Celebrate International Day of Yoga

Wednesday, June 21st is International Day of Yoga, or at least it has been since the prime minister of India  and the United Nations General Assembly declared it so three years ago. On that first day of International Day of Yoga in 2015, thousands of people practiced yoga in hundreds of different cities in many different countries around the world and did so again in 2016. Just the same, there will be thousands of celebrations around the world this year, and there may be one near you.

International Day of Yoga is a day in which people are encouraged to practice on their own or find an event to attend, the day is a day to take time to practice for health and well-being, and it is also the summer solstice – the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, which makes it a great day to practice outside in nature.

This internationally celebrated day, as opposed to other silly national and international days (say National Donut Day, sorry to throw a dash of negativity in here, but I do find it slightly infuriating that more people recognized National Donut day as compared to World Ocean’s Day  here where I am in the U.S. and nobody I know locally participated in National Ride Your Bike to Work Day, but there’s hope for next year and chance of redemption with International Day of Yoga) is a day that promotes health and well-being in yoga studios, communities, and schools. The practice of yoga is beneficial for the physical and mental body. Yoga strengthens muscles and increases flexibility in muscles and joints. Yoga is a safe form of physical activity for all ages when taught and practiced with awareness. When meditation and breath practice is included, yoga has the added benefit of calming the nervous system and mind and relaxing away tension. This is a day that encourages all of this and on which you can likely find an event nearby to practice at, in my opinion this is an international day worth recognizing and participating in.

Most events are free or donation based. Many are held in front of monumental and historical landmarks such as the Capital Building in D.C. and the Eiffel Tower in Paris (shown below). For the past two years I have had the good fortune of teaching at and being apart of events in Busan, South Korea, my old expat-hometown. I have since relocated back to the United States and am excited to be bringing an International Day of Yoga celebration to Jamestown, New York, it’s first I believe – very exciting.

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Our event in Jamestown, which is being hosted by Sun Moon Yoga, the beautiful, newly-relocated studio that I have had the pleasure of teaching at for the past few months, and will be held in the second story court yard of the historical building where the studio now resides. The two-hour session will consist of 108 sun salutations, also known as a yoga mala. There will be at least three teachers teaching a wide array of styles of sun salutations to students who are encouraged to rest in child’s pose or even step off of their mats for a rest and refuel with provided refreshments. Jumping into a practice of 108 sun salutations is a major increase to students who may only be used to doing 3-6 salutations in a class, or may have never even done them, so taking rests are highly recommended. International Day of Yoga is by no means a day only for those who practice yoga regularly, but rather it is a day for newcomers to try yoga, maybe for the first time, so that they too can reap the benefits of this ancient science.

Celebrate International Day of Yoga

To find an event near you, which may be occurring this coming weekend, June 17-18th or the following weekend of June 24-25th, simply google an event in your city, ask your neighborhood yoga studio, or look for events on Facebook. To attend the event in Jamestown, arrive to the Pearl City Arts Building located on Cherry Street between 2nd and 3rd a little before 6pm to set up. The event in Jamestown has a suggested donation price of $5 or whatever you can give (if money is tight for you at the moment, please come regardless and practice for yourself and the community, donations are suggested, but not required) which will benefit Saint Susan’s Center in Jamestown, a local soup kitchen that provides meals to those in need.

 

 

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Learn How to Love

As Valentine’s Day nears I have had love on my mind and those thoughts have seeped into my recently taught classes. Most prominently, the book 5 Love Languages has influenced my thinking and outlook on love. 5 Love Languages is a well-known, self-help style book on how to save loveless marriages written by Gary Chapman.

Don’t let that description scare you off though, I would recommend this book to anyone in a relationship. It’s an easy read and at just over 200 pages, a quick read youthat could get through in a weekend. The first part of the book describes the five love languages with anecdotes of couples struggling to communicate their love to each other. The second half of the book is more interactive with a quiz to find your love language and deeper advice in a Q & A section on how the languages can apply to you and how you can apply them. And if you’re still not sold, Mr. Chapman has another book called The 5 Love Languages for Singles if you’re unmarried and not in a relationship but would still like to better communicate love with family and friends.

In two recent yoga classes I used the book as an example and compared learning the intricacies of your body through yoga as being similar with learning how to best show love for others. In descriptions of my class I tell prospective students that through yoga they will learn how to read their bodies; in other words, by being mindful in an hour yoga practice and by listening to just how far your body is able to go at that moment, a student will gain knowledge about the abilities of their body one class at a time. As yoga students we build upon that knowledge and can be careful with old injuries or tight muscles all while building strength, balance, and flexibility. Without this acute awareness, an injury could occur as the ego nudges us to go further, to get in the pretzel shape of instagram yoga bodies.

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Tune in and listen to your body.

Likewise, learning how your partner or loved one expresses their love is a practice that requires mindfulness. If you read the book, you’ll learn that the five love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. As an example, say that your partner learned to express love by receiving, and therefore giving gifts, but your family was never big on gifts or spending money on each other so to you gifts are not important. When you fail to give a thoughtful (or expensive) gift at a holiday, or small little gifts throughout the year, your partner will not feel as loved as he or she could. Once you pay notice and realize that your partner’s love language is gift giving, then it is your responsibility to make strong efforts to change your ways. After expressing your love in a way that is thoroughly understood and felt the idea is that your partner will reciprocate. Make the discovery a dialog, go online and take the quiz and work together to best show your love for each other.

Again, this does not have to be solely for romantic partners. I used the example of 13603703_997196337066286_6480232972816819961_oexpressing love to pets in one of the yoga classes as a relationship that isn’t romantic. Say your dog loves walks but you show love with cuddles, that’s nice for you because you get strong positive emotions from the cuddles, and your dog may too, but that dog just wants to walk! And sniff! Make your dog the happiest dog she can be by making time to walk her. Give her a life full of love and walks. And don’t pull her if she lingers on a scent, let her sniff, because she may love walks mostly for the scents and not for physical activity, but the physical activity is a bonus for you both.

This Valentine’s Day season be inspired to learn how to love. To remember that love is a noun and a verb and to realize that the action of expressing love has to be personal for each relationship. Sure it will be more work, but it will pay off. Just like rolling the mat out is often near an impossible task early in the morning of a cold, dark, winter’s day, but the time and dedication will pay off with each effort you make.

 

Come On, Get Real!

Modern food technology advancements have made eating cheap and easy, but what exactly is it that we are eating?

Living in the modern day means that life has become significantly more convenient for most of us. Technology advancements in the food industry have been making it easier and easier to get a quick bite. It’s so quick that we call it fast food when purchased from a drive-thru window (so quick that we don’t even bother stepping out of our cars.) Another benefit of it is that it’s cheap, with most fast food restaurants offering dollar menus. Who can argue with that? I’ll tell you who – me.

Eating at [fill in your choice of any fast food franchise] can feel pleasing initially because it’s so fast, convenient, and cheap, and hey, the food fills up the hunger-hole that was once there, so job complete. But does it make us feel good?

For the past few years I have been taking better care of my body, not only physically with yoga but also nutritionally. I try my best to stick to the rules of eating mostly whole foods – foods that are purchased in their original shape and form, not processed into a box or plastic bag. I try my best to eat everything that isn’t quick and conveniently bought at a counter and because my body is more conditioned than it used to be, it doesn’t even agree with fast food or highly processed food.

After eating a combo meal my taste buds are happy because food scientists have designed the food to smell and taste good, but digestively my GI tract is not at all happy. I know that this may not seem like proper writing material, but digestion is a major part of health and it is something that we need to keep an eye on, quite literally – daily. That’s my yoga teacher tangent for the post though, back to what I was saying – I believe that my body rejects processed foods because I have been trying my best to take care of it and feed it real, whole foods.

Quick and convenient foods are everywhere, not just at highway rest stops and strip malls. They have made their way into our cupboards and refrigerators. Walk down every aisle and frozen food section in any typical grocery store or big box store and the “food” that you find there  will be distant cousins to the real food that it aims to mimic. Grab one of those “food” items off of the shelf and turn it on it’s side to have a read of the ingredients.  Good luck trying to recognize or pronounce most of the multisyllabic, chemical words. I’ve heard of a rule that I like to apply to my diet and my cleaning cupboards as well as my cosmetics, if I can’t pronounce it, I look for other options. Another good one to live by is if my grandmother wouldn’t know what it was when she was my age, put it back. Or a favorite of my boyfriend’s is, if we wouldn’t let Freddie (our adorable rescue dog) eat it, then we shouldn’t be using it or consuming it either.

It’s not easy to make the switch to eating better. Fast food and processed foods taste good and some have found that they’re as addictive as cocaine. I know personally that I’ve had a hard time keeping my fingers out of the Cool Rancher bag; no matter how many times I think to myself, “Just one more!” there always ends up being two or three more handfuls. That’s why the best thing to do is to keep unhealthy, processed foods out of your house. Switch to healthier options like fruit or veggies to snack on. Or if you have to have that addictive crunch of a chip, try  whole wheat crackers and humus instead.

A lot more could be said about this issue and I intend on writing a couple more posts on this topic and other ways that you can Get Real in your lifestyle, but for now I’ll leave you with encouragement to make some healthy changes in your diet and celebrate the healthy choices that you already make in the kitchen or when out to eat. It is not easy to be a health nut, especially if you already eat processed foods regularly, but I assure you that once you make the switch you will be glad that you did as your body and brain will be feeling and functioning much better.

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 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.

 

Isolate

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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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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.

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  • 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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

Yoga off the Mat – A Mindful Closet

Yoga is much more than a physical practice. The mindfulness that is practiced during yoga starts to happen in day-to-day situations such as more healthful eating, calming the mind in times of stress, and even in the way we consume. A few years ago I became more aware of the fashion industry and have since then drastically changed my consuming habits.

We don’t often think that long about a purchase anymore. In terms of clothes, if it’s on sale, fits, and looks cute, then in the cart it goes. It could be useful at some point, right? But often times that $5.00 top gets tossed into an overcroweded closet never to be seen again. This is a common happening for a lot of (especially) women in our culture. Advertisements, Hollywood, and popular culture throw messages at us all over the place to buy more, more, more. But where are all of these clothes coming from? 

The line of production of a piece of clothing is a lot longer than we think. First, the fabric starts out as a raw material. Let’s look at that $5.00 top and assume that it’s a T-shirt. If it’s cotton then it would have started out as a seed. According to the research done by Planet Money of NPR, who followed a T-shirt throughout its entire life-cycle, 90% of all cotton seeds are GMO. Then there’s the resources needed to grow that little seed. A lot of water is needed for cotton and that water sprays off the pesticides and fertilizers that are used on the cotton, seeping into the water basin (buying organic cotton is an idea.) So already when we take a closer look at just the cotton that will eventually become a cheap T-shirt, there are quite a lot of negative effects. This is assuming that the T-shirt is 100% cotton, what if it was a blend, say made with 5% spandex to give it to some stretch. Spandex is a synthetic fabric made using more (chemical) resources in production. I attempted to do basic research into this and was scared off by all of the chemical jargon that I couldn’t even pronounce (macroglycol and diisocyanate to name just two.) Test your patience with this read.

After the cotton is harvested it gets shipped to another location, most likely in another country, to be turned into fabric. This process might include such steps as washing the cotton, spinning it into yarn, turning that yarn into fabric and dying it. The dyes are not often natural anymore and run into the local bodies of water. You can google images of rivers running all colors of the rainbow in manufacturing countries. Then the fabric gets cut and sewn into T-shirts. Most of this production no longer happens in the developed world. Thanks to globalization and outsourcing the job gets done by populations in poverty who will do it for much less.

Most clothing tags read: Vietnam, Turkey, China, or Bangladesh, just to name a few. In these countries the laborers can be paid much less and the working and environmental standards are much lower or non-existent. Chemicals and pollutants can be harmful to their health and do damage to the local environment, too. Again, according to the work done by Planet Money, some workers in Bangladesh work six days a week and make about $68/month. Here’s a link to a video series about the process made by the podcast.

Wages may be a low cost to the producers, but the long-term and often unthought-of cost of pollution and dangers to health is often overlooked. In April of 2013 there was a massive and devastating building collapse in a Bangladeshi factory. The multi-story building housed hundreds of employees put to work to produce clothing items for around 30 big names in the industry. The building was not well maintained which probably caused the collapse and took the lives of around 1,000 people. All working to produce cheap fashion for us in developed nations. When given thought, it makes that $5.00 T-shirt seem a little more expensive in terms of hidden costs- some even in human lives.

Possibly made in a similar factory as that which collapsed.

Possibly made in a similar factory as that which collapsed.

That tragic incident was the turning point for me. The event was framed by author Elizabeth Cline, in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. In the interview the author details the problems in the industry that she discovered through intense field research in countries like Bangladesh. 

After listening to the interview I began to realize that there was really no need for me to shop as much anymore. My closet had been full, and bursting, for most of my adult life. Shopping to me was a hobby, a way to spend an afternoon. Yes, I got that rush when I scored a great deal and even bragged about it to my sister, but that little rush and hobby had to be altered out of respect for the negative effects it had in other parts of the world. And really it wasn’t that hard to do.

Escaping from the pull towards trends and fast fashion may not be easy at first, it requires a change of behavior as well as the mindset to be happy with what you have. There are certainly days when I see something in an ad and think to myself, how cute and nice it looks and wouldn’t it be great to have? But I quickly find my way back to the core thought that, on second thought- No, I don’t NEED it, I can happily do without.

Best of luck to you on this journey of lifestyle change for the better. More blog posts in the future on specific tips and experiences.

Don’t Shop, Swap!

Clothing swaps are great alternatives to shopping, and make for excuses to have a social gathering with old friends or new. They’re very easy to put together and require very little planning. Plus, everyone will hopefully go home with something new (to them) and exciting!

I first attended a clothing swap with my boyfriend’s mom where she lives in the south of France. On a fall afternoon a large group of women gathered in a friend’s home and laid out items that no longer got much use from them, to be shared and swapped with all in attendance. It was a lot of fun and a few years later I found myself hosting a swap in my expat community of Busan, South Korea. Here’s a quick how-to on hosting a clothing swap. Details are specific to an expat community, but a swap can be held anywhere.

Browsing items :)

Browsing items 🙂

  • Invites: Social media makes planning a breeze, with a few clicks and a nice photo you’re done! For my events I made the events public, open all in the community. For your friends you could make it more intimate by inviting them by phone or even send out some nice stationary, but doing things electronically saves paper and time.
  • Choose a Time: I have had a lot of success hosting swaps when the seasons are changing. People tend to pack up their shorts and tanks and pull out the sweaters in the fall, so that’s a great time to host an event, likewise spring is another great time. I encourage people to bring summer and winter clothes as people might be vacationing to warmer places, or can store the items for later.
  • Inform Your Guests:  Some people may not know what a clothing swap is, so let them know that it’s a chance to hand in unwanted clothes for others’ lightly used items. You can have your event be for ladies only, or extend it out to men or even make it a family event for children as well, as I’m sure a lot of families may have clothes that are getting too small and equally would be in need for someone else’s larger sizes! Be sure to plan the event a few weeks in the future to give people time to go through their closets. Decide if you want to include accessories and footwear and let everyone know. Be sure to tell guests that only lightly used items are appreciated.
  • People at Table Talk English Cafe, swapping away!Chose a Venue: As a very casual event you could host a swap in your living room, or on the porch in warmer months. You could make it more fun by incorporating a potluck. For a more public event, seek out a local cafe and encourage your guests to support the cafe by purchasing a drink or food. The chosen location might not even charge you rent if you let them know guests will be buying their fare.
  • Arrange Drop Off Times: Expat communities see people come and go routinely. Plan your swap to coincide with the waves of expats coming in and out. For example, here in Korea the school year begins in March, so people leave in February and newbies arrive in March- a great time to host a swap. In order to collect off of the people who are flying out, ask the cafe if you can collect a few weeks early and store there, if that’s not an option, consider storing and collecting at your place.
  • Donate the Extras: Storing all of the left overs might not be reasonable, so search your local area for a charity shop, orphanage, or women’s shelter to take the clothes that remain. Call ahead to make sure that they’ll accept what you’ll have to bring.

Hosting a swap does not require much at all and can be such a fun event. For my first swap, I held a talk at the beginning for those interested about the sustainable aspect of the swap, which might be a good idea if you want to give your event a deeper meaning.

Here is the Facebook Event link to my upcoming Swap in Busan on March 14th. The swap is open to the public. As the host I encourage anyone to come have a look through the clothes, whether you have anything to contribute or not. The reason for this is that by taking an item off of someone rather than buying it new in the shop, you save the item from the landfill and also don’t contribute to mass consumption… but that’s a whole other blog post!


 

Update, here a few photos from the Swap that was held in Busan on the 14th of March. It was a success I believe, with people walking away with mounds of clothes. I learned from this event and am hopeful that next season’s will be even more successful and run more smoothly. This past event I happened to become ill during the swap and was running a fever for most of it, thankfully some good friends stepped in and helped me out so much. Thanks ladies!

Hosting Karma Yoga Classes

A karma yoga class is a class in which the payments are donated to a charity. As a teacher, they are very easy to  host and you do your part by donating the money, but also by teaching others about a charity or non-profit that has a lot of meaning to you (not to mention by giving everyone a well deserved yoga class!) Donations Only classes can be taught regularly or during special holidays or vacation times.I find that hosting karma yoga classes during holidays gives them just a little extra meaning; for example, I recently taught a class on Valentines Day, a great day to spread some love around. Here are some tips in hosting a karma yoga class.


Venue: 
Holding a donation based class outside at the beach or at a park is great, Beach Yogabecause no money gets lost to rent payments. When I first moved to Busan I hosted early morning beach yoga classes on the boardwalk and gave payments to my local non-profit of choice. Not much was raised, because not too many people are early risers, but every little bit counts!

Cost: Choose a minimum donation cost that is required, $5.00 is a good place to starDonationst. When I create my events I describe the cost as Minimum Donation of xxx, this way people might consider donating more. When class is finished and everyone is making their payments, I remind them that I have change for them if they need it, but if not their extra money is greatly appreciated by the organization. Many students will be generous.

Choose an Organization: Find a cause that means a lot to you personally and that you are knowledgeable enough about to tell others about in detail. At the beginning of the class, explain your organization of choice, where and how the money will be used, and other ways that people can help. Below is a description of the non-profit that I have been donating to.

BAPS- Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary

Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary is a privately run dog shelter in Busan, South Korea. The dedicated couple that run the shelter have rescued, medicated, and rehomed hundreds of dogs since 2008. Dogs have been saved from off the street and from the local pound; these are dogs that would have otherwise not had much of a chance at survival. BAPS is a no-kill shelter, so dogs are cared for until they are hopefully adopted for life. Money from donations goes to dog food, shelter upkeep, medications, male neutering, operations, etc.

My personal attachment to this non-profit is my love and joy, Fred, who I adopted from BAPS in 2011 with my boyfriend. He’s come a long way from his skin-diseased-street-dog-days and now lives a life of comfort, spending most of his days sleeping, curled up on my bed. He also loves to join me at beach yoga class. He takes a nice little nap in the sun while others flow.

To learn more about BAPS, visit their website or search for them on Facebook. Donations can be made within Korea by bank transfer or internationally by using Paypal. Information on how to donate is easily found on their website. There are even weekly dog walking volunteer events if you’re missing your furry loved one from back home, those can be found via Facebook.

Reflecting on 2014; Opportunity for Gratitude

Gratitude is a wonderful emotion that doesn’t always happen freely. It’s easy to become comfortable with where you are and forget how truly fortunate you may be; I know that I am guilty of not feeling or expressing gratitude as much as I could or should. As I looked back on my 2014 (which Facebook made so easy to do with those nifty “Look Back on my Year” photo albums) I thought of all of the happy times that I shared with my friends and loved ones. I felt and feel grateful for those relationships and experiences. It’s nice to scroll through all of the beach and dinner party photos, but it would be even nicer to vocalize my gratitude, and I don’t mean by means of posting either, I mean by an old school phone call, or a (recycled and/or homemade) card even! Lucky for us all, gratitude is an attitude as well as an emotion, meaning that we can mindfully practice moving towards feelings of gratitude.

However, what social media doesn’t tend to capture are those times in the last year when we were down and out for whatever reason, because in general we selectively chose what sort of virtual image we want portrayed of us, and leave out the bad bits. But if we go within and pull out some skeletons in the closet and recall some of the negative experiences of 2014, then it can potentially be another opportunity for gratitude. We can be thankful for the obstacles and difficult times overcome. Myself as an example, at this time last year I was out of a job and had been briskly kicked out of my apartment in a foreign country, and I can tell you that I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about the year ahead. But things lined up: I got a job, an apartment near the beach, and I’ve been happy where I am since. I’ll admit that while recalling that negative time in my life it wasn’t an instant feeling of thankfulness. Initially, I felt pretty down remembering just how miserable of a time that was, but I made a mindful, strong effort to pull myself away from the negative thoughts. I realized that because of that experience I had learned many lessons, and now a year later, I can be totally grateful for the difference a year makes and where I am today.

This same principle of turning negatives into positives can be translated to our yoga practice on the mat. It’s a wonderful thing that not too often do people remember their times practicing yoga and come up with negative experiences, or at least I hope that that is the case. But certainly there can be a tendency for our minds to wander into those dark little corners even during a yoga practice. It can be true for all of us at some point or another that we let our eyes wander to the outrageously flexible yogini, kitty corner to us in class, who is unexplainably contorting her body into a tightly bound balancing pose and then it happens, our egos creep in and we feel inferior, embarrassed, and bad at yoga. But harness that ego in! There is no such thing as “being bad” at yoga; it is a practice meaning that no you may not be at the same level as someone next to you, but you will progress with practice, just like any other skill. It doesn’t happen over night. The next time you notice your mind creeping towards self-doubt in a class, mindfully exhale those emotions away and feel grateful for the learning opportunity.