CliffLake

Digital Detox: Yogis Need to Unplug Too

You don’t need a supercomputer to recognize that huge chunks of our time are occupied by the stuff we do on our electronic devices. However, until I spent six internet and cellular free days in the mountains of northern New Mexico last week, I had not grasped precisely how much time I spend online.

On a daily basis I’m answering hundreds of e-mails, posting updates and photos on social media, blogging (like right now), and texting with at least 10 different people. It’s no joke.

To fit it all in, I’m lucky if I create an hour a day to pause, be in the moment, do something outside, read a book, or sit to eat with family and friends.

Sometimes I want to throw away my phone, close my social media and email accounts, and turn back the clock to the 70’s and 80’s before these technologies existed and go camp in the woods, or hang out on the beach (without worrying about getting sand in my iPad). Can you relate?

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As much as I fantasize about throwing in the tech towel, I practice yoga, and as the name yoga (meaning union) suggests, we like to connect. Even if it’s through a screen. And this longing to connect is what keeps me on my iPhone and laptop.

Some on the retreat were surprised that I would be addicted to devices and technology. People often make the assumption that because I do yoga, that I’m immune.

The truth is that most everyone now grapples with their relationship to technology, and yogis are no exception.

That said, I do believe yogis, with their understanding of mindfulness and being present are ripe to lead the charge to explore ways in which to create boundaries with devices and schedule purposeful times of “unplugging” to simply be. But to do this this, we must start with ourselves.

The biggest realization I gained from six days off is that in the absence of transmitting electronic devices and social media I was truly free (as my younger self was) to do whatever my heart desired. Time opened up and I became obligated only to myself and to the people that mattered most.

There was space to relish nature, read books by a crackling fire, break bread with the artists and visionaries at the retreat, spend 5 hours hiking through the woods with no trail, and to rock climb for the first time in years. I enjoyed the better part of one day creating land art (see videos below!) practiced yoga, pampered and sauna’ed, sang, and played music!


Note: We agreed to use smartphones and cameras for the sole purpose of photography and creating imagery. Videos by Norman Johnson.

The whole idea of “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) is actually an illusion of sorts. Life goes on. It was OK not to “need” to know every detail of the feeds I regularly scroll through. Not having to be 100% on every minute of the day in order to stay on top of things was a massive relief to my spirit.

I’m still getting used to typing on my laptop again. And sure, I’ve got an overwhelming amount of work and emails to catch up on, but it was worth it.

Perhaps you’re saying, “Duh, why is this such a revelation?” but honestly, the most time I’ve given myself off the grid in the last few years has been a day, not six.

My new goal is to extend the time even longer on my next “unplugging”.

Based on what I learned during those seven days, here are some ways we can start creating a healthy relationship with technology:

  1. Realize that you’re not missing out.
    Not seeing every single post in your Instagram or Facebook feed is OK. If there is someone you really need to catch up with, pick up the phone. You can also check their individual page instead of scrolling through an entire feed so you are selectively choosing vs. being subjected to the blast of everyone and their mother’s updates. Just this choice alone will limit your time on social media and open up more time in your day.
  2. Unplug for at least an hour a day and unplug for one whole day per week.
    Give yourself the gift of being free to do what you enjoy most such as reading a book, cooking and eating a meal at the table with no distractions, taking a bath, hiking or walking outside. Tell your colleagues and friends that this is your time off and to not expect responses during that time.
  3. Build in at least 1-3 solid vacations (stay-cations count!) a year and purposely hit the off button on all technology!
    This can be a great time to recharge, reboot and prevent burnout. A “Digital Detox” helps you get back in tune with your own rhythms and nature’s rhythms vs. keeping up with the pace of the digital world. It’s such a joy to dictate how you spend your time rather than spending so much time responding to other people’s demands of you.
  4. Be in the moment and do one thing at a time.
    We’ve all too often been in a conversation with someone or in a meeting and one of us gets a text message or e-mail popping up on the phone. Don’t be that person who picks up the phone in the middle of the conversation to see who texted! Put the phone in airplane mode and out of sight and give your fullest attention to the moment.Here’s a trick I learned from Shannon, who recently joined our team at 90 Monkeys: When you’re out to eat with family and/or friends, put all of the phones in the middle of the table face down. The phones have to stay there for the entire meal (no exceptions!). Whoever touches their phone first buys everyone’s dinner. Not only is it a fun game, but it also lets you enjoy a meal together without any outside distractions.

These methods for digital detox will make you happier, more productive, and help you to gain more perspective on your life. The best proof of this is to try it yourself. Once you’ve done a full “unplugging”, chances are you’ll be longing to press the off button more often.

Have you done a digital detox? If so, please share your experience and methods for a healthy relationship to tech in the comments below.

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We enjoyed this fire every day in an outdoor living room!

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Here I am bouldering up to a lava cave with my new friend Imran, founder of EmbarcChicago.org. Photo by Norman Johnson.

 

 

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Vegan Cream of Delicata Squash Soup

On a brisk October day, I was doing some errands around Boulder and saw that the Farmer’s Market was having its final Wednesday of the season. On a whim, I bought a couple of delicata squash’s along with heaps of kale, broccoli, and other veggies.

I have never tried making a puree of delicata squash for soup, but my experiment proved to be one of the tastiest (and simple!) soups I have ever made.

To make this soup you will need a food processor or high-powered blender (such as a Blendtec or Vitamix)*. This recipe uses a new product from Nutiva called Organic Refined Coconut Oil. I love this oil because it has all the nutritional and cooking benefits of coconut oil, without the coconut taste making it much more versatile.

Delicata Squash

Now on to the recipe…

Ingredients:
2 medium sized delicata squash
Approx. 2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk (depending on desired consistency)
Sea salt to taste
1 Tbsp Nutiva refined coconut oil

Instructions:
1. Rinse and scrub the delicate squash.
2. Cut off the ends of the squash and slice the squash into quarters.
3. Place the quarters in a steamer. Steam until tender.
4. Scoop and remove seeds out of the quarters.
5. Combine all of the ingredients in the food processor or blender.
6. Blend until smooth and all the skin of the squash has been well blended.
7. Garnish with sautéed broccoli or kale if desired.

*If you only have a regular blender, make sure to skin the squash first.

 

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Autumn Carrot Peanut Butter Smoothie

Are you one of those people who digs dipping carrot sticks into peanut butter?

If so, you’ll enjoy this refreshing new smoothie I came up with after a visit to the farmers’ market where I found beautiful, succulent carrots, begging to be eaten.

The recipe uses Wild Jungle Peanuts from the Amazon so you don’t have to worry about rancid peanut butter (which is usually the case with standard, even organic peanuts).

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In a Vitamix, Blendtec or other hi-powered blender mix the following:

8oz almond milk
1 scoop Vega vanilla protein powder
1 small raw carrot
1/4 cup Wild Jungle Peanuts
1 tsp Nutiva Coconut Manna
Cinnamon and sea salt to taste
3 Ice cubes

Roughly 28 grams of protein. Pour into glass and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Video: Thrilling Instead of Killing: Swimming with Whale Sharks & Manta Rays

On one of my trips to experience marine animals with marine conservationists, Taro Smith, Ph.D and Shawn Heinrichs, we found a place where former shark fishermen are now “thrilling instead of killing” by taking people like me out into the ocean to swim and interact with whale sharks and manta rays.

It was an honor to support the eco-tourism efforts in Mexico and to witness how these fishermen are so protective of the whale sharks and manta rays!

Although there were many boats and people in the water (which may seem bothersome to the animals), the alternative (being fished for their fins) could mean much bigger problems for these creatures.

Amy Whale Shark

My experience swimming near them is that they were aware enough to avoid collision with me, but they certainly were not threatened by my presence in any way. The animals were so focused on filtering for fish eggs, I might as well have been a floating log!

This video, shot by Taro Smith, Ph.D, showcases the beauty of these animals and how you can help protect sharks and manta rays, as well as our oceans.

 

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Eating on the Wild Side

 

We all know that a big part of a yoga lifestyle is to eat well and follow the latest research in nutrition so we can live more vibrantly while respecting the earth.

And when it comes to food and nutrition ideas, we’ve heard it all!

We try to eat more plant based organic. We’ve tried raw, cooked, BPA and Gluten Free. We eat more greens to keep the doctor away. The list goes on.

But this time my world got rocked by Jo Robinson, author of “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health”.

Jo spent ten years researching the nutrient value in the most common and popular produce found in our super markets, even the organic markets. I always knew that wild foods and even weeds were extremely good for you, but it turns out we started breeding the nutrition out of food when we became farmers 10,000 years ago…Ack!

History geeks will love Jo’s research, and foodies – you will get a kick out of revolutionizing your produce selection methods, learning best practices for storing your produce, and the various new creations you can make in your kitchen!

Here is just a little bit of what I learned:

Greens
Dandelion greens, Purple kale, Raddichio, Arugula and Red Leaf lettuces are total phytonutrient superstars compared to standard green lettuce like Romaine or Butter leaf – seems obvious when you think about it, but I’d never given it that much thought.

Eat Your Brussel Sprouts!
Everyone knows that Brussel sprouts are ridiculously healthy but according to Jo, they are superfood ninjas:  “Brussels sprouts kill more human cancer cells than all other crucifers. In a 2009 test-tube study, extracts of the vegetable destroyed 100 percent of human cancer cells of the breast, pancreas, stomach, prostate, and lung.”

How You Prep and Store Your Produce Makes All the Difference
In the pictures below I am doing the produce ritual I learned. Soak the greens for an hour in cold water, rinse well, and then spin the leafy greens.

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Once spinned well, place the greens into zip lock bags that have been perforated with a needle 10-20 times to allow for gas exchange. The Dandelion greens in the picture actually have red stems, so I’m sure they are even more incredibly healthy. (Dandelions also help feed our dwindling population of honey bees, so never spray them with weed killer!)

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Push all the air out before sealing the bag so it looks vacuum packed and store in your crisper drawer. According to Jo, “If you tear up the lettuce before you store it, you can double its antioxidant value. The living plant responds to the insult as if it were being gnawed by an insect or eaten by an animal: it produces a burst of phytonutrients to fend off the intruders.”

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Purple Carrots, Artichokes and Asparagus
It turns out that purple carrots are higher in anthocyanins than regular carrots. And if you steam them whole and then slice them afterwards they taste sweeter and their ability to fight cancer increases. Who knew?

The information on Artichokes (one of my favorites) shocked me.  Jo throws it down: “Artichokes have a higher ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value than all the other fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. You would have to eat eighteen servings of corn or thirty servings of carrots to get the same benefits.” Needless to say, I’ve been obsessed:

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Asparagus is very high in antioxidants, but I learned that purple asparagus has three times more antioxidants than the green varieties. I always assumed the purple ones did not taste as good. I was totally wrong! Asparagus, like Broccoli is best eaten no more than 2 days after harvest in order to actually get the incredible nutrients inside the plant, so it’s almost impossible to shop for them in standard super markets where the produce typically arrives ten days after harvest. Getting Broccoli, Asparagus, Artichoke and Brussel sprouts at farmer’s markets or growing them on your own is the best bet.

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Here is what my salads look like since reading the book:

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It has been so much fun applying Jo’s wisdom to our kitchen!

I must thank the awesome yogini who told me about the book (I can’t remember who you are, but please come forward so we can all give you a virtual hug!).

Please leave a comment with your experiences of “eating on the wild side”, recipes, or comments on the book!

 

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Ego Bashing and Yoga, Is it Helping?

Yogis want to eradicate the Ego.

A select few, but prominent, schools of yoga will tell you that one of the goals of yoga is to extinguish the ego and instead be as modest and unassuming as possible. I beg to differ. I call this view of the ego “ego bashing”.

In spite of all this work trying to quell the ego, modern yogis are often accused of being the most egotistic, self-obsessed, selfie-taking, navel gazers alive. So how’s that ego bashing working out?
Here’s a theory.

If anything, I believe that the pressure on yogis not to have an ego is creating an opposite, reactionary effect. Yogis are so tired of subduing their egos that they’re actually craving the need to celebrate themselves a little with a selfie or two. (Not to mention, yogis are also subject to the same self-absorbed culture of social media as everyone else on the planet, but I digress…)

Ego bashing is not going to solve any problems. Here’s why embracing your ego might even be a good thing:

If you believe that the Divine lives in everything, then the Divine must also be present in the ego!  It’s not a question of whether the ego is bad or good. It’s how you relate to the ego that matters.

Can having an ego be healthy?

Yes, when you use it to honor your assets and offer them to the world around you!  In fact, it would be a shame if your ego were so suppressed that you shied away from sharing your gifts with your community. If you’ve got something to share that will benefit others – please do so!

Conversely, your ego is also healthy when you are aware of when to be humble, when to take the back seat, when to let others have the spotlight, or when to defer if someone else is more capable of doing the job than you.

To me, good yoga is never about suppressing something natural that exists within us. Good yoga instead happens when we participate, seek to understand, and engage with the natural foibles and shortcomings we have as humans.

Keep sharing your gifts with the people around you. Do it with awareness and thoughtfulness. Keep others in mind and never forget that the life force moving through you is the source of your greatness.

Get Your ZEAL Back and Keep it This Time!

Happy New Year, dear friends!

Like many of you, I took full advantage of the quiet solstice time to take a thorough look at my life.

I’ve been investigating how I want to feel in the coming years, what truly matters and how to make the most of the precious time I have on this planet – especially when life has become so busy and techno-centric.

What I’ve come to realize is that nothing I do has as much pizazz or passion if it’s not connected to a higher personal purpose or reason why. There’s got to be a higher reward.

Seems obvious, right?

But that is easier said than done.

How often have you found yourself just plodding along, doing your work, following your routine but with little zeal?

The fresh start of the New Year gives you the opportunity to reconnect to what you want and get your enthusiasm back!

To rediscover your zeal:

  1. Get out of your house and go somewhere fabulous to sit with your grand purpose. Close your eyes and wait for an image, a symbol or even a clear sentence that articulates why you are here and what you’re meant to do.
  2. Write about what you want to feel, do, be and have in your life in the next 1-5 years. Go big!Go forth into everything you do with purpose, passion and ZEAL by always keeping your purpose and what you want in your mind. It can help to have it written out where you meditate each morning so you see it daily.
  3. Let’s not allow the passion to fade until New Year’s resolutions come around again next year!

My promise to you this year is to teach with more gusto and to devote every practice to reconnecting with our personal purpose so we can reach the stars with our dreams and visions.

All the love,
Amy

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On the Bright Side of Disaster: Lessons from the Colorado Flood

The rain has finally ceased, the sun is out and there has never been more love and caring energy in Boulder. Being a mecca for spirituality and consciousness Boulderites understand non-attachment and yet trauma and loss does not magically go away because one lives in the “Boulder bubble”. Many lost everything. It will take time to move through the range of emotions our community is experiencing.

It was scary – men and women went out in the storm in shoulder height water to take down fences to help divert water away from homes. Flash floods were raging in the pitch black of night while sirens sounded. Many yogis and neighbors worked around the clock digging trenches and putting up barricades to direct the relentless water out of harms way. Countless streets and roads are destroyed, totally washed out and the asphalt cracked in pieces.

Our house lucked out but others in our neighborhood, even next door to us did not fare so well.  Other than houses directly in the flood path (old seasonal creeks and drainages) it seemed entirely random which properties took in water and which did not.

Our friend who was house sitting for us was a champion because our neighborhood had rapids rushing through it and she evacuated with our cat yet still found a way to keep her watchful eye on the house. Even her dad came over and helped her open the hatch door to our cellar which was miraculously dry.

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We live on 6th St in Boulder and yet one block over (exactly parallel to our house) the street was destroyed. That’s me in the picture above surveying the damage.

Many families are displaced.  Towns just adjacent to us like Jamestown and Lyons are all but destroyed. This video sums up how frightening it was in the mountain towns of Boulder:

Long after the rains our streets continue to be filled with the sounds of shovels, pumps, helicopters, saws, and mostly rushing water that never was audible before. There are piles and piles of debris and mounds of now bone dry river silt which gets stirred into the air we breathe the minute a car drives by.

On the bright side of disaster, human beings always seem to show up at their best with compassion, love and generosity to help others. We were out of town during the worst of the storms and were touched by the support we received not only from friends all over the world, but our friends at home who wrote us in Indonesia offering to check on our home despite being in the middle of their own mess and the danger of getting around town.

Everyone you talk to knows at least one person who is housing a flood refugee or two whether human or animal. Our 90 Monkeys team has been showering in our guest bathroom since their water is still contaminated up the canyon. Almost all the conversations I’ve heard in passing have been what I call “Flood talk” – ie. people checking in, comparing stories, offering to help, or giving advice on what to do about mold or debris.  Relief is desperately needed for those who are still homeless, who have no clean water to drink, and lost their possessions and homes.

In true Hanuman spirit, the Hanuman Festival has organized a huge benefit event for November 16th that I will be teaching at along with local Boulder teachers Richard Freeman and Gina Caputo. Also joining us will be Janet Stone and musicians DJ Drez and MC Yogi. 100% of the proceeds will go towards the Colorado Flood Relief Fund.  I feel grateful to the Hanuman Festival, these teachers and musicians – as well as Yoga Journal, Give Back Yoga Foundation and prAna for lending their support to this event! Hanuman Festival is also donating $20 from every Gratitude Pass for the 2014 festival sold until Oct 31st.

Visit www.HanumanFestival.com for more information.

Our community was so disappointed about the cancellation of the annual Estes Park Yoga Journal LIVE conference due to the roads to Estes Park being destroyed. Our community truly looks forward to that gathering and in some ways needed the yoga love more than ever. Though the flood was clearly out of our direct control, we still feel so sorry that so much destruction in our state created this problem for YJ LIVE.  :( We hope the Hanuman Festival benefit on the 16th will make up for it in some small way while raising much needed funds for our state.

If you can not be at the benefit, consider making a donation to the Colorado Relief Fund.

 

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Tumeric Citrus Juice: Dr. Taro’s Spring Wellness Boost

Taro came back from photographing sailfish and bait balls in Mexico with a bit of a Spring cold. If anyone does the juicing in the family, it’s me, but I was filming for YogaGlo. So off he went to the store and low and behold, he concocted quite the elixir to soothe his bug! It’s sweet, delicious and kicks inflammatory butt!

The Recipe

4 inches of fresh crisp organic turmeric root
1 inch of organic ginger
1 organic Mikan (satsuma tangerine)
2 organic ruby grapefruits
1 organic granny smith apple
1 small organic lemon (optional)

Plunge all the ingredients through a juicer being mindful to keep the turmeric in the middle rather than last to go through. This will ensure you get every last drop of the healthy goodness and less stain on your juicer parts.

Turmeric is known for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. While it is spicy and bitter, with a little sweetness from the grapefruit, tangerine and apple makes the turmeric flavor come alive! Be well, enjoy and let us know what you think of the juice in the comment section below!

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Exotic Citrus Green Juice by Amy Ippoliti

Exotic Citrus Green Juice

With winter’s citrus season booming, our organic produce delivery has been bursting with two of my favorites exotic citrus varieties: pomelos and meyer lemons.

Pomelos, in case you have never heard of them, are pretty much my favorite fruit. They are similar to a grapefruit with a much thicker skin. What they lack in thin skins, they make up for in taste and texture. Pomelos are slightly sweeter and less bitter than their grapefruit friends. The texture is actually delicious. Pomelos come apart nice and dry, but are loaded with juice once you bite in.

To peel the pomelo, use a knife to score a line along the equator of the fruit. Dig your fingers into each side and peel the whole half off each side – usually you can do this in one piece each side. Then cut the fruit in quarters so it will fit in your juicer.  To read about the benefits of juicing and tips on what kind of juicer to get, read this article.

Meyer lemons are like regular lemons except they have a thinner more orange-yellow color, and their flavor is like a lemon perfume, which lends a signature taste to any food you prepare with this fruit.

Of course I had to try some juicing combinations in the kitchen with this kind of citrus on hand.  Here was the winner:

Exotic Citrus Green Juice

1 Small Meyer lemon

1 Pomelo, peeled

1 Anjou pear

2 Small cucumbers or one large

1 Head of Romaine lettuce

1 Large handful of baby spinach (optional)

Make sure all produce is organically grown. Wash carefully and push through your juicer.  The lemon can go in un-peeled. To make sure you maximize the juice in the spinach, put the cucumbers into the shute, then pack the spinach in around the cucumber before plunging.  Enjoy this refreshing, good for you libation!

Amy Ippoliti Boardworks Surf

Teaming Up With Boardworks for Some Stand Up Paddle Boarding Fun

You may not know this about me, but growing up as a girl during summers in Vermont, I was an avid canoeing enthusiast. Through the guidance of my canoeing mentor, Elizabeth Smith (one of my first true teachers in life), I learned to paddle a canoe in a perfectly straight line in storm force winds, land the the boat – stopping on a dime with no movement, reverse a swamped canoe and get it back to shore with no paddle, and how to solo a canoe down white water rapids.

After leading groups on wilderness lake trips, portaging canoes for miles, building a shelter out of an overturned canoe to sleep in, and countless other sailing & mountaineering skills acquired along the way, I achieved the highest rank in canoeing in my final year at the camp. It was a huge moment for me to have worked toward something so rigorous and succeed. In fact, it was that accomplishment that helped me get myself through intense yoga teacher certifications later in life.

It had been a long time since I had paddled, but three years ago I was introduced to Stand Up Paddling and instantly fell in love.

In August of 2012 I teamed up with Boardworks, a leading Surfboard/ Stand Up Paddle Board company to help define the relationship Yoga has with Stand Up Paddle boarding.

These are two of the fastest growing activities in the world, and have become a way of life for the those who practice or paddle. One child’s pose floating on the water was all I needed to know that yoga on the board, while it would never replace what I do on the mat, is certainly heaven!

The combined benefits of the cardiovascular exercises, core stability and yoga on the water provide for an all body workout as well as access to nature in a watery environment.

Yoga on stand-up paddle boards, also known as Yoga SUP is an interesting niche, and there are a rapidly growing number of Yoga SUP classes being offered around the world in lakes, open water, waterways, reservoirs and more.

Boardworks believes there is a bigger connection between these sports, and that it is more of a mindset of the demographic that they share; health, wellness, nature, fresh air, and play.

I am very excited to partner with Boardworks to help connect two of my favorite passions…this is another way to expand on yoga and while taking my yoga practice outside.  We are seeing more and more Yoga SUP happening at yoga events around the world!

According to Boardworks National Sales Manager Ryan Guay, “We’ve seen organic growth of the Yoga SUP lifestyle and it’s a natural extension of our brand. We have specific models that work perfectly for yoga applications and believe our products to be ideal for this purpose. Amy hosts retreats in beautiful places around the world. I am excited to get involved with these events and help expose people to SUP.”

To learn more about Stand Up Paddle Boarding and get a board of your own, visit Boardwork’s Website.

Join me and a bunch of great yogis in Costa Rica to practice therapeutic yoga and get in the water on SUP boards every day! Visit the retreat page.

Holiday Raw Food Salad Platter (Warning: Kale Food Porn!)

Holiday Raw Food Salad Platter (Warning: Kale Food Porn!)

This raw massaged kale and pomegranate salad platter on butter leaf lettuce cups has been a huge hit at my holiday parties.  The vibrant green mixed with the bright red of the pomegranate seeds make this totally festive.

For those friends who shutter when thinking of eating raw kale, the shredded texture of the kale chiffonade, the creamy avocado and the sweetness of the pomegranate make this salad much more palatable!

I get very artistic arranging all the ingredients and always enjoy putting it together, so if you have children in the house, be sure to ask them to help out – they’ll have a blast.

Ingredients (Makes 3 large servings)

Salad:

1 bunch red butter leaf lettuce

1 bunch curly kale

Seeds from ½ pomegranate

½ large avocado or 1 small avocado

A handful of chopped raw almonds

Dressing:

3 tablespoons Olive oil

Juice from a lemon

Himalayan sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Whisk dressing ingredients in small bowl and set aside. On a serving dish, place 3 large butter lettuce leaves in a circular formation face up.  Then place 3 smaller leaves inside the large ones.  These will be “lettuce cups”.

Remove stems from the kale and chiffonade the leaves. (Google how to chiffonade and watch a how-to video – it’s worth it!)

Place chiffonaded (is that a word?) kale in a medium sized bowl and pour dressing on top.  Wash your hands well and massage dressing into kale until the leaves are tender. The dressing will “cook” the kale much like ceviche.

Spoon the kale mixture into each of the butter lettuce “cups”.  Spoon pomegranate seeds and almonds on top of the kale mixture (or you could also mix them into the kale after massaging and then spoon into the cups).
Drizzle the whole platter with balsamic vinegar (optional).

You should be able to lift each large leaf cup (with its contents) right off the platter to serve on a someone’s lucky plate.  Enjoy!

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Yoga Students Making a Difference During Hard Times

Yoga teaches us to take whatever circumstances or challenges we face in life, and create something beautiful.  With the recovery process from “Superstorm Sandy” here in the USA well upon us, I was inspired to share my experience of how yoga students in the Tsunami areas have been coping with loss and making a difference in their communities, so torn apart by what occurred not so long ago.

While teaching yoga in Iwate prefecture in Japan, I had the chance to connect with yoga students who lived in areas like Sendai which were utterly devasted by the 2011 Tsunami.

So many people were affected by the tragedy last year.  An attendee from the workshop came up to us at the end of class with a picture book on the tsunami. She showed us a picture of her town in the book before the tsunami and pointed out her house in the picture. She turned the page and there was a picture the same land, utterly in rubble.  She showed us the empty hole and debris that was once her home.

She explained how she was safe inland, but when the tsunami came her mother and grandmother were at the house and got separated in the maelstrom. Rescuers found her grandmother barely breathing and she died outside of a hospital that was too full to accept her. They have yet to find her mother.  She is using yoga to help make sense of what has occurred.

Since the tsunami, countless people who have lost their homes have been living in sterile, pre-fab housing that resembles storage units set in concrete parking lots, without trees, grass, flowers, devoid of nature or aesthetics.  These people not only lost property, but they lost family members, friends, and any sense of normalcy.  Needless to say, incidence of clinical depression in these housing units is high.

A small percentage of the homes lost were traditional Japanese structures that were loved and passed through generations for over 400 years.  These were more than just houses; they were treasured landmarks that represented the history and tradition of an entire culture.

What made these homes even more distinct were the thatched roofs that grew wild grasses and flowers.  Not only were they beautiful, these roofs held the significance of architecture that co-existed with nature through hundreds of years (its origin could trace back even thousands of years), and were deeply revered by their owners, as well as all of Japan.

During the workshop we met a yoga student named Ayako Shida who, inspired by her archival research on these 400 year old “living” homes, had started purchasing potted flowers from disaster area nurseries to help stimulate the local economy. Since the Tsunami she has been organizing volunteer crews to plant these flowers easonally at the temporary housing units for people who lost their homes.  She calls it the Hanasaki Project, literally meaning “the Flower Blooming Project”.

She wanted to do something to improve the living conditions, to brighten the mood, and to help the residents with emotional healing by letting them know that people cared.  A few of the yoga teachers we work with in Tokyo have organized fundraiser classes as well to keep this work alive, as there is no telling when they will be able to settle into to real homes again. We were so moved by her cause that we pledged the workshop proceeds to the project.

Sometimes all it takes to rekindle hope is to know that someone out there cares and to spread a little beauty.

If you are looking for a way to help the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy here are just a few of the organizations and businesses who my New Jersey and New York friends have recommended as making the most out of donations and volunteer efforts.  Please donate!

Occupy Sandy

Help the Cinnamon Snail Food Truck Serve Vegan Meals For Sandy Relief

HONY & Tumblr Hurricane Sandy Fundraiser

Whale Sharks and Fashion Join Forces to Help Put An End to Shark Finning - www.amyippoliti.com - Hannah Fraser-   Photo by Taro Smith

Whale Sharks and Fashion Join Forces To Help Put An End to Shark Finning

My partner, Taro just returned from an adventure filming and assisting artist Kristian Schmidt and photographer/marine conservationist, Shawn Heinrichs on an innovative photo shoot in the Philippines combining art, fashion and conservation awareness.  The subjects? Professional model and mermaid Hannah Fraser, extreme athlete and the world’s top female proximity-flying base jumper, Roberta Mancino, and of course the majestic, gentle Whale Sharks that have the night sky imprinted on their bodies.

The hope is that if more people understand that sharks are more valuable alive than dead, the better chance we have of preserving our oceans and the oxygen we breathe.

Imagine only one year ago the Whale Sharks in this area were getting finned.  Thanks to photography and awareness exposing the harms of shark finning, the village now runs eco-tours to view the sharks.  As if that wasn’t heart-warming enough, now these sharks are part of art!

Above: Roberta Mancino an Italian skydiver, BASE jumper, wingsuit flyer and international model. She has participated in more than 7,000 skydives.

Shark Finning is Bad Business

88 million to 100 million sharks die every year for finning  – all for a Chinese delicacy called Shark Fin Soup. 1/3 of open-ocean sharks are threatened with extinction. Shark finning is not only cruel it is totally unnecessary. Shark fins add no flavor, nutritional, nor medicinal value to the soup yet the soup is considered a symbol of prestige in China. The stronger the Chinese economy becomes, the more demand for the soup increases.

Besides how ruthless finning is (fishermen typically haul sharks out of the water, cut off their fins and toss them back to make more room on their boats where they then suffer up to 3 weeks before suffocating to death), there are much broader issues at stake.

Hannah Fraser, professional Mermaid, ocean environmentalist, performance artist and model, posing with the sharks. She is an underwater pro!

If Sharks Die, It Won’t Be Pretty

Because sharks are at the top of the food chain and have few predators, their numbers are slow to replenish when a population is overfished. At the rate things are going, we’re set to extinguish sharks entirely in only 10-20 years.  Being apex predators, sharks keep the populations of everything else in the food chain in balance. Sharks are critical to the ocean because they keep the numbers of other fish and mammal species in check and weed out the sick, injured and dying so that populations of fish stay strong and healthy. Without sharks the balance of the ocean’s food chain is severely threatened. With an excess of fish eating all the algae, oxygen production on the water’s surface decreases.  Climate change anyone?

What you can do:

  • Do not patronize a restaurant if you see Shark Fin Soup on their menu. Tell friends and family to do the same. Organizations like WildAid are doing great work to advocate for sharks. Make a donation!
  • Join me next summer along with Taro and Shawn Heinrichs on the Seva Trip of a lifetime!  We’ll be swimming with Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico and raising money for WildAid.  Subscribe to get the latest updates on the trip.

Above:  Taro is the one the left in the scuba suit pictured with Hannah Fraser. Hannah made her childhood dream of swimming like a mermaid into a career. She can hold her breath forever!

Above: Roberta Mancino with Kristian Schmidt. When she is not modeling underwater or on land, she does it while jumping out of airplanes!

Above: Great one of Hannah Fraser with Kristian Schmidt in the background catching the shot.

This video captures the undercover investigation conducted by our friend Shawn Heinrichs who has been a champion for marine conservation. He and Taro have schlepped all over Asia documenting shark finning.

 

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Self-Promotion as Yoga Teachers: Is it Tasteless or Simply a Method to Share Your Gifts?

Do you love teaching yoga but sense a disdainful undertone toward yoga teachers who promote themselves? 

In recent weeks I’ve been asked about this frequently and thought I’d post a reply on my blog.

Yoga Teacher: If I put myself on Facebook in beautiful yoga poses, create a brand, and a website, doesn’t that go against yoga’s values?

Amy:  This question is a hot one right now.

If you teach yoga it is likely you have:

  • Put hundreds of hours of teacher training under your belt
  • Done copious amounts of continuing education
  • Traveled long distances to learn
  • Invested greatly in your education
  • Live and breathe teaching
  • Served students to the fullest

Despite this many yoga teachers are poo poo’ed as unprofessional, flakey, scattered and/or held in contempt for promoting themselves.

This can be infuriating when you’ve invested so much time building your skill set and creating something of value to offer.  You’ve worked hard on making your offering authentic, proficient and meaningful.

Unlike other professionals, the yoga teacher finds themselves in a conundrum between what is considered “yogic” and what many in the media have been calling “the commercialization of yoga”.

Yoga teachers may get “push back” from the media and others who feel that self-promotion and spiritual practice is like mixing oil and water, and that marketing is at best, tacky and inappropriate.

Yoga teachers, much like any other professional (such as healers, doctors, massage therapists, computer consultants etc), want to get the word out about their services.

Unfortunately the result of this push back toward yoga teachers is that they are petrified to get the word out or to use social media for their cause.

We could debate the philosophical arguments on whether spirituality and self-promotion are in fact so diametrically opposed. Historically there are some traditions that argue for asceticism and renunciation, but there are also those traditions (way less prominent voices in the conversation) which invite us into the physical world where engaging in money and transaction are actually considered part of living a skillful life as a yogi.  The teacher has a responsibility to provide meaningful teachings and the student is also responsible for choosing which teacher suits them best.

We’ll leave that topic for the scholars to more fully flush out.

That said, if we look at what yoga does for people, the benefits and virtues are notable:

  • Improves health & wellness
  • Cuts back on stress (the cause of most disease)
  • Connects people to spirit
  • Saves lives
  • Decreases health care costs
  • And on and on…

It’s a shame that this conundrum around marketing and spirituality has made yoga teachers gun-shy about promoting themselves when they are skilled at offering the very things that help people gain access to these benefits.

If yoga teachers don’t inform people about the merits of yoga and what they can offer as a competent teacher, then how do people find the path to those benefits?

Of course, not all yoga teachers have escaped cheesy marketing strategies and their promotions can come across as a bit tawdry.  Given the sensitivity and “push back” in the yoga world, how can a yoga teacher get the word out with sophistication and finesse?

3 Steps to Healthy Self-Promotion as a Yoga Teacher

1. Define your gifts & goals as a yoga teacher.
Do you excel teaching one-on-one? Or do you prefer to teach groups of 10 or less students? Do you work best with children? Women? Men? Or can you more effectively work with a larger reach? Make it clear who you work with in your promotional materials and reach out to that kind of student.

2. Craft Your Distinct Message with Sensitivity
Once you are clear on your assets and goals find a way to craft your message that is authentic, totally you, and make it classy.  You can’t go wrong if your message shares who you are and what you have to offer with sincerity.

Part of tasteful yoga promotion is recognizing that there is indeed touchiness in the yoga world around promotion; therefore, cheesy marketing that overly glamorizes or emphasizes you is not going to cut it.  Instead focus on what the student will receive by working with you.

Show your promotional material to close friends and students who know you well to get feedback before making it public.

3. Confidently Send Out Your Offering!
Be confident and enthusiastic in sharing what you have to provide with others, knowing that you are in service and that what you do makes a difference in the lives of your students.

Be unapologetic about your offering.  Spread your gifts on a website, professional Facebook page and by email. Some will like it, some will not.  You never know, there may be a student out there that has a tremendous shift in their world, because of you!

Learn more about our professional education programs for yoga teachers here.

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Is Your Yoga Teacher Burned Out? Learn These Warning Signs

Yoga Teacher Burnout is serious. In fact I stopped studying with one of my early yoga teachers when he snapped at a student next to me.

That was before I learned from experience that Yoga Teacher Burnout can be just a phase if handled right away.  If a teacher can learn to recognize the early warning signs, they can nip Yoga Teacher Burnout in the bud by taking action on some key areas of their life and teaching.

People become yoga teachers because they fall in love with the practice.  Yoga helps us feel complete, able to share meaningful experiences with others and can save our lives. Teaching yoga, for many, becomes an extension of that love affair.

Despite all that yoga goodness, most yoga teachers will not argue that their teaching can become stale and even boring sometimes.

Yoga teachers often are barely making ends meet, or working so many jobs that they don’t have time for their own practice.

Many are on autopilot, running ragged, and wondering if they need to change professions.

They have lost their love of prepping classes, teaching from their heart, and connecting with their students — these are just a few of the signs that they are going through a “Yoga Teacher Burnout” phase.

Warning signs of Yoga Teacher Burnout:

  • Gives little or no hands-on adjustments in class.
  • Snaps at students when they don’t understand instructions.
  • Presentation has become uncharacteristically stern, austere and unsympathetic.
  • Seems to be the unhealthiest and most stressed out one in the room, um…even though they are the yoga teacher.
  • They don’t practice yoga any more, they just teach it.
  • Overly uses sound bites and cosmic flowery language that seems like they pulled it out of thin air (or their butt).
  • Gives an adjustment and throws out their back or gets hurt way too easily (because they don’t practice anymore).
  • Mis-directs anger and frustration onto innocent bystanders like their kids and/or significant other.
  • “Forgets” to get a sub for their classes or subs all of their classes out.
  • Grouchy. Snappy. Cranky. Irritable. Crabby. Cantankerous. Prickly. Huffy.

I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it in my colleagues. No yoga teacher is perfect.

To be clear, I’m not talking about those difficult days when we must teach through tough times (loss, divorce, illness, etc…) – everyone must go through that at one time or another.  I’m talking about holding up our end of the bargain to model a balanced lifestyle, and use the tools we have at our disposal to get the TLC we need.

The good news is that these warning signs in no way suggest that a teacher is doomed.  Being burned out can be wake up call and an opportunity.

These action steps can quickly make Yoga Teacher Burnout disappear:

  • Going to local classes taught by other teachers
    Looking at the calendar and finding at least 2 classes a week to attend, taught by peers or a favorite teacher, can be just the ticket to feeling nurtured and inspired again.
  • Social Gatherings
    Teachers who hang out with their students every now and then are naturally more connected to their student’s lives and will not surprisingly get more stoked to teach.
  • Scheduling in down time as though it is a paying gig
    Teachers should not wait to see if they have any extra time to do a home practice, get a massage or hike in nature. Scheduling in down time as if it were a gig is the only way to make it happen.
  • Optimizing teaching schedule
    If a teacher has given a class a good 6 months to fill and nothing seems to help, it may be time to find a better time slot. Consider other factors that can cause burn out such as commute, parking, inconvenience to family, etc…
  • Revisiting basic texts and being studious again
    Improving an understanding of yoga philosophy, anatomy or hatha yoga keeps a teacher fresh. Spending 10 minutes day reading up on the subjects that need strengthening is an instant shot in the arm for weary teachers.

With a little focused care, any teacher can re-kindle the enthusiasm of sharing yoga with others and be the best they can be for their students.

Have you noticed any of these warning signs of Yoga Teacher Burnout in your yoga teacher? Got any additional remedies to add that have worked for you? Or do you teach yoga and relate?  Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear.

A Milk Shake You Can Be Proud Of — My Alkalizing Green Coconut Shake

A Milk Shake You Can Be Proud Of — My Alkalizing Green Coconut Libation

Green Drinks RULE!

While playing around in the kitchen this summer I discovered what might be the yummiest (and healthiest) green drink I have made yet!

It’s a heavenly alkalizing green coconut milk shake.  Full of protein, good fats, minerals and delicious, rich, creamy, icy flavor  — this is a filling yet cleansing breakfast treat in the summer!

And best yet, for those not ready for pure green juice without the fruit (which can be sugary), this is a great way to get your greens while still satisfying the craving for a sweet and creamy indulgence.  I would have this for dessert it’s so delicious!

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cup Pure Fresh Green Juice with no fruit.  Check out the first part of this blog entry to get ideas.

1 1/2 Cup Raw Nut Milk (can be almond, brazil nut, pine nut, macadamia or a combo!) Check out the second part of this blog to learn how to make nut milk. Until you get a nut milk bag for straining, a panty hose knee sock will do the trick!

2 Tbsp organic hemp seeds (Nutiva is a great brand)

1 handful of organic spinach

1 heaping Tbsp Coconut Manna/coconut butter

1 tsp cinnamon to taste and for garnish

½ tsp himalayan sea salt (Real Salt is a great brand)

6-8 ice cubes (or freeze coconut water or coconut milk into ice cube trays for an even creamier/sweeter taste and tecture)

Dash of raw green stevia powder

Blend everything in a Vitamix or Blendtec for best results, however a regular blender may work fine too.  I promise, you’ll sigh a satisfied, “ahh” after every succulent slushy slurp!

JuiceBlog

Fresh Cucumber Fennel Mint Juice

Fresh Cucumber Fennel Mint Juice
This is a sophisticated deliciously sweet green juice that my friend Tina came up with.  It is particularly alkalizing because it needs no fruit, which can be high in sugar when juiced. Great anytime, and especially lovely as an afternoon pick me up and perfect for summer when fresh mint and parsley are abundantly growing. For additional tips, factoids and tricks on juicing, read this entry.

Ingredients:
2 large cucumbers
3 Handfuls of baby spinach
1 bulb of fennel including stalks
Handful parsley to taste
Handful fresh mint with stems to taste

Put fennel into the juicer and plunge.  Put a cucumber in with out plunging and fill the space around it with the baby spinach, then plunge.  Do the same with the second cucumber and the parsley and mint. This way the leafier greens gets juiced rather than spun through the juicer.  Serve on ice and use a fresh mint garnish for bonus points.

Enjoy and be radiantly healthy!

Cats competition

9 Reasons Why Competition is Good For Yoga Teachers

“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to is.” ~ Vince Lombardi

Have you ever thought that filling your yoga classes would be so much easier if you had the whole market to yourself with no competition from other yoga teachers?  Do you ever get riled up when other instructors teach at the same time of day?

Come on, admit it, you know you’ve gone there.

As natural as this feeling is, let’s take a good look at “turfi-ness”(which ultimately makes you feel unworthy and like crap) vs. good old-fashioned healthy competition(which is meant to be light-hearted and promote personal excellence).

When a teacher is “turfy,” she’s focused on herself rather than the students. While it is important to look out for yourself, it is also important to do so tactfully and in ways that everyone wins.

Here’s the thing: students don’t want to see their yoga teachers getting petty.  They deserve to choose whichever teacher they like and to have teachers who are self-confident enough to handle multiple colleagues in the marketplace.

The way I see it, a little competition is not only a good thing, it is a GREAT thing for yoga teachers and students alike.

Here are 9 reasons why:

Reason #1: It helps grow the yoga market and generate increased demand
A key purpose in my life and work as a yoga teacher is to get more people on the mat. More people on the mat is a good thing, since yoga is such a powerful tool for happiness.

When there are more yoga class choices available in a given location, market awareness of yoga increases in greater proportion than the number of available options.

A variety of class offerings shows potential students that yoga is a health option worth their consideration. Also, variety shows that a community is serious about yoga and, therefore,the potential student should be too.

With increased market awareness, would-be yoga students are more likely to take a class.  Think about it: would a town be considered a foodie haven if it only had one restaurant?

Therefore worrying about whether your yoga class at 6pm on Monday is going to conflict with your colleague’s class at the same time is not a good use of your time.

Staggering yoga classes so as not to “compete” with each other keeps market awareness of yoga very low and does not give students options.

Reason #2: It’s natural

Animals do it; children do it; it’s the way the world works. Yogis try so hard not to be competitive, and cringe when they are.

Instead, why not acknowledge that we have inherited this healthy drive over millions of years and be OK with it?  Once you accept competition as a natural instinct, it is a lot easier to embrace the opportunity competition gives us.

Reason #3: It helps all ships rise on the same tide
Rather than feeling threatened by your peers, collaborate! Co-teach a workshop, brag about each other on Facebook, attend each other’s classes, and honor the other’s presence in your class by announcing it.

Be friendly and trust that there are enough opportunities for you and your colleagues. A number of teachers rising up and practicing with each other will bring out the best yogi within each of them.

Reason #4: Being OK with competition makes you look like a hero
Turfi-ness often slips out in the form of possessiveness (of students or timing of events) with an unappealing sprinkle of entitlement on top. And guess what, this kind of behavior only makes you look bad.

And besides, it’s SO unflattering, believe me.

Examples:

Sometimes yoga teachers can get overly controlling of their students and even ‘dis’ newer, up-and-coming teachers.  Unattractive!

A yoga director at a big studio recently told me that she purposely did not invite a particular instructor to teach a training there because she was so turned off by her possessive behavior. Yikes!

Another colleague told me she was asked to give up her classes at a studio when the owner decided she had had enough of the “combative politics” in my colleague’s style of yoga and did not want that energy in her studio.  Ouch.

Yoga teachers, listen up: if this sounds like you, it is time to let go of being protective of your turf. Otherwise you end up alienating yourself from strategic opportunities and looking like a jerk.

If instead you “roll with it” and trust that there is enough for everyone, you’ll be offered the best gigs, touted for your willingness to share, and praised for thinking about the student first. You’ll become a role model, and not only will your following grow, but other teachers will rally to support you, too!

Reason #5: We live in a big free world.

I’m going to get a little feisty now: Yoga teachers can teach when/where they want and sometimes it will conflict with another teacher’s classes! This is OK!

Yoga teachers that get upset at the overlap need a little dose of reality.  If all professions applied the same tenet that they can’t do the same job at the same time as another, the whole planet would be unemployed.

The premise that another yoga teacher can control the time or place that you teach is kind of silly.  Does that mean that dentist A can’t fill a cavity at the same time as dentist B on the other side of town or even a block away from each other?

I used to get seriously uppity about conflicting events diluting each other. When I lightened up and let go, everything worked out for the best long term, and the market actually grew (See Reason #1).

Reason #6: Provides an alternative for students who are not a good fit for your classes
Students are free to experience multiple styles and having more than one teacher helps them index their yoga preferences.  For example, one yoga teacher might not want to teach the 20-something uber-bendy yogis but can better serve the 50+ crowd.

If her colleague prefers the 20-something demographic, then it is a win-win for both teachers. Now they can help cross-refer clients to each other. And the students will be happy to find the right teacher for their needs as well.

Reason #7: It forces you to be creative

Many yoga teachers fall into the dogma that they must set strict standards or hold onto ancient teachings to the point of becoming rigid and even elitist.

Rather than trying to be the best at the same-old, same-old, be creative, innovative and experimental with your offering, and then be the best at your own special version of your yoga.

You’ll stand out from the crowd not by being better, but by simply offering something different that does not necessarily take away from any other yoga teachers.

Reason #8: Variety is the spice of life.
Some teachers are so protective of ‘their’ students that they inadvertently hold these students back from developing as yogis.  Getting exposure to a variety of teachers helps students gain insights and tidbits to help their practice move forward.  Insular groups tend to stunt their own growth, lose motivation, and plateau.

I encourage my students to try other methods, try on different teachers, and study. Ultimately their gratitude for my openness makes them quite loyal.

A community of yoga teachers can better serve a yoga student than one territorial-“dissing-other-teachers”-yoga teacher!

Reason #9: Ultimately, it helps you get better.
Throughout history, the fiercest competitors have spurred each other on to greatness. If you have no competition, you can become complacent and at best be mediocre.  Someone’s got to raise the bar! So welcome the challenge and be excellent.

Now before you leave that comment…of course not all competition is good — and at some point too much competition just clutters the marketplace and confuses clients. That being said, instead of immediately getting protective and jealous, see how things change for your teaching when you start welcoming and encouraging competition in the yoga world.

You down?

In the comments below, I’d love to hear if you’ve ever had some of these territorial feelings and how you handled competition between yourself and your peers.

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Turn Your Raw Almond Milk Green, With No Artificial Color

Since it is St. Patricks Day, I was in the kitchen this morning and I thought – I should share my Green Milk Recipe with everyone! And so a blog was born.

Everyone always asks me if they should juice or vitamix.  It is never an either or – it’s both! As you’ll see with this recipe, you will need a juicer and a blender (Vitamix is ideal, but a regular blender will do) to make this nourishing Green Milk.

Specifically, you will need the juicer to make the green part, and a blender to make the white part. Since the almonds in the recipe require soaking first, make sure you start soaking them 4-8 hours in advance.

Ingredients:
Freshly extracted green juice (can be made up of cucumber, celery, spinach and romaine lettuce)
Hand made raw almond milk with out sweetener or dates (see video I found below on how to make it)
A dash of cinnamon

Directions:
Put equal parts chilled green juice into a mason jar with equal parts chilled almond milk. Add a dash of cinnamon. Put the lid on and shake it up. Drink and enjoy!

How to Make Almond Milk Video


Tell us if you liked it!

As always please leave a comment below letting me know how you liked the Green Milk, ask questions, or just tell me how your St. Patty’s day went!

 

AmyIppolitiJadeYogaAd

Why I Can’t Go a Day With Out Juicing

It was a honor to pose as “Miss December” for Jade Yoga’s 2012 wall calendar and print ad in the picture here.  They asked me to do something in the picture that reflected my interests.  The bike thing had already been done, so since I’m totally a green juice fiend, we shot the ad in my kitchen!

Spring is right around the corner and the urge to cleanse tends to arise as soon as the weather gets warmer and the light lasts longer in the day, but as the title of this blog suggests, any time is a good time to be juicing!

Actually I can go a day with out juicing, but I’m definitely not as happy, I won’t be as energized, and my digestion pales in comparison.  (Insert a finger wagging: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”)

Juicing has recently become a popular trend, and for good reason.  I’ve been juicing my whole life since my mom whipped one out in the 70’s.  The juicer was collecting dust for the longest time, but in the last five years, juicing has become one of my daily rituals. It is so energizing and cleansing, that I find it hard to live with out.

Apparently 98% of the nutrients in veggies and fruits are trapped inside the fiber capsules of the plant, and our teeth barely access those nutrients when we try to masticate the fiber, giving us access to only 1% of the nutrients or something silly low.

So when you juice, the fiber capsule is blown wide open giving you access to a much larger mega hit of nutrition.  And if you saw the huge bowl of produce I slam through my juicer every morning – it would take you several hours to chew, yet you’re getting the nutrition on a much bigger volume of food, thus the mondo blast.

And yes, I still recommend that you eat other veggies during the day to get your daily fiber intake.  Juicing is not a meal substitute – it is like taking your supplements, only so much more fun, appealing and delicious.

People ask me often how to get started and what to juice, so here is the first of many posts with tips, tricks and recipes to help you get on the road to mega nutrition and vibrancy.

What Kind of Juicer To Use

Hands down, the Breville Elite 800 gives the silkiest, most quality juice and is a long lasting easy to clean machine!

Don’t skimp and get the model down from the 800! (It is totally not worth the price difference  – the motor is not as hardy and the juice does not come out as smooth).

What kind of Produce to Use

Buy (or preferably grow) produce as fresh and crisp as possible (no soft spots or sogginess!). And definitely buy organic produce since the juicer concentrates everything including pesticides!

Useful Tips

  • Always drink the juice with in minutes of making.  The juice begins to lose nutritional value quite soon.  If you have to take it with you, fill up a jar all the way to the top so that the lid touches the juice when you close it – sealing it in with as little oxygen above the juice as possible.
  • Worried about your teeth turning a little green? Sip your juice with a straw.
  • The Breville 800 is easy to clean.  The only part that can take a wee more time is the mesh filter. I found that a dish brush (the Good Grips kind) actually works better and faster than the one the juicer comes with.
  • If you use lemon, put it in last – it works as an astringent to pre-clean the juicer!
  • Avoid juicing carrots, beets or other sweet fruit since anything juiced becomes concentrated and these foods are high in sugar to begin with.  Generally I like to drink only green, but in the beginning if you need fruit to make the juice palatable, the following fruits are considered low-sugar:  Granny Smith apples, grapefruit and pear.


Green Turmeric Lemonade

This is a refreshingly tart, liver-cleansing cocktail – great anytime of day, and is especially wonderful first thing in the morning.  The turmeric, if you can get it fresh from Hawaii, is a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial root that looks like ginger only orange! Turmeric is also amazing for smooth glowing skin.

2 small cucumbers or 1 large
3 handfuls of baby spinach
3 stalks of celery
1 head of Romaine Lettuce (optional)
1 small lemon or half a large lemon
1 green apple or pear
1 inch of fresh turmeric (optional if you can’t find it – best when it looks plump and orange.  Looks like ginger, only a bit smaller. From Hawaii is best.)

Put the celery in first and plunge.  Put a cucumber in with out plunging and fill the space around it with the baby spinach, then plunge.  This way the spinach gets juiced rather than spun through the juicer. Do the same thing with the turmeric to help maximize it. Then juice the Romaine and apple.  Voila!

 

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Top 5 Tips for Marketing A Beginner Yoga Series

As you may know, I recently launched a new online course: Build Your Following: How to Launch a Beginner’s Yoga Series. And the success stories have been pouring in! Teachers are rocking it out with SOLD OUT Beginner’s Yoga Series and waitlists. This means that even more people are getting on the mat and we are spreading the yoga love! Freaking awesome.

Building a successful Beginner’s Yoga Series from scratch isn’t always easy which is why I created the course as a turn-key solution.

Whether you took the course or not, you still need to prepare and apply ninja marketing skills to spread the word, since new students could be anywhere and are not always easy to find if you are new to an area or live in a rural part of the world.

If you’re planning a Beginner’s Yoga Series and are struggling to find people out of thin air, here are my top 5 tips for marketing your series with success:

1.  Let your people know! Word of Mouth.

Announce the new series in classes (your own and other teachers). Email your current students, friends, family and everyone you know. Ask everyone to spread the word to their friends and family who are new to yoga – tell them all about the benefits of yoga and why your series will help them. Your current students are your best advocates for your teaching, but if you are new to an area, you’ll have to start from scratch and do good old fashioned “networking”.  Even if it means starting random conversations with the mail man!

2. Rock your social media skills!

Post regularly on your Facebook and Twitter accounts about your Beginner’s Series. Don’t be shy about posting every day! Remember: you might be seeing every one of your posts, but chances are, most people are only seeing a fraction of your posts. Also – be sure to reach out to other online communities in your area. Make a CTA (call to action) that specifically asks people to share, retweet and post about your series.

3.  Feature the series on your website.

Put your Beginner’s Yoga Series info in a prominent place on your website, the studio’s website, your Facebook Page and any other online outlet available.  And link to it, link to it, link to it!

4.  Link to your series in your email signature.

Even if you aren’t emailing a prospective yogi, include a link in your email signature that promotes the course. You never know who might be your next student!

5.  Start marketing early and don’t get discouraged!

Keeping a positive attitude and visualizing a yoga room filled to capacity with new beginners can make a huge impact on your outcome. Get creative, stay inspired and don’t give up!

Get advice from someone who’s been there!

The teachers who’ve taken Build Your Following: How to Launch a Beginner’s Yoga Series have some great marketing tips to share, too.  Read on to hear their advice.

I hope that these ideas help you build an amazing beginner yoga series, and, ultimately, introduce more people to the benefits of yoga. The world needs you!

Here’s more advice from fellow teachers like you!

KM:  Add a question to your the feedback form, what would it take to keep you coming back? Or a discount or freebie for their first punch card? Do the beginners return for another beginner series? Inquiring minds want to know!

YS:  Tried discounts but will try again (i.e. 10% if you sign up during the week following end of intro) and yes… quite a few take the intro again. This year offering 2 kinds of intros, one 4 week (4 classes), another 4 week (12+ classes :-) … hope one leads to the other.

Taro Smith:  Social interaction is the number one reason for coming back to classes yet it is the most underrated. Remembering names, having forums so students can chat with each other, asking questions of students, having them add value in some way to the class. You can also take it off the mat by having students connect with a FB professional page where you can keep dialog running.

KO:  Guerrilla marketing all the way — I get 75% of my students by personally inviting them. Put a bunch of postcards/flyers in your purse and hand them out to everyone — I invited the beer stock-er at my local co-op and he’s now a devoted student — loves it for remedying his back pain. Invite people to come –anyone (friend/acquaintance) who has ever expressed an interest in yoga — send them a postcard with a handwritten note like — I hope you will join me! Really, I grow my classes by appealing to everyone I know and it works. And, they love the personal invite. And keep inviting people — I just perceive myself as a yoga class hostess and it is really working. My 4 classes are solidly at 10-12 people enrolled for 12 week sessions — and growing. I am all about personal attention and people love it! I live in rural Wisconsin — so its challenging yoga terrain. This approach is working great and 90 Minutes has helped me a lot.

KH:  How about leaving some flyers with your hairdresser? They see and speak to lots of people every day and can help spread the word….

NR:  Thanks! Hairdressers, chiropractors, acupuncturist, flower shops, colonics place, health food shops, ups store what have I missed? :-) )

JI:  How about gyms (that don’t offer yoga)? Dry cleaners? Local health-conscious restaurants?

LS:  Have you seen the bulletin boards in almost every STARBUCKS? There’s a spot for us on those boards!

PS:  One simple way I market to teens is I list my age requirement for my adult classes as 14+ years old. I also teach Teen and Tween Yoga classes, which I market in their PTA newsletters and participate in any school-sponsored fitness event (for free with flyers in hand) to get the word out, like Family Fitness Night and I even did yoga for school volunteers before they had a planting day. I have sent constant contact emails to the athletic coaches and PE teachers at the middle and high schools in my area, and I hang flyers on any community bulletin board I can find. The most effective marketing though is through my best ambassadors… my own teenage daughters!

… And here are a few more ideas I found online:

Try a referral program, like “refer a friend” or “bring a friend to yoga class” with your current students – for Beginner Series, you could offer existing students a free class if they refer someone to your beginner series, and their friend could get a discount.

Some great ideas from http://www.ivillage.com/how-can-i-market-my-new-yoga-business/7-n-221241  include:
– Volunteer to write a community newspaper column or do a local radio show
– offer free workshops or talks at schools, college athletic centers, libraries, health fairs, sports expos, health food stores
– Visit the athletic departments of schools and universities and let coaches know about your services.

A few more good ideas here: http://www.wikihow.com/Advertise-a-Yoga-Class such as:
-Write a press release about the benefits of yoga, then send it to local television and print reporters. Follow up by calling to invite reporters to attend your class at no charge.

Have other tips to share?  Leave a comment below!

Build Your Following: How to Launch a Beginner’s Yoga Series

Get Started NOW!

Plus, read about the breakthrough results yoga teachers and studio owners have been getting by applying what they learned in this mini-course!

“Fantastic webinar! I would encourage everyone to use Amy’s tools as a core model and expand the application as your practice grows. Love this community! Namaste.” - Anna Watson

“I set up my series for Jan. 21st for four weeks! Thank you, Amy for the tools to actually make it happen! I am so excited and inspired! I seriously cannot thank you enough! xo” - Amanda Meehan

“Our Beginner Series enrollment number was up to 17 and our original cap was 15, we thought ‘oh, whats 2 more’. Now the studio owner just sent a text to see if 20 would be OK!” - Nan Hartsell Vuncannon

“Amy, Thanks for the webinar! I am really excited to get into the studio on Monday and schedule my first beginner’s series.” - Darcy Elman

Awesome Webinar Amy! Thank you for presenting from both the perspectives of the studio and the individual teacher. Great balance!” - Vicki Tarrant

“I’m so JAZZED to be a part of this launch with all of you!!! Beginning my 6 week series mid-Jan.!! Studio space secured, website up and running, postcards are out, potential students are getting excited, one student registered already, and still 4 weeks before start date! (I did all of this in two weeks!???) THANK YOU Amy for the motivation and INSPIRATION! Your webinar has ROCKED my world – I’m actually doing the work that I LOVE! xo” - Vila Maya King

“Awesome webinar – learned so much! I feel much better prepared for opening day…” - Maria Delgado Richardson

“So helpful… thank you so much. All of the courses have been extremely helpful and inspiring (and stress relieving ;) ” - Janelle Fleur Kroon

Thursday evening session is now FULL!!!! I have started a wait list…YAY!” -Kimberly Bragg Werner

I am on a yoga high! I just had my first class of my six-week beginner series and the place was packed! We ran out of mats! Only four people had officially registered, so I wasn’t expecting very many, but they just kept coming! I was so nervous because I am a relatively new teacher and have never done a beginner series. And I’m new to the area and don’t know the community yet. But it went really well and people seemed excited about next week. I couldn’t have been able to do this without Amy and this program. Thank you everyone for being an inspiration!”  - Randi Kay Martin

“It’s happening! My series starts next Wednesday. Class is full and I have started a waiting list for the next 6 week series! I asked my students to fill out questionnaires online so that I can review them before classes begin… good thing because it’s giving me time to research health issues I am not familiar with. It’s not only allowing me to connect with my students before I meet them, it’s reinforcing my belief that our responsibility as yoga teachers is to share this gift with EVERYONE we can get our hands on! There are people in serious NEED of yoga out there. Again – thanks Amy, you’re brilliant for recognizing this need, creating an easy to follow format to inspire teachers and beginners, and for the huge support of the Facebook group to help all of us make it happen!” – Vila Maya King

“Thank you so, so much, Amy. My first Beginner Course is starting on the 18th and it booked out completely, so I put on a second course to accommodate a few people who didn’t get into the first one. It turns out that the second course booked out as well. I cannot believe it, 30 new students who want to give yoga a shot, it’s so exciting. Couldn’t have done it without you Amy and all the great ideas and tips from everyone in this group.” – Sibylle Dallmann

“My Elements of Yoga series began tonight. Our small space can hold ten tight but I opted to only allow six. I had three beautiful new yoginis show up to the mat. I almost cried with joy. It was my very first class in my new space. What a treat! Thank you so much, Amy, for your workshop. I was a nervous wreck until 6pm and now I’m floating on a yoga cloud. And celebrating with a glass of red. Being a part of this group also gave me ideas that made planning much easier. Namaste y’all!” – Amanda Powell-Wooten

“Oh. My. Goddess! So….I sold out my class! It starts on February 4th so I thought ‘Hey Sandi, why not offer a second session on those same days in February and see what happens?’ So, I opened the next class up on my site this morning…and people are already booking it! This tells me people are hungry for yoga, but we have obviously sent out a message that not every one is ‘yoga material.’ Amy’s script for marketing this class is pure inspiration…and maybe a little genius mixed in thar too…Smooch!Sandi Burden

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New Year’s Love Letter

I’m writing this from 9800 feet during a gusty blizzard, contemplating the numerological significance of the year 2012. (I’m a nerd!)

When you add 2 + 0 + 1 + 2 you get 5, known as the “wild card” number. This means anything can happen!

It turns out the number 12 itself represents tribes, and the need for people to come together to look after and help one another.

Twelve divides down to 3, and the number 3 symbolizes nurturing, creativity, and solution-oriented thinking.

Lord knows we need a “can do” spirit to respond consciously to the intense circumstances in the world, and these numbers suggest that we must do this through our collective intelligence. Truly we can solve any issue if we band together!

Part of this revolution involves including our youth in this conversation. As we enter the Aquarian Age, listening to their words and insights will be a vital. This year I learned so much from teachers younger than me!

2011 was the year to pump up our own volume. 2012? We take on the WORLD. It is more than time to give a damn. In 2012, we will come together, through the wild uncertainty before us, and…be the light that gives others permission to shine.

And that’s the new name of my 2012 Tour: Be the Light

There is so much to look forward to, so much good we can do together. More than ever I can’t wait to do these things with you.

THANK YOU, my amazing readers. You have made 2011 beyond tremendous and you have made such leaps and bounds on your journey. Here’s to more!

As always, please leave a comment below and tell me what you plan to do in 2012 to shine your light with others.

Big love and gratitude,

Amy

(Picture above taken in Gubbio, Italy with Taro!)

 

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Learn These 4 Steps To Leading Like a Bad-Ass

I recently watched the movie “Bobby” and was sobered to be reminded of how the same issues we are dealing with today were alive and well in 1968. (Think deteriorating ozone layer, climate change, violence, and species extinction to name just a few.)

While we have made a ton of progress, in some ways we still have barely made a dent, 40 years later.  And of course many of these issues have quadrupled in impact.

What gives? It is so time to step up the progress on this badly needed revolution of consciousness, and it starts with our selves and how we relate to each other.

Those who are stepping up to become who they know they can be will be the ones to bring about transformation on the planet.

This is the difference between ordinary leadership and “transformational leadership”.

4 Evolutionary Relationship Strategies To Bring On the Revolution

Step 1. Take Responsibility For How You Are Showing Up (Physically, Mentally and Emotionally)

I heard someone say that they had a sign up in their office that reads: “Please take ownership for the energy you bring to this space.” and how about this Oprah quote:

“Nobody is responsible for your life but you. You are responsible for the energy you bring to yourself and to others.”

Owning your state of being is critical because you actually participate in how you show up, versus allowing un-examined energy to run-a-muck.

For example, if you get enough sleep, eat nourishing organic meals through out the day, and exercise regularly, chances are you’ll feel and perform at your highest physically.  On the other hand, when you get out of physical balance, you show up sub-par.

If you regularly examine the way you talk to yourself and you are a disciplined “gatekeeper” of your own mind and speech, chances are your mental state will be more positive and focused.

Are you letting yourself drown in one negative thought after the next or do you consciously choose your thoughts and speech?

More importantly, do you examine the beliefs that you have behind those thoughts, such as, “I’ve always had an issue with my shoulder”, “The problem is that my XYZ keeps me from being able to do this or that,” or “No one wants to date me since I am divorced with two kids”?

Or do you reframe your speech and say instead, “Up until now I’ve had shoulder issues,” “I am confident that I’ll be able to do this or that”, or “There are plenty of people who want to share life with me and my kids.”

When you feel things, do you tend to overly identify with the feeling saying something like “I am angry” instead of “I feel angry”?

Can you articulate how emotions feel in your body so it is easier to verbalize and then let those feelings move on?  Or do you suppress, stifle or ignore them?  After all, emotions should move (thus the word “motion” in emotion!).

Step 2: Bring More of Your Self to Others

Everyone rocks at something, yourself included.  Are you truly offering your best to the people around you?  Are your God-given gifts getting the full expression they deserve so that you can benefit others?

When you are in relationship do you focus on what you could get vs. what you could give?

Ask anyone in a relationship how it’s going, and they will tend to talk all about what their partner does or does not do for them.  How many would answer that question with an account of everything they do or don’t do for their partner?  Of course we want both give and take, but where is the emphasis?

We live in community. There is value in looking at the big picture first – that what is best for the whole can also be best for the individual.

When you think of how your choices or actions might benefit the community versus thinking of just your own needs, you are often rewarded 10 fold in the long run.

Step 3. Be Reliable, Accountable and Consistent

Consistency creates grooves.  Grooves create focus.  Focus creates transformation.  When you are reliable, people can count on you to keep your promises, and when you are steadfast, you build trust and belief.

And I’ve learned that when people believe…wow, anything is possible.

Moreover, when you are reliable, accountable and consistent for YOU, you’ll believe in yourself more, your self-esteem will skyrocket, and you will move mountains.

I’ve found that the best way to stay accountable for the promises I make to myself is to keep track of the times I do, and to celebrate them.

There’s nothing like positive reinforcement to shake up samsaric (repetitive, habitual) behavior.

Step 4. Design and Craft your Relationships Consciously

It is vital to design the kind of relationships you want to be in.

One summer, I made a vow that I would say yes to hanging out with a certain group of people that I admired.

I admired them for their positive attitudes, their creativity, their evolution thus far in life, and their successes.  When I was with them, I felt inspired; I felt on track with my goals, and supported in being as badass as I could be, in all areas of my life.

I consciously sought their good company and then made choices to be around them, even taking more time off of my teaching schedule. As a result, I think I have helped more people this year than any other, thanks in large part to the great company I’ve kept.

Make a list of new connections you can invite into your circle and raise the bar on the quality of your life and your own evolution!

You Can Do This

Show up as the powerful being that you know you are.  Keep on shifting and waking up, because every single one of you is here to love people, lift them up and serve the planet.

AmyIppolitiDouglasBrooks

Love and Lessons from Umbria, Italy

Every time I’m on our retreat in Italy, I receive continuous reminders about how gorgeous nature and the world can be. Astonishing really.

We’ve had a perfect recipe for inspiration and greatness this year with Douglas Brooks sharing on the “ferocity of love” and the wonderful company we’ve shared.

Someone at the retreat turned to me the other day and said, “Thank you for reminding me why I am here.”

Douglas said it best when he shared:

“Because life is such a strange, wonderful gift, there is really nothing wrong with us. Treasure that Gift.”

Gratitude is pouring.


Here I am pondering beauty and abundance after picking pomegranates, pears, figs and more from the gardens in the Umbrian countryside. Treasuring every moment…

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THE SEQUEL: Discover These Remedies For Uncomfortable Meditation

Back in June I posted a blog called: “If You’re in Pain After Only 5-10 Minutes of Meditation, You’re Probably Making these Common Alignment Mistakes.”

We received such an overwhelming response from meditators and yogis commenting and asking more questions about how to enhance their seated posture, that I decided to film……the sequel!

If you have not yet watched the original, you can find it over at my blog.

Here are some of the most common questions we got, which I address in the video:

1. What do I do if my legs are still falling asleep?  What do I do if my legs are tingling?
2. What do I do if I still have knee pain?
3. What do I do if I still have ankle pain?

Ultimately it is not necessarily all about getting completely free in your body during meditation.  I prefer to focus on what a total victory it is if you can last even 2 minutes longer with out discomfort!

Your body will get stronger the more you meditate in good alignment and you can keep adding those minutes on over time.

And as you know, the more people who meditate for longer periods of time, the more world peace we’re gonna get!

As always, please leave a comment at the bottom of the blog. I would love, love, love to hear how much more mileage you get on your cushion after watching this!

Want to read more on the topic of meditation and yoga? See my article written for Elephant Journal at the Press Page.

Meditate on!

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What I Did With A Baseball Bat Zucchini

Raw Low Carb Late-Summer Pasta

Are you looking for something, anything to do with those zucchinis in the garden that turn into baseball bats?

And how about the bushels of tomatoes and basil?

Even if you don’t have a garden, you will want to go out and buy the ingredients for this recipe, or take the edge off a friend’s overflowing garden by inviting yourself over to harvest!

My student, Therese, brought me one of those mega zucchinis to Tigress practice and I have to admit, I saw the size and all I could think of was loaves and loaves of zucchini bread taking over my kitchen.

Until I remembered my Spiral Slicer that was gathering dust in the kitchen. And then the wild Italian in me began to come alive…

Equipment Needed: Spiral Slicer Garnishing Machine – by Joyce Chen  (run, don’t walk to go order one of these online – best gadget ever!). Some food processors may also have an attachment that can make zucchini into spaghetti.

Ingredienti (best if organic):

2-3 cups of spiralized raw zucchini
1/2 small avocado, diced
Organic extra virgin olive oil
Phlavor salt spray (my favorite new salt water seasoning available at www.phmiracleliving.com), Real Salt or sea salt to taste
5 yellow and/or red cherry tomatoes, sliced
Handful pine nuts
3 leaves of fresh basil from garden
Squeeze of Lemon juice

Cut 1/4th of a mega zucchini or a whole normal sized zucchini and process in the Spiral Slicer until you have about 2-3 cups of “pasta” and place in a bowl.

Add the avocado, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts to the zucchini.

Use a scissor to cut up the basil into the pasta, drizzle a good amount of olive oil over the mixture and squeeze on a small amount of lemon juice to taste. 

Spray 6 or 7 times with Phlavor or use sea salt, preferably “Real Salt” to taste.

Serves one.

Toss well, and enjoy!

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Love, Pasta, and the Seemingly Impossible

On the evening of September 10th, 2001, two birds hit the sliding glass doors of a studio where I was attending an afternoon class on retreat in Southern Utah.

My friend Sianna and I silently left the room to go outside.

One bird was down, the other, its mate, was circling nervously. We gave the bird our love and reiki, to no avail.

Later that evening we performed a burial ceremony in the woods for the bird who passed. We wept unexplainably.

The next morning I woke up to a phone call in my yurt – the Twin Towers had been struck by two planes.

After the shock, the tears, the group collective prayers and meditations, the reality of our new world began to sink in via emails and phone calls of concern.

One such call was from Jane Fryer, founder of Inward Bound, a retreat and travel company that was hosting our retreat at Locanda Del Gallo, in only three weeks. “The travel industry is toast, my business is doomed, do we go to Italy?”

Half of the 28 participants had already asked for their money back.

My response? We go! I was determined not to let misaligned terrorists stop us from enjoying life, nor squelch our freedom.

I got on the plane to Rome ready to take down any bad guy. I even got my fellow passengers to agree to help if we saw anyone sketchy. The plane was empty – I had four whole seats to myself.

A courageous group of 14 yogis arrived at Locanda Del Gallo the next day, a little depressed, a bit nervous, but ready to have a transformation.

Every class was filled with a depth and paradox of feelings: Grief and despair mixed with an undying sense of hope and unity. The pain of loss blended with a sense of humor. Together we learned to hold these opposing emotions in the space of Locanda’s piercing silence. Together we showed up with love. Our hearts lead the way.

We chanted, we prayed for the world, we shopped at the Prada outlet, we took silly yoga pictures with our new accessories for comic relief, we ate a lot of pasta, we cried, we loved and we danced.


That’s me and Jane ten years ago, hamming it up for some much needed comic relief, decked out in Prada and Miu Miu.

On the final evening we gathered in colorful clothes at the tip of Locanda’s precipice and created a mandala made of objects we found in nature, infusing each with our love and prayers for peace and harmony on the planet.

It was clear, that yoga travel would not end. This was just the beginning.

And sure enough, this was the first of 9 more closing mandala ceremonies that have since occurred on that very precipice.

Inward Bound went on to thrive and is still alive and well today. We are so grateful to Jane Fryer for gracing our lives with this magical slice of heaven on Earth, a place where dreams are born, hearts are mended, peace is found and PASTA reigns true!

We are thrilled to be going back, for our 10th year, this October 1-8th! This time joined by Douglas Brooks for a juicy topic all about love, baby. Check him out flashing the 12 Kali Mudras in this video about this year’s retreat:




Watch more videos and read all about our next trip to Italy this fall!

And as always, please leave a comment below. :)

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Adorning and Making Beauty at the Hanuman Yoga Festival!

Get a peek at the scene over at the Hanuman Yoga Festival in Boulder, CO where I’ve been hanging out with Kelli Davis, of Crocus Pocus Designs. Many of you know her, and if you don’t you’ll know her soon – Kelli was recently featured in Yoga Journal for her work helping protect and rehabilitate rescued Elephants in Thailand through her Ganesh Project necklaces.  Kelli is an artist and a healer who has made it her life passion to adorn seekers with the stones they need to help them transform their lives!

AmyIppoliti

If You’re In Pain After Only 5 or 10 Minutes of Meditation, You’re Probably Making These Common Alignment Mistakes…

This past weekend I had the great honor of co-leading a retreat with my long-time friend and meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg.

The retreat group was mixed, ranging from those with advanced yoga asana practices and minor seated practices to strictly meditators who had dabbled in yoga before but did not make it regularly to the mat.

Several in the room had long abandoned their meditation cushions in favor of sitting in a chair to avoid the pain that flared up after only 5 minutes of sitting. 

Worse yet, some reported that they had either sat through the pain or cut their practices short to get out of the discomfort in the past.

Has meditation become an occupational hazard of your spiritual practice much like sitting at a desk or commuting long hours?

Watch the video below to find out if you have been making any of the 5 most common alignment mistakes in your meditation posture!  Then learn (through yoga alignment) how to sit in ways that make your seated practice more comfortable and last longer.

As always, please leave a comment at the bottom of the blog. I would love, love, love to hear how much more mileage you get on your cushion after watching this!

Want to read more on the topic of meditation and yoga? See my article written for Elephant Journal at the Press Page.

And join us for the month of June over at the 30 Day Yoga Challenge on Facebook, where we will be meditating for 10 minutes minimum a day with a group of 2000 other yogis!

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Why Taking Responsibility Will Set You Free

My morning note from the Universe after teaching on same topic:

“The more responsible one becomes, the farther their wings reach.
~ Fly, The Universe”

There is a teaching in the Tantra that says we are born innately free. Rather than seeking freedom as a spiritual goal (i.e. as if you never had it to begin with), freedom is actually an inherent asset, lying there waiting to be accessed all along.

As we respect our own innate freedom, we come to a teaching in the Tantra called “Radical Affirmation” or in Sanskrit, “Shri”.  Radical Affirmation has many meanings, one of which is that we must also be receptive to others’ freedom.

Tantric scholar Douglas Brooks recently shared with me that “Radical Affirmation is how we get real about what the world is offering us.” It is kind of like welcoming everything that comes your way with open arms and a big YES.  And if you have not noticed, being alive in the 21st century, the world (out of its crazy freedom!) offers up some pretty weird sh*t!

In the toughest times of my life, I have held myself back from my innate freedom (and from everyone and everything else) when, rather than receive what the world was offering, I blamed someone or something else for what was going wrong.  I was either going to say YES and figure out my part in the matter (Radical Affirmation) then move on, or I was going to cry “victim”.

Being a victim is, let’s just say it, not attractive.

Being a victim keeps us in a holding pattern that in yoga we call “Samsara”, or as Douglas says, “a dis-empowering process where we say, “I know better but…”

When things go wrong, we are so afraid to be vulnerable, we often put the onus anywhere but on ourselves.  We might feel better or righteous for a second or two, but we rarely expand or grow.  Instead we stay stuck in the same ruts (Samskaras).

In almost all cases, the events of our lives and the results we are getting can be traced back to guess who? Ourselves.

  • Sure, the traffic was heinous, but I was the one who cut it too close.
  • Sure, he lied to me and promised the world, but I’m the one who trusted him.
  • Sure, I never watched that crappy exercise video collecting dust on the shelf, but I’m the one who bought it.
  • Sure, I took on too much in one day, but I’m the one who said YES and did not say NO.
  • Sure, they stood me up and flaked, but I was the one who expected they could be accountable.
  • Sure, they gave me the wrong directions, but it was me who did not listen to my intuition.
  • Sure, I felt terrible and had no energy, but I was the one who ate poorly and did not get enough sleep.

Getting the picture?

“If you don’t like your outcomes, change your responses.” ~Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, has a principle of success that he teaches to thousands of students all over the world and that is to take 100% responsibility for your life in order to be truly empowered, fully free, and to succeed in creating a life of meaning.

In order to do this, he says, you have to completely give up:

  • Blaming
  • Complaining
  • Justifying
  • Making Excuses

So what do you do when you have a victim blaming you or giving you unsolicited negative feedback?

A victim typically wants vengeance.  “Vengeance,” Douglas Brooks says, “is a bit like watching the death penalty”.  The person getting the so-called vengeance is left in their same samsaric state as before the death, and any dysfunction on their part is enabled to continue on.

The best approach is to choose to be irenical (ie. aim toward peace), and let your opponent be right, give them “their little pound of flesh” as Douglas says.  Then you can walk away empowered, having owned your part.

In addition you will have placed proper boundaries on any expectations of them to “get it” or take some of the responsibility them selves.  Because when someone really wants to be the victim, they usually won’t budge, so why should we expect otherwise?  Just throw them the bone.

“Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” ~ Esther Lederer

The key to “letting go”, that process so many yogi’s long to be able to do, is to take ownership first through radical affirmation of all that could possibly be true, take responsibility for your contribution, and then truly, the wings of your inherent freedom will soar.

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Why Getting on Your Yoga Mat More Often Will Make You Teach (and Live) Like A Winner

Have you ever taken a yoga class and you could just tell that the teacher was not into it?  Or were you that teacher standing in front of the class, looking out at the mats, passionless?

Fortunately, there is a remedy…

And that is to…

Get down and get funky on your trusty yoga mat!

…And I don’t mean go to a workshop or a retreat and come back inspired every now and then. I am talking about continual, non-stop re-fueling.  Whether you teach yoga or not, this means getting on your yoga mat consistently, at your home, in a class, or at a practice for teachers and advanced students.

In 2001, I started teaching classes at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in New York City, founded by NY yogini legend, Dana Trixie Flynn and star partner, Jasmine Tarkeshi.

What I loved about Dana’s class was that even after so many years of teaching yoga, I never caught her standing in front of the room teaching un-inventively or leading a run of the mill sequence with a humdrum theme.  Why?

Well, as I learned, Dana was on her mat every day, dancing, experimenting and creating magic.  The juice around the practice was so compelling, it seeped into her teaching in ways that made her classes “events” you did not want to miss.

Dana and I started practicing together at Laughing Lotus weekly, inviting other teachers to join us.

I look back at those days fondly. It was a laboratory for yoga craziness…learning about our bodies and where we needed strength, where we needed opening, experimenting with zany postures, making up new ones, how to best get into advanced poses and more.  We did timings, repetitions, played ridiculous music and laughed.

In that spirit of creativity and togetherness, I had some of the biggest breakthroughs in my yoga practice yet.

It was this memory that came with me to Colorado when I moved in 2004. So when I found a teacher’s practice going on called “The Tigress”, I knew I was home again.

With out touching regularly into your practice, the only thing to fuel your teaching is the stale memory of when you did have a regular practice.

Boring!

Like my days at Laughing Lotus, a tremendous way to advance your practice and get excited to get on the mat is to organize an informal practice in your area for teachers and advanced practioners.

“Those always fizzle out after a while” you say.  Or, “No one ends up coming.”

And that can be true. So…

Here is how to Organize a Practice Successfully:

  1. Pick a time based on the availability of the teachers in your area, either by creating a survey in Survey Monkey or doing some online research on teacher’s schedules.
  2. Find a yoga studio that would be honored to host the practice during off hours, preferably as a community service to the local teachers.
  3. When you have established the above, send an email and FB invite to all the teachers!
  4. Start a group or create an event page in Facebook to advertise it where pictures and even videos can be posted to get people inspired.
  5. Be consistent and show up yourself. Repeat: Be consistent and show up yourself.
  6. Send out a reminder email the day before every practice and let them know what cool things might be occurring at the practice (holiday or b-day celebration, specific pose you will apex to, etc…). With out the reminders, that is when it can fizzle!
  7. Celebrate birthdays, holidays, milestones, and dedicate your practices often to students in the community and anyone in need.
  8. Either lead the practice yourself if you are the most experienced, take turns each week leading, or have all the teachers lead “round-robin” style.

This is a sure shot way to get fired up and if you teach, to set your yoga teaching on fire!

If this has worked for you, please leave a comment below – we’d love to hear it.

In my latest project, (an online teacher training called 90 Minutes to Change the World), part of the very first module addresses even more ideas like this one on cultivating your practice, plus exactly what needs to fall into place in order to get yourself on the mat so that you can teach from a place of deep inspiration.

To find out more about 90 Minutes to Change The World 101, starting this Tuesday April 5th, have fun browsing these links:

The 90 Minutes Vimeo Channel: http://vimeo.com/user4337915

Podcast Interview by Meredith Sasseen: http://bit.ly/fxAUBc

District Kula Blog: http://bit.ly/gEVHLW

 

 

 

 

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How to be a “Yoga Magnet”

She is a mom, a newlywed, she has the most amazing curls (one of her many signature features), and travels the world as a yogini superstar, inspiring yoga students everywhere with her sparkling zest for life.

For the last 13 years, Desiree Rumbaugh and I have been part of this wild, expanding journey called yoga.  She continues to be such a bright ball of love and enthusiasm, laughter and down-to-earth goodness, I just love the woman!

Desiree has a knack for seriously magnetizing people to yoga. As far as I’m concerned, the more peeps who do yoga, the more love there will be in the world!

The other day I did something really new and different – I had a video conversation on skype with Desiree.  But it was not just a video chat, it was recorded split screen so we could share our convo with the world!

In the video below, you can see our chat and learn how Desiree started out as a local yoga teacher and the things she did to become the great “Yoga Magnet” that she is.

Besides how cool the technology we used is, can you feel the “Desiree sparkle”, or what?

In April, Desiree will be joining the faculty (uh..me!) as a guest presenter for the next run of my online course. If you are a yoga teacher and want to get involved in the course, take a stroll over to the event page for 90 Minutes to Change the World 101 and learn more.

Be sure to leave a comment here for me and Desiree, we’d love to hear what you think about these ideas!

How to Turn a Crappy Day Into a Great Tomorrow: No Yoga Necessary

Ever had a CRAP day and feel like life is:

  • not worth living
  • is too hard, sucks
  • you can’t go on like this
  • or just WTF?

But somewhere down there you know it will get better?  Maybe in one breath things could change, but it might take until tomorrow…

THAT you know it will get better is a feature of YOGA or having a yoga practice. We just know that some days are bad and some are great, just as we know some practice days are awesome and some just fall flat.

I had a day like that on Sunday.  I was full on with my cycle and had not slept well with the full moon, I was feeling heinous, and on top of it, despite uber hydration efforts here in Colorado, developed possibly the worst case of chapped lips in my entire life, (caused by natural lip balm of all things).

In that state I was unproductive and feeling anxious and….quite a bit sorry for myself.

On days like those, its almost like there is no other choice but to do something, anything to take care of myself.  There is also no other choice but to let go of productivity and get on the couch with a movie and be the vegetable I so desperately need to be.

And so I did.

I took a hot bath, climbed in bed with a movie, cranked up the humidifier, loaded up my lips with goo, and called it a day.

The result?

Monday was damn good.  I woke up on the right side of the bed, well rested, psyched for life, my lips are healed (thank you un-petroleum jelly!), I was down-right giddy, and my productivity is back!

Even though depressing days can be a drag – the revelation of my fab Monday was so much more enjoyable precisely because my day before was so lousy.  I’m kind of glad I had a crappy day.

So if you happen to find yourself depressed or bumming about your day here is a little how-to to go get yourself a better tomorrow!

How to’s for Creating a Funk Free Day:

  • Stop trying to get things done
  • Take a hot bath
  • Put on comfy clothes
  • Pop in a movie and vegetate
  • Decide that tomorrow is going to be better
  • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep

Can you relate?  Leave a comment with your ideas on the topic!  And have yourself a wonderful day!

Amy Ippoliti

Watch This Before You Plan Your Yoga For the Week

Here are two really important tips for new yoga students (and yoga teachers wanting to help out their students).

It’s about how often you want to do your yoga, and the benefits of FREQUENCY in your practice.

After all, if you are serious about developing a yoga practice beyond just an occasional spin on the mat, or you are a teacher trying to encourage others to get on the mat more, you’ll want to have this information at your fingertips.

In this video, you’ll learn two super basic but important benefits of keeping up a consistent and frequent practice.

I don’t even say this in the video, but keeping up a regular, uninterrupted frequency of practice also really helps prevent injury – take it from me!  Yoga keeps you strong and healthy, so when we stop, things tend to atrophy and become weaker, thus we become more vulnerable to injury.

So go on, grab a yoga mat and take a ride!

Please leave a comment about your experience with practice frequency in the comment box below, I’d love to hear it!

AmyIppoliti

Radical Self-Esteem and Yoga

Self-esteem is a topic you hear about most often in self-help books, human potential seminars, and in reference to teenage girls.  In yoga class, it arises in the context of “self-reverence”, “acceptance of what is”, and “self-love”.  Yoga takes self-esteem to its boundary….Yoga itself is the process of recognizing that you are nothing more than a total, utter miracle, one of a kind, remarkable human being full of mystery, individual charm, and distinct attributes, no matter what kind of package you arrived in.

In 2001, back in New York City, I began hosting my teacher, Dr. Douglas Brooks, a Hindu Tantric scholar who comes from a long and obscure lineage of householders in South India.  During his visits he would blow our minds, revealing the secrets of the Universe and connecting the yoga we were doing on the mats to a much large matrix of vibration and Divine play.

I wanted to entertain him during the off hours, and try to somehow match the magnitude of his teachings, so I had the brilliant idea to take him to the Hayden Planetarium.  Off we went.  Tom Hanks narrated the presentation, and as we panned away from Earth, he managed to drill home the fact that we really are just a speck in the grand scheme.

He wrapped up the show with displaying the birth of a star.  The star, he said, has so much magnetism that it attracts all this power until it can’t stand it anymore and it just bursts with a staggering blast, sending chunks of matter every which way.  As these chunks meet up and take form, they become the “dust” which makes up the planets, the plants, and other lifeforms.

And so he concluded, “We too are made up of star dust.”

Douglas, myself and the others yogis sat there as the sky faded to blue again – heads back, eyes bugged, and jaws on the floor as people began filing out of the hall.  Mission accomplished I thought.  We blew him away.

Just then a women in front of us turned to her boyfriend and said in a classic NY accent, “Well, that’s just great!  We’re made up of DIRT!”

We looked at each other as though someone had taken a chainsaw to our hearts.

How typical of humans, to see only the ways in which having this body is a problem.  How typical that we see ourselves as dirt, not made up of stardust.

Enter the dance of radical self-esteem through the vision of yoga.

There is a very precious teaching in yoga called The Three Malas.  In this case mala being a “cloak” or a “veil” rather than mala like the bead.  These veils are like coverings which conceal our true nature, like a film that settles on the mirror of our hearts, obscuring clarity. Like a floor which collects dust bunnies, or tarnish on silver that dulls its shine, the malas collect on our consciousness.  Yet, the silver is still shiny underneath, the mirror at its essence is still reflective, and the floor can be “swiffered”.

Yoga is the swiffer for your heart.

Dust bunnies are going to accumulate just by the very nature of you being alive. Every time we forget how miraculous we actually are, more dust bunnies arrive. Life is just that way, we forget. And shit happens. We get hurt.

We say that the Malas are God-given, for every time we forget our greatness, we get to delight in re-remembering again. You are supposed to forget.  And each time you remember, you grow, you expand, you become even more of yourself.

The three Malas are:

Anava Mala
This is the cloak of uber low self-esteem, insecurity, a deep feeling of separateness, and a complete pre-occupation with self.  Too much subject.  This is the person who looks in the mirror, sees the zit on her face and assumes that everyone must be disgusted by it too.  This is the anorexic who looks in the mirror, and thinks she is fat, when she actually is emaciated.

When this mala has gone really bad we become so pre-occupied with ourselves that we rarely consider the consequences of our actions and how those might affect others. So we end up doing bad things like cheating, lying, betraying and withholding. By the time we come out of our bubble it is only because we have completely trashed our life and the lives of those closest to us and are forced to wake up.

The good news about this Mala is that when you wake up, you get to look at the root of the problem which is your insecurity and low self worth, and then….remember that you are a good person at heart. Being transparent about feeling unworthy is the ONLY way to accept our insecurities and then release them so we can grow.

Maiya Mala
This is the cloak of worrying what everyone else thinks of you.  Too much object. It’s how when we date someone new, for the first few months, we are really dating their “representative”, and they are dating ours. To show our real self would be to reveal the one who burps, farts, has melt downs, gets stressed out, and has a dark side.

When this mala has gone bad, we see the guy with the suit and tie who everyone respects and praises in the neighborhood doing the pedophile thing undergound.  It’s the cheating spouse who can’t seem to make it to therapy to work out their issues but really wants you to know what a good person they actually are.

The good news about this Mala is that when you “snap out of it”, you realize once again that being vulnerable, and sharing the authentic version of yourself, may repel some, but it usually will attract many more. Most people want to hang out with someone who is genuine and comfortable in their own skin – foibles and all.

Karma Mala
This is the cloak of helplessness – when we feel we have no agency or power to act.  Typically I have seen this come about as a result of the other two malas operating.  It’s how we go into denial as the world is falling apart around us, and do not step up to deal with the consequences or circumstances in front of us. It is the head-in-the-sand approach to life.

The good news about this mala is that when we finally lift our weary heads out of the ditch, and allow ourselves (and the mess all around us) to be seen, accepted as normal, and forgiven, we can rebuild with baby steps.

Yoga is ultimately about expanding the person we already are.  To do this, we have to look at the veils that hold us back from this expansion.  So you’ll often hear me asking my closest friends and students to please tell me if they see me going down the “mala rabbit hole”.  In turn, when I see a friend (one who is open to feedback) going down, I will often just make a joke of it and say, “Do we need to do a de-malafication here?”  The Malas, though usually painful, are really gifts that allow us to re-frame our experience and beliefs about ourselves, so having a sense of humor, and “normalizing” these cloaks is the best strategy.

The result?  Radical Self-Esteem.

Austin

Yes, your yoga class matters…

As many of you know I have been immersing myself in my newest project, 90 Minutes to Change the World.  Since last year I have been searching for a way to respond to a trend I was noticing in the yoga community.  As yoga’s popularity continues to expand, we have seen an increase of international yoga workshops, festivals, and conferences featuring big names in the yoga world.

As this expansion is occurring, there is a subsequent contraction in the quality of public yoga classes, and an attitude among teachers that the local public teacher is somehow “less than”, since the real goal is to hit the road to glory as a national teacher and leave the yoga studio behind.

No More Chopped Liver!

Since when did the public yoga class teacher become such chopped liver?  And when did the visiting international teacher become such a rock star? In my day as a yoga student in NYC, it was the local public teachers who were the rock stars.

This paradigm of becoming a traveling yoga rock star is not unique to any particular form of yoga.  Many teachers studying with the founders of various methods feel they must become the key teacher or “who’s who” of their given school of yoga, in order to hit the road and reach “yoga career nirvana”. Is this the path all yoga teachers are meant to take ?  And is this particular path for everyone?  I don’t think it has to be.

It has been 8 years since I ran the first ever Anusara yoga Immersion in response to a paradigm I thought could serve the yoga community better.  Maybe it is the rule of the seven year cycle, but about a year ago I found myself itching again to respond to attitudes or paradigms that have come into being and now need to be shaken up once again…

I think I figured out the next move…and that is to breathe new life into the beauty and momentousness of the local public yoga class, so that it can once again return to its former glory.

This new project launches February 1st, and with it I am hoping to start a movement that will help, through a collective of powerful yoga teachers, to reinvigorate and inspire those who choose to make teaching public classes their passion!

Be sure to visit the event page for 90 Minutes to Change the World, to learn all about the virtual and live teacher trainings that will take public yoga class teaching to new heights!

Presuming this thing flies strong and I am on the right track here, you will make history by being a pioneer and joining this journey for its maiden voyage.

Please leave a comment below and I’ll see you at the webinars for some world changin’!

Amy Ippoliti YJcover_235

Cover of Yoga Journal

This September, I flew to San Francisco for a 24-hour trip to shoot the cover of Yoga Journal‘s first issue of 2011.  It is a complete honor to have been asked to model, mainly because of the opportunity to put my whole spirit into a picture that could potentially introduce someone to yoga for the very first time. For this reason, I felt really blessed and hopeful during the photo shoot.

I am totally grateful to everyone at Yoga Journal for their professionalism, talent and skills in orchestrating the shoot.  Stacey Rosenburg, Laura Christensen and Yoga Journal, Editor-in-Chief, Kaitlin Quitsgaard were so sweet to hang out at the shoot and even be in some of the pictures just to make the day so much more fun.  Kaitlin also grows a mean heirloom tomato!

I hope the cover serves to inspire, uplift and help attract lots of newbies to the amazing art form of practicing yoga.  Please share it with a friend!

AmyIppoliti

Secrets of Starting Your Decade Off Right…The Powerhouse of Love Tour Comes to a Close

2010 seemed like a powerful year to name my tour “The Powerhouse of Love Tour”.  Being the first year in a new decade, it made me want to look back at how much I had shifted in the ten years prior and get stoked for how I wanted to shape the next ten year chapter.

I realized, this year, I wanted to be the biggest love muffin I could be, spread more love, give more love and be more love.  Being a Powerhouse of Love means not settling for mediocrity in our relationships, physical environments, careers, or what we do with our time.

The 2011 tour is still yet un-named, but I can assure you it will be more of more of this kind of theme.

Here are some of the highlights of The Powerhouse of Love Tour:

  • Finishing the first ever Immersion cycle in Seoul, Korea
  • Partying with the Kula in Costa Rica with Douglas Brooks, Sianna Sherman, BJ Galvan, Jaye Martin and Shantala
  • Level 1 TT in Denver, CO – best ever!
  • The summertime hooping, Advanced Therapy Training in Golden, CO
  • The Yoga Grand Gathering at Estes Park, CO
  • Advanced TT in NJ with me and Ross Rayburn and a tremendous group of teachers!
  • Completing another Immersion cycle in Boulder, CO
  • Thanksgiving weekend with Shantala at Kripalu
  • The Teachings of the Courageous Warrior at DIG Yoga with Douglas, Sue and Naime, Crocus Pocus and Mykal Aubrey

Thanks to everyone who helped make this year and this tour so spectacular!