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Lena Schmidt – Yoga Retreats

This week I connected with Lena Schmidt, a full-time yoga teacher based right here in San Diego, CA.

Lena and I met through Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.  Right after I finished my teacher training I practiced at Pilgrimage and Lena was one of my favorite teachers. I loved her Yin class and took it almost every week. Lena has a warm personality and a knack for theming her classes in a way that makes her students feel connected. She often reads poetry or quotes from underrepresented voices. Lena sees teaching yoga as a form of activism and relates yogic philosophy with current events. She has a lovely voice and often sings mantras to begin or to close out a class. If you haven’t tried one of her classes, I highly encourage you to do so! Lena has hosted yoga retreats locally and internationally for the last 5 years. I got on a phone call with her to pick her brain about how she started to teach and what inspired her to host retreats.

I asked her about her history and what brought her to yoga.

Lena grew up doing gymnastics and dance competitively. She danced through college where she studied women’s & ethnic studies. After college, she wanted to keep her body moving but was ready for a break from competitions. At that time, she moved in Ocean Beach, San Diego and found a studio that offered Vinyasa classes that had a dance-y vibe. “I got hooked on Vinyasa,” Lena said.  After several years of practicing yoga, Lena found out that Elka Yoga & Wellness, where she had been practicing, was going to host their first teacher training and she jumped on the opportunity. During teacher training, in 2011, she realized that yoga brought together everything she loved. Part of her teacher training was a yoga and camping retreat that planted a seed in her that grew into the retreats she hosts now!

Lena taught her first yoga retreat in 2012. For that retreat, she partnered with Positive Adventures for a yoga, camping and rock climbing retreat in Idyllwild, CA.

“I am really passionate about getting outdoors… I try to make that an element of the retreats I teach… My intention is adventure and immersion in nature and going deep into the yoga practice.”

yogis

Lena started local, hosting retreats within an hour of San Diego. The feedback on her local retreats has been great, especially when students realized that nature isn’t so far way!

“You don’t have to go to Bali or Costa Rica… you can just have a day of community connection a few hours from home and feel rejuvenated”

For some people, international retreats are not an option. They are more expensive and it can be hard to take extended time away from work and family.  But some people like the added sense of adventure and a chance to truly get away.

This year is the 4th year that Lena will take a group to Costa Rica and this retreat is a full-on nature immersion.

“[In Costa Rica] We live in a tree house, you have to walk through a river for 20 minutes to get to the retreat center… we eat local food and practice yoga outdoors with the sounds of nature.”

 

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This year, in just 2 weeks, Lena is hosting a retreat to Italy too! They will be staying in a villa in Tuscany. I asked her about how that retreat came to fruition. She had a student, here in San Diego, move to Italy who suggested hosting a retreat there and Lena obviously has no reason not to say yes! Sometimes the universe just hands you opportunities that you can’t pass up!

I asked her if it is difficult to find people that are able to spend the money, take time off and go all the way to Italy and she said that surprisingly it wasn’t hard at all. Her retreat was so popular she ended up adding a second week so she will be in Italy 2 weeks in a row. There are still 1-2 spaces left if you’re looking for a last minute get away this month!! Sign up here, you won’t regret it! 

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I asked her about the logistics. There is a lot at stake when you are in charge of creating space for yoga classes, meals, excursions and lodging.

“I like to travel and I teach less on retreats then [in my] normal life but don’t get fooled into thinking it’s a vacation…I do all the background work myself, creating program plans, emailing and coordinating constantly. Some is fun creative stuff like what quotes to share or rituals to do but a lot is also the logistics of how to get people from place to place. I happen to like organizing stuff but marketing is the bain of my existence… it’s necessary and I like the creative part [like creating social media posts] but it can be hard to be a sales person.”

Lena has experience both working with retreat centers and hosting completely on her own. Both have their pros & cons.

For example, her Costa Rica retreat is at a retreat center so they provide the chefs and food. On the other hand, she has planned Italy on her own. She rented out a Villa and hired a friend who is a chef. They will arrive a day or two early to grocery shop and get everything set up. It is more time consuming but also leaves more room for creativity.

Another thing to keep in mind when planning a retreat is that there is more to each day than just yoga. I asked Lena about how she fills the space in between and she gave me some insight on what students can expect during her upcoming retreats.

Lena said that during her first few retreats she tried to cram in a lot of activities but realized that people really enjoy their free time too. It’s all about balance. Typically, her retreats feature 2 yoga classes per day (meditation, yoga nidra or partner yoga may be offered as well). Below are some of the excursions and events you can expect to see offered on Lena’s upcoming retreats.

In Costa Rica, you might zipline, snorkel, head into town to explore local shops & food, or take a surf lesson at the beach.

In Italy, there will be art lessons and cooking classes with an optional wine tasting adventure. Also, a group dinner at a local Italian restaurant to experience the Tuscan cuisine.

In Bali, you will visit Balinese temples and one afternoon will be dedicated to visiting a birthing center to drop off donations to help people there.

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Each retreat has its own unique vibe.

I learned that Lena likes to plan a theme for each retreat and come back to that theme in her classes and events during the week.

The Costa Rican retreat center is off-grid and 100% solar powered. The theme for Costa Rica is sustainability. Not only in terms of the environment but also in terms of finding a way to sustain the practices of the retreat when you are back in normal life.

In Italy, it’s all about pleasure and desire. Life is beautiful. Lena hopes that attendees of the retreats will still be able to see life through rose-colored glasses when they return home!

To wrap things up I asked Lena what she has learned over the last 5 years of hosting yoga retreats.

The number one thing she said was that she learned how to collaborate and the importance of seeking the right people to collaborate with.

“Collaboration is challenging. You can have an idea and then start planning but realize that both people have different ideas & leadership styles and so it doesn’t always work out. But sometimes it works beautifully. “

Over the last few years, Lena has found partners that she continues to collaborate with over and over and she is thankful for those relationships.

She has also found a balance between professionalism and connecting with her students. After spending a whole week with a group of people strong bonds form and she is happy to facilitate these types of connections.

“As I’ve matured as a teacher I’m realizing how much it means to students when I’m vulnerable. There are still professional boundaries but we all just want to feel like we belong’”

“The teachers I admire the most are the ones that are learning just like I’m learning. We’re learning from each other and we’re all in it together.”

She also emphasized that over-analyzing can ruin a good thing.

“Think of a place you want to go, work backward and make it happen.. there’s not a magic formula just dream it up and then get back to the logistics of it.”

It’s kind of a ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality. Create something that you would love and chances are there are other people who will love it too!

A last quote from Lena:

“Retreats are really fun! You should come on a retreat!”

My talk with Lena was super informative & fun. I hope that other yoga teachers can take something valuable away from this interview. If you want to learn more about Lena’s retreats or sign up for one CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION!

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What did you think of this article? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or in a private message HERE. Thank you for reading.

NAMASTE.

Want to keep reading? Read more about yoga retreats in my previous blog posts.

 

*All words in italics are Lena’s.

*All photos are Lena’s and are used with her permission.

 

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Richelle Morgan – A Tulum Yoga Story

 

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**please note – all words in italics are Richelle’s & all photos are used with her permission*

I met Richelle Morgan through an online group that connects yoga teachers. When we first spoke I had just written an article about Yoga Retreats led by San Diego teachers. We got to talking about the article and I found out that Richelle owns a yoga studio and yoga retreat center in Tulum, Mexico. She has been living in Tulum for over 5 years now after an RV road trip ended up turning into a move! Richelle is originally from Canada. She shared with me a bit about what Tulum has to offer;

“Living in Tulum is all about letting go. You really have to be willing to release any expectations you might have in order to give yourself the space to settle in here. Tulum can be a magical place, but at the same time, there are many things that ‘test’ you here. Life on vacation is completely different than the beautiful, messy, exhilarating reality of living here. We can’t drink from the tap, electricity and wifi can be challenging, we struggle with a lot of garbage in the town streets, quality of life for some animals here is poorly lacking, etc. But on the flip side of the ‘ugly’ is the beauty. The jungles and cenotes. The beaches and lagoons. The local people you meet. Children playing in the streets until late. Fruit vendors passing by your home throughout the day calling out what they are selling. There is an amazing yin and yang to everything here. And what you love most about living in Tulum, you also struggle with.”

Over the last 5 years, Richelle has seen a lot of change in Tulum. She mentioned that some of the “old school Tulum folks” have started to leave the area as it becomes more of a tourist destination. I wondered how we, as tourists, could help Tulum hold onto some of its rustic roots. This is what Richelle had to say;

“This is a healthy part of what is helping Tulum grow and giving the local people jobs. I see the effects of this growth in my neighborhood, which is mainly Mayan. People have been adding on to palapa structures or building solid concrete houses. What the ‘old school’ Tulum expats are feeling is the lack of infrastructure when it comes to tourism and builds. Mangroves and jungles are being removed by developers creating hotels and gated residences under the guise of eco-tourism. It’s become a trend and a great buzz word. Like organic was when it first came into mainstream circulation. So… we have to be conscious of what is really happening.”

It seems to me that this type of thing is happening in other undeveloped areas around the world. In order to make these places easier to get to for tourists some of the natural beauty is removed. On one hand, the communities are happy to see businesses growing and the local economy taking off – but on the other, the landscapes are changing forever. Is there a way to find balance? Neither of us are quite sure what the answer is – so the conversation shifted to yoga.

I asked Richelle what is it that made her fall in love with teaching yoga. Here is her response;

“Teaching yoga, for me, is all about communication and connection. Sharing the practice and connecting to my students in a way that helps them feel supported, understood, acknowledged, challenged and inspired. I value the exchange that is created. And respect where my students are at. It’s not really about me leading a class… it’s more about my students’ bodies guiding me and the connection or exchange of energy that is created within the class. This is why I mainly teach in the moment. I may have an idea or theme or quote I’m working with to draw inspiration for class, but what I teach unfolds in the moment and comes from the connection I create with my students.”

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Before Richelle left Canada she owned and managed a holistic studio that offered yoga, lifestyle coaching and personal training. When she first arrived in Tulum she worked as a freelancer at hotels and retreat centers but missed having a studio of her own. Once her mind was set on settling down in Tulum she decided to open her own studio again.

“Opening a studio or retreat center had always been in the plan for wherever I settled… it just happened to be in Tulum. At the time I was making this decision I was offered space at the beach but I had been teaching at several places there and my way of doing things did not think it right to quit one place and open up down the street from them. So I decided on town because there were no studios in town. And I wanted to open a space where locals and visitors could come and feel supported and create a community.”

So far it has been a success. Locals and tourists come together in the space with a shared mindset and goal. Richelle has noticed that the studio is especially grounding for people who are new to town and need a space to settle in and connect with themselves and the city.

I asked Richelle what her biggest challenges have been as a small business owner in a small town.

“[The biggest challenges have been] having to let go of some of the standards and values that I work by. It’s a different lifestyle here. With different work ethics. And it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just different. Slower paced. So patience is key. And always expect something to go wrong. Because inevitably it will.”

I, myself, am inspired by Richelle’s words – it takes a lot of trust in one’s self and the universe to leave home, move to a new country and open a business! I hope to have a yoga studio or retreat center of my own someday too so I asked Richelle to share some advice about what she had wished she had known before opening a place of her own.

“Be clear on your goal and what kind of space you want to create…but also know that it may shift as you grow. Be open to change and willing to work a lot of hours. Have patience and trust that if you do the work, they will come. And that in times where it’s slow, you have to dig in and trust you are on the right path. I don’t know if there is anything that I wish I had known. I think every venture you do brings new challenges and triumphs. I had experience running a business before and worked in graphic design so I had that behind me. I think out of anything I wished I would have known before I began is the trust and belief that I had something different to offer.”

I feel like her mindset aligns with mine in many ways. I believe that trust in one’s self is the first step to achieving anything. Where there is a will, there is a way. Hard work and dedication to a goal will always pay off if you truly give it your all. And so far, Richelle has found that to be true!

Richelle also loves to curate and host yoga retreats. I asked her about that journey;

“After I led my first retreat, I knew I’d found my niche…Sol to Soul was created for yogis and travelers who are looking for something different. Who want o have the opportunity to go off the beaten path but be in the hands of retreat guides who are knowledgeable, supportive, inspiring and well-traveled. “Sol to Soul” is the idea of the power and nourishment we get from the sun (sol) and how we can bring that into our souls. Our retreats are literally ‘from our souls to yours’.”

Outside of her time at the studio, Richelle stays productive in a variety of ways.

“Life in Tulum has been an experience and I have many projects I’m working on that are starting to take flight. Sol to Soul Retreats, Aligned Flow Teacher Training Immersions, Shop Dicha and delving back into writing and photography. I am also a team member of Help Tulum Dogs, which is an animal welfare organization in Tulum. This is a big part of my life here and on any given day I have a house full of puppies I’m fostering. It’s both rewarding and heartbreaking. And has helped me build more strength and patience.”

Her advice for other dreamers;

“If you’re thinking of making a change in your life, do it. Don’t overthink it or think you have to plan for every detail. Because life does not unfold as planned. It’s messy. And beautiful. And our paths zig zag and come to dead ends, at times. But all that means is that the next path is different. And if you want to live an embodied life, you have to be willing to do what is needed to get there.”

A HUGE thank you to Richelle Morgan for taking the time to let me interview her about her experience as a yoga teacher and small business owner. Women like her inspire me to continue to follow my heart and my dreams and I hope this interview has inspired you as well!

If you’d like to learn more about Richelle & the projects she’s working on check out the following links! Richelle manages & oversees ALL of these social media accounts!

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/richellemorganyoga
https://www.facebook.com/helptulumdogs
https://www.facebook.com/yogadichastudiotulum
https://www.facebook.com/soulcation
https://www.facebook.com/AlignedFlowTeacherTraining/
https://www.facebook.com/shopdicha

Instagram:
@blisswarrior (her personal account)
@yogadichastudio
@helptulumdogs
@shopdicha
@soltosoulretreats

If you enjoyed this article, let me know by leaving a comment! If you would like more information about me or would like to be featured on this blog CONTACT ME HERE!

Teaching Yoga To Kids

This summer, I’ve spent three afternoons each week guiding kids ranging from age 4-14 through yoga class. The class was part of a kid’s summer camp at a local rock climbing gym, Mesa Rim. Teaching yoga to kids has taught me to look at yoga differently so I want to share my experience with you and/or anyone who may want to teach yoga to kids.

The main lesson I learned was one of patience.

Each child is different and each needs unique attention. Some kids need to be guided along step by step, while others are confident enough to jump into a handstand without giving it a second thought. Some of the kids were good listeners while others; let’s just say I’m not even sure they had ears! Sometimes there would be a 5-year old that could sit in meditation without even being told to do so and other weeks there were older kids that acted like they were too cool for yoga and just sat in the back of the room doing other things during class.

My job was challenging because I had a new group of kids every week and the age range was big. What works for a 4-year-old is a little different than what will work for a 14-year-old. But I did my best, and thankfully some of the older kids actually helped the little ones, which was really sweet.

I am a fairly soft-spoken person, and I absolutely hate yelling, so I often had a hard time getting the kids attention. I wanted SO badly for them to just listen to me as I spoke calmly but often times that didn’t work. I ended up using chimes and the other camp counselors’ help to get the room to focus when they started to drift.

I learned to love, and to hate, yoga props.

Some props worked wonders with the kids and others made my life even more difficult. For example, I used a ball (like this one) to teach the kids to control their breath. It was a hit! The kids loved it. By focusing on the ball and their breath they were able to calm themselves down. This was great for them and even better for me! Other props, like yoga blocks, didn’t work for us (although I love them and use these ones). The kids enjoyed playing with the blocks but would rather use them to build thrones or towers than as an assist in yoga poses.

We also used yoga blankets and bolsters. I found that if I gave these to the kids at the beginning of class they got distracted with playing with them or wound up trying to nap instead of doing yoga. Once I realized this I kept the blankets and bolsters on the shelf until right before Savasana. At that point in class, I would tell the kids to go pick out what they wanted to use to get comfortable and the props helped them get to a restful state.

Manduka Spring '17 Yoga Mats

Essential oils were also a big hit with the kids. At the beginning of class I would pass around something citrusy or minty and at the end of class, I used lavender. My favorite essential oil sprays are made by Quinntessentials. I also often make my own.

My classes also used two songs from Kidding Around Yoga; Sargent Salutations and Secret Garden. Sargent Salutations is a fun way to break the ice and teach the kids some simple poses and Secret Garden gives them something to tune into during savasana.

Lastly, kids are smart!

They enjoyed learning about the purpose of each pose and the parts of the body it targeted. They especially liked to work on balancing and to go upside-down. I would ask them about where they were sore or tight and we would work on those places. I think that helped them feel like they were part of the process and that they were being heard.

Kids also have no filter and will always speak their mind. They were very surprised that their yoga teacher couldn’t do the splits. “How can you be a yoga teacher if you can’t do the splits” “You’re already a grown up, you’ll never be able to learn the splits now” – Thanks for believing in me, kids!

Regardless of the ups & downs – I would highly recommend teaching yoga to kids.

If you teach yoga to adults you should try to teach to a group of kids at least once in your life. It will likely be a humbling experience. It taught me to look at yoga in a more playful way. Practicing yoga gives us a chance to explore our bodies and be curious about what is happening within. Kids may sometimes be a handful but they definitely know how to be in the moment and how to have fun. It’s quite bitter-sweet that camp ended this week but I definitely plan to teach yoga to kids in the future!

It will likely be a humbling experience. It taught me to look at yoga in a more playful way. Practicing yoga gives us a chance to explore our bodies and be curious about what is happening within. Kids may sometimes be a handful but they definitely know how to be in the moment and how to have fun. It’s quite bitter-sweet that camp ended this week but I definitely plan to teach yoga to kids in the future!

Your Guide to Yoga Retreats

The way our culture is set up has most of us busy all the time. The to-do lists seem never ending and work days can be really long. It can be overwhelming at times. I’ve definitely been there before and I’m sure you know the feeling too! The expectations of society, work, family & friends can put a lot of pressure on us to perform at a certain level for extended periods of time. Self-care often gets pushed to the side in order to meet deadlines or take care of others.

It’s time to change that. It’s time to take back your life and make self-care a priority.

I talk about it in my yoga classes almost every day. It is important to acknowledge the great ripple effects self-care/self-love can have. When you take the time to take care of yourself (body & mind) it becomes easier to get through those long to-do lists and better take care of the things and people around you.

One way to do this is through yoga retreats. Yoga retreats offer an opportunity to disconnect from the daily grind and reconnect with yourself. They are often hosted on properties outside the reach of a cell-phone signal and the schedule is full of time and space to relax/explore/learn and just BE! Some yoga retreats are also geared towards education. Many teacher trainings are held in a retreat-type setting so that students can fully immerse themselves in the information.

I’ve compiled a list of a few upcoming yoga retreats held by teachers in my San Diego Yoga Teachers community. Take a moment to read through the descriptions – maybe one of these will be exactly what you’ve been looking for! I’ve listed them in order of the dates they take place.


SUP/Yoga Retreat to Mallorca, Spain. September 2nd-9th 2017.

 

 

There are only 3 spots left for this Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and Yoga adventure to the medieval island of Mallorca. The accommodations are a beautiful 13th century home in the center of the island. The event is hosted by Tracy “Sarvani” Aleksić and Joy Bennett. There will be daily SUP adventures, SUP yoga and regular yoga practices as well. If you love to cook you’re in luck because this retreat also features a Mediterranean cooking school and two wine tastings. Investment is $2,800. It’s only a few weeks away so CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT BEFORE THEY SELL OUT!

Bright Yoga also has a variety of other retreats that will take place in the next year too! So if you aren’t ready to leave for Spain in a few weeks check out their schedule of future events HERE.

Pheonix Rising Yoga Therapy Training – Retreat Style! Oceanside, CA. Sept. 28th – October 2nd 2017

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This training is held by Soleil Hepner C-IAYT with a guest appearance by Michael Lee, the founder of Pheonix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT). This program is accredited through the International Associate of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). Yoga therapy is a holistic healing art that uses yoga & yogic philosophies in a therapeutic way to deepen mindfulness and connection. If you are already a yoga teacher, talk therapist or really anyone who works with people, this is a wonderful certification to add to your tool box. The price of the training ranges from $650+. There are options for commuters – if you live in the area and plan to sleep at your own home, or there is the option to stay on site and really immerse yourself in the process! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO OR TO SIGN UP!

Wine & Unwind in Ramona, California. October 22nd 2017

 

 

Sascha Crasnow is a world traveler and registered yoga teacher who is a PHD candidate in Art History. This wonderful “mini-retreat” will be held in Ramona, California conveniently located only 45 minutes north of San Diego. If you are a wine lover with a packed schedule this could be the perfect way to soak in the benefits of a yoga retreat without buying a plane ticket and/or taking extended time away from work & family. This one day retreat at Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard includes an alignment-based vinyasa flow practice, a gluten free & vegetarian brunch and wine tasting! Tickets are $55 per person or $99 per couple. CLICK HERE TO BUY A TICKET!

International Retreat To Thailand. November 1st – 7th 2017

 

 

Husband & Wife team Rafael & Julianne Arce are hosting this retreat to Thailand this November! Julianne is a devoted yoga teacher with who has clocked in over 5,000 teaching hours and has led numerous 200-hour teacher trainings. (find about more about Julianne HERE) She has a wealth of knowledge to pass on to others! Located in a beautiful all-inclusive villa in Kamala this retreat is about 35 minutes South of Phuket International Airport. This is a non-smoking, non-drinking retreat and is truly geared towards deepening your yoga practice and your mind/body connection. The retreat includes 3 chef-prepared meals per day with unlimited coffee & tea. During the retreat, there will be the option to explore guided and unguided meditation as well as two yoga classes per day in a variety of class formats; Vinyasa, Yin and Deep Stretch. The retreat also includes an Evolve Yoga Workshop to deepen your practice as well as a Journey Through The Chakras Immersion Course. Rafael & Julianne have taken care of everything so you can just sit back, relax and soak in the benefits of yoga. Investment ranges from $1,600-$2,100 depending on room choice. There are only a few spaces left! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO AND TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT.

Restore & Radiate Retreat in Costa Rica. August 4th-14th 2018

Dr. Arezou Ghane, who is hosting this retreat, received her Ph.D. in Health Psychology at UC Riverside. She is a yoga teacher, psychologist and the founder of Auteur Health & Wellness (read more about her here!). This 10-day escape to Costa Rica features a revitalizing vinyasa flow practice each morning and a gentle restorative practice each night. A chef will prepare 3 meals for you daily along with unlimited Costa Rican coffee & tea. The accommodations also feature WiFi access so you can stay connected if need be. (and, let’s be honest, there will probably be lots of Instagram worthy moments!). This retreat will be an excellent way to disconnect from your routine and tune into your body/mind connection for 10 full days. It’s almost a year away so with plenty of time to request off work it will be hard to find an excuse not to go! Your investment can range from $1,999-$2,700 dependent on lodging options. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND RESERVE YOUR SPOT!


I hope this list has helped you find a yoga retreat that suits your needs or at least opened your mind you the many unique and wonderful yoga retreats that exist out there. Next time you are feeling overwhelmed and in need of some yoga, peace, and fun, find a retreat in your area and go immerse yourself in yoga’s restorative and rejuvenating benefits!

If you decide to go on one of these retreats I’d love to hear from you! Send me a message and let me know how it was! I’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories!

I will be posting about more retreats in the future. Please contact me if you’d like YOUR retreat featured on my blog!

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’t think I ever had a solid answer on this question but overtime I have shaped an opinion. It’s not who I want to be, but what I want to do. I want to make the world a better place in some way, big or small. I want to make people happy – or at least happier. I want to leave a memory in their minds that they can look back on with a smile.

I think that’s why I was drawn to the restaurant industry. After college and tours of office buildings, I was sick and tired of looking at a computer screen. A restaurant just seemed so much more real.

A real transaction of real goods in real time and space. It wasn’t computerized or “in the cloud” or over the phone. It was in the present. Also, the payback came immediately – not just as a gratuity – but as physical smiles I could see with my own eyes. From the sound of laughter. From the words “Thanks, you made our night”. I guess I just like to know I exist and that I make an impact — don’t we all?

The last 5 years in the service industry have been a learning experience. A wonderful, sometimes messy, often stressful time. But, nonetheless, a time I look back at with a smile. One that has also turned me into a total food/cocktail snob, but I digress…

This week I decided to take a little break from the food & beverage industry. The industry that has consumed my life for so long. It’s now time to try something new.

Yoga Teaching.

No longer as a side job but as my main job. My career, dare I say?!

It’s real. It’s present. I get feedback right away. Are my students happy? Do I see a smile on their face even though they’re profusely sweating?  Do they feel better after class than before? By golly, it’s a whole lot like the food & beverage industry after all! It seems I’ve found a theme in what I love.

Even though it’s a new industry the concept is similar. In many ways the job is the same. Make people happy. Influence their life in a positive, memorable way. Treat them well and hope they treat you well in return.

I am so happy and excited for this journey towards full-time teaching. I have some fears and concerns, no doubt, but I’m ready to face them head on. Maybe I will change my mind and do something else someday but one thing I can say for certain is that I will never regret giving it a try.

Here’s to life. Here’s to following your passions. Here’s to hard work and dedication. Here’s to making dreams come true. Even if only for a little while.

(Wo)manspreading in the Yoga Studio

Most of you reading this probably have heard of “manspreading”, a term first coined by women riding the subway in NYC.

If you haven’t heard manspreading CLICK THIS LINK for a short description.

The idea for this article hit me like a train a couple days ago when I was in class – “MANSPREADING” EXISTS IN YOGA – and it’s not just the men – it’s women too. So I will call it “(wo)manspreading”.

Think of the last time you walked into a crowded yoga studio. All of the mats are lined up side by side and the classroom is almost full. There would be a few spaces available if it wasn’t for Ms. Womanspreader stretching all over the place. Her legs stretched 3 feet from her mat, her arms circling overhead with gusto, her gaze focused or maybe even eyes closed with out a clue to the fact that she’s taking up 3 spaces with her left arm alone.

You guys know what I mean, right?!?

There are also men that are guilty of this. One used to be a regular in my yoga class. He was tall, very muscular, with a serious expression that I never once saw turn into a grin. He had a very intense presence and would stretch before class intruding into the space of anyone within 360 degrees of his mat. When the room was full I would watch the faces of people walking in late, full of terror that they had to be next to him and avoid his swinging arms and legs throughout the next hour!

Now I get it, trust me, I like my space. I’ve been guilty of (wo)manspreading before. In fact, I caught myself doing it a few days ago when I thought of the idea for this article. I want to be able to swan dive down during my Sun A or rock side to side in happy baby without assaulting my neighbor.

But, damn it, we need to share this space!

I’ve come to the conclusion that you should not go to a yoga studio if space is THAT important to you. If you choose to go to a studio you will need to get comfortable with the fact that other people will be in close proximity. In actuality, one of the best things about going to a yoga class is sharing the energy and space with other people. It creates a sense of unity and oneness and we build off each other’s energies. If we didn’t want to be around people we could watch YouTube yoga videos at home.

We are all in it together.

As Yogis, we all have a connection and dedication to our practice that we don’t want to miss out on. We must make space, PHYSICAL SPACE, for others to enjoy their practice too.

It is an intimidating moment to walk into a full yoga studio and try to find a place for your mat. Even if you arrive 20 minutes early, the person showing up last minute still deserves a place. They probably had a stressful day and just got out of traffic and are grateful to be entering the yoga studio, even if they are late. In fact, even if their day was all rainbows and butterflies, guess what?! They still deserve a space. So be understanding that they are humans too. We can make space for each other and ALL enjoy the benefits of our yoga practice together.

Next time you find yourself in a crowded yoga studio (or bus/train/bar/traffic/etc…) I encourage you to make space for others. Only take the space you NEED and share the rest. Your neighbors will be thankful and you might even get a warm fuzzy feeling for having helped them out!

Sincerely,

A former (wo)manspreader.

1 Year Reflection

Just over a year ago, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training and became a certified yoga teacher. April 24th, 2016. The time has flown by! I jumped right into teaching and have been at it ever since. Over the last year, I have learned a lot and want to share my reflections with you.

1. CONTINUE TO SEEK KNOWLEDGE.

THE MORE YOU LEARN, THE MORE YOU REALIZE YOU STILL HAVE TO LEARN.

When my teacher training started I had this crazy idea that once I did my 200-hour training I would be a yoga expert. Well, I learned very quickly that I still had a lot to learn. The best way I can think of to explain this is with the analogy of a house. You are in a house and each time you open a door it leads you to another room that has two more doors inside. You become curious about what’s on the other side of the door so you open it up. You learn what is behind the door you but it’s just a room with two more doors inside. This continues infinitely. It’s just a fact you need to eventually accept. You will never know EVERYTHING. But, you can always learn more and grow more as a teacher and a yogi.

Seek knowledge. No matter where you are in life or how old you are or how many yoga classes you’ve taken, continue to seek knowledge. In this endeavor, you have nothing to lose and SO much to gain! There’s plenty of space in our brains for new, exciting information. Every new skill you learn adds depth and breadth to your experiences and will help you become a smarter, stronger and more influential version of yourself.

2. FIND YOUR NICHE.

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING – BUT PICK WHAT EXCITES YOU THE MOST.

I recently had an interview to teach yoga at a studio I really admire. I told the interviewer there were some specific styles of yoga that interest me the most but I was willing to teach anything to get my foot in the door. She quickly encouraged me to do the opposite. She said she would rather wait to hire teachers until she can give them the style of class they are passionate about teaching. Any yoga teacher, she acknowledged, can create a Vinyasa class or a Restorative class or a Hatha class, BUT, will they teach from the heart? Will their passion for the modality shine through as they teach?

Whether it is teaching yoga or some other trade – do what you are passionate about. Stick to what excites you and don’t settle for less. When it comes to yoga, find your niche. Maybe it’s Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram or Prenatal Yoga. There are so many options and paths to explore. I’m still in a bit of the discovery phase. Right now, I know what I like but I also don’t have experience with everything so how can I know if I like or dislike other styles. There’s only one way to find out – TRY DIFFERENT CLASSES AND STUDIOS!  Try different styles of yoga and also take the same style classes from different teachers. Maybe it will be awkward to try something you’ve never heard of – BUT – maybe it will be AMAZING!

3. PUSH THROUGH.

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, KEEP GOING!

As a new yoga teacher, there are some situations I’ve dealt with that I could have let get me down but I continued to push through.

There will be days when no one shows up to your class.

There will be weeks on end when no one responds to your job applications.

There will be times when people question your authority because you are new.

There will be jobs you take for pennies on the dollar just to get experience. (Which can be worth it, by the way! Especially in the first few months free or donation based classes are a great way to get practice teaching!)

But at the end of the day, it is all worth it! Every time an experience happens you have the option to see it as a failure OR you can learn and grow from it.

*PS: Even if you get the first job you apply to, your class is always full, the studio pays you $100/hr and your students worship you like a God – eventually something will go awry. Be ready to come at each moment with clarity and an open mind. If your eyes are open wide you will see something that will help you learn and grow.

…AND THAT TAKES US FULL CIRCLE BACK TO SEEKING KNOWLEDGE.
At the end of the day, you have control over how you choose to learn and grow.

Keep learning, keep pushing through the hard times, keep your head up and eventually, you will find your niche – and the rest will be history!

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Yogi Tones

My friend and fellow yoga teacher, Tony Baker, started a podcast series, Yogi Tones, where yoga teachers talk about teaching yoga. The ups, downs, ins and outs of the business. Everything from awkward teaching moments to times that they felt the most rewarded. Check out my episode here! And then check out the rest of his site for more amazing, informative and inspiring interviews with other yoga teachers!

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Holiday Stress Relief

LET GO OF HOLIDAY STRESS.

 

After a stressful Thanksgiving where I sunk into a week-long depression as I grew homesick for friends and family back in Seattle I had to snap myself out of it.

Why did I let it get to me like that?!

There is nothing wrong with missing the people you love. But, there’s got to be a better way.

Do the Holidays need to be stressful?

Here is what has worked for me over the last few weeks.

 

LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS. 

 

I have found this to be true in many areas of my life, especially holidays.

Let go of what others expect you to do. Let go of what others think you should do/say/wear/etc…

You don’t want to buy presents for acquaintances you barely know? Don’t!

You don’t want to buy a new dress for a dinner party? Where whatever the hell you want.

You don’t want to bake cookies for hours? Skip it this year!

You don’t have the time to put up all the lights and décor? Let it go.

You get the picture…

 

LET PRESENCE BE ENOUGH.

 

Maybe money is tight. That’s OKAY!

The Beatles got it right when they said “Money can’t buy you love”. As far as I’m concerned, love truly is the best gift you can give.

I know that my favorite thing to do with my friends and family is to spend time with them. Even if they never bought me a gift or gave me some type of monetary reward, I would still want to spend time with them.

Shouldn’t that be obvious?

Buy a few gifts if you are able to/want to. But then write letters. Call people on the phone if you aren’t able to be with them in person.

Let the people you love know that you love them.

You’ll see the smiles on their faces and hear the warmth in their voices. You’ll soon see that those feelings are more satisfying than any gift.

 

HAVE GRATITUDE.

 

For me, I have focused my energy on all of the great things I have here in San Diego. Even though I couldn’t be with my family on Thanksgiving I was able to spend that time with some wonderful people here in SD.

For you, it will be a little different. But the basic goal is to focus on what you are grateful for rather than what you wish you had or where you wish you could be.

What you have is enough. Who you are is enough. Where you are is where you need to be.

Be grateful and send thanks this holiday season.

I hope this is able to help you in some way!

Kindness Starts Here

Kindness Starts Here.

I recently moved into a new apartment and quickly discovered that I now share a wall with a very challenging neighbor. She lives below me. For the first month, she came upstairs every couple days to knock on our door and complain about the noise.

Let’s make it clear that we never had a single friend over and didn’t play music loud during this entire time. We were just walking around doing normal activities like cooking, using the bathroom and cleaning the house. There wasn’t much we could do to please her because the noise that was upsetting her was just the sound of us living our lives.

Now the story goes on and there were many encounters with this woman and her husband that made it difficult to enjoy our new apartment. But regardless, I challenged myself to face them with kindness. I baked cookies for her, left her a note, and always heard her out when she came up to complain. It was a bit exhausting but my efforts soon began to pay off.

One night she called to thank me for my card and suggested that we go out for a drink to get to know each other better. Then, a few days later, she gave me a hug and thanked me for my efforts to make nice.

The cycle was complete! Although it took over a month, the kindness I had put out was slowly but surely coming back to me.

Everyone has heard of the saying “kill them with kindness”. I’m not sure if “kill” is the best word here, but the saying rings true. There are hundreds of ways to say it…

“What comes around goes around”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”

“Lead by example”

It’s all TRUE!

Kindness starts here.

It starts with you and it starts with me. All of us hold so much power – we just need to be patient as we await the results. Love will not happen overnight. World peace will not be achieved with one gesture of kindness. Each and every little smile and helping hand will slowly shape the world. It starts with each individual and then spirals outward. Have you heard of the 6 degrees of separation? [if you haven’t click here!] With that in mind, it won’t take long for your kindness to spread.

It can be difficult to stay above the hate and drama and anger but the hard work will pay off when kindness comes back around to you and the people you love. It is a daily challenge and some days are harder than others but I cordially invite you to put kindness ahead of everything else this week and look for the ways kindness comes back to you.