Archive for the ‘yoga travel’ Category

No Plan

Exactly one week from today (9/11/11) I officially start studying with Dharma Mittra, the 72-Brazilian yogi best known for the asana poster he created back in the eighties.  Training with him is something I’ve been thinking about for a few years and now in just a matter of days it will be my reality.

Next Sunday is the first day of  just one of the 8-day training sessions being held up at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.  It also marks the first day of a year long process to live the Life of a Yogi (as the training is called) and officially receive my 500-hour teacher training certification.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked several times:   “Why are you doing this?”  “What is your plan once you’re done?”  Well, I don’t have a detailed plan per se.  Currently, I’m doing this for my own personal growth.  If you think I should have a plan, okay here it is:  my informal plan is to be as open and present as possible and fully committed to the experience as it unfolds.  In the back of my mind, I’m sure this experience will alter my teaching style, the types of classes offered and maybe even where I teach but I’m going to invite the change to unfold organically and here is why…

As I reflect back on “why” I did my very first yoga teacher training 6 years ago at Down Dog Yoga in Georgetown, it was to simply to learn more about yoga.  I had no intention of ever becoming a yoga teacher when I committed to that training and look what happened:  for 5 years now I’ve been a full-time yoga teacher.  In fact, August 2011 abellaYoga celebrated 5 years of being in business.  For me this is really surreal when I think back at how I was so not comfortable standing up in front of people and talking when I pursued that first 200-hour training.  Yet as life unfolded post-training in 2006, I was laid off from my corporate job (my last one) so I started subbing yoga classes just to get out of the house while I was contemplating my next corporate marketing move.  Completely unplanned, I realized as I was subbing I actually liked challenging and helping people discover a better version of themselves on and off the yoga mat.  Then what magically happened is this feeling of inspiring people to take charge of themselves overtook my public speaking jitters.  Life hasn’t been the same since.

So as I venture into the next year training with Dharma Mittra and 50 other yogis from around the world, I’m going in without a plan.   To some this may not sound wise.  Yet I’ve truly amazed myself since completing my first teacher training without a plan so I think I’ll keep it simple and follow the same formula:  show up, do the work and be open to the possibility of things changing in ways I can’t predict.


Vision Board Comes to Life

As some of you know I spent a few days last week at a meditation/writing retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, CO.  It was a serene three days of meditating and writing, without cell/internet/tv/radio service and 600 acres of land to explore at my leisure.

One of the unexpected highlights of my trip was spending time outside, in and around The Great Stupa.  I had read about it online prior to my trip but the online pics paled in comparison to seeing it live with my own eyes.  Nestled up in the mountains, about a 15 minute walk from where I slept each night, it is a spectacular sight from the outside in the midst of what seems like nowhere.  Even more stunning is the interior.  I spent a good 30 minutes inside each day meditating in this magnificent space in the presence of a 20′ gold Buddha statue.

On my second day there, I was getting up from my quiet time with the Buddha and a voice from behind asked if I would remain seated just a few more minutes.  Of course, I listened and complied.  Marvin Ross, an international photographer, was setting up shop.  After a few additional minutes of sitting, I was free to get up.

little me inside The Great Stupa

A couple days later, Marv kindly emailed me the shot.  It is beautiful and I think you’ll agree.  It is way more captivating than I expected.

Even more fascinating is it is almost a match of the central image on my 2011 Vision Board.  It’s as if when I selected the Buddha pic for my VB (a page I randomly ripped out of a magazine), and added the words “are you listening” that I was predicting something like The Stupa shot would happen.

Is it coincidence?

Was I simply in the right place at the right time?

Or did the energy from my Vision Board travel with me?

I wonder but continue to believe the universe works in mysterious & supportive ways.

Have Mat, Will Travel

Over the last few years I’ve shared info on my fav yoga mat by Manduka.  See Spoiled by Manduka and Can You Recommend a Yoga Mat?

The words I wrote back then still hold true today.  Even so much that when I went to Vail, CO last week (to do more spa-ing than skiing), I had my trusty (very thin) prana mat in tow.  For me, it’s a multipurpose mat.  Of course, I use it to practice yoga & meditate when on the road but I have another key use for it.

Have you ever noticed that the seat backs on airplanes are designed with a concave arche?  Huh?!?  When you sit back in the seat, your lower back has to round & your head jets forward?   Does that sound comfortable?  If you haven’t noticed, I’m sorry to say you’ve probably just gotten use to sitting poorly in what I believe is a very non ergonomic design.  My solution —use my 10 year-old rolled up prana mat to assist me in sitting tall.  I stand it up against the seat back and sit with my back on it.  It is perfect for keeping me comfy, or should I say as comfy as one can be on an airplane.

Unfortunately, since my mat is so old I don’t think the very thin version of it is still available.  Plus prana, like Manduka, are thankfully now offering more eco-friendly mats which tend to be a bit thicker than the one I have.  For another opinion on yoga travel mats, check out the Road Warriorette‘s product review.

Yoga mat + travel = happy girl.  Namaste!

Step Out of Your Routine

“Step Out of Your Routine” is one of the affirmations beaming from my vision board.  And it’s fitting given the last couple of weeks has been nothing but routine, particularly my yoga practice while I was on the road.

Up until last Tuesday, I was on holiday travel for about 1.5 weeks.  In order to continue with my daily yoga practice, I had to settle for practicing on plushy carpet.  If you’re a yogi, you know carpet is not ideal particularly for a practice that is mostly standing & arm balancing poses that are best supported by a hard surface.

For the last 8+ years, I’ve fully known in advance of travel the carpet circumstances will exist.  I take my travel yoga mat anyway to DE, KY, LA and wherever else and just do my best.  Yet as I move through my vinyasa practice, trying to simply stay focused on my breath, there is always this underlying thought of “I wish I had a harder surface to practice on”.

So a few days before New Years Eve while in KY at my in-laws – don’t worry we spent 12/31 and beyond in New Orleans 🙂 – I unrolled my mat and  jumped into downward facing dog to kick off my morning practice.  Immediately my mind went right to chatting with the carpet.  Then something shifted.  Suddenly I realized that my practice that day/moment doesn’t have to be like it is at home.  At the same time, my vision board and the “step out of your routine” phrase popped into my head.

Again there was a shift.  I started to live my yoga in that moment.  Simply, I woke up to what could be possible in that moment if I just surrendered to my circumstances vs. resist (which I’ve been doing with the carpet for 8 years).  I started to explore down dog by playing with as many variations that my body & breath led me into.  I practiced Sun Salutations from sitting in dandasana.  Then I stretched fully on my back (horizontal tadasana as I’ll call it) and explored Sun Salutations from there.   I worked in the moment with what I was given rather than forcing my routine into the now.  The result of stepping out of my routine (in this case, dropping a mental fixation), I had an extremely creative and refreshing asana practice – physically, mentally and spiritually.

To conclude, I leave you with a quote I seem to keep stumbling upon:  You cannot do yoga.  Yoga is your natural state.  What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state. – Sharon Gannon


My dear friend, Federica, is starting to truly live her passion.  She currently is working a gig as a photographer’s assistant in New Orleans.  Please note, I say starting to live her dream because she’s only 26-ish and she’s already on a path of doing something she clearly loves and aspires to be the best of the best.

As an aspiring photojournalist, she has been in NOLA for the last couple weeks in preparation for Mardi Gras.  Never had been down there before, I know this crazy Italian yogini didn’t know what she was getting herself into.  Then to top it off, the Saints made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in history.  I don’t think I need to say the cherry on top is they actually WON!

So when Fede recently posted pics from a RockAsana yoga class she took on Magazine St., it is clear the spirit of the city was shining bright in that yoga studio.  And if you apply the statistic that only about 6.9% of American adults practice yoga (according to Yoga Journal‘s 2008 Survey), can you imagine what 100% of the city looked like if just 6.9% was represented in this yoga class?  View here at Fede’s blog, Federicaville.

Go Saints!  Go Fede!  Can’t wait to see your Mardi Gras pics.

Take a Yoga Vacation

The title of this entry does not imply going on a yoga retreat to do yoga all week as a vacation.  What I am suggesting is you take a break from your yoga practice for a few days, maybe even a week.  Dare I say this!  Why would I suggest it?

The best thing for your practice can sometimes be not practicing.  I discovered this a couple weeks ago while spending a week of vacation in the Caribbean.  The first few mornings my natural inclination was to immediately think I needed to jump out of bed, unroll my yoga mat and practice with the sunrise.  Something told me, hold back.  After all, I was on vacation to take a break from my daily routine.

Sure I practiced a little asana and meditation almost every day (anywhere from 15-45 minutes) but I did it without a plan.  Even in these short practices, I felt my body in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. –stiff!  Yes, I felt stiffer than usual because I wasn’t practicing as much.   But this unfamiliar stiffness brought greater awareness to areas of my body I hadn’t quite paid attention to in some time.  I felt more connected from the inside out.  I moved slower but I felt more in sync with my natural surroundings —the swaying palm trees and calm morning ocean.

Now as I settle back into the reality of my everyday life, I have returned to my mat with a greater appreciation that I have yoga in my life.  I am appreciative for the longer practices I am able to do most days.  I am even more appreciative of a couple poses I previously wasn’t a huge fan of, such as upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).

P.S.  If you were reading this blog entry in hopes of finding a yoga retreat for a yoga vacation, grab a copy of the November issue of Yoga Journal and read “Great Escapes”.

Why do you keep doing Yoga Teacher Trainings?

If you’re already certified to teach yoga, why do you keep doing more teacher trainings?  Do you learn more advanced poses at these trainings?  Are the other attendees more or less advanced than you?  These are the types of questions I am often confronted with upon returning from a yoga teacher training.

My most recent answer took me even by surprise, let alone inspired my friend to question her career path.  Sure a few new postures are learned but yoga teacher trainings are really about learning more about one’s self, connecting with other teachers and gaining inspiration.  All of this happens by being challenged to answer hard questions, hold postures longer than I ever would want to and take a good look at my life and what’s holding me back from being bigger and better.  As I told my friend, if I’m not challenged, how can I challenge my students?  If I live in fear, I teach in fear.  If I don’t live from an authentic space –truly being who I am and capable of being –how can I expect my students to discover themselves?

Yoga is so much more than the physical postures.  My new definition of yoga:  Yoga is an adventurous process of self-discovery in which faith and curiosity rule vs. fear and status quo.  Whether it is riding my mountain bike down rock-covered hills and up tree-rooted dirt, skiing downhill, speaking in front of a large group or falling flat on my face in the middle of yoga class as I attempt a challenging arm balance, “keep the faith” and “I can do it” are now my new way of being.  With faith, grace inevitably shows up and soon enough fear is no longer a concern.  With faith and passion bursting from within, the “fear” ghost from my past is now fearful of the new me.

So how was Level II?  Why do I keep doing these trainings?  If you need more, let me know.  The simple answer is, Baron Baptiste’s Journey Into Power Level 2 Teacher Training in Montana ROCKED!  I can’t wait to go back for more.  In the meantime, I will live life and teach yoga like a ROCKSTAR!