Holi Cow, You’ve got some Pink on Your Face

A description of the color festival and four tips you should know

My month here in India is quickly (and sadly) winding down. It’s been an intense month of study, practice, and growth here at the Paramanond Ashram and Institute. Incredible India has been full of amazing food, wonderful people, and lots of color – powdered colors everywhere. Pinks, yellows, blues, and greens smeared on clothes and across skin during the exciting celebration of Holi. If you’re not familiar with what Holi is, then check out the new Coldplay song featuring Beyonce and it’s pretty much like that.

So what’s it all about? During a morning lecture the day of the festivities, Guruji, the primary instructor (guru) here at the ashram, told us about the meaning behind the throwing of colors. He put it in perspective of yoga and the chakras and explained that it’s a day to enjoy 100%, to let go and play like a child. There are definitely plenty of opportunities to do just that – powder, water, music, dancing! We also learned in our Ayuveda class that water and mud are thrown in the mix in order to cool down the intense vata that comes with the summer season, and it is hot here, so it makes sense.


For our Holi celebration, yoga students and ashram attendees alike played just outside the doors of the ashram, only venturing onto the main street in the afternoon after most of the festivities had died down. It’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t immerse ourselves in the larger city celebration, but I’m in no way regretful, we had a blast. If you have the luck to celebrate Holi in India, then remember these four things

  1. WEAR WHITE – Obviously the color will show better on white than a dark surface. Make sure you have a white shirt that isn’t special to you, maybe that one that got splattered with turmeric tea, because that thing will never be white again (same can be said for your pants and underwear!) The colors keep coming and coming; it’s like a big human-tie die experiment.


  1. OIL UP – This tip was given to us hours too late on the first day of celebration, but came in handy the next day (Holi is officially two days here in M.P. and some even got into the mood and bags of colors a day early.) Oiling up the skin, with say coconut oil, doesn’t allow the color to penetrate into your pores as easily, although there is bound to be some staining. Pink was the worst culprit, it’s been five days and at least as many showers and I’m still seeing people with red in their ears… maybe I should say something.


  1. DRINK WITH CAUTION – “Caution, this cup’s contents may be laced with CANNABIS!” should read the little disposable plastic cups (a whole different post – so much single use plastic!) on Holi because bhang is the offical drink of the color festival. What’s bhang you ask? Well, it’s a milky, sweet drink made with weed basically. You can read why it’s the official drink of Holi here, if you get passed a mysterious glass during the festival you’d be wise to ask about it’s contents. However, Holi at the ashram was without. It’s also good to keep in mind that other festival goers may be under the influence of bhang and/or alcohol, so mind your things and your person.


  1. PLAY 100% – Guruji explained that Holi was a time to forget about boundaries of age, religion, sex, or caste and to let go and play fully, 100%. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but once the first fingers leave a vibrant yellow streak on your cheek, you’ll join right in.


My first authentic Holi in India was perfect. I hope I’m able to celebrate it again at some point, somewhere. I hope that you get the opportunity as well, we need to play 100% now and again.


*EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS TIP/COMMON SENSE – Remember to close your eyes and mouth when you see someone coming with a palm full of pink. A necessary strategy for avoiding the ingestion of colors.


Photos courtesy and credited to Miko Photographie of Berlin.


Ashram Life

It’s been just about two weeks now that I have been living, as best to my ability, a yogic lifestyle in an ashram, here in Indore, India. The reason that I’m here is to advance my 20160314_090203studies of yoga, better my asana practice, learn about India and her beautiful people, and of course drink all the chai I can get my hands on (you gotta be fast, it runs out quickly!)

If you’re considering doing a YTTC or retreat at an ashram, here are some basic considerations of life at an ashram. My course is with Paramanand Yoga Institute, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh which is centrally located in the peninsula of India. Living a simple lifestyle won’t be for everyone, so do your research and contemplate if you’re up for life at an ashram before deciding to study one.


  • Yoga – It’s what I’m here for. In my advanced studies I’m learning a lot not just about the postures but about the other aspects of a yogic lifestyle, and it’s very much encouraged to go as deep as you can into it. That means trying to limit social media time, self practicing asana and meditation, and loads of personal reflection. If you go to an ashram to do a training be sure to look into the style of yoga that they practice and teach, as it’s very likely that it will differ greatly from the western, vinyasa flow/hot yoga that you’re used to. Go with an open mind and take as much as you can out of the variety of yoga styles that there are.


  • Vegetarianism – Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is a part of Yama, or self conduct, which is part of the Eight Fold Path of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, and this  might include vegetarianism in most ashrams. If you stay here in India, then you won’t even miss the meat, because the food is good. My friend forewarned that I’d probably even put on some pounds from all the ghee (purified butter) and sugary chai (both made from dairy, so let someone know if you’re vegan ahead of time) and she might be right.



  • Karma Yoga – This is no hotel living. No one is going to clean your room for you or do your laundry, living in an ashram means doing things for yourself and taking joy and responsibility in your duty (dharma.) Not only will you be expected to care for your own space, but everyone is required to maintain the common areas. Personalized projects that cater to your interests are a possibility as well, i.e. – blogging!


  • Lectures – Whether  you do a yoga training, a short retreat, or a temple stay, remember that time spent in a new environment is time to learn and grow. At Paramanand Yoga Institute, there is a tightly packed schedule with classes on everything from Yogic Philosophy to Asana class.


  • Modesty – From attire to behavior there are rules here. 1. Shoulders must be covered, and only loose fitting pants (so leave your MPG at home.) 2. Opposite sex should not embrace/Don’t enter the rooms of the opposite sex. In a way you could almost think of an ashram as a monastery, essentially it’s religious, but before you wrinkle your nose too much, consider how a regulated day, diet, and schedule can be really good to push the reset button on your life. It’s also an integrated cultural experience that likely won’t be happening at a beach side resort.

Like everything outlined here, this may not be the case at the ashram that you find, but scour their website or send an email asking outright about style of yoga and behavior guidelines. If it sounds too intense, then look into a weekend visit or shorter trip than a month long training. Whatever length you choose, it’s beneficial to at least dip your toes into another area of yoga beyond asana.

Radiantly Alive, Ubud – Review

Bali won me over, but after spending two weeks there in January with my boyfriend, we decided to head east for Lombok beaches and diving in the Gilis.  We managed to take a few yoga classes in that part of the country – one at Ashtari on Lombok and two at H2O Yoga on Gili Air – but our time over there was mostly spent in the sand or under water.

Kuta yoga

view from Ashatari yoga studio in Kuta, Lombok

Once I was back on Bali in February, this time solo, it was time to hit the mat and fall fully into the Ubud lifestyle again. While my first time there was dominated by classes at Yoga Barn, I decided to branch out during my second visit and check out Radiantly Alive, a smaller studio across town. I bought a three-class card for about $22 that I used over my four-day return trip.


Balinese Hindu temple

The classes

My first class was pilates with Acacia, a former dancer and yoga teacher from Canada whose energy and enthusiasm for movement lift up the entire room. The class reminded me somewhat of a barre workout, with small pulses within yoga poses to challenge the muscles. We moved in and out of poses quickly, doing a lot of ab work to strengthen the core.

The next morning, I took Daniel’s RA vinyasa class, a class offered only a few times a week. Daniel is the founder and director of the studio and teaches the class in addition to running workshops and hosting yoga teacher trainings.

He began the class by asking about our relationship with time. Is it a positive relationship or a stressful one? Is there never enough time? Are we always worried about what time it is? Ubud may be one of those places where time doesn’t matter, but for most of us, our lives are dominated by schedules and timelines. It was an interesting way to begin the class, and I find myself  – a month later  – still wondering about my feelings towards time.

Physically, the class was dynamic and demanding. The room was crowded and sweaty, and the day’s heat was in full swing already at 9 a.m. After core work, we played around with half moon pose, practiced going deeper and opening up more, losing our balance, laughing and trying it again. This led to the final challenging pose of the class – pincha mayurasana, aka feathered peacock pose. The inversion practice began by placing our forearms on the mat, walking our feet in and raising one leg. From there, we practiced little hops, floating our standing foot up just a few inches as we put weight into or arms. With practice, those hops become higher until the full inversion is reached with both feet overhead.

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practicing pincha mayurasana, working towards the full inversion


Daniel related learning to balance in pincha mayurasana to learning to walk on two feet. We’re afraid of falling, but bit by bit, with continual practice, we can find our balance. The body knows how to fall, he said. We recover and try again.

I intended for acroyoga to be the final class of my Ubud experience, but a cancelled class meant signing up for something I never had any interest in – yoga dance. Again taught by Acacia, the class was packed with yogis who came for acro and ended up playing together in a completely different way. We began the class with a free dance – no mats to contain us – closing our eyes and moving to the beat of the music in any way we felt. Once we got a little loose and more comfortable, we started learning the 3:39 minute dance that Acacia had choreographed.

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Acacia (front center) leads a small group of us after class

Yoga dance incorporated yoga poses, like standing forward fold, seated twist, and downward facing dog, with quick dance moves. The class was full of laughter, and Acacia’s encouragement carried us through to the end of the 90-minute session. Check out the embarrassing but awesome video of a few of us practicing the choreography one last time after class, here.


Radiantly Alive has one main open-air studio with a gorgeous jungle view. Drinking water is available at the front desk, and the studio is equipped with mats, blocks and straps.

Anywhere from two to seven classes a day are offered, with 15 different classes throughout the week as well as yoga teacher trainings and workshops. Visit radiantlyalive.com for more info.


Radiantly Alive offers just about any option to suit your stay in Ubud, from single drop-in classes at $9.50 to 180-day unlimited passes for $495 – and everything in between.


The studio is conveniently located across from Bali Buda, a fantastic restaurant with a neighboring natural foods market. For detailed directions, click here.






Korea, I love You

An expat’s love note to the beautiful land of mountains, department stores, & kimchi

It seemed such a foreign land when I first stepped foot onto the peninsula of Korea (South of course, I better clarify that before going any further.) Way back in 2009, I took a 30+ hour journey that landed me wearily in the country that I would unknowingly call home for more than four years.

My first hours in Korea were exceptionally Korean. I was placed in a love motel for my few days of training and taken to a dinner that came out wriggling and squirming in the pot. However, after the click-click-click of the gas stove, it began to slowly lose it’s luster, changing from sea life to dinner. It’s been kimchi and seaweed ever since, and although it took some time to acquire the taste, acquired it I have.

From Ulsan to Busan, teaching students aged 2 to adults; I’ve traveled the country, learned to love my local neighborhoods, and have grown comfortable living life as an anonymous foreigner in an incredibly homogeneous country. The list could go on and on of the things that I love about this country, but I’ll reign it in and keep it to a short-ish list.


It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s so AFFORDABLE. Everything from a visa required health check to an eye examination and glasses fitting are services readily available and advertised to foreigners. Many hospitals employ a full time translator who will help set up your appointments, discuss what you need, quote you a price, and go with you to translate during your visit. My best medical experiences:

  • 10 Minute Glasses – There are glasses shops on every street corner full to the brim with inexpensive frames. The exam takes minutes and is as high tech as Asia gets. My last two pairs of glasses took longer to chose than to have made. After I found my perfectly dorky pair, the assistant informed me to wait 10 minutes for my prescription lenses to get put in. TEN MINUTES! The cost? 30,000 won, or less than 30$ (*Disclaimer – not all optometrists will speak English, be brave, or shop around for a shop with a doctor who can communicate with you. Or use google translate on your phone.)


  • Dentist Visits – Luckily my dental health and hygiene has been mostly A-OK, minus one unfortunate incident. Cleanings you can have done at most chi-gwuas(dentists,) but you should know that it’s different from cleanings back home. In Korea teeth cleanings are called “scaling.” It can be a scary experience if you’ve never had it done before. While it’s called scaling, it is more like “scraping” and it feels like a sharp metal object scraping along the gum line of your teeth. But it can’t be all that bad if it’s what the entire population receives for dental care and the whole frightening experience will only cost you about 10,000 won, or less than 10$ USD.


  • Blood Work – I’ve lived with anemia for my entire life and never thought much of it, but figured that while I have reliable, full coverage insurance, why not check it out. It’s good that I did because my iron levels were extremely low, so I got jabbed with two viles of iron, started taking pills, and adjusted my diet. I then made a few more appointments via the English translator to continue checking that my iron level was increasing with the pills. The appointments may have been superfluous, the translator and doctor even questioned why I was visiting again so soon after my last visit, and my reasoning quite simply was, why not? The entire experience of seeing the doctor and having a consultation via the translator, having my blood drawn, waiting for the results took about 2 hours and cost roughly 20,000 won, I’m sure you worked the exchange rate out already, but that’s about 20$ USD. Oh, and after the results were done there was another consultation with the internal medicine doctor. Let me repeat that – I had two personal visits with a specialists via a translator, and got blood work done in about 2 hours. Getting blood work back in the US can involve visiting a lab and waiting a couple of days for the results, Korean healthcare is miles beyond American.


Cost of Living

Korea is so livable. I lived in the second largest city, Busan, and was able to not only get by, but to save money. Granted, I’m generally a frugal person, but the cost of living in Korea is relatively low compared to back home in the US. Check it out:

  • Rent – I found an apartment that was a block from the second largest beach in the city, a 10 minute walk to the subway line that connects the whole of the city, and was surrounded by mostly cafes and some dotted restaurants. In Korea you pay key money, or a deposit on your apartment which you get back at the end of your stay. Key money can range from 1 million won to 10 or 15 million won, that’s about 1,000/10,000/15,000 USD. Monthly rent depends on your key money and ranges from 300,000 won to 600,000 won (300USD/600USD.) Oh, and I should mention that Korea has the fastest broadband internet in the world and connection/router/month of unlimited use costs about 20USD.


  • Food – Korean food is healthy and delicious. As mentioned about it requires some 19041_546881468487_8253510_nacquiring though unless you grew up eating fermented cabbage on the regs. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables at local markets for cheap. Eating out at Korean restaurants is cheap as well and healthy. Western restaurants serving pizza and pasta will put you back much more and generally are disappointing.



  • Enjoy Your Life – You can truly enjoy your life because you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay your cheap rent. There are loads of things to do especially around Busan: yoga of course, hiking, cycling, camping, bars, noraebang, department stores, jimjilbang, and more. I sometimes can’t believe the lifestyle that I have just given up, but I’m hopeful that a similar life is possible to create elsewhere in the world, and if it isn’t then back to the Bu I shall go.


  • Healthcare – *See Above

Safety & Convenience

Korea is sometimes known as the Land of the Morning Calm (possibly because everyone’s still at noraebang [karaoke] till 7am) but should really be called the Land of Convenience. From shops and bars that never close to easy-to-use public transportation. Likewise Korea could be known as the Land of the Low Crime Rate. Straight away upon my move to Korea I adapted a sense of ease and comfort navigating the zigzagging streets at all hours of the night when returning from those never-closing-noraebangs, which might sound straight up stupid to someone who’s never lived there before, but those of you that have, know what I mean. I’m a small, unintimidating woman and never once did I fear for my safety while in Korea. This might just be the hardest thing to leave behind.

  • Transportation – It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s often, it’s Korean public transportation and it comes in the form of buses, trains, taxis, and subway. You can get from one side of the city to the other for about 2$USD and in a little over an hour. You can also get from Busan to Seoul by bus or your option of slow or fast train, KTX. You can also use your rechargeable subway pass both in Busan and Seoul, and probably Daegu and Ulsan, etc. Now, can you imagine pulling out your DC metro card in New York with no problems?


  • Safety – No drugs. No guns. Minimal crime. There are countless stories of smartphones being left in cabs and getting returned, bags full of belongings getting forgotten on that convenient public transportation, and getting returned, and even wallets getting handed back with cash still inside. This is not 100% true all the time of course, and I did have a bike stolen from my building once, but never have I feared for my physical safety (other than every single day on my bike commuting on the road, but this is a love letter note a hate note, so I’ll leave that bit out.)


  • Healthcare – *See Above


This could go on. I could write about relationships, the yoga community, and my lovingly adorable students, but already I’ve hit the magic number of 1000+ words which means that most of you quit reading a long time ago, or never even clicked, too scared off, and to those of you who stuck to it, congratulations and thank you! So I must bring this post to an end by saying that I will forever remember my time in Korea in the warmest part of my heart. It will never fade away because Korea has become a part of me, I will probably take my shoes off when entering a house, I will pass money using two hands, and I will have so many great friendships formed over the bonding of being expats in the Land of the Morning Calm. 11193389_10155440948275618_418032844345695615_n


Day Retreat – BK Meditation Center – Tagaytay, Philippines

Over the Lunar New Year holidays, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a short three-day-trip to the Philippines to warm up one last time before leaving cold, wintry Korea. Three days is not much time in the mass array of islands that is the Philippines so my friend and I did some research and decided to visit a lake district just south of Manila to cut travel time. Just a simple two hour bus ride and we were out of bustling Manila and in the diversely green hillsides of Tagaytay.

In a quick Google serach of yoga in Tagaytay, I discovered that there is a Brahma Kumaris center there, and fortunately for me they were hosting a day retreat on the day of my arrival. It was perfect. I sent my email registration and soon received an acceptance email that outlined the theme of the retreat –  Heal the Heart and Feel “The Circles of Love,” so themed because of the Valentine’s holiday coming around the corner. As Amy wrote before, residents at BK centers refer to themselves and others as Brother & Sister; in my acceptance email, Sister Tim Tim answered my inquiries about the retreat like this: “The facilitation of this event is free as our service to humanity. However, for your snacks, lunch and use of the facilities, there is a contribution of 500pesos per person. You can bring your own notebook and pen with you should you wish to take notes.”

“The facilitation of this event is free as our service to humanity.”

– Sister TimTim, BK Meditation Center, Tagaytay

Getting There

How to get there from the Tagaytay bus terminal, which is more of a gathering of trikes waiting to take customers to destinations, buses don’t actually stop and park at the terminal, but instead stop on the side of the road so passengers can disembark; be sure to tell the bus driver in Manila that you’re going to Tagaytay and he’ll know when to have you get off.

Once you get off the bus, grab a trike and tell him to take you to Magallenes Drive. He’ll know the name of the road but may not be familiar with the center, so keep an eye out for it. It’s a white building on the right-hand side of the road, with a blue Brahma Kumaris sign hanging from a light post. It will take a few minutes of driving on Magallenes Drive to get there. From the bus terminal it should cost about 150 PHP for transport by trike.

The Center

The center is beautiful. The atmosphere is peaceful from the very second that you enter the blue-lit entrance-way after ringing the doorbell. Visit the front desk and inform them of your visit. If you’ve registered online beforehand then that’s great, they’ll have your information, but if you didn’t, or bring a friend who hadn’t registered then ask if there is still space and more likely than not they’ll say yes to having added participants.

My friend and I toured the area after registering and were joyously surprised by the beauty of the center. They took care to display an array of thriving local fauna in the garden and even in the indoor areas. The center facilitates a dining area, a large hall where our retreat was held, a meditation hall, the main lobby with toilets, and even has a residential area for participants and guests to stay overnight. A Sister asked upon our arrival if we had a hotel booked already, which we did, but I imagine that via email you could inquire about the cost of overnight stay.

The Event

The Day Retreat was from 9am-4pm. Before it started we had some coffee in the dining area, then everyone grouped in the main hall to start the day’s activities. For the first few hours we were divided into random groups in which we discussed topics about love – it was a good opportunity to get to know some local Filipinos.

In the afternoon there was a guest speaker who took over for the rest of the event. She was Timmy Cruz, a TV star turned singer, who entertained us with songs aplenty. At times the event felt a little on the long side, due to travel (an overnight flight with only little sleep on the concrete airport floor,) but the vibe of the event was warm and inviting, and the people’s warm energy (and multiple cups of coffee) got me through the seven hour schedule.

The Food

Go for the food, stay for the meditation – it was good. Another energy booster was the frequent breaks for food. In the morning we had a heaping pile of vegetarian pancit (pictured below,) a Filipino staple, and banana for a snack; lunch was veggies, rice, a soy-meat in sauce, and desert of pandan flavored jelly; afternoon snack was a sweet cassava cake (pictured below.) All food at the center is vegetarian and delicious. What a great deal, especially for this budget traveler, to pay the event fee of 500 PHP (roughly $10 USD), get atmosphere, learning, amazing food, and good company.

The People

Meeting local Filipinos was the best part of the event. Previously, the primary interactions that I had had on my past two visits to the Philippines were with service industry workers, who were very friendly, but I didn’t really get to know any locals. Having conversations together during the workshop event and casual chats over coffee was nice and enjoyable, especially after so much time spent in Korea where the language barrier doesn’t allow for conversation with locals as easily.

There was a mix of people who were attending their first BK event like I was, and there were some people who frequented the center often. Of the people who were attending for the first time, many said that they would like to return, and I think I’d put myself in that category, too.


Brahma Kumaris is a meditation center that hosts meditation classes, retreats, and seminars and has locations dotted around the Philippines and the rest of the globe. If you get the chance to visit the Tagaytay BK center, take it. The experience was nothing short of delightful: beautiful, natural surroundings; delicious food; and warm-hearted people.


Yoga Barn, Ubud – Review

It was early January, and I had just come from a month in the Philippines with a pretty poor record of practicing yoga. Once I arrived in Ubud, a gorgeous jungle yogi paradise set on the Indonesian island of Bali, I bought a card at Yoga Barn and got excited.

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Yoga Barn is the perfect place for the yoga-curious. Its teachers offer beginners classes as well as classes and workshops for more advanced students who want to deepen their practice. The schedule is packed with 11-15 classes a day, each of them different, and when I was there in January, 16 different styles of yoga were on the schedule.

Months ago, when Ubud was just a daydream I’d pieced together from Instagram images, one of my friends told me that her time there shook everything up – in a good way. I didn’t quite follow, but I loved that she said it, and I’ll admit that I wanted to experience some of whatever it was that shook her. So, in the two weeks I spent in Ubud, I went to seven classes at Yoga Barn: restorative, laya, vinyasa, acro (twice), kirtan, and nidra. I dug right in with a sense of experimentation and wonder.

The classes

After an airport nap, over-night flight, and early morning transport from Denpasar to Ubud, my boyfriend and I sought a little therapy and relaxation with Yoga Barn’s evening restorative yoga class. It was held in the upstairs studio, an elevated hut that comes with everything one would need for the practice: mats, bolsters, blocks, straps, blankets, water, and all-natural mosquito repellant. We left the class feeling incredibly relaxed. As we noshed on sushi rolls at an open-air Japanese restaurant across the street afterward, we fell totally in love with Ubud.

Our first yoga experimental class was Sunday morning laya yoga, recommended by a friend who told us to go into it free of expectations or assumptions. The three-hour class was based in kundalini and incorporated a lot of up and down movement with coordinated breath. Much of the class focused on vocal expression, releasing built-up tension, and letting sounds involuntarily move through us. As a student laughed hysterically on the other side of the room and others orgasmically moaned through poses, the teacher noted that if any of us were annoyed by the sounds of others, it was a good thing; that means it’s working. Accept it and move past it.

photo 1Feeling the need to get back to basics the next day, we signed up for a good ol’ vinyasa class. The flow incorporated a 15-minute inversion practice break, which was fun for about half of the class and confusing for the rest. On a whole, though, it was just what we came for – an energetic sweat session in the afternoon Balinese heat.


My next two classes were acroyoga, and I was surprised by how unique each class was. We didn’t do a single warmup or pose in the second class that we did in the first, and it was almost a completely new group of people. While both classes focused on the acrobatics component of acroyoga, the first one was much more playful. We warmed up by doing a tougher version of wheel barrel – this time with feet hooked on hips and no hands from the partner walking upright. We stacked plank on plank and did synchronized pushups. We got into teams of three for assisted handstands. The second class taught me several new poses, which was exciting and inspiring. After a much shorter warmup, we practiced flag, flying child’s pose, and moving from a easy throne to shin stand.

After the second class, my boyfriend met back up for an acro jam on the patio just outside the studio. We met a few others from the class, as well as seasoned acro yogis, to practice and play.

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The following Sunday night took me back to The Barn for kirtan, another friend recommendation. Sitting in a semicircle facing three musicians, we closed our eyes and chanted together in Sanskrit, sharing the energy and power of a group sing-along and slowing down the tempo as the class came to a close. The 15-minute savasana at the end put me into the most relaxed state I’d experienced in quite a while, and I walked out peaceful and totally happy.

My second time in Ubud, I returned for a yoga nidra class. Again, it came as a recommendation – this time from my boyfriend’s mom, who had become familiar with it during her yoga teacher training in the states. I heard how relaxing people find it and went into the midday class half expecting to take a nap. Instead, we were instructed to walk the line of total body and mind relaxation without completely succumbing to sleep. With the teacher as a guide, the intention is to do a full body scan and focus on one body part at a time. The teacher then moved onto describing a place and telling a story while we were instructed to visualize the imagery using our subconscious minds. Towards the end, I found it difficult to get out of the discomfort in my physical body (cold, laying on the floor) and get into a state of relaxation. But I don’t think I fell asleep, so at least there’s that.

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Even though I may have decided some of these forms of yoga aren’t for me, it’s hard to say anything bad about my time practicing at Yoga Barn. Each class opened my eyes to new people and practices, taught me something about myself, and gave me something to work on – mentally or physically.


First, the restaurant: It’s really good. It’s reasonably priced (about $3-$4.50 per dish) and offers everything from pre-yoga energizing drinks and cashew nut lattes to Ayurvedic kitcheree and macrobiotic main dishes. And it’s super tasty.

A juice bar – which sells drinks, popsicles, and quick treats for before or after class – is also just outside the studios.

The upper studio holds 35 people, and the lower studio holds 30. FYI, they do strictly hold to that number and turn people away once a class is full.

Showers (with liquid body soap) are available to use post-class, free of charge. There’s also a water cooler near both studios.


Individual classes are about $9.50, but cards are the way to go if you’re planning to attend at least three. My boyfriend and I each bought the five-class card for $37. If you’re in town for a long stay and want to try it all, you can purchase a 30-day unlimited card for around $190.


Yoga Barn, located at the end of a small alley in Ubud, is in walking distance from tons of hostels and guesthouses. If you’re heading south from the palace on Hanoman, the alley will be on your left. The sign, which is found at the top of a list of other destinations down the same alley, is a little difficult to spot from the main road, so also keep an eye out for Zen, and turn there.

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Yoga Barn hosts movies, yoga teacher trainings, workshops, and retreats.  Check out www.theyogabarn.com for schedules, current prices, and directions.


Yoga Barn Panglao – Guest Teaching Volunteer Program – An Interview with Barbara & Steve

My most recent post was about my experience guest teaching at the Yoga Barn Panglao, which is located on the utopian island of Panglao, Philippines. I am so impressed with the way that the guest teaching program is run that I decided to ask a few questions of the barn to get a better understanding.

I am a teacher who daydreams about teaching in paradises all over the world and might even want to run my own studio one day, so I was curious to learn more about their guest teaching program. Barbara and Steve warmly replied to my questions, so for your benefit and mine, I provide their answers below regarding their unique volunteer program.


Barbara & Steve of the Yoga Barn Panglao


KBY (Kara Bemis Yoga): Where did the idea originate to freely host guest teachers?

YBP (Yoga Barn Panglao): One of my teachers taught me about the importance of non-attachment. When it comes to asanas we all have our preference for a style or particular teacher. For the good and growth of my regular students I love to give them the chance to practice with different teaching styles.

It’s also great to see teachers used to working in big city studios getting inspired all over again by the beauty and magic of the Barn itself. There are two types of non-resident teacher programs at the Barn.

The Guest Volunteer is for experienced teachers who are here for a short time and just want to share their skills and passion for a class or two.

The Intern Volunteer is a program aimed at freshly certified teachers who feel they need more practice or are a little shy about leading class or perhaps they just need some experience for their CV [resume]. For them we offer coaching, support and guidance and the chance to use a great space. For the new teachers as well as us here at the Barn it’s all about sharing, deepening our knowledge and teachings skills.

KBY: How does it benefit the barn, the community, and the two of you as managers?

YBP: These kind of programs take a lot of commitment from Steve and I [Barbara], but we really love to see our local community growing and getting a wider understanding of what Yoga really is about, and for us, we improve the business with the help of the volunteers, plus we get to meet some awesome people!

KBY: Who qualifies to guest teach?

YBP: Anyone who is an experienced Yoga or Meditation teacher, dedicated, passionate and wants to share can volunteer as a Guest Teacher. The volunteer intern [program] is open to those who have just finished their YTT or those who have been out of teaching for a while.

KBY: What is expected of a guest teacher and what is the general exchange for them?

YBP: From my own experience as a traveling yoga teacher, I learned that a flexible mind is more useful than a flexible body when it comes to teaching students of different levels, nationalities and attitudes! Guest teachers learn from the experience of serving, teaching and sharing and they get to do all of this surrounded by nature on a beautiful tropical island.

KBY: What’s the best way for an interested, certified yoga teacher to contact you and what sort of information should they provide?

YBP: Contact us before hand; we will want to know about you, about your experience, what you hope to gain from your time with us and how we can help each other.

Contact: info@yogabarn-panglao.com


If you are a certified yoga teacher who would like to keep your skills sharp while traveling, maybe looking to travel on a budget, and are willing to exchange your teachings for yoga classes, then guest teaching is perfect for you. Whatever your reason, you’re sure to leave with a new anecdote to tell your friends and family about that time that you taught yoga in the middle of a Filipino forest.


Pure magic

Yoga Barn Panglao – Guest Teaching Experience

It has been a goal of mine to teach internationally after leaving my longterm home of South Korea. This idea of mine is nothing serious, I don’t expect to become a big name teacher, nor do I want to, but I do have a desire to use networks of teachers and social media to find teaching jobs here and there while I travel. I want to do this to keep my skills sharp and to experience different kinds of studios, and meet new students.

But where to start? It’s a daunting task to reach out to strangers and ask if you can teach for them. Who am I to them? I often think that I’m just a small fish in a little pond, but I’m now preparing to swim upstream and test bigger waters.

Of course you start with google searches, which is what I did before my recent trip to the Philippines, and I was happily surprised to stumble upon Yoga Barn Panglao, a picturesque studio set in nature on the island of Panglao, Philippines. It’s not uncommon to find yoga studios on tropical islands, but what is really unique is to find a studio with managers that openly accept guest teachers, and that’s just what I found at the barn.

Through my google search I discovered a tab on their website entitled Volunteering. I clicked on the page to find an outline of the opportunity they have for guest teachers to share their teachings in exchange for classes. This was exactly what I was looking for!  What was exceptionally perfect for me was the final description that read: No minimum volunteering time is necessary, key to my 10 day visit over the holidays.


Teaching back “home” in Busan.

Emails were exchanged with the kind Barbara of the Yoga Barn Panglao and she instructed me to speak in person with their interim teacher who was holding down the fort for a month while Barabara and her partner, Steve, returned home for the holidays. Once I arrived on the beautiful island of Panglao, I attended the first class I could and met their substitute teacher, Emilie, my resume in hand, and we worked out a  teaching slot for me. It was perfect. I was instructed on how to manage things for my Wednesday sunset class: where to turn on the lights and fans, where the props were kept, and as for signing in students, Emilie met me there and took care of that.

The class itself was great. I was able to experience teaching a set of entirely new students and took on the responsibility of making them comfortable, confident, and safe. The second story platform studio is well equipped with mats and props, and I was even thoughtfully left with natural insect repellent for myself and students. And don’t forget that location! It was a dream come true to be able to lead a class in such a serene  setting surrounded by the sounds of crickets and shimmering, shining stars.


Yoga Barn Panglao

The prior correspondence with Barbara was an experience in and of itself, as I felt the waters out of the bigger yoga world, polished my resume, and shifted into a warm, yet professional exchange. Barbara did a great job of melting away any and all of that business-like coldness and we were able to communicate openly and comfortably via email before my visit to the island.

If you get the special opportunity to visit Panglao as a yoga teacher, I highly suggest that you contact the kind people of the Yoga Barn Panglao and start a conversation about guest teaching. They’re warm, friendly, open and professional. And for you as a teacher you will get the rare opportunity to teach in the paradise of Panglao, growing your resume all the while.


Yoga Barn Panglao, How to Get There:

You could walk from Alona beach, but it will take at least 30 minutes or more. A cheaper and more comfortable option is to take a habul-habul, or motorbike taxi there. The first time I took a habul-habul the driver didn’t know where the barn was, so make sure t0 screenshot the image of the map on their facebook page to show the driver, or have them ask a local how to get there. It should cost about 25PHP from Alona beach.

Address: Bolod, Poroc 3, 6340 Panglao Island, Bohol, The Philippines



Yoga for Diving & Snorkeling

20151223_132208.jpgIt is a beautiful thing to have the opportunity to delve into the seas and oceans to view and be with the fish, coral, and other beings that live below. On my recent trip to Panglao, a small island off of Bohol which is part of the thousands of islands that make up the Philippines, I packed my fins in my bag and got in the water to see some amazing sights. Blog post on those specific experiences in the future, but for now here are my pre-snorkel/pre-dive yoga tips.



Because it’s all about those hips, bout those hips… and ankles. Focusing on twisting from side to side at your torso and hips will greatly improve your propulsion through the water with fins on. Here are some yoga asanas that will get your body twisted.

Torso Twists

  • Sukhasana/Easy Seat Twist: Sit cross legged. Feel grounded through the sit bones, tall all the way up the spine and through the crown of the head, knees fall out to the side. Bring awareness to the breath for 30 second, making it long and calm. Then on an exhalation cross your left hand to your right knee and place your right fingertips back behind you. Stay and hold for 5 breaths. Inhale back to center and exhale to the left side. Hold 5 breaths. Continue for 3 rounds.


  • Anjaneyasana/Low/High Lunge Twist: From Downdog come into a low lunge, right foot forward, right knee directly over ankle. Lower your left knee to the mat, toes tucked. Bring your arms to your heart in prayer position. Inhale, lift your left elbow high to the sky, exhale and cross the left elbow to the right knee. Try not to crunch the left ribs, but instead create space there. Use the left elbow against the right knee for resistance and extension. Option to lift the left knee off the mat and extend the leg straight. Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.


  • Dynamic Standing Twist: Stand with feet hip distance and a slight bend in both knees. Let your arms hang limp by your side, shoulders down your back. Inhale and twist left, swinging the arms with you so that the right arm gently hits the area of the left kidney. Inhale and twist to the right, this time the left arm hits the right back body in the space between the hip and ribs. Continue moving left and right while swinging the arms and gently hitting the back. Keep the bend in the knees the entire time. Focus on the twist coming from the abdominal area. This is the part of your body that you will mostly use when snorkeling. The fins makes it easy to move yourself through the water primarily from the torso twist, and when you have it down well you won’t even need to use the arms, freeing them up for your go-pro!


Open Ankles

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downdog Variation: Come in to Downdog, feet hip distance. Lift the right foot slightly off the floor, point the toes and cross the foot over the body to place the top of the toes (your toenails) to the left of your left foot. Breathe energy into the top foot and ankle area, where your shoe laces are. Switch sides after 5-10 breaths.


  • Ardha Hanumanasana/Half Split Variation: Kneel on your knees and swing your right foot out front, don’t let the right hip change position when you do this, make sure that it stays in line with the left hip. Flex the right heel and lower the hands to blocks or the floor. Breathe to stretch the back of the leg. After 3 breaths, extend the right toes to the floor, hold and breathe for 5 breaths. Repeat on the left side. Opening the top of the foot, front ankle area will increase the effectiveness of your fin use while snorkeling or diving.


Breathwork to Calm the Mind

  • Slow it Down: I often instruct students to lengthen their breath at the very beginning of class and to attempt to keep their breath at the long and steady pace during the entire class, no matter how challenging the poses become. The same technique can improve your diving & snorkeling, because although it’s a beautiful and tranquil world down there, feelings of stress and anxiety can arise by putting yourself in a whole new environment.
    • Slow Breath: Before getting in the water sit, or stand and breathe as slowly as you can. Begin breathing just through the nose like you do for yoga.
    • Diving/Snorkeling Breath: While diving & snorkeling you will breathe only through your mouthpiece for an extended length of time and venturing into the unknown vastness of the deep deep ocean can sometimes cause panic. Practice lengthening the breath, and especially lengthen the exhalation. Make the exhalation longer than the inhalation which lowers the heart rate, calming you down. Do this only through the mouth only for a few breaths to stimulate the mouthpiece, or do it right when you enter the water with the mouthpiece already on. When diving, use the deep breath only as a calming technique and ask your instructor for the appropriate breaths to be taking during the dive as you don’t want to suck up your tank too quickly!


Have a great time exploring the surface and depths of the beauty below. For tips on how to keep coral safe while snorkeling, read this blog post about eco-packing which includes tips for the harsh sun and against harsh sunscreens that can cause coral bleaching.



Intro to Raja Yoga – BK Meditation Center – Luzon, Philippines

I found the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center in early December of last year. I was in the middle of a solo trip around Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines, and after a week or so of hiking volcanos and wandering museums, I felt the need to stay put in the city of Baguio for a couple days, dig a little deeper, and figure out my next steps.

The Baguio center had a five-star review on TripAdvisor, but with only three reviewers, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect on my visit, other than the peaceful experience and beautiful views that had been written about. I liked going into it this way, without knowing too much.

photo 2

The grounds of Baguio’s Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center

Before my visit, I wasn’t sure what kind of vibe the center would have or even what kind of meditation classes were offered, but I was crossing my fingers that I’d at least meet people there who could point me in the direction of some Baguio yoga classes.

Up until then, I’d assumed anything called “yoga” had to do with the joining of movement and breath. The Brahma Kumaris Center was my first encounter with a different kind of practice – the practice of raja yoga.

I showed up on a Sunday afternoon, at the end of a weekend gathering of Filipino Brahma Kumaris practitioners. The Baguio center is a gorgeous, small green space with one of the best views of the city, near the top of a hill overlooking valleys, homes, and farms.

I was warmly welcomed there by everyone I met. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to find the kind of yoga I was looking for, I scheduled a Brahma Kumaris introductory class with Sister Salud, a self-described “content spirit,” for early the following Wednesday morning.

Lesson 1

The first lesson offered a detailed background of Brahma Kumaris, or BK, a worldwide learning community that practices raja yoga meditation. Literally translated, raja means king, ruler, or highest. Yoga is a union, link, or connection. Raja yoga was described to me as making a connection to a higher power.

Some takeaways from the first class:

  • Practice self-love. We should try to achieve self-love through understanding and appreciation of the self and by doing the best we can to make ourselves happy.
  • Create a link to our inner selves, and work to maintain the following:
    • self-respect – knowing that we are intrinsically good
    • self-esteem – valuing our own uniqueness
    • self-confidence – contributing to the betterment of the world by bringing benefit to ourselves and others
    • self-sovereignty – ruling our kingdoms by being independent and making our lives and ourselves worthy.
  • Meditation is a tool. Use it to discover the self – to contemplate, reflect, and focus on one thing. Still the mind, and actively create a thought to focus on.
  • Take what we want. Relegate old knowledge to the side, and go into new knowledge. There’s a lot to discover. Come to our own realizations and find our own truth. Once we find the truth, experience it and take what’s beneficial.
  • Feed the mind with goodness. Focus on positivity and healing during meditation. Take the dirty, muddy water of our negative selves and run clear, pure water over it until it’s clean.

We ended with a guided meditation, which was the raja yoga practice, and set a time to meet for the next session.

Lesson 2

The second class focused on the soul-body connection and discovering who we are spiritually. Sister Salud said the commonality of every human being is the soul – a living energy of light – within the body. We discussed the location of the soul, what some might call the third eye.

Some takeaways from the second class:

  • The soul gives life to the whole body. The soul is like the driver of the body, which is the vehicle. The body is for expression and experience.
  • Be soul-conscious. We should find a direction and a purpose for what we’re doing. Put the energy of our soul there and focus on the qualities of the soul. This is our energy. It’s intrinsic.
  • Seek peace from within. If we’re aware of our soul energy, we can get support from within. Choose peace, and direct our minds to be peaceful.
  • Drive energy into positive qualities. Remain aware of the type of soul we want to be, and manifest it.

So, how do we manifest a positive living energy of light? According to Sister Salud, that’s the question to be answered through raja yoga.

Again, we ended the class with a guided meditation. My time in Baguio was coming to a close, so she pointed me in the direction of other BK centers along my travel route. While I haven’t taken the time to attend a third session, I’m so thankful for my experience learning about the practice of raja yoga, and I’ve started to incorporate some of the ideas into my meditation practice.

Directions by cab:

Tell the driver to go to Dominican Hill. Once you get a bit out of the city and start heading up the hill, you’ll pass Lourdes Grotto. Keep going up the hill but not quite to the top. You’ll see the sign for the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center on the right, as you approach the top.

photo 3

It may be difficult to catch a cab back, but start walking down the hill, and you’ll probably get lucky with a cab, tricycle, or jeepney around the bottom of the stairs at Lourdes Grotto.

Brahma Kumaris has over 8,000 centers across 130 countries, and it’s been around for 78 years. Its brochure explains: “Through meditation, we seek to help people rediscover their goodness and develop their spiritual awareness, attitude, and behavior.” For more information, visit BK on the web at www.brahmakumaris.org.