Posts filed under Travel Yogi

Yoga in a pinch: A practice for those days you just don't have the time

For the past month, I have been in the process of moving. Then came my daughter's birthday party. Then travel, and before I knew it I had no time to do anything - including yoga. Since yoga is such an important part of my day,  I had to adapt my practice to fit the time I had.... Or lack thereof... That meant a short, fifteen minute practice early in the morning before my baby would wake up. 

If that is your case and you are looking for a short sequence that will keep your practice strong in the least amount of time... Then this post for you. Watch the video below and practice with me. 

How Holy Yoga teacher training rocked my world

The night before retreat, it dawned upon me: I was leaving my babies, my husband, and my life behind to fly half way across America to practice some yoga I had never practiced before, with some woman I had never met. What was I thinking? I convinced myself I shouldn't fly out the next morning, after all my daughter had a cold, I didn't want to wake up early, and how would my family survive without me? 

But then after prayer, I decided it was crazier to spend money on a retreat, then realize you are crazy for going and not go at all. So, the next morning at 5 am I was up and ready to roll. I guess you could say I begrudgingly obeyed the calling of the holy spirit. But boy, am I happy I did... The retreat is covered in prayer and Grace and you can clearly see the Spirit moving in so many different ways. Being here has been truly life changing. It transformed my yoga practice and the way I see my relationship with Jesus. Each day, the experience gets deeper. You learn to use your body to worship. You get addicted to connecting to the holy spirit on your mat. I warn you: It's like crack cocaine (disclaimer: I have never actually had crack cocaine). 

I was grouped with an amazing group of 10 beautiful yogis and a caring small group leader. The grouping was random, but nothing is random to the Almighty. All of us came from a catholic faith background and related in so many levels.  Even though we barely knew each other when we came in this week, I have opened up to these women in ways I never had to anyone before. I store the bad stuff away and never talk about it, but here I was led by our kind group leader to dig deep. Digging deep, I realized how much God had acted in my life. How much he has put me through a metamorphosis. 

And then there is the amazing yoga instruction. Being an ashtangi, I am very picky with yoga classes that are not ashtanga. I have always believed Ashtanga to be the holy grail of yoga, the ultimate sequence. But, here you get on your mat and you open your heart in worship with your body and soul. You let the holy spirit in through breath work and fiery asanas. This yoga has me floored. There was a particular class with Jonnie I will never forget. I had a very intimate encounter with the holy spirit on my mat. I was sweaty, crying, and overwhelmed with connection. He spoke to me. At the end of practice, a person next to me I had never met was in tears. She said: "When you prayed I heard two voices. So I looked over at you, and I saw a being of light involving you in prayer, praying alongside you." It was uncanny. 


Then came Brooke's  power yoga class. Have you ever been to a pentecostal revival? Now picture a yogi pentecostal revival.... That's what Brooke's class is like - a class full of fire and life, probably unlike any other yoga class you have ever been to. Brooke's class made me see that there are other amazing styles out there, that there is life outside of the box of Ashtanga yoga, that there is freedom, and fun. Brooke's class is probably the best yoga class I have ever taken in whole entire life. And, having a 6 day a week practice means I have taken way too many yoga classes. 

And then, there is the church clap.... But, I will let you find that one out for yourself.... 

Yes, God moves here. You see it everywhere, with you, and your peers. You see transformation, you see catharsis. If you are Christian and a yogi, I highly recommend you come here. If you are not Christian and a yogi, I recommend it even more. Holy yoga is legit. Holy yoga retreat is metamorphic. Holy yoga friends are sisters. This week will forever be in my heart.

Can yoga practice prepare you for the grueling 42km of the Inca trail?

I meant to train and prepare myself for the inca trail. It was my son's childhood dream and I did not want to disappoint. But, with yoga teacher training, building a home, waking up at 5 am to drive my son to a school an hour away, and a young baby in the mix I just did not have the time. So at the end, I was left with an impromptu test:  Would my yoga practice single handedly prepare my body to face the grueling 42km of the inca trail? It is important to note that the yoga practice I refer to in this article is a 6 day a week practice of Ashtanga yoga, which I had performed solely for the 2 years previous to this trip. For those of you who are not familiar with Ashtanga, it is an arduous yoga practice developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois based on an ancient text called Yoga Kornuta. It is composed of 6 series that are introduced to the student as they become proficient on each of the initial poses. When I went on the inca trail I was practicing the primary series of ashtanga yoga. 

So going back to my original question: Can ashtanga yoga single handedly prepare you for the inca trail? Here's my day to day account explaining the many ways in which my daily practice prepared my body for what many consider the ultimate trekking trip.

Day 1: As we did this trip over my son's spring break, we only had one day in Cusco to acclimatize. In retrospect, this was a terrible idea and made the hike even more difficult. I underestimated my acclimatization as I had gone skiing in Colorado and never had a problem. But Cusco is higher than Colorado and that slight difference greatly affected my body. Even though in the first day we were presented with the easiest terrain, it was by far the hardest one for me because of the thin air. I often felt out of air while hiking, and had to focus on my breathing. Instinctively copying my yoga practice I started taking really deep inhales and exhaled all of the air so that I could bring in new oxygen. This small breathing exercise helped me get through the day. After seeing some beautiful places on the first day of hike and trying Chicha (corn beer) for the first time, we slept on the backyard of a local's house with the most beautiful starry sky I had ever seen. 

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Day 2: If you are doing the Classic Inca trail, the second day is supposed to be the hardest day. It is 7 hours uphill in the Andes to the dead woman's pass then an hour downhill to the campsite. Even though it was the hardest day, my body began acclimatizing so I only felt a slight headache once we reached the dead woman's pass (the highest point of that day). I feel like my pranayama practice yesterday helped me oxygenate my body and as a consequence I acclimatized quicker. Pranayama can increase the amount of oxygen in the blood helping attenuate the effects of altitude sickness. Once we passed the dead woman's pass, a torrential downpour started. This coincided with the downhill part of the day which meant slipping on the rocks and falling 3 or 4 times. Thanks to the flexibility I gained in my daily practice, the falls did not cause any injuries. That night, we camped in a huge camp site and had an unfortunate mishap. I woke up with a guy nearly on top of me looking for something in our tent. I started screaming like a mad woman waking up my son and the people on the tents next to us. The man fled. Needless to say, my son and I were agitated for the rest of the night and could not sleep. My son had a mini panic attack. Trying to calm him down, I taught him Vishama-vritti or unequal breathing to help him sleep. Then I walked him through a short meditation. At the end, he was sleeping like a baby. It was like magic. I attempted the same on me. I did calm down and eventually took a few cat naps, but I was too scared to completely fall asleep that night.

Day 3: On the third day everyone was complaining about being sore. I, on the other hand, was not. I was feeling great despite not having slept the previous night. Usually our muscles become sore when we challenge them with more strenuous activity than it is accustomed to, so it is likely that my yoga practice is challenging enough to make two days of grueling hiking not a cause for muscle soreness. Despite our best attempts to remain calm and stay another night with our group, my son and I decided to hike the remaining 20 km of the inca trail on that same day and spend the night in a hotel in the closest town, Aguas Calientes. This meant another 6 hours of downhill hiking which really put our knees to the test. At the end of the day, Gabe and I were super tired, but happy we had accomplished that feat. We hiked the entire inca trail in just 3 days! We ended the day with an amazing peruvian massage and a hot shower! 

Day 4: On the next day we took a bus to Machu Picchu to meet our group who had hiked there that morning. Machu Picchu was one of the most incredible and beautiful sights I had ever seen. It is so grandiose, it leaves you speechless. After walking around the sites, my son and I just sat down, closed our eyes and imagined what it must have been like to live at the apex of Incan civilization. 

Final Verdict: My daily practice of Ashtanga yoga prepared my body for more than just physically facing the inca trail. It also gave me skills to deal with the challenges and problems I encountered. I utilized pranayama techniques I learned to fight altitude sickness, and even to keep calm in the midst of chaos. Even without formal cardiovascular training, I had the endurance and the fitness necessary to finish the 42 km in 3 days (one day less than the classic inca trail). My muscles were not sore, despite the 7 hours uphill trekk in one of the days. I had always heard that Ashtanga is a strength and a cardiovascular exercise, but I have to say I was extremely surprised at how well it prepared my body to face such an arduous task. After using pranayama, meditation, and muscular endurance in the trail I can attest that a 6 day a week practice of ashtanga indeed prepares you for the challenge of the inca trail. 


Traveling Yogi: Where to Practice in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, my hometown, is also known as Cidade Maravilhosa or the Wonderful city... And the name is not a mistake. There are so many amazing things to do and see there... Seeing the sunset from Ipanema Beach, watching the sunrise from a morning run in the Aterro, admiring the city from the Christ the redeemer mountain,  doing stand up paddle board at the Praia Vermelha at sunset... But, if you are a yogi and visit Rio, make sure you add to  to your to do list a morning practice with Dany Sá ( Dany Sá is an advanced practitioner of Ashtanga that regularly visits Mysore. She is authorized to teach the primary and secondary series. Her demeanor is calm and light and she is a gentle, but make no mistake: she is also a thorough teacher.

Practicing with her made my yoga practice blossom. She was the first teacher to tell me that "inhaling is everything" in yoga. Years practicing and no one bothered to tell me that before... Through her detailed driven instruction I was able to reconnect with my core after having a c-section. I learned to inhale when jumping through and going up in more challenging poses. She calmly took her time to show me each of the vinyasas correctly. She really changed my yoga practice. And for that, I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Dany teaches at oito tempos in Ipanema every morning. The place is very easy to find because it is across from the General Osório subway station in Ipanema. So, even if you are staying elsewhere in Rio, all you have to do is catch the subway, get off in General Osório, cross the street and you are there. You don't even need a mat, they provide you with one if you need it. If you are a tourist in the wonderful city, or just a local aiming at going deeper in your practice, add her class to your list of to do things while in Rio! 

Traveling yogi: Practicing when visiting the Las Vegas strip

I recently went to Las Vegas and had the challenging task of finding a good yoga studio near the Las Vegas Strip. I could practice Ashtanga in my hotel room, but I prefer practicing in a group setting because I love the energy of a group (what that really means is that I am prone to giving up and leaving class early and need other people to frown on me to prevent myself from doing so). Upon a Google search, I found Vegas Hot - which according to their website is the closest studio to the Vegas Strip. I packed my mat and towel and off I went in a cab. Upon first look, I was not impressed. The studio is located in a weird strip mall meet fake Greek Parthenon type of a building.

The premises of Vegas Hot are fragmented, in that each strip mall's store became a studio. The premises felt very strange to me. I have to confess I was not a big fan. On top of that the employees don't inform newcomers of the studios protocols when you first come in, which caused me a bit of confusion. Before the class even started, I had to go up and down the stairs back and forth between the studio and the front desk 3 times. The first time I went up, I thought I was going into the studio. However, they don’t allow you to bring your bags inside. Therefore, I had to returnto the front desk to borrow a lock. Once I made my way upstairs to the locker room and back to the studio, I found out I had to return a second time to the front desk to get a slip to be able to attend class. Only on my third ascent from the front desk, I was finally ready to get into the class… But, now I was late to class.

I took a class in the Venus studio. The studio had a strange plastic carpet and was really hot. I am guessing the temperature was about 105F. That in conjunction with the stereotypical bikram poses led me to think that it was a Brikam class, except it wasn't. The class was a copycat version of a Bikram class. It used a lot of the Bikram poses, but also incorporated asanas that were not part of the traditional Bikram series. I am not a big fan of Bikram, I think of it as torture... But, having grown up in the Brazilian heat, I always respected the guy for bringing the heat component to the studio and making yoga more mainstream. However, knowing we were copying another class really bothered me. If I wanted a Bikram class, I would just walk into a Bikram studio. So, throughout the whole class I was not only bothered by the 105F temps, I was also bothered by the whole copycat situation. Talk about setting an intention for class… Mine at that point was not walking out.

Upon the end of the class, I called a cab company to have them come get me. Except they didn't. In fact, they didn't pick me up till 2 hours after the class ended and after 4 phone calls. I felt trapped and even though the studio advertises itself as "the closes yoga studio to the Vegas strip", I couldn't get back without a cab. It was way too far...  The only silver lining that day was trying some amazing raw vegan fare at Fresh Mamma, the studio's cafeteria. I loved the food, but still not worth the two hour wait for a cab, and the horrible class. Bottom line is, if you are visiting don't bother going to this place. You are better off doing your own thing in the comfort of your own room.

The next day, I was ready for a better yoga experience. I was convinced that a place like Vegas, with all its glory would have an amazing yoga class. Due to my traumatizing two hour wait from the day before I was determined to find a place to practice on the strip. I called the Wynn's concierge service and asked them to find me a yoga class close by. They didn't have a yoga class on the premises till a few days later, so they recommended the yoga class at the Mirage hotel. Off I went to the Mirage hotel for my much needed world class yoga experience.

The Mirage hotel offers a popular yoga class, but I didn't know until I got there that the class experience involves dolphins.... Yes - live Dolphins. The whole class takes place in this room which has a viewing window into a dolphin tank. The class itself was pretty good, however the whole watching the dolphins thing really bothered me. Yes, they are cute. Yes, they are adorable, but why in the world would you keep them in captivity? Talking to the yoga teacher, she had all sorts of excuses for the yoga with dolphins... They were there strictly for research (but then she wasn't really sure what kind of research nor who was the funding agency, nor which university the Mirage worked with), they were there because they were all born in captivity... Blah blah blah. Bottom line is... No matter the entertainment value, yoga is not supposed to hurt others. The principle of Ahimsa is quite clear. I am not even sure why someone that has a yoga teacher gaining certificate would teach this class. 

The verdict is: If you go to vegas, save yourself some trouble and practice Ashtanga in your own room. If you don't know the Ashtanga sequence,  bring a dvd. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything worth my time in the Vegas strip.

Posted on October 6, 2015 and filed under Travel Yogi.