Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Just a few days ago I arrived in Portugal to begin 6 weeks of teaching yoga at Keela Yoga Farm. It was quite an adventure to get here and I after a few days I have gotten into a routine and learned more about the farm and what I will be doing over the next few weeks. I arrived on Wednesday September 19th and as I mentioned the journey was quite interesting. After flying across the atlantic ocean from NY and landing in Lisbon, I had to take 2 trains, a taxi and ride in the back of a pickup truck to reach my final destination.

On the airplane to Portugal

Waiting for the train to Fundao.

P.S. I really loved having this awesome travel backpack by Osprey. Being able to move around quickly and hands free and not lug a suitcase around is so nice. If you are planning your next adventure it is a must have. Get it here!!

When we all finally arrived together to the farm we had a lovely lunch and a lovely tea that was absolutely delicious after such a long journey traveling. The next day at 7am I taught my first 1 hr long yoga class to the other volunteers that are helping out and staying on the farm. I was a bit nervous but everyone loved it and felt very relaxed and calm after the session and gave me great compliments which have motivated me further and I feel humbled to have such an amazing opportunity to teach yoga in such a beautiful setting surrounded by beauty and nature. In the evening I led a session of mantra chanting, pranayama, and yoga nidra meditation. This was also a new experience for me. As the next 6 weeks on the farm progress I look forward to seeing how my teaching abilities also progress.

In addition to teaching yoga and meditation on the farm to the volunteers, I also have been helping with some of the farm work and in just a few days learning about the land. During the month of October which is coming up soon, Keela Yoga farm will be having a food forest course where volunteers will learn how to implement a sustainably self sufficient food forest on a piece of land. So far in just a few days I have learned how to identify various trees and plants for edible food. I have learned how to harvest seeds out of sunflowers and also how to harvest leafy greens out of the garden for salads.

Sign leading to the yoga deck where I teach morning yoga class.

Yoga deck from side view

Yoga deck with lovely scenic view where I get to teach yoga classes.

Handmade yoga wooden yoga blocks and mats for yoga class

My living quarters are in a teepee with two other lovely ladies. I really love the sense of community that we have all developed in just the past few days. We are taking turns cooking meals until the chef arrives in a week or so and I have had the great pleasure of having such a wide range of meals prepared with love from different cultures and backgrounds. The volunteers are from all over the world and working with such a varied group of people will be a great character building experience I believe.

I will be living in this lovely teepee for the next 6 weeks.

This is what the teepee looks like on the inside

First meal that I cooked for the group- butternut squash, bean, and kale stew.

So to summarize my first week, I traveled almost 3500 miles across the Atlantic ocean, and I am now teaching yoga and volunteering on a permaculture farm in Portugal. I am excited for what the remaining weeks here have in store for me as I develop my yoga teaching, learn more about the farm, and further get to know the lovely group of people that I am working and living with.

Now as they say in Portuguese..... Ate a proxima vez!! (until next time!)

Athayoganushasanam is a sanskrit word which means yoga begins with discipline. It is the first sutra from Pantajalis yoga sutras and is a perfect theme to wrap up this series of posts and discuss my 4th and final week of yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. This final week of YTT definitely involved a lot of self discipline. By now the rigorous daily schedule had become second nature. Only a week of this continued schedule and the passing of the written and practical exam stood in the way of passing the course and becoming a certified yoga teacher. However one important lesson that was emphasized in our philosophy class was the idea of not becoming attached to the result. Yes we were all there to obtain our certification but we need not think, worry, or overemphasize that. Just be in the moment of each class and lesson and put 100% into the action of the present moment.

In one of our final meditation classes we were introduced to the So Hum mantra. It translates to "I am that" and it works by silently focusing on the breath. With each inhalation you silently say So and which exhalation you silently say Hum. I really enjoy this form of meditation because it allows me to focus internally and gives my wandering mind something to do as I develop my focus. I know that it will be an important part of my meditation practice.

At the start of the teacher training we were asked to write down our intention and what we hoped to gain from the course. I wrote that I wanted to gain the confidence and knowledge to teach a full yoga class. What I liked about the course is that we began to develop these skills very early on. In just a months time I went from barely being able to stumble through a mantra when randomly called on to lead the class through the beginning of class mantras and OMs, to finally teaching a full 1 hour long vinyasa flow class with mantra, pranayama, and meditative relaxation.

Now this isn't to say that teaching the class was easy. It was definitely challenging. I spent hours preparing and rehearsing my sequence using all of the tools and techniques I had learned during the month long training. However I was a lot more skilled and confident in the teaching then I would have ever been without the course. Now as I move forward as both a yoga teacher and a yoga student I must remember to stay focused and disciplined in my own personal development. Overall what I have come to realize is that the ending of the course is really a beginning. A 200 hour yoga teaching course only gives a surface level overview or foundation into yoga. It is important to continue to process of learning, practicing, and studying.

The final 2 weeks of my Yoga Teacher Training were very busy and intense so as I am writing this I have actually already graduated from the course and now have my certification! Week 4 post is coming soon!

Week 3

The title of this post "Practice and all is coming" is a quote by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. During this time we began to learn about several yoga philosophies such as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga. A common theme was that one should not overly focus on the results of their actions and practices but instead focus on the process. The results will take care of themselves.

Here I am practicing tree pose ( Vrksasana)

During week 3 I have now become very accustomed to the routine of twice daily asana practice. We have also begun to delve deeper into yogic practices. Additionally we also began to practice asana in other classes such as during anatomy and during the newly scheduled adjustment and alignment class which has replaced our mantra class. With this additional asana practice it wasn't uncommon to be practicing yoga positions for 4-5 hours a day. At this point I also began to get a taste for teaching and structuring yoga lessons. One of the first teaching assignments that we were given included working with a partner to create a 20 minute sequence with a peak pose. Several times we would also be called on randomly to teach a sun salutation sequence, or to sit on the platform in the front of the class and lead the class through the opening mantra. This experience definitely put me outside of my comfort zone but as I did it more often it began to get easier and helped me to fulfill one of the intentions that I set during the beginning of the course which was to gain confidence in teaching.

Now in addition to all of the asana practice and teaching experience that we were gaining, we were now introduced to some shatkarma/ shatkriya practices. These are 6 bodily cleansing processes. They include:

1) Jala Neti- nasal wash with saline solution. This one I was actually familiar with because I often use a nasal rinse to clear my sinuses when I have allergy issues. Though something that I did learn is that it is actually not good to do a nasal rinse when you are sick because it removes protective mucous and exposes you further to pollen and germs. We performed this cleansing during both the 3rd and 4th weeks. Another form of net cleansing is surya neti where a long peace of cloth is used to cleanse the nasal passage. We practiced with a rubber string which is easier for beginners. The objective was to place the string into the nose and all the way through the nasal cavity and out of the mouth, then use a back and forth motion on both ends of the string to cleanse the naval cavities. Due to my squeamishness and not being able to get past the slight pain of sticking a foreign object up my nose I was not successful in this practice.

Here is the neti pot used for the jala neti and the rubber string used for the surya neti.

2) Dhauti- abdominal cleansing with saline solution. Essentially you drink a liter of salt water and then press on your stomach muscle on the left side of your body as you release the contents of the water back up out of your mouth. A finger down the throat can be used to get the flow moving for beginners. Yes it is essentially self induced vomiting and yes I did it. Its also important to add that this is best practiced on an empty stomach so you are only releasing the salt water that you took in and not actual food particles.

3) Nauli- this is an abdominal massage cleansing where you move and contort your abdominal muscles side to side and up and down in a wavy fluid motion. It helps to create heat in your abdominal area and release toxins. We did not practice this one.

4) Basti- this is enema body cleansing and can be performed with water (Jala Basti) or dry (Sthal Basti). We did not practice this technique but something that I found fascinating is that it is performed by physically using your anal sphincter muscles to suck water into your bowels and then release it out of your anus. That's right if you have enough control of your body it is possible to suck water into your bum hole without using an enema bowl or bag just your own body.

5) Kapalbhati- this is a pranayama cleansing exercise where you forcibly and repeatedly exhale through your nose. The inhalation happens automatically and is passive. We practiced this several times throughout the course.

6) Trataka- finally this cleansing technique used concentrated gazing to produce tears. It is often performed by gazing at a candle with open eyes not blinking and focus until the eyes begin to water. The flame of the candle should be at eye level and horizontal. After some time the eyes are closed while now focusing on the image of the flame in your mind.

Celebrating International Yoga Day

Since the course took place in the month of June, I was able to celebrate International Yoga Day in India with my classmates and hundreds of other yogis and yoginis! International Yoga day takes place on June 21st each year and corresponds with the summer solstice or first day of summer. To celebrate we attended a large yoga gathering in Ram Jhula where we did yoga with about 200 other practitioners.

Here I am super excited that I am about to be celebrating International Yoga Day in Rishikesh India, the birth place of yoga.

We then took part in a Ganga Aarti ceremony and watched some very beautiful and talented yoga performances.

Here I am holding a flower during the Ganga Aarti celebration.

Here is a picture of one of the amazing yoga performances that was put on for the crowd.

Here is a short video of another amazing performance of pole yoga.

It was quite an enjoyable day and we afterwards celebrated further with a dinner at a local restaurant.