Grace Studios, Free Outdoor Yoga Class, Silver Spring MD

I recently visited my lovely twin sister in Washington D.C. for a few days to see the monuments and museums, but before any of the tourism we attended a free outdoor yoga class near her work in Silver Spring, MD. The class has been running weekly throughout the summer and into September. Luckily my trip caught the second to last class, but my sister’s been attending regularly.

A Silver Spring studio hosts the classes which are held quite literally downtown. I envisioned doing the class under a tree in a small green space so was a little surprised when we turned the corner of the main pedestrian strip downtown and saw the stage set up to do yoga right in the middle of the street. We laid our yoga mats down right in front of the stage and had a seat to wait for the class to begin. By the time 7 o’clock hit there were around 15 people set up all around us, a pretty good number of students.

 

The class was taught by a teacher named Susan who guided us first through some breathing exercises to ground us for the changing of seasons and then quickly picked up the pace with core work and flows. Personally for me it was just what I needed. Since returning to North America I haven’t been able to attend a single yoga class, so this was my first in three months – a new record I think (one that I hope stays as it is – I need to get back into my home studio again!)

Back to the outdoor yoga class experience, practicing smackdab in the middle of the main shopping and dining area of Silver Spring was slightly uncomfortable at first, but by focusing on deep breathing and dristi (staring or focus of the eyes,) I was able to keep my mind on my mat, consumed by my practice, able to ignore the passer-by-ers all around.

Doing a yoga class as a student in public was a learning experience, seeing as I’ve taught a lot of beach classes but haven’t been a student at many. I was able to feel the vulnerability and shyness that some might feel at outdoor, public classes, and with that will remember to focus and ground my future students the next time I get the opportunity to teach a public class. All in all it was a really nice yoga class. The flow was challenging, yet fun and most of all I was very happy to be able to attend a class with my sister, something that hasn’t happened since 2014.

Unfortunately this post is being written too late for most Marylanders to get to a free community class in Silver Spring, seeing as the last one is tonight, but if you find yourself in the Silver Spring/Takoma Park area and are looking for a nice flow class I’d recommend visiting Grace Studios. I must be honest though and say that I have never personally been to Grace Studios, but my twin sister has and she has really enjoyed the classes there. In fact, she even rented the studio out for a private group birthday class taught by a teacher that she favors. That alone is enough of a good reference for me to tell you to visit.

 

Thank You for Your Labors

This weekend is a long, holiday weekend in the U.S. Monday marks Labor Day, generally a weekend in which everyone gets together with friends and family to eat, drink, and be merry knowing that they don’t have to go to work on Monday. Labor Day was started in the late 19th century by union workers  and laborers as a way to recognize those that work day by day. It has been an official American holiday since 1894, always falling on the first Monday of September. This year I decided to get back to the roots of the holiday and celebrate some of my favorite activists, commending them for their dedicated work – on top of the typical barbecues and bonfires.


 

Jamie Oliver

You might just think of Jamie Oliver as a chef with a funny accent, but he’s much more than that. Jamie digs into our modern industrialized food system and delivers displeasing knowledge. (Pink slime is a prominent example.) His primary work was with school lunches in both his home U.K. and also here in the U.S. That’s noteworthy, a famous chef who champions for quite literally the little guys.

Food these days has transformed into chemically-laden, pesticide-pumped, GMO, never-rotting, highly processed science of convenience. Now, do I eat processed food now and again? Yes, but I try to keep it out of my kitchen and my body as much as possible and to educate myself on nutrition and health. Do I think that America’s and the world’s children should be protected from being fed it daily in their homes and public school cafeterias? Definitely.

Jamie had a reality show back in 2009 in which he embedded himself in America’s most unhealthy city, Huntington, West Virginia. He investigated what the children were in eating in their schools and it wasn’t appetizing. The rest of the series Jamie worked with schools and the community to educate them about eating fresh and healthy foods as opposed to quick and easy processed food, attempting to alter the way that food was prepared in the schools and homes in the area.

Since then Jamie has spearheaded a Food Revolution, click on the link and read articles about how to be healthy and current write-ups on the food industry.

 

Safia Minney of People Tree

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“slow fashion” fair laobr

Another Brit is my notable hero – Safia Minney, founder & CEO of People TreePeople Tree clothing, a U.K. based, slow fashion company. I first heard of Safia in a great documentary, The True Cost which is about the horrendous industry that is Fast Fashion. In the documentary Safia is not only inspiring because she is a female CEO, but also because she displays her fluent Japanese, which she uses when working with craftsmen and women in Japan who make pieces of art for People Tree’s clothing. Having a second language has always been inspiring to me. If you get a chance to watch the documentary I highly suggest it as it outlines the problems with the fashion industry today while at the same time giving alternatives such as People Tree.

But back to Safia, she is a woman of power who promotes fair trade in an industry that generally treats it’s labor extremely poorly. People Tree not only pays attention to the way that the people creating the clothing is treated, but they also source traditionally made, artisanal materials that help keep traditional crafts alive. The company also uses organic cottons and other sustainable materials that are better for our bodies and the earth.

Leo & Jin of BAPS

BAPS stands for Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary and is a dog rescue organization in Busan, South Korea. Although BAPS has grown in the years with many expat and some Korean volunteers helping the organization, donating time and money, and fostering and adopting furry best friends; the vast majority of the work done for the completely privately run dog rescue organization is done by two people alone. They are Leo and Jin and what they do inspires me completely. Leo and Jin are a married couple, one expat one Korean, who started BAPS in 2008 and have saved the lives of hundreds of Korean street dogs and abandoned pets.

They not only run the shelter, but they also have a dog kenneling business, and have recently started an international pet travel company although they have been assisting with international travel of countless dogs to their new forever homes for years (including my very own Freddie.)

The Day We Fostered Fred

We instantly fell in love with that little face with big ears the first time we walked him and he kept looking back to make sure that we were still with him.

The kindest, most from-the-heart work that these two do is run a related organization called Wendy’s Last Meals. This is heartbreaking work that I am certain I would not be strong enough emotionally to do. As the name suggests, the work involved is providing a final meal to dogs at a pound in Busan whom have not been claimed or adopted and therefore face certain euthanasia. You can read more about the process and how you can help by donating by clicking here. Before the meals are given, Jin takes pics of the dogs in a last hope effort of getting them rescued, so if you’re looking to find your new partner in crime, then have a look at the beauties that are waiting for you.


 

There is great work being done around the globe to help fight for those dis-empowered to do so for themselves such as school children, laborers working in developing nations to produce our clothing, and dogs left on mountain sides by families unwilling to continue raising them.  I am so grateful for all that they do and am motivated to do my own positive work to make a difference in my community.

Who are you tipping your hat to on this Labor Day weekend that works hard and inspires you?

Yoga Tips for Swimming

I’m fortunate enough to have a boyfriend who likes to learn and study. When he gets interested in something new he learns as much as he can about it. That is what happened with him and swimming – therefore, in our symbiotic relationship I received his skillful knowledge in the pool. Whether you’re a freestyle swimmer in the lane or just want to increase your swimming technique for the beach, I pass these yoga tips and swimming tips along for you to try out and enjoy.

If you’re not a swimmer already  you may want to consider adding a pool session or two to your weekly schedule. Swimming is great cardio that’s much gentler on major joints suffering from strain or arthritis. At first, like any new hobby or exercise routine, i.e. – yoga; swimming can feel frustrating initially. It may feel more like flailing than swimming, but stick with it and you’ll be gliding down the lane before you know it.


Yoga Tips for Swimming

My pool regime consists of gentle warm ups and then goes straight into a few laps of freestyle. Let’s break down freestyle (you know that style that most everyone uses, arms circling up over head, face in the water, legs kicking behind you) from top to bottom of the body parts utilized in terms of yoga warm ups and swimming techniques.

  • Swim Breath: Typically when swimming freestyle you inhale on the surface of the water by twisting your head to one side, through your mouth. Then you slowly exhale through the nose or mouth (I prefer nose.) While still on land, practice slowing down your breath only through your nose and then workshop the breath specific to Bound angle poseswimming. In a comfortable seated position, turn your head gently to the right and inhale through the mouth, allowing your mouth to open just slightly. Then slowly return the head to center and exhale through the nose or mouth – emphasis on going slowly here – count the exhalations at either a 3 count or 5 count. Turn your head to the left at the end of the empty breath and inhale through the mouth in the same manner as you did the first time. Return the head to center and exhale to your count of 3 or 5. Continue this simple, relaxing breathing technique for a few minutes. Eyes opened or closed.

 

 

  • Shoulder Openers: Of course the arms and shoulders are a major component of freestyle swimming, so be sure to safely warm up your shoulders before getting into the pool, especially if you have any shoulder issues. To warm up your shoulders, place your fingers on the tops of your shoulders, elbows pointing out at your side. On an inhalation roll both elbows in towards each other aiming to almost touch them together in front of your face, continue the roll to point the elbows up towards the ceiling keeping your fingers on your shoulders. On the exhalation, roll the elbows back behind you lifting your chest up. Continue to move with the breath and after 10 sets as described switch the direction of the elbows this time inhaling the elbows behind and exhaling them down in front of you for 10 more rounds, adding to 20 total.

 

  • Twist it Out: After you get in the pool and start your freestyle swim allow yourself to get used to the stroke and breath work attempting to take your inhalations from right and left, which is why counting the breath to a count of 3 or 5 is key. By counting your exhalations to an odd number your inhalations will alter which arm is extending and entering the water, alternating right and left and therefore alternating to which side you turn your head for your inhalation. We all have a dominant side and it’s tempting to breathe in from that dominant side only, but practice inhaling from both sides for balance in your swimming. As your body moves through the swim it will automatically twist to the side that you inhale from, or the side of the back arm that’s exiting the water, elbow up as the other arm is reaching forward and entering the water in front of you. To better understand this movement try it now, seated or standing, begin “swimming” with the arms only and notice how when you reach your right arm forward and pull your left elbow back your body naturally twists at the trunk/core to the left and vice versa when the arms are switched. To increase awareness of twists in the water, warm up outside of the pool with simple yogic seated twists – parivrtta sukhasana. Sit cross legged, spine erect, inhale center and exhale twist to the right placing the left hand on the right knee and right hand behind you to aid the twist. Hold for a few breaths. Return to center on an inhale and exhale to the left. Hold and continue for 10 sets.

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  • Front Body: The front of our hips and lower torso are often pretty tight from sitting, driving, cycling, and other such activities where the knees are bent and thighs parallel to the floor. Swimming counteracts the sitting position because the legs are extended back behind you, but due to our tight muscles in the fronts of the legs, finding correct form in a freestyle swim can take some time and patience. When you get in the pool, try not to overly bend your knees in your kick. Before jumping in, open your front body by standing feet hip distance with a little micro-bend in your knees. Place your hands at your low back and on an inhalation start by pushing your thighs and hip bones forward extending the stretch up your front body to your chest. Lastly, on the same inhale breath, gently, gently release your neck, careful not to mindlessly drop your head as far back as it goes, but instead keep some control and if it is painful on the neck then keep the chin tucked in the entire time. Start by holding the back bend for 2-3 breaths and slowly come up on an inhalation. Increase the hold as comfortable.

 

Have fun reigniting or introducing a new, healthy habit into your week. For better success get yourself a pair of decent goggles and a swim cap to keep pesky hairs out of your eyes, and a sporty one piece as opposed to one with cut outs or a bikini, you don’t want to be adjusting in the water. Save the two piece for sun bathing.

 

Yoga Teachers, Speak Up

Recently I attended a yoga class. It was a full house with about 20 students all ready to flow it out, energy high, and attention focused on the teacher in an evening vinyasa class. I had gotten there early, but not as early as my friend who got us a spot right up front, however the class was so well attended that our front row spots turned into second row spots as more and more students kept filling in the spaces.

As the teacher began to lead I noticed that she was somewhat difficult to hear, even in only the second row. This isn’t good for a teacher. I know that it can be intimidating to basically public speak in front of peers and older students, or even more advanced students than you, but it’s our job as yoga teachers to get up in front of students and guide. Even better if we get up and teach something, but at the very least we have to lead students through a yoga sequence. When we get up there to lead we must remember to speak loudly and confidently, use our teacher voices.

Confidently, there’s an adjective to remember. During my first training, I learned that leading a class with confidence is key, and I believe it. Now, I’m a shy gal, and I know (from my  boyfriend who tells me) that I sometimes drop my voice while teaching. Luckily I grew up as a cheerleader in my teenage years and then became an ESL teacher, so I definitely have a classroom (or yoga studio) voice, but sometimes it peters out and I have to lift it right back up. Speaking loudly while teaching gives the students a reassurance that the teacher knows what they’re talking about, whether teaching English grammar or sun salutations. And I’d argue that it’s even more important to earn your students’ trust through confidence while teaching yoga because it’s important that your students trust you with the safety of their bodies. Yoga’s not inherently dangerous, but it can be, and it’s definitely far more dangerous than learning past participles.

Boardwalk Yoga

Reasons for raising your voice above your general speaking voice go beyond eluding confidence, it also just makes sense. Imagine a studio full of 20 students or more, all staggered to the back of the room – how will the ones at the back hear you if you don’t speak up? Or if you’re fortunate enough to get a teaching gig outdoors, there’s bound to be some noise during your class. You’ll be able to tell if students are having trouble hearing you if you notice many of them craning their necks in downdog to take a peek at what the heck modification you and other students are in. Pay attention to your students signals that they’re sort of lost and adjust your teaching.

Now the title of this post is Speak Up, not shout, unless your style is to be militant like a Spinning teacher, in which case keep being true to yourself. Be mindful not to yell loudly to your front row students so that your back row students can hear you, find your happy medium. And if you’re defending a whisper of a voice because you want your class to be spiritual and calm, then that’s cool, just be aware if you’re effectively being heard or not.

Sunset Savasana

On the flip side of having a relaxing environment in class, remember that you and your students reflect each other in terms of energy. Keep the energy from tanking way before Savasana by using your teacher’s voice and once you enter your cool down section then you can calm it down. And I’m sure that this goes without saying, but while guiding your students in and out of Savasana it’s a good idea to switch to your flowery yoga teacher’s voice.

It might take time to develop this teaching skill, but once you become aware of the issue you can begin to perfect your voice. Speak up and be heard, teachers.

 

 

The Magic at Re-Green, Greece

This has been a summer of travel for me. After leaving Korea back in February I started travelling, meeting people, and learning through experiences in countries such as India, Greece, Poland, Czechia, and now Canada. I’ve been able to do so through a network called Help-X which you can read more about right here. One of my favorite stops in all of my travels and all of my Help-X past experiences has, by far, been at Re-Green in Greece.

Now before I get started and carried away, typing out hundreds of words on the wonders that I found at Re-Green, I’d better reign in my thoughts right here and right now. To make things easy on both of us, I’ll narrow down my thoughts to just four simple bullet points. And before I do so, let me also explain that I hope that this write-up can stand as a review for those considering trying to volunteer through a work exchange network there, or those who may attend one of their many workshops (including yoga and PDC.) More than a review, maybe it will open your eyes and mind to some cool new ideas that they’re doing over there. If nothing else, may Re-Green inspire you on your path to sustainability, whichever route it is you are taking to get there.

Why Re-Green is Magical

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  • Their View on Life – The people over at Re-Green have called their homestead-retreat center/little-piece-of-paradise Re-Green for a reason. The name stands for a conscious lifestyle that is about living a sustainably by doing more than recycling and buying energy-efficient light bulbs. To Re-Green is to work with each other and nature in order to live harmoniously with the surrounding environment, which is exactly what they strive to do at their home.  You can read  more on their website about what Re-Green stands for. A real life example of Re-greening that they have there is turning an old trunk into a solar oven to bake your potatoes in for dinner. It was so cool.

 

  • The People – From the first time that Ben and I were picked up on a cold cloudy day  in April by a big white, windowless van (I know that sounds more scary than magical, but it turned out just fine in the end – don’t let the media scare you out of having adventures!) The friendly people in the van were of course the owners and stewards of  Re-Green. It’s not always that you meet new people and instantly click, but that’s what happened. During the weeks that we stayed there were a handful of other volunteers from all over Europe and they too we jived with straight away. Lots of late nights sharing stories and laughing. It was easy and obvious why so many new friends were made there, it was because people were drawn there who believe in a philosophy of bettering the world by enhancing nature.

 

  • Surrounded by Beauty – Stunning mountain peeks surround the valley that the retreat center nestles in and almost every day I found myself wondering how I’d ended up at such a majestic place on earth. Looking closer to the ground you’ll see wildflowers and abundant gardens blossoming all around. Cuteness overload with puppies, ducklings, and little baby chicks added to the happiness.  On clear days you can see down to the Gulf of Corinth; the view of the sea from the middle compost toilet is especially lovely. At night-time the stars take over and during rain or cold, it’s the natural buildings that inspire.

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  • Experiences Not Things – Going to a retreat center that hosts events from yoga, to learning about detoxing herbs, to preserving the gardens gifts, means that you are bound to learn loads. Sharing ideas and ways with other volunteers and guest teachers will also translate to learning and as a volunteer the learning will be hands on and practical. If working on your vacation sounds like torture then check out their events on Facebook and visit as a guest. The rooms alone are reason enough to spend a weekend there, they are housed in an old, stone farm house with so much attention to detail in the remodel (they’ve been Re-Greened you might say!) While I was there I was in heaven doing yoga, teaching yoga, learning about vegetation, hiking, natural building, cuddling dogs, reading books, pulling weeds, and the list could go on.

 

This post is not so much a review as it is a gush of a place that I absolutely fell in love with. They had me at their description of their purpose and I hoped, and prayed, and crossed my fingers back in January 2016 when I applied for my boyfriend and I to volunteer there that they would take us, and then I jumped for joy when I got an email that they would. Our six weeks there were so absolutely astounding that we never wanted to leave. Maybe one day we’ll do as so many others who have visited there have done – move our lives there. Previous volunteers have fallen in love with the place and the people so much so that they bought land to become part of the Re-Green community. Moving to the mountains of Greece may just be a day dream of mine for now, but I can still day dream. If you likewise find yourself daydreaming about living life in a  real-life-sustainable-fantasy-land, then make it a reality and get yourself to Re-Green.

Yoga at Ohio City Farm, Cleveland, by Vision Yoga – Class Review

This past week, from July 18-21, a handful Americans convened on Cleveland for the Republican National Convention (RNC.) Events of the RNC for me included some great live music, witnessing protests and stepping in to participate here and there, and at the end of the week a much needed outdoors, community yoga class.

There was a lot of stress and disbelief for me as a newly repatriated American. Tossed into the heart of Cleveland for the RNC was a little overwhelming, the most being hatred, homophobia, racism, and guns. It was an atmosphere that required deep exhalations.  Countless cops from all over the U.S. in the middle of tension on all sides. There was also a some good happening – people protesting and opposing the hate.

The whole thing had me shaking my head in confusion and disbelief which is why I was ever so grateful for a community class at Ohio City Farm . The class was the day after the convention ended (thankfully,) on Friday afternoon at lunchtime. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d attend since temperatures and humidity were high, but the class was in a far off corner of the farm, under a large, shady tree, in view of the Cleveland cityscape,  with a gentle breeze made the heat bearable.

The class was taught by a teacher from nearby studio, Vision Yoga, which is just a block away from the farm. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to visit the studio, but saw the storefront after grabbing a much appreciated post-class burrito. Based on their website, they have a lot of classes going on and are even offering a great new student and locals deal of 4 weeks at $40.

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Vision Yoga Studio 1861 W. 25th Street Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Getting There

The farm is easy to get to and is located just a short walk away from the historic West Side Market. Both are located just of of West 25th Street. The Ohio City Farm’s address is:

Stone Ct, Cleveland OH 44113

Follow this link for more detailed directions on how to get to the Ohio City area.

The Class

The farm class as mentioned before was taught at the far end of the farm, so be sure to give yourself about 10-15 minutes to find the spot and to fill out a waiver form if you haven’t been to Vision Yoga classes before. The class time is 12:15-1PM, just in time for a lunch break practice for those working nearby. It is a community class, or in other words, a donation class, so pay what you can and pay happily knowing that your money is going to a non-profit doing great things.

Community classes at the farm are every other Friday, so pay attention to Vision Yoga’s schedule to be sure that a class is taking place on the day you wish to attend. An organizer that I spoke to mentioned that she wasn’t sure if the classes would continue beyond August, but she and I hoped that classes would continue through September, as long as the weather cooperates.

The Refugee Response

The class that I attended was sponsored by The Refugee Response, an organization that works to help refugees settle into American life by offering English tutoring sessions; and something else that’s really cool – they employ refugees on the farm to work the land. Refugees from all over the world get to share their skills and gain a sense of purpose in their new community of Cleveland.

This is an awesome organization; if I were in Cleveland I would love to volunteer and get involved with them. If you’re local to the 216, then follow this link to find out how you can volunteer and help out. Maybe you can do your part by attending the next Community Class at Ohio City Farm.

 

Plastic Free France in Plastic Free July!

Plastic Free July is an initiative that challenges us to say no and refuse single-use plastics for the entire month of July (and hopefully the newly strengthened habit will carry over into August, September, and every other month.) You can read more about the campaign on the official website here.

Examples of plastics to say no to for the rest of the month are plastic forks/knives/spoons, red solo cups, plastic bags at the check out, and straws. Shop smart by choosing items packaged as lightly as possible, and go to a farmer’s market and buy your produce there, have them place your fruit and veg straight into your reusable bag instead of using those pointless produce bags at the grocery store. Bonus! – you support local farms and eat healthier, local foods!

What’s the big deal about single-use plastic anyway? Well quite frankly, it sucks. Sorry to be blunt, but there’s no other way to put it. These items of “convenience” are produced with oil (polyethylene) and other chemicals at very high temperatures (500 F), packaged and shipped out to stores, where they’re freely given out or are charged at a very low price, carry your items where you are going and then likely get tossed in the garbage.

If you’re raising your eyebrows thinking, “But wait, I recycle!” well then I am grateful that you take that extra step, and everyone should be recycling by now, it’s 2016 after all, but I’d argue that the energy used in transporting, cleaning, and processing the recycled plastic is unnecessary. Consider if instead we all used real knives and forks (or any other real, multi-use item instead of a single-use plastic one) and then washed them after use to be used again, and again, and again. Recycling is energy intensive, and although yes, it is better than tossing plastic into the trash or on the street; I don’t think that it’s the answer to all of our problems.

I’ve gone off on a tangent. This is not a post about why we should refuse plastic, no that can be found here  and here, and tips on how to cut back on plastics in your life are written here. No, this post is actually a celebration of an entire country banning plastic bags – an entire country! That country my friends, is France.

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This is what happened: starting on July 1, 2016 all shops and super markets no longer carry thin, single-use plastic bags at their check out. Instead shoppers are encouraged to bring their own, or buy heavy-duty bags that cost more than the typical 10 cents. Bags that yes, _DSC4495are plastic, but that are meant for multiple uses. Plastic bags generally have a life span of carrying your groceries from the store check out line to your car and then from the car to your kitchen where they likely get tossed in the trash, recycle bin, or in a designated area where they’ll sit with all of the other useless plastic bags that have come home with the shopping and that have no other purpose. It is a beautiful thing that France realized the waste and inefficiency and made laws to get rid of them all together.

What’s more, is that starting on January 1, 2017 in France plastic produce bags found next to the fruit and vegetables will go from being plastic (the norm) to being paper or a compostable corn-starch plastic. A lot of waste is going to be saved in France not just in the shops and super markets but also in the weekly markets and night markets that are still alive and thriving in  almost every small town and village.

Thank you, France! What an inspiration for all other cities and countries to aspire to. In my most optimistic dreams the U.S. will follow suit one day, and I will anxiously be awaiting that day.


*Note on Photography: All photos were taken on the ground near Bordeaux, France by my accommodating partner, Ben Lear.

Help-X vs. Wwoof

This has been the longest gap between posts for me since karabemisyoga was started back in 2014. I have been busy relocating (temporarily or permanently – )not quite sure) back into American life after living abroad for 4+ years. My trip in India and through Europe has sadly come to an end, but it has inspired posts such as this one, a comparison of two popular working holiday/work exchange networks. There will be more posts by me inspired by my travels, my practice, and my “new” life here in the U.S. Now for the article:


Why Help-X is Better Than Wwoofing

A previous post written was about Help-X, a network for hosts and helpers to find each other world-wide; hosts find helpers to do all sorts of work on their land and helpers find hosts in all corners of the globe to stay with and learn from while on their working holiday. As mentioned in that article, there are two other popular online networks out there: Wwoof and Workaway. You can have a look through all three and make your own decision, but having used both Help-X and Wwoof before (I’ve never used Workaway but met volunteers that have with success) my preference is Help-X. Here’s how Help-X and Wwoof compare.

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Location, Location, Location

  • Help-X One word – international. When you join the Help-X network you get access to farms, hostels, home-stays, etc. in cities and rural sites all over the world. You can search for a host in the Americas (North, Central, and South;) Europe, Australia, Asia, and pretty much everywhere else. As long as a host exists in a country then you can find a place to work with Help-X.

 

 

  • Wwoof On the other hand, in order to search for hosts using Wwoof you must join each individual country at a cost that would add up if you were planning to wwoof your way around multiple countries. You can bundle small, neighboring countries together which helps save on cost, but still if you compare the three countries of one said bundle: Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Belize for $33 to getting access to hosts around the world with Help-X for only $22, then the choice is pretty simple.

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Price Comparison

  • Help-X Membership comes in two types for helpers. You can join for free by creating a profile with your details. With a Free membership you will be able to browse partial profiles of hosts, leaving out the contact information which is how you start communication to organize a stay. However, hosts can contact you if you are a desirable helper. The second membership is Premier membership which gives you more power to view hosts’ full information, photos, reviews, maps, and more. It costs 20 euro ($22 USD) to upgrade to Premier membership. Membership lasts for two years and covers all continents. You can also join Help-X as a couple. Couple membership costs $29 USD for two people for two years.

 

  • Wwoof To be clear, I’ve only wwoofed once in Korea and have never joined the network in another country. The reason why I didn’t use it more is the cost. Wwoof membership in Korea is 50,000 won ($42 USD)/per person/per year. When my boyfriend joined and messaged a host he received acceptance; in the contact email he explained that it would be him and his girlfriend (yours truly, of course) coming to help for a week. A few days later he received two more emails, one from the host explaining that he had to cancel the arrangement on orders from Wwoof Korea and one directly from Wwoof Korea which canceled his membership and explained that he could not contact a host on behalf of two people without the second joining Wwoof Korea independently. Basically, they wanted me to pay 50,000 won and send a separate email although we were coming and volunteering together as a unit. It makes sense business wise for Wwoof, but it left a bad taste in my mouth about the organization which is clearly after money. In the end my boyfriend smoothed it over and we were able to volunteer without me creating my own profile. One point for the little guys!

 

Reviews

  • Help-X Reviews can be written for hosts by helpers and for helpers by hosts. This is useful for all involved because as a host it’s important to find reliable, friendly, hard-working helpers. Likewise as a helper it’s wise to choose carefully where and with whom you want to spend a few weeks with living and working together. When it comes time to choose where to volunteer, be sure to browse multiple profiles, take a look at supplemental websites or Facebook pages, and write thoughtful initial contact emails to each individual host you are interested in rather than copy and pasting a generic message to multiples.
  • Wwoof Again, I must state that I have not myself used Wwoof’s online network being put off by the price, but I have heard that their review section leaves you wanting more. I can’t say much here due to lack of real experience, but I will state that I overheard two veteran hosts complaining about the Wwoof system for an array of reasons, one of them being the lack of reviews.

 

Wwoofing is a similar network to Help-X and is something that my boyfriend and I were considering doing back in 2011 until we opted for Help-X, a decision that I very happy to have made. Others are equally happy with Workaway. Hosts that I have stayed with recently have had profiles on all three networks, so odds are that you won’t miss out whichever service you choose, but I would argue that you will miss out if you go with Wwoof if having a variety of hosts in countries all over the world is what you’re looking for.

By no means do I  wish to bash the organization or write with hate. I have had only the one negative interaction in the past and can’t use that to judge other international Wwoof networks not associated with the Korean network. To clarify, this piece is to help travelers out there making a decision about which network to go with and I hope that it helps in that decision.

For more on the subject, have a look at this article by our very own Amy Steele, written about Voluntourism for Busan HAPS magazine’s June 2016 issue.

Know Your Audience

This applies to so many things, for example while telling a story it should be altered slightly differently if the listeners are your near and dear friends, or say, your new boyfriend’s parents. That’s obvious, isn’t it?

This little colloquialism is also very applicable to yoga teachers. It’s a good piece of advice for new teachers who just finished their intensive 200hr training and it’s a nice reminder to teachers who have been teaching for years, because it always rings true.

Know Your Students’ Levels

Generally, at least. You can’t walk around before your class starts and ask new students to define their ability level – that’s way too much pressure for a student and will cause ego damage, because nobody wants to say that they’re a beginner in a room full of intermediates or hand-standing-advanced students. Which is silly, because at one point we’re all beginners, but for some reason there’s an embarrassment that comes along with being new to something and therefore not as “good” as others (read more of my thoughts on this here.)

Another way to say it is – don’t teach a dynamic series of non-stop standing balancing to a beginners’ class, unless you’ve prepared them well for it in the first 40 minutes of class. Don’t even teach something like that to a mixed level class in which just one or two of the students are beginners.

Why? Well, my two primary reasons are alignment and ego. Fist, and most importantly – the alignment. It takes time and practice to get alignment of yoga poses well enough that you can  move quickly from one to the other with proper alignment. Even a basic pose like Virabhadrasan II (Warrior II) could take a whole year to learn the full-body techniques of where to align the bones and how to tone the right muscles, what to do with the pelvic floor, ribs, chin, the list goes on. So, if you rush a class with students who are not familiar enough with the alignment to do poses without you meticulously telling them everything, then be careful. Overtime poor alignment can lead to joint damage, or if their joints are already weak then they could possibly even injure themselves during the flow, during your class.

The ego comes into play when you as the teacher, whom has practiced years and years, blows through the sequence with ease and to full capability, and the student in their mind feels down for not being able to look and do the same. Of course not all students will think like that, but some will, and they might not come back to your class if they leave feeling worse than when they arrived. People are sensitive and compare themselves to each other; this happens a lot in yoga classes. It’s good to remember this as a teacher.

Teaching

Get a Feel for Which Level of Spirituality is Appropriate

We all know that yoga is about more than body movement, unlike other “workouts,” yoga involves breath synchronization with each individual movement and usually has some level of body and mind union. This might mean a theme of gratitude in a class, or it could go further to include a lesson from Shiva, Hanuman, or the Buddha.

To some students it may be too much to hear about the destructive, dancing Shiva. Or, say

20160307_213008for example if you line up a class venue at a church, it’s probably best not to teach lessons from Hinduism or Buddhism. For me it’s second nature to teach my classes in English and Sanskrit, saying each pose in Sanskrit so that my students learn the pose names, but I gauge who I’m teaching and sometimes stick to just English. Something to not only keep in mind for students of different belief backgrounds, but also for levels. If I teach a group of beginners I explain why I use Sanskrit and where it comes from, something I will try to do even more after reading this insightful article on cultural appropriation and yoga.

 

Themes of nature and the environment are other themes that I like to incorporate as it is a strongly felt passion that I have; to take care of the waters and land, and as part of that stewardship, to spread knowledge about how and why with others. Put into a word it can be called activism. I consider myself an environmentalist (which can have negative connotations depending on which political party you’re talking to, so changing the label to say that I’m a nature level is more appropriate depending on who’s reading this.) It’s a good idea to create classes with themes like these that are more appropriate for all. Also, as mentioned before, gratitude, mindfulness, and grounding are other great class themes.

 

When designing a class, keep in mind who your expected audience will be. Plan appropriate poses, themes, and language and be prepared to have to change it all last minute. Being a yoga teacher requires being flexible in more ways than one; know your audience, as best you can predict.

Yogaspace, Prague, Czechia – Studio Review

 

Yogaspace is very centrally located in Prague. It is near to the main plaza of New Town Square, and according to their website they offer English yoga classes four times per week. Two classes on Tuesday, one Thursday and one on Friday. Times and specifics can be found on the link above. I attended the Tuesday evening Vinyasa Yoga class with Ivana at 6:45pm.

The class was a good pace for the students who attended, and it was well attended. In fact, I nearly didn’t make it in the room it was so packed; it was only due to a “no-show” that I was able to take the last mat space available. In order to secure your spot in a class, be sure to send a message by email or text. Contact information can be found at the bottom of the schedule page linked above.

Their website makes it clear that reservations for drop ins must be made ahead of time, but I guess I was so focused on directions that I overlooked it. It’s completely my fault that I was so close to not getting it, so I’m really grateful for the guy who didn’t show so I could squeeze in (thanks, guy!)

About Yogaspace

  • The Studio – Is average size and fits around 20 students packed in tightly mat-to-mat. When you first walk in you see the changing rooms which are equipped with large lockers with keys for you to secure your belongings during the class. Connected to the entrance way is the studio. It’s long and narrow with windows making up the entirety of the back wall. There are mats for use and mat spray for after class.

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  • The Class – The Vinyasa class was great, just as the class description said it was dynamic and sweaty (the description didn’t say it’d be sweaty, I’m adding that in myself.) Since the classes are listed with levels you’ll be able to find a class that’s right for you. Although my class was jam packed the teacher sill managed to get around and adjust most of us, which I was grateful for.

 

  • The Cost – A drop in class costs 220 CZK (about $9 USD) – again, remember to email or text ahead of time. If you’re in Prague for some time you can purchase an entire course of your choosing. Specific costs of each course is listed on the link and range from 1,680-1,820 CZK ($70.50-$76.50 USD.)

 

  • The Location/Getting There – As noted above, the studio is very central, great for a weary traveler to pop in and unwind after roaming through the big crowds of tourists and vendors in Old Town on those incredibly uncomfortable cobble stone streets! If you’re taking the metro the stop is Mustek (Museum,) exit out of the most eastern (or furthest to the right) exit that points towards New Town plaza. Then follow these directions:

yogaspacedirections

A Note on Getting There !! This is what the outside of the building that the studio 20160510_201704.jpgresides in looks like (with a lost tourist standing in front.) The main sign is for a salon, but if you enter the hangover of the building there is a large sign on the left that has the names of all of the businesses inside. You’ll see Yogaspace listed there. Enter the building, there’s a security guard, but the door was unlocked when I went. Inside the building is where it became like a maze. I was almost super late to the class because I ran up the wrong staircase (twice) and then took an elevator to the wrong area. Only after walking through a hallway to the left of the main elevator did my boyfriend and I find another tiny, hidden elevator at the back  of the back of the building that took us to the 3rd floor where the studio is. It’s as confusing as I’m making it sound, so make sure you give yourself about 15 extra minutes just to find the studio once inside the building.

The large sign listing all of the businesses of the labyrinth of a building. This door is near the second, far away elevator that will take you to the 3rd floor of the yoga studio.


Yogaspace is a nice studio to relax and stretch out in after walking the streets of Prague all day. It’s not always easy to find English speaking studios, so to have one right in the center of the city is a luxury. Just remember these two key things: Book in advance and give yourself plenty of time to get there. Read my other post on tips on Prague here.