May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mindfulness Matters

May is mental health awareness month and therefore a very meaningful month for me. My current role as the founder of WellBe, a board certified patient advocate and a speaker on the topic of wellness and a holistic approach to health, all stemmed from losing my mom to suicide in 2010 following her battle with Schizoaffective Disorder during the last few years of her life.

Though her case was complicated, one of the main things I remember about the last few months of her life was how incredibly lonely she was. Her brother, my uncle, became her legal guardian and was living in Boston for work, so she moved up there from New York City where she lived for most of her adult life. She didn’t know many people and lived alone in an apartment across from my uncle’s church. He is a priest so my mom could not live there with him.

Because of the many psychiatric drugs she was on, she felt terrible and wasn’t up for socializing often, and certainly not with new people or those who weren’t aware of her situation. She spent a lot of time alone in Boston, though my uncle did his best to spend as much time with her as he could. My brothers and I went to visit her, but all of us were in college or just entering the working world in Baltimore and New York so it wasn’t as frequent as we wish we’d visited. She began to lose hope, to give up, and assumed she would be on the debilitating drugs forever and didn’t want to live that way.

The Issues of Isolation

The former United States surgeon general Vivek Murthy wrote in 2017 that loneliness and social isolation are “associated with a reduction in life span similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”

In January 2018, the New York Times reported that Britain appointed its first “minister for loneliness,” charged with tackling what Prime Minister Theresa May called the “sad reality of modern life.”

Thinking back to my mom’s experience, I can understand how the loss of connection brings a loss of hope, a questioning of purpose and too much time for the negative voices in our heads (which every one of us has!) to get too much air time, and without any other positive perspectives or people to quiet them. And it’s not just those suffering from mental illness: a 2015 study found that loneliness can alter immune system cells in a way that increases susceptibility to illness. The risk of all kinds of chronic illness increases when someone feels lonely—and it’s across all age groups. Medical News Today also reported that younger adults aged 45-49 reported higher rates of loneliness than adults aged 70 and older in a 2010 survey of more than 3000 American adults.

Because I do a lot of writing, editing and recording for my work today, I work from home at least half the week. I can tell a huge difference in how I feel when I spend too many days in a row working from home. Sometimes it’s subtle, but I now look out for it and recognize that if I’m feeling a bit blue after a few days of working from home, it’s not me or my brain, but rather the situation I’ve put myself in.

One of my favorite things to cite in my work are the five Blue Zones of longevity. One of the main commonalities of why these disparate communities around the world live so long without disease is that they all live in close knit communities. Many generations of families live together in the same house and in Okinawa, one of the five Blue Zones, people have “moais” which are social, financial, spiritual and health support groups that meet regularly.

So at this point you might be thinking: great, I live alone, I’m in a city for work where I don’t know that many people, does this mean I’m going to die of a chronic disease? No, there is much you can do to find connection. It just takes a little effort.

A Quick Exercise to Identify Ways to Connect

Grab a notepad and think about the different things that interest you and that you believe in.

  • Do you do yoga at home?
  • Are you a practicing Christian?
  • Do you play an instrument or love to dance or read?

Once you’ve made your list, think about the different ways to do these things in a group. Some examples include: routinely go to a yoga class (or festival like Wanderlust!) so that you get to know the teacher and your classmates. Find a church and attend community gatherings regularly so that you see the same people over and over. If you play an instrument, post on social networks and look through classifieds about band members needed, join a book club or find a dance class to attend regularly.

If you don’t have a lot of interests outside of work or work long hours, think about any work colleagues you might get along with and ask them to grab a coffee or go for a walk with you during or after work. Or if you have a group of people you like at work, consider inviting all of them to get together, a group atmosphere might be more your thing than one on one!

If you stay at home with children, consider a parent network or group in your area, or invite another parent at your kid’s school to have a playdate or while your kids are at school, ask them to go for a walk or have a meal or drink or coffee.

Find an exercise buddy —not only will it help you keep your commitment to exercise but it is a great way to quickly connect with someone during the week. I see one of my best friends from high school for a morning Pilates class every Tuesday. We only get five minutes to chat and hug afterward, but that’s five minutes more than I would normally get to see her during a busy work week! I also do everything I can to get to that class, despite my preference to work out in the evenings, just to avoid letting her down and for a chance to see her.

Written in Our DNA

The reason that connecting with people who have a shared interest is so powerful (rather than just people who have been in your life a long time) is that you’re combining the positivity of something you enjoy or feel a benefit from with the positive biological experience of being with others, or even better, touching others when you say hello and goodbye. Did you know that hugging reduces blood pressure and the risk of catching a cold? As humans, we are hardwired for connection, and in this age of wifi everywhere, smartphones and endless articles, shows, movies, games and social media to consume, it’s easy to avoid it. However, we now know it can be a matter of health or illness, or even life or death.

Adrienne Nolan-Smith is a board certified patient advocate, speaker and the founder of WellBe, a media company and lifestyle brand focused on bridging the large gap between the healthcare system and the wellness movement to help people prevent and reverse chronic health issues naturally. She received her BA from Johns Hopkins University and her MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. She lives with her husband in New York City. You can follow her for daily inspiration and information @getwellbe

 

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What is Yoga? Understand The History Behind the Practice

A myriad of historical information exists, so let’s start with building a foundation.

Learn how to pronounce yoga, what it is, and how to practice it. 

How to Pronounce “Yoga” Correctly

The correct pronunciation of yoga is “yogh”. 

What is yoga? 

Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago. Sri Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali around the second century BCE and is said to have called himself simply a “compiler of yoga principles” from ancient Vedic texts. Sutras means threads, or philosophical guidelines. Patanjali describes yoga as chitta vritti nirodha, which roughly translates to “you are in a state of yoga when you can still the mind into presence.”

See also 7 Forgotten Early Yoga Teachers in America with Stories You’ll Want to Hear

Learn about the most ancient language on Earth, Sanskrit. 

How to Pronounce Sanskrit

The correct pronunciation is “sunskruth”.

What is Sanskrit, and how does it relate to yoga? 

Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages on Earth. It is a deeply meaningful, spiritual language that is often described as poetry in words and sounds. But like any language, just because something is written in Sanskrit does not make it a religion or immediately valuable. Opting to use Sanskrit should be an informed choice.

See also Sanskrit 101: 4 Reasons Why Studying This Ancient Language Is Worth Your Time

Yoga is more than the physical practice. 

Yoga in India versus Western Yoga

Yoga in Western society often misrepresents the physical practice, known as yogasana, as yoga itself. Jnana Yoga (studying spiritual texts as yoga), Bhakti Yoga (devotion as yoga), and Karma Yoga (community action as yoga) are more ancient forms of yoga with little or no physical posturing. Classical yoga, however, is a holistic practice comprising eight limbs—the physical postures being just one element of finding peace in oneself. My Aunt Vrinda in Mumbai has been practicing yoga throughout her life and describes it as the following:

“Yoga has been such an essential part of my life. My grandparents were so yogic in the way they lived their lives. I remember their simple, non-materialistic lives based on deep human values: love and compassion, helping others who were in need. So when I was ready, the Universe cooperated to send me a teacher who taught me to look at life from a very different perspective—beyond just a set of asanas (poses). The entire gamut of Patanjali’s teachings were slowly introduced to me and my fellow students so subtly and imperceptibly that we found ourselves living by the yogic precepts without any major effort on our part. I am truly grateful.”

See also Yoga Philosophy 101: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Wisdom for Everyday Life

It’s important to be aware of India’s residual suffering and reconstruction after colonization.

History of Yoga: British Colonization of India

In Western society, we benefit from yoga and its adaptations. There’s been a surge in studios with trainings, clothing, equipment, and retreats. Practices evolve naturally over time, but as we freely participate in yoga, it’s important to be aware of India’s residual suffering and reconstruction after colonization.

Recounted in the National Archives, the British formally took control of India in 1858 after hundreds of years of takeover of Indian lands and companies.

Shashi Tharoor, PhD, an Indian politician and former international diplomat serving as a Member of Parliament, underscores that “violence and racism were the reality of the colonial experience” in India. He notes that under British rule, India’s share of the world economy plummeted by 20 percent. Millions of Indians died of starvation. They were required to export their rice supply and the cloth they wove themselves, which they had no choice but to buy back at higher prices. Though India fought for and won back its independence on August 15, 1947, Tharoor reminds us that “racial and religious tensions were the direct result of the colonial experience.” We see this in the disdain for and prohibition of spiritual practices such as yoga, which India is slowly working to restore as a holistic way of living for all.

There is no exact amount that can make up for loss of loved ones and for the undermining of social traditions under colonialism, Tharoor says. “The principle is what counts. Not the fine points of what and how much. The question is, ‘Is there a debt?’”

As we engage in a practice that’s designed to connect us, let’s continue to ask ourselves and one another questions. The path to individual and collective healing is yoga itself.

Rina Deshande

About our author

Rina Deshpande is a teacher, writer, and researcher of yoga and mindfulness practices. Having grown up with Indian yoga philosophy, she rediscovered its profound value as a New York City public school teacher. For the past 15 years, she has practiced and shared the benefits of yoga across the globe. After studying yoga and mindfulness as self-regulation at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she designs curriculum for science research and K–12 education. She is the author of Jars of Space, a new book of handwritten and illustrated yogic poetry. Learn more at @rinathepoet or rinadeshpande.com.

Yoga for Self-Love: Philosophy, Asanas, and a Heart-Centered Sequence

“I was looking for someone to inspire me, motivate me, support me, keep me focused… Someone who would love me, cherish me, make me happy, and I realized all along that I was looking for myself.” – Unknown

As I prepared to attend a Wanderlust event recently, I started thinking about how practicing yoga has helped me finally love my body’s shape and ability. In all of my years practicing and most recently after going through Teacher Training, the common theme has been the union of loving mind, body, and soul. Every time I step onto my mat whether in a studio, at home, or at a festival, I know I’m entering a loving and safe zone. My goal for each practice is to be present, show up with whatever I have that day and to give my best. My body shape and ability have changed many times over the course of the last 17 years, yet the practice of yoga accepts me however I am. Yoga has been there through career changes, times of pain and of growth, and most recently, to help me cope with infertility.

What the Eight Limbs Teach About Self-Love

The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali are considered to be the basic text on yoga. There are eight limbs or sutras, and when practiced help us cultivate our path to the final limb, Samadhi, a blissful state of oneness with the divine.

  • Yama is the limb of moral discipline. I have learned to not harm my body through my actions or words, to be truthful, and to practice restraint.
  • Niyama is the limb of positive observance. Through it I am content, and have pure devotion to a higher being greater than myself.
  • Asana refers to the postures of yoga. I sit still in each posture and learn discipline through meditation. My body is a temple and I vow to treat it as such.
  • Pranayama is the breath of life. I have the ultimate control over it, whether it is hot fire fueling my soul or deep, slow, soulful reflections into my greater being.
  • Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses. I have learned to limit my screen time, find quiet moments in a sea of noise, embrace others without fear or judgment, and gain strength by rooting my feet in the ground.
  • Dharana is concentration on not just the tasks at hand but on life’s greater purpose. Every action and sacrifice is helping me achieve a bigger goal.
  • Dhyana is meditation and complete surrender to divine love. Through it, I am able to quiet the mind and surrender my body and my breath to love.
  • Samadhi the final limb is a state of pure joy and connection to the divine. I am able to let go of fear, judgment, and worry. I am completely aware of the present, have let go of the past, and am not worried about the future. I do not search in paranoia for love or happiness as I already have everything I desire.

Poses to Foster Connection

The Sutras do not mention specific asanas, yet these five postures are the ones where I feel the deepest connection to the divine and to myself.

Child’s Pose allows me to surrender completely to my breath and my thoughts. It allows me to breathe and recharge during a difficult practice or simply just be still.

Mountain Pose allows me to not only stand on top of a mountain but to be the mountain. I stand tall, proud and am in touch with every muscle in my body.

Humble Warrior allows me to stand as equal parts strong, fierce and humble. I rise up by first laying a foundation of humility.
Pigeon is a stretch I crave as I often have tightness in my hips. Some days I stand proud with my heart opened and chest out, other times I bow in surrender breathing into and releasing pain.

Camel is my most uncomfortable pose, as it stirs up emotions I am often unaware of or have chosen subconsciously to suppress. I am at my most vulnerable, with my heart open and although not easy, it is one I have learned to love.

Self Love Yoga Flow

Hold each asana for 3–4 breaths. 

Warm Up

  • Cat Pose and Cow Pose
  • Child
  • Downward Facing Dog

Vinyasa

  • Inhale Down Dog
  • Exhale Forward Fold
  • Inhale Half Lift
  • Exhale Forward Fold
  • Inhale Mountain Pose
  • Exhale Forward Fold
  • Inhale Chaturanga
  • Exhale Upward Facing Dog
  • Inhale Downward Facing Dog

Main

  • Right Warrior 1, Humble Warrior, Flow, Left Warrior 1, Humble Warrior, Flow
  • Right High Lunge, Flow, Left High Lunge, Flow
  • Right Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior, Flow, Left Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior, Flow
  • Right Proud Pigeon, Flow, Left Proud Pigeon, Flow

Cool Down

  • Camel
  • Child’s pose
  • Savasana (3–5 minutes)

Yoga does not require us to prove ourselves worthy, there is no winning and every practice is a new opportunity to tap deeper into our mind-body connection. I started yoga to find a path to a higher being, yet I found the strength and love I needed within myself. Through yoga, I have learned the power of breath, flexibility, focus and most all love for my body and its ever-changing ability. When I start to doubt myself or pick apart my body, I now catch myself and pause. I vow to continue showing up to my mat, giving my best self to the practice and taking what I have learned into everything I do.

Yoga is a constant, evolving, practice of love.

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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In Dating, Friends, and Life… Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For What You Want

In a world of too many app choices, keep it simple. Bumble allows women to make the first move—so you can filter out conversations you may not want to have. Not interested in a romantic relationship? Try Bumble BFF! Whether you’re new to a city or looking to expand your social circle, Bumble BFF is a simplified way to create meaningful friendships. As our lives evolve, so does our need for authentic friendships. Bumble BFF makes it easy to build a supportive community around you—no matter where or who you are. Download here for iPhone and here for Android


One of the scariest things for many people to do—when dating, but also in general—is to ask for what they want. Why is it that we may feel something so deeply, and yet not voice our true feelings? Some of us may find it difficult to define or defend what it is we need. Others may feel that voicing desires may scare others away, make us seem needy, or compromise the power we feel from seeming as though we are OK… Even if we aren’t. Part of being in a partnership is to come with a fully formed (or forming) vision of self. Own it. Knowing what you want and how to ask for it, kindly, is how you attract the kind of partnership that can truly fulfill your needs.

But What Do You Really Want?

What you want can look any variety of ways. It could mean that you’ve learned over time that monogamy makes you feel anxious, boxed in and resentful of a partner. Therefore, setting a clear boundary that expresses your desire to honor and appreciate a partner, but not necessarily commit exclusively to them is an integral step to take in creating your ideal relationship. The same could be said for a lot of other kinds of boundary-setting. If you are someone who has an anxious attachment style, asking—compassionately—for reassurance before you feel triggered will help keep the communication in your relationship productive, as opposed to a byproduct of your own deep fears.

In both of the aforementioned examples, as well as to any way you may personally relate to resistance around asking for what you want, you may be feeling like exposing that truth would compromise the partnership you are building. You may think that discussing polyamory, or revealing an emotional need for reassurance, will send a potential partner running for the hills. It might. But let’s imagine the alternative.

Example #1: The Unhappy Monogamist 

In the first example, you build what feels like a beautiful partnership. You have fun, share emotionally, enjoy intimacy. Over time, you begin to feel the inner urge to explore other partners. You still feel committed to this person, but you can’t help but feel like your commitment is in some way holding you back from your real truth. Now you find yourself thinking about cheating and feeling guilty about it, which changes how you show up in partnership. All of this could have been mitigated by an honest conversation about your true nature at an earlier stage in the relationship. when the other person had agency to set a boundary around their own openness to this type of situation. By waiting you greatly deepen the chance of hurting both yourself and your partner.

Example #2: The Emotional Martyr 

In the second example, you continually push your anxiety in partnership under the rug. You are determined not to seem needy or overly-emotional. Since your partner does not know your expectations around communication, they communicate openly but less often than would be your preference. You find yourself stressing out constantly when they are out and unresponsive. You get judgmental, hypercritical, and obsessive whenever you feel like you don’t have control. While, yes, this is a place where working on yourself and how you hold your own emotions in integrity in the relationship would be majorly beneficial, you cannot really do so without being honest with your partner.

Finding Clarity Around Personal Needs

So how do we be open and honest in our partnerships? It starts with getting clear on what your needs are. Make a list of times you have been triggered in past relationships. Do you notice any patterns around a space you might have needed to set a boundary but didn’t? What instances have you wanted to ask for something and stopped yourself? Can you feel into why? Doing this kind of self analysis will help you get really good at asking for what you want. It will also help highlight for you some parts of yourself that may benefit from specific things in relationships, from asking for reassurance and exploring polyamory, to having specific needs about time alone or conflict styles that trigger you.

How do we be open and honest in our partnerships? It starts with getting clear on what your needs are.

When actually going to your partner(s) or potential partner to ask for what you need it can be helpful to take any accusation or generalization out of the conversation. Instead of saying “You never text me back,” or “I feel inhibited by your neediness,” you can take a tip straight from vulnerability expert Brene Brown and preface your need with, “The story I am telling myself is…” followed by the truth beneath your request. For example, “The story I am telling myself when you do not text me back is that you either don’t care about me or are in bed with that girl who is on your softball team.” Your partner then has the opportunity to respond with, “Well that’s a crazy story. How can we rewrite it?”

By making the story that the triggering behavior provokes in you the issue, your partner is less likely to feel accused of something (ie. “Are you hooking up with that girl from your softball team?”) And you have more flexibility with naming the deeper issue beneath your need for whatever it is you want without feeling like you are being unreasonable or needy. You are no longer blaming, you are asking your partner to help you work through a story.

The Storytelling Strategy

This strategy can be enormously helpful in asking for what you want in your relationship. Everything from, “The story I am telling myself when you do not make the dishes is that you do not respect me,” to “The story I am telling myself is you care more about work than our relationship,” can be helped with this strategy. It may not be a cure-all, but it will certainly open the door to resolution and communication. It is worth reiterating that mindful dating and relationships means finding solace in having your needs respected by your chosen mate. They may not be able to meet them, but at least you know. Instead of building resentment and anxiety around a relationship that is not in alignment with your deepest truth, you have expanded your capacity to create that with vulnerability and honesty.

Next time you are feeling triggered, feel into where it comes from and try this strategy out. Shifting your fear of asking for what you need will open up a world of doors for you and any partner you find worthy of your time once you start asking for what you want.

author bio photoCara Kovacs is a third generation healer, second generation oracle, and Sex, Love & Relationship expert trained by Layla Martin. Named as 2019’s one of “35 People Under 35 To Watch In Wellness” by Wanderlust, she combines modern science with ancient healing and spiritual philosophy to help bring people to truth through love. Past featured events have included Bustle Rulebreakers ft. Janelle Monae & The Big Quiet, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Wanderlust Festival, partnerships with Employees Only, Root Mamma, Salt Witch Studios, Soho House, Freehand Hotels, LadyBoss Social Club, Alchemist Kitchen, and more. She is an official card reader for The Poetry Society of New York and has been featured in Time Out, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, and Elite Daily.

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8 Essential Aerial Yoga Poses You Have to Try

AiReal Yoga is a form of aerial yoga using a hammock on a single swiveling point as a prop for yoga asanas. AiReal Yoga is yoga in the air, and it really is yoga.

The hammock is a tool for all levels and styles of yoga, from beginners to advanced, from yin to vinyasa. It’s a tool to hold on to for balance, help refine postures, assist in alignment, deepen stretches, and safely invert without compressing the spine. Some of the greatest benefits come from the therapeutic aspects the hammock offers: reducing pain, finding alignment, decompressing the spine, overcoming fear, building confidence and strength, and giving you the opportunity to do postures you never thought personally possible. Not to mention the magic of a floating Savasana…

Here are eight essential poses to get you started. All photos taken at Wanderlust Stratton—will we see in you in Vermont this year? For tickets and more information, click here.

1. Layback in the Cross Position

aireal-yoga-1

  • A deep heart opening posture
  • Stretches and opens the chest and shoulders, lungs, and abdomen
  • Stimulates the nervous system
  • Improves posture
  • Relieves stress
  • Therapeutic for asthma

2. Chair in the Cross Position

aireal-yoga-2

  • Spinal decompression
  • Relieves lower back pain and sciatica pain
  • Improves posture
  • A moment of ohhhhhhmyyygooooodnesssss ahhhhhh.

3. Shoulder Stretch in Wrist Wrap

(variation on Extended Puppy Pose/Uttana Shishosana)

aireal-yoga-3

  • Stretches the shoulders and spine
  • Improves posture
  • Helps reduce lower back and sciatica pain

4. Plank with the Feet in the Hammock

(variation on High Plank)

aireal-yoga-4

  • Strengthens and tones core, legs, shoulders, wrist, spine, and arms
  • Helps relieve lower back pain (you must engage the glutes in this variation since the hammock raises the legs higher than in traditional floor yoga plank)
  • Improves your posture and confidence
  • Increasing balance and stability

5.  Low Lunge in Wrist Wrap

aireal-yoga-5

  • Stretches the hip flexor and sciatica.
  • Relieves emotional and hormonal stress

6. Pike and Pull with the Foot in the Hammock, with a “Wanderlust-Finding-Your-True-North-Twist”

aireal-yoga-6

  • Point your arrow in the direction of your dreams
  • Stretches the hamstrings, thighs, and hips
  • Relieves sciatica and lower back pain
  • Improves balance and focus
  • Improves digestion

7. Star Inversion

aireal-yoga-7

  • Decompresses the spine
  • Helps relieve stress, anxiety, insomnia, and mild depression
  • Calms the mind, allowing you to think more clearly
  • Increases circulation and decreases inflammation
  • Regulates temperature
  • Allows gravity to naturally align the spine
  • Relieves menstrual cramps and menopause symptoms

8. Floating Savasana with Assisted Foot and Back Massage

aireal-yoga-8

  • Surrender, feeling light, sensations of floating, a deep meditation
  • Calms the brain, relaxes the body and mind
  • Hugged by silk, feeling secure and safe
  • Ease of sinking and melting into a deep relaxed state
  • Reset and Renew

Photos by Neil Gandhi

aireal-yoga-logoAiReal Yoga is the first and only brand of aerial/hammock yoga accredited by the Yoga Alliance, offering 200-hour teacher training programs, 50 hour immersions and hammock installations. Check us out at airealyoga.com.

Carmen Curtis is the founder of AiReal Yoga. She is a former NCAA National Champion gymnast. Carmen has been traveling the world creating aerial acts, teaching harness and aerial, and performing for clients such as Cirque Du Soleil, LA Philharmonic, and Lady Gaga and appears on MTV’s show BEYOND DANCE.  In 2010 she opened The AERIAL STUDIO, in Ventura, CA, and began teaching aerial arts, gymnastics, dance, and yoga.

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This Yoga Teacher Is Bringing Diversity to the Yoga Retreat Industry

We caught up with her to talk about her burgeoning business and why Grenada will always be her baby.

Christina Rice of OMNoire

Yoga Journal: You were running a successful PR business when you started OMNoire. What made you want to be a yoga teacher and retreat leader?
Christina Rice: I attended yoga teacher training because I wanted to go deeper into my practice. I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach, because I was afraid of public speaking! But by the third week, I thought, I’m going to teach. There were very few people of color in my classes, and once I started teaching, a lot of black women would reach out to ask for my class schedule. Women of color felt more comfortable being taught by a woman of color. That’s where the idea of OMNoire came from.

YJ: That was at the start of 2016. How did you get OMNoire up and running—and gain such popularity—in such a short amount of time?
CR: The lack of representation for people of color in the yoga and wellness space means we are really hungry for it. That’s where OMNoire’s success and growth have come from. I started it as a simple social media page to highlight women of color practicing wellness in different cities. I came up with the name, started the Instagram account, and attracted a lot of followers right out of the gate. In November 2016, someone approached me about leading a wellness retreat, which I officially announced in March of the following year—and OMNoire as we know it was born.

YJ: What dream destination did you choose for your first retreat?
CR: Grenada, and it was our largest retreat to date! More than 50 women attended from all over the world—the UK, US, Canada, and Nigeria.

See also 4 Yoga Leadership Retreats Every Yoga Teacher Should Consider

YJ: Why Grenada?
CR: I took my first solo trip there in September 2015, three weeks before I started my 10-week yoga teacher training. There’s an amazing underwater sculpture park there. You can snorkel it, but I wanted to get over my fear of open bodies of water. So while I was there, I took my first scuba diving lesson. Many of our fears are rooted in physical actions or things: heights, swimming, standing or speaking in front of large crowds. If we conquer those types of fears through adventure—hiking up mountains, scuba diving, etc.—we can conquer anything.

When I did my first dive, in an extremely deep part of the ocean, I was terrified. I panicked at around 10 feet and shot back up to the surface. I took out my regulator—which you’re not supposed to do—and accidentally took in some water. So there I am, basically choking, trying to catch my breath, and I used my practice. I paused, taking deep breaths and quietly speaking confidence in myself, until I was ready to try again. That day I ended up doing two successful dives for a total of 89 minutes under water. Thanks to my yoga and meditation practice, I’ve continued to grow and stretch over the years. I’ve found my happy place internally—both under water and above ground.

For this, Grenada will always carry a special place in my heart, and it was an easy choice to host our first retreat there. Two years after my first dive—four days before the ladies arrived for the very first OMNoire retreat— I received my scuba certification with the same Grenada-based dive team I took my first dive with.

See also Surf Yoga Retreat Aimed at Helping You Find Creativity

YJ: Back in January, we kicked off a conversation about new leadership in yoga. Since then, conquering fears has come up quite a bit. Do you consider yourself a leader in the evolving yoga space?
CR: It wasn’t until recently that someone told me I was a leader and I thought, Oh—I guess I am! Since then, I’ve embraced that title and responsibility. At OMNoire, we’re clear and direct with our messaging: You don’t have to fit in a certain box. Our work with the women in our community is helping them discover their own wellness journey, and to own it, and to be leaders themselves.

I consider it one of my biggest responsibilities to be transparent about my own journey. Anyone who follows me on social knows that I’m very transparent—about wins, losses, struggles, fears, and surviving a toxic relationship that brought me to yoga and OMNoire. It’s a leader’s responsibility to allow people in their particular community to understand that they don’t have to be perfect.

See also How to Be a Yoga Leader in Your Community

Learn more about Christina and OMNoire at omnoire.com and @OMNoire.

Man Up… Mindfully: Danni Pomplun on Self-Care for Men

Danni Pomplun is teaching at Wanderlust Squaw Valley this year! Having started his journey with Wanderlust as a wayfarer, Danni is well-versed in the magic of Wanderlust and a stellar guide for Wanderlust die-hards and newbies alike. For tickets and more information about Wanderlust Squaw, click here.


Self-care has been a focus for women in the past few years as research has emerged on the increasing stress felt by women as they juggle work and home-life. There’s been a growing awareness among women that by making healthy choices around exercise, sleep and nutrition, and having a self-care arsenal of aids such as essential oils or restorative yoga, they can prevent tension from building up in both the body and mind. But what about men?

Research shows that men find it harder to handle stress than women leaving them more prone to depression and withdrawal, yet men do not tend to report their situation, and self-care is rarely discussed. There are men at Wanderlust, of course—many of them brought by their female partners. For many men, the Festival may be the first best place to learn about how to better care for their emotional and spiritual health.

“The two easiest ways that men unwind are to out for drinks, or binge-watch TV,” says Danni Pomplun, a San Francisco-based yoga teacher. “There’s nothing bad about these choices but they are unsustainable long-term. You don’t necessarily feel refreshed or relaxed after either of these,” he says.

The research backs him up. Studies show that binge-watching TV at night, for example, leads to fatigue, insomnia symptoms, and poorer sleep quality. And while alcohol may help deal with stress in the short term, in the long run it can contribute to feeling of depression and anxiety that make stress harder to deal with. That’s why encouraging men to engage in wellness activities—like those at a Festival—may be a viable antidote.

The Challenge of Self-Care for Men

Danni says he went through a period of burn-out when he first started teaching yoga. “The easiest thing to do was to go home and have a beer to unwind, but it made it worse, and I knew I had to figure out a strategy to refill my energy reserves.”

He says one the challenges for men around self-care is even acknowledging that it is OK to take time to unwind or recuperate. “One of the reasons we don’t talk about self-care for men, is that there’s a sense that, as a man, you need to push through or tough it out. You can feel ashamed when you need to have a down moment.” In yoga classes, Danni says he sees men pushing themselves beyond their capacity, so that even exercise is sometimes not a helpful de-stressor for men. A place like Wanderlust can help men find support and community by meeting other men involved in wellness.

The term ‘self-care’ alone can be scary, he points out. “As men we often talk of “manning up” or “muscling through” so speaking of something like self-care can feel very vulnerable.” But it is his hope that self-care for men can be normalized—“even if it’s calling it ‘downtime’ or ‘me-time,’” he adds.

Small Changes = Big Change

Small changes in a routine or schedule can work wonders, says Danni. “Heading to a park on a lunchbreak, switching off the phone an hour before bed, or listening to some music in the morning or evening while lying in a restorative posture… Just finding ways to send a signal to the body and mind that it’s time to settle down can be very helpful.”

He says he introduced a pre-bedtime ritual that includes making tea, listening to music or meditating, and having the phone turned off. “Just these small inclusions of self-care can reduce stress,” he shares.

As self-care is not often something men are conscious of doing, female partners and friends can be helpful in introducing ways to help the men in their lives relax, offering alternatives to the TV or going to a bar.

Danni says one way is to take part in healthy activities together. “Go with your partner or friend to the park, to a yoga class, or cook or make tea together. When we do things together it demonstrates that taking care of oneself is normal. It shows there are many options for spending time in a way that is rejuvenating, and that those options aren’t so unusual.”

Dedicating time to get away and nurture the body and have fun is also key, he adds. “Take a weekend trip into nature, or head to a yoga festival. Spending time in an environment where your body will be taken care of and you’ll be surrounded by people all embracing self-care can really help to reset the system, and encourage a commitment to making more downtime during the work week.”

HelenaveryHS

Helen Avery is a senior writer for Wanderlust Media. She is also a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, minister, and full-time dog walker of Millie, residing in Brooklyn, New York. You can find out more about her on her website, Life as Love.

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Reclaim Your Power Through Intuitive Breathwork with Erin Telford

Erin Telford is a certified Breathwork teacher and healer, acupuncturist, Reiki Master, and herbalist. Learn from her at our all-new 2-day Festival in Seattle! For tickets and more information, click here.


We’re living in a world where our connection to technology surpasses our connection with each other—and worse yet, ourselves. Overstimulated and overwhelmed, we flock to self-help gurus to find the key to our healing and our happiness.
But what if we could reclaim our power by channeling our own intuition as our guide? Turns out, you absolutely can.

“I think that people want to feel better than they do, but the routes to get there are often mysterious. The painful journey that it takes to be in a different mental and emotional space is often so daunting and so uncharted that you don’t even know where to start,” says healer and breathwork teacher Erin Telford. “We’re so used to outsourcing our intuition and our magic and our self-understanding to books, podcasts, teachers, leaders, and magazines.”

Erin’s experience as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and Reiki master led her to discover her passion for helping people work through their emotions, including depression, anxiety, and trauma. Her ability to facilitate self-healing through breathwork further reinforced her passion for empowering others to connect with their intuition on a daily basis. It’s the opportunity to reconnect with this intuition that inspired me to explore the types of practices at Wanderlust—opening the door to experiences that have changed my life.

The Healing Power of an Intuitive Practice

Life-changing or not, when it comes to the frequency of breathwork and other practices, Erin avoids a prescriptive approach and instead encourages a more intuitive practice. “My practice is more about being really conscious of my energy levels, what I need, and honoring my rhythms,” says Erin. “I really believe it is one of the most courageous things to just be conscious. And be awake and aware of how you feel and why you’re feeling it, on a day-to-day basis. That can be so scary, so confrontational.”

But Erin and her teacher David Elliott view these day-to-day experiences as opportunities for learning, a kind of “human curriculum” that allows us to expand and find our purpose. “I feel that we’re here to heal and learn and grow,” says Erin.
“There are times that are exceptionally painful and harrowing, and ask us to show up and give everything that we’ve got, even when we don’t think that we can. That contrasted with the opportunity for joy and love and ecstatic experience? We get both. We always get both.”

“I feel that we’re here to heal and learn and grow.”

As we move quickly from task to task in our fast-paced society, tuning in with your own thoughts and feelings may seem intimidating. But integrating simple practices of self-reflection and introspection throughout your day doesn’t have to be a carefully crafted ritual.

“I tell people to take their emotional temperature,” says Erin. “You could do it on the subway or in traffic. The more practiced you get at it, the easier it gets to check in… You’re allowed to do the scan, ask the questions, get the answers, and keep it moving.”

woman bending down picking up something in desert

Photo courtesy of Erin Telford

The Physical Effects of Breathwork

While intuitive practices extend beyond breathwork, this healing modality in particular enables profound healing on a physical level. During Erin’s Full Moon + Spring Equinox Breathwork Circle on March 20, I had the opportunity to experience the power of such a simple breathwork technique myself.

Essentially, when we give our brains a repeatable task, such as this “inhale, inhale, exhale” breathwork pattern, we are busying the executive function of our brain. We override that part of the brain and create opportunities for other areas that were previously unable to communicate to fire synapses and connect. “You’re bypassing the brain and going in through a different door, to be able to connect to the divine intelligence of your nervous system, your heart, and your spirit,” says Erin.  “Our bodies are free. And our breath is free. And it’s beautiful to be able to know you have that power inside you to be able to provide healing for yourself.”

Erin notes that this practice can be incredibly transformative as an introspective experience that illuminates the non-linear stories of our lives. “You’re making this connection within to yourself in a very pure way,” says Erin. “It’s allowing a rearrangement and an experience of connecting the dots and allowing things to become clear that maybe have evaded you for your whole life.” And as Erin and I both experienced, these effects can be felt after just one session.

“There’s this instant clarity that happens when you’re not using the logic and the brainpower. When you’re actually just connecting with the learning of your body and your heart,” says Erin.

She highlights that this kind of experience modifies the way you view not only your past, but also your present and your future. “These types of practices can alter your path completely and give you new knowledge and new understanding and a whole new way of being and operating in the world,” says Erin.

Deepening Your Intuitive Practice

For a deeper exploration of intuitive practice, Erin recommends solitude and slowing down. “In order to hear yourself, you need to have time and you need to have an absence of stimulation,” says Erin. And it’s not limited to breathwork. “Any practice that’s going to be able to give you space, time and no distractions…so that you can ask yourself those questions of ‘how do I feel in my body, what emotions are coming up for me right now, where do I feel tight, where do I feel pain, where do I feel constriction’…to be able to honestly answer them, without judgment and with some amount of neutrality and compassion for yourself, is a good way to begin to check in,” says Erin.

Examples of this practice include walking in the woods, wandering throughout your city with headphones and nonlyrical music, or simply laying down on your floor and completing a 10 minute body scan without intrusion.

Erin emphasizes the power of moving through our negative emotions, judgments, and limiting beliefs, instead of merely pushing them away. A study by UCLA psychologists also reinforces the practice of identifying our feelings to help us process and experience them in the present moment.

“When you allow yourself to make that connection to that inner space…when you give yourself a vent for all of those emotions… all the explanations of the mind about where we should be don’t matter,” says Erin. “What is telling and true is what we experience in our bodies and in our nervous systems.”

And as we learn to tune in both physically and emotionally, focusing on introspective questions and evaluations can serve as a meditative practice that enables us to connect with what we need in the moment. The result? We are empowered to step into our purpose and tap into our inner strength for a more vibrant life.

“Once we have a way to move through all of that pain and suffering…things can get so much clearer and more enjoyable,” says Erin. “It can get even better than you expect.”

laura hanson author bio photoLaura Hanson is a writer, mentor, and yoga teacher with a background in the therapeutic applications of yoga. She focuses on using breathwork, meditation, and reflection to empower others to find their inner strength. Her mission is to enable practical wellness and help others create more productive, fulfilled lives by nurturing the mind, body, and spirit through mindful living. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook, @laurajhanson.

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The Spirit of Motherhood

Mothering is a gift.
It’s an honor and a privilege to be a mother to another.
It’s also a very, VERY hard slog.

Every day presents a new whirlwind of emotions. Just when you think that you’ve got it all together new challenges arise. I’m sure I’m not alone when I judge myself and think that I’m not a very good mother sometimes. We can easily get caught up in the day-to-day logistics of running a household and making sure everyone’s needs are met. Amidst the working, cleaning, cooking, chauffeuring, refereeing, tutoring, and policing, we can lose sight of the real currency of motherhood.  

My teacher Ram Dass has distilled the spiritual practice into two very simple words: “loving awareness.” I find myself coming back to this simple teaching time and time again.  

Above all else, mothering is loving. It’s holding the space of loving awareness amidst the storm of “where’s my other sock” and “I’m hungry.” Mothering is a lovingness that welcomes it all. That’s not to say that we become doormats and get walked all over. Tough love is some of the best mothering one can dish out, but while never losing touch with that heart center that envelops all parts unconditionally. This absolute love is the true spirit of motherhood.

I remember my first Mother’s Day was an emotional one. My mother was dying and I felt guilty celebrating a day that would surely be her last. I also worried if I’d ever be any good at it. I had big shoes to fill. I was overwhelmed with trying to do it all and do it all perfectly (not to mention organically).    

FOF (fear of failure) is a big one with motherhood. The unrealistic ideals placed upon a mother are quite staggering, so it’s no wonder many moms feel less than. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was less judgment on the superficial and more emphasis on nurturing relationships and real connection with our families?

I am loving awareness.” Ram Dass would whisper.  
“I am loving awareness.” Just this.
“Loving awareness.”

Beyond our own personal situations and stories, there is the mothering energy that is present throughout time. An unbroken continuum of loving it all. Yoga philosophy talks of the Divine Mother. She is the one that gives birth to this physical reality that we live in. Her womb is a stargate and from this birthplace, all sacred life comes forth. Here the Divine Mother is all things; she is the calm and the storm, she is Divine wrath and Divine bliss, she is both the creative force and the destructive force and through it all she is love.  

Mother’s Day can be an opportunity for us all to soften our expectations and drop into our hearts. It really is as simple as breathing in and out with the words “loving awareness” at the heart of your focus. Let’s honor and celebrate life and the feminine force that creates it all. And let’s help a mother out if we see her struggling!    

Om Sri Matre Namaha!

Sincerely,
Jo Tastula

These nurturing classes embody the essence of mothering:
patience, devotion, wisdom, and, above all, unconditional love.

Holding the Space of Love: https://glo.yoga/2JbeDPW
Cultivating Patience: https://glo.yoga/2J7KalX
Nurture Yourself: https://glo.yoga/2YdItqz
You Are Amazing: https://glo.yoga/2WBDjVa

What Oprah Winfrey Knows For Sure About Finding Your Life Purpose

Oprah Winfrey believes that living for yourself is honorable not selfish. She shares what she’s learned about setting meaningful intentions, finding your flow, and embodying your most authentic self.

The simple act of asking “What is my purpose?” on the Internet has the power to elicit nearly one billion responses. 

That’s a staggering commentary on the way so many people feel about who they are and how much they long for an existence that matters.

On the surface, typing those four little words… what—is—my—purpose… and pressing enter may seem trivial, but it’s really a profound reflection of an intimate prayer rising from the deepest part of the heart. It’s asking to be acknowledged. Initiating that search is a sign that the journey toward an elevated life filled with meaning and character is ready to begin.

And here is the great news. Beyond the labyrinth of digital links, there is really just one being who holds the keys to unlock the answers to all that you were meant to become. That miraculous soul has been speaking your entire life. Of course I’m talking about you!

I believe every one of us is born with a purpose. No matter who you are, what you do, or how far you think you have to go, you have been tapped by a force greater than yourself to step into your God-given calling. This goes far beyond what you do to earn your living. I’m talking about a supreme moment of destiny, the reason you are here on earth.

Each one of us has an essential role in the whole of humanity. All you have to do is follow your path to answer the call.

See also 8 Poses to Cultivate Courage and Reduce Self-Consciousness

In the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Committing to a life of purpose takes courage. There was a time in my own life when I felt torn between who the world was telling me I should be and what I felt to be the truth of myself. Today, I know for sure what I’m here to do. That’s because I started listening to my instincts and paying attention to the decisions I made each and every day.

If you’re at a crossroads in your career or relationship, if you’re struggling with finances, with addiction, or to take control of your health, the journey to lasting change begins with defining what matters most to you. All of us have a limited number of years here on earth. What do you want to do with yours? How do you want to spend your precious, ever-unfolding future? There’s no need to waste another day wondering if there’s more to life. There is. And it’s yours for the finding.

When you’re ready.

Read Oprah Winfrey‘s new book, The Path Made Clear, for inspiration on finding what matters most to you.

Excerpted from The Path Made Clear. Copyright © 2019 by Oprah Winfrey. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

See also Stand in Your Own Power with this 8-Minute Guided Meditation