Sedona before sunrise
As the title of this blog; Travels of a Yogi might suggest, I travel. A lot. And I love it! (Why else would I write about it, right?) I love to see the World, meet new people, make global connections, and of course, do yoga anywhere and everywhere I can. After spending a fascinating week in Sedona, AZ with Tiffany Cruikshank/Yoga Medicine studying the anatomy, dysfunction and application of yoga in relation to the hip joint I excitedly extended my trip to visit another yoga friend, mentor and teacher, Leeann Carey, in Los Angeles. I love spending time on the West Coast! Cool breezes, sunshine, walks by the beach, healthy food at your fingertips…and sunsets of course!
500/1000hr Hip Module
Sedona, AZ May 2016
As I embarked on the next leg of my journey from Phoenix to LAX, I must say, the security lanes in Phoenix were probably the quickest, smoothest ones I’ve ever been in! I really couldn’t have asked for anything more! And then, there’s LAX. Oh, LAX! I have such a love/hate relationship with you. I love that you have such amazing access to the world! So many cultures and diverse backgrounds coming together in the same place, at the same time, for such a brief moment before moving on to our next adventure.
Majestic Sedona Mountains
It’s a bit of organized chaos as people hug loved ones good-bye, check their bags and begin the hustle toward their gate…but first, security. I recall the morning of Sept. 11th as I stood in my living room watching the Today show and seeing the second plane hit the Twin Towers. It was surreal. It was as if time stood still. On top of that, we were only about an hour from Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down. These events have forever changed history and the way we travel. Having been to many foreign and third World countries that have much more lax security measures, I am grateful for the security and TSA that we have here in the U.S. working hard to keep us safe. As a military Mom, I applaud the efforts our country is taking to protect us.
Redondo Beach, CA
As a seasoned traveler, I do my best to follow the rules at the airport in order to have the smoothest experience possible. I typically approach the agent with boarding pass and ID in one hand, while in the other, I’m usually already holding my shoes, computer and my quart-sized Ziploc bag filled with my toiletry items (all less than 3.4 oz, I might add.) When I finally make my way to the x-ray belt, I am rock ‘n and roll ‘n and ready to go. I am completely aware that millions of people travel each and every day and the number of passengers entering security gates is enormous and I know you have a big job to do. But can we go about it in a kinder, gentler way? Please? The female TSA agent at LAX was literally screaming at people, in their faces, to get out of line forcing them to measure their carry-on baggage in the metal luggage template before allowing them to proceed. I absolutely appreciate them enforcing the size regulations, especially since the overhead bins are consistently overfull, but no need to scream in someone’s face. No, I’m not talking about projecting one’s voice so people can hear you in a loud environment. I’m talking full-on screaming and pointing as if she were a Drill Sergeant. Maybe in a past life she was, but this is not the time or place for that- especially since everyone there is being well behaved and compliant. Then, as you are herded like cattle through the security lane, the next step is to basically disrobe down to your unmentionables. (On occasion, I have considered just showing up in a bikini or see though body stocking just to see what the reaction would be.) Barefoot and almost naked, I make my way through to the x-ray scanner. Feet wide, arms up overhead I am commanded to stand perfectly still, yet again, I am again made to feel like a criminal- as if traveling was a crime! As I move on, through the security mill, I am then patted down. Really? I’m hardly wearing anything? Go ahead. Cop a feel. I hope it was good for you. And sure, while you’re at it, feel free to wipe down my itty-bitty 11” laptop and test it for who-knows-what. At this point, I feel as though a decontamination room may be next on the agenda! Finally! Free to go. As I gather my belongings, I hurry to throw my flip-flops on my feet, grab my computer and my small carry-on bag and scurry off, head down as if it were an early morning walk of shame except I did not reek of stale booze and was not wearing the clothes from the night before; although, if I had, perhaps I wouldn’t feel quite so tweaked by the encounters of the day thus far.
This moment of frustration was the prime time to practice my yoga breathing…inhaling and exhaling for an even 6 count as I simply observed this experience. I was clearly frustrated, but at the same time I knew that these measures were necessary. I knew that these people were here to ensure safety, but what I also know is that there is no reason for them to be rude, obnoxious, abrupt, commanding, acting resentful and as if we are putting them out. No reason for them to be in people’s faces, making us feel violated or intimidated for simply being there and traveling that day. After all, if we were not traveling, they wouldn’t have jobs. Be thankful. Be grateful. Just plain be nice! It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort…and it’s free.
Namaste, Miss Barista, namaste’.
While I made my way to get some coffee, which was definitely not free at $6 (way more expensive than my Starbucks caffeinated lusciousness), the barista topped off my morning joe with a heart. She didn’t have to, but she did. It didn’t cost her anything but a few seconds. For her thoughtfulness, the deliciousness she prepared for me, and the smile she brought to my face, I am grateful. Namaste, Miss Barista, namaste.
Welcome to Yoga Medicine Yin Yoga & Meditation Module!
The day after losing my grandmother, I boarded a plane for Thailand to participate in the Yin Yoga & Meditation module of my 1,000 hour yoga training with Tiffany Cruikshank. The decision to continue with this trip on the heels of this loss was extremely difficult and one that was made after heavy discussion with my family. Everyone was in agreement that my grandmother would not want me to cancel my training. We felt that it was beneficial that I saw her before she passed.
While a heavy heart was a major part of my luggage, I went through the motions of boarding my flights and taking a 38 hour trip. From LAX to Taipei, Taiwan, I noticed an overwhelming fragrance of perfume filling the cabin. I really didn’t think much of it other than that I was annoyed that someone would not think twice about dousing themselves in a strong fragrance before boarding an extremely long flight. I let it go for that moment as I popped in my headphones, watched movies that I had been too busy to see in the theater and took advantage of the complimentary wine service paired with the terrible airplane food.
As I boarded the plane from Taipei to Bangkok, I began to get settled in for another long leg. Earplugs? Check! Eye mask? Check! No-Jet Lag tablets? Check! Then, all of a sudden, I noticed it again. That smell. The overwhelming fragrance from the last flight. It was here again! I peeled off my eye mask and looked around, but no one in my immediate vicinity looked familiar from the last flight. I mean, what would be the odds, right??? Again, I really didn’t think about it much other than the fact that I was irritated that I was having to smell this fragrance for yet another flight. I felt a bit like I had just walked into Abercrombie & Fitch, but what could I do? 2 glasses of wine down, eye mask on, earplugs in, good night!
Mellow morning flow.
I groggily wandered through the Bangkok airport from 2:30am-6am before finally making my way to Koh Samui for the Yin Yoga & Meditation module with Tiffany. After everything that I had endured the week leading up to the retreat, plus the extensive traveling, I was so glad to be here. Not only did I need a shower and some decent food but remember, half of the clothes in my suitcase were dirty! (read about that in the last blog, if you haven’t already.) It was lovely meeting new yogis where were like minded and spiritually connected, but it was fantastic to reconnect with fellow yogis who I have had the pleasure of traveling with in the past.
Fellow Yoga Medicine yogi’s who I had the pleasure of exploring India with for our Seva project.
One of the things I have loved the most is making friends on just about every continent. Here, you see Australia, Sweden via Jakarta, Holland by way of Abu Dhabi, London and Norway, just to name a few! Practicing with this group brings a sense of peace, harmony and cohesiveness. Knowing that I had been through so much in the recent days, it was like having a family away from my own family.
Wind Chimes outside of the yoga shala.
The first evening of the retreat was taking place at the same time as my grandmother’s funeral back home. Needless to say, the practice was very emotional for me. At the end of the practice, I laid in the silence and stillness of savasana. As my body rested and absorbed the recent events I had encountered and the travel that I had endured, my mind was called back to the present moment by the sounds of large, metal wind chimes. Chimes similar to those that hung on my grandmother’s back porch. The porch that I spent many summers catching lightning bugs, swirling sparklers and rocking on her wooden rocker while watching the hummingbirds refuel at the feeder that she always had waiting for them. It was at this moment that it all came together for me. The wind chimes. The fragrance on the airplane. I realized what it was and why it was so familiar to me. It was Liz Claiborne. As in the red plastic triangle that we used to wear in high school. My gram used to wear it. Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first!) but I swear it was a sign from her. The perfume. The wind chimes. In my mind, it was her being there with me. Telling me that she was no longer in pain and that she was free and at peace. It was at this moment that I, too, felt at peace. In that moment. In my body. In my mind. Peace and tranquility. Despite the fact that we had beachside winds each and every day, I never heard the chimes again during my stay, yet the sense of peace and calm remained. Om Shanti, Namaste’
Finding peace and calm in Savasana
As a child, hearing my father’s stories of his experiences growing up in India as a planted that seed of curiosity in me. This was long before I had ever experienced yoga and before I had ever been out of the country. I took my first trip to India in 2012 with one of my best friends and inspiration yoga teachers, Leeann Carey (http://www.retreatmaven.com). After that trip, I knew I would be back, I just wasn’t sure when.
I constantly remind my the students in my 200 hr yoga teacher training program that the best teachers are lifelong students. Because I believe in leading by example, I decided that I wanted to further my yoga education and explore new ways of teaching and inspiring my students. I came across Tiffany Cruikshank’s Yoga Medicine (http://www.yogamedicine.com) program. When I saw her 1,000 hr program, I knew I had found my next educational path. Not only is Tiffany’s teaching orthopedic in nature, but it is done retreat style! What more could a yogi who loves travel ask for?!?!? Little did I know that my first retreat with her would forever influence my life. Where else, but India! In December of 2014, I received an email from Yoga Medicine describing a module coming up in Kolkata, India in December 2015. The moment I read it, I knew I had to go. With tears in my eyes, I looked at my (incredibly supportive) husband and said, “I HAVE to do this!” What was the message that provoked such an emotional response in me? Human trafficking, homeless children and children living in slums in red-light districts. It seems surreal and just a Liam Neeson movie, but it’s real. And as a mother of two daughters, this hit way too close to home. These are the words I read that inspired me:
“Each year, millions of women and children are trafficked in India. A child goes missing somewhere in the country every eight minutes. Almost 35,000 children were officially reported missing in 2011, however it is thought only 30 percent of cases are reported.
Almost 80 percent of all worldwide trafficking is for sexual exploitation, with an estimated 1.2 million children being bought and sold into sexual slavery every year, and India is the poisonous hub. These staggering statistics aren’t just statistics, they are very real.
We, as a global community, have a unique opportunity to make a lasting and deeply meaningful impact in the community of Kolkata. This is our chance to give back to a spiritually rich community that has given us so much.
Our chosen project is to support the day-to-day operation of 15 street kids shelters, preventing the trafficking of kids ages 4-15 living in the slums and red light districts of Kolkata. The shelters provide healthcare, education, nutritional meals, tutoring, job coaching, yoga classes and other recreational activities for over 525 children. Our funds will be used towards teacher’s and supervisor’s salaries, accounting, programming, transportation, and educational materials.”-http://www.yogamedicine.com
I signed up immediately to be a part of this movement to make a global impact on the lives of yoga girls and children who were less fortunate that my own. On December 1, 2015, I set out on this adventure to “Be the change”. It was while I was on this journey that the inspiration for “Travels of a Yogi” was born. Pack your bags and join me!