Ten Things I Learned at The Sedona Yoga Festival

Sedona is a magical place, and when I learned that there was going to be a yoga festival taking place in Sedona, I immediately signed up! This was actually the fifth annual Sedona Yoga Festival which generally takes place in February/ March time frame. The festival lasts for 4-days and includes over 200 workshops on a variety of topics, besides yoga, that included spiritism, meditation, communication, sound therapy, healing, nutrition and more.

I have read many books on spirituality, explored different practices, do yoga off and on, and am always open to trying new things. I was excited to be hearing from the 100+ speakers coming to the festival from all over the world and eager to learn more.

Here are my top takeaways from the sessions I attended. Note, a lot of it is my own interpretation of what the speakers might have said.

There’s nobody here or out there who can hurt you more than yourself.

Heather Shereé Titus, Director of the Sedona Yoga Festival advised at the opening ceremony to love yourself, and be the love you want to see in others. It is only your own practices, behaviors and reactions that can cause you the greatest pain. You yourself allow the negative or positive energies to flow into you.

Nourish yourself with asana, meditation and inquiry before helping others.

This applies more to people who teach, help or care for others. Gina Garcia, 500-hour certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Across America (YAA), a non-profit corporation that teaches yoga and wellness educational programs across the country, conducted this extensive workshop. If the idea of teaching yoga is something that has appealed to you, then it could be worth having a look at https://www.siddhiyoga.com/become-certified-yoga-instructor to see the different ways in which you could train.

Avoid prescription medication and alcohol to protect yourself from fallen angels.

I did not know much about unwanted spirits attaching themselves to human bodies in the time when we are most vulnerable. Professional Energy Cleanser Herman Petrick talked about keeping a clear and balanced energy field, and how it can help with depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, re-occurring nightmares, chronic headaches, etc. These can all be worsened with alcohol use and so some find that Blessed CBD oil, or medical marijuana can instead help with managing their symptoms. It’s all about finding what method words best for you but you can find natural products like these at local dispensaries or even try growing the plants yourself. There are plenty of online shops if you’re looking to buy marijuana seeds for personal use that also offer tips for helping you get started.

Sound is an important vibration that helps relax and quietens the mind.

“Like a dinner bell, the sound of bowls can alert you for meditation,” said Ashana in her hands-on workshop with quartz crystal singing bowls. Though I did not buy any bowls, I have started playing flute, tabla, gamelan, meditation and yoga music during meditation, before sleeping and while lounging, and it has had profound effects.

Make superfoods part of your daily diet.

Until now, I knew what superfoods generally are and tried to eat them now and then. But Jeff Breaker, who represents Purium Health Products, emphasized that eating real food can make you feel better, help recover faster and enhance the spirit. He recommended eating organic greens, whole grains, soaked nuts, and filtered water. Also, eat as much vegan as possible and add a superfood shake to your diet. I have started making my own granola with organic oats, chia, flax, almonds, dried blueberries, agave, honey and coconut.

Energy flows through the gaze of the eyes.

In the session on Drishti by Sara Elizabeth Ivanhoe (yoga spokesperson for Weight Watchers), I learned how to focus on a still image to improve my yoga postures with fluid transitions. The same can be applied to everyday life by working on the third eye to see beyond time and space. Sara also suggested that using a yoni egg might help some women to achieve a deeper state of mindfulness. In case you are unfamiliar with yoni eggs, a yoni egg is literally a crystal ball that can be used as part of gemstone therapy. Essentially, it is believed that using a yoni egg can tighten and tone your pelvic floor muscles while helping you to reach a relaxed state. You can learn more about yoni eggs by doing some research online

When you want to connect with someone, look into their eyes.

Leah Misty and David Tietje of Thai Love Yoga did an interactive seminar on enhancing communication, which included Sacred Space Ritual, Soul Gazing, Thai Massage, Laughter Yoga, Connection Trio and Affirmation Circle. My husband and I gazed at each other’s eyes, gave each other gentle massages and exchanged words of gratefulness. I found this exercise very useful and repeat it every time I want to convey my message to another person in an assertive yet gentle manner.

Everyone is born with spiritual gifts. Learn to recognize and appreciate them.

I found Sunny Dawn Johnston’s workshop on intuition to be the most interesting as she talked about connecting with the spirit world. Every person has intuition, but sometimes cannot distinguish between mindless chatter and the angelic voice. To exercise receiving guidance we can raise our vibrations (through music, yoga, dance, nature), play intuitive games, and start trusting ourselves.

Chocolate is good for the soul.

Some of you may be delighted to hear that (good quality dark) chocolate heightens your sensations. In Yoga of Chocolate session, instructor Jyl Marie combined yoga poses with 100% organic Chocolate Tree chocolate tastings. Her aim was to use chocolate as a way of encouraging people to slow down and really taste, savor, and enjoy their present moment experiences, whatever they may be.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading this post and will come back for more!

Up in the air

This was my first time taking a hot air balloon ride so you can tell I was excited. I woke up at 4:45am, took a quick shower and headed on to The Westin Kierland hotel lobby for an early morning pickup. Rainbow Ryders, Inc. were my trusted company for the adventure while flying over the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.

Till this day I had no clue about the intricate details that go into flying a hot air balloon. First, you have to check the direction of the wind and identify a launching location accordingly. This can take some time as you may need to travel to several different locations before settling for one. After the blessings of the clouds and winds, we pulled up on the side of a road (across from a Dunkin Donuts) which had vast empty fields.

Second, came the process of arranging the baskets, hooking up the pipes, unwrapping the nylon, turning on the fans and inflating the balloons. We were carrying everything we needed to fly our balloon in the back of the trunk in a box! The experts at Rainbow Ryders got to work immediately and within a few minutes had everything set up. I helped as air was fanned into the 120,000 cubic feet envelope. It slowly began to take form of a giant balloon spanning quite a distance.

Next hot air was blasted using propane tanks which caused the balloon to rise. Now, us (the passengers and the flyer) had to get into the basket quickly. There is no door or latch, you just have to jump in. Since our basket was very small (3 people), we had a rough take off. The basket shook, shivered, went up in the air and came back down several times before we were finally floating above ground. All I could do was hold on tight and laugh at the balloon’s animated behavior. Being on an air balloon ride is amazing, and there a lot of places where you find out information from this website if you want you learn more.

Once in air, it was smooth sailing. I could see the arid Arizona landscape with mountains, open fields, giant cactus’s and some dried up creeks. It was quiet and peaceful. The sun was also rising into the horizon which caused reflection on the hills, creating a picturesque Kodak moment. You could see other balloons in the air by now, of different colors and sizes. We probably flew for 45 minutes. The balloon needed constant fuel and direction, which our experienced guide Richard provided.

Like takeoff, landing was a bit rough too. “It all depends on the wind when we get to the ground” said Richard as he gave as security instructions under high and low wind landings. In the end, no one was hurt and I had a lot of fun! The riders from other balloons met up in the field for champagne and breakfast after the beautiful morning flight.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely! It is a once in a lifetime experience that you will cherish memories of forever (although I would love to do it again).

Rainbow Ryders offers hot air balloon rides in Arizona and New Mexico to individuals and groups. Their pilots are FAA certified and have over 150 years combined experience with 15,000 hours of balloon flight time.

Citizen Public House

Don’t let the name fool you. Although Citizen Public House is an upscale version of a traditional public house serving contemporary cocktails, beer and wine, it is by no means limited to a drinking establishment. Located in Old Town Scottsdale, the European-fusion food that you will eat at Citizen Public House is probably the best Public House grub you have ever come across.

Representing it’s reputable name, I had to try the cocktail Citi-Zen. A unique blend of Absolut Pear vodka, Domaine de Canton, ginger liqueur, housemade sweet and sour, served with rock candy so you can stir and add more sweetness to your drink as your palate changes through the evening. I have to say perhaps the most innovative cocktail menus.

Opened just a few months ago, after the success of Cowboy Chow, another great hit in Old Town Scottsdale, Chef Bernie Kantak has created a menu that is a blend of Hungarian, American and Mediterranean inspirations.

The Original Chopped Salad is perhaps the only item I have seen on any menu that has its own facebook page! A flag like display of smoked salmon, Israeli couscous, chopped greens, pumpkin seeds, roasted corn and tomatoes, served with a buttermilk dressing is a wonderful blend of textures and flavors. See recipe.

From the bar snacks section, I tried the Gorgonzola-Emmental mac-n-cheese. I would describe it as the adult version of Mac and Cheese. It wasn’t very cheesy but had a rich strong flavor from the Gorgonzola enhanced further by slices grilled red bell peppers. The best part was they used actual macaroni pasta, which is usually not the case at many upscale restaurants.

All ingredients are sourced from artisanal and organic farms around the country. The menu offers gourmet burgers and sandwiches but I decided to try the seafood. Alaskan Halibut was perfectly pan seared and served with roasted cauliflower, charred tomato vinaigrette and tarragon butter. It melted in your mouth! Pan Seared Scallops were juicy and tended, delicately placed upon buttery roasted corn grits.

The menu is printed daily so we had to wait to see what pastry chef Tracy Dempsey had in sore for us. I decided upon the Chocolate Pecan Bars, which were described to me as home made rustic bars. They were much more than rustic I would say! Rich and crunchy pecan triangles served with chicory (a coffee replacement) ice cream and salted chocolate caramel sauce vanished from my plate into my mouth very quickly. I also tried the Pig in the Orchard Bread Pudding but wasn’t a big fan. The combination of Granny Smith apples, Applewood smoked bacon, bourbon brown sugar sauce sounded interesting but did not do much for me. I am still not use to the idea of having meat in my dessert, I guess.

Citizen Public House

7111 E. 5th Avenue Ste. E
Scottsdale, AZ 85251-3200

(480) 398-4208

Deseo Shrimp Chicharron

Perhaps one of the most dazzling dinners was one that I recently ate at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. Inside the resort is this cool, hip Nuevo-Latino restaurant named Daseo (meaning desire), as you are left with a strong desire to take home a doggy bag after dinner, even though you are staying at a hotel and your home is 2,000 miles away. Executive chef Todd Berry has created an innovative Latin inspired menu showcasing dishes that will blow your mind away. One of these is the Shrimp Chicharron. Unlike the name which usually stands for fried pork belly, this dish has no bacon in it. It has a fiery sauce complimented by fresh robust shrimp. If you like spicy food, this baby is for you.

The best part is that it is so easy to prepare. You will surely shine as a budding chef if you cooked this at your next party (Note: Holidays are coming up). Westin was kind enough to share the recipe with me which I am now passing on to you.

Shrimp Chicharron

6 oz cooked medium shrimp

1/2 oz chopped parsley

1 oz flour

2 oz shrimp chicharron sauce (see below)

pickled jalapenos

vegetable oil for frying

In a mixing bowl, dust shrimp with flour. Shake off excess flour and set aside. In a medium wok, heat oil and fry the shrimp for about a minute or two on high heat. Spoon out the shrimp and drain off excess oil. Lightly mix the chicharron sauce with the shrimp in a separate bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and pickled jalapenos.

Chicharron Sauce

3 oz aji amarillo paste

6 oz condensed milk

4 oz mayonnaise

juice of 1 lime

splash of habanero sauce

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Recipe courtesy of Deseo at The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, Phoenix-Scottsdale. The resort has a members-only program to celebrate passionate foodies, known as “Kierland Epicurean Club.”