Who Owns Yoga?

There’s a lot of conversation out there about the yoga of Instagram and trademarks; the idea that yoga is an “exclusive” practice or one that belongs to a certain group of people. According to a new survey from Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, these ideas are keeping some Americans from trying yoga while, at the same time, the number of yoga practitioners in the U.S. swells each year.

It is also true that the same elements that draw some people to the practice, such as the yogic philosophy or spirituality, can alienate others. As millions of people in the Western world have adopted the ancient physical and spiritual practice of yoga, we have modified it to suit our modern cultures, values, and lifestyles. People are practicing yoga for an incredible variety of different reasons. And here’s the important part—all of them equally valid.

While this rapid societal adoption and adaptation of yoga has undoubtedly benefited many people, it has also produced some troubling stereotypes that have a tendency to exclude many potential yoga practitioners. Unfortunately, some students are unintentionally alienated as they encounter these stereotypes and don’t feel as comfortable with these “norms.”

This situation is reversible, and we can all take part in making positive changes to help create a global yoga community that is more inclusive and accessible for everyone. We don’t have all of the answers on the how-to here, but know our girl Dianne Bondy, and many others, are on the right track….

Who Owns Yoga?

Check out this fascinating video from Al Jazeera English correspondent Bhanu Bhatnagar as he seeks to answer the question: Who Owns Yoga? This is a long video, but brilliantly done and completely worth the watch. (Bonus points if you can make it through the whole video without passing judgements!)

As Bhanu discovers, “it’s the variety and diversity of yoga that makes it so popular; it fits the practitioner.” Because after all, nobody owns yoga, and yoga is for everybody.

Who Owns Yoga?

Film Credit: Who Owns Yoga? is part of an Al Jazeera English correspondent series presented by Bhanu Bhatnagar and filmmakers Micah Garen and Marie-Helene Carleton.

Yoga for Every(body)

Despite what some media, groups, and people may have led us to believe, there is a yoga for everyone and a yoga for every body. Yoga is not the exclusive domain of the super fit, healthy, wealthy, new-agey, athletic, or flexible. Yoga is inclusive of all who are willing to practice it.

Unfortunately, some commonly held beliefs about what yoga “is/isn’t” and what it means to be a “yogi” lead some people who would otherwise be interested in yoga to avoid it.

The crew at The Travel Yogi believes in yoga for everybody, not just a select few who possess common media-defined characteristics of a yogi. Who wants to go on a yoga retreat or adventure with a carbon copy of themselves? The wide tableau of yoga practitioners are how we get our community on, our minds opened and our boundaries yoga-stretched. Just as we always say that it’s a beautiful world that needs to be explored, there are beautiful people of all shapes, sizes, colors and beliefs to go explore it with.

Yoga for every body shapes our core (haha, get it?) values, informs our yoga retreats and influences who we select as our yoga teachers.  Many of our teachers come from a Vinyasa background (vinyasa = transitions of asana coordinated with breath) but we’ve got a million different ways to interpret how that informs our bodies and minds.  So, to pull in their perspective, we asked them for soundbites, without direction, on what “yoga for every body” means to them.  Their voices were loud and clear:

Alexa Yoga“If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Yoga is indeed for every BODY. Your race, gender, sexuality, height, weight, size, or freakin’ astrological sign do not decide whether or not you can do yoga. There is no such thing as a “yoga body;” if you have a body, you can do yoga.”
– Alexa Silvaggio

“Yoga for Every(Body) means we celebrate who we are, exactly as we are, challenges and all. We appreciate our bodies for what they can do and respect our bodies’ challenges. We come to the mat as we are, we do what we can and we use what we have. All bodies are yoga bodies and this body is the only way we can appreciate the wonder of life.”
– Dianne Bondy

“Yoga is a resource available to ALL of us because yoga is the simple, yet profound practice of reintegrating body, mind, and spirit into oneness. Yoga is the practice of realizing that anything we could strive to “get” is already inside of us—and the only thing that we need to “fix” is the fear-based perception that we are broken. Yoga is a lifelong practice of self-acceptance.”
– Shannon Algeo

“Yoga moves, changes, evolves for different bodies, different ages and stages of life, and even for every day! It’s never the same and that’s the pure beauty of it. Plus, the physical practice is continually growing and modifying and being created. I KNOW in my heart (and based on nearly 16 years of practice) there IS in fact, a Yoga for Every(body).”
Jenniferlyn “JL” Chiemingo

Vytas Yoga“Yoga is for everybody. This truth says more about the practice than just the straightforward fact that it doesn’t matter how big, small, weak, strong, bendy or tight one may be. It also implies that yoga goes further than our body. Yoga affects our mental state. Bringing peace and serenity to our consciousness is something that we can all benefit from.”
– Vytas Baskauskas

“Yoga isn’t just a tool to strengthen or open the body…it’s a tool to embrace a healthier, happier lifestyle. No matter your age, size or restrictions, everyone benefits from yoga. If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”
– Debra Murphy

“I teach power yoga—what that means is that we empower people and community. I have students ranging from 9 to 79 years old all practicing in the same hot room—and we all work to our greatest potential, together.”
– Shelley Lowther

Shelley Yoga

The Travel Yogi’s yoga teachers, and other yogis like them, are part of the rebellion against yoga stereotypes that are causing far too many people to self-exclude themselves from the limitless benefits of yoga. Social media campaigns such as #whatayogilookslike and #everybodybends are gaining momentum in the digital realm, a 100-year-old yoga-loving grandma recently made the news, and yoga practitioners everywhere are striving to create a more supportive and inclusive environment for everyone.

By consciously creating a more welcoming and accepting yoga community, we can help redefine yoga culture and embrace each person’s unique contributions to the practice as a whole, as well as the inherent value that yoga provides to all who partake in it.

Join us to continuously celebrate and embody these fundamental truths—that anyone can practice yoga and that there is, in fact, a yoga for everybody.

Himalayan Happiness

What are the keys to happiness in our daily lives? The search for those answers can last most of us a lifetime. But what is travel if not the chance to learn from different people and cultures? And, of course, what is yoga if not a chance to open our hearts and minds to the possible? With that in mind, we bring you beautiful, spiritual, unique Bhutan.

Bhutan is dedicated to preserving its unique identity, despite mounting global pressures for development and modernization. The country carefully maintains a delicate balance between the pull of globalization and the value of its ancient cultural traditions. This balance is the essence of Bhutan, which has come to be known as the “happiest place on Earth.”

Happiness Via Culture & Nature

Bhutan’s reputation for happiness is deeply rooted in the time-tested practices of its people. The Bhutanese live life at a slower pace, lead balanced lifestyles, get plenty of sleep, eat spicy foods, walk often, and maintain close ties with their families. Their reverence for both their spiritual heritage and the natural world empowers them to embrace impermanence and live in harmony with nature. Smiling locals cloaked in colorful garb take pride in the daily celebration of their vibrant, fun-loving culture. Bhutan is also committed to protecting its rich biodiversity, with a constitutional mandate to preserve at least 60 percent of its pristine forest forever.

Happiness Via Sustainable Tourism

The country’s dedication to sustainable tourism means that only a limited number of lucky tourists get the chance to experience the breathtaking beauty of Bhutan each year. Those fortunate enough to visit the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” return home in awe of Bhutan’s fascinating culture, ornate architecture, and magnificent mountain scenery, eager to share their discovery that happiness is a place.

Happiness Via National Priority

Unlike most other countries, Bhutan defines national progress not just in terms of income or material assets, but by the overall happiness of its 750,000 people. In the 1970s, Bhutan’s king declared that gross national happiness was a higher priority than gross domestic product. Bhutan’s 2015 Gross National Happiness Index included assessments of residents’ physical health, spirituality, sense of belonging, emotional balance, sleep patterns, social lives, and community connections. Most of these measures show that the Bhutanese are successfully preserving the sacred treasure of happiness within their harmonious mountain retreat.

Happiness Via Bhutan

Join The Travel Yogi on a 2016 Bhutan yoga retreat for an awe-inspiring voyage to uncover the hidden magic of this enchanting and timeless place! Experience the best of Bhutanese culture as we explore ancient monasteries and fortresses, mingle with monks, hang prayer flags, feast on authentic local cuisine, and visit one of the world’s largest Buddhas.

We are excited to offer a carefully curated and culturally significant trip to fully immerse our yoga travel enthusiasts in this modern-day Shangri-La:

Journey outside your comfort zone to discover the happiness of Bhutan and your happiest place within!


This video is shown courtesy of Simon Parker and was part of a December 2015 article in The Independent.

Practice, Float and Fly in the Mexican Riviera: An Interview with Whakapaingia

Can you think of one gift that you are sharing with the world?

Give a warm welcome to our new Travel Yogi, Whakapaingia (Whaka) from Koha Yoga as he helps you hone in on just that! Whether it’s on the mat, acro flying, or soaking up the Mexican sun… Whakapaingia will inspire you fully. Mark our words.

Born and raised in New Zealand, Whakapaingia has traveled all over the world and has resided in California to Wisconsin and even some places in between.  With his spirit, humor and crazy knowledge, it’s no surprise that he was destined to create Koha Yoga, a company that focuses on healing and inspiring all to play through acro, acropeutics, yoga and paddle-boarding. And, to come full circle,
“Koha” is the Maori word for gift ☺

Now, let’s get to know him a bit better…

What inspired you to blend yoga and thai massage together?

First off, it was not me who blended them together.  These are two modalities that are based in healing.  After my injuries with no medical insurance, I found that yoga and thai massage were both amazing tools to heal my body. By blending these two practices together, it didn’t take me long to realize it was an effective way to sustain my active lifestyle and to be injury free. I found healing in them and it is in my nature to want to share these gifts with everyone.

Describe yourself in 5 words…

Giving, Open, Loving, Compassionate and Fun

What do you never leave the house without?

I will say that I usually forget the typical things like keys, wallet, sunglasses BUT, we will keep it interesting… I never leave home without a good sense of humor and the underlying belief that everything will work out.

Rumor has it… you can do a mean Haka. True or false?

True.  The Haka is a traditional Maori war dance that is used to celebrate momentous occasions: birthdays, openings, closings and funerals. Originally, the Haka was a way for warriors to ignite (ka) their breath (ha) mentally and spiritually before going into battle.

You are finally settled back in Los Angeles with your wife, Sara, and your Mini Me of a daughter, Tahi. What’s the best part of being back in LA after living such a nomadic life?

The best part of being back in LA is that we have roots. After being so nomadic, LA gives us a sense of security and safety because we have our chosen family and friends here in LA.  To top it all off, Tahi gets to go to an amazing school, Citizens of the World.


If we were to yoga-it-out with you, what could we expect? Sweaty? Sweet? All the above?

You’ll be physically challenged but sweetly inspired. 

We’ve heard about this “Whaka Flow…” What is it exactly?!

The Whaka flow is a therapeutic sequence that I developed by flying thousands of people.  It is a beautiful way to align the body in a sweet and gentle manner using gravity as a friend.  The proof is in the experience!


OK, lightning round… This or that, we want to know.

Rugby or the NFL?   Rugby (New Zealand All Blacks are World Champions Again)

Ashtanga or Acro?  This is a hard one, right now, Ashtanga!

Wisconsin or California?  This is easy, California! But, Wisconsin in the summer is nice too!

Whaka or Whakapaingia (and does it have a meaning in Maori?)

Whakapaingia. Whakapai = means to set in order or put right    Pai = means good Paingia = beloved.  When you weave all these words together it means “to be blessed.” I wish everyone could call me Whakapaingia, but most folks in the States call me Whaka (WAH-KA).

Koha Yoga Whaka and Sara Venice Beach, California

Whether you now want to be Haka flowing or Whaka flowing, keep in the loop with Whakapaingia and the goodness of Koha Yoga. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram and on retreat to paradise in the Mexican Riviera.   

Get ready to deepen your practice, float, fly, and laugh.






We’ve all been glued to the television this weekend and watched Paris be attacked, endure a night of fright and the unknown, and move into a day of grief, strength and worldwide support.

As our travel yogi Alexa Silvaggio so brilliantly said, “When this sort of dark cloud falls over humanity, we have two choices, really. To retreat, and become reclusive. Or connect… The feeling of grief alone is something that connects us. Which is why when tragedy strikes it’s imperative to come together.”

These next few days and weeks will be about healing and recovery. Part of that healing is dealing with fear: fear of the world outside our door, fear of the unknown and the real fear of what we’ve all seen this weekend. Connecting with one another is a true human virtue and is the power we all have to overcome that fear. History is replete with quotes that discuss the power of connection and travel to break down ignorance and bigotry, to make friends that last a lifetime, to learn, love and grow.

Love is what allows us to see the world as the beautiful, diverse and complicated place it is. Connection is what allows us to see these events as the darkness of the few and not the many. “Together we have the power to change the lens through which we see the world. Not as a scary place to be feared, but as a place that is in need of much healing, growth and love.”

The small way in which we can mend and connect is to take a message of love and strength outside. Take it for a walk around town or a flight somewhere new. That world, that big beautiful world, is waiting…


Santorini Yoga Retreat: Greek Language Survival Guide

Hopefully you spent plenty of time learning our top 10 Icelandic phrases with the last language survival guide installment. Our next stop on the language map? A little Greek to help you prepare for international travel to one of our Santorini yoga retreats!

With white, red and black sand beaches, the gorgeous geology of the caldera, stunning archaeology and the fabulously epic sunsets Santorini is known for (we may have had a momentary travel daydreaming lapse after writing this description as we remembered our last visit there…) there is much to see and do while on retreat on the island.

Giselle Mari Santorini Greece Yoga Retreat

To help you seamlessly navigate this beautiful place, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you get a grasp on a few important Greek phrases so that you are ready to maximize your exploration time as soon as you land for your Santorini yoga retreat.

To start, you’ll notice that the Greek alphabet utilizes 24 letters and that while English was originally derived from Greek, the characters in the Greek alphabet are somewhat different than the English alphabet. If it all looks Greek to you, well, that’s probably because it is (for now anyway)… 🙂

Here’s a look at the modern Greek alphabet chart:

Greek Alphabet Santorini Greece Yoga Retreat

Listen to the alphabet pronunciations here as you prepare to learn a few Greek words: Greek alphabet.

10 Important Greek Words & Phrases for your Santorini yoga retreat:

Hello. Γειά! (ya) Santorini Greece Yoga Retreat

I don’t understand. Δεν καταλαβαίνω (Then katalavéno)

Please speak more slowly. Παρακαλώ μιλάτε πιο αργά (Parakaló miláte pyo argá)

Excuse me. Με συγχωρείτε! (Me synhoríte)

Thank you. Ευχαριστώ (Efharistó )

How much is this? Πόσα κοστίζει αυτό; (Pósa kostízi aftó?)

Where’s the toilet?  Πού είναι το μπάνιο; (pu íne to báño?)

I love you. Σ΄αγαπώ (S’agapó)

This gentleman will pay for everything. Ὁ κύριος θὰ πληρώσει γιὰ ὅλα (O kírios tha plirósi giá óla) – this is our new favorite in every language!

Would you like to dance with me? Θέλεις να χορέψεις μαζί μου; (thélis na horépsis mazí mu?)

Now that you’ve got a few basic phrases, even better is the literal Greek to English translation of some of their slang words/phrases. We couldn’t find files to teach you how to say these next few, but are sure the locals are happy to teach you once you’re there for your holiday!

For the phrase “ao na kano ton psofio” the literal English translation is I’m going to act like a corpse, but what it actually means is I’m going to have a restThis one isn’t too far off given corpse pose in yoga is the final resting pose.

How about se grafo sta palia mou ta papoutsia? Literal translation for this one is I am writing you on my old shoes (er, what?), but the actual English translation is to say to someone that you are ignoring them.

And final preparation for your Santorini yoga retreat is this phrase: Tha mou klasis ta frithia. The literal translation here is “You can fart on my eyebrows.” Ha! Awesome! What does it actually mean? You can’t do anything to me.

So, there you have it – you’ve got a list of useful phrases to build your language confidence before you arrive in Santorini and plenty more to learn from the locals as you enjoy your retreat. Where will yoga take you?



Getting to Know: Jenniferlyn Chiemingo

Joy. Love. Yoga. If you’ve ever met her or taken one of her classes, you know there couldn’t be three better words to describe our travel yogi Jenniferlyn Chiemingo (JL).

She’ll soon share her joyful, loving spirit with a new group of yoga retreat goers during her Costa Rica Eco-Escape Yoga Retreat this October, but we wanted to give her the opportunity to more formally introduce herself to The Travel Yogi community via our blog!

So, read on and get to know our girl JL…and if a Costa Rica yoga retreat has been calling your name, there’s no better time to go than now.



What is your inspiration as a yoga teacher/travel yogi?

Love and Connection. I want more people to love themselves and connect with others in a loving way. I really do adore the yoga asanas, but the love is bigger for me in yoga. With travel – I want people to connect to the world beyond them, that’s bigger than them. And when you put the two together – it is magic!

Where has yoga taken you?

Goodness, where hasn’t yoga taken me! Let’s see: Sayulita and Baja Mexico yoga retreats, Idaho, California, the Galapagos Islands, and I cannot wait for this fall’s Costa Rica yoga retreat, my upcoming Galapagos yoga retreat (AGAIN) and my Bali yoga retreat coming in the fall of 2015!

What is your current favorite travel destination? Why?

Gosh, for me personally, Northern California. I lived there for several years before Seattle. Our closest ‘couple’ friends live there still. They have amazing houses in Tahoe and Sonoma. I love to go and connect to my foundation of family and friends. I love to relax, drink wine, laugh and swim in their pool! We are planning a getaway for this summer.

For The Travel Yogi – it has to be my Galapagos yoga retreat. It is like nowhere else you’ve ever been. I keep saying ‘You cannot oversell this place; it is as incredible as people say!’ Animals, scenery, people, yoga, activities… boom!!! It is a dream come true. Honestly.

What is your dream travel destination? Why?

It’s sort of silly, but I really want to go to London. Cannot believe I haven’t been there yet! I would love to do a yoga retreat in London with a pub tour, a visit to Big Ben and the Parliament, etc. (hint hint Travel Yogi)    ….ha, ha…we hear you girl! 🙂

What is your intention for your upcoming retreat?

Love and Connection. Connect with people. Connect with Nature. Connect with Yourself. <3

What are you most excited about in Costa Rica?

The morning paddle boarding, the Jungle Trek, meeting Aaron (the owner of our retreat location in Costa Rica), the food, the animals… even the wine (we can get wine right?!)  <– yes ma’am!

Anything else we should know?

Just this: yes, we do yoga and yes it is challenging sometimes. But you don’t HAVE to do yoga every day, all the time. It is your vacation! I cannot wait to connect! (and love too) <3