Morning Practice On the Road: 3 Tricks for Mindful and Creative Travel

Nkechi Njaka is just one of the inspiring teachers you can learn from at Wanderlust. Check her out at Wanderlust Seattle this May! For tickets and more information, click here

Travel is one of the most exciting things we can do to switch up our daily routine, have an adventure or just give ourselves permission to play—especially when our day-to-day is fairly predictable and structured. In the midst of Festival season, wellness travel can be a rewarding and just the thing we need to pivot and inspire us to live more fully in our practices.

Travel can also be disorienting and can pull us away from our practices. To avoid disorienting travel, I highly recommend creating a portable mini-morning practice that mirrors a practice that happens when you are are at home. When we are in the practice of using the weekend to reset and recharge, it is that much more important to ground in simple practices before entering in to the beautiful chaos that is a wellness festival. This can be particularly helpful for people traveling in general and also those who travel to attend Wanderlust Festival.

In the wellness world, we often hear that having a morning practice or “ritual” is an important way to ground and to set an intention for the day or week. Morning practices can also support us in moving with a sense of connection and purpose. I completely believe this to be true and over the years have developed a meaningful morning practice that inspires me to exist in my truth as well as live fully self-expressed. I feel as though my morning practices sets me up for my day to be successful. That being said, mindfulness is something to be practiced at all times during the day and can be integrated in other daily rituals (meals, physical activity, bed-time routine, etc.).

Why a Morning Practice?

A morning practice allows you to center your experience around yourself and it creates the space for self care, wellness, and self-love. It also creates a buffer between you and the noise and allows for you to meet yourself where you are so you can better plan and make choices that are going to serve you and your wellness best. A morning practice also helps us to become more mindful.

Mindfulness is not just sitting in meditation; mindfulness is a way of conducting our lives to live moment to moment, presently. There are so many ways to get present with what is. And there are so many ways to be in touch with ourselves in the activities that we do and in the conversations that we have. I teach mindfulness meditation as a way to train the mind, body and heart to find awareness efficiently.

My Morning Practice

Often when guiding meditation, I incorporate some aspects of my extended morning practice in my teaching so that my students have tools for developing their own morning practice.

I often guide practice with three points of checking in, by asking:
How is the mind doing?
How is the heart doing?
How is the body doing?

I use these three questions with full knowing that we can trust our responses. There are three themes that I am working with in my morning practice—awareness, attunement, and gratitude.

AWARENESS: Writing down what I notice.
Inspired by Julia Cameron’s morning pages, I spend the first moments of the day writing a stream of consciousness for three pages in my journal. I allow any and everything that I am feeling to land on the empty pages. I don’t spend time thinking about what I will write nor do I spend time reviewing what I have written. I let thoughts and feelings come up as they do and allow them to leave—just as fleeting as they arrived

ATTUNEMENT: A mindfulness meditation
I spend a about 20 minutes sitting in a mindfulness meditation practice. Here, I focus on sensation of my body and/ or my breath. If I am feeling particularly grounded, I may begin to work with emotions by investigating specific inquiry and noticing the sensation of emotion as they arrive.

GRATITUDE: Movement (inspired free form dance)
Movement is an important aspect of my morning practice because it allows me to integrate my check in with awareness of the body. It is also an expression of joy and love. For this movement practice, allow yourself to be inspired by how you feel in your body. Play your favorite song for 3 to 5 minutes and move/ dance with no judgment. Allow your body to find freedom and flow and hold the lens of loving-kindness, curiosity, wonder and awe. If this practice feels nourishing and supportive, increase the movement to 10 or 15 minutes. As Martha Graham says, “The body never lies.” Let this be a practice of listening to the self and deepening a sense of body literacy.

If you’re looking for ways to go deeper in your writing, sitting or moving practice, here are some inquiries to work with:

  • What is needing my attention now?
  • Where can I experience more freedom?
  • Where do I need to have a boundary?
  • Where am I needing to be flexible?
  • Where are my places of forgiveness?

Why I Do It

As someone who travels often for work, self care and for pleasure, it is important to establish a morning practice that mirrors my home practice. This is particularly helpful when the travel is short, there are a lot of moving parts and excitement and when the regular routine of life is shifted. It is important to me to find a sense of groundedness when I am on the go. I use this when I am traveling for Wanderlust Festivals as a way to center and achieve presence.

Morning routines have gotten a lot of attention from the creative and entrepreneurial communities—revealing that a powerful positive relation between productivity and having a morning practice exists. Whether or not you identify as an entrepreneur or a creative, here are three mini-morning practices that you can take with you when you travel. My portable morning practice of writing, sitting and moving to hopefully inspire your travel days and support you in living a mindful and creative life—near and far from home.

Practices to Try

Awareness: Write in your journal for one page responding to the following inquiries:

  • How is my mind doing?
  • How is my heart doing?
  • How is my body doing?

Attunement: Spend 5 minutes in a sitting meditation focused on the breath and sensation in the body.

  • First minute: getting settled and arriving in your practice, focus on the sensation of breath
  • Second minute: asking how is my mind doing? While focusing attention in the space between the temples (forehead, eyes, eyebrows and crown of head)
  • Third minute: asking how is my heart doing? While focusing attention in the heartspace, the center of the body.
  • Fourth minute: asking how is my body doing? While focusing attention in the space of where you feel your body most—perhaps this is where you are making contact with the floor or chair, but maybe there are other sensations that are very present
  • Fifth minute: spending the last minute of this short practice of asking what needs your attention and creating an intention around that while bringing your attention back to your breath.

Gratitude: For 2 minutes, move as you want to move. Stretch, dance, shake, playfully allowing yourself to wake up and integrate the awareness and attention that you have from the other two practices.

Having a morning practice is wonderful and keeping the practice up during travel is one of the best ways for me to stay grounded during my time away from home.

nkechi author bio photoNkechi Deanna Njaka, Msc. is a neuroscientist, choreographer and meditation teacher. She has spent the majority of her life investigating the relationship between the brain and the body and has always felt the significance of their integration. Through her work as a neuroscientist as well as a professional modern dancer + choreographer, she discovered that mindfulness and creativity are crucial for sustaining individual and global wellbeing. She attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA where she majored in neuroscience and dance and went on to complete an MSc. in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. Nkechi Deanna Njaka is the founder of NDN lifestyle studio, co-founder of Sitting Matters, and a 2017 YBCA Truth Fellow.


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Clean Up Your Tropical Trip: Packing a Zero-Waste Beach Bag

Better yet, pack a zero-waste beach bag and venture around the world with us with Passport: Your ticket to any Wanderlust event anywhere in the world, all year long. 

Gone are the days we embark on a beach excursion with single-use plastic bottles, chemical-laden sunscreens, and synthetic swimwear chalk-full of artificial dyes. Both new and existing companies are emerging with a sincere passion to protect oceans and marine life, while equally supporting our desire to experience the coast. Let’s join them, not as a means to consume more, but to ensure what we are consuming is supporting the greater good—taking care of Mama Earth. So that we, and future generations to come, can continue enjoying the grounding she instills and the wildness she evokes.

Before you go hit the waves or lounge in the sand, here are six ways to pack a zero-waste beach bag.

Natural Sunscreen

With coral reefs at stake and a growing awareness regarding what we put in and on our body, grabbing the first sunscreen on the shelf is less than ideal—for both you and the environment.

Start by steering clear of oxybenzone, which deforms and destroys coral reefs and causes coral bleaching. Look for sunscreens marked “reef safe,” but still check the label, as there are currently no regulations surrounding these terms. In addition, packaging that boasts “natural” or “organic” does not mean they spare our coastlines any harm. When in doubt, flip the bottle over and read the fine print.

If sunscreens are causing this much harm to our environment, what will they do when absorbed into a human body? It’s a topic of much debate. If your curiosity is piqued, do your research and find what’s right for you. Popular options for the lather-conscious include utilizing the sun-blocking properties of many essential oils, choosing a natural, mineral-based sunscreen (Note: forget anything with parabens, a category of endocrine disruptors that are a widespread and detrimental ingredient), or getting just the right amount of rays before relocating to a shady palm.

Reusable Water Bottle

Beach day or not, a reusable water bottle is worth keeping on-hand 24/7. And now that many containers are able to keep your beverages hot or cold for a full day of activities, this bottle can double as your morning matcha mug or an ice-cold water dispenser. Just give it a rinse in between. (Hint: Buy a bottlebrush made from recycled materials or natural fibers for an easy, eco-friendly scrub.)

Let’s do our best to pass on the one-use plastic. Plus, isn’t it fun to express yourself through your container’s color palette? Or to cover it with a myriad of stickers? When it comes to personalization, do like mama nature—go wild.

Beach Towel

Beach towels have come a long way since our favorite movie characters sprawled out on the sand alongside us. Sustainable materials, such as organic cotton or fabrics forged from post-consumer plastic bottles, are now common constituents. And if you look hard enough, you may even find towels colored with natural dyes right off your dinner plate (yams, anyone?).

If you’re a minimalist at heart, flex your creativity! When traveling or limited by space, let a sarong or yoga mat-towel double as your beach towel. Alternatively, an extra-large beach blanket can easily transition from towel, to tablecloth, to shade-cloth or wearable wrap (and rather stylishly, I might add).


With cool companies making waves in a functional, fashionable and planet-positive way, decking yourself out for a trip to the coast has never been easier. You can find sunglasses with sustainable bamboo frames, wear sandals crafted from repurposed scrap rubber, recycled yoga mats, or natural rubber sourced from a rubber tree, and don a biodegradable hat made of hemp. The options are as wide as the sea. You may even find a company who will gift a duplicate item to someone in need—the environment won’t be the only one who wins!

Snack Time

Stay in the water for one more wave, or keep your energy levels up for Ultimate Frisbee finals. Reusable picnic sets composed of vegetable matter, starch, bamboo or rice husks are a fun and eco-conscious way to tote your snacks to the water’s edge. All of the mentioned compounds are biodegradable—yes, you could technically bury them in the ground!

If you’re packing light, opt for beeswax wrappers. These are a fabulous alternative to single-use plastic or cling-wrap. Use and enjoy these natural beauties, then rinse and repeat.

Eco-Savvy Swimwear

Mermaids may rock the clamshells, but today, us water-loving humans can sport swimwear constructed of recycled water bottles, fishnets and many other cleverly repurposed fibers. New brands that share a love for our oceans, as well as fresh designs, are flourishing. A quick search for sustainable swimwear will have you starting a whole new Pinterest board, dedicated solely to all of your memorable, zero-waste beach excursions to come.


scrolling words passport over topo map

Kacey Janeen Waxler is a California-based yoga instructor and writer on the hunt for adventure and good stories. Her words can be located amongst noteworthy brands including Corona Extra, Athleta, and Darling Magazine, and in the flesh she can be found reading unapologetically from the glow of a headlamp, geeking out over sequencing, or neck deep in a deliciously hot bath. Follow her adventures at @kaceyjaneen or


The post Clean Up Your Tropical Trip: Packing a Zero-Waste Beach Bag appeared first on Wanderlust.

Mantra: A Tool for the Mind

From the Sanskrit root “manas,” meaning “mind,” and “tra,” which translates as “tool,” a mantra is literally a tool for the mind. Yoga classes today are full of affirmations and “OMs,” however these “mind tools” are anything but new. And, amazingly, their distant origins predicted truths about the human brain that would only be confirmed thousands of years later.

Ancient practitioners realized that humans have a tendency to fixate on certain ideas, fears, or desires. This is constantly happening whether we know it or not, and it matters because what we repeat, we become. You may, without realizing it, be repeating the phrase “It drives me crazy when….” If so, you are literally practicing having things drive you crazy. If you consistently honk your horn while in traffic, you are tuning into that sound and reminding yourself that when you’re frustrated, this is how you react. You are repeating—and therefore becoming good at—road rage. Likewise, if you have an aversion to spiders, you may find yourself saying “I’m afraid of spiders.” The fear might be small, but with every repetition, it grows and becomes reinforced. After repeating it for a lifetime, you are not just afraid—you are accustomed to being afraid.

Many sacred teachings focus on stopping this tendency or finding ways to transform it,  but some aspirants took another approach. They figured that if obsessing is our natural state, why not use this to our advantage? Why not intentionally repeat a word or phrase that would be beneficial to us as a way to harness the power of the mind?

Fast forward a few millennia, and science has validated the fact that the human brain actually does create patterns. And not just thought or emotional patterns—the brain itself PHYSICALLY CHANGES based on how it is used.

Like ice melting on top of a mountain, a thought trickles down the river of your brain. When more thoughts come, just like snowmelt, they will most likely flow through the channel that has already been created rather than forge a new one. Like the rest of nature, our thoughts follow the path of least resistance.

Mantra reminds us that we are always repeating something, so we might as well be aware of what we repeat and create some intentional patterns.

As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight some mantra practices that train us to use our brains more intentionally. This collection is literally a “toolbox for the mind,” with an instrument for every challenge we face. In a world of innovation and technology, sometimes the oldest tools still work the best!

Daily Morning Mantra:
Tranquil Flow with Mantra:
Advanced Mantra Practice in the Four Bodies:

To see more, visit:

This Soca Music Yoga Playlist Will Make You Feel Like You’re On Vacation

Our soca music yoga playlist will make you feel like you’re doing yoga on a beach in the Caribbean.

Try this soca music playlist to relax and get away. 

Soca music originated in Trinidad and Tobago, a dual-island in the Caribbean. Soca as a musical genre includes a fusion of calypso, soul/funk, Latin, traditional West African rhythms and more, which is what makes it so special. This playlist will make you think you’re somewhere on a beach relaxing and flowing while listening to this soulful music. 

See also A Motivating Sculpt Yoga Playlist to Get Your Heart Pumping

A Vacation-Vibe Yoga Playlist

1. “Toco Loco,” Machel Montano
2. “Hookin’ Meh,” Farmer Nappy
3. “Slow Wine,” Machel Montano
4. “Oh Yay,” Olatunji
5. “Full of Vibe,” Marge Blackman
6. “Wotless,” Kes
7. “Year for Love,” Voice
8. “Mr. Fete,” by Machel Montano
9. “Baila Mami,” by Nailah Blackman
10. “Feteland,” Kes
11. “Splinters,” Shal Marshall
12. “Overdue,” Erphaan Alves
13. “Party Done,” Machel Montano ft. Angela Hunte

View the original article to see embedded media.

Download the free Spotify software to listen to our playlists—and check back weekly for more of our fave yoga tunes.

Starting to Film More Video Content? 10 Natural Makeup Products and Tips You Need

Whether you’re shooting video content, still photos, or just looking to post more to Instagram, this advice from Yoga Journal’s makeup artist, who specializes in eco-beauty, will help you look and feel your best.

These natural beauty products were editors’ favorites. 

When you’ve finally made the leap to put yourself out there and film video and still photos, it can be tempting to put all of your focus on the content you’re creating—and consider your wardrobe, hair, and makeup an afterthought.

Yet like it or not, how you look when you’re filmed can make a big difference when it comes to the quality of the final product and number of new followers you reach. The good news is that with just a handful of all-natural products and application tips, you can look like you’ve hired a pro even when you DIY.

Here are my 10 favorite eco-beauty products to help you get a no-makeup look that’ll leave you feeling fresh-faced and polished, plus advice for using them.

See also 7 CBD Beauty Products You Have to Try

10 Best Natural Makeup Products

About our author

Beth Walker is an eco-beauty makeup artist. Learn more at

7 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling Through India

Ayurvedic practitioner and holistic health coach Sahara Rose shares her best advice for avoiding an upset stomach and keeping your immune system strong when traveling.

Photo excerpted from Eat Feel Fresh: A Contemporary Plant-Based Ayurvedic Cookbook by Sahara Rose Ketabi. © 2018, First American Edition, DK Publishing. Sahara Rose Ketabi is the best-selling author of Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda. Learn more at

1. Carry essential oils.

My favorite for India is doTERRA DigestZen, which contains an Ayurvedic blend of anise seed, peppermint plant, ginger root, caraway seed, coriander seed, tarragon plant, and fennel seed oil. I drink this with hot water every day—even when I’m not traveling to India—to keep my digestion on point.

2. Take oil of oregano capsules.

Start with one dose a day (follow instructions on the supplement package) three days before you go to India and continue it taking every day while you’re there. “Oil of oregano is like a natural antibiotic, which can help prime your body for any exposure to bacteria or parasites,” Rose says.

See also 18+ Ways to Use Your Essential Oils

3. Take peppermint oil capsules before meals.

This will help aid digestion and also kill bacteria.

4. Take high-quality, diverse-strained, shelf-stable probiotics.

India can be hot, even when you’re traveling in winter, which is why you’ll want to make sure none of your supplements require refrigeration. “Probiotics are great because they introduce more bugs to your microbiome and have been linked with higher immunity,” Rose says. “In the US, we’re not exposed to a wide range of bacteria in our food source. In India, you will be—and that can be a major shock to your digestive system.”

See also Probiotics 101: Your Go-To for Gut Health

5. Pack protein bars.

Choose a low-glycemic, high-fat bar with medium protein to keep you satiated and nourished. You will be ecstatic when you have nothing else to eat and remember you have these bars in your bag.

6. Bring your own chocolate.

If you have a sweet tooth, carry your own low-glycemic, high-quality chocolate. “Indian sweets have a lot of sugar and dairy, which can cause an upset stomach,” Rose says.

7. Always choose cooked foods and peel-able fruits.

The reason everyone tells you not to eat raw foods in India is because of the different bacteria and parasites in the soil, Rose says. Her go-to meal: palak paneer (spinach curry with cottage cheese) with vegetables, which is a common Indian dish available at almost any restaurant. “I ask to replace the cheese with mixed vegetables, which is usually broccoli, mushrooms, and peas,” she says. “I have that with whole-wheat flatbread, called chapati, or rice and add a side of cucumber raita, which is like Indian tzatziki.”

Banana with almond butter (which Rose brings with her from the United States) is one of her favorite breakfasts when traveling in India. “Mangoes are also a must-try—during mango season there are hundreds of varieties,” she says. “Just steer clear of grapes, berries, and apples—unless you peel them.” 

See also 4 Ways to Practice Wellness On the Road

How to Find Your Drishti in Times of Uncertainty

The secret to finding my equilibrium wasn’t in becoming more grounded, it was in the big Pacific Ocean.

Any type of drishti will ultimately have you experiencing two of the eight limbs of yoga described by Patanjali.

Balance has never been my strong suit. As a child, my vestibular system was so off kilter, I spontaneously fell off stools and chairs like a pint-sized barfly after last call. Walking through doorways was like threading a needle. Physical therapy helped, but the gangly coltishness of adolescence made for another round of clumsy bumps and bruises.

When I got into yoga in my teens and twenties, it was a relief when my teachers asked us to find drishti—a fixed point against which to orient my body and mind while trying to stick tricky balance poses such as Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose), Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose), and Vrksasana (Tree Pose). Finding an external concentration point made it easier to keep my body steady and stable. Or at the very least, it made it easier to detect when I was about to tip over.

See also See More Clearly By Practicing Drishti

As an adult, I struggled to find balance of a different sort. I was as lacking in emotional equilibrium as I had been in grace as a child. My twenties were a murky gyre of unsuitable men, anxiety, depression, and more whiskey than I’d like to admit. It wasn’t that I lacked focus—I simply couldn’t seem to find the right thing to fix my ambitions upon. Every wobble, whether in love or work or family life, made me doubt myself a little more.

A few years ago, I visited Los Angeles for the first time as an adult. At 28-years-old, I wasn’t just wobbling, I was reeling, fresh off the revelation that I had been assaulted a decade ago. My career and fortune had taken a sudden left turn, and I left marketing to begin writing full time. I was a raw nerve, loose on the Venice boardwalk, trying to find some sense of equilibrium. One night I found myself drawn to the water. Under the light of a full moon, I waded into the Pacific and let the warm salt water lap against my legs, then my hips. The pull I felt had nothing to do with riptides or undertow. Instead I was compelled by something that came from within.

The Three Types of Drishti

Drishti isn’t just a matter of finding an external point against which to balance your body. There are several different types recommended for various yoga practices and poses: 

1. Nasagra drishti

Nasagra drishti is focus on the tip of the nose, and it may come in handy during backbends or forward folds

2. Hastagre drishti

Hastagre drishti (focus on your hand in front of you) is lovely in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I) or Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

3. Bhrumadhya drishti

Bhrumadhya drishti is the most inward facing, in which you focus on your own third eye.

See also
4 Ways to Improve Your Drishti (Gaze) and Deepen Your Practice

Any type of drishti will ultimately have you experiencing two of the eight limbs of yoga described by Patanjali. One is dharana (steadiness or concentration) and the other is pratyahara (controlled withdrawal). The goal of softly focusing your gaze—whether on the tip of your nose or on a spot on the wall across the room—is actually to draw your attention inward. You look beyond your body in order to withdraw into it. Your spirit becomes grounded through the act of surrendering to your own instability.

Ever since that first night in Los Angeles, I find myself drawn to the Pacific at moments of great transition. Last year, I wanted to flee the anniversary of a yuletide breakup that had marred the holidays. I booked a flight to San Francisco and spent Christmas morning sitting on a piece of driftwood at Ocean Beach, watching the surfers patiently bobbing on the small, ruffled waves, popping up to balance on their boards whenever a big curl came through.

This past April, a dear friend came to visit me at my new home in Portland, Oregon. She and I went through twin years of loss in 2017: Breakups, professional setbacks, and domestic frustrations. Both of us were trying to recalibrate our lives to a new normal.

See also Find Focus with Drishti — Leah Cullis Shows You How

Hannah had never seen the Pacific, so I drove her out to Haystack Rock one chilly, gray afternoon. We walked up and down Cannon Beach, buffeted by rivers of wind that carved winding paths through the loose, dry sand. We contemplated the ways in which our own lives had been radically reshaped by unpredictable forces. Deeply and utterly, we felt the kernels of ourselves within the tides of chaos.

Right now, writing by the Pacific, overlooking the Santa Monica Pier, I feel another sea change coming on. Old pieces of me are washing and wearing away. But practice has taught me what I need to do to prepare, to weather this tipping point. Up and down the West Coast, I know now where to find my focus, my drishti, a sense of continuity. There is stability in the Pacific’s constant motion. There is certainty in its immutable changes. Of this I am certain: the same is true of myself.

See also Master Class: How to Incorporate Drishti Into Vinyasa Flow

About our author

Meghan O’Dea is a writer, world traveler, and life-long learner who hopes to visit all seven continents with pen and paper in tow. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Fortune, and more. Learn more at

Are You Living Your Yoga? 5 Tips Inspired by Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor

The master teachers share decades of wisdom to reveal the essence of yoga and how it manifests in our day-to-day lives.

Master Ashtanga teachers Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman sit down with LiveBeYoga ambassadors to emphasize how important it is to take your practice off the mat. “The most powerful thing is your relationship with other beings, rather than your ability to hold your breath or to focus your mind,” Richard said.

Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. 

It was a true honor and privilege to kick off the LiveBeYoga tour in Boulder with two of the greatest living yoga teachers, Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor. There’s something unexplainable about what it felt like to spend an afternoon with two teachers I admire so deeply, but I’ll try; after all, they are two leaders who have held true to the roots of yoga and paved a path for so many students and teachers today. Together, they shared what it truly means to live yoga and distilled the essence of the practice into one key word: relationship.

As I walked into Richard and Mary’s light-filled home, I felt a surge of inspiration and ease. Yoga seemed to be infused in the intricate woodwork and architecture, in their collection of mystical artwork, in the surrounding foothills, and, most importantly, in their very being. Soft-spoken, yet deliberate and direct, Richard and Mary got right to the heart of the matter—just by being who they are and how they are.

Ironically enough, this became the root of our conversation: how to experience yoga as a way of being in and with the world and how to embody the practice to relate more intentionally to ourselves and others.

“Through yoga, things that are apparently separate start to interface. On the mat we are interfacing with various sensations, and off the mat it’s with other people at the coffee shop,” Richard said. “The most powerful thing is your relationship with other beings, rather than your ability to hold your breath or to focus your mind.” After all, if you can’t relate to your neighbor, what good will it do to get your leg above your head?

“The most powerful thing is your relationship with other beings, rather than your ability to hold your breath or to focus your mind.” —Richard Freeman

This way of viewing yoga is particularly important in this day and age, where instant gratification, certifications, and external validation are seemingly top of mind, especially with social media and more and more yogis enrolling in teacher trainings, leading retreats, and opening studios. 

“It takes a few years—if not a few decades—to notice how everything we’ve practiced and cultivated on the mat begins to automatically spill out into how we relate to and see others in the world,” Mary said. This integration process takes time, discipline, and diligence and requires one key quality: ongoing studentship.

When Richard and Mary opened their now-shuttered Boulder studio in 1988, yoga was not a career path like it is today. While on one level, it’s a wonderful thing that practice and profession can intersect, it has the potential to cause more harm than good. What happens when business and marketing motivation overrides the purity of intention? According to Richard and Mary, when a desire to create a successful brand becomes more important than the teachings and the practice itself, we’ve lost sight of the true essence of yoga.

As a full-time yoga teacher, I’ve been thinking a ton about what it REALLY means for my practice to intersect with all aspects of my life. I am constantly checking in with myself and my intention for teaching, because, in the midst of the hustle, it can at times get skewed. Especially now being on the road, away from my regular public class schedule and community, I am exploring other ways to share the practice, to live it, and to notice my reactions, preferences, and judgements in my day-to-day interactions. I continue to ask myself: Have I integrated my practice enough? What does this look like for me? Are my actions aligning with my values? Can I maintain the integrity of my intention while making a living? What supports me in taking my practice off the mat? What is my part in all of this?

Through our conversation, it became clear to me that what we were really talking about was how to refine and nurture personal practice so that we can be of service to others. In doing so, we must remain in constant inquiry and introspection. We must cultivate curiosity and compassion while remaining intentional and integral; we must look at ourselves with an internal magnifying glass and still remain in wonder of what we may not have seen. As Richard says, we must “practice all day everyday and all night every night.”

Inspired by our conversation, here are five key points to consider as you cultivate your practice—off the mat:

  • REMAIN CURIOUS: Ask questions, even when you think you know the answers.
  • BE COMPASSIONATE: Practice kindness toward yourself so that the same gesture can be extended to others.
  • STAY HUMBLE: Remain a student of yourself and of life; surround yourself with a sangha (community) and teacher that support your growth.
  • BEGIN AGAIN: Pause long enough to catch yourself in moments of misalignment and, as Mary says, to “reignite enthusiasm for life.”
  • REMEMBER: Return, again and again, to the original spark that drew you in; allow that spark to be the foundation from which you practice, share and live yoga.

As part of our journey on the road, we are asking each teacher we meet with what their single hope is for yoga practitioners today. Richard and Mary hope that you “discover what makes you truly happy, and from that sense of happiness, feel an embodied sense of connectedness to all other beings.” 

Follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.

Jessamyn Stanley’s the Underbelly App is Hitting the Road As a Live Event

We caught up with the accessible yoga advocate to chat about her new yoga app and why she’s taking it on tour as a multi-city conference event.

Yoga Journal: What’s been going on since the app launched on April 4th?Jessamyn Stanley: It’s been a wild two weeks! I can’t believe it. We have more subscribers right now than I expected us to have in the first six months to a year. I think its greatest asset is that it’s something created by the person who needs it. I very much understand the experience of wanting to practice in studios but not feeling comfortable.

YJ: Is that why you decided to launch a home-practice app for your classes?
JS: I’d been thinking about doing my own classes online for a long time. I wasn’t able to get the ball moving on it until February/May of 2018, and it’s taken about a year to build all the digital infrastructure and branding. When I first decided to go for it, I was for sure like, “OK, it’ll be ready in two months.” But I quickly realized no, this is basically like starting a new business, so it’s going to take a minute. It was definitely a haul. I decided it would be best to do an app and a web portal because those are the methods everyone uses to take online classes now—but I didn’t realize that makes me a tech entrepreneur, that puts me in a whole other universe reading Wired and going to tech mixers.

YJ: You previously taught classes on Cody App, which became Alo Moves. How is this different?
JS: The thing that I’ve really noticed about a lot of yoga teachers who teach online is that they do not feel empowered to create their own software or streaming spaces because there are a few big companies corralling yoga teachers like horses in a stable. They trot their horses out to do whatever. It impacts the ideology because it’s not about spreading the practice of yoga, it’s about getting the $39.99 or whatever it costs. If you’re a minority in a situation like me—all these white-owned companies are like, “Shit! Diversity is a buzzword! We need some people who’re black!” They were courting me really hard because there was no one else who looked remotely like me, and all they cared about was if I was going to wear the clothing and record on schedule and how much money would it take to make it happen? They didn’t care about my teaching. So I’m good to make my own [online] studio. I hope this empowers other teachers who don’t feel empowered to do their own studio. The brick-and-mortar yoga studio isn’t the best option to reach people all over the world, and very niche teachers would benefit from this kind of empowerment. Go your own way, not just for yourself, but for everyone who follows.

See also  Jessamyn Stanley on Moving Beyond Body Positivity

YJ: What do you think is the major thing missing from traditional yoga spaces?
JS: A teacher who talks about their body not as though they hate it; someone who is cool with themselves and their body’s functions; a teacher who uses profanity and farts and understands what it’s like to be pissed off. I don’t know how to say things diplomatically, but a yoga site that’s not run by white men who don’t teach yoga or even care about it.

YJ: We could all use a little less white men running the show.
JS: For real! In the past two weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed by people telling me how I’ve profoundly impacted their lives—and the depth of their comments—it’s like the most intense of my teaching career. More than when my book came out. There are so many different apps and classes and websites for people to choose from, and people are like, “I just wanted to see a fat person doing this who isn’t pretending they’re not fat.”

YJ: What’s the greatest thing about practicing yoga at home?
JS: I think that it’s really important to have a connection to your own practice that’s not inhibited by the opinions of other people. Sometimes, when we only practice in group settings, we lose that connection to ourselves and get into a cycle of needing other people. The studio culture intentionally exacerbates that. Doing yoga in a home setting, you’re able to be more comfortable and free and open with yourself than you are in a studio. I experience this to this day. I act differently in a studio. I’m so distracted by the other people in the room and not wanting to impede someone else’s experience—yet yoga is the last place you should be thinking about that.

YJ: What about the idea that we need a teacher in the room to ensure proper alignment and safe practice?
JS: I don’t underestimate the value of having a teacher in the room paying attention, someone who can give physical- and spiritual-alignment tips, but sometimes we overstate the importance of having a teacher physically there. I’ve had teachers who have profoundly impacted me—Amy Ippoliti, Elena Brower, Jason Crandell—not from physically sharing space with them, but from the way they explain clearly and make space. Studios give the impression you’ve got to do it here and move in time with everyone in the room. It’s basically a dance troupe, so come prepared.

When I started my home practice, I thought, Is it safe for me to do this at home? How will I know I’m doing it right? That was a big catalyst for me to post on Instagram, to solicit feedback and track my progress. One of the new features on the Underbelly app is that you’ll be able to post on the app and on social to see the shifts in your body and make adjustments. You can be your own teacher, look at yourself, take photos and videos to compare to books, etc. There are endless resources online.

See also Jessamyn Stanley Gets Real About Motivation + Fear with Beginners

YJ: So what’s next? How do you continue to reach more and more people who so clearly crave your message?
JS: Well, the app will evolve with all kinds of new features coming like new classes and merch. But I’m most stoked about the Underbelly Experience Tour. It’s going to take the experience of going to one of my classes to a whole new level. Think of it like a yoga retreat in a day, and we’re taking it to different cities around the world. In each city there will be a practice with me, bookended by time to do group collective practices and different types of wellness activities: a juice bar, someone doing body work, acupuncture, kick it with friends. It will be a conversation with me and everyone who comes. A chance to come together as a community and talk about how our practices are affecting the world around us. People can journal on the app and then we can take those conversations were having in our yoga community and bring them together in one place.

YJ: When will it kick off? How many cities are you looking to hit?
JS: That’s TBD. We’ll start in New York and LA and go from there.

YJ: What do you say to the headlines claiming that with the Underbelly, you’re democratizing fitness?
JS: That is the most click-batey shit I have ever heard! Somebody was like, “Bitch, let’s make somebody click on this.” No shade on the game, but I wouldn’t categorize it that way. It kind of does, though, honestly. If I opened a physical studio, you’d only be able to come if you lived here or traveled here. Apps, websites, and social media are making an egalitarian space where everyone’s free to say what they want. If you can build it, anyone in the world can find it. That’s powerful for building a message. What yoga can offer is so minimized by what the media is willing to show because of the gentrification of yoga. Lots of people shade yoga because they think it’s for white women. We need to be clear that it’s for everyone. So in that respect, it is democratising, but at the same time, that is some click-batey shit I would not have said. 

The Importance of Mysore and Pune, India for Yoga Lineage

Learn more about the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga.

Mysore, India

Located in the southwestern state of Karnataka, this former capital of the Kingdom of Mysore is home to the opulent Mysore Palace and centuries-old Devaraja Market. Mysore was also home to Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, an Indian yoga teacher, Ayurvedic healer, and scholar who’s often referred to as the father of modern yoga. Yoga students may know it as the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga, where the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute was established in 1948 and where Ashtanga practitioners from all over the world travel to practice and train.

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Pune, India

B.K.S. Iyengar was born in 1918 in Bellur, a city that was in the grip of the influenza pandemic at the time. An attack left Iyengar sick throughout his childhood, and when he was 16-years-old, his brother-in-law—Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya—asked him to come to Mysore to help with the family. There, Iyengar started to learn asana, which steadily helped his health improve. In 1936, Krishnamacharya sent Iyengar to Pune to spread the teaching of yoga. Now, Pune is home to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute—which Iyengar opened in 1975, and is considered the heart and soul of Iyengar Yoga. Iyengar students from all over the world come here to practice and train with the institute’s esteemed teachers.

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Where Mysore and Pune, India Are On a Map

Pune, India is in Maharashtra and Mysore, India is in Karnataka.