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Yoga – Standing The Test Of Time

For devoted practitioners, yoga provides a source of strength and equilibrium as well as a refuge where they can seek insight when facing challenges in their lives. Modern yogis have come to understand why this ancient practice has stood the test of time and how relevant it can be for their daily life. But for those who haven’t yet discovered the benefits of practicing yoga on a regular basis – and know little about it aside from the stereotypes – it may be more difficult to comprehend its lasting appeal.

 

A brief history of yoga

Yoga’s roots can be traced back at least 3,000 years, although there are those who believe several of its practices are far older – with evidence that early aspects could be as ancient as 5,000 to 10,000 years old. The foundational principles and the early philosophy of yoga are outlined in the Rig Veda, a text that was transmitted orally over many generations before first being transcribed around 300 BCE. In this early text, the emphasis is on the spiritual and ritualistic aspects of yoga with less attention focused on the physical aspects that have become more prominent in contemporary culture.

 

The word ‘yoga’ has many meanings and interpretations. At it’s most basic, the Sanskrit root of the word means “to yoke”, “to harness”, or “to unite”. This helps to convey the principle aim of the methods and techniques of yoga – to reveal to the dedicated practitioner the fundamental connection between the body, mind, and spirit.

 

For centuries, yoga was a tradition practiced mainly in India and neighboring regions.  Its focus was primarily spiritual with the emphasis on meditation, philosophical study, and devotional ritual. Beginning in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, yoga masters such as Swami Vivekenada and Paramahansa Yogananda started traveling to the western world, drawing immense crowds and intriguing many curious spiritual seekers who resonated with their message.

 

A more accessible branch of yoga called ‘Hatha’ yoga – which concentrates on the physical practices and techniques – began to grow in popularity in the 1920’s and 1930’s in Europe and the United States. In 1947, a Russian named Indra Devi, who had studied yoga extensively in India, settled in California and opened a yoga studio in Hollywood, attracting celebrities and further propelling yoga into the mainstream.

Yoga’s growing acceptance in western culture exposed more students to its teachings and devoted practitioners began undertaking pilgrimages to India to broaden and deepen their understanding at the source. Magazines and television glamorized yoga and early research confirmed its efficacy for personal health and wellbeing, further expanding its popularity.

 

What exactly is yoga, and why has its popularity grown so much recently?

In short, yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline that utilizes postures, breathing techniques, and meditation to relax the body and still the mind. While not necessarily religious or confined to a single spiritual tradition, yoga originally grew out of Hinduism. Different traditions are related to varying philosophical schools such as ‘Samkhya’ and ‘Tantra’. Varying schools concentrate on different aspects and techniques of the yoga tradition with Hatha yoga – a style that focuses on physical poses – being the most common approach in contemporary Western yoga.

 

One of the principal reasons for the continued appeal of yoga is its ability to deliver tangible results to practitioners. Rather than relying on belief or faith the way that many spiritual traditions do, yoga is about direct experience. Using tried and tested techniques, yoga practitioners can learn to gain better control of their bodies, regulate their emotional levels, reduce anxiety and stress, and lead more fulfilling lives based on values that are important to them rather than those dictated by external pressures.

 

With the ever-increasing stress levels in modern society – and more people looking towards holistic solutions to regain physical and mental equilibrium – yoga has proven to be a very powerful tool for healing. While stress has always been a part of life since its inception, only in the past few decades have people had the option to turn to medical treatments to help combat its effect. Unfortunately, medication usually treats just the symptoms and not the underlying cause, frequently with unpleasant side effects. The beauty of yoga is that it can help to root out the fundamental anxieties that affect us and point us toward more holistic approaches to solving the problems that we face. This is not to say that yoga is a panacea, as there is certainly an important place for allopathic medicine and pharmaceutical intervention, but much of stress that we face can be effectively mitigated with dedicated yoga practice.

 

There is a growing body of scientific evidence confirming the efficacy of yoga to treat a variety of conditions. It seems that every week a new study reveals some important new finding regarding the health and wellbeing improvements – from increasing strength and flexibility to alleviating anxiety to boosting immunity to regulating blood pressure and beyond – that regular yoga practice offers. There are even recent reports that yoga can help to ward off Alzheimer’s and Type II diabetes. Ongoing research will likely discover even more positive health benefits as additional studies are undertaken.

 

Yoga is also a practice that almost anyone can participate in and reap benefits from. Practiced properly, it is gentle on the muscles and joints, though some forms can also be quite strenuous if one is seeking a more taxing workout. It’s a practice that doesn’t discriminate – all shapes, sizes, and ages can enjoy yoga as long as they choose a style that is appropriate for their goals and level of experience. And it’s also affordable – no fancy equipment beyond a simple mat is required and options for classes abound at dedicated studios, fitness clubs, community centers, online, and even at home through self-study.

 

With its time-honored tradition, proven health and medical benefits, and easy accessibility, yoga’s popularity continues to expand. For the uninitiated, it may seem exotic or intimidating, but the truth is that yoga is a welcoming practice that can be enjoyed by everyone and that can offer a wide array of benefits on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Ultimately, it’s a practice that must be experienced to be fully understood – and the good news is that anyone can try it as soon as they are ready.

Could Yoga Be The Solution To A Stress Free Life?

Stress seems to be everywhere these days. From work commitments to family responsibilities, we suffer through a never-ending list of tasks to complete – all while facing time and financial pressures that can weigh heavily upon us. So many outside sources attempt to influence us and our decisions – from our employers to advertisers to social media – until it’s exhausting to keep up with it all.

 

Most of us have experienced varying degrees of mental or emotional strain at some point in our lives, and while there are those of us who cope better with this than others, eventually stress takes its toll on each of us. Though many try to carry on as normal, others seek out guidance from a therapist and some turn to pharmaceutical help from a doctor. Wouldn’t it be great if we could address the stress that permeates our lives in a more holistic way that avoids medication?

 

Avoiding solutions that may adversely affect us, such as the side effects associated with many drugs, and addressing the underlying causes of our anxiety is a far safer and more sustainable approach to tackling stress and its varied symptoms. Recent research has already told us that yoga can be wonderful for our physical wellbeing; we’re now discovering that it can also be just as helpful for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

 

How can yoga help us combat stress without turning to medication?

Numerous scientific studies have found evidence that the regular practice of yoga can have significant positive effects on reducing stress and anxiety levels. There seems to be several factors at work that contribute to yoga’s ability to improve our moods and keep us calm.

 

One of the keys appears to be a neurotransmitter called GABA (short for gamma-aminoutryic acid). GABA acts to inhibit nerve transmission in the brain, thereby calming overactive nervous activity. Having lower levels of GABA is associated with mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety while higher levels have a calming effect. Studies have shown that those who practice yoga on a regular basis, have elevated levels of GABA compared to those people who partake in another similar form of regular exercise (such as walking).

 

Researchers have also found evidence that links the practices of yoga, meditation, and deep breathing to changes in the expression of genes involved in metabolism, immune function, and insulin secretion. The study author notes that these methods of deep relaxation enhance wellness and counteract the effects of stress such as anxiety and hypertension.

 

Additionally, a separate study has shown that yoga and meditation can be an effective tool to reduce inflammation caused by chronic stress. Regular practice altered the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins in practitioners and brought stress relief to the study participants.

 

How do we apply an ancient practice like yoga to help us manage stress in modern times?

While it’s true that the world has changed a great deal since yoga was created, the fundamental aspects of the human condition are still very much the same. People have always faced external pressures and stressors. While the most obvious aspects of our current lives are very different from conditions in the past, the fundamental existential functioning of our minds and our emotions remains unchanged.

 

In a high-pressure world where we are trying to be productive in our professional careers and attentive to our familial responsibilities while still maintaining an active social life, it seems that something has to give. When juggling all of these commitments, we need some way to create balance in our lives and to step out of our hectic daily routines.

 

The regular practice of yoga can give us just the break we’re seeking. The ancient techniques of yoga – sometimes combined with more modern modifications – give us tools and techniques to achieve equanimity and inner calm by regulating our bodies and our minds. It enables us to listen more closely to our internal wisdom and tune out the incessant chatter and distractions of the outside world.

 

Yoga teaches us how to remain centered and focused, making us less likely to be easily triggered by eternal factors that create stress and anxiety. When faced with a new problem, a looming deadline, or a disagreement with a colleague or family member, yogic tools help us to moderate any propensity toward knee-jerk reactivity and allow us the perspective to take a more calm and measured approach to resolving challenging situations.

 

The ultimate aim of yoga – through physical postures, meditation, focused breathing, and other techniques – is to settle the mind. A calm mind sharpens our awareness, makes us less reactive to external stimuli, and helps us to maintain our perspective in difficult circumstances. Even subtle shifts in our mindset can create profound changes in our ability to handle anxiety and assimilate stress.

 

As practitioners have long known – and scientific studies continue to demonstrate – the physiological responses that yoga activates in our bodies also have far-reaching effects on our minds and emotions. The integration of mind and body through yoga offers a tremendously effective method for reducing the stress of modern life.

 

So whether you’ve considered taking a class at a local gym or studio, traveling to an exotic locale on vacation for a yoga retreat, or just want to practice in the comfort of your own home, yoga can offer profound benefits and help us to feel calmer, more relaxed, and more balanced in our daily lives.

5 Things You Should Know Before Going on a Yoga Retreat

Are you considering a yoga retreat? Whether you picture yourself on a tropical beach escaping the harsh chill of winter or avoiding the heat and humidity of summer by heading to the mountains, a yoga retreat could be the perfect vacation for you.

A yoga retreat offers the chance to unwind and focus on the real you – rather than the overworked, stressed, and tired you – leaving you feeling refreshed, invigorated, relaxed, and calm. It’s a great opportunity to step away from all your day-to-day responsibilities and give yourself the break you deserve.

So, if you’re thinking about attending a yoga retreat for the first time, here are five things to consider before you go:

  1. Feel free to go it alone

For some, traveling solo can be daunting. Will you like the others on your retreat? Will you feel awkward arriving by yourself? One of the beautiful aspects about a yoga retreat is how many liked-minded people you’ll meet there. You’re bound to share a great deal in common with several of your fellow participants and enjoy meeting lots of interesting, diverse folks. Traveling by yourself also gives you more freedom to dedicate part of your retreat to “alone time” – setting aside space for you to concentrate on yourself and focusing on what’s most important to you. While traveling with a friend or family member can also be wonderful in its own way, a solo trip can open you up to new possibilities that you otherwise might miss. A yoga retreat can be a powerful bonding experience and it’s quite common for people to make friends who they stay in touch with for life.

 

  1. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced yogi

Everyone has to start somewhere, and while it’s helpful to know the basics before you go, you needn’t feel like an expert before you sign up for a retreat. Most yoga retreats are led by experienced instructors who will guide you at a level appropriate for your ability. By offering modifications and variations for poses, they can ensure that both beginners and advanced practitioners feel challenged. In the end, yoga is less about contorting your body into some specific shape and more about focusing your mind and becoming more comfortable in your own skin.

 

  1. Yoga need not be your sole interest

Another wonderful feature of yoga retreats is that they are often hosted in beautiful settings, surrounded by nature, with access to lots of interesting additional activities. If you’re headed to a beach retreat, perhaps you’d also enjoy learning to surf or sea kayaking on the ocean. If you’re in the mountains, maybe you could ride horses or head out for a hike. Since healthful eating is often a component of yoga retreats, consider taking a cooking class and sharpening your culinary skills. Visiting local towns can also be interesting, particularly if you’re headed to a foreign country where you can learn about a new culture. Many retreat centers have spa facilities available for guests, so you should also feel free to pamper yourself with a massage, soak away your cares in the hot tub, or just lounge by the pool.

 

  1. Pack light

Yoga retreats are usually relaxed, informal events. You’ll likely spend most of your time in yoga pants and a tank top so there’s no need to bring a fancy wardrobe. Even dinners are casual affairs and you’ll likely be happiest in basic, comfortable clothing that you can mix and match; there’s no need for a different outfit every night. Even if you’re planning to hit the town for an evening of culture or celebration – unless you’re going clubbing in Ibiza or out to tango in Buenos Aires – simple elegance is probably your best bet. If you’re hoping to get the most out of your yoga retreat, you’ll want to embrace the experience and focus on relaxing. Common packing advice suggests that you lay out everything you want to take and then cut it in half. That sounds about right, though if you want to sneak in a couple extra favorites, we won’t tell!

 

  1. You may come home transformed

A yoga retreat is more than just a standard vacation where you experience a new place strictly as a tourist. On retreat, you will be immersed in beautiful, peaceful surroundings with like-minded people in a supportive environment. Participants arrive with the intention of relaxing and learning, helping to create an open feel and welcoming ambience. Not only will you notice the stress and tension melt away, you’ll also learn new skills – yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques – that you’ll bring home and incorporate into your daily life. More than just escaping for a week, a yoga retreat offers the opportunity to grow and transform. Don’t be surprised if what you experience on retreat continues to affect and inform your life long after you return home.

 

Planning your first yoga retreat need not be a daunting experience. Instead, think of it as a gift that you give yourself – a chance to step away from all your daily tasks and responsibilities and to take time for yourself. It’s a great chance to deepen your understanding of yoga and self-care, to visit someplace exotic and exciting, and meet a lot of great new people in the process. You might even find it so rewarding that attending a yoga retreat becomes an annual ritual.

 

 

 

5 Psychological Benefits of Practicing Yoga

Most everyone has heard about the physical health benefits that come from practicing yoga – from increased flexibility, to relief from chronic pain, to improved strength, muscle tone, and balance.  But more and more research is concluding what the ancient yogis and modern practitioners have already come to understand firsthand: that yoga can also have profound psychological and cognitive benefits as well. While yoga can do wonders for the body, the more profound power of the practice comes from its effect on your emotions and your mind.

 

  1. Yoga offers stress relief

Stress seems to surround us in contemporary life. Many of us are continuously facing time constraints, financial pressures, and growing responsibilities at work and at home. These ongoing challenges can permeates our lives and drain our vitality. Repeated studies have shown that the physical postures of yoga – combined with breathing techniques and meditation – reduce tension, encourage relaxation, and lead to a greater sense of calm and equanimity.

 

  1. Alleviating anxiety and depression with yoga

Yoga’s ability to help our bodies relax can help our minds to relax as well. As physical tension is replaced with a sense of strength and balance, a parallel change often occurs in our mental state. Yoga helps to drop blood pressure and reduce the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, significantly reducing anxiety. Yoga and meditation can help us to boost our moods, focus on the present moment, and reframe negative thought patterns that leave us stuck in a rut.

 

  1. Regular yoga practice can boost memory and improve concentration

Our busy, hectic lives often find us juggling too many tasks at once. This can leave us feeling distracted and scattered as we try to complete our growing to-do lists while balancing our work and family commitments. With so many items vying for our attention – often at the same time – it can be difficult to concentrate on a given task for an extended period and sometimes even to remember everything that we were supposed to do.

A growing body of research has shown that yoga can be an effective tool for improving concentration and enhancing memory as well. Dharana, or the practice of concentration, is the perfect remedy for a cluttered mind and stressed senses; it enables you to remove the “noise” from your thoughts and focus your mind, helping you to remember things more clearly, concentrate better, and give you greater overall clarity of thought. New studies also indicate that regular yoga practice can help to head off symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, aiding the brain in forming new connections and recovering lost cognitive abilities.

 

  1. Yoga can reduce the effects of PTSD

Yoga has also been found to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Severely traumatic events often leave deep and lasting scars that are both physical and emotional. Therapeutic yoga can serve as a treatment bridge to increase a sense of awareness, safety, and control while also giving victims a new sense of perspective on their traumas and assisting in the recovery process. Yoga can be a potent tool for alleviating the wounds of profound trauma, which can lead to a renewed sense of empowerment that expedites healing.

 

  1. Adolescent psychological disorders may be prevented through practicing yoga

Being a teenager can be tough. It’s a transitional stage of life as adolescents shift from being a child to becoming an adult. Hormones are raging, the process of individuation is beginning, and teens are more aware of the world beyond their homes and the challenges that await them. Combine this with feeling added pressure at school – both academic and social – as well as increased responsibilities at home, and it can be a volatile stage of life.

Mood swings, acting out, and withdrawal can all be problems for today’s teens and create friction with parents, siblings, and teachers. Preliminary evidence from a Harvard Medical School study indicates that yoga can be helpful in reducing behavioral problems among high school students. In the study, half of the class practiced Kripalu Yoga – which centers around physical postures, breathing, relaxation, and meditation – while the other half took a regular physical education (PE) class instead. Those students who took part in the yoga sessions displayed better moods in general, along with lower anxiety levels and improved ability to control anger. Since adolescence is such an important time for the development of mental health, including learning healthy coping strategies for stress, the benefits have the potential to extend into adult life as well.

 

So while many people are touting the physical benefits that come from a regular yoga practice, it’s clear that yoga can enhance our lives in ways that are much more profound that just changing our bodies. Yoga affects our mental and emotional states in many positive ways: relieving stress, decreasing depression, increasing focus and clarity, and helping to work through troubling emotions. Each passing day and each new scientific study reveal increasing evidence of the positive benefits that yoga can bring to our daily lives.

9 Reasons to Practice Yoga

Yoga’s popularity has grown in recent years as this ancient tradition has been adapted for and integrated into our modern world. You can now find yoga classes offered at local yoga studios, fitness centers, schools, and even outdoors in the park or at the beach.
 

If you’ve never tried it before, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about and whether it’s right for you. Fortunately, a regular yoga practice offers so many benefits that almost anyone will find it valuable:
 

  1. Feel Better in your Body

Most modern yoga classes tend to emphasize the physical postures and regular practice of those poses can have profound effects. You’ll increase your flexibility and improve your balance while toning your muscles and developing more endurance. This will lead to greater mobility, more energy, better posture, and a general sense of ease in your body.

 

  1. Cleanse from the Inside Out

Yoga poses combined with breathing exercises will also help your body to rid itself of natural waste products and accumulated toxins, leaving you feeling cleansed and purified. You’ll also become more aware of what you put in your body – food, alcohol, tobacco products, etc. – and how varying substances make you feel. As you become more attuned to these effects, you’ll find yourself choosing healthier alternatives that make you feel energetic and vibrant rather than tired and depleted.

 

  1. Gain Relief from Chronic Pain

Numerous studies have shown that yoga can be tremendously effective in reducing chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more. Yoga therapy has proven effective for back pain and other types of discomfort exacerbated by inflammation or immobility.

 

  1. Reduce Stress & Anxiety

Beyond just the physical benefits, yoga can also calm and focus your mind, diminishing anxiety and stress. Breathing exercises and meditation are integral components of the yogic tradition and these tools have proven to be very valuable in soothing tension and creating relaxation.

 

  1. Sleep Better

As you begin to feel better – physically and mentally – you’ll notice that your sleep improves as well. It will be easier to fall asleep and you’ll sleep more soundly. As you lessen your stress levels, your mind won’t be racing so feverishly to resolve any excess anxiety and you’ll wake up feeling more rested.

 

  1. Gain Clarity

Once stress levels decrease, you’ll find that you’re able to gain greater perspective on situations or issues that you find challenging and see options with greater clarity. Where once you saw only problems, you’ll begin to see possibilities. You’ll notice that you tend to focus more on the bigger picture and be less reactive to trivial annoyances.

 

  1. Increase your Patience

Along with this greater awareness and wider perspective, you may notice that you’re also more patient and understanding. You’ll find yourself less attached to your own struggles and more empathetic to the challenges that others are facing. It becomes easier not to sweat the small stuff – and to recognize how much of everyday life is small stuff.

 

  1. Find Community

If you practice yoga in a group setting, you’re bound to meet lots of like-minded folks who are also interested in health and well-being. Oftentimes, you’ll find that your connections run much deeper than just your shared enjoyment of yoga and those common bonds lead to valuable new friendships.

 

  1. Go Beyond your Yoga Mat

Yoga also teaches us many lessons about ourselves that we take with us off the mat. Instead of being just an activity that you practice a couple of hours per week, you may find that its holistic principles inform your day-to-day life and how you relate to others. Regular yoga practice opens our minds to a wider perspective. It encourages us to express our highest selves and to be of service to others. If we take its teachings to heart, yoga can help us to reach out highest potential – finding joy and meaning, and sharing those lessons with others.

 
While some people may worry that yoga is too challenging or too esoteric for them, the truth is really just the opposite. With such a wide range of yoga classes offered these days, you can easily find a style and approach that suits your needs. With so many benefits to offer, a regular yoga practice will enrich your life in many ways.

7 Reasons to Go on a Yoga Retreat

Yoga’s popularity has exploded in recent years. No longer the domain of just the New Age crowd or inconceivably flexible folk, yoga has gone mainstream as recent studies extol its benefits – from improving strength and balance to reducing stress to helping heal chronic injuries and pain.

 

Increasingly, people from diverse backgrounds are recognizing the positive effects that this ancient tradition can have on life in our modern world. Many of them have become curious about yoga retreats as a way to explore yoga in greater depth.

 

Whether you already practice yoga, or are just wondering what all the buzz is about, here are 7 fantastic reasons why a yoga retreat could be your perfect vacation: 

 

  1. Deepen your practice with expert guidance

Even if you’re new to yoga, there’s no reason to be intimidated by the thought of a yoga retreat. Experienced teachers cater to all abilities and will modify poses for multiple skill levels. Beginners will learn foundational skills that will build a solid base of understanding, and seasoned practitioners will get to explore the more challenging and profound aspects of yoga. Some people are drawn to yoga for the physical benefits while others are more focused on the spiritual aspects of the practice. Whichever appeals to you, you’ll learn new techniques and deepen your understanding of yoga and all it can offer. You’ll explore aspects of the practice beyond just the poses, enriching your appreciation for this ancient tradition and the practical ways that it can help you make positive changes in your life.

 

  1. Gain clarity by focusing on yourself

Life at home can be hectic; many of us wake up each day to a tight schedule filled with obligations, responsibilities, and commitments. A yoga retreat gives you the opportunity to step away from the outside world and concentrate your attention on what is most important to you – what you’re passionate about and what feels most meaningful. If you’re wrestling with personal or professional issues, a retreat can provide the perfect setting to bring those concerns into sharper focus and to help you recognize what steps you need to take to get back on the right track.

 

  1. Relax, renew, and revitalize

Most retreats are set in remote locales, close to nature and far from the pressing concerns of the outside world. In this safe space, you get a unique chance to slow down, unwind, and sink into a more relaxing rhythm. Spend time walking the beach or hiking in the mountains, swimming in the pool or soaking in the hot tub, curled up on the couch with a good book or napping in a hammock. Pamper yourself with a massage or another spa treatment and let your daily worries melt away. We get so used to carrying tension with us everyday that we almost forget how freeing it can be to let all of it go and enjoy that sense of relaxation that we both need and deserve.

 

  1. Get healthy from the inside out

In addition to daily yoga and meditation practices, you’ll also be treated to delicious, healthful cuisine while on retreat. Fresh, nutritious meals – lovingly prepared with intention by the retreat chefs – will nourish your body, mind, and spirit. If you’re traveling far from home, you’ll likely get to sample foods you’ve never tried before, so be open to new flavors and local delicacies. You will doubtless learn new recipes and raise your awareness of how much impact the food you consume can affect your sense of well-being. When you recognize how good you feel, you’ll realize that you want to feel this way all the time.

 

  1. Establish healthier habits

An important lesson that you’ll learn while on retreat is how to integrate all of this newfound awareness into your everyday life back at home. Your time away is only the beginning, and the real rewards will come as you make healthier choices on a daily basis. You’ll find yourself choosing fresher, healthier, whole foods rather than processed or packaged options because you’ll notice the difference in how they make you feel. Though you might not be able to make it a local studio for class every day, you can probably find 10-20 minutes where you can take time for a few postures and a couple of breathing exercises. Who knows, you may even find yourself getting up a bit earlier each day to sneak in some morning meditation. Though these may seem like small adjustments, you’ll be surprised by how powerful the ripple effect can be as these changes shift your perspective and transform the way you feel.

 

  1. Meet like-minded people

On a yoga retreat, you’re likely to encounter a wide range of folks converging from many different places – all of whom share a common interest in health, well-being, and travel. You’re bound to meet lots of interesting people with fascinating stories to tell. You may be surprised at how easily and naturally you connect with others, as superficial barriers quickly dissolve and you relate with other participants in a more authentic way. Oftentimes, lifelong friendships will blossom that long outlast the retreat itself. Shared experiences help to forge deep bonds that can create profound and lasting connections.

 

  1. Have fun!

While the primary emphasis of such a retreat is naturally yoga, you’ll also find that there are often many additional adventurous, inspiring, and exciting activities for you to take part in. For instance, many retreats offer surf lessons, horseback rides, hiking excursions, sea kayaking trips, and cooking classes. Perhaps you can go out whale watching or participate in a baby sea turtle release. There may be local towns to explore for shopping or cultural experiences. And, of course, yoga itself doesn’t have to be serious all of the time. One of the primary purposes of yoga is to help you find what brings you joy so that you, in turn, can share that joy with the rest of the world.

 

So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re just looking to relax and recharge on a yoga vacation or to dive deep into the ancient wisdom of yoga and truly transform, a yoga retreat is an experience that will make a lasting, positive impact on your life in so many ways. Jump in – and enjoy!

Getting to Know Susan & Michelle

Susan & Michelle's Yoga Retreat in Mexico

 

An Interview with Susan Urquhart-Brown & Michelle Gilmore

 

The last week in April marks the return of two wonderful yoga teachers — Susan Urquhart-Brown and Michelle Gilmore — who will be co-leading their second yoga retreat with us. If you’re looking for the chance to relax, renew, and rejuvenate, then this could be the perfect holiday for you.

 

Incorporating hatha, vinyasa, and restorative yoga classes along with daily meditation will give you the opportunity to dive deeply into your practice. Sharing delicious meals, the warm Baja sun, and the profound beauty of Pacific coastline will replenish your body and your spirit.

 

We asked them a few questions to help you get to know them better and to offer an idea of what a week on retreat would be like. We hope you enjoy it!

 

Prana del Mar: Can you describe your approach to teaching yoga and the areas where you place your focus?

 

Susan: Our approach to teaching yoga is to build a community for students to explore, practice the yoga they love, and try new things in a comfortable, encouraging and safe environment. We are both calm and nurturing as we offer an eclectic practice that is energizing and gentle. We believe in suggesting modifications and options for those who want less as well as those who want a bit more of a challenge.

 

Michelle: We draw from the Iyengar and vinyasa traditions, incorporating restorative aspects as well as teachings that focus on healthy aging. We emphasize a well-balanced active asana practice that also includes meditation, pranayama, and deeply relaxing restorative poses.

 Beach Meditation at Sunset - Yoga Retreat in Mexico

PdM: How did the two of you meet and what drew you together? How do your styles complement one another?

 

Michelle: Susan and I live in Oakland, CA and have known each other for 10 years. We met in the business world and quickly realized that we had a love for yoga and meditation in common. Susan had experience organizing and leading retreats, and I have attended many yoga and meditation retreats over the years. We decided we wanted to share our love of these two disciplines and hold retreats together.

 

Susan: Our first retreat was a celebration of Michelle’s 60th birthday and my first year in my own yoga studio: Anjori Yoga in Oakland, CA.

 

PdM: What is unique about the retreats you lead?

 

Michelle: The focus of our retreats is rejuvenation, relaxation, and celebrating life — there is no pressure to perform! We offer individual support for each student and encourage them to listen within to what is true for them in the moment.

 

PdM: Why did you choose Prana del Mar for your retreat?

 

Susan: We chose Prana del Mar for it’s remoteness and beauty — white sand beach, amazing sunsets and night sky, as well as the delicious food, spacious accommodations and friendly staff! Combined with yoga and meditation, one leaves feeling calm and relaxed — the goal of our retreat.

 

PdM: Can you give us an example of an experience – either yours or a student’s – from a past retreat that exemplifies the spirit or aim of what you try to provide on your retreat?

 

Michelle: As a retreat leader, it is essential that you are able to adapt to the circumstances at the moment, especially when something unexpected happens! I was teaching yoga on the roof one afternoon and we heard a horse whinny loudly very close by. Somehow the horse got through the gate into the courtyard and was running spiritedly as he tried to get out. So I asked the class to do horse pose as we watched the excitement as a staff member settled the horse and helped him out the gate. We laughed and continued class…

 

PdM: What have past retreats taught you?

 

Susan: In my experience, people want to connect with others in a deeper way than in their everyday lives. Being with a group of like-minded people develops camaraderie, friendship, fun and the chance to talk in-depth with each other. We have people returning each year to be with the friends they made at the last retreat!

 

Many thanks to Susan and Michelle for sharing a bit about their approach and the intention they bring to their retreats. If you’d like to join them this spring here in Baja, please check out our page dedicated to their Rejuvenating Yoga Retreat this April.

 

Yoga Journal Cover - Susan & Michelle - Yoga Retreat in Mexico

Poetic Inspiration on Retreat

Poetic Imagery - Mexico Yoga Retreat

 

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
          – Robert Frost

 

We’re so touched by a poem shared with us by a returning guest, Jane White, who expressed in beautiful verse how she felt during her recent retreat with us. We hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as we have. Thank you, Jane!

 

Prana del Mar

 

There is an impossible place
where the ocean and the desert meet;
souls are called here
by deep rolling waves
whispering wisdom
to the twitching ears of jack rabbits
jumping quick to catch every word.

 

They come to shift through the sands of time stored here,
where each grain holds infinite knowledge
guarded by ancient Saguaro
always at attention.

 

They come searching for themselves
in the fresh eyes of friends not yet met
and in the smiles of old friends not forgotten.

 

Together the souls dwell here for a while,
communing with wise jack rabbits
questioning cacti
contemplating grains of sand
to the distant sound of cow bells
and learning how sea spray
is turned into stars
by the dusky twilight.

 

But they must leave this place,
this impossible place;
for its magic contains a mission
for those who find it
and are open to all it has to offer.

 

When it is time
and they have been kissed by the sun
and blue sky threaded with white hope
settles on their shoulders,
the souls leave
carrying in their hearts
the possibilities of the impossible
to share with the rest of the world.

 

          – Jane White, 2015

 

Poet Jane White - Yoga Retreat in Mexico

Welcome, Ema!

Baby Ema

 

Ema & Mariana

Ema & Mariana

We are so thrilled to introduce the newest member of the Prana del Mar family. Baby
Ema was born on Saturday, September 20th at 2:26pm in La Paz – just six days after Hurricane Odile swept through Los Cabos and the Baja peninsula.

 

She weighed in at a very healthy 3.5 kilos (7 lbs 11 ounces) and measured 52cm (20.5 inches). Both baby and mother are doing well.

 

Ema

Such a cutie!

We apologize for the delay in getting you all the news, but life has been a bit turbulent these last couple of weeks with preparations for the coming season. Fortunately, Ema patiently weathered Odile in utero, where it was nice and warm and safe.

 

We are very excited for that she has arrived and is getting acquainted with her new surroundings. We can’t wait for you to meet her. Please come down soon and bring plenty of hugs and kisses!

 

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Ema, Mariana & Benjamin

Lovely family

Update: Hurricane Odile in Baja

Dear Friends and Family of Prana del Mar,

 

As many of you may have heard, the southern part of the Baja peninsula has suffered a devastating blow from the Category 3 hurricane that made landfall late Sunday night. Reports say that the intensity of this storm far surpasses any other recorded in the area and the amount of damage left in its wake is unprecedented.

 

First and foremost, our hearts go out to all the people of Los Cabos and the surrounding areas who have been impacted by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as they cope with all the challenges they are currently facing as well as those they will encounter during the rebuilding process.

 

We are also incredibly grateful that Mariana and Benjamin – who rode out the storm at Prana del Mar – are safe and secure. As some of you know, Mariana is pregnant with her first child and is due at the end of September, so we are very relieved to know that all is well. The hurricane has altered their plan to have a home birth with a midwife at the retreat center, so they are currently seeking out appropriate hospitals that have weathered the storm and will be able to accommodate their baby when she arrives.

 

Cabo San Lucas and San Jose have been largely without power, gasoline, phone service, and Internet since Sunday, so we have not heard from all employees yet, but are encouraged that the area has no reported fatalities and the majority of injuries have been minor. We will update here as we get additional information.

 

Many thanks to all of you who have emailed and called to express your concern and support. We really appreciate all your warm and caring wishes. I (Erik) am in the States, so it has been worrying and frustrating to pace the halls with such limited communication and only tidbits of information to share, but I am very relieved to finally have more to report.

 

As for damage, we did not escape the wrath of the tempest. Fortunately, our facilities are well-constructed, we had invested in hurricane screens, and Benjamin and a very-pregnant Mariana did a good job of securing our buildings as best they could on short notice. With the force of the winds and the enormity of the rains, the palapa roof on the Sun Studio was damaged and several of those windows were cracked. We also had water intrude into the Community Building and some pergola structures that did not fare well. We lost about 25% of our solar panels, but fortunately all power systems are still functioning – some just have fewer solar collectors supplying them for the time being. All of the guest rooms came though very well and show very little impact.

 

Aside from the above, the damage is largely cosmetic. We do have a fair amount of clean up ahead of us and plenty of beautification to return the gardens to their previous state, but we are thankful that the situation is not worse.

 

With our season scheduled to begin in three weeks, many of you who have plans to join us soon will surely be wondering about your upcoming retreat. We feel that we will have the facility ready enough to host groups by that time, even if we are not entirely back to our former glory. Our most pressing concern, however, is with the overall state of commerce in Los Cabos and whether we will have access to all the food and supplies that are necessary to make your stay meet the standards that we expect of ourselves. Some reports have indicated that it could be a month or more before stores are approaching normal operations and shelves are fully stocked.

 

We will be contacting all of the teachers who have retreats planned with us before the end of the year to discuss with them individually how they would like to proceed. If you could give them a few days to digest all of this and decide upon their preferred plan of action, they will soon be determining whether to move forward, to wait-and-see on progress in Los Cabos, or to cancel or reschedule their retreats.

 

For those who are interested in helping out with Hurricane Relief efforts, we are hoping to create an avenue for you to contribute or to establish a list of non-profits that are providing valuable services in the area. Once we have something more definitive, we will pass along information about options that may be of interest.

 

In the meantime, thank you again for your warm support and loving concern during these challenging times. We are dedicated to restoring Prana del Mar to its former beauty and once again opening our doors and hearts to all of the kind, gracious, compassionate guests who are the lifeblood of our retreat center. The sun is already shining in Baja and we look forward to welcoming you back to enjoy it sometime soon!

 

With warmth and love,

 

Erik & the Prana del Mar staff