How Yoga Helped Me Understand and Battle My Anxiety & Eating Disorder

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.
It’s heartless.
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.

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Exploring Our Potential To Take Action

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.
Potential. Initiative.
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.

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Dali & Finn Schoenfolder, co-founders of NALU (pic: www.B1G1.com)

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.

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Students in India wearing uniforms donated by Nalu (Pic: www.greenschools.org)

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

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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”.

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Locals and visitors alike helping a Bye Bye Plastic Bags clean up on Bali’s beaches (pic: www.surftotal.com)

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.

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(pic: www.wildlifeasia.org.au)

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.

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Typical classroom scene at Bali’s Green School near Ubud (pic: www.greenbyjohn.com)

Progressive Problem-Solving

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.Image result for taking action

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Why We Need To Start Taking Ourselves Where We Need To Go

“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.
But why?
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

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.

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.

 

  1. Five-Day Budget Climbing and Yoga Retreat in Portugal

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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.

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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
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  1. Eight-Day Snow, Outdoor and Yoga Retreat in Austria

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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.

 

  1. Four-Day Mountain Activities and Yoga Retreat in France

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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.

 

  1. Six-Day Adventure and Yoga Retreat in Croatia

 

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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.

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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.

 

  1. Eight-Day Mountain Biking and Yoga Retreat in Slovenia

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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.

 

  1. Eight-Day Rock Climbing & Ashtanga Yoga Retreat in Spain

 

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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.

 

  1. Eight-Day Patagonia Yoga Retreat and Outdoor Adventures

 

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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.

 

  1. Eight-Day Rock Climbing and Yoga Retreat in Greece

 

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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!


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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.

 

  1. Eight-Day Empowerment Adventure Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

content (12) 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.

 

  1. 21-Day Fitness Trek and Yoga Retreat Nepal

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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.

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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.

Author’s bio:

Octavia Drughi
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“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.”

Yoga in Sri Lanka – 7 Amazing Places to Practice

Yoga in Sri Lanka – 8 Great Places to Practice

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It’s taken me a while to get around to shortlisting places to do yoga in Sri Lanka. Hell, it’s taken me a while to get around to writing anything about Sri Lanka. I’ve found this becomes customary when you become preoccupied with having an incredible time somewhere and forget to keep track of any ‘work-related’ obligations you may have set for yourself… Sri Lanka definitely had this effect on me!

While Bali has become notorious for yogis the world around, much thanks to Julia Roberts’ ‘Eat Pray Love’ and also due to just being damn beautiful, I visited several places in Sri Lanka during my travels there which made me wonder that it hasn’t been overwhelmed with tourists and travellers of the spiritual-seeking variety yet (touches wood).
It may be that it’s only on the brink of being discovered as the ideal yoga/retreat destination, and if so, this list of places to do yoga in Sri Lanka might be of use to you!

Surf ‘n Yoga

As it’s no secret that the waves here are some of the best in the world, most recently the trend of ‘surf and yoga’ businesses has exploded around the coastlines of Sri Lanka. It’s with this in mind that one might wonder if yoga in Sri Lanka is on it’s way to becoming the next Bali, nestled comfortably in between the crazy, incessant localised chaos of India and the tourist-ridden beaches of Kuta and Seminyak. I found it to be a nice balance between the two extremes. And isn’t that what yoga is all about? Either way, here’s 7 places you can do yoga in Sri Lanka without blowing the budget during your travels here.

 

7 Places to do Yoga in Sri Lanka:

  1. Sri Yoga Shala, Unawatuna

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    Savasana at Sri Yoga Shala (pic: www.retreatnetwork.com)

    This beautiful shala is situated away from the main road just outside Unawatuna and specialises in catering for retreats and teacher trainings. They also have a daily class schedule, hold regular workshops and courses too, and are situated in stunningly peaceful jungle surroundings covered in greenery! Eva and her husband who run it also own the restaurant down on Wijaya beach just opposite the turn for Sri Yoga Shala, and are planning to open a ‘Garden Kafé’ at the shala soon – they’re also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! The only fault (if you can call it that) I could find with Sri Yoga Shala is that they don’t offer accommodation, but there are plenty of home stays and guesthouses on the road leading down to the shala where guests can organise lodging at a good price!
    Email: info@sriyogashala.com

    Website/Facebook/Instagram

     

  2. Hangtime Hostel, Weligama

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    I couldn’t possibly write about yoga in Sri Lanka and not include something about the time I spent here. About 30 minutes tuk tuk/scooter ride up the road from Unawatuna you’ll find Weligama and it’s famous surf beach, which stretches as far as the eye can see past the tens of colourful fishing boats docked further up the shore. Backtrack to the centre of the beautiful beach however and you can’t miss Hangtime Hostel, which overlooks many of the local surf-schools and provides comfortable, clean and laid back accommodation for those looking to meet cool people while they break from the surf and – you guessed it – do some yoga. The entire third floor of the hostel has been given to an open air yoga studio where classes take place twice a day overlooking the beach. Couple this with a great rooftop restaurant, group activities and a whole bunch of amazing people to check out the nightlife in Mirissa with (10 mins in a tuk tuk) and you might not want to ever leave either…I know I didn’t!

    Website/Facebook/Instagram/TripAdvisor

     

  3. Yoga at the Hilltop Temple with Rukshan Yoga, Mirissa

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    Hilltop Temple, Mirissa

    This is a bit of an alternative yoga experience, more akin to the random classes along the mountainsides in the Indian Himalayas I attended in McLeodGanj and Dharamkot than the lush shala surroundings of Bali. After locating a hidden stairway along the street in Mirissa and climbing up the (seemingly neverending) steep stone steps to the hilltop temple overlooking the bay, you’ll be greeted by a friendly family and shown into a stone-floored room about 100 metres from a beautiful temple. Here Rukshan will guide you through a short seated meditation, followed by a walking barefoot meditation out and all around the temple. You’ll participate in Buddhist puja blessings in silence, and slowly guide yourself back to the hall for some asana practice which focuses mainly on how to correctly align oneself and others into the poses, rather than just flowing through them. An interesting experience lasting longer than your average drop-in class (1hr 30mins), and great views to boot!

    Maps:
    Website/Facebook/Tripadvisor

     

  4. Hideaway,  Arugam Bay

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    Arugam Bay is one of the most popular hubs for surfing and yoga in Sri Lanka. During high season here it resembles the bustling, tourist surf resorts of Bali and it’s easy to forget sometimes that road signs come with warnings of elephants crossing and that pumpkin curry is readily available along the street (YUM). Hideaway is a boutique hotel that was above my backpacking budget to stay in, yet luckily offers drop-in yoga classes daily for anyone every day in their outdoor shala. The amazing healthy café (with an actual table up in a treehouse) serves up a variety of yummy breakfast and lunch options with an emphasis on healthy vegetarian/vegan noms too, and the funky surroundings and decor of the place really just added to the whole experience…I spent several days just going to yoga here and chilling drinking coconut milk coffees in hammocks. Bliss.

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    Website/Facebook/Tripadvisor

     

  5. Talalla Surf n’ Yoga Retreat, Talalla

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    Yoga at Tallala (pic: Bookyogaretreats.com)

    While this place unfortunately came in well over my backpacking budget for Sri Lanka to stay in, I did make several good friends and spoke to many people during my travels who had stayed here too. Fortunately they also provide drop-in classes daily so you can check it out for yourself and see the beautiful shala surroundings! Reviews of the retreats also seemed extremely positive and if the website is anything to go by I’m definitely going to have to stay here whenever I find myself in Sri Lanka again. They offer a few different options for retreats, classes, treatments, and packages for both surfing and yoga, and you don’t have to be a pro or seasoned practitioner to partake – anyone can go!

    Website/Facebook/Instagram/TripAdvisor

    6. Bay Vista Arugam, Arugam Bay

     

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    Another boutique hotel in the Arugam Bay area which offers daily yoga classes, this time on the rooftop. Drop-ins make up most of the clientel and the classes vary from some pilates-based exercises to vinyasa flow classes with a stunning view of the beach and coastline (‘Bay Vista’…). Bay Vista is directly across the road from Hideaway and to be honest I went just as often to this place for yoga as I went to Hideaway, depending on what times suited best – both places will have signs out on the road with their class times and they are always just slightly different . This worked out extremely well and you get to try some different styles and teachers – one of the main things I love about travelling with yoga in Sri Lanka (and elsewhere)!
    Website/ Facebook/ TripAdvisor

     

    7. Camp Poe, Ahangama

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    Another hidden gem off the beaten track, Camp Poe is a secluded retreat centre/campsite offering boutique camping surf and yoga experiences in Ahangama on the road to Unawatuna. Camp Poe places an emphasis on cultivating creativity and drawing its guests together to share experiences. Just away from the private tents there is a delightfully bright and colourful hangout area with bookshelves, beanbags, hammocks, and peaceful nooks and crannies for reading, writing, singing, or just chilling out. Yoga takes places twice a day and is also available for drop in classes, not just to those partaking in the retreat. As the camp is situated a little away from the shoreline, a scooter or tuk tuk is necesssary to get to the beach/into town, but this actually adds to the tranquility and ensures you ultimate space to let your creativity flourish.

    Website/Facebook/Tripadvisor

     

5 Amazing Places to Practice Yoga in Bali

5 Amazing Places to Practice Yoga in Bali – Upward Facing Blog


Whether it’s a spiritual awakening you’re seeking or simply a place to tune into your body again after a hectic stint of travelling, it’s no secret that yoga in Bali is huge. The tiny island is home to some of the most amazing studios and locations to practice yoga. We’ve compiled a short list (in no particular order!) of just some of the delights yogis simply must experience during a trip to Bali..

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  1. Serenity Eco-Guesthouse and Lodge (Canggu)

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Serenity Eco-Guesthouse and Lodge is an absolute haven for the travelling yogi and surfer alike. Literally 100 metres short stroll from Batu Bolong Beach, you can surf, do yoga, chill by the pool, receive any number of their holistic massages and treatments, all whilst nourishing your body and eating spectacularly healthy food at’Alkaline Restaurant’, the motto of which is “Let thy food be thy medicine’.wp-1484299845506.jpg

Speaks for itself, really. With a vast yoga timetable spanning from Mysore, Yoga for Surfers, Acro Yoga and Gentle evening Yin and Meditation, the options are endless whether you choose to stay here or not. Drop-in rates and class passes are available, as well as bike/scooter rental and extremely friendly and helpful staff and teachers to answer any queries you may have about getting around or which yoga style might suit you best.

Serenity: Website/Facebook/ Instagram/ TripAdvisor

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2. Samadi (Canggu)

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Another Canggu gem, Samadi Bali also provides daily yoga classes, access to spa treatments, meditations, workshops, facilitation of trainings and retreats, rooms, and it’s own yummy café/restaurant serving healthy eats and tasty treats.  The weekly Sunday market here is extremely popular with local expats and business owners alike, as residents of the ‘gu’ can stock up on fresh produce and the latest trends! Samadi yoga in Bali regularly hosts yoga and meditation workshops focusing on varying themes and with guest teachers too, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their schedule during your visit!

Samadi: Website/Facebook/Instagram/TripAdvisor

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3. Yoga Barn (Ubud)

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Possibly the most well-known studio for yoga in Bali, certainly in Ubud anyway, The Yoga Barn is exactly what you’d imagine if “Eat. Pray. Love” had been set in a one place. A paradise for the travelling yogi and spiritual seeker, Yoga Barn boasts one of the most hectic yoga schedules I’ve ever laid eyes on, but the enormous space and numerous high-capacity studios in and around the complex along with the juice bar, garden kafé, restaurant and various chillout areas mean you could actually spend entire days here in complete bliss and solitude from the outside world.

12387943_10153236534143483_506802543_n They’re constantly adding to and changing the existing timetable and layouts too, so you wouldn’t even get bored! Yoga Barn also host Yoga Teacher Trainings and retreats, and while it’s possible to stay within the complex, it may prove cheaper (and a bit less intense!) to get accommodation nearby in Ubud.

Yoga Barn: Website/Facebook/Instagram/Trip Advisor

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4. The Power of Now Oasis (Sanur)

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(Pic via TravelWithJane)

This is one of those places that enticed me purely on its external appearance and the promise of extreme proximity to the beach, having been shown a picture of the beautiful bamboo yogashala by a traveller-friend in Sri Lanka. The Power of Now Oasis in Sanur on the South Coast of Bali is one of the leading facilitators of yoga and meditation retreats, trainings, and holistic therapy treatments on the island, and one glance at the website will have you drooling over the stunning design and apparent perfection of each little blade of grass….it’s beautiful, really.
Between a daily yoga and meditation schedule, teacher trainings, retreats, and the local touch of colour and daily offerings, there’s always a peaceful, friendly, and positive vibe to be felt here.

The Power of Now Oasis: Website/Facebook/Instagram/Trip Advisor

5. THE PRACTICE BALI (Canggu)

wp-1484299845507.jpgAandd it’s back to Canggu we go! Last but certainly not least on this brief list of havens of yoga in Bali is one of my favourite corners of the world – The Practice in Canggu. This relatively new studio (they opened their doors in early 2016) has achieved an astonishing amount of success in the short time they’ve been facilitating their classes, workshops, retreats and trainings in the locality of Canggu.

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Octavio Salvado and his team provide concise, effective, and deep-reaching classes focusing mainly on Hatha Yoga and the varying elements of Sun, Moon and Fire, each class focusing on one particular element and delving into the unique properties of the practice associated with it. Their motto of ‘On and off the mat’ aims to promote yoga as a lifestyle and not just a daily physical routine. The 7am flow was a staple for me during my time in Canggu, and I honestly could not have asked for a more friendly or peaceful environment in which to start my day! Weekly Kirtan sessions are also a highlight for those interested in music and harmony. Keep an eye on their website for details on workshops, new trainings, and a new Online Yoga programme which helps those abroad keep in touch with their Practice even when they can’t be in Bali!

The Practice: Website/ Facebook/Instagram/ Trip Advisor

The Meaning of ‘Om’

Originally posted here for Zuna Yoga

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“For it to have its effect, the sound of AUM is remembered with deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents.” (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.28).

“Om,” in the yogic tradition, is chanted at the beginning and end of class or practice. It’s one of those things that’s often assumed as universally understood yet it’s rarely explained properly, if at all, by yoga instructors.

Om is an ancient sound used by various Eastern religions, including Buddhism, Hinduisim, Sikhism, Jainism, to denote the beginning and end of sacred scriptures, texts, and prayers. Many of the world’s religions indicate that creation began with sound, the vibrations of which are said to be contained within om. Each time we chant om, we connect with the eternal vibration of being that has been in existence since the beginning of all things and is the creative source of energy behind all existence.
The Om symbol consists of 3 curves, a semicircle, and a dot. The curves represent mind, body, and soul, and the semicircle at the top is maya, understood as an obstacle to achieving the highest form of enlightenment. Om is sometimes spelled “aum,” a more accurate phonetic spelling which divides the chant into its three individual sounds of a-u-m. “Aum” encompasses all possible combinations of sounds and lies at the root of all potential or pre-existing sounds. In linguistics, all sound is said to be produced between the root of the tongue and the entrance of the lips, the throat sound being “a,” the lip sound being “m,” and “u” representing the rolling forwards of all sounds until they stop at the lips. Like the letters of the alphabet, which in all possible combinations give rise to every word ever spoken, the sounds of a-u-m pass through every formation in the mouth necessary for vocalising language, making it a magnificently meaningful sound.

Om allows us to tap into the existing energy which always surrounds us but which modern distractions and lifestyles have shifted from our immediate awareness. For millennia, various names and personifications have been used by religions to represent a single all-powerful being. This placement of belief in a deity instead of in our immediate environment ignores the connection between the individual and that which surrounds us. We chant om to not only honor the beginning of all things but to appreciate all of creation that still surrounds us. The Upanishads refer to this state of collective consciousness and universal awareness as ishvara. Om is our key to accessing it.


We do not create om simply by chanting it. Instead, om serves as a medium through which we connect to these vibrations. Physically, chanting om creates a pranava or humming sound, as Patanjali describes, which stimulates the body into a meditational state, increases relaxation, and is said to stimulate the body to remove toxins and increase our capacity for self healing. Mentally, speaking om allows us to focus, shifting our attention outwards, away from internal struggles and helping us tune in to that which can provide us harmony in mind, body, and soul.
It’s common to hear the word “shanti” included after a final expression of om. Shanti means “peace” in Sanskrit and is intended as a parting wish for peace and happiness within the universe at large and within everything around us. Shanti is commonly used throughout India to express a light-hearted and peaceful state of being in casual conversation and descriptions of everyday occurrences, while om is reserved for more spiritual practices such as yoga practice or religious ceremony.
Om shanti.

‘I Am Art’ – Celebrating Individual Beauty in Amsterdam

Picture-perfect jigsaw puzzle houses. Rows upon rows of colourful bicycles and red-brick buildings overlooking symmetrical streets, hidden parklands, and highly functioning road networks. Amsterdam is a beautiful city.

Every corner hides some kind of unassuming little work of art. It got me thinking about how we ourselves are each individual works of art, the product and end result of much processing of the experiences had and people we’ve met.

Roaming around galleries as underappreciated works of art ourselves, our bodies, our minds, all interact with pieces created to reflect the visions of others. Everything we produce, the relationships we cultivate, the words we form, the meals and practices we create and engage in are expressions of our unique creativity and potential for greatness. Of our capacity to contribute positivity and growth to the world around us.

Sometimes it takes being surrounded by it to recognise the tiny details for what they are, and for their ever-present beauty. Even in the minus-temperatures and bustling city-life many of us face from day to day, the little details are always there. It’s easy to ignore them and glance over their minuteness , but it’s nice every now and then to stop and appreciate the little things that together combine to make a whole.

Each little brick, freckle, leaf, blade of grass or crumb – each of these things possess huge importance. Just as each of us possess great power. In crowded cities and places, this often gets forgotten.


Yet here we are, a neglected gallery of beautiful and unique souls moving too fast and too anxiously; too caught up in tiny flaws to appreciate our own beauty. People pay good money (at least €17 per museum in Amsterdam!) to see the paintings and creative pursuits of others. Yet so rarely do we appreciate our own creative beauty. It comes in many shapes and forms, and through appreciating our own, we can contribute to an overall tapestry of energetic individuality. It seems that the many generations of artists and creative individuals to pass through Amsterdam’s canal-divided streets realised the essence of this. For visitors it’s humbling to observe their talents, and also inspirational to understand our own potential to create such greatness, and to humbly provide future generations with a basis to discover their own. Individual beauty is here and now, with you, with me, and within everything we’ve come to understand as reality. It doesn’t always have to be extreme, excessive or intense to manifest as beauty. Subtle beauty is the most sustainable, the most balanced, and the most universally shared experience we can hope to have in this world, and through travelling and engaging with new people and places, it’s nice to be reminded of it’s ever-present and reliable qualities.

Sunrise 

The smiley tea-man nods his head as
Halfway-hikers seek respite,
Ranging routes all converging on a shack which disappears
Once or twice a day.
Clouds drifting like the travellers who dot the winding road.
Where to next?
The seat over there. An overgrown stump, camouflaged
By the vitality of life that passes it by.
Stagnancy  does not flourish here, nor does it in any corner of the world.
It stays in that corner forever.

My first pale journey up the mountain –
Infant. Frail. Afraid.
An intensity of fear so strong it seemed to blank itself out.
What is fear but indulging in anxieties?
That’s not permitted anymore.
I proceeded.
Nearing the edge as each corner turned,
Opposing sides vying for attention,
As boastful views expose themselves with each teetering swerve.
Each knot in the roots now familiar,
Instead of tripping up, I traverse the forest in the dark.

Fresh air filters through conditioned machines,
As the eerie echoes and tinkling temples transform
To multilingual departure announcments.
Every place inspires, if you let it.
Every city moves , if you move with it.
Colourful arrays of everyday outfits
Compliment the hues of skies always there,
Yet all too often hidden in smog.

A soundtrack of ignition and impatient exchanges
Piercing horns and firey lights stimulate and simmer deep,
They say to climb mountains -here we summit volcanoes.
The untrustworthy hills.
The ones who can’t take the heat.
Still we climb. Still we seek.
To see the sunrise from another peak.
The journey down proves a more arduous ordeal,
Yet comfort means you know,
You can always see the sunrise still,
Even from way down low.

What Solo Travel (and Yoga) Has Taught Me

What Solo Travel (and Yoga) Has Taught Me

To thrive. To flourish.

To take all that I am, and everything I’ve encountered, and to blend them into something new. To use what I’ve been given, and to nourish it so it reaches its highest and furthest potential.
This is what I’m taking away from my current travel experiences coming to a brief hiatus as I return home slightly earlier than planned for Christmas.

‘We are the sum of all of our past experiences“, they say and so, I am a unique blend of everything and everywhere I have been. Everyone I’ve encountered. And all that currently surrounds me.

These past 5 months have been an incredible journey. A journey through some of the most beautifully stunning and culturally rich places I’ve ever been. A journey through some of the most difficult emotions and mental limitations I’ve grown accustomed to placing on myself. A journey out of my comfort zone, out of my perception of comfort zones…
A journey with myself, by myself, to myself.

To Open Up

Everyone I’ve encountered along the way has shaped me somehow, just as I have (however minutely) impacted their journey. I’ve opened up in ways I was barely even aware was possible – I’ve learnt that remaining open is to become malleable to new experiences. My journey with yoga has allowed me to open. Open up the channels of energy I had allowed anxiety to close. Engage in open communication. Open and honest interactions, softly allowing the essence of myself I lost somewhere along the way between puberty and the end of my college years to return, frightened as it was of what others would think, what they would see….
I now know how little any of that matters. I not only know it, but I live it.
Because here’s the thing.

Travelling can be difficult, but it’s even more fucking difficult if you hate yourself.

Nobody wants to talk to the frowning weirdo in the corner who glances at herself in the reflection of every shiny surface and glares jealously at the big groups of new travel-friends all having fun at the bar. Sure, they might have issues, but nobody on a trip is going to want to be bogged down with some stranger’s lack of self-esteem, lack of balance and life lived in fear of the world around them.
We’re all here to see as much as we can, mate, it’s up to you to hold yourself together long enough to get there.

To Be Steady

And what is travelling, when you do it right, but living your life and moving, discovering, remaining and being yourself somewhere other than in your own home? Changing surroundings beg the need for a constant and steady spirit to successfully move through them, and so I’ve found a kind of satisfactory balance here somewhere in the midst of all this movement.

To Take Things Less Seriously

Taking yourself too seriously is not an option when every unknown turn in a new city could lead you into anxiety-inducing situations. Trusting yourself becomes the number one priority, and your own judgement becomes the only thing that really leads the way when you leave home with no particular direction or plan – you learn to just go with it. Taking things less seriously, but ensuring you remain steady within it. Humbly balancing out what we have, moving through it with grace and ease, going where we can and taking our bodies and minds on a modest journey through the bigger picture.

Because the bigger picture will always be the bigger picture, and we will always be just one little pixel in that grand tapestry that creates our perception of the images around us.

Our job is simply to ensure that our pixel shines as bright, as clear and as strong as it possibly can be. That’s all we can ever hope to achieve. In surrendering to the powerlessness and lack of control, we ironically gain it for ourselves.

That Comfort Zones Don’t Exist

Allowing that little dot to thrive and really believing in its’ worth is vital if we want to progress anywhere in life. For some people, this comes naturally to them. For others, we must assert ourselves and realign with these beliefs time and time again, repeatedly acknowledging our sense of worth and maintaining a persistent awareness of the things that put this balance at risk. Travelling through uncertain areas, with unknown associates and changeable destinations requires a certain sense of self and strength that I never ever believed possible for me, and yet here I am. I’ve met some incredible people, seen beautiful places, experienced lifestyles and norms so contrasting to my own comfort zone and everyday life that I’ve come to realise ‘comfort zone’ is just a label we put on ourselves to justify staying still.

Through yoga, through solo travel, and through combining them both, I have come to see movement as the one key aspect of life that helps us maintain a balanced and healthy mindset, and I’m excited to see how I will progress forwards with this newfound understanding. Moving on, moving away from damaging behaviours, moving ever onwards and avoiding stagnancy at all costs – this journey has really only begun.