My Yoga Retreat Bucket List

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caracaoMy friend Patty just got back from a teacher training course at the Coho Shambhala Estate in Bali, Indonesia. She looked radiant, glowing, tan, and happy from her trip and she couldn’t wait to tell me all about how amazing it was over there. We went to Millennium for dinner and she regaled me with stories about practicing for five hours in the quiet beauty of rainforest surroundings.

A full spa is there, of course, and the quiet serenity of the resort was unlike anywhere she’d ever been, much less studied. It’s located near Ubud, Bali and offers an holistic approach to wellness, with full gym facilities and nutritionally balanced meals. The resort itself is right near the River Ayung with a sacred spring that the locals claim has healing properties. I grew more jealous the more she told me about it!

The lush greenery, golden beaches, and the people around her all fed the spirit within her that was really lacking sustenance and contentment before she left for the archipelago. I’ve added Coho Shambhala to my ongoing list of places that I must travel to before I die. Practicing in our little studio off of Market Street is a beautiful space that helps me find my center, but having classes in a rainforest must be just absolutely breathtaking.

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Finding Your Center

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meditationThere’s nothing like having some quiet time to yourself. Meditation is important in finding your center and maintaining balance in your life. But let’s face it, meditation isn’t something that’s easy to do, especially in our hectic daily routines. Many of us multitask so much that it’s hard to switch off and just focus on the present and the environment directly around you.

Even I sometimes find it tough to do, trying my hardest in class to pay complete attention to nothing but the now, when I have plans that evening or a looming deadline approaching. It’s only human to get distracted by things that are exciting or stressful. But the good thing about meditation is that it can lower stress and anxiety while increasing concentration and even help reduce pain, depression, insomnia, and emotional symptoms associated with illness and disease.

Meditation couldn’t be easier to do, in theory. But like I’ve already said; not everyone can pay close enough attention to actually do it. Of course, we all think we can just sit down someplace quiet and try to clear our minds but there’s always something that inevitably creeps in there and then you’re back to square one. It even happens to the best of my students when it’s time for cool down period.

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It Always Feels Better After a Good Old Laugh

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When you have a huge problem, many people would say that you just have to laugh at it and the world will be a better place. Obviously, this is an idea that you just can’t grasp. You know for a fact that even if you laugh at things and hope they will be better soon, they just can’t. No matter how you pretend that things are not happening or they will be gone in a blink of an eye, they will always stay.

girl laughingWell, there is a truth to this idea. However, the bigger truth is that the way you see things and the world around you will most likely affect how you feel. If you have a huge problem and you want to dwell on the pain of having it, then it’s your call. However, you have no one to blame when you think like you cannot carry the pain anymore. After all, you become happy when you want to become happy and you are sad when you always think of becoming one. As they always say, happiness is a choice. However, sadness is as well. When you want to remain where you are and not do anything to go out from that horrible feeling, then you will always feel bad.

Take some time off

In order for you to feel better, the first thing that you have to do is to take some time off from work or from everything that keeps you busy. If this problem stems from home, then take a few moments away from home. When you are alone, you can think about what is happening around you. You can ponder about your problem and think why all these horrible things happen to you. It is fine to feel the pain during that moment. However, once the moment is over, then you have to start collecting the broken pieces of yourselves and be a better person.

This moment away from the world should be your time to just do nothing and reflect. Find out exactly what causes the problem or even start thinking of ways to solve them. If you can’t do anything to put an end to those problems, at the very least you can do something to see that problem in a different perspective. Who knows? The problem will be solved soon or perhaps you won’t see it as a problem anymore even if the status quo doesn’t change.

What to do

When you want to spend time alone, your idea might be going to the beach or reflecting while you are alone. You might also think of going to somewhere isolated will no one can bother you. Though this works, this is not the only thing that you can do. If you want to be away from your problems, you can go to comedy shows and have a good laugh. Yes, you might think about laughter is the best medicine cliché again, but it is actually true. A lot of people even take some time just to attend stand up comedies. They know exactly that it can make them feel better. If you want an artist who has mastered his craft, then it is Daniel Tosh. He definitely knows how to make people laugh like there is no tomorrow. If you want to know more about Daniel Tosh tickets, you can see this here.

On the other hand, if you have no time to go to those concerts, you can record your favorite TV comedy shows or films and have them watched later. You can also go through all the movies that you have already watched and view them again. You might be surprised to find out that they will still make you laugh.

If this doesn’t work, then don’t run away from people or try to be isolated. Instead, bring them in. Invite friends over or those people whom you believe can really make you laugh. Find this special someone in your group whom you know can really give you the kind of laugh that you need to finally put an end to your problem.

Feeling renewed

Once you have already done something to confront the problem and feel better, then you will feel like you are in a different world. You will think that you are a new person again. You won’t worry about those problems anymore. You can only think of trying to do something to make everything right. When you realize just how happy and enjoyable life is, then you will strive to be better. You will stop doing things that you think will just make you unhappy. You will appreciate life more and see things in a better perspective. This is how you confront your problem. This is how you make things better for yourself even if things are already hopeless.

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The Warrior Mindset

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We are “Warriors”

Violence, issues about human rights, cancer and other diseases – these are some issues that the world faces and yet, not all are aware of it. Addressing these issues is not that simple and entails the collective effort of all people and this is not an easy task. I believe that finding solutions and answers for these concerns, one must be connected with his inner self. This can be achieved by continuously learning, with the aim of spiritual and personal growth and development. There are many possible ways to attain this. The trick here is to find what suits you best. It can be through exercise, traveling to different places and reading inspirational books and articles.

tony robbins

Tony Robbins speaking about personal development.

Personal development is so important in everyone’s life. You are here to make a difference. Some find their purpose early on while others take time. Nevertheless, the important thing is that you find and know your purpose, and thinking you can plus acting on that belief will definitely make a difference. Some will say whatever you do will be small and inconsequential, but that small thing done in a great way can make a ripple effect and later on can be a big difference. Simply go out there and always bring your best effort. Campaigning against violence and supporting charities and campaigns against domestic violence is sometimes the only thing a person can do.

Finding the Butterfly Within You

A lot of us young people spend most of our days as caterpillars. We see ourselves as ugly and useless. We eat, sleep, go to school and work, and that’s pretty much it. It’s still very early to try and find your purpose in life. I cannot say that at 20, I already have, because I don’t. I’m still trying to discover who I am and what I can be . All I know is that I am trying to be a good example and guide other young people to be better individuals. I read somewhere that the world needs more encouragers because it is already filled with so much negativity. That’s really true. In the community where I used to live in, there’s so much anger and hate. Some of the elders look down on young people and talk to us like we’ll never amount to anything in our lives. I want to encourage young adults to not pay any attention to people like them and just carry on. I took it one day at a time. I woke up, got dressed, worked and went to school and repeated the same thing the next day. I learned to ignore the negative people in my neighborhood – those who jeer at me for organizing community projects and feeding programs. I don’t even try to understand them anymore nor do I keep defending myself. The important thing is that I am making a difference in the life of someone who truly deserves help. If I am able to stop a child addict from throwing his life away; or if I am able to counsel a distressed teenager who is close to committing suicide, that’s more than enough reason for me to get up everyday and keep doing what I do.

Self-transformation is not an easy thing; and there are no shortcuts to achieving it too. Sometimes you have to go through the bad and the ugly to fully appreciate what’s good and beautiful in life. I always tell other teens that the caterpillar has to go through being ugly and unwanted for a long time before it turns into a beautiful butterfly. When it finally does, it earns the awe and admiration of everyone around it.

Music Heals

Music is also another way to heal and find one’s way. I was amazed to find out an American alternative rock band that is active in raising awareness and campaigning against the issues I stated above. Imagine Dragons have made charitable contributions in helping individuals to fight back against cancer with “The Tyler Robinsons Foundation”. They have also tried to raise awareness against domestic violence. It is rare to see rock bands engage in these kinds of work early in their careers.. Imagine Dragons can serve as an inspiration for anyone – not just with their acts off stage, but also with their musical creations. Majority of their songs have a deep meaning addressing oneself and society. It is rare to hear music having this kind of message as most of today’s music are all about drugs, alcohol, sex, and the like, which is very unfortunate.

To my amazement, I heard the band has an ongoing concert series this year. You can to get know more about the band and their scheduled tours. In addition, you have to act fast and check this link now as the Imagine Dragons tickets are getting sold out really fast.

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Private Wing Reporting for Duty, Sir!

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I’ve been traveling a lot lately. I’ve been very fortunate to have the time and the means to do so and I’ve been taking full advantage of life’s opportunities I am grateful for every single day I have been blessed with to have the health and financial ability to go out and see the world. It’s been a whirlwind three weeks and I have two more upcoming trips planned in August and October. I just got back from Aruba, Venezuela, and Curacao and it’s time to settle back in at home.

travel go bagI kept up with my exercise and workout routines while I was gone. My yoga practice was something special in Curacao, having done some sunrise classes as the world was waking up to another glorious day. We were all out there on the sand of Knip beach awakening our chakras as the sun came to greet us, the Curacaoans who lived there and made a living there were ready to face another beautiful morning.

But there’s one thing I realized while I was there, I needed a new day pack. The one I had been using all this time was finally starting to show serious wear and tear and I had already lost one pair of expensive earphones that fell out through a hole in the stitching. I didn’t even know it was there and then next thing you know, my Beats by Dre earphones are gone. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled with that.

So I did some searching around online and came across this website for super rugged backpacks quite by accident. This was the site I found which specializes in military backpacks is http://packitinpackitout.com/ and what I found there was pretty much what I had been looking for and didn’t even know it. Military backpacks aren’t too different than a usual backpack but they have some very distinct benefits. There’s a load of pockets on these things. That’s what they’re known for, I guess. Compartments for days, and there’s even some connective apparatus around the exterior that lets you hang more pockets from it. It can keep you highly organized and the sizes of the different pockets let you carry around everything from workout clothes to protein bars, water bottles (some even have special bladders that are concealed inside) are a cinch to carry, and I can even fit a rolled up yoga mat underneath it with that webbing stuff that’s on there.

It’s just funny because now I look like some kind of Army brat, you can just imagine. Little five foot two inch me with this desert brown backpack on my shoulders. This is going to be the perfect bag to take with me on workouts and on my next trip in August. Just don’t salute if you see me walk by.

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So Many Things I Miss About Shanghai

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shanghaiI’m in a pensive mood, thinking about all the wonderful things about home. I watched the movie Looper last night, with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who looks exactly like a young Bruce Willis, I never realized how much they resemble each other), and there were some scenes that were in Shanghai. Of course, it made me yearn for home as any movie or TV show that takes place there often does. It got me in a headspace that just made me want to list everything I miss about home.

Sometimes I wonder if these lists are more for me than anyone else, because let’s be honest; how many of you are going to read this and think to themselves; “I think I’ll book a trip to Shanghai tomorrow”? Very few of you, I imagine. But I guess those who have been there will be familiar with almost every one of these places or things, and maybe they’ll get you reminiscing right along with me. If you’ve never been there, it’s one of the most amazing, confusing, beautiful, and sometimes infuriating places in all of the world. I love it very much and want to go back as soon as I can. Without further ado:

The Food

If you’ve never had Shanghai Xiaolongbao, they’re simply the best dumplings ever. You can find them filled with pork or pork with crab meat or roe. The taste is absolutely out of this world. But that’s just the dumplings, Shanghai has a rich and diverse flavor palette of spicy, sweet, and hot. Hunan spare ribs, buttery scallion pancakes, crispy lotus root. The freshest fish you’ve ever had too. It’s all so delicious and wonderful and while San Francisco has a few great Chinese restaurants, it’s hard to top the authentic versions in my beloved Shanghai.

The Bund

One of the most famous waterfront views of the Pudong side of Shanghai along the Huangpu River. The skyline is filled with skyscrapers and at night it’s electrifying to see! Even when it gets most crowded with natives and tourists alike, it’s still one of the best views of the city. The bridge changes color at night and sets a dramatic backdrop for the barges and cruise ships that sail past it.

The Culture

Perhaps one of the things I miss the most about Shanghai is the people. Just walk down any street in the city and you’ll get an unvarnished look into the lives of the people that reside there. Conversations in public no matter what the topic, people playing Mahjong, old men asleep in places that don’t look very comfortable, women still hang their laundry outside. There are random dance parties in the plaza, men bring birdcages to the park and hang them as they lounge by the lake. The smells and sounds of the city are inviting and mysterious all at the same time.

Haggling

Frowned upon for the most part here in the U.S., in Shanghai you can haggle over price for just about anything. Clothing, food, even beauty supplies, you can engage vendors by trying to get them to lower the price of something you need to buy. My father was an old pro at it, and almost always walked away a winner. I wasn’t too bad at it myself, but I’m sure my skills have diminished since without practice!

The Pearl Tower

A huge pink skyscraper with a bulbous top, I used to see it on my way to school in the mornings and my fellow students and I used to make up stories about what it really was and who lived there. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories.

 

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Why Are We Poisoning Ourselves?

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processed foodsThe U.S. Government has very strict guidelines set forth about what we can and cannot eat due to increased health risks. There are quite a few foods from all around the world that have been banned in all or part of our country; items like chocolate Kinder eggs (because of the choking hazard presented by the little toy inside of them), unpasteurized milk, haggis, raw ackee, and fugu (Japanese puffer fish). These have all been deemed illegal or have been heavily restricted due to the health threats they each pose to us. Yet the Government lets us consume some crazy, weird stuff that other countries have deemed entirely unsafe for consumption.

Many of these very same foods can be found on your supermarket shelves and you probably even have some of them in your kitchen pantry. Mac and cheese, yogurt; common everyday items that you likely haven’t given a second thought about as to their safety contain ingredients that just aren’t meant for the human body. Artificial additives, antibiotics, and other strange items are present in many of the foods we eat and other countries have banned their use in their world markets.

I often wonder how it’s okay for the U.S. to ingest these bizarre ingredients yet many portions of the world find them unsafe for human consumption. Of course, there are different mores and politics in every country; even in Shanghai, there are items that you can eat there that we wouldn’t even think to consume here in the States and vice versa. Every culture is different obviously and we all have foods that are indigenous to our way of life. But looking at some of these things that the FDA deems satisfactory for ingestion in the U.S., it makes me shudder. Check out some of the things that we eat every day, yet are banned overseas:

Ractopamine

I’ve never heard of it either, but it’s a hormone given to livestock to helps increase weight gain and leanness in pigs, cows, and turkeys. But the hormone has been linked to cardiovascular issues in people as well as hyperactivity. That doesn’t sound too appetizing.

Potassium Bromate

When you see the word “enriched” on bread or burger buns, this is what they’re referring to. It’s a bleaching agent put into the dough that also adds elasticity. This too has also been linked to a number of health problems like kidney disease and thyroid issues.

Coloring Agents

That mac and cheese I mentioned has something in it called yellow #5. I don’t know about you, but I’m not all that interested in eating anything that has a number assigned to it. But processed mac and cheese isn’t the only culprit, in fact just about any type of processed food; from candy to crackers has some type of food coloring inside to make it more “appetizing”. Artificial food dyes have been linked to a whole host of health issues and have been banned throughout Europe.

Synthetic Hormones

rBGH and rBST are two growth hormones that are often found in dairy products such as milk and yogurt. Cows are injected with them and they’ve been linked to cancer studies as a possible cause of the disease in humans.

Azodicarbonamide

The fast food sandwich chain Subway was just involved in a controversy over this chemical additive. It was a part of the bread they were using to make their sandwiches and can also be found in frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes, and processed baked goods. You can also find it in yoga mats. Now that’s kind of gross.

And this is just a portion of what’s out there! Eating healthy is a choice that is up to you to make effectively. Read the ingredients before you buy. There’s no reason we have to poison ourselves with these things, not with so many organic and healthier options available.

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Suggested Reading

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yoga booksI love to read and I almost always have a yoga book or two in my yoga bag. Having my Kindle makes it easier to carry my favorites with me at all times but Amazon doesn’t have all of them as e-Books yet and sometimes you just like holding a book in your hands instead of a flat piece of technology. Turning actual paper pages presents a unique sensation that you can’t recreate. There’s nothing like the smell of a book; the older and dustier, the better. Of course, they can get heavy so I try to get paperback versions whenever I can. But it’s not always possible.

Since I’m always lugging these books around with me everywhere I go, I’m often asked by people I meet in yoga classes and seminars which ones I’m reading and what I’ve liked lately. Truth is I’ve read so many that I always forget about one or two that are worth talking about, but I neglect to talk about them. Well, I figure what better place than my own blog to mention the ones that I love the most? These are books that talk about yoga, meditation, attitude, spirituality; all of the things that I’m really into lately. Some of these books are good for helping beginners who are interested in trying out yoga and others are for those who are well along on their journey and already have a solid, fundamental knowledge of what they’re looking for in their own life and from the people around them.

These are among my favorites and I can’t recommend them enough to all of you. I love each one equally and they will all enrich your life in some way or another. You will be very happy you took the time to read them. They are:

The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown
Easy to read and follow, with step by step directions to do a variety of poses.

The Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff
Very detailed anatomical drawings. Goes in depth about how certain poses impact your body and provides a deeper understanding behind the basics of every movement.

Yoga for Beginners by Amy Gilchrist
As easy as it gets. The title says it all. This is one of the BEST books for beginners.

Light on Yoga by. B.K.S. Iyengar
Considered by many one of the most essential books on the practice and philosophy of yoga. Teachers and students alike will find this to be an absolutely invaluable resource.

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar
This book helps develop a comprehensive sequence for a personalized practice.

Yoga Mind, Body, and Spirit: A Return to Wholeness by Donna Farhi
Donna is one of the most popular columnists ever in Yoga Journal magazine. She talks about how to integrate the teachings of almost every tradition into your everyday routine and focuses on connecting the mind, body, and the spirit through practice.

These are all great books to read and enjoy for helping develop your practice!

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