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The past 3 weeks have gone by with a blink and I have had so many new and unique experiences. Learning, living, and volunteering on a farm is both a physically and mentally demanding task. Hauling around large rocks to start the creation of a rock wall, mixing clay and adding layers to the straw bale house, and creating and flipping compost piles are things that I would have never imagined myself doing having grown up in a city where a farm was always a place somewhere else. I never truly appreciated the work that goes into farming and creating life sustaining food for communities. As a permaculture farm Keela Yoga Farm goes a step above by using permaculture growing methods that consider not only the current state of what is growing on the farm, but also the future state of what is growing. By volunteering here, I have learned to truly appreciate the hard work and energy that goes into the food that I eat.

Harvesting a daily salad for the group has become a peaceful meditative activity that I have come to look forward to and learn about what is growing in the gardens around the farm. It has become an opportunity for me to have some alone time away from everyone and spend time with the creatures and critters in the gardens and connect with the plants that give us nourishment.

As I have been living here for the past month and engaging with so many different people with vast experiences, backgrounds, and energies, I have learned just how much I need to have time to myself to rejuvenate my energy and feel whole. When it comes to my yoga teaching, I have really grown and improved greatly in such a short time. My confidence in teaching classes has improved and I have received very positive and encouraging feedback from my students, which makes me really want to continue this journey of learning and teaching yoga. I am realizing that choosing to teach yoga was a good decision and that I can impact people and share my love for yoga in the way that I envisioned. I have seen and felt a vast improvement between my first class that I taught and now. I also recognize areas that I need to work on to improve my teaching and provide my students with the best, safest, and most rewarding experience.

In addition to teaching yoga I have also had the opportunity to lead meditation sessions which were very well received. I was pleasantly surprised when I lead a meditation session and received great feedback. I wasn’t sure how it was going but everyone came out feeling relaxed and at ease. I was even told that my voice is very peaceful and calming and that I should do meditation podcasts. That might be something that I consider in the future. This has taught me that I need to be more trusting of myself and have more confidence because often I am my own worst critic.

Oh and did I mention that the food has been amazing?! It has been great to be able to enjoy so much healthy and tasty food prepared by our lovely chefs. I’ve really been exposed to so many new and creative ways to make the same foods new, different, and lively. I never knew there were so many unique ways to make zucchini and potatoes! One of my favorites was a delicious mixed zucchini and potato mash.

So overall, the past few weeks has been an experience of teaching yoga, working on different projects and tasks around the farm, spending time in the company of other volunteers and people that are here, teaching and doing yoga, spending some time on meditation, mindfulness, and self-reflection, and finally enjoying great food and people.

(Written on October 19th)

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.

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