10 Reasons Girlfriends Are the Best

Girlfriends: It’s safe to say that they’ve seen you at your best…and you’re worst. They’ve cheered you on, wiped your tears, gassed you up on social media and have met your questionable ex. They’ve stuck around when times got tough, reminding us time and time again how valuable they are to our well-being.

“Our friendships contribute to and promote happier and more fulfilling lives,” explains Miriam Kirmayer, therapist and friendship researcher.

Read on for the top 10 reasons girlfriends are simply the best—and then go call your closest girlfriend to tell her how much you love her.

Girlfriends help you grow.

They say you become like the people who surround you, so take a look at the friendships you’ve had in your life. Girlfriends are the anchors that help you evolve, grow and shift as a person, all while keeping you stable. Make sure to surround yourself with people whose qualities you admire—the power of time will have you adopting these as your own.

They give support no matter what.

Girlfriends are there for the good, the bad, and the ugly—with no judgment. Sure, they’ll give their opinion on the happenings in your life, but at the end of the day, they accept you for you and support the decisions you make. No matter how many times you vent to them about anything and everything, you know that they’re to listen, or just to text you the hysterical meme you needed to see.

You can be perfectly you around them.

Life is hard enough without having a group of friends with whom you can be 100 percent yourself around. When you can be comfortable in complete silence, or share your deepest notions, or even break out in a hysterical karaoke night, those moments are some of the greatest gifts. It’s relaxing being able to be so free, and having girlfriends who allow you to do so recharges your psyche and mental well-being.

You get group wisdom.

One person has less life experience and wisdom than a collective—so use your girlfriends’ insight to your advantage. You all share your stories to each other à la Sex and the City, so be a sponge and learn from their professional and personal know-how. It’s a great way to catapult off everyone’s building blocks and steer yourself toward the goals you want!

They help combat loneliness.

A nationwide survey found that nearly half of the U.S. feels alone, especially younger generations. With the loneliness epidemic sweeping the nation, you can combat that by leaning in to your girl gang. Whatever you’re feeling or going through, knowing that you’re not alone is one of the most important steps in changing your mindset. When you have girlfriends you can reach out to during hard times, the feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression loosen their grip on you enough to see that you can overcome it. Make sure you have that support group you need (and if you’re looking to meet new girlfriends, try the Hey! VINA app).

They remind you the beauty of being a woman.

So you have a special someone in your life, but they don’t always understand the hardships and advantages of being a woman. Try as your partner might (and we appreciate that!), girlfriends are the ones that get it because they’re in it. When your ideas get glossed over at work in favor of a male colleagues’ (even though yours were better), or when the awful cramps come monthly like clockwork, or when you find yourself in awe of the great sense of community between women—you can contemplate all of this with the women who understand. And that’s the best feeling.

They make time for you.

There’s an unspoken rule of sisterhood that all girlfriends adhere to—and that’s the golden rule of time. In a society where everything is so fast paced, over-stimulated, and demanding, time is a valuable gem in everyone’s lives. Girlfriends who unselfishly hand you this treasure at a moment’s notice are true friends, and you should make sure they stick around for a long time!

They remind you that tough love is good love.

Girlfriends pamper and spoil you, but the best ones also hand out tough love when needed. It might feel harsh during the moment, but you know they have your best interest at heart. Sometimes you get so into your own head, you don’t see the disaster you’re heading toward—and that’s when they step in. They’ll set you straight so they can go back to being your source of comfort and enjoyment. That’s elastic love, and we’re all for it.

Girls just wanna have fun.

Sometimes you just have to let loose, and you know exactly who to call! When there’s a promotion at work, an amazing (or disastrous) first date, or you just need to blow off some steam from the work week, you know you can text your group chat to coordinate a girl’s night out. There’s nothing sweeter like knowing your catwoman call will be answered by some of the best (and most entertaining) people you know.

They’re your SO without the drama.

Many romantic relationships come and go, but girlfriends are forever. Like the Christina to your Meredith, they really are your person, and stick around through thick and thin. They love you, support you, cry with you, get mad on your behalf, and lift you up—all without the drama and entanglement of an SO. If that’s not true love, we don’t know what is.

Have you been appreciating your girl gang lately? Our friends at Hey! VINA, the free social discovery app for women to meet new friends that’s connected over 8 million friends around the world, are sharing the top 10 reasons girlfriends are an important asset in your life. Hey! VINA knows firsthand the importance of finding your community—it’s why the app features 30 communities for vinas to join and swipe in, including Yogis, Runners, Athletes, Jetsetters, Expats and Volunteers. Hey! VINA is available for iOS and Android. Follow them on social media @vinazine.

Olivia June author bioOlivia June is the founder & CEO of Hey! VINA, the friend-finding app for women that’s connected more than 8 million friends around the world. She’s obsessed with meeting new friends, connecting people, social psychology, and is passionate about empowering women around the world. She wants to help everyone live their best lives, and most importantly, have a lot of fun getting there! Follow her @heyoliviajune.

 

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A Mindful Parenting Practice to Help You Be Present—and Enjoy the Daily Moments of Motherhood

By exploring mindfulness you can learn to be present through the magic (and chaos) of raising kids.

Learn how to be more mindful and present with your children daily. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could start each day alone, overlooking the ocean with a cup of coffee or meditating quietly in your garden? Or maybe journaling while cozied up in bed with a cup of tea sounds like perfection to you. Whatever your ideal scenario — if it were possible, it might help you have a deeper sense of calm to carry with you throughout the day.

If you’re a mother, your mornings probably don’t start out quite like that. Instead of calm there’s chaos, instead of peace there’s exhaustion, instead of timeliness there’s rushing. And while it might not be feasible to take a few moments alone, you can bring mindfulness into your day and practice the art of being present:

Set a goal to be mindful today and throughout this week. Notice (without judgment) how your body feels upon waking. Are you tired or achy? Are you feeling great? Allow yourself a few deep breaths — in and out — before your feet hit the floor, and remind yourself that today is a new day.

See also The Gift of “I Don’t Know”: How Mary Beth LaRue Is Embracing Life’s Uncertainties

While you explore this concept of being present, what are you recognizing about your child?

No matter how overwhelmed you feel or how long your to-do list is, you can set aside this time to observe your life and your children and to simply notice.

Notice your child’s first facial expression of the morning. Notice the warmth of your first sip of coffee or tea and how the steam feels on your face. Notice the feeling of your child’s body and weight in your arms. Feel the warm water and soap on your skin as you wash your hands for the first time today. While the big firsts in your child’s life play a significant role in making memories and reaching milestones, you’ll discover many other firsts if you allow yourself to be in the moment.

As you shift into mom mode for the day, observe your child through the lens of curiosity. Does she want to be close to you or to play independently? Is he trying something new and waiting for your encouragement?

While you explore this concept of being present, what are you recognizing about your child? Do her facial expressions change when she is really focusing on something? Do his eyes narrow as he scans the pages when you read books together? Does his voice change when he gets really excited?

See also Yoga for Moms: Letting Go of Mom Guilt

Try this meditation for mothers this week. 

As mothers, we need these mindfulness skills to refocus our attention where it is needed most.

We all need those gentle reminders to live in the now. In difficult times, stop and ask yourself, “Am I here?” “Am I experiencing this moment?” Sure, some of these moments will include piles of dishes and unfinished tasks at work, but when you are fully experiencing your life, you see with a new level of depth and awareness.

We invite you this week to take the time to find stillness each morning and create a rhythm of coming back to the present and noticing what’s before you . . . in all its guts and the glory.

Your attention may wander, and you may forget to call upon this practice, but that’s exactly why it’s called practice. At any point in the day, mindfulness can help bring you back to the present and provide a new opportunity to spend beautiful, undistracted moments with your children and your life. It’s these everyday moments that make up our entire lives — may we revel in them together.

Give yourself fifteen minutes to pause and revel in this experience of noticing the wonder that is your life.  

  1. Find somewhere to sit or lie down where you can feel relaxed. Take a second to get settled and then begin by taking three or four deep breaths.
  2. Close your eyes if that feels natural to you. Allow yourself to appreciate the silence. Appreciate how good it feels to be by yourself. Appreciate the space you need away from the day-to-day to be able to honor the beauty of your life.
  3. Now, sort through some memories. Bring yourself back to the very minute you came face-to-face with your child. Allow yourself to feel that wonder again. Remember saying to yourself, “Is this real?”
  4. Recall when you heard your child say “Mama” for the first time. Where were you? What season was it? Let yourself revel in how special that made you feel. These moments will forever be yours.
  5. As you take this time and settle into your meditation, reflect on the wonder and magic of your life and simply breathe. With each inhale, breathe in the beauty of all these sweet memories and hold the inhale for an extra moment while you savor them. With each exhale, smile softly and allow these precious moments to soothe you. Repeat, slowly inhaling and exhaling.

Come back to this meditation any time you feel like you’ve lost the magic of motherhood. Bring back the joy-filled, real memories of your journey and open your eyes up to the small, everyday moments of wonder around you. The magic is always here.

See also 4 Breathing Exercises to Help Kids (and Adults) Manage Their Emotions

ABOUT OUR AUTHOR

Rachel Gorton is the business development director at Motherly, and a contributor to the new book, THIS IS MOTHERHOOD: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices (Sounds True, on sale March 12, 2019) by Jill Koziol and Liz Tenety, edited by Colleen Temple. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and three children. 

The Best of Both Worlds: 3 Cities for an Explorer’s Soul

Spring have you itching to get away? If you’re torn between a cultural experience and an off-the-beaten-path adventure in the great outdoors, look no further.  We’ve curated a list for you of our fave outdoor adventures in Dallas, Denver, and Washington DC. From botanical gardens to nature preserves to whitewater rafting, who would have thought that some of the busiest cities in the U.S. would have so much Mother Nature to offer? So lace up your favorite pair of comfy kicks and trek a trail by day, and then traverse the concrete jungle at night.

What do these seemingly disparate cities have in common? They’re all hosts to Wanderlust events in 2019. Catch Wanderlust 108 Dallas on April 13; Wanderlust Denver, August 10–11; or Wanderlust 108 DC, September 28. Grab a buddy, get outside, and don’t forget your sunscreen—or the bubbly water. Stay hydrated all day long and pack a couple cans of refreshingly crisp sparkling water in your backpack for an extra treat.

Ready for action? Check out our 5 top spots in each city. See you on the road.

people with hula hoops with dallas

Wanderlust 108 Dallas, 2018. Photo by Arik Cardenas

Dallas, Texas

As the third largest city in the Lone Star State, the historical “Big D” is ripe with cultural attractions and world-renowned architecture. It’s also the home of beloved Tex Mex cuisine. Despite the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth area being the seventh largest in the U.S., there are many natural wonders to enjoy in this multifaceted urban area.

Dallas Running Tours
Forget the tour bus! With Dallas Running Tours, you can explore the city by foot as part of a running group led by a knowledgeable guide and experienced triathlete, Eduardo Navarro Vaco. Cost is $35 for a 4-mile jaunt around the city, and $5 for each additional mile.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
The Spanish-style architecture of the 22,000 square foot structure nestled on the 66 acres that span the Dallas arboretum is adjacent to the picturesque White Rock Lake. The Dallas Arboretum is overflowing with stunning gardens and tiered fountains overlooking the downtown skyline.

Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve
This natural habitat spans 600 acres, and features butterfly gardens as well as 9 miles of trails. Trees, wild grasses and flowers native to the area make for a tranquil stroll, and picnic areas are the perfect place to pause for a packed lunch. With birds, insects, reptiles, and animals roaming freely in this nature preserve, you might even forget for a moment that you’re actually still technically in Dallas.

Trinity River
The Trinity River provides direct access to nature, connects communities, and even protects the area from catastrophic flooding. You can rent a canoe or kayak and set sail along the Trinity River either on a solo expedition or as part of a guided tour.

Klyde Warren Park
A feast for your eyes, ears, and taste buds, this 5.2-acre public park in the heart of downtown Dallas is an urban oasis that features food trucks, live music, its very own restaurant, Savor Gastropub, and much, much more!

two girls in Denver in front of buddha wall

Before it was a 2-day Festival, Denver had a 108. Photo by Jordan Quinn

Denver, Colorado

At exactly one-mile above sea level, downtown Denver is known as one of the most walkable urban areas in the country. Denver is very close to the majestic Rocky Mountains, boasting 140 miles of sweeping panoramic views of 200 named peaks—32 of which soar above 13,000 feet. The park systems of Denver are recognized as some of the most unique in the nation, with over 20,000 sprawling acres of natural parks in the nearby mountains just begging for exploration.


Horseback Riding
Colorado has some of the best horseback riding in the world. At just 40 miles from Denver, A&A Historical Trails offers a wide array of rides that range from graveyards to goldmines, including a little history lesson about the surrounding area to boot.

Smith Lake at Washington Park
From tennis courts to croquet to cycling and running, there’s so much you can do at Washington Park, which features two flower gardens and lakes. Smith Lake is designated for recreational use including fishing, and you can rent kayaks, canoes, or for everyone’s favorite lazy summer day activity, paddle boats. If you’re more into taking in the scenery and bird watching with a blanket, try the other lake.

Whitewater Rafting
With the famous Colorado River and several others snaking through the state, Colorado is famous for its whitewater rafting industry. Day trips as little as 30-minutes from downtown Denver are available for all ages and abilities.


Mountain Biking
For the adventure seeker, the Dakota Ridge trail runs through Denver’s Red Rocks, home to the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The rigorous trail is a steep climb that requires some technical navigation, but is well worth breaking a sweat for these breathtaking views.

Boulder Day Tripping
At just under 30 miles from Denver, beautiful Boulder, CO, is a must-see. From hiking the iconic Flatiron Mountains to walking around the quaint downtown area to a scenic drive up the iconic Flagstaff Road, be sure to carve out a day trip to explore this small, laid-back city in the foothills.

3 teachers sitting on stage at yoga festival

Jocelyn Gordon, Tracee Stanley, and Faith Hunter teaching at Wanderlust 108 D.C. 2018. Photo by Thurston Willis

Washington, D.C.

Officially known as the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C. was founded on July 16, 1790 by President George Washington upon signing the Residence Act. The bustling capital city has been the epicenter of the U.S. government ever since, and is rich with historical context. With international organizations and embassies that represent 174 different foreign nations, D.C. is brimming with culture, and is home to famous national monuments and museums like the Smithsonian Institute. But all tourist attractions aside, there are also many outdoorsy activities for visitors in need of a breath of glorious fresh air.

Tidal Basin
Over 3,750 cherry trees are located at D.C.’s Tidal Basin, a manmade inlet next to the Potomac River. The Tidal Basin was built in the late 19th Century to provide recreational space for the city, and also to drain the Washington Channel following high tide. Some of D.C.’s most well-known monuments are also located here, giving visitors a double dose of both culture and nature.

Great Falls Park
This sublime 800-acre park is only 15 miles from the nation’s capital. As a small National Park Service site located in Virginia, Great Falls Park is situated along the banks of the Potomac River and—though technically disconnected—is a key fixture along the the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Just a $5 entrance fee gains you access to hiking, picnicking, and bird watching in this spectacular destination that draws a surprising number of visitors each year.

U.S. National Arboretum
With over 400 acres of flora and fauna, the impressive United States National Arboretum is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Known as an “outdoor museum,” entrance to the arboretum is open daily to the public free of charge and is only 10-minutes from the U.S. Capitol.

Rock Creek Park
Within the city is an urban oasis, a natural hideaway to escape from the noise. Established by an Act of Congress in 1890 and administered by the National Park Service, Rock Creek Park is a sprawling park that bisects the Northwest quadrant of D.C. Learn to become a ranger, hike one of the trails, or visit the planetarium; there’s something for every traveler at this local gem.

National Mall
From the Constitution Gardens to the African American Civil War Memorial, the National Mall holds many of the renowned sites that travelers from all over the world flock to nation’s capital to visit. Established in 1965, the National Mall & Memorial Parks have some of the oldest protected parks within the entire National Park Service, and provide many opportunities to learn about presidential legacies and notable war veterans. While there are no picnic areas at the National Mall itself, the nearby East Potomac Park at Hains Point has designated picnic areas available by reservation. Stop by the Dupont Circle Farmers Market on a Sunday morning, and grab your farm-fresh local provisions before you begin your exciting day of adventures ahead.

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Tips and Truths From a Navajo Yogi

Tony Redhouse is a Native American spiritual teacher and healer. He is also a yogi.

At the age of six—adorned in a headdress, drum in hand, and bells on feet—Tony stepped onto a stage to represent his father’s culture. Since then he has danced and played music to share inspiration and wisdom from Native American teachings, such as the Eagle Dance, which speaks of finding balance, letting go, and fulfilling the circle of life.

“From the eagle we learn that we have to leave our comfort zone in order to make the journey towards the truth of who we are, and towards peace,” says Tony.

It is a journey that he himself has taken, but it has not been easy.

Raised in the city, Tony says he found it difficult to make the adjustment from the Native America culture of his family to that of the society around him. By the time he was a teenager he was already dependent on alcohol and drugs, and, at the age of 14, Tony was admitted to a mental hospital and placed into foster care. For 36 more years Tony struggled with addiction and depression, costing him several marriages and a period in prison.

“It took a long time, but I knew I had to change. There was always this inner voice calling me back to the truth, and finally I just surrendered to it completely,” says Tony. And things did change.

“At the end of this circle, the story that will be told will not be of our successes in the world—but rather of the lives we touched.”

Tony, now 59 and living in Arizona, works in rehabilitation centers helping those on the road to recovery. He also works in hospice—helping souls to transition at the end of their life— and with cancer patients—incorporating art, drumming, and music as a healing technique. Since kicking addiction and entering recovery, Tony has recorded five solo albums of Native American healing music, and has worked with kundalini teachers and musicians, Snatam Kaur and Dev Suroop.

“I’m not just free from addiction, I’m free from fear. I live knowing with all my heart that love is the thread in everything, and that we are here to help each other,” he says. “But we cannot reach out to others and create universal harmony until we have found personal inner balance.”

Inner Peace Through Practice

Tony began practicing yoga several years ago in order to help him maintain flexibility for dancing, but soon recognized it as a means to achieving that personal inner balance. “Whenever I would hold child’s pose or lay in savasana, I would return to that familiar spiritual state. That moment of ‘Ah… This is who I am’.”

“It is realizing this harmony with all of life and the universe that in Native American culture we believe to be our purpose—for our hearts to beat in unison with the heart that beats in every bird, every rock, every tree, every animal, and every star,” Tony says.

Now a yoga teacher, Tony has created a Native American spirit and yoga class to bring the wisdom of the two traditions together. He guides his classes through the Four Directions, and the circle of life, starting with birth and blessing in the east, and ending with the surrender of savasana in the north: “The place of the ancestors,” he says. Using hoops, he demonstrates the interconnectedness of all life, while the drum is sounded to connect to the universal heart beat.

Tony kindly shared with us his teachings which draw from these two paths.

Joining Breath with Heartbeat

“In Native American wisdom, the breath is our individual soul, while the heartbeat is the life force in everything. When we connect the breath with the heartbeat—our soul with the life force—we become one, and experience a healing. This is often why we feel so peaceful when we practice yoga; we are bringing our movement and heartbeat in line with the breath. Using music can also help bring us to this point of harmony. The drum resonates with the heartbeat, while the flute represents the breath.”

Drumming in savasana. Photo by Kollin Lockamy.

Drumming in savasana. Photo by Kollin Lockamy.

Being Still

“If we wish to live with one foot on the Earth and one foot in the Heavens, then we must learn to master being still. By being still, we begin to stop thinking, and start feeling, and we become in tune with our inner wisdom and guide—the part of us that can walk into a forest and see a flock of birds emerge and know that there is bear up ahead. As humanity has distanced itself from nature, we have become analytical about this simple act of being still. We rely on ‘how to’ guides, and seminars about meditation. We have made meditation something to think about, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just take the time to be still.”

Coming into Balance

“By having balance between the left wing and the right wing, the eagle coasts effortlessly—beating its wings only five times an hour. We too need this balance within ourselves, and within our society. As in yoga philosophy, the left wing represents the female energy like the moon—subtle, reflective, vulnerable—while the right wing is like the Yang, assertive, strong, and hot. Sadly our society has become dominated by the ‘right-wing.’ Even in our yoga practice we see this imbalance play out—when we focus more on athleticism, or talk about who has the best teacher, and when we feel we need to prove our worth. So we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable, to receive, and to be able to be contemplative in our practice—and our life—in order for the balance to return.”

Life is the Ceremony

“For this balance to return we must focus less on physical rituals, ceremonies and classes, and remind ourself that life is the ceremony, and that these practices are simply reminders of that constant state of Being. Every thought, word, and action is a prayer within that ceremony. If we don’t realize this, we are in danger of turning spirituality into religion with our list of ‘must-dos.’ Once we understand that we create our ceremony, then we realize that everything we need to obtain balance is right in front of us.”

This personal balance is desperately needed, says Tony, as society becomes ever more disconnected from ancient traditions. “Humanity used to reach out to one another. We were open to learn from each other’s differences—seeking peace and harmony—but this is sadly no longer the case. We have forgotten that we are all one,” he says. Tony believes that even our spiritual teachings (such as Native American traditions, yoga, or Buddhism) are simply separate unique facets of what he calls ‘the diamond in the sky,’ or unconditional love.

“Indeed, everything is a unique facet of that diamond,” says Tony. “Every person, every relationship, and every challenge that comes to us, are simply reflecting back to us the unconditional love that lies within everything.”

And so, says Tony, we must each take the flight of the eagle. “We must leave our comfort zone of the nest, seek balance and soar towards our highest dreams—towards truth, and towards peace for all. This is the fulfilling of the circle of life. For at the end of this circle, the story that will be told will not be of our successes in the world—but rather of the lives we touched.”

HelenaveryHS

Helen Avery is a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, and full-time dog walker of Millie. 

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How a Daily Chakra Meditation Unlocked More Time and Space in My Life

One yogi never had enough hours in the day to tend to it all, much less herself. Here’s how this regular Tantric practice inspired a change.

A YJ editor learns about the power of abundance through a daily chakra meditation challenge. 

As a yogi, I’ve grasped the concept of abundance—intellectually. But as someone easily whacked out of balance by overbearing personalities or overwhelming workloads, I’ve never been entirely convinced that the universe could accommodate both my needs and virtually anything else at hand. Things get crowded quickly. My chest tightens and hip flexors grip; I ditch plans to practice yoga, stop making nourishing meals, and skip dates to connect with dear friends—or, most importantly, myself.

It may all go back to growing up in a Greek household, which involved what I’ll generously call a spirited communication style. Somehow, stillness and peace were elusive in a two-story home with big bedrooms and a finished basement. And this perceived lack of space spilled into an underlying, unchecked zero-sum mentality that has shaped my perspective ever since.

In early college, roommates and I lamented the supposed dearth of eligible partners in the dating scene. When peers sustained relationships, I’d shake my head and say, “they’re stealing from the sex pot,” as though, like a soup special on a cold day, our campus could just run out of love.

Last year, a yoga teacher and I showed up for a filming project and both felt under the weather. By mid-afternoon, I’d recovered; “I used up all the good vibes when you needed it most!” I joked. She (kindly) reminded me that there is an infinite source of healing for all.

This isn’t exactly what I thought I’d confront as I embarked on YJ’s month-long challenge to practice a chakra meditation every day. Finding calm? Sure. Less stress? Looked forward to that. Spiritual ecstasy? If I’m lucky, great—but not a must. Instead, it was time to take a look at my internal space-time continuum.

See also YJ’s March Meditation Challenge Will Help You Stick to a Steady Practice

Learn more about a chakra meditation and how to start a 31-day challenge as well. 

Balancing the Chakras

The 31-day challenge began without ceremony on New Year’s Day in Brussels, where my partner and I were visiting family. I sat in the unmade guest bed, welcomed a purring Chartreux voluntarily curled up in my lap, and fired up a 20-minute guided chakra meditation from legendary Tantra teacher Sally Kempton.

New to chakras? Here’s a quick primer: Chakras are whirling forces of subtle energy associated with different aspects of the physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies. There are 7 (of many more) chakras primarily taught in yoga, and this is what they stand for:

  • Muladhara (Root): Earth, security, home, finances
  • Svadhisthana (Sacral): Water, creativity, sexuality
  • Manipura (Solar Plexus): Fire, sense of self
  • Anahata (Heart): Air, love
  • Visuddha (Throat): Space, communication from the heart’s truth
  • Ajna (Third Eye): Light, intuition
  • Sahasrara (Crown): Bliss, divine connection

(You can get sucked into learning more about the chakras here.)

They are strung along the sushumna nadi, a central channel of life force that runs from the base of the spine through the crown of the head. The idea is that balancing the chakras—by focusing breath, mantras (sounds), yantras (shapes), imagery, and colors in their respective locations along this inner totem pole—allows you to access this sacred streak of energy.

When I asked Sally about what happens when (and if) you open the central channel, she dangled a taste of nonduality. In a Tantric reality, everyone is one with the divine. “You can become aware that your body is a formless, vast, undulating center full of light and bliss,” she said. “It’s a fairly dramatic experience.” 

It all sounds esoteric, so I wouldn’t expect everyone to embrace it. But I’d microdosed on chakra practices for over 15 years, so I was ready to dive in. When I was 20, I found a random chakra book in my East Village sublet and journaled a root chakra affirmation that resonated: “I am safe, I trust in the natural flow of life, I take my natural place in the world content in the knowledge that all I need will come to me in the right time and place.” Years later, within the context of a vigorous flow, Seane Corn presented the chakras as a psychological roadmap for growth. 

Then I met Tantra and Kriya masters Alan and Sarah Finger, who brought the chakras to light with concrete techniques to harmonize them. It was the first time I learned the chakras as a subtle body technology. They also answered a good question: How do you actually locate a chakra? For me, bija (seed) mantras were the entry point; with enough focus, repeating the staccato sounds (in the case of the root chakra, lam) help me trace a pulse in a specific location (pelvic floor). 

Even so, beaming awareness and imagery to ambiguous areas in my body required concentration and good faith. As a result, the neurotic part of my brain didn’t focus on the usual storylines: deadlines, challenges, or omg how much time is left in this meditation?! I was lulled by the mantras’ vibrations, and all the visualizations inspired my imagination—a boon for anyone who spends too much time in Type-A territory.

There was a misstep when I first imagined elements—earth, water, fire, space, light, bliss—associated with each chakra. Before Brussels, I’d traveled to Rome, so my mind conjured scenes from the Colosseum: snarled roots in its underbelly; water rising in the amphitheater… I quickly decided not to instill scenes from such an infamous space.

Instead I coaxed meaningful imagery: Strong roots holding up the mermaid-like mahogany trees I’d seen on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula; emerald lakes tucked into rarely trekked valleys of the Sierra Nevada that I’d swam in; the pulse of my apartment stove’s burner enacting a flame in my belly; a tiny flame on a stick of palo santo in my heart center. A Magritte sky in my throat, leading to a golden hour light spilling in from my third eye and crown.

Watch also: What, Exactly, Are the Chakras? Alan Finger Explains

The real test came later in the month, when my schedule packed up.

How the Chakras Created Space in My Body, Mind… and Life

Right away things shifted. I was still on holiday when my coworkers began trickling back into the office. Although I still checked my email—it may take a year of meditation to bust that habit—I didn’t feel my heart pound as they came in. I felt freedom as I visited museums, enjoyed the art nouveau architecture, and connected with family.

Instead of seeking the usual alone time when I returned to New York, I invited good friends over for dinner and king cake. Once I resumed the grind, that vacation halo lasted longer than usual. Each meditation felt like it was literally emptying me of clutter and fog, leaving me with clarity. And, yes, in some sitting practices, I could feel like I was filling up with light.

The real test came later in the month, when my schedule packed up. I prepared for an upcoming filming in another state. I assisted a week-long yoga training that lasted from early morning until evening, and then came home to complete the day’s work. Oh, and a friend from California came to stay with me.

Even for someone who doesn’t easily get overwhelmed, a lot was going on. And it would have been my default to shut out my friend, worry my way through the training, or just operate from the adrenaline.

There’s a pop culture adage that we all have the same amount of time in a day as Beyoncé. Maybe her secret is chakra meditations, because as I found space in my practice, my life opened up. I didn’t have to turn anything down, yet I didn’t feel resentful saying yes. All that inward focus cultivated a strong sense of embodiment. I could be present without losing my wits (or myself) in the process. 

When the subway literally broke one morning before training, I didn’t agonize that I’d be late. I calmly walked 20 minutes to the nearest bus route, emailed my teacher, and meditated. (I showed up on time anyway.)

See also This is the Reason I Take the Subway 45 Minutes Uptown to Work Out – Even Though There’s a Gym On My Block

During the training, I knocked over a tripod and it came crashing down during a calming restorative practice. I froze with horror; attempting to melt into my mat was futile. Shit happens, and I was grateful for a makeshift chakra meditation in that moment to move past embarrassment.

I felt peace in this chaotic schedule and could summon an abundance of presence, making deep connections with students at the training, laughing with my good friend at midnight, being kinder to my partner, and, most importantly, tending to myself. 

It may sound odd that I “allowed” myself these basic needs and simple pleasures, but it’s true: In the past, the weight of a to-do list or social obligations meant I didn’t have room for myself. I may not have experienced the splendor of the infinite universe (yet!), but this meditation expanded time and space so I could register divine moments every day.  

I started my days with a cup of coffee on the sofa and read instead of clacking away at emails. I prepared an egg and avocado breakfast. I stole moments to enjoy the way the low winter sun lit the pastel buildings in Soho.

See also This is Your Brain on Meditation

Want to explore the chakras like you never have before? Join Alan and Sarah for YJ’s 4-week online course, Chakras 101: Unleash the Wisdom and Vitality Within. Through lessons, meditations, asana, mantras, and visualizations, you will learn how to balance these whirling forces of subtle energy, from root to crown. You’ll also fill in the blanks and discover what, exactly, chakras are, where they came from, and how they work. The results: The ability to alter your state of mind, carry yourself with more confidence and ease, and tap into your innate intelligence and power. Sign up today!

The World is Tough. Empathy Makes it Easier for Us All

This post was developed in collaboration with our friends at JRNI Life Coaching, a coach training collective dedicated to equipping humans to live their very best lives and impact the world for good. At JRNI we believe that anyone can learn and practice empathy and basic life coaching skills to help move society in the direction of understanding and cohesion. Life coaching centers on meeting people where they are at. In order to do this, an empathetic lens is essential. Practicing empathy builds self-awareness, social bonds and strengthens resources for individuals and communities alike. If you are interested in becoming a life coach or creating a more empathetic community explore our collective at jrni.co.


Humans are tribal creatures who are not meant to live life alone. Yet, we live in a time where factors like technology and social stratification cause isolation, misunderstanding and separation that hurts us as a society. Being truly empathetic is what can bring us back together. Empathy and community building and are human skills that can be learned and cannot be replicated by technology. Harnessing these skills to build connection to others builds a strong foundation of relational habits that leads to stability in life.

According to the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center the term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences that includes the ability to sense others’ emotions, to conceptualize what someone else might be thinking or feeling, and to differentiate your own experience of emotion from the experience of others. Yogic philosophy and practice can help us to develop empathy through developing skill in examining your own consciousness and building awareness as it relates to others. Kundalini mantras are another wonderful way to engage your own vibrations and elevate consciousness.

What happens when we treat people empathetically?

In The Science of Empathy, Dr. Helen Reiss describes the critical role that empathy plays in shaping pro-social behavior through shared experiences, needs and desires. When we treat people empathetically we engage a gorgeous interplay of neural networks that enables us to perceive emotions, understand others perspectives and distinguish between our own and others emotions.

Practicing empathy enables you to see others through a lens that you may have may not otherwise have been able to access. There are two different kinds of empathy: cognitive empathy and emotional empathy, both of which can be bolstered by yogic practices of compassion and interpersonal awareness. Kristin Neff, a positive psychology researcher renowned for her work on the science of self-compassion, tells us that we can draw from the wellspring of shared human experience of suffering in order to build emotional empathy and self-compassion. Cognitive empathy is the act of consciously seeking to understand perspectives and experiences that are different from yours. This can be harnessed when a lack of emotional empathy exists due to racial, ethnic, religious, or physical differences. Building empathy is like building any other kind of muscle or skill, it takes awareness, intention, practice and repetition so keep at it.

It’s powerful—and feels good!—to be kind.

Consciously and emotionally treating people with empathy goes both ways… It not only makes the person on the receiving end feel good, but it’s powerful to be kind. Kindness is an active form of engagement that flows from empathy.

Studies show that if a person is empathetic they will be able to deeply understand a situation and put the needs of others above their own. This leads to behaviors that benefit others, fostering feelings of positivity and peer acceptance that leads to increased wellbeing and positive social bonds.

According to Random Acts of Kindness, engaging in empathy based acts of kindness can reduce pain, stress, anxiety, depression and blood pressure. Christine Carter, from the Greater Good Science Center, says that this kind of behavior can also cause a boost in energy. “About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others,” she says. “Many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth.”

And that’s not all… empathy-based kindness practices extend far beyond the individual.

The Ripple Effect

Humans work best in community and partnership with others. Engaging in the practice of empathy as has incredible outcomes that ripple out to the rest of society. Practicing empathy strengthens self-awareness, mental flexibility and emotion regulation. This in turn leads to replenishment and renewal of a vital human capacity. Empathetic experiences lead to positive outcomes in engagement where multiple parties feel satisfied, seen, heard and understood.

Shared positive interactions between humans promotes the discovery of creative ideas and helps to build social bonds. In turn, social bonds bolster each individual’s personal resources. These resources range from physical and intellectual, to social and psychological, and function as reserves that can be drawn on later by communities to improve the odds of successful coping and survival.

Turning to yogic philosophy, Kelley Vanderwall believes that as society transitions from the Piscean Age into the Aquarian Age, Kundalini yogic philosophy is increasingly vital in navigating one’s own consciousness, and as a means of connecting to others and to greater awareness and empathy.

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10 Years of Wanderlust with SUP Teacher Sarah Tiefenthaler

Tradition dictates that a 10-year anniversary is celebrated with aluminum; modern norms have ditched the tin for diamonds. As we begin celebrating 10 years of Wanderlust in 2019, we think the diamond is apropos: Over the years, we’ve certainly refined the proverbial lump of mindful coal into what we consider a shining beacon of the promise of wellness for all.

It’s been a journey—and there have certainly been plenty of bumps along the road. But one of the things that hasn’t changed (and of which, full disclosure, we’re pretty darn proud!) is our great relationship with world-class teachers. Every year we bring you a roster of renowned talent to help you find your true north. In this series, we’ll highlight some of those teachers who have been with us over the years—and how they look back at their relationship with Wanderlust over the past decade. This week: Sarah Tiefenthaler

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this very special 10-Year Anniversary! Join the global mindful movement at a Wanderlust event this year.


woman on SUP yoga board lake in Vermont

Sarah teaching at Wanderlust Stratton, 2015

Tell us about your first time at Wanderlust.

My first Wanderlust experience took place in Quebec at Mont Tremblant in August 2014. It was the last festival of the summer and is one of the furtherest locations from where I live in LA, but I was recommended to manage the SUP program and teach. I of course immediately jumped at the opportunity—I think I literally jumped! It didn’t matter how far away it was, it could have been in Egypt… All that mattered was, it was Wanderlust. Being asked to be a part of it was a dream come true!

Teaching SUP Yoga at Wanderlust is a special experience. We often have many students on the water that have never attempted floating yoga before. Witnessing their joy and excitement is truly special. To see them in awe of what they are doing: flowing through yoga poses on top of their paddleboard with the gorgeous backdrop of mountains, lake, and summer sky, is like watching a child experience something wonderful for the very first time. It is real and it is pure. I feel truly blessed to be given the opportunity to teach a grown-up something new in a setting so magical.

woman teaching SUP on lake tahoe

Sarah teaching at Wanderlust Squaw Valley, 2017. Photo by Melissa Gayle

Describe Wanderlust in three words.

  • Inspiring
  • Invigorating
  • Friendship

Sarah participated in this Wanderlusters episode, shot at Wanderlust Snowshoe, 2015.

What does WL mean to you?

Being the SUP Program Coordinator is not just a “job” to me, it is a gift. Wanderlust provides the opportunity for all of us, teachers and festival goers alike, the chance to travel and not just to beautiful locations but inward. Through Wanderlust, we are provided the opportunity to step away from the day to day and reconnect with ourselves and the relationship we have with ourself is the most important one.

woman in low lunge on paddleboard in british columbia

Teaching at Wanderlust Whistler, 2016.

How has Wanderlust been a part of your journey?

Wow…honestly I don’t even want to imagine what life would have been like without it. The definition of “Wanderlust” is “a strong desire to travel” but that is only half of it. Yes, traveling with Wanderlust has increased the desire to see more of this beautiful world for sure but has also created friendships. All the beautiful souls I have crossed paths with because of Wanderlust is something I can’t even put a value to. The meaningful friendships I have made with teachers, staff, students, volunteers and locals is deeply cherished. Because of Wanderlust, the gorgeous locations we travel to and the wonderful people we meet leaves me feeling fulfilled and reminds me that I am precisely where I am meant to be.

woman in yoga pose on lake in Hawaii

Sarah chilling at Wanderlust O’ahu, 2018. Photo by Melissa Gayle

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Fit + Fat, Thin + Sick. There’s More to Health than Appearance

Healthy has many definitions: “in good health,” “ not diseased,” “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” But what does healthy really look like? We could argue that a healthy person has to be a certain weight, age, or body type. Yet, there is a unique and delicate balance of internal and external physical, mental and social health for everyone.

As a personal trainer, I work with clients of all ages, sizes, weights, and abilities; each with their own version of healthy that is more than just weight or appearance. Health for a 20-year-old person looks a bit different than health for an 80-year-old—but we can all benefit from taking steps to improve our health. A healthy body at any age is well nourished, physically active, and holistically balanced.

The trick is that you often can’t see that balance. To put it bluntly: A healthy body is not defined only by its appearance. Here’s what health really looks like.

Internal Health

Not all diseases are visible to the naked eye or are caused by unhealthy behaviors. Thousands of people all over the world live with and manage chronic disease such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, lupus, HIV/AIDS, or multiple sclerosis. To the naked eye most of these people look perfectly healthy.

There are physical signs that something could be off with your internal health: chronic fatigue, altered mood, headaches, upset stomach, bloating, poor sleep, and food sensitivities. If you suffer from these or other irregularities, discuss these symptoms with your physician—they could be signs of a more serious condition or the effects of chronic stress.

In today’s society it can be easy for stress to consume us. Stress affects everyone to a certain degree by raising cortisol levels, stimulating the flight or fight response, and increasing blood pressure. The long term effects of stress can result in higher risk for chronic disease.

External Health

A healthy weight or healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) is more than body weight in relation to height. We must look deeper to a person’s physical fitness ability, total body fat, visceral fat, muscle mass, and bone density to determine a healthy weight. You can be thin with a high fat-to-muscle ratio, or heavy with a high muscle-to-body fat ratio. Eating a balanced diet and exercising in your 20s sets you up for a lifetime of healthy habits well into your 80s.

My client Nancy, 83, took her health for granted in her 20s, assuming she’d always be active. When a recent health scare landed her in the hospital, she took steps to change her diet, scheduled health screenings, resumed her daily walks, and began weight training. Regardless of age or ability everyone can take steps to be more active, reduce body fat and improve physical fitness.

How do you improve health? The following tips for managing stress, improving diet, body movement, and mental health can be implemented at any age.

Stress

Stress can cause physical symptoms: sleep problems, headaches, muscle tension, pain, chronic fatigue, raise cortisol levels, and increase risk for heart disease. Stress affects our mental health; causing anxiety, loss of focus, and depression in some cases. Regular physical activity 30 minutes or more several times a week, guided meditation, practicing yoga, eating a healthy diet, laughter and positive social interactions (such as time spent with those you love) are all great ways to manage stress. Eliminate things from your life that cause stress: Limit time on social media, change careers, reduce commute time, downsize, remove yourself from conversations or people that cause stress.

Diet

Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and high in fiber reduces the risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, and obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes. Avoiding highly processed packaged foods, refined sugar and excessive caffeine improves mood, gut balance, helps maintain a healthy weight, and lowers the risk for chronic disease. Learning to cook nourishing meals at home can be therapeutic and we benefit from knowing what went into our food. By taking the time to slow down, savor our meals and share them with people we love we learn to eat more intuitively and feel more satisfied.

Body Movement

Exercise and body movement comes in many forms: yoga practice, running, swimming, weight lifting, or high intensity interval training. With a variety of options available, keep trying things until you find something you love. Take a class at the community center, go through a yoga flow in your backyard, or take a walk. Working out isn’t limited to fancy equipment or a gym membership, just get out and move your body. Sir Isaac Newton said, “A body in motion stays in motion.” Don’t be afraid to adjust your routine throughout the seasons and different stages of life, move in a way that makes you happy!

Mental Health

Mental health is complex, ever-changing, and presents its own unique set of diseases and risks. Our mental state has a direct impact on our physical health. Take a few quiet moments each day to be alone with your breath. Appreciate the quietness of the body and practice positive affirmations or say something that you are grateful for. Cultivate a loving relationship with your body, just like you would with a friend or loved one. Practice self care through meditation, journaling, time with loved ones, regular exercise, and a balanced diet. Seek professional help when needed to manage mental health diseases.

Awareness of Risk Factors

Simply being aware of the risk factors for chronic disease can improve health. Eating an unhealthy diet, tobacco use and exposure, excessive alcohol intake, and living a sedentary lifestyle have a negative impact on our health. If you currently smoke, quit; it’s one of the most beneficial things you can do to improve your health. Be advised that not all diseases are caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits; genetics and environmental factors can also play a role. You are in control of how you respond to risk factors, what you put in your body and your physical activity level.

Health Looks and Feels Different For Everyone

Every person’s health looks a little bit different and that’s OK! Your version of healthy is unique—just like you. Just as bodies come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, so does our health. Eat a well-balanced diet, take steps to reduce stress, prioritize rest, do things that make you happy, surround yourself with people that lift you up, and move your body every day.

Living and being healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or involve expensive supplements or equipment. You can improve your mental and physical health at any age. Don’t be afraid to take control of your health and be your own advocate. If something doesn’t look or feel right speak up and find help.

briana Ottinger author bio photoBriana Ottinger is a body positive personal trainer in the San Francisco Area that helps women of any age, weight or ability take control of their health. It is her passion to make healthy living delicious, affordable and most of all fun. Briana is a two time Ironman finisher, a marathoner, and aspiring yogi. When not working Briana loves experimenting in the kitchen and traveling with her husband and two dogs. You can find Briana on her Instagram or her website, www.brianaottinger.com

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The Benefits of Solo Travel—Jet-Setting Alone to Elevate Self Care

You may be familiar with the ever-buzzing term “Self Care,” but what does it actually entail? In essence, self care is the mindful application of strategies and tools in your everyday life that ensure you are protecting the energy you need and deserve in order to perform at your highest level as a human being, not just a human doing. Thus, self care fosters the preservation, development and growth of all our holistic bodies—taking physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness into full consideration.

Apart from regular exercise, a balanced diet, and common mindfulness practices like guided meditation, a new vehicle to improve self care has emerged—embarking on a solo travel adventure. According to Resonance Consultancy’s latest Future of US Millennial Travel report, 1 of 4 US millennials polled in the study said that they plan to take a trip on their own in the next 12 to 24 months.

How exactly can a solo trip contribute to the elevation of your self care? Journeying alone can increase self-awareness, help you calm life’s general chaos, and allow you to experience new people and places through an unbiased lens. It ultimately offers you the chance to engage in a hyper-personalized itinerary where you can do what you genuinely desire in that very moment, without accommodating others.

Below are just a few reasons to consider ditching your favorite travel companion and saying yes to jet-setting on your own.

Increase Self-Awareness

When you travel solo, you have an opportunity to cut through the noise that is typically cluttering your mind, and reconnect with your true self. Who are you, really? How far have you come as a person to date? What direction are you moving in? Are you leading the life you desire and deserve?

These are questions we rarely have time to consider as we are bogged down by navigating the everyday struggle. Without distraction from those you interact with on a regular basis, traveling alone can open the door to increased self-awareness, if you choose to enter. Journaling is an effective way to capture those deeper thoughts below the surface in self-reflection which can ultimately improve your self care, as you’ll return home feeling more in tune with your wants and needs. Invest in a notebook, or utilize the “Notes” app in your smartphone!

Calm the Chaos

When was the last time you pressed pause to truly shut down? Traveling solo enables one to simply exist in that moment and enjoy quality time to be quiet with your own thoughts, without the constant worry of judgment, external stressors, or an obligation to constantly communicate with others.

For your solo trip, identify the type of setting that will foster your own definition of holistic calm to enhance your self care. Maybe you feel most at peace when you’re immersed in nature, or perhaps a place that embodies rich historical context for you to learn and discover? Go there. Seek out your unique peaceful place, shut down your electronics for a period of time that you’re comfortable with, and bask in positivity without shame or guilt. You deserve to simply stop, recharge, and soak up only those things that will bring you joy.

Open Your Mind and Heart

While inner reflection might be a top priority, your self care travel journey does not necessarily need to exclude the curious exploration of your destination. If you feel up to it, step outside of your comfort zone and engage in interesting conversation with new people you might never have crossed paths with, especially locals who have built the authentic culture you’re gratefully experiencing.

With this new sense of openness and approachability [while keeping your safety a top priority], you might establish meaningful connections on your trip that will serve as inspiration, or gain insight into hidden local attractions that you otherwise might have missed out on. It’s amazing what we can uncover if we accept introductions with an open mind and heart, and resist the urge to judge a book by its cover. Building new, authentic relationships can boost your self-confidence and improve your self care by recognizing the value that you do in fact bring to the table.

jodi ashbrook bio pictureDr. Jodi Ashbrook is a wellness entrepreneur, the founder of ZenLeader, The Be Brand, ZenLeader, The Yoga Movement, and Elevate Higher Ed. She’s also a speaker, writer, and traveling yoga teacher who has embarked on a road trip and research project across the United States called Wandering West. Jodi’s nonprofit arm, The Yoga Movement, offers foundational wellness education to students of all ages. Jodi shamelessly wears her heart on her sleeve, and has a passion for helping others follow suit with her new Spirit Cartel retail brand, launching in 2019. Follow her #WanderingWest road trip journey across the united States, as she researches and gathers inspirational lessons in mini video interviews with everyday Americans on light, love, and life for an upcoming documentary on creating your own definition of happiness. 

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