The sun must rise and the sun must set, where there is life there must be death.
Death is our greatest teacher – the equalizer. On earth we are all the same, but we try to make ourselves feel different, death reminds us of our identical nature. It is difficult, but learning to appreciate the beauty that is brought about by the closing of a life instead of focusing on the darkness is important for healing and growth. What else can we do? When reality doesn’t align with our expectations of ‘how things should be’ is when the real work of deeper consciousness begins. When events still challenge us emotionally we know there’s much more work to be done. Because I’m feeling challenged this week, I’d like to pass on another challenge to you: how are you behaving? How are you carrying out your days? How are you fostering your relationships? Ask yourself these three questions and say the answers truthfully aloud. If you’re feeling uneasy about the answers, now is the time to alter your course, to clean up, to mend, because whether you acknowledge it or not, each sunrise brings us closer to our final sunset and while you may envision yours to be way off in the distance, someone you love may be preparing for the darkness.
Forgive me if you also follow our Instagram account @LiveSeasoned and you saw this already today. I find myself coming back to these thoughts and re-reading this paragraph each hour as a reminder so I figured I would also post it in this sphere. Go be your best self this weekend, cherish this gift of life.
Howdy! Nine days until I fly to Ecuador and I can tell you, I’m not ready! I’m just beginning to pull out my backpack and lazily toss things inside. I’ll be in Ecuador for about two weeks. The first week, I’ll be attending and working at a yoga retreat. The second week, I’m planning on climbing a couple mountains. While packing, I always think back to this article and while I can’t pack quite as light as that couple, I’m really going to try to take only the bare minimal on this trip. I’ll need some equipment for trekking and a few gadgets for my photo work, but otherwise not much.
Hi booboos! This year is off to a lovely start. I enjoyed a warm and sunny new year celebration in Florida last weekend and this coming week I’ll drive to the arctic temps of Pennsylvania. The good news? I’ll be practicing and teaching yoga in Shamokin. Come hang with me!
It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.
The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads.
The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.
As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.
The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.
Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.
“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”
Hi friends! A couple weeks ago, I took a quick trip to Philadelphia to help my childhood friend move into her first home. As I’m waiting at the airport, I thought of another amazing friend and sent him a quick text, ‘hey, pick me up on your motorcycle!’ I totally expected the text to be the start of another conversation instead of an actual accepted invitation. A few hours later, I’m waiting at the PHL terminal and a shiny blue motorcycle pulls up. I’m handed a helmet, I swing my leg over the seat and we’re off, speeding down I-95 towards the city of Brotherly Love.
After an iced chai and a funny catch-up chat, we headed to his house in my old neighborhood, Fishtown. I sat down and looked over his prints from a recent trip to the UAE, Oman and Turkey. While I could have looked at them for hours, the photo editor in me flipped through them insanely fast only allowing a fraction of the photos to leave an imprint in my mind. I can still imagine them today. I’m excited to see how he uses my favorites, but also the images that I may have passed by too quickly. Photos are magical in that the way in which you use them can completely alter the image and message. Saleem has an uncanny ability to work with his photographs in this manner.
While I was shuffling through the images, I kept thinking of my childhood friend, Steph, the one I was supposed to be helping move in. I was torn in opposite directions, stay and hang out with Saleem who so kindly picked me up from the airport or rush off to Steph’s since she was expecting me. I hated the creeping feeling of guilt so after a quick pitbull play session and a few minutes of chill time in the backyard I said my goodbyes to Saleem.
Namaste. Ready for your yoga retreat? Freaking out because you’re so excited and don’t know what to pack? Sweet. I gotcha covered. You basically need nothing except a great attitude, but I’ll round out the list with a few other essentials.
Ever since posting about my experience at Rishikul Yogshala’s 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in Nepal, I received emails from prospective students asking, ‘WTF do I pack?!’ and the answer is so simple. You don’t need much. Imagine what you take to a yoga studio each time you go to practice. Imagine all the things you leave at home. Now pack accordingly.
Yoga Teacher Training / Retreat Packing List:
Full sized towel / yoga towel if you use one
Light blanket or sarong (this is really more of a travel in general must, but it’s very useful if your retreat is going to incorporate Yoga nidra or if you get cold during savasana.)
A few yoga outfits – whatever that means to you.
Slip on shoes – flip flops or something similar since you’ll be slipping in and out of your shoes each time you enter the studio.
A notebook and pen
A light read or an ipod with some calming tunes. Sometimes you’ll need to fall asleep (teacher training starts early!), but you’ll still feel energized from all the asana so bring a tool that drifts you off to dreamland.
A snack to quell hunger at inconvenient times. I usually take raw pine nuts, almonds or walnuts or a box of these fig bars.
Does sleep elude you? I’ve been there. Most times it’s due to stress or other irregular factors, but sometimes I just can’t fall the f*ck to sleep even if it’s imperative. First things first, put your damn phone down, unless you’re trying to sleep right now.. in that case, read on:
Read a book – reading is my first snooze move. Pick a book that you’d like to read, but is either a little bit beyond comprehension or slow moving. Whatever you do, don’t grab a nail-biter because then you’ll definitely be up all night. I usually pick up something by one of my heros, John Muir, when I want to induce drowsiness. His writings are basically a peek into his diary, interesting, but at times long winded and wordy. No offense Mr. Muir!
Write in a journal – if you’re not a big reader, try writing before bed. If I go this route, I usually jot down a quick recap of my day, while also mentioning what I plan to do the next day. Writing in a journal is an easy way to do a brain dump of sorts. Flush out anything you’ve been needing to say or express and leave it in your journal instead of your mind while you get ready for bed.
Breathing meditation – pranayama (sanskrit word for breathing) is an amazing tool for relaxation. Even if you’ve never tried pranayama before, you’re capable, it’s simply being mindful of the breath. Lay on your back with one hand on your heart and the other on your stomach. Take a deep belly breath in while you count to four, hold for two seconds then exhale long and slow for four seconds. Repeat this breath cycle without letting your mind wander, continuously focusing and counting your breath until you feel relaxed and ready to slip into a slumber.
Yoga nidra – yogis everywhere are probably rolling their eyes since yoga nidra is waking sleep and therefore one isn’t necessarily meant to snooze midway through, but I have to admit that I fall asleep nearly every single time. It’s actually a problem, but at least I’ve discovered a great way to drift off to dreamland. There are actually a few yoga nidra recordings meant to put you to sleep and here’s one that’s particularly good. Everyone is different though, so seek out recordings that speak to you and make you feel relaxed. Remember, you don’t need recordings specifically geared towards sleep since all nidras are calming and will likely put you into some type of trance state.
Conduct a full body scan – this is my favorite way to encourage sleep and something that I use quite frequently. Start by shaking out your limbs and settling down onto your mattress. Get comfortable. Mentally tell yourself to relax each body part, starting with a segment of the body and disecting it into smaller parts from there. It should sound something like this, “relax your right foot, relax your big toe, relax your second toe, relax your third toe, relax your fourth toe, relax your baby toe. Now relax the top of your foot. Relax the bottom of your foot. Relax the ball of your foot, the arch and the heel of your foot. Now relax your ankle, etc…” I recommend breaking down each body part as much as possible, but you can focus on larger part groups (ie the right leg instead of the right shin, calf, knee, back of the knee, etc) if sleep is less elusive for you.
That’s how it’s done folks! Fall asleep faster with these five natural nap inducers.
*Photo of a famous Sarah Schu power nap in a ridiculously dirty Malaysian guesthouse captured by Saleem Ahmed.
Happy Wednesday! Want to practice being mindful? I have a little list of books to get you started, or further you on your way, if you’re already a meditatin’ fool. Each time I post something on instagram that is introspective, I feel like I’m preaching a little bit. That makes me a little self conscious or unsure because I never know how you’ll react, but time and time again it’s been well received, therefore I can only assume you’d like to know more about being mindful since that’s where all these post stem from.
What does it mean to be mindful? To me, it means living life with intention and opening your awareness in the present moment without passing judgement. It’s kind of like being a screen door on a breezy day. There’s a lot going on outside the house as well as inside, but you’re simply an observer of both. You’re enjoying the breeze, feeling the sunshine or raindrops, but you’re not reacting to either, just enjoying the flow of life.
On the first Wednesday of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us. We’ll highlight some nature and environmental news, give you a bit of inspiration, and ask you to partake in a monthly sustainability initiative with us.
With all of the snow that’s falling, there’s no doubt that we’re definitely deep in the middle winter, yet the slowly growing days are making it all bearable. Did you join us during January in trying to reduce your salt/chemical use when clearing the snow? Katie spent a boat-load of time shoveling her Colorado driveway. All of that exercise was fueled by her afternoon milkshake habit!
This month we’re excited to share our new challenge as well as a bit of inspiration and some stories that caught our eye in the news.
PEOPLE! I’m officially a yoga teacher. What does that mean? Well, last night I registered and paid my dues with the Yoga Alliance. The Yoga Alliance is the largest nonprofit association representing the yoga community. Basically registering with the Yoga Alliance gives you credibility because they review your certificate of completion of course work and all that other good stuff. It’s a seal of approval and something to make you sound super official when you prance into a studio looking for a job. I haven’t started that part of the process yet, even though if you recall, one of my New Years resolutions was to teach a class by the end of January. Lay off, I have one more week!
Should I pursue a yoga teacher training?
With that mini hurdle (shelling out $105.00 for a figurative stamp of approval) out of the way, I’m feeling pretty official over here and I wanted to share my experience beginning to end with you just in case you’re contemplating a 200 hour course. First you have to ask yourself all those hard questions like, “Am I willing to put my body through mild forms of torture for 28 days?” “Am I that into yoga?” “Do I plan on teaching?” “Do I value my self practice enough to pay upwards of $2,000-$4,000 to improve it?” All these extremely valid questions that honestly, I did not ask myself until after I put down the $200 deposit with my school. I just went for it and then my mind threw all these questions at me immediately after I confirmed my payment method. That’s how I handle life altering decisions, you too?
What type of yoga? Which school? When?
Okay, so you’ve decided to pursue the training. The next step is figuring out the type of yoga, the school, and scheduling that’s right for you. What type of yoga do you enjoy and value most? What would you like to pass on to others? For me, this was simple, I absolutely love vinyasa flow yoga, which also falls under the ashtanga title. Basically it means linking the body movements with the flow of one’s breath. It’s fluid and beautiful and it’s the right type of yoga for me so there was no question that I would pursue a school specializing in ashtanga/vinyasa. Then I thought about scheduling, you can either take a course that meets every weekend for a few months (most U.S. schools offer this type of scheduling), a split course where you practice hard for two weeks, take a break, and then gather again for the final two weeks, or you could do it all in one shot, which is what I did, with a 28 day intensive 200 hour program. Scheduling comes down to your personal way of life; I knew I wanted to focus completely on the course, so I knew weekends wouldn’t be best for me. Last, but surely most important, you should think about where you’d like to be trained and who your yoga gurus will be. Do you have an allegiance to a specific studio? Have you been inspired by a particular teacher over the years? I knew I wanted to learn from people who lived a yoga lifestyle every.damn.day. not simply a fit individual who practices asana (the physical/exercise portion of yoga) three times a day. I was firm in wanting my yoga teachers to be of Indian decent, the birthplace of yoga. I wanted an authentic eastern experience so that the yoga I was being taught was as close to the source and truth as possible. Continue reading …