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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.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Getting to Know Where You’re Going: Galapagos Yoga Retreat

The Galapagos Island Magic:

There’s a place you can go where 97% of the land is protected National Park, the journey there is definitely part of the adventure, and your yoga practice will often include views of a giant tortoise or two roaming the land or resting in the tortoise pond in front of the studio. Where is this magical place, you ask? The Galapagos Islands.

Our first trip to scout our retreat in the Galapagos was love at first sight. From the retreat location itself as it rests nestled in the highlands and close to the town of Puerto Ayora to the array of adventures that were in store for us, we knew we’d be back – and often. Galapagos has become a favorite spot for many of our travel yogis as the magic of the islands draws them back for more than one retreat.

What do the islands hold for you?

A Few of Our Favorite Things About Galapagos:

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The Giant Tortoises tend to get a lot of press during Galapagos yoga retreats as they can be found roaming freely around the property and are quite the sight to behold. The most photographed of all of our island retreats though? The Sea Lions! New wildlife is found everywhere you turn, so between the Galapagos Penguins, Marine Iguanas, Blue-Footed Boobies, and Great Frigate Birds, you are sure to see many of nature’s finest as you explore.

Even better? Head to the Galapagos during baby season and you’ll see the freshly born, miniature versions of all of these adorable animals. Baby Sea Lions, baby Blue-Footed Boobies (as seen to the right)…you’ll definitely want to be sure to have your camera ready every time you head out to explore!

Adventures

The adventures in the Galapagos are endless. Santa Cruz Island is your home base for the trip, but our itineraries for this yoga adventure include “must-see” locations on many of the other islands that make up the Galapagos. You’ll sea kayak, practice yoga on the beach, hike to the top of the volcanic cone on Bartolomé Island, snorkel with marine wildlife, explore Puerto Ayora, see the Cloud Forest…

We could keep going, but in short, there’s lot to see and do on this retreat. It’s the perfect balance of adventure and rest and you’ll have plenty of stories (and photos!) to share when you return home.

Food

Ahhh, the food. When you arrive at Monte Mar, you’ll be shown to your room and then truly welcomed with a traditional lunch. The deliciousness continues for the rest of the week as many of your meals will be hosted by Monte Mar. In addition to yoga retreats, they also happen to host 12 acres of biodynamic coffee producing trees. Coffee lovers rejoice, your morning (or afternoon, or evening…) cup of coffee will definitely leave you with a smile on your face. And you may need to take a little home with you as well!

1510648_10153203886171940_7683936290328777606_nYoga Studio

We weren’t joking when we mentioned the view of giant tortoises while you practice yoga. As you can see to the left, this view is exactly what you see while practicing your sun salutations.

The yoga studio in Galapagos is a beautiful building with a full wall of windows overlooking the property, which allow for beautiful sunrise/sunset yoga practice.

The studio itself has bamboo floors, ventilation (it gets steamy in the Galapagos!), sound system, and is fully stocked with Manduka yoga mats and props, so you don’t even need to travel with yours for this yoga retreat.

 

So, if you’re ready to check the Galapagos off your bucket list, we’ve definitely got a retreat to get you there! Where will yoga take you?

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Getting to Know Where You’re Going: Baja Yoga Retreat

If you’re looking for the perfect yoga retreat in Mexico, we happen to know just the place! Tucked away under the desert sky, our Baja yoga retreats at Prana del Mar offer a little bit of everything. Whether your goal for your week away is adventure or ultimate relaxation, you can find a bit of everything during your yoga retreat in Baja.

A few of our favorite things about Prana del Mar:

Environmentally Friendly

Guestroom_Reflection_LoungesYup, that’s right – Prana del Mar is a green yoga retreat center! Responsible tourism is important to us, so we were thrilled when we discovered all the ways the folks in Baja are actively working to protect the planet. They’ve utilized the power of the desert sun by installing solar panels throughout the property that provide all of their electricity.

Food is composted, waste water is treated on-site and used for irrigation, bath products are all totally organic, and they’ll let you credit your carbon offset from the flight toward a spa treatment or excursion. Reducing the impact we make on our planet is important to us always, so when we find a yoga retreat center that mirrors our values we’re even more excited to send our yogis there!

Off the Grid

Baja sunsetDo you wish that you could leave your computer and all your cares behind as you relax and focus on yourself for a few days? Your dream has come true… Prana features a computer room with internet access if you need to connect while on retreat. Otherwise,  you can rest assured that the WiFi does not reach the guest rooms! Read a book, take a nap, and connect with yourself and the others on retreat with you.

In our highly connected world, nothing is better than a week away from Facebook and Instagram (though we do hope to see your pictures as soon as you reconnect – ha!).

Food

Dining_QuinoaThe food is so good, we aren’t actually sure if we can do it justice by describing it. The food in the on-site garden is all grown without pesticides or herbicides, which means they have access to the freshest ingredients whenever possible.

Most of the meals at Prana are vegetarian, with fish/seafood featured on the menu several times each week. Organic ingredients are used whenever possible and all dietary needs – vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, food allergies – can be accommodated by the chefs. Simply let us know what you need, we pass along to Prana, and your worry free week of relaxation can begin. No matter how much you love to spend time in the kitchen, it’s nice to know that you can have a week of delicious, healthy cuisine prepared for you!

Adventure

1486919_10153639910670702_1744164353_nA week of relaxation mean different things for different people. While there are plenty of spa and wellness treatment options, you can also find a number of optional excursions/adventures to complete the Baja yoga retreat experience.

Surfing and surf lessons are an option for beginner/intermediate surfers in nearby Todos Santos. There’s whale watching in season, cliff hiking, snorkeling, fire-dancing (yes…fire-dancing!), and horseback riding. The best part is that adventures can be booked once you’re on-site, so you can settle in and see how you feel each day before you make decisions about what you want to do.

The pool at Prana is also a great spot for lounging – and for impromptu yoga photo shoots!

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Obviously when looking for a yoga retreat in Baja, the actual spot where you’ll lay out your mat is important. Yet another reason why we love Prana del Mar? The yoga studios. The large Sun studio has windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the mountains, while the smaller Moon studio features Chinese lanterns modeled after the famous Zen garden at Ryonaji for restoration and relaxation.

Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, heading to Baja for your next yoga retreat is the perfect way to make sure you return home feeling refreshed and restored! Where will yoga take you?

 

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Why We Love to Travel

With extra emphasis on love this month, Valentine’s Day got us thinking about our greatest loves in life. High on the list, of course, is travel.

We’ve fallen head over heels in love with more places than we ever thought possible. From beaches to bookstores, each and every place that we visit has given us the butterflies-in-my-stomach-can’t-get-enough feeling that makes it difficult to leave. Even across language barriers, we fall in love with people and places as we explore and rarely make it home before we start planning for the next trip.

Love-Knows-No-Borders

Sound familiar to anyone else? As we reflect, we realize that our love travel has many of the same qualities we find in our closest relationships:

Greatest Teacher

The same as with our closest friends and family members, travel has shaped who we are today. Each time we pack our bags, we know that when we return home from a trip we’ll be slightly different from the lessons we learn on the road. From communication skills to humility, travel has taught us some of the most difficult and most beautiful life lessons we will ever learn.

Falling in Love All Over Again

Whether with a place, or simply with the process, our love is rekindled every time we embark on a new adventure. Have you ever experienced an overwhelming feeling of love and excitement as you stood in a new place? We’ve felt it over and over again – each time we visit Galapagos and find a new adventure, gazing at the sunset on your Portugal yoga bike retreat, tasting your way around Iceland, and always as we’re getting off of the airplane somewhere fresh and new.

Our love for travel keeps us plotting and planning new adventures all over the map.

Patience 

Travel teaches us patience the same way we learn it from those we love the most. Every time we assume we know exactly how a trip will go, plans are changed and we’re either left in the airport a little longer than planned or without luggage when we arrive home. Through the moments of delays, frustrations, and unexpected challenges, travel has taught us how to be patient. With a few deep breaths and a little extra love in the challenging moments, our patience often leads to greater outcomes than we could ever have possibly imagined – and some of our favorite moments as we’ve traveled.

Fun

If we can’t have fun, what exactly is left? As with patience above, taking the travel process too seriously can lead to frustration. Travel teaches us to smile when we aren’t sure where we are, or aren’t sure what the people around us are saying. We’ve learned through travel that laughter during a long plane ride goes a long way, and that taking an unexpected detour is almost always a good idea.

Ready to fall in love with travel all over again?  Where will yoga take you…

Yoga Poses for After Travel

A day of travel can be both exciting and exhausting. For those of us that work to include regular physical activity, healthy eating habits, and a consistent daily routine, it is no surprise that a day or two of travel can throw us off balance.

Whether traveling for work or for play, it is important to establish a routine to help ground yourself as you cross time zones and enter new communities and cultures. We feel most at home on our yoga mats, so have quick go-to yoga poses for after travel to help restore some balance to our bodies so that we can make the most out of anywhere our yoga takes us!

 

Post Travel Yoga Poses

 

1. Malasanayoga-squat-travel-yoga

As you can see from the photo, this pose can be done pretty much anywhere! If your lower back is rebelling after hours of sitting in the car or on a plane, drop down in to a squat wherever you are (though you might want to step out of the crowd so that you don’t get stepped on!). Depending on where your yoga takes you, if you happen to be in India or Indonesia you’ll be in good company as people use this pose instead of sitting in chairs.

You can get in to this pose from standing. Simply bring your feet to hip width distance apart, turn your toes out slightly and sink your hips down. Your final variation of the pose will depend on how tight you calves and quads are, but for many your hamstrings will touch your calves. If you have knee injuries of any kind, you can use a block under you for support or keep your hands on the ground. This one can be done in a quiet corner in the airport with shoes on or on your yoga mat with props.

Malasana is also a grounding pose, so as you find yourself in new places this is the perfect way to ground and center.

 

2. Sun Salutation A 

Sun salutations are the best way to start the day, no matter where you find yourself. We particularly love this one on the beach as the sun rises and it is also perfect after a long day of travel as the sequence allows you to warm up and stretch all of the major muscle groups.

Use this illustration as a guide through a few sun salutations:

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3. Figure 4 Pose

Figure 4 pose is a great way to stretch tight hips, and can be done standing or lying down for a more restorative variation.

For the standing pose, cross your ankle above your knee and then bend the standing leg as you would in chair pose. Keep the top foot flexed and bend the standing leg more deeply to increase the stretch. ejt-figure-4-at-the-wall

The more restorative variation is the same shape, but on your back. If there is open wall space near that you can use, you can relax in this pose with the “standing” foot against the wall. You can apply gentle pressure to the bent knee to help deepen the hip stretch. Once you’re set in the pose, close your eyes and stay for 8 – 10 breaths before you switch sides.

If there is no wall available, you can clasp your hands behind the “standing” knee and gently pull the knee in toward you to deepen the stretch in the opposite hip. Stay relaxed through your upper body as you stretch.

 

4. Legs Up the Wall

Ahhh, the ultimate yoga pose for after travel! If you find yourself with swollen ankles or calves after sitting in a car or airplane seat for many hours, this inversion will help get blood moving and relieve fatigue from the lower body. This pose also gently stretches yoga-leg-up-the-wall-posethe legs and lower back, which is perfect after a day of sitting. Laying with your legs up the wall is also the perfect way to calm yourself before trying to fall asleep in a new time zone.

Whether you’re in the airport or your hotel room, find empty wall space. If you find yourself on the airport floor, find a yoga mat, towel, or piece of clothing to lay back on instead of the floor itself.

Sit with one hip close to the wall. As you lay down, run your legs up the wall with your calves touching the wall. If your hips are tight, you may need to wiggle back from the wall a few inches to take some of the tension out of the stretch. Otherwise, your sit bones may be pressed up against the wall.

Relax your upper body, close your eyes, and relax here as long as you’d like. Be sure to pause for a few seconds with your knees bend and soles of your feet flat against the wall before coming out of the pose.