicals to treat an infection, one might be told to mix organic ginger, turmeric, apple cider vinegar and water together to form a healing tea.

Every herb or spice has a specific healing principle that can be applied. Making tea out of Valerian root and Lavender produces a natural sleep remedy. St Johns Wart and Turmeric have been proven to be effective for depression. Ginkgo Biloba is used to boost brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain, and it is also an antioxidant.

Herbology isn’t the only prevailing principle behind holistic medicine, though. The core belief behind holistic medicine is that if one part of a human is out of whack, such as a person being depressed, the entire system of a person is affected. When someone is feeling blue they are considerably more at risk of becoming sick. A holistic healer may tell a person to meditate, exercise more, and to find something to laugh about daily to cure their depression. What’s great is that it can really work, and a person doesn’t have to use drugs to fix their problems (which may have side effects even worse than the symptoms). Thousands of years of utilizing such healing methods have proven that there is merit to be recognized here.

Crystal Healing

Crystal healing is a type of medicine that many doctors and society itself scoffs at. This is because not everyone is willing to open their minds to accepting that it can work.

The technique of having someone place various stones on your body is called "laying of stones." By placing various crystals and gemstones on one’s person, the energies from the materials soak into your own personal energy field, affecting the flow of energy through your chakras. Every stone or mineral has its own purpose, such as how Rose Quartz is a pinkish gemstone that is used to promote love in a person’s life. These methods are considered by some to be “New Agey”, referring to the New Age spiritual belief system, which is ironic because knowledge of personal energy fields (chakras) is ancient.

Aromatherapy

Another ancient form of healing that is quite popular these days is Aromatherapy. With Aromatherapy, medicinal effects come from using the scent of incense and essential oils to change a person’s bodily functions, energies, emotions, and thoughts.

Personally, I prefer using essential oils, which are plant extracts used for different purposes. Some say that essential oils are the soul of the plants they are extracted from. After placing a few drops of essential oil into a diffuser, which is a heating element made specifically for releasing a scent into a room, smelling the oil affects the body in many ways. The scent of the oils or incense are absorbed through your mucous membranes and have been proven to be highly effective in treating ailments.

Open Your Mind

There are many more methods of healing a person’s body, mind, and soul, but what is most important in trying these remedies is simply having an open mind to different things. If you believe something will work then it will, but if you’re skeptical about something then your intention to disbelieve its use will manifest into being so. Keeping an open mind about alternative methods of healing can only help you. Be like the little engine that could, constantly saying to itself as it climbed up a hill, “I think I can, I think I can.” Your body believes what you tell it.