Sometimes I pretend that the steady stream of cars and buses on the busy, non-stop main road that runs right outside the house I’m currently living in is actually the sound of the ocean.
If I close my eyes and imagine hard enough, distance myself fully from the missing factors – salty air, a sea breeze, sand in nooks and crannies you don’t even know exist until there’s sand in them – it’s actually quite easy.
Caught between the need to create and the compulsion to propagate, sometimes these thoughts and other wild-but-tame ideas don’t go very much further than this. Imagining I’m actually in a tropical ‘paradise’ and not sitting mid-hurricane (or so they’re calling it) on a dreary day in Dublin might seem fairly fruitless, and yet to me it means that the course of inner exploration and healing work I’ve been on for the past 2 years or so now seems to be directly on course to succeed.
Depending on what ‘succeeding’ means to you.
To me, all it means is that at the moment, I’m balanced enough to allow my creativity to be put to good use instead of eating me up with incessant anxious thoughts or worries about things that happened yesterday or that might not happen tomorrow. It just means I’m pointed in the right direction for the next few hours.
And that is all I ever can hope to maintain.
(I also say ‘paradise’ in inverted commas here as I’m a firm believer that ‘paradise’ does not exist in one physical place, rather being a state of mind consisting of the right balance of factors, both internal and external, that at any given moment combine to give us an intense sensation of ease and wellbeing. But more on that later.)
What is ‘The Work”?
‘The work’, as I’ve put it here, is not merely a form of required duties, household help or course of up-skilling that most of us have come to associate with the word today.
The work can mean a variety of things to different people, and it takes a while to figure out what that is for you.
For me, ‘the work’ was the process by which I eased my anxiety for the first time. The work was that which helped me understand my own mind, helped me figure out exactly what makes me tick, why I am the way I am, why I’ve done the things I’ve done, felt the way I’ve felt and proceeded on the course I’ve taken in my 25 years up until now. The work is something which still helps me do this. Whether or not some of those decisions were good or not, the work, my ‘work‘, has just helped me understand it all. It helped me become conscious of my actions. I won’t list exactly what ‘my work’ involved, because it’s not just any one thing, and it’s not easy work either. It’s the tough stuff, it’s dealing with whatever life throws us, circumstantial or otherwise, and becoming accountable for it instead of ignoring it or hoping it will go away.
It’s a combination of things, which when engaged with over time and through the ups and downs of everyday life and work and relationships helps us to figure out how to implement them on any given day.
Simply put, I became aware of my needs, I became honest with myself about what was and wasn’t working, and then dedicated myself to slowly but surely adhering to what works as much and as frequently as I can.
Before going any further I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone I may have encountered during the course of this ‘work’ – anyone I may have misled, confused, hurt, hindered, irritated or in any way just bothered by being the way I am and neglecting social norms or expectations with this intense need to figure shit out or do things the way I needed to in whatever way it presented itself at that time. It wasn’t you. Really. It still isn’t.
It’s one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done and yet I uphold firmly that taking time for myself, not just one time that I was feeling particularly bad, but over and over again choosing to put my health first and to investigate the feelings I was having is the only way I’m still sitting here today to write this.
The terror and fluctuating levels of distress surrounding mealtimes, the general consistent low moods or occasional soaring heights of elation and 2am dance moves surpassed by none were all extremes that I was so used to inhabiting that any alternative middle ground seemed like an unattainable – for want of a better word – ‘paradise’.
For anyone who has any experience dealing with or trying to help someone with any mental illness, you’ll know that the intensity and details of these highs, lows, and panics in between can vary from person to person, and so it can be difficult to pinpoint what will or will not help in each instance.
Doing the Work
The work required to haul oneself out of said lows, down from these intense highs of bliss and misfitting euphoria, all at completely irrational things is not the kind of work you do once, and then it’s done. Oh no.
This work is something you must do Every. Single. Day.
When I started thinking of it more in terms of an actual responsibility, rather than a chore or something to be rewarded for, only then did I started noticing results.
I was responsible for my own mind, my own body, where it went and what it did and what it ate, who it interacted with, and how. On no one else’s shoulders was it if I did or said something I’d regret, ate something that didn’t agree with me or damaged myself in any way.
The work I was doing was keeping this all in check, staying hyper-aware of everything, editing and refining and re-routing whenever something felt off or when I noticed the sly familiar onset of bad thoughts and sneaky triggers that used to go unnoticed. It was so particular that I almost went to the extreme of over-doing the work, which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just in my nature – the blessing being that I realised and pulled myself up on this when it happened.
Because the results were not spectacular – they weren’t jump-in-the-air, high-five oh-my-god-look-at-me kind of results – I didn’t initially pay much heed. Because I was used to this immediate and intense end-result, the balance I was feeling honestly felt…boring.
Gradually I began to notice however that the middle ground, this place of feeling ‘actually kind of alright’ instead of ‘omfg I’m fucking DELIRAH’ or ‘I want to disappear’ kind of shite, was so much more sustainable. Not only that, but noticing that when I was in this state, everything seemed to just fall into place and work so much easier – work, friends, family, creative stuff, fun – whatever it was, everything responded positively to this balanced frame of mind, instead of the irrational, eccentric and anxious me that nobody really knew what to do with except hug and pour tea for and promise everything would be fine.
Try. Fail. Edit. Fine-Tune. Repeat.
Editing and fine-tuning your life, mind and environment to fit whatever works for you is the only advice I have to anyone currently attempting to overcome any kind of mental illness or maintain positive mental health in the face of life’s challenges.
Thinking of yourself independently of anyone else – taking advice and help, definitely – but not assuming it as fact or convincing yourself of its truth until you’ve proven it works for your unique set of circumstances.
Know yourself. Figure out what you like, what makes you feel GOOD, what makes you THRIVE.
Take a day, take a week, take a month. Try things, fail spectacularly. Try something else, maybe don’t fail so badly. Keep trying until something clicks – and I promise you, if you’re self-aware enough to know and follow up on something big needing to change – something will.
This process, these trial and error and ups and downs and pushing through pain and confusion and trusting that something positive is at the end of it all – this is the work.
This is what it means to be trying, to be living, to be constantly editing and refining our lives and thoughts like we redirect unpredictable and mischievous kids away from dangerous river banks or running out on the road.
It’s a constant, unwavering necessity that we must remain on top of even at the best of times, and it all boils down to self-awareness and knowing yourself, recognising triggers or runaway thoughts when they start to play mental movies or imagine unlikely scenarios or pretend that the cars you’re hearing are actually waves on a beach a thousand miles away…you get what I’m trying to say.
Pull yourself up on it.
My particular combination of ‘work’ (even a glance at this blog might give you an inkling as to some of what it involved for me *cough*
yoga *cough* writing *cough*) will more than likely not suit anyone else exactly. Just as someone else’s course of action wouldn’t have worked for me. I just followed the positive stuff, whatever that was, wherever I could, and did it as much and as often as it felt right to. I still do. Staying aware, staying alert, re-routing whenever signs of the ‘fuzzy head stuff’ (as I like to call it) surface and just knowing that all it takes is a little bit of concentration, time and awareness ’til the next move or feeling becomes clear.
Creating my own sense of rational ‘paradise’ in every day is how I see the balancing out of this tendency of mine to overthink, to worry, and to believe the negatives. Maintaining balance and using it as a foundation to move forwards and continue building on what I’ve already worked for is how I see myself now, and I just wanted to share a little bit about what worked for me to help anyone struggling to see past what might seem like a mountainous road of ‘work’ ahead – baby steps.
Start by just turning inwards. Forget about the external stuff – other people, expectations, comparisons and past events – even this is part of the work. Everything is part of it. Everything is important, and don’t ignore or belittle any aspect of what you have to bring to the table because I promise you – the world needs it. The world needs all the self-awareness and positivity it can get right now, and that boils down to each individual playing their part right, using their unique talents and passions and more importantly, believing in them.
Focus inward, focus on you, and the rest has a funny way of falling into place.
Do the work. It’s worth it.
How Yoga Helped Me Understand and Battle My Anxiety & Eating Disorder
I’ve used the word ‘battle’ here in relation to Anxiety and Eating Disorders as it kind of suggests a war or struggle of some sort against a relentless evil foe. Think of it as an enemy that freezes its victims (or in this case, rational thoughts) on impact. It’s clever. It uses a great deal of sly trickery and downright nasty deceit to make them think they’re friends. It uses whatever means necessary to come out on top.
Imagine now that these rational, logical thoughts (the ones that KNOW you’re actually early for the train and that despite your premature panic and resistance, you will in fact be hungry for dinner tonight) get slowly beaten down by this army of inaccurate thoughts. Bit by bit, repeated thought by reinforced belief that the train isn’t worth running for anyway – nobody will miss you, they begin to win.
The more battles or thoughts this stream of violent hate, self-harm (because that’s what it is) is allowed to win, the more land it conquers.
That land being your mind. Your body. Your LIFE.
I don’t need statistics at this stage to make people aware that anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other rampant mental illnesses are THINGS. They are as real as the hearty belly-laughs you have with your best friend; they are as ruthless as cancer cells, and they are as damaging and genetically shared through generations as heart disease. Call it disease of the mind, if you will – mental illness is an epidemic of modern society.
Why so, have we been drawn to ancient teachings and practices in order to deal with it? Are there no modern-day cures for a restless, reckless mind, or have we created and developed our world even faster than the mind can function (and the mind works pretty fast), forgetting to place the same importance on making sure we can keep up with it?
Yoga is not just a fancy fitness trend that makes you bendy and toned, and if that’s the sole reason you do it then please, do not call yourself a yogi. I hate overly-outspoken statements such as that, but I feel too strongly about this to continue otherwise.
To clarify; yes, yoga has physical benefits.
It’s also true that a lot of people find yoga through a desire to improve their physical appearance/fitness – not through a need to understand, to be calm or be still.
But yoga for me started at a time when I was not allowed to partake in physical exercise.
I was exposed to it properly for the first time during a course of treatment in a clinic for eating disorders. An eating disorder that I have since come to understand came about as a massive and excessive manifestation of anxiety that fixated itself on food, exercise, weight, the roundness of my cheeks, and various other body parts that needn’t be hated upon. All of my anxiety went there, all of the time. All of my energy, all of my thoughts. All of my life.
It consumed me to the point where my body began consuming itself to make up for lost nutrients (a dark enough metaphor to use but how else do you explain fat and muscle cells disappearing to provide for a weakening body and soul that’s just trying to keep on existing?). All other aspects of my life suffered – relationships, work, everything. Anxiety was winning. Every mealtime, it won again.
As such, I was forbidden to even use the stairs apart from necessary (and often accompanied) trips to the bathroom, where no doors locked, no razor blades were permitted, and no knives in the kitchen were sharp enough to cut through more than a full-fat chunk of butter.
Understandably enough, all exercise and movement was monitored, and I won’t lie when I say I jumped (several times) at the chance to do sneaky sit-ups whenever I could, the anxious food-demons in my head cackling at the notion of being able to avoid gaining even an extra pound.
Imagine my disgust, therefore, when the slow, meditative, restorative and introspective Yin Yoga practice we got to share every Tuesday afternoon didn’t require much more than a raised eyebrow and a pillow to rest my anxious head on.
I had to rest and do nothing while my mind ran marathons around me. I had to breathe in and feel my stomach actually getting bigger. I had to ‘relax’ while internally I was going over every stupid, ridiculous and embarrassing thing I’d ever said or done, and every bite of every meal I’d tried to convince myself was the last one I’d ever let past my lips.
I had to lie there and BE IN MY BODY.
It was terrifying.
While I was lying there, while I was listening to my heart pound in my chest as it tried to help my body digest the mountainous breakfast I’d convinced myself I wouldn’t make it through……something happened.
Something very small, but all the same, something worth noting.
Again, to clarify;
There was no ‘Eureka!’ moment. There was no revelation of being ‘cured’, or sudden rainbow of happiness and pretty flowers and unicorns and stars.
I didn’t feel that I’d been ‘fixed’.
What WAS there after the final Savasana and restful bow of the head however… was a very soft, and very subtle sense of something that maybe, just maybe, the world and the things and my thoughts and my resistance and battling with this crippling anxiety that had overtaken first my mind and then my body….it all didn’t have to be so difficult.
It didn’t have to be this way.
There was an alternative.
When we’re in a state of intense and acute anxiety, no other perception or state of mind seems possible. It simply doesn’t exist. It’s like a parallel anxious universe where every movement is magnified and analysed and given meanings and subcontexts and justifications that go so deep that you truly start to believe them. They become ingrained in your being. I believed I was fat. I believed I was worthless. I believed that eating a slice of toast would mean I was ugly.
Yoga simply helped me start to notice this.
By presenting me with an alternative – a state of being and consciousness where I DIDN’T want to run a mile from every mirror and avoid eye contact with people I genuinely liked, where I didn’t over think and assume and avoid – yoga opened up a whole new way for me to interact with the world. It helped me begin to see my body as a vehicle for which to do so, and as such something which I should take care of and use to the best of my abilities and talents to manifest my multitudes of ideas and notions into the world.
It made all the anxious thoughts quiver in an ironic fear that some of the energy they were currently being fed was now slowly but surely shifting towards productive, helpful and creative paths. I became aware of this alternative state to exist in. My brain began creating new neurological pathways that didn’t lead towards destructive behaviours and thoughts, but rather to hopes and ideas, and positive change.
The more I returned to that state of awareness…ie, the more yoga I did, the easier it got to stay there. I left the clinic. I joined a yoga studio. I took matters into my own hands and made my food and ate it and meditated to calm the anxiety. I meditated before the anxiety arose. I did yoga more and more and got stronger and stronger and noticed even more acutely when and where and how anxiety still arose when it did. Mealtimes, mostly, but as I developed a relationship with it (me and my anxiety, how romantic!) I began to notice it manifesting in other areas of my life where it might not have been quite as destructive, but where it arose nonetheless.
I may be strong, I told myself, but anxiety is still a force to be reckoned with.
It still is. Probably always will be. Even after the whole ‘recovery process’, after travelling alone, after going through teacher training and now teaching classes on a regular basis, anxiety STILL rears it’s ugly head far more often than I’d like to admit. But I feel I now have the tools to match it in it’s intensity and relentlessly crafty ways of manifesting into my life.
It was a slow process, and definitely didn’t happen overnight or even over a couple of months…but I like to think I’ve come a long way. Yoga helped me cultivate the awareness necessary to bring about the change I needed, to face anxiety in battle when it decides to attack….and for that I’m forever grateful.
Exploring our Potential to Take Action
– Young activists growing up in Bali are proving that age should not and does not limit our potential to take action – in fact, it should work as an incentive to achieve and maintain change for a better future.
It’s been scientifically proven that we humans use only 10-20% of our potential brain capacity on a daily basis. That’s 10-20% spent thinking about and processing daily events, chores, activities, interactions and relationships, analysing, solving problems, and dealing with whatever life throws at us. I think it’s safe to say that we manage all of that pretty well, considering such a low percentage of our potential energy barely gets used in the process, don’t you?
Imagine what that other 80-90% could do. Imagine where we could go as human beings, as intelligent creatures with the ability to take action, to change, do, build, move and create.
That’s what these kids are using. Exploring their potential within the world to make a difference and change things they noticed were not quite right. Intelligent businesses with solutions that not only aim to fix problems, but spread awareness of them too.
The instigators of Bye Bye Plastic Bags, Nalu, and Kids Cut Conflict Palm Oil, all below the ripe old age of 16, are taking action as children to create a better future for themselves and their fellow young people. They’ve chosen to take action and change the way things are unfolding, environmentally, socially, and educationally. What has inspired them to do so? How have they achieved such levels of success?
Teamwork, Support, and Clear Goals
Dali Schonfelder, co-founder of Nalu, described the importance of teamwork and firm foundations in order to take action, asserting that “the team you build around you is so important”. Together with her younger brother Finn and consistent support from their father, she has instigated and maintained clothing brand Nalu’s success, with a policy of ‘Get one give one” in order to provide school uniforms for under-privileged children in India. These are realisations, actions and words of wisdom that are inspiring to hear from someone at such a young age, and a drive to make a difference that surpasses many older business owners of her kind.
The young siblings’ recent 4-month trip in promotion of the brand has taken them already to India, New York, Amsterdam, and London. Nalu’s aim, to ‘break the poverty cycle through education’ has allowed them to access and experience societies beyond those of the normal day-to-day routine, providing valuable insights for themselves, their peers, and for the children they are helping into realising the value of accessing potential, and taking action in the face of adversity. The exciting thing about Nalu is that this is just the beginning. Since co-founding the company, Dali has begun to explore and utilise her passion for fashion to promote the brand further, even securing a meeting with Donna Karan (of DKNY) in New York a few months ago, to tell their story.
Passion, Patience, and Presentation
The importance of being passionate about the work you set out ahead of you is part of Dali’s motivation, knowing that a clear aim and drive to succeed is vital to achieving any kind of goal. She describes how “Nalu started off so slow. It grew really organically, which I feel is so important to this kind of business. You can’t force it.”
The significance of not forcing ideologies on people, rather presenting them with alternative and more effective methods of achieving things is crucial if we are to evolve the way we interact with our environment and fellow human beings. Having the patience and initiative to try these new methods and appreciate the gradual changes as they occur, instead of forcing or expecting immediate change. Many of the issues we face in today’s world stem from years and generations of negative ideologies, habits and practices, therefore it makes sense that a generation may need to pass before we see any pertinent changes. That is why these young people’s actions and success is so exciting.
Goodbye Plastic, Hello Action
In a similar story, Melati and Isabel Wijsen of Bye Bye Plastic Bags began a campaign 3 years ago to raise awareness about the worsening issue of pollution and plastic misuse in Bali. They set a goal to eliminate the use of all plastic bags on the island by 2018, and to date have achieved an astonishing success rate, given a TED talk at TED Global in London, travelled around the globe and enlisted the support of thousands in an online petition.
Humble Beginnings and Problem-Solving
An idea that started out as a humble Facebook page gradually grew and garnered attention from their peers and older generations alike, the girls described how all of a sudden ‘there was no going back’ – Bye Bye Plastic Bags was happening.
When asked if the success of the organization has changed the way the girls approach problem-solving, their response was unanimous – ‘ Of course it has….we have learned a lot….nothing is impossible for us”. This self-belief and confidence is just one of the many attributes of successful businesses and campaigns – it’s an attribute that lessens the risk of failure for any action taken.
The foresight and clear goals of these young people is truly inspiring and would encourage people of any age hesitant to pursue their own ideals to do so. Regardless of age, these young Balinese activists have a clear perception of their place and purpose in the world – something many adults still struggle with today. Taking action at such a young age is an exciting and admirable trait which leaves us with a hopeful impression for the future. As Melati and Isabel have stated; “Kids are only 25% of the population, but we are 100% of the future”.
Using Resources Wisely
Kids Cut Conflict Palm Oil is yet another group of enthusiastic young activists living in Bali who have taken initiative to act upon an issue they felt passionately about. The pollution from farmers employed by palm oil companies illegally burning their waste has led to smog and a wealth of issues involving the destruction of rainforests and natural habitats. Another group of youngsters who have studied with initiatives such as Green School Bali, these kids have been provided with the tools necessary to explore their potential, to generate a desire to take action, and the ideas with which to do so in a modern way their fellow young people can resonate with.
Kids Cut Conflict Palm Oil uses online platforms to spread awareness of products which contain conflict palm oil, and encourages kids to share their findings with one another both online and in the community. Through their online campaigns they’ve successfully promoted awareness of the damage of using conflict palm oil not just amongst their peers, but also older generations.
Bali’s Young Active Community
It’s curious that these new ideologies and stories of children achieving goals many Western adults have only dreamed of all stem from the same tiny island in Indonesia. Bali’s notoriety has been afforded further credibility with each success story, all of these young activists currently attending school here and growing up surrounded by initiatives dedicated to the preservation of the environment and promotion of health, wellbeing, and more rounded, authentic lifestyles. It’s enough to make any of us Western blow-ins green with envy at having not been exposed to such valuable life lessons at such a young age. Most of us who are now aware of this potential have had to go in search of it.
Imagine what these young people will be doing in ten years time? Imagine the kids they will have and inspire to continue their work, investing time in ideas that start out small, and nurturing them to grow into something beautiful. This is how Bali has proven such a successful fertilizing ground for ventures such as these. We need people who are open to trying new things, exploring innovative ways of problem-solving to address issues that have been plaguing society for generations, and that will continue to shape our world and our future if we fail to address them. Taking action in today’s world is vital if we are to create a better future to live in, and it’s inspiring to see these children taking matters into their own hands, instead of waiting for someone else to solve the problems.
If these young activists have proven anything, it’s that age is but a number, and it’s never too late or too early to start taking action and making a difference.
“You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know,
and YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go”
– Dr. Seuss, “Oh The Places You’ll Go”
I’m going to be bluntly honest here.
I come from a sheltered society where we were brought up very much in fear of the outside world and what it could potentially do to us, not for us. It’s an inherited anxiety about every little thing; a fear and ‘what-if’ kind of apprehension. It drains energy from the very notion of a thing before it’s even allowed cautiously come to fruition.
If it even makes it that far.
It kills creativity with a simple ‘oh God, no, that wouldn’t work’.
It silences yearnings for more fulfilling jobs or careers with ‘oh, I’m not good enough for that’.
It quenches a thirst for adventure and change with a degrading, belittling, and self-deprecating ‘I wouldn’t be able for it.”
It’s exhausting. It’s not fair.
It’s holding us back.
After finally recognising it for what it is – which did not come easily – I’ve now come to see this need for comfort and familiarity as a hindrance, instead of as a safety blanket.
Because that’s what it’s used as.
A safety blanket. A crutch. An excuse.
An excuse for things to remain as they are, even if ‘as they are’ is inherently less fulfilling than where that little part of our brains briefly tunes into every time a plane passes overhead, or we hear about entrepreneurs generating millions from one tiny idea.
(I’m not going to list examples of people like this, because at this stage, there are millions.)
It genuinely saddens me to hear my friends and family limit themselves with this fear; this anxiety; this assumption that the world is against them and that nothing outside of the little miserable bubble they’ve drawn up for themselves could ever possibly exist. Regularly admitting to their misery. Regularly stating dissatisfaction, frustration, wishing for another lifestyle, job, skill, or situation.
It saddens me because it’s so preventable.
We’ve been taught to ‘suck it up’, to ‘just accept it’, and are sometimes even seen as ungrateful for rebelling against the idea that what we get is all we’ll ever have.
Why not go and change it?
This mindset is so hilariously limiting that I’m no longer shocked when I hear of people my age doing things and taking risks older generations would genuinely shit their pants to consider. I’ve had my fair share of reckless rebellion, too. What else can be expected after generations of creative, emotional and mental suppression? One extreme will always warrant it’s opposite, and Irish society is still coming to terms with repercussions of living within rigidly adhered-to regulations.
We’re now moving from the phase of questioning our stifled customs, to actually acting to change them and as with any societal shift, it’s going to take a while. We need to start taking ourselves places, instead of waiting for society, or more independent, ‘successful’ (whatever that means), competent or qualified friends and acquaintances to show us the way.
We deserve to be happy. We deserve to live colourfully, originally, and without fear. We deserve to enjoy the fuck out of our short time in these bodies and this world.
A bit of trial-and-error is the only way to do this, and by being afraid of the ‘error’, we’re only proving that we’re afraid of progression itself.
Envision where it is you want to go, what it is you want to do, and start putting things in place for yourself to get there. It could be anything, and nothing is impossible. Just try. If I can do it, you can…one little baby step at a time.
As Samuel Beckett wisely stated:
‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’.
10 Yoga Retreats for Adventure Addicts
(-by Octavia Drughi)
If you’re anything like me, then you probably have trouble staying in one place for too long and repeating the same patterns day after day. It’s easy to get stuck in a routine. As a yoga practitioner with itchy feet, I often find myself struggling to create a balance between the static and dynamic movements in my exercises as well as in my everyday life.
A yoga retreat isn’t all about the poses – it can be an adventure-packed holiday that can teach you to listen to your body and get in touch with your inner self. After all, is there any better way to keep track of our progress than by pushing our limits, both mentally and physically? If you too are considering changing your approach, look no further! The team at BookYogaRetreats.com has put together a list of adventure yoga retreats that will inspire you to take the bull by its horns and finally surrender to your senses.
Five-Day Budget Climbing and Yoga Retreat in Portugal
Climbing in Sintra, Portugal (Courtesy of sintraclimbingtours.com)
Join a community of outdoor enthusiasts in the mystical forests and hills of Portugal’s Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, near the world-class surfing destination of Praia Grande. The surroundings provide the perfect backdrop against which yoga and outdoor adventure will help you clear your mind and let go of your worries.
Embark on this five-day adventure yoga retreat in Portugal and enjoy daily yoga classes and climbing courses on an active holiday! Within a 30-mile (50 km) radius, there are 40 climbing spots to explore, all in the safe hands of certified instructors. The retreat is excellent for beginners taking their firsts steps outside the climbing gym, as well as for those who simply want to improve their technique and spice it up with yoga and meditation.
Besides climbing, there are plenty of optional outdoor activities to choose from – surfing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding and a one-day trip to Lisbon.
Eight-Day Snow, Outdoor and Yoga Retreat in Austria
This snow, wellness and yoga retreat in the heart of the Austrian Alps combines skiing and snowboarding with Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Yin yoga and AcroYoga. Not to mention there’s a Thai massage class included!
A cozy farmhouse with open fireplaces, indoor climbing gym and wellness area will be your home. DIGGL Climbers and Freeride Farm in the mountain village of Ginzling in Tyrol offers just about anything nature and adventure addicts could ask for thanks to its vicinity to numerous trails and hiking routes. During your eight-day stay, you will learn about snow conditions and avalanche safety, while freeriding with a mountain guide.
Four-Day Mountain Activities and Yoga Retreat in France
Perfect for a long weekend getaway, a traditional alpine lodge in the Alpine town of Morzine in southeastern France welcomes outdoor lovers with plenty of land and water-based activities. Daily morning Vinyasa yoga sessions and mindfulness workshops will prepare you for an active day.
The highlights of this four-day yoga retreat in France are the stand-up paddle board yoga classes and the guided mountain treks. The home-cooked vegetarian menu with morning superfood smoothies is definitely worth a mention. Plus, there are plenty of activities, included and optional, to help you get the best out of the great outdoors of the French Alps – kayaking, snowboarding and skiing, picnic by an alpine lake and walks along the Morzine River.
Six-Day Adventure and Yoga Retreat in Croatia
Great for couples where one is into yoga and the other is into adventure sports, this six-day adventure and yoga retreat in Croatia will teach you about Five Elements yoga in a unique way. Located in between the historical center of the picturesque city of Rovinj and the scenic beaches of the Istria peninsula, the Five Elements Guesthouse will be your home away from home.
Learn about five elements yoga with daily morning asanas and meditation. Each day, extend your knowledge by getting closer to each element. On Earth day there will be hiking tours and cave explorations. Air day will feature windsurfing. Fire day brings you biking tours and campfire gatherings. Water day will take you on a kayaking tour of the Rovinj islands. Last but not least, yoga and meditation will be the main focus on spirit day.
Eight-Day Mountain Biking and Yoga Retreat in Slovenia
Mountain biking in Slovenia – Photo by Darko Pevec
What do yoga and mountain biking have in common? How about balance, focus, determination and continuous movement? Stay in a chalet in the town of Luče in northern Slovenia, near the Austrian border, a one hour’s drive from capital Ljubljana. Explore the surroundings on daily mountain biking tours through the Slovenian Alps and return home a better you!
This eight-day mountain biking and yoga retreat in Slovenia is bound to relax your mind and rejuvenate your spirit. The morning yoga session will warm you up for the mountain biking ride ahead. And as there’s only so much excitement we can handle in one day, afternoon yoga classes come to our rescue to ease our spirits, relax our muscles and create an ambiance in which we can reflect upon our day.
Eight-Day Rock Climbing & Ashtanga Yoga Retreat in Spain
DWS in Mallorca – Photo by Craig Hiller
A 13th-century mansion overlooking the beach will be your home throughout this eight-day climbing & Ashtanga yoga retreat in Mallorca. Kept by the same family throughout the centuries, the medieval lodge offers first-rate bedrooms, a lovely yoga room, swimming pool, large terrace and two living rooms with fireplace.
Considered Europe’s best Deep Water Solo (DWS) destination, Mallorca is a world-class climbing venue with routes of every grade and style. Deep Water Solo, also known as Psicobloc, is a form of rock climbing practiced above a body of water that is deep enough and without any obstacles (e.g. submerged rocks) to support a big plunge. The climber uses no rope or safety equipment, just a pair of climbing shoes and chalk. Any fall is cushioned by the water beneath. The retreat’s rock climbing classes will be held by renowned climber and DWS pioneer Miquel Riera.
Eight-Day Patagonia Yoga Retreat and Outdoor Adventures
What makes a perfect retreat? A bunch of things – teachers, location, fellow participants and outdoor activities, just to name a few. Make each day a special day with this eight-day yoga and outdoor adventure retreat in Chile. Spend the first night in Punta Arenas, the capital of Chile’s southernmost region, and the rest in EcoCamp Patagonia, in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park.
The camp’s geodesic domes are set in the middle of Patagonia’s wilderness and are an excellent starting point for a number of one-day walks. Participants will hike to Milodon Cave, Grey Glacier, Lazo Weber and Towers Base. They will mountain bike to Lagna Azul. There will be daily yoga and meditation sessions, as well as optional trips, including a visit to the neighboring port town of Puerto Natales.
Eight-Day Rock Climbing and Yoga Retreat in Greece
Climbing Leonidio, Greece (Courtesy of UKClimbing.com)
Learn to overcome your fears through meditation and rock climbing! This eight-day climbing and yoga retreat in the Peloponnese is more than a getaway, it is a journey of self-discovery. The road trip will take you along the Peloponnesian coastline to visit some of the best climbing spots in the area. Are you a beginner, or do you wish to brush up your climbing skills? Everyone’s invited!
Climbing Leonidio, Greece (Courtesy of UKClimbing.com)
Just like yoga, rock climbing is a communion between body and mind. The stronger the connection, the better the results. Throughout your stay, daily Hatha yoga sessions will help improve your balance and focus. Rock climbing sessions at the crags near the bohemian towns of Nafplio and Leonidio, as well as at the recently developed crags in the seaside village of Kyparissi, will teach you to calm down and learn to focus on your goals.
Eight-Day Empowerment Adventure Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica
Balsa River rafting – Photo by Nigel Burgher
Located right outside of the small city of La Fortuna, at the foothills of the Arenal Volcano, the eco-friendly Hotel Kokoro’s cottages and wooden cabins are surrounded by volcanoes, lagoons, hot springs and waterfalls. It seems like too much to do and too little time in just eight days, but this adventure yoga retreat in Costa Rica begs to differ.
Here’s how your stay will look like: morning and afternoon yoga and meditation sessions, the rest of the day filled with outdoor activities – guided treks in the Arenal Volcano National Park, walks along Rio Celeste, hikes in Tenorio National Park, visits to Cerro Chato Volcano. Wait, there’s more! A safari float trip on the Peñas Blancas River, rafting the Balsa River, swimming in a lagoon and relaxing in the thermal waters of the Tabacon River will leave you feeling empowered indeed.
21-Day Fitness Trek and Yoga Retreat Nepal
Who hasn’t heard the stories, seen the movies, read the books and dreamed about reaching Himalaya’s dizzying heights themselves?
Wildfire Expeditions offers yoga and adventure addicts the chance to trek a part of the famous Annapurna Circuit Route. The active retreat begins and ends in Kathmandu, and you will spend your nights in Nepal’s capital, in Pokhara and at different teahouses along the route.
Trekking Annapurna – Photo by Sung-Joo Choi
Get ready for seven days of trekking stunning trails through rhododendron forests, reaching a maximum altitude of 11,646 ft (3,550 m) in Manang village. There will be daily Hatha yoga sessions – sunrise yoga to fire up the core and evening practices will relax and stretch your legs after your walk. You will hike the foothills of Annapurna, passing through ancient villages and orchards, visiting Buddhist temples and watching incredible sunsets, all the while gazing at the snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Immerse yourself in Nepal’s traditions and culture during this 10-day trekking and yoga retreat in Nepal. Tone your body and mind, boost your metabolism and enrich your spirit.
Yoga can feel pretty static at times, and there’s nothing like an adrenaline rush in the great outdoors to restore the balance. Just remember that yoga in itself is an adventure, an endless one of self-discovery.
“Octavia Drughi is a travel writer for BookYogaRetreats.com. A wanderer, yogi and adventure lover, Octavia’s number one addiction is rock climbing, which she embraces as a form self-expression. To her, climbing and yoga are the dance of life itself.”
5 Great Places to Practice Yoga in Dublin
Right so, yoga in Dublin is on the up, the bandwagon (or brightly coloured mat) has caught your eye, and it looks tempting.
I’m not going to be preachy here, I’m just going to lay it out as it is – yoga is great. For mental health, for physical wellbeing, for anyone who has ever struggled with recognising their own worth and needs a bit of coaxing to help them realise that we’re all entitled to live happily and to enjoy the fuck out of life and our bodies.
Why not start now?
Here’s a (very)shortlist of some of my favourite places in Dublin to practice yoga, in no particular order.
1. Yogahub, 27 Camden Place
It makes sense for me to start with the place where I quite literally fell (over) for yoga. A happy accident and surge of caffeine-fueled confidence led me here one blustery day when I was in desperate need of re-centering, and Matt, Jenny and all the staff of Happyfood have yet to see the back of me!
A friendly atmosphere coupled with classes to suit all levels and timetables, a fabulous team of creative teachers and not to mention yummy vegan food for after class at Happyfood, Yogahub have got a great thing going for themselves. Weekly workshops focus on various aspects of the yoga practice and teacher training courses are also available! Classes do tend to fill up fast so I’d recommend booking ahead. They also organise outdoor yoga in Stephen’s Green/Dartmouth Square during the Summer (header pic above).
Weather depending, obviously!
2. Samadhi, Cow’s Lane, Templebar
A stone’s throw from Dublin’s cultural hub in the centre of Templebar, Samadhi on Cow’s Lane is a haven amidst the chaos of tourist-clogged cobblestones. Offering a variety of yoga classes from Ashtanga, to Iyengar, Mysore and Kundalini, Samadhi is a great place to try out a new yoga style in a relaxed and friendly environment.
They also run teacher trainings and regular workshops, offer a variety of massages and therapies, have another studio based in Drogheda – and are situated right opposite the Queen of Tarts! Winner!
€10-€17 (Depending on class duration)
3. YogaDublin, Ranelagh/Dundrum
These guys have two yoga centres in Dublin, one in Ranelagh and one in Dundrum, handy for ye green-liner Luas folks. Both studios are very well equipped and offer a range of classes of both yoga and pilates, including pregnancy yoga. YogaDublin offers various massage & holistic treatments, stocks a range of Irish products in their reception and facilitate teacher trainings too!!
4. Dublin Holistic Centre, South William St.
Home to more than just yoga, the Dublin Holistic Centre on South William Street (above Tropical Popical!) boasts a huge variety of holistic treatments, classes and courses to suit your needs. Between yoga, pilates, reiki, tai chi, acupunture, massages, and much more, you’re sure to find a session that appeals. The yoga studios are beautifully spacious high-ceilinged rooms with hard wooden floors, twinkly lights and all equipment provided.
Check their latest timetable here, and the website for details of the current sessions on offer.
Yoga: Drop in €10
With a focus on promoting health and wellbeing for all the family, Elbowroom in Stoneybatter hosts a huge variety of classes and workshops, yoga styles and classes. One of the only centrally based yoga studios to offer kids yoga, Elbowroom also provides other kinds of fitness classes such as dance, zumba, and pilates, and holds regular workshops & trainings. This includes continued-education trainings intended for existing yoga teachers/trainees to deepen their practice.
Drop in: €10-€16 (dependant on duration & concession)
What Are the Doshas??
Some of us may have a vague inclination as to what the 3 doshas are, however it’s rare we get the opportunity to delve deeper into our individual constitution. In this series of blog posts we hope to help you understand further what it means to be a Vata, Pitta, or Kapha type, and also what this means in terms of your daily habits, tendencies, and unique composition.
The Doshas and Ayurveda
Ayurvedic medicine holds that each of the three doshas is a dominant force of energy which circulates the body and determines our physiological activity. Each Vata, Pitta, and Kapha manifest themselves differently in terms of our temperment, physical constitution, and general disposition, while also determining extremity of various physical and mental disorders.
In his book ‘Yoga and Ayurveda‘ David Frawley outlines how our entire life and perception of existence is based upon the interplay (or ‘dance’) of the three doshas. He explains that Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are in constant motion with our internal and external environment, ensuring our continued engagement with the world around us.
Our conditions of health, disease, growth and ageing all occur as a result of or in relation to certain movements or dominance of our doshas – elements of which are present in everyone. While one dosha is always dominant in each individual, we each contain elements of all three, and it is the relationship and dynamics of co-habitation of these doshas within us that keeps us moving, keeping awareness and change within constant reach.
Once a Vata, Always a Vata??
Ayurveda defines people as either Vata, Pitta or Kapha according to the dominant traits of each which are present in the body, many of which occur as the result of prolonged habits, altering bodily constitution over time to mean the individual is inclined towards one dosha. It is with this understanding of the individual composition that we can understand how the dominant dosha of an individual can alter over time, and will not necessarily remain the same forever.
The Doshas and Yoga
In terms of yoga, the correct assessment of a persons’ dosha can help to ensure correct practice and outline the personalized type or style of yoga and movement which will ensure their practice provides optimal results. For instance a slow Yin or Hatha practice is often preferable for those of dominant Vata dosha, to balance their excitable, energetic and unpredictable nature. Whether mental, physical, or emotional, a yogi’s dosha relates directly back to their engagement with the elements of the world around them, and is also important in Ayurveda when determining which treatments will best suit a patient.
Balancing Our Doshas
Balancing our doshas is key to ensuring the avoidance of excesses which can result in unbalanced mental and physical constitution, and ayurvedic medicine is concerned with treatments to re-balance these upsets in stability within an individual. It’s fascinating to consider oneself in relation to the doshas and to research about what best suits our own particular type, learning how to improve elements of our physical and mental composition through ayurvedic principles, of which diet plays a large (but not solely responsible) role.
Good and Bad
While all three doshas have strengths and positive attributes, they each also have their weaknesses, and it is through gaining a deeper understanding of these that we can enforce further measures within our own lives to achieve balance. Whether through diet, forms of physical exercise, mental stimulation or lifestyle factors, it is important to address our individual constitution according to our own needs and nobody else’s.
There are several online tests (linked below) which you can take to determine your current dominant dosha, (we’d recommend taking more than one to ensure consistent results), and over the next few weeks on the blog we’ll be outlining particular elements of each Vata, Pitta, and Kapha which will help you gain a more thorough understanding of them.
The Link Between ‘Healthy Eating’ and Yoga
As the popularity of yoga grows, it seems to be accompanied by an onslaught of ‘healthy eating’ ideologies and the simultaneous rise of vegan, vegetarian, organically-conscious lifestyles.
While it may seem that every second yoga studio is now all of a sudden expanding and exhaling coffee machines, fruit juicers, tables, chairs and funky hipster tunes from the depths of their cashew-nut strewn duffel bags, the trend of new health food cafés emerging in cohorts with yoga studios (and vice versa) has far deeper-rooted sit bones than you may think.
Yoga teaches us to slowly but surely begin to allow only the positive, healthy, and beneficial thoughts and beliefs to enter into and pass through our minds. It makes sense, so, that in order to propel these thoughts into action and help our bodies manifest them outward into the world, we must enlist the help of the fuel which we take in – the catalyst for these reactions, interactions and experiences; our food.
The food we ingest has just as much an effect on our minds and bodies as the experiences we ingest, and vice versa – the relationships we have, the environment in which we live, conversations we engage in on a daily basis, and our senses (the yogic concept of ‘Pratyahara’ explains more about this). It’s not often that these aspects are displayed in parallel to one another, and yet they are eternally intertwined and so integrally linked that we very often find ourselves feeling the effects of an imbalance in one area without being able to pinpoint exactly which or where it is.
It is precisely this awareness and ability to correctly identify where we are suffering a surplus or deficiency of energy – be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual – which yoga helps us to cultivate.
“Healthy Eating” and Yoga
The increase in popularity of veganism, vegetarianism, and health food based diets and cafés amongst yogis (a title I think it’s fair to give anyone who frequents a yoga studio on a regular basis) therefore can be seen as a means to further engage with their practice of yoga; to deepen the connection to both our bodies and minds, and to nourish all those relationships, exchanges, and actions that can only successfully be carried out when sufficiently balanced.
By ingesting naturally sourced, uncontaminated and organic foods which have not already been processed or passed through their own experiences and external influences (many mass-produced products/animals/animal-related products), we are minimising the processing and energy which our bodies and minds must expend in doing so. This and the fact that most organically-sourced products have a very nutrient-dense composition means that most (if not all) of our required daily intake can be obtained from a balanced diet of good-quality natural produce.
I’ve avoided this topic for a while as this balancing of energy is something I’ve struggled with a great deal myself, yet which has drastically improved since becoming deeply engaged with my yoga practice and observing a vegan diet. It has honestly changed my entire perception not just of veganism but of ‘healthy eating’ as an entire concept, and also made me realise that there are many reasons why more and more people are choosing to further engage with it – this link with yoga is just one of many.
The fact that yoga studios are now using this branch of yogic thought to further expand their businesses and create great cafés, great food, and great atmospheres for like-minded people to socialise and communicate I see only as a good thing, serving as a great means of exposure for the yoga side of their business and if nothing else a great way to promote a healthier, more conscious lifestyle.
Claiming Authentic Power – How Yoga Helps Us To Harness the Power Within
“To the degree that we do not fully claim our own power to transform, we are more likely to be possessed by this energy in it’s shadow form” – Carol S. Pearson
I have not resonated with a quote on such an intense level for quite a while.
I’m also a firm believer that each one of us has the power to direct and redirect our energy in order for it to manifest itself wherever we desire in our lives – whether we realise it or not.
If we think about our energy in terms of both a negative and a positive force, the positive stream functioning as a catalyst for growth and progression, and the negative as a hindering and damaging force, we can begin to see how the expansion and contraction of the channels down which this power flows results in certain manifestations of said energies. While this is constantly occurring on both a conscious and subconscious level, there are certain things which can help us harness the power necessary to direct the energy where we want it to go, instead of letting it flail around excitedly from brainwave to brainfart.
Yoga encourages the expansion of these channels (or nadis, in the yogic tradition) in the right direction, opening up and creating space for the positive to flourish, while attempting to block the negative.
And so in simple terms, yoga gives us the awareness to pursue, direct and encourage the good power to succeed over the bad. With me so far?
When I first started doing yoga consistently, I was, for want of a better phrase, ‘in a bad place in my life’. To keep the anecdotal personal sob-story short, I was living at home, had no job, no clear direction where I wanted my life to go, weighed a hollowing and bone-shatteringly cold 6 stone and lacked the energy and concentration necessary to complete even the most basic of tasks, let alone care about them. I would wake with spasms of fright and anxiety at 3am. I would get brief bouts of inspiration mixed with terrifying insight that my worsening situation needed to change…and then the difficulty of doing so would ultimately prove too extensive and straight away I’d be lost again to the numbing blanket of fuzzy and fatigued negative thoughts, so ingrained as they were in my mind that any feeble form of resistance against them was immediately silenced with disturbing ease and logic;
“You’re full of shit. It’s not worth it. Don’t bother.”
In short, things were dark.
The energy required to process all of these thoughts and worries at such a startling speed and damaging ferocity was ultimately leaving me both mentally and physically drained, not to mention the preoccupation with ensuring I adhered to strict ‘rules’ which I wasn’t permitted to break – just in case a sandwich or fleeting social interaction would spark off another ricocheting thought-firework and disable me from leaving the house for the rest of the day. I was, as the above quote describes, possessed by my own energy ‘in it’s shadow form’. It was being directed towards the wrong things, and to be honest it’s exhausting just writing about it.
When we’re deep in the grips of a negative cycle, be it a habit, a thought pattern, or simply a way of being or conducting ourselves that we’ve gradually grown accustomed to, it can seem like the most alien thing in the world to even consider existing any other way.
The power which is being permitted to flow full-force towards supporting the negative spirals is just too overwhelming to be redirected elsewhere. It takes extraordinary force of will and repetitive, conscious, and ongoing effort to haul our minds (and bodies) out of the downward-flow of this toxic power, a fact made lighter only by the knowledge that this force is contained within us at all times, its incessant nature meaning it simply can’t sit still and watch the world go by
– it has to go somewhere.
Getting to Know It
As an alternative to other forms of physical or mental exercise which may encourage thoughts and awareness away from this authentic energy which resides within each of us – literally doing what we Irish people have done for years and just not talking about it – yoga requires us to sit with this energy and examine it in all its beauty and terrifying power. We learn how to move with it, allowing it to channel through the positive streams and manifest itself in actions, talents, skills, character, originality, and most importantly; authenticity. Our yoga practice requires us to listen to our bodies and the energies which reside within. After a while we realise that most, if not all of our negative tendencies and habits result from a subconscious lapse or disregard for the direction of the positive energy, allowing the negative to swoop in and take over.
They say that everyone’s struggle is different. This means that every individual’s ‘flourishing’ will appear slightly different too. This is why it is so important to know ourselves.
Each and every one of us possess the power within us to manifest our ideas – to create, to bring to the world something new; a new view or perspective; a new manifestation of human energy which has been harnessed to reflect the intellect alongside which it resides. Learning how to harness it is much easier said than done however, and while some people naturally excel with the self-awareness and realization necessary to project it into the world, the vast majority of us just don’t.
It’s through practices such as yoga and meditation that I have been able to finally access some of that authentic potential, allowing for the transformation of my energy down a more fruitful and fulfilling path than the one which worries how many crackers I’ve eaten or about a passing remark made by a colleague two weeks ago. Brief and miniscule slices of this potential have managed to slip through over the years, manifesting as specific achievements or the success of artistic endeavours, but it was only when I began to consistently engage with yoga and meditation that I finally felt the sensation of actually having some sort of understanding of and power over my capacity to engage with it.
Misunderstanding or neglecting the force of our authentic power can so easily result in dangerous imbalances of energies, along with distorted visions and versions of ourselves; our intellect, our talent, our potential. It can so easily get lost. I feel one of the great tragedies of our time is simply wasted potential.
This has led me to conclude that by helping us to carefully observe our energy’s expenditure, origins, and direction, yoga can help us gain a dimension of insight into our own potential, allowing us to live and cultivate a more empowered life rather than shying away from it.
We all have this power, and are entitled to exercise and manifest it into the world.
We just need to learn how to use it.