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.
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.
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!
Join Calmtivity Yoga and Go Eat Give for the Awakenings Retreat in Boone, Nort Carolina. Awaken into new beginnings as we transition into the Spring Equinox. We will journey through our Ocean of consciousness awakening the Ocean Floor of Security, the Ocean Waters of fluid decision and action, and the Horizon of infinite possibilities. This liberating journey will ignite the cool flame of Self Respect and Courteousness as well as “I AM GREAT (inhale) and I Know It (exhale).
Nestled among forest and Blue Ridge mountains, the Art of Living Retreat Center offers peace and tranquility like no other place. Soak in the Spring scenery and become one with nature, as you replenish your mind, body and spirit after the winter’s harshness. Enjoy healthy vegetarian food using farm fresh ingredients, and relax with natural Ayurvedic treatments. We proudly invite you to re-introduce yourself to your True Essence, The Brighter Self.
Do you know the difference between ecotourism, sustainable travel, responsible travel, and volunteer vacationing? While there is a lot of overlap with each of these terms, they all have one common theme – that is to improve lives through travel and tourism.
On a recent Yoga Retreat in Bali, Indonesia through international nonprofit, Go Eat Give, I experienced an all-encompassing, meaningful venture into sustainable tourism, where we actually supported the community we visited in many different ways, perhaps without even realizing it.
Sustainable Tourism, A Stay Off of the Beaten Path
Most visitors to Bali either head to the beach resorts of Kuta, or the hippie city center of Ubud. Our accommodations were at Puri Gangga Resort and Spa, a 4-star 20-bedroom property located in the highland village of Sebatu (about 30 minutes from downtown Ubud) in East Bali. Enclosed by rice paddies and forests, the resort was a peaceful oasis overlooking Gunung Kawi Sebatu, a tranquil temple with gardens, and ponds full of blooming lotuses and enormous carps.
The resort was small, yet charming. It blended well with the peaceful environment and embodied nature into everyday living. From the fishpond at the reception, the stone pathways leading to the rooms, to the open-air restaurant, I always felt the presence of life surrounding me. Even my luxurious villa had thatched roofs that naturally repelled mosquitos and furniture made of Indonesian teak wood. My bathroom was huge, boasting great views of the surrounding paddies, and had a partially open roof in the shower. When it rained, the water just drained off into the rocks and plants around my toilet. I felt I had the luxury of indoor plumbing, set in an all-natural ambiance.
Each morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to the sounds of birds chirping and roosters crowing. I walked alongside the infinity pool in the morning mist of the forest, to attend my yoga class. At 7 am, a few early risers gathered in a spacious room with open windows facing east on one side, and west on the other. This week, we practiced meditation and graceful poses, using The Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho as a spiritual guide.
A relaxed yoga session was followed by breakfast at the resort’s restaurant, Kailasha, with a bird’s eye view of the temple below. This sustainable tourism location features a 3-course breakfast service that included a plate of fresh-cut tropical fruits, Indonesian coffee or tea, and tropical juices squeezed to order. A woven basket full of assorted baked bread, arrived with pineapple and strawberry jams made on-premise. Options for Western and Balinese style breakfasts were presented – coconut pisang rai (steamed bananas), Martabak sayur (savory stuffed pancake), Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Dadar Gulung (sweet coconut pancake), or eggs and toast. Like most Balinese families, the restaurant bought all the ingredients very early in the morning, many of which were picked from the adjacent farms.
I returned to Kailasha restaurant for dinner a few times and enjoyed healthy, fresh, and delicious local flavors. Baby spinach dressed with sunflower sprout and tossed in virgin coconut oil was the perfect Nature Healing Salad, while the main course, Balinese Tipat Cantok – rice cakes with steamed beans, carrots, bean sprouts, and peanut sauce, made for the most scrumptious vegetarian treat.
My intention of living in the village was not only to decompress but also to experience the authentic life in Bali. At the resort I stayed in, there were activities designed to do just that. Puri Gangga offers a “Living in Culture” package that includes accommodations with daily yoga, afternoon tea, massages, and several cultural activities.
Some of the evenings, young Balinese dancers and Gamelan players would be invited from the village to perform for the guests at the resort. Watching talented girls of 8-10 years of age up close, dressed in their colorful costumes, and synchronizing their eyeballs with the music, was simply mesmerizing. I looked around and noticed the reaction of all the other spectators – fixated on their camera lenses, wanting to capture every single moment of this special treat.
I learned to make Balinese Canang Sari, an offering where we weaved palm leaves and decorate the square-shaped plate with bowls. It took me almost an hour to make one, and every Hindu household on the island makes 20-50 of these each day! While walking around the streets, you will see these offerings left at the doorsteps of businesses and homes after being blessed at the temples.
Visiting With the Locals
During the village tour, I visited the workshops and homes of local artists. Everyone I came across was busy working on some craft they had honed – be it sculpting stone statues, decorating wooden carvings, painting wicker boxes, or weaving baskets. Many of the products looked familiar, as I had seen them in the markets. It’s hard to conceptualize the time and labor behind the knick-knacks we pick up as souvenirs and understand that someone’s livelihood may be entirely dependent on our purchase.
Everyone who worked at this resort was a member of Sebatu village, so my dollars spent remained mostly in the area. I visited the homes of a hotel’s staff – a petite girl in her early 20’s who taught yoga, led people on tours, and conducted cultural lessons. She lived with 50 of her family members in a compound where she had a little house of two rooms. Her parents slept in the kitchen, while she had a tiny windowless room to herself. When one of my friends gave her a generous tip of $100, she was super excited and narrated how she would purchase books for her younger sister, give some money to her mother, put some aside, as well as help with the temple maintenance. Imagine what a 21-year old in the western world would do with $100 in cash!
There is no better addition to a venture into sustainable tourism than to be taught first hand by a local! During my visit, I signed up for a Balinese cooking class at Paon Bali Cooking School, where aunty Puspa and her husband, Wayan run an enterprise out of their home in another nearby village. He picks up the guests, shows them around the rice paddies, and brings them to their home, where Puspa teaches visitors how to cook 10 Balinese dishes in one session!
Over the years, through the growth of their business, they have been able to employ many of their relatives and neighbors, who would otherwise be selling art on the streets for pennies. Here they get to walk to work, eat whatever they want, and have fun teaching tourists about their native cuisine.
Batik is an ancient art form made with wax resistant dye on fabrics. Batik in Indonesia is perhaps the best known and an important part of their heritage. I decided to take a lesson in Batik at the home studio of a local artist, Widya where I spent about 5-6 hours learning the art from start to finish. I started with a blank piece of white cloth, stenciled a design with a pencil, and then drew it out with wax using a spouted tool called a canting. I wax stamped the borders of the cloth, while one of Widya’s many assistants, who are also excellent artists, help me correct my errors.
They showed me my selection of all-natural colors to fill in between the wax. The cloth is then dried in the sun, boiled in hot water to remove the wax, and air-dried again. While I worked diligently to create a masterpiece, Widya’s wife took my lunch order and ran off to the kitchen to cook Gado-Gado (a traditional dish of cabbage, green beans, and peanut sauce) and served it with fresh watermelon juice. It takes a lot of patience, good vision, and a steady hand to create these pieces, and I was nowhere close to being able to fetch a price for my work! Widya sells his work to shops and galleries around the world. It can take him a week or a month to make a single wall hanging, depending on the intricacy of its design. Like Puspa, he has created a small business at his home to sustain other artists who don’t always get the fame they deserve.
Volunteering in the Community
Lastly, on this sustainable tourism journey, I spent some time learning about poverty in Bali’s villages and how it has impacted the children. I met with the staff of Bali Children’s Project (BCP) and learned that many of the families are so poor, that the parents unable to sustain, end up committing suicide. Young kids are left to fend for themselves and end up working on the streets selling cheap souvenirs. I also saw some of their living conditions where a family of 4-5 would sleep in one dingy dark room on a torn mattress with dirty coverings. BCP has enrolled 300 kids to attend school through a sponsorship program, but that is only a fraction of the kids in Bali who need help.
I visited some of the schools where BCP sponsored kids are studying. We spend time doing arts and crafts with third graders. They took to me instantly, calling my name and teaching me words in Balinese. They were eager to show me their work and surrounded me when it came to picture taking the time. Despite their circumstances, these kids were very outgoing – smiling, laughing and eager to know me.
In my short time there, I couldn’t do much except donate some money to purchase beddings and commit to sponsoring two kids till the age of 18. It costs only $40/ month per child, a small sum in comparison to the big difference it can make in the life of a child. By receiving an education, these kids have some chance to break out of the cycle of poverty.
More than Just Memorable
When I think about all the lives that were impacted directly and indirectly because of my 10-day sustainable tourism visit to Bali, I am pleased. I feel I truly became a sustainable traveler, leaving a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy.
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There exist several well-documented examples demonstrating that one week of camping sans electronics, not only resets our biological body clock but also synchronizes Melatonin (a hormone) production with sunrise and sunset.
Armed with the knowledge of these studies, ventured into the outdoors, and into the very lap of nature. Though I am an avid Yoga enthusiast, the decision overall was prompted by a very dear friend of mine, Andrea, coupled with my own notions of the universe, and its role in life was compelling enough for me to take up this challenge of a camping trip.
Venturing Into the Outdoors
We decided to camp at The Desoto Falls located off Highway 129. The drive itself urged me to readily surrender to the bounty of nature and the wilderness which nourished my soul. I believe that camping is a silent form of adventure, which brings clarity to mind as well as allows the soul to soak in the positivity around. For me, it is a stress buster, wherein I can be myself while enjoying my surroundings without worrying about everyday mundane tasks.
Setting Up Camp
When it comes to planning a camping trip, a lot does go into it, especially with all the equipment you’re going to need. With that being said, if you have the basics like a sleeping bag, a tent, and cooking utensils, that’s a great start. While we briefly mentioned tents, if you’re not someone who likes to spend time putting each pole together and attempting to build a tent, it may be worth checking out something like this Top 10 Best Instant Tents (1 To 8 Person Pop-up & Quick Setup) guide. This may help you make your decision about finding a new tent a lot less stressful.
Luckily, we drove up with a trailer so we could take quite a lot of stuff with us. I don’t think we would have fit all of our stuff in the back of an ordinary car! A friend of ours recommended looking at campingfunzone.com so that we would know all of the trailer components. It was useful to know about the axles and storage, just in case we need to sleep in it. Deciding the campsite, setting up the tents, arranging food, and starting the campfire, requires immense strength. Yet, despite the strenuous tasks, our bodies oozed energy like never before and our quest for adventure grew by leaps and bounds. When at last, we did start to feel at home, we spent time making smores and talked our hearts, not mention that some of us were also strangers for one another.
Building and Rebuilding
By the time, the day lapsed into the night we had cemented that awkward relationship into a budding new friendship – our hearts were lighter, the summer became cooler and our energies were higher. We had the best sleep in years with just the sounds of crickets and the nearby creek as lullabies. To further quench our thirst for adventure we started our second day with yoga, in the company of trees by the creek and followed up with a staggering 4.8 miles hike from Neel Gap to Blood mountain along the Appalachian Trail.
It rained while we hiked, which was soothing, and the majestic view from the top raised our spirits to an unknown level of ecstasy and elation. The trip concluded three days later with quality time spent with friends and most importantly nature. Our zeal for adventure has reached a pinnacle, not to mention our inquisitiveness to know more about nature. I now know that mountains are my calling, for I have left a piece of my heart there.
A Continuing Tradition
Every year, Andrea and I, take the interested yogis amidst nature to make them disconnect from the daily routine. Camping once in a year helps in relaxing the mind. It sets the natural alarm clock for the body, helps with mood swings, and also engaging with nature by turning off the mobile phones/laptops lowers the stress levels and is believed to be equivalent to meditation.
I urge each one, my reader, to venture into the outdoors, go camping, and hiking, at least once in life and I promise you will not be able to stop yourself from doing it again. Let loose and for a change, party with nature. Smell the moist earth and take home the fragrance you would love to wear.
~ By Divya Sarin, a yoga enthusiast who can’t sit idle, and wants to create some magic in each person’s life.