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The Evolution of Yoga: From East to West

As a graduate student of Intercultural Relations who has traveled the world extensively, I wanted to look deeper into the emergence, evolution, and diffusion of yoga from a cultural standpoint. The following is a result of research from a variety of sources that touches on the sheer divergence of opinion, experience, and beliefs about yoga.

“Nearly 20 million people in the United States gather together routinely, fold their hands and utter the Hindu greeting of Namaste — the Divine in me bows to the same Divine in you” at the end of their yoga practice. These words linked to the popularity of yoga in America and it’s disconnect with its Hindu origins sparked a debate with the Indian-American guru and holistic health practitioner, Deepak Chopra. But why?

Yoga in the western world is a far cry from the yogic roots established thousands of years ago in India. Matter of fact, an agreed upon definition of the practice of yoga is not likely something you will find based on yoga’s diffusion across and within cultures. The shift in meanings over the last several thousand years has only aided in complicating matters and stirring up debate. The popularization of yoga in the United States is actually a very recent thing, and has turned what some call a traditional meditative practice into a commercialized business--the yoga industry generates more than $27 billion a year! However, from Buddhism to Christianity, Hinduism to Islam, and Jainism, cultures have practiced elements of yoga (breathwork, meditation, or guided movement) for centuries.

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Misconceptions

According to social issues commentator S.E. Smith:

“For a lot of people in the US, ‘yoga’ is a series of pretzel-like physical exertions done to get fit, usually with some token Sanskrit thrown in here and there to keep things exotic and spicy...The problem is, that’s not yoga. What people in the US are referring to as ‘yoga’ is actually one aspect of a larger spiritual practice...The romanticization of both ‘yoga’--by which people generally mean asanas sprinkled with a bit of breathwork and meditation--and India has created a heady mixture of appropriation and imperialism.”

However, the popularity of yoga in the West has also been credited to the physiological, psychological and biochemical healing qualities of the practice. Yoga isn’t just stretching, but rather a forging together of mind and body to work towards spiritual enlightenment. Practicing yoga consistently can lead to increased strength and flexibility, improved posture, coordination, and balance, as well as a reduction in stress. While not all western yogis take their practice beyond the physical stretching and fitness trend, there are many who do.

The Debate

The debate about yoga as an inherently religious practice has been put on trial, literally. In fact, San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer recently ruled that yoga does have religious roots, but that they are as far diluted in American culture much like Christmas. This type of cultural appropriation has generated heated debates and discussions about the emergence of yoga as a purely physical practice.

In fact, about 4 years ago the Hindu American Foundation started a campaign called “Take Yoga Back,” which aimed to address these issues of cultural appropriation. They focused on helping people understand and consider the roots of the practice. This video about taking back yoga will give you a look further inside some of their concerns.

The Evolution of Yoga

Yoga in the United States and yoga in India are very different things. The reasons for practicing, along with the actual practice, can many times stand at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Based on everything I’ve read (which is a ton!), here’s one very basic and abbreviated history of modern yoga:

While yoga is very old, it almost died (so sad!). Luckily, in the early 1900’s an Indian man named Krishnamacharya came along and saved it. He is known by many as the father of modern yoga. He started his yoga practice as a child with his father and eventually traveled all over India studying yoga philosophy. He went on to teach others, including some of the most well known practitioners: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar, Pattabi Jois, and Indra Devi. He revived many of the lost teachings of yoga and also set a precedent by accepting women as his students. He lived to be a 100…(I’m attributing his long life to yoga, naturally!)

Around the time India gained its independence from Great Britain (1947), Indians weren’t taking classes at institutes. Instead they preferred small classes and private tutorials geared to meet their individual needs. Practicing yoga in studios was a western fad, and many Indians didn’t appreciate the way Americans popularized group yoga classes. In fact, “The concept of yoga as a large social trend is foreign to most Indians, as is the American fixation on a particular school or lineage.”

Yoga continued to gain even greater momentum in the U.S. in the 60’s, along with the flower children and The Beatles, who made a trip to an ashram in India for meditation. This contributed to the surge of foreigners traveling to India to practice at ashrams and bring teachings back to the United States. Today, millions of people all over the world practice yoga.

So, what IS yoga?

Yoga isn’t religion. Yoga isn’t flexibility. Yoga isn’t poses.

Yoga is body, mind, and spirit.

Depending on who you ask, the word yoga itself stems from the Sanskrit word, yuj, meaning “union,” “to join,” “bind” or “yoke” (as in oxen). Yoga is said to embody a combination (or yoking together) of the physical, mental, and spiritual practices directed at attaining peace, with the ultimate goal being moksha, or liberation from suffering and ignorance.

A part of this union of practices is outlined in the 8 limbs of yoga (ashtanga) organized in India by Pantanjali over 2,000 years ago: the yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyani, and samadhi. Each of these limbs contains a unique part of yoga--from ethical standards to self discipline, postures to breath control, sensory transcendance to concentration, and meditation to ecstasy. When one is able to reach the 8th limb of samadhi, they are in a state of liberation and have reached the end of their yogic path, peace. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (an ancient yoga guidebook), yoga is defined as "the stilling of the changing states of the mind"

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What do we think?

Yoga is for everyone.

We agree with the folks over at MindBodyGreen, you don’t have to be flexible, slim, or decked out in full lululemon to practice yoga! Even respected gurus and long time yogis understand that yoga is a path (whether it’s an eightfold path or four paths). There are different stages on that path, and incorporating the physical asana practice may be a start on that path for some.

 Yoga is whatever is right for you.

While the origins of its practice in India might be interwoven with Hindu and Buddhist tradition, a yogi doesn’t need to study or practice those religions to make yoga a part of their life.

Yoga can be used with a variety of goals in mind: fitness, increased flexibility, greater spiritual connection, cultivation of peace & calm, meditation/focus, or whatever you find it providing you.

Here’s our thing: we know the history, but we also like to travel and experience different aspects of the yoga practice as they are made ready to us. We understand the drive of yogis to travel overseas to find their yoga in its birthplace, or at least a beautiful location that offers no distractions. We hope practitioners are mindful and seek to educate themselves about the history of yoga, whatever they believe.

Yoga will continue to evolve. It is, and will always be, a different practice for everyone. And that goes for each time you practice.

When you practice yoga regularly you start to see the world differently. You start to see yourself differently...and more clearly. And sometimes that is the greatest version of peace there is. Namaste.

Behind the Scenes of 2017 with Yoga Travel Tree

WHAT'S NEW WITH YOGA TRAVEL TREE

With 2017 already one quarter over (what?!), I'm excited for what the next 9 months will bring. Here's a little summary of the goings on around here:

BRAND NEW WEBSITE

I spent most of the last three months completely rebuilding YogaTravelTree.com from the ground up.

After dealing with not one, not two, not THREE, but FOUR site crashes while I was traveling in India, Tanzania, and Bali last year, I knew that something had to give.

So I hunkered down, turned off all notifications and distractions and got to work. Let me know what you think!

SNAZZY NEW LOGO

A brand new website AND a new logo is completely coincidental. I didn’t set out to basically rebuild my company brand face from the ground up...but here we are. ;)

After 3.5 years of adorable little “fire cracker hands stick figure yogi” logo, I was ready for something a little more modern, a little more sleek, and a lot more attractive.

The irony is that I designed this one myself while enjoying a glass of wine in about 2 hours. The first logo took about 2 months to settle on after paying for multiple options from a designer, asking a committee of friends and mentors their opinions, and asking myself “how will this logo make people feel?”

One important lesson entrepreneurship has taught me over the years is that your fonts, colors, and logo are secondary to the voice you use to communicate your message, how you treat and connect with your ideal clients and customers, and the general mojo you put out into the world.

All of that is your real brand - the way people will talk about your company when you’re not in the room - not the colors, fonts, and graphics.

I feel really great about the core Yoga Travel Tree brand, so it was time for a little year 4 spring cleaning and pampering. And boy does she look good.

 

RETIRING OUR SIGNATURE YOGA ADVENTURES (FOR NOW)

In 18 months, I built 14 retreats and teacher trainings and delivered 9 of them myself.

It was an amazing 18 months traveling the world, learning so much about the retreat business, building meaningful + transformational travel adventures, meeting inspiring travel and yoga lovers from around the globe, and even getting to travel with my mom for the first time...ever.

But it was also exhausting. So I've decided to take a break from retreats in 2017, but I have a feeling they'll be back. ;)

Sign up below to be the first to know when they return.

Here are a few highlights from our 2017 adventures to Thailand... Bali... Tanzania/Kilimanjaro... and back to Bali. 

 

LAUNCHING RETREAT TRAINING PROGRAM

The past 18 months of successful (and some not so successful) retreat planning, promotion, and delivery PLUS my 12 years of experience in the educational travel industry have taught me a lot about about what makes a SUCCESSFUL retreat.

And after leading 9+ retreats in just 1.5 years, I’m asked all the time “how did you do it?” especially by people who’ve been struggling to get even one retreat off the ground.

So I'm excited to get back to my roots and help more yoga teachers and other business owners create, launch, and profit from their own retreats through my step-by-step course: Retreat Rockstar.

Retreats have been game-changing for my business and I know it can be for yours as well. If you want to learn more about this, click here and you'll be the first to know. :)

 

 

CO-FOUNDING THE HEARTLAND YOGA FEST IN KANSAS CITY!

I’m extremely excited to be working with two fellow yoga badasses (Angela Cronk of Hagoyah Studio and Lauren Leduc of Karma Tribe Yoga) to bring an incredible yoga festival to the heart of the US!

 
 

The event is happening in Kansas City June 2018 and our deeply discounted Founders tickets will go on sale soon.

So if you’re a midwest yogi or interested in traveling to the heartland for an amazing event, head over to Heartland Yoga Festival and get on the early-bird Lovers List!

 

SIMPLIFIED PROMOTION OPTIONS ON YOGA TRAVEL TREE

Over the years, I’ve played around with all kinds of marketing packages and options for yoga teachers and training organizers. And finally, I think we’ve found our sweet spot.

Our mission is to connect travel-loving yogis with the best fit yoga travel experiences out there.

In order to do that, we have to earn revenue (this is a business after all). Crazy, I know! ;) Therefore, we now offer ONE simple way to market your retreats, trainings, venues, and events on our site: The Better Package.

The Better Package gets you a year-long listing on our site (or until your event ends), promotion in our newsletter, promotion across all of our social media platforms, and a beautiful+detailed listing all about your amazing yoga offerings.

One package, one price - everyone gets the same exposure. Clear, simple, clean.

If you’d like to get your upcoming yoga retreat, training, venue, or event in front of our kick ass yoga community, learn more here.

Okay! That's a wrap! Thank you to everyone who has supported this crazy yogapreneur journey so far. I can't wait for everything that's to come! 

XO, 

 

 

 


 

Yoga In The News: Current Events in the Yoga World

In addition to bringing you some killer yoga excursions, travel opportunities, and ways to amp up your asana, we at Yoga Travel Tree like to keep you in the loop of whats going on in the Yoga world.  Here are some headlines you may have missed:

Silent Disco Yoga

Picture this.  You walk into a studio, crazy black light and neon surround you.  You’re given a pair of wireless headphones that are not only going to have your teacher on the other end, whispering the flow for your upcoming vinyasa flow class.  Theres also an in-house DJ about to drop some serious beat in your ears while you rock your asana off in one of the coolest contemporary yoga classes to date.  The company behind the magic is Sound Off, and they are bringing this new style of Yoga across the country.  From a pop up inflatable studio in Manhattan, they’ll be visiting cities like Chicago and Las Vegas in the near future.  Check their website out here.

Huffington Post’s Dickipedia:  Bikram Choudhury 

We recently did an article on this extravaganza, you can find it here!  Long story short, Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga has earned his spot in Huffington Post’s new “Dickipedia” series, a video encyclopedia of people around the world making waves in their industries.  The wrong waves, obviously.

Yoga In The Big Leagues:

Yoga has been rising in popularity among many sports teams, and now some stadiums across the country are starting to host enormous yoga classes to give yogis and yoginis a chance to practice where the pros play.  Instructors from YogaWorks in LA launched a class in Dodger Stadium that included entry to the field after a ball game and your very own Dodger Yoga mat.  Other cities have been following suit, with Ralph Wilson Stadium (The Buffalo Bills) hosting Namastadium, a similar event that serves to raise money for a new Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, New York.

Fat Yoga? 

A studio in Portland, Oregon is trying to combat the stereotypes of modern day yoga by creating a venue where people of all body types can practice and reap the benefits of yoga.  Yoga For Abundant Bodies, MegaYoga and Buddha Body Yoga are the names of a few studios in New York focused on breaking the yoga image that’s ever so apparent on our instagram feeds these days.  In Nashville you’ll find Curvy Yoga, Heavyweight Yoga in Austin, and Big Yoga in Buckingham, VA.  Instructors at these studios aim to customize the practice for their clientele, something that a lot of teachers don’t know how to do in most traditional yoga studios.

International Day Of Yoga

The world's first International Day Of Yoga took place this past Sunday, June 21st.  The inaugural event took place months after the U.N. General Assembly officially approved the holiday which had been approved by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Yogis from all over the world brought their practice outdoors to celebrate with one another at many of the worlds most recognizable venues.  These include Times Square in New York City, underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and along Rajpath in New Delhi.

Transcending The Greek Debt Crisis Through Yoga

In Thessaloniki, Greece, hundreds of yoga enthusiasts have taken to this ancient practice in order to try and relieve the stress caused by the countries economic crisis.  It's common knowledge that yoga is quite possibly one of the greatest stress relievers of all time, but to see this implemented as a strategy to calm the people of Greece's second largest city is a first.

That’s it for now!  Be sure to follow the site for updates on what’s happening in the world of Yoga!

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Feature Image Credit:  Jagrap

 

Namastadium 2015

  What happens when you have hundreds of eager yogis, yearning for the opportunity to practice together in one ginormous sweaty array?  You put them in a stadium.  On Saturday, June 6th, yogis and yoginis from all over Western New York filled Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, and flowed in support of raising money for the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.  Six teachers and 24 assistants led the class, all hailing from in or around Buffalo.  Last week I had the opportunity to speak with one of the brains behind the operation, Steven Procknal.  Based in Buffalo, Steve is a Baptiste-certified instructor who teaches everything from free outdoor classes in the heart of Buffalo’s Elmwood village, as well as Vinyasa Flow at Power Yoga Buffalo.

Yoga Travel Tree:  Congrats on Namastadium!  It sounded like an absolutely epic event with a huge turnout!  What was the timeline like for putting something like this together?

Steven Procknal:  The local Lululemon handled a lot of the events planning.  We paired up with Children’s Hospital, which is highly connected to the Bills.  This gave the event some pull, allowing the stadium fee of $25,000 to be waved.  It took about seven months to put together.

YTT:  How did you promote the event?

SP:  Promoting worked by the store [Lululemon], Facebook, and having 24 assistants and 6 teachers for the class.  That’s a lot of people you can reach.

YTT:  Would you ever do it again?

SP:  I would definitely do it again.  You need a team, dedication, and hard work as well as a little luck!  It went really well.

Registration for the event was $30, which included a goody bag and snack.  The teachers included Marina Mukandala, Catherine Cook-Cottone, Steve Procknal, Kathleen Engelhardt, Patrick Moltane, and Joann Wu. Buffalo isn’t the only city embracing the power of Yoga.  On May 17th, Dodger Stadium hosted a group class that included a ticket to a game and voucher for a free Dodger Yoga mat.  Not a bad deal!  Stay up to date on Yoga News with a new article each month featuring all that’s going on around the Yoga world!

 

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Image Credit:  Chris Yunker

Bikram Yoga: Dickipedia Feature

*** Video's audio may be mildly NSFW, or you might want to put some headphones in.


Bikram Choudhury has been making waves on waves in the yoga community.  Now he’s officially been given a feature spot in a Huffington Post’s “Dickipedia”.

The Backstory:

Known for being the founder of Bikram Yoga, this yoga instructor and multi-millionaire businessman is credited for being one of the originators of hot yoga.  His classes are held in rooms with extremely hot conditions and feature a sequence of 26 postures (the same sequences, same order, every class).  In 2002, he attempted to copyright these 26 postures (that have been around for thousands of years), earning him a place in The Huffington Posts Dickipedia.  Aside from comparing himself to Jesus and Buddha, he’s been making waves in the news after several of his former students have made allegations of sexual assault during his teacher trainings.

Recently:

In addition to these allegations, the video highlights Choudhury’s relentless ego, showcasing the fact that he owns numerous luxury cars, compares his man-parts to atom bombs, and makes women massage him, brush his hair, or else they flunk training.  What are your thoughts on Bikram Choudhury?  The father of modern day yoga, or a dude that simply needs to back down a few notches?

 

 

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Image Credit:  Sombilon Photography

Nepal Earthquake Relief: How to Help and What You Need to Know

Image Credit: United Nations Development Programme


 

Last weekend, Nepal faced one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent years: a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the center of the country near the capital of Kathmandu. At the time of this writing over 5000 people have lost their lives, more than 11,000 people have been injured and 8 million people have been affected, over a quarter of the population. Aftershocks are still causing new damage four days after the massive earthquake. 

Earlier this week the Better Business Bureau released a list of charities and relief organizations that meet all 20 BBB Charity Standards and indicate that they are collecting contributions to assist Nepal relief efforts. We want to help share this list with the world so that help and disaster relief successfully reaches those in need in Nepal and the surrounding region affected by this tragedy.

If you've been considering a donation, now's the time. Aid received within the first few weeks can save the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people, but only if it gets there. By giving to one or more of the charities below you can be assured your donation is going where it's needed and where it will do the most good. 

The following list and tips for giving are directly from the Better Business Bureau's website.  


 

Across the world, relief and development organizations and governments have begun responding to the earthquake in Nepal.  American charities have also begun accepting donations to assist in the region.  Before you choose a charity to give to, take a look at our tips for giving to this type of cause (below) and remember to check out the charity on Give.org.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers donors these tips for disaster relief giving:

Be cautious when giving online.

Be cautious about spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.  In response to Katrina and Haiti earthquake , the FBI and others raised concerns about websites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.

Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.give.org to research relief organizations and other charities to verify that they are accredited by the BBB which means they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. 

Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses.  It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.

Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly.  See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. 

Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations.  If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. 

In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

 

ABOUT BBB WISE GIVING ALLIANCE: BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) is a standards-based charity evaluator that seeks to verify the trustworthiness of nationally-soliciting charities by completing rigorous evaluations based on 20 holistic standards that address charity governance, effectiveness reporting, finances, fund raising, appeal accuracy, and other issues. Learn more about the 20 BBB Charity Standards and about local charity review at local Better Business Bureaus at Give.org

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Year in Review: Top 10 Yoga News Stories of 2014

The new year is upon us. 2014 is panting to the finish line and 2015 is waiting on the starting blocks, ready to race. Before we look ahead to all of the possibilities the next year holds, lets travel back in time to revisit some of the top 10 noteworthy yoga-news stories of 2014.  

10. NYC Took Off Its Clothes for YogaTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

… and Naked Yoga took off in NYC. Read more about the mission and idea behind yoga in the buff here.

9. Yogis Are Everywhere in the United StatesTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

In 2014 the numbers were crunched and it was determined that twenty million people practice yoga in the US, making it a $27 billion industry.

8. John Friend Returned to YogaTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

The disgraced creator of Anusara yoga has made his comeback, this time opening a yoga school in Denver, CO.

7. The Washington D.C. Yoga Tax CaseTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

This issue circles around the question “Is yoga a physical or spiritual practice?” Washington D.C. has implemented a tax on gyms, health clubs, and fitness centers, which may or may not include yoga studios. The studios argue that physical benefits are secondary in yoga, and the main focus is spiritual and mental well-being, which would exempt them from the taxes. Read more about the debate here.

6. Yoga Joes Melted Our HeartsTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

Dan Abramson created these action figures as a non-violent alternative for kids (and adults) to play with. Learn about his reasons and his invention process here.

5. Yoga Journal Got a New Editor, and It May Not be GoodTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

Loads of bloggers unleashed their disappointment at the new direction (seemingly caused by the new editor) of Yoga Journal Magazine. What is this new direction? The magazine seems to be leaving it’s yogic roots behind in favor of pop culture, and articles about how to hide your curves.

4. Yoga Won GoldTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

At this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, snowboarder Jamie Anderson credited her gold medal performance to her yoga practice. About yoga she said “My favorite poses are variations on the handstand and the scorpion," she said. "You have to use your whole body, it's physically and mentally challenging. You have to find your balance in this uncomfortable position, so when you do it, you feel like you're really overcoming an obstacle.”

3. Yoga Guru B.K.S. Iyengar Passed AwayTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

In October of 2014, B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of Iyengar Yoga and world-renowned guru passed away. He helped bring yoga to the masses, and he touched the lives of millions with his teachings. Check out YTT’s tribute to the yoga master here.

2. Science Says Yoga Can Help in the Fight Against CancerTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

While there’s still no scientific proof it can prevent the disease, researchers at Ohio State did a study and found that regular yoga practitioners have more energy, and less inflammation (among other things) during chemotherapy than their less-bendy counterparts.

1. The UN Declared International Yoga Day to be June 21stTop 10 Yoga News Stories 2014

And Narendra Modi did a little dance. In September, Modi appealed to the United Nations to implement an International Day of Yoga and said “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” The declaration happened on December 12th, and was passed with the support of 177 of the 193 United Nations Member States

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What do you think were the biggest moments in Yoga in 2014?

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EPIC Yoga Gift Guide - 2014 Edition!

Happy Holidays from Yoga Travel Tree!

Hey yogis, friends of yogis or yogi family members! It's that time of year again, when you begin the frantic search for gifts, stocking stuffers and holiday cheer. To help keep you a little more cheerful, we've put together our EPIC Holiday Gift Guide for Yoga Lovers, 2014 edition!

We're adding to the gift giving sprit of the holidays by getting you some SCREAMIN' DEALS on the sweetest of gifts! Look for the green star, and know that we have exclusive deals on those items!

Deal

The Epic Yoga Lovers Holiday Gift Guide  is organized by the personality of your most-loved yogi, and we've got everyone from those who love the spiritual aspects of practice, to those wanderlusting yogis who can't stay put. We've also got a few gift ideas for men who love yoga (brogis, if you will) because guys are just SO hard to buy for sometimes!

Ahimsa (nonviolence) is huge here at YogaTravelTree, so each of the featured products are cruelty-free, sustainable, and many work hard to give back to the community. As always, we love small businesses and tried our best to go small this year!

We hope you find this guide a helpful, stress-reducing resource for your holiday season! Namaste

-Team YTT

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The Spiritual Yogi

1. Tea Tray Meditation Altar - Create your own meditation station with this collapsible altar. Perfect for small homes or apartments!

2. Crystal Earings from Compassionate Paws Jewelry - Crystals are huge in healing and meditation practices. Coordinate the color of the stone with the chakra you want to focus on and take your OM to the next level. Hand made in St. Louis, MO.

3. Mantra Spots from My Mat Mantra - These sticky dots help keep your yoga practice in focus. Choose a favorite phrase, or write your own, stick it on your mat, and downward dog away!

4. Meditation Music by Avahara- Based out of Santa Barbara, CA, Avahara masterfully creates ambient abstract melodies  specifically designed to deepen your yoga and meditation practices.

5. Hugger Mugger Bolster - Who want's to sit on a hard floor and meditate? Um, no one! It's kind of hard to concentrate on finding your zen with your but bones digging into the ground. Ease that mind, and your tush with a bolster by the ever reliable Hugger Mugger.

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The Newbie Yogi

1. Altar Ego Yoga Leggings - Every yogi, new and experienced, should have a pair of awesome yoga pants. We love Altar Ego for their stunning patterns and flattering fit.

2. TOGI Towel - Start your yoga practice on the right foot. Literally. This yoga towel has all the markings needed to make sure your alignment is perfect from pose to pose, so you learn the right way to move your body and avoid injury.

3. Cotton Yoga Strap by Gaiam -  Straps are great for new yogis who may not be so flexible. Ensure your alignment is correct, and make quicker progress in tough poses by using this cotton strap from Gaiam.

4. Bracelet from Ravishing Jewelry - Show the new yogi in your life that you support their new healthy habit with a bit of bling! Stones and crystals can also help open blocked chakras and put some focus into a new meditation practitioner. Handmade in Hoboken, NJ.

5. Manduka Yoga Block - Keep the spine happy with a block! Pretty much every yogi should have one (or two) of these suckers. If the yogi in your is missing one, fill the void with this sustainable cork version from Manduka.

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Adventure Yogi

1. Maya Yoga Online Membership - Online memberships are fantastic for keeping your yoga practice strong on the move! If you or someone you know travels a lot, a year membership to Maya Yoga's database of online yoga classes is the perfect gift!

2. Wanderlust Bracelet from Blooming Lotus Jewelry - Low-profile and understated jewelry is an amazing way to remind someone you're thinking of them, even when their galavanting around the world! We love the wanderlust bracelet from Blooming Lotus. It'll stay out of the way during down dog, and wont set off metal detectors.

3. Fractal9 Yoga Leggings - Crazy yoga pants make for the best yoga selfies, especially in front of easily recognizable landmarks! Hand crafted in Colorado, Fractal9 features TONS of awesome pattens (so you can make one pair of pants into several outfits while traveling) and they're quick dry, and make your butt look goooood.

4. Yoga Travel Tree Yoga Adventure Retreat - There's no better gift to give than an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. With yoga retreats in Costa Rica, Bali, Thailand and more to come, you can send someone (or both of you for a shared vacation!) on the adventure of a yogic lifetime!  

5. Yogasana Yoga Mat - The best mat for getting out of the studio and on an adventure, the Yogasana yoga mat is great for practicing on grass, sand, rocks, dirt and any other terrain you can think of. It's crazy durable, lifetime guaranteed, and sustainably made in India for a cause.

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1. Yoga Sutra Cards - Printed from the whimsical paintings of Theresa Hutch, these cards are great for the yogi who has it all. Frame and hang them, or send them to loved ones, they're sure to make an impact.

2. 1 Year Membership to Grokker - Yoga fanatics can choose from hundreds of high quality yoga classes from Grokker! Supplement the studio practice with a home-based class, keep up with your practice while on the go, or eliminate the need for a pricy studio membership all together with this gift.

3. Yoga Travel Tree Teacher Training - Know someone who always talks about becoming a yoga teacher? The time is now! Give the gift of a fabulous career and send the yogi you love on an immersive yoga teacher training experience in Mexico.

4. Clothing from Vegan Yogi Unicorn - Shop for a cause, and have a laugh while you're at it!Supporting the fight against factory farming and often featuring hilarious quips about kale and hippies, Vegan Yogi Unicorn apparel is perfect for the yogi with a sense of humor and heart of gold.

5. BuddhiBox Gift Membership - Give the gift that keeps on giving! Purchase a membership to BuddhiBox, and for a specific number of months have a box of yoga goodness delivered straight to the yogi of your choice.

6. Mandala Yoga Mat - Ok, so by this point in their yoga life they may already have a few spare yoga mats, but this one is the KING of mats, and needs to be owned. The Mandala Yoga Mat is circular in shape, which means that no matter what pose you're in, you'll stay on your mat! No more foot slippage in wild thing, you're supported and safe throughout your entire practice. They also prevent the "butt in the face" effect in wide leg forward bend.

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1. Vuori Clothing (Coming soon!!) - We're waiting with baited breath for this mens yoga clothing company to launch med-December, so keep your eyes peeled!

2. Skidless Yoga Towel From Yogitoes - It's commonly believed that people sweat. Keep dry with the Skidless Yoga Towel from Yogitoes, and say goodbye to slippage! They come in all kinds of manly colors too, so you can stop using that old beach towel now.

3. Parallette Bars - Help the yoga dude in your life get a little stronger, and feel a little more badass with a set of Paralette Bars. They'll suspend you several inches off the ground, perfect for practicing arm balances, and serve as a base for tricep dips, l-sits, deficit pushups and more.

4. Brogamats Manly Mat Bag -  These mat bags are awesome. There's one that looks like a burrito, a ninja sword, the lumberjack bag pictured above and tons more. Choose the style thats right for the brogi in your life and he's sure to love it.

5. Yoga Joes Action Figures - Funded by Kickstarter, Yoga Joes aren't your typical plastic toy soldiers. They're posed in your favorite asanas, and they're promoting a nonviolent outlook on life for children young and old. These guys would make AMAZING stocking stuffers. Just sayin'.

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We hope our yoga gift guide helps you find the perfect gift for the yogi in your life! Happy Holiday shopping!!

P.S. Need more ideas? Check out the 2013 Yoga Gift Guide here!

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Yoga Studio Crashing: Northern Colorado Edition

As some of you may know, Yoga Travel Tree is based out of Northern Colorado with our headquarters in Fort Collins. In this edition of Yoga Studio Crashing YTT Ambassador Katelyn Johnson and I (Sarah Monk) explored some uncharted yoga territory in our own backyard, and what we found was nothing short of awesome. Colorado and yoga go together like peanut butter and jelly, so we knew we were in for a treat.

Outlaw YogaOLY2

Twice a month, Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado plays host  to Outlaw yoga, and the other two Sundays, Outlaw operates out of Sanitas Brewery in Boulder. The scene is a large room, complete with brewing tanks, bar, beer list and open garage-style doors to let the fresh air in.IMG_1303

When first arriving on scene, skepticism won out. It was a little loud, industrial, smelled of hops (not a bad thing) and seemed a little bit chaotic. A few minutes passes and what had seemed like chaos began to take shape as a yoga class. About 30 yogis gathered in the brewery, mats unrolled, totally ready to downward-dog. Before class began, the founder of Outlaw Yoga Boulder, Mark Stefanowski, and the Instructor, Megan Zamora went around to everyone in the room to say hello and introduce themselves. A move this yogi found totally refreshing and got me interested in learning what this thing is all about.

Outlaw Yoga is about providing yoga to everyone. Folks who might not otherwise feel comfortable attending classes in a studio are totally at ease practicing in a brewery, and the attitude and teaching style of the instructors was all inclusive and welcoming. Megan said she teaches classes in the scheme of life; a little chaotic at times, and sometimes overwhelming. Her strategy is that if you know you can take on the challenge of her yoga class and come out on top, you can take on whatever challenge the world throws at you. With wisdom beyond her years, Megan left you feeling accomplished, strong, powerful, and like you can kick the days ass.

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Elan YogaElan1

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Elan Yoga in Midtown Fort Collins is an awesome little studio and fitness center. It’s got three yoga rooms all set up with floor to ceiling mirrors and lovely hardwood floors. The atmosphere is totally un-distracting from the yoga goodness. They feature classes for all levels and interests, including hot yoga, power yoga, vinyasa and more.

When Katelyn and I visited, we were lucky enough to attend a free community class and it was amazeballs! The instructor, Alex, was wonderfully spirited, peppy and enthusiastic. The class was organized in such a way that worked the whole body and mind, complete with funky music, sun salutations, interesting flows and arm balances. We left feeling thoroughly worked, detoxed and soaking in sweat. The studio owner, Libby Lyons, actually took the class with us and her laid back attitude was incredibly welcoming and friendly. If you like exciting and active classes, look no further.

 

Old Town YogaOTY

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Old Town Yoga is Fort Collins’ first studio, and it’s been a staple of the yoga scene here since it’s opening. Jake Van Vonderen is the owner, and his down to earth attitude and business savvy mind keep this place at the forefront of FOCO yoga. They offer teacher trainings, special workshops, free community classes, and a fantastic group of teachers. The three studios spaces range in size, each has hardwood floors and a light and focused feeling. They’re not set up for hot classes, but instead feature a well-rounded class list which includes beginner to advanced versions of vinyasa, ashtanga, viniyoga, yin and more.

Katelyn and I took an all levels class from Andrea Bilderback, and it was the perfect way to end the day. The class way very breath-centric (which we need) and it was a gigantic, yummy, full body, yoga fest. Andreas ability to read the energy of the room is unparalleled, so the class ended up being exactly what we all needed. Her classes are also truly “all levels”, with modification options and harder variations provided for many poses.

 

A huge thanks to the studios that welcomed us with open arms! There's no shortage of yoga in the Centennial State,  so keep your eyes peeled for Denver and SOCO editions of Yoga Studio Crashing, and if you haven't checked out Brooke's adventures in Pittsburgh, get on it!

Until next time, stay classy Colorado!

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Malala: A Name You Should Know

"One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world." – Malala Yousafzai

The embodiment of courage and strength, Malala Yousafzai is a name we must all get to know. On October 10th, 2014, at the age of 17, Malala became the youngest recipient of the Noble Peace Prize in honor of her “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. [wp_ad_camp_1]

“She is (the) pride of Pakistan. She has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment.” – Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif

The Nobel Peace Prize was presented jointly with 60-year-old Hindu Kailash Satyarthi, a dedicated campaigner for children’s rights in India. The historic and poignant meaning of the joint award was highlighted by the Norwegian Noble Committee, announcing the event “as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism”.

A Pakistani activist and outspoken leader, Malala Yousafzai has become an icon for female empowerment and education around the world. Her notoriety comes from her open, powerful, and blunt advocacy for women’s’ education in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, a region controlled by the Taliban who at times banned girls from attending school.

“I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists” – Malala Yousafzai, United Nations, July 12th 2013

Malala’s name first became known when at 11 years old she wrote a blog post under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under the Taliban occupation and her views on promoting education for girls in Swat Valley. The following summer, the New York Times made a documentary interviewing Malala and her father on their lives in Swat Valley, triggering an explosion in media coverage.

Malala Yousafzai truly became internationally recognized in October 2012, when a Taliban shot her in the head on her way to school. She recovered fully from the injuries, and went on to be chosen as TIME’s runner-up for Person of the Year in 2012, and later to be named one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in 2013. Malala’s local activism had spread into an international movement.

 

“All I want is an education, and I am afraid of no one” – Malala Yousafzai

On July 12th, 2013, in her first public speech after the attempted assassination, Malala spoke at the United Nations in front of over 500 education advocates from around the world, and called for worldwide access to education. This day was coined “Malala Day”, to which she responded:

“Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voices for their rights” – Malala Yousafzai

 The day became an inspiration for an even greater movement, the “Malala Fund”, an organization that amplifies “the voices of girls to keep them in the spotlight”, advocates “at the international, national and local level for policy and system changes that give girls access to a high quality education at a community level” and invests “in community centered scalable solutions that provide quality education”.

“The important thing to note is that it is not important whether Malala was shot or not – Malala is not asking for personal favors or support. She is asking for support with girls’ education and women’s rights. So don’t support Malala, support her campaign for girls’ education and women’s rights” – Malala Yousafzai

 

For more information on the campaign and on how you can support, check www.malala.org.

 

For a more thorough reading on Malala’s journey, read I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban realease October, 2013, just a few months after the proclamation of “Malala day”.

To watch Malala render Jon Stewart of the Daily Show speechless, click here.

 

“If he [the Talib] comes, what would you do Malalala? …If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there will be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others…with cruelty...you must fight others but through peace, through dialogue and through education…then I'll tell him [the Talib] how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well… that's what I want to tell you, now do what you want." – Malala Yousafzai on the Daily Show

 

Malala: A Name You Should Know - www.YogaTravelTree.com

 

Image via: United Nations Information Centres

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