Yoga Therapy for Body, Mind & Soul

Several months ago if someone had asked me if I wanted to do a yoga teacher training I would first laugh thinking it was a nonsense idea and secondly reply: “I do not see myself as a regular teacher, imagine a yoga teacher!” I would also never imagine that I could “interrupt” my professional life for one year to travel the world and learn more about myself… Thinking about all areas of a person’s life like family, love, health, profession/education, I always felt that there was one area in which I was completely in control. The most straightforward and stable in my life, that all I had to do was give my best effort and things would happen as I wished… That was my professional/academic side. I say it “was” because in 2012, the year of my 30th birthday, I decided to shake my life completely, to surrender control and to focus entirely on my dreams and passions. It was the year I decided to train as a yoga teacher in Nepal.

Initially I thought that yoga would help me get in shape, improve my health and give me a peaceful feeling inside. That was what I usually felt in my weekly yoga classes in Mexico. I ended up finding through yoga what I was looking for during my six-month trip in Asia: a holistic healing method that helps balance body, mind and soul.

Yoga Benefits to the BODY

Tree Pose Yoga Bali Beach Trip We Love

Yoga benefits to the body are probably the most obvious ones. What was surprising to me, though, was that literally everyone had some sort of ailment during the yoga training. Our teacher Gaby mentioned that it is quite common for that to happen. One of the books I read after the training called Integral Healing, by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, mentions exactly why this happens. When you are in an intense training, trying to grow mentally and spiritually, to increase your level of consciousness, it is common that the body does not follow the rhythm of the mind. So disease occurs.

To help prevent disease from occurring, shatkarma is an important part of yoga. You must first purify the whole body, and then you can practice self-discipline and self-control. You need to prepare yourself first so that you have the right quality of mind.  A sattvic diet is also important. I have always tried to have a somewhat healthy diet, but before starting my one-year holistic healing journey around the world my diet was very rajastic and even tamasic I would say. Before the yoga training I spent one month in Thailand doing an intense physical detoxification. It included a one-week fasting, abdominal massages and 14 colemas. I also stopped eating all kinds of animal meat, sugar and processed foods.  It was not an easy task; I was grumpy and hungry all the time in the beginning. On my fourth fasting day, however, I felt blissed. I think I never felt so good in my life. My mind was working very quickly, my body was light, my skin bright… It surprised me how cleaning the body also affects the mind. It also struck me that no medical doctors recommended me to stop ingesting acid-forming foods. They told me to avoid acidic fruits, for example, which are actually alkaline-forming food. Anyway, during that time I had great insights about why I had so many “belly” problems during my childhood and throughout life.

Constipation used to be a common ailment of mine. Through yoga I learned that asanas can also help you heal your body. I started practicing specific postures early in the morning and also Thai massage that help keep my colon healthy. In a more subtle level, asanas also help to move prana or energy throughout the body. When prana stagnates anywhere in the hody, it is the breeding ground for bacteria and other diseases to flourish. According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Hindu spiritual text Charak Samhita, there are five types of vayus or winds, which govern different functions. Prana emanates from the heart and controls breathing, especially the inhalation. Samana, centered in the diaphragm, drives digestion. Apana relates to elimination of bodily wastes. Udana moves upward from the throat and governs speech. Vyana is tied to the circulatory system and transports vitality and nourishment to all of the cells.

Besides choosing asanas that will help move energy where you need it the most, it is also beneficial to choose postures according to your dosha. According to Dr. David Frawley, Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, is one of the most remarkable holistic medical systems in the world. It includes methods of self-healing from diets, herbs, exercise, lifestyle routines and yogic practices. Ayurveda shows us how to attain optimal health not for superficial enjoyment but to provide a wholesome foundation and sufficient energy to embrace self-realization. Conserving energy in the physical body is a very important aspect of health, which has been ignored by most of the healing sciences.

During my 6 weeks yoga training we did a SWAN meditation to better observe our own strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and needs in all levels (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual). From this meditation I developed my sadhana or spiritual practice.  After our trip in Asia, we planned to travel to Africa by motorcycle, from Cape Town to Cairo. In order to be ready for it, I had to strengthen my back, keep my digestive system healthy and calm my mind. I started practicing my sadhana 2 months before the motorcycle trip and I was impressed to see the difference it made in my body! It is common for new motorcycle riders to have back pains, sore buttocks and stiff backs. Surprisingly, I was in perfect shape. The best thing is that I can take my daily practice anywhere I go. All I need is a space to roll out my mat.

Yoga Benefits to the MIND

Happy Yogi Nepal

In addition to physical benefits, the goal of yoga is to control the mind. I will never forget what I felt the first time I practiced mantra yoga during a kiirtan session. As you chant, you empty your mind, fill your heart with love and your cells with an uplifting vibration. New and old emotions are aroused and let go in a deep experience. It was amazing how all the mantras that we practiced during our training were absorbed by my mind and I catch myself chanting them inside very often, especially when riding on the motorcycle. I remember that shortly after leaving Nepal I was in a 5-star hotel in Bali by the beach and I felt hollow. It was as if that new space had no energy, nothing, as if it were empty. That was when I realized the powerful energy of the simple house we had been living for the last months. Creating my own altar, with all the elements that were meaningful to me, became fundamental.

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind”. To me, one of the best ways to achieve this is through pranayama exercises. By regulating the breath it is possible to regulate the prana in the body. I use ujjayi breathing during parts of my sadhana to improve concentration, calm my mind and surrender into the postures.

After an intense yoga training, being surrounded by people with a similar vibration, peace of mind and lightness, it was a little tricky to maintain the peace created in my practice, specially dealing with people who are not very spiritual. I was disappointed at myself in two situations in which people treated me poorly and with an aggressive energy and instead of keeping myself centered, I succumbed to their vibration. I wish I were able, in these moments, to practice pratyahara, to withdraw my senses, to just observe my emotions and let them go. In other occasions I have managed to place my hand in my belly, in front of manipura chakra, to help calm down my anger and do not let my ego jump out. One of the books I read after the training is called “Los Cuatro Acuerdos” by Don Miguel Ruiz. It has a beautiful message about how you should not judge others, make assumptions or suppositions and you should always give your best effort. When I let myself drown into their energies I was judging their behavior and making assumptions about their intention. Instead of doing that, I could have calmly tried to understand what caused their reaction, sent love and light to their anahata chakras and solve any misunderstandings in a collaborative manner.

These episodes made me think of the 5 kleshas, or primal causes of suffering, which are ignorance, ego, desire, repulsion and clinging to life. It also made me think about how I had to open myself more to others, to see us as one and to find more understanding through love. This was one of the reasons I decided to do a workshop called “Embodying this Love” by Michael King. The purpose of the course was to close the gap between who you were, which is closer to your essence, and who you have become. The gap closes naturally once we stop doing the things that once got us there. We need to loose resistance. Quiet the mind. Approach yourself as a curious observer while you meditate. That reminded me of Jnana yoga. Self-inquiry, questioning, puts you in “open mode”. When your mind is centered you are the boss. You need to ask yourself: Are these thoughts coming from my heart? When I think this thought how does my body feel? Emotions serve as an indicator of the values of the thoughts you are thinking. Fear holds on. Love lets go. You should see your emotions as energy in motion and just let it go. Closing the gap is a deep process of surrender.

You don’t get what you want. You get what you are being. According to Michael, when you want something you become empty so you will try to get more of that. You must feel as if you already have it. Through focus you can change your state of being without necessarily changing the outside world. The Gita also covers the concept of shraddha, which means faith or “that which is placed in the heart”. It is the set of values, principles that one holds deeply within. As we think, so we become. “We live in what we love”.

Yoga Benefits to the SOUL

South Africa Wild Coast Trip We Love

This brings us to the soul. Besides improving body and mind, yoga benefits our spiritual being. According to David Frawley, “yoga is first and foremost a science of self-realization. Its concern is spiritual practice, mainly through meditation, to take us beyond the sorrow and ignorance of the world. It teaches us to move from our outer bodily and ego-bound identity to our immortal Self that dwells within the heart. Yoga provides the key to all spiritual development, which in Vedic sense is gaining knowledge of our true nature beyond time, space, death and suffering.”

Yoga helps to bring us closer to our true purpose in life, our swadharma. When we are following our own path we become more connected to the universe and things flow, as we desire. Looking back, it is pretty amazing to me how my partner and I decided to give ourselves a break from the corporate world at the same time and how our journey is unfolding. Without consciously planning it, we started taking care of our bodies in Asia (through detox, fasting and diet), then of our minds (by studying topics that interest us and learning more about yoga) and now traveling across Africa we have the opportunity to answer our soul calling to do good to others. To contribute to a world where children DO have a future, in which preventable disease are PREVENTED and healthcare REACHES EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.

When we arrived in Cape Town, where we started our motorcycle trip to Cairo, a motorcyclist who we met through an online Forum picked us up at the airport. He hosted us at his farm, cooked for us, showed us around, and also helped us to get mentally ready for the journey. We have been meeting angels like him on our way and it reminds me of karma yoga. We put our intention out to serve and we are being served. Selfless giving is beautiful and fulfilling.

Karma, the law of moral causation, seems flawless, and the best way to burn samskaras is through our yamas and niyamas. According to Vedic philosophy, there are four main desires within every person: perform dharma (social, ethical), artha (acquirement of wealth), kama (gratification of sensual desire) and moksha (liberation). These are the four paths to a happy life. I feel that throughout my life I have dedicated substantial time to the first three but I still have a lot of work to be done to achieve liberation. Being in places and seeing people who have so little makes it easier for us to dethatch from material possessions. This was the first time in my life that I had the courage to cut my hair short, to share my life 24 hours a day with someone, to live for several months with one pair of shoes and a couple of clothes, to share bathrooms, to accept so many favors from strangers, to “publish” my personal life online and to be truly open and grateful for everything that comes my way.

The thread through Krishna’s teaching, the essence of the Bhagavad Gita, can be given in one word: renunciation. One can become free by giving up not material things but selfish attachments to material things and to people. One should work free from selfish motives. This purifies the mind, unifies consciousness and rids one of ego. This path of selfless action will eventually lead into self-realization. “Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind…those who take wisdom as their highest goal, whose faith is deep and whose senses are trained, attain wisdom quickly and enter into perfect peace.” The goal of all work is spiritual wisdom.

 

Inner awakening can only occur when there is complete stillness and steadiness in body, mind and soul. Yoga creates balance in the physical body, mind and energy, enabling sushumna nadi, our central force responsible for the evolution of human consciousness, to awaken. Hatha Yoga helps one see that Body, Mind and Soul are not three but one.

Our one-year journey is shortly coming to an end. I am not sure what the future reserves to us. I do believe, however, in what the book Course in Miracles teaches; that “life is self organizing and self correcting”. Life knows all the details of what we want so we just need to think about general emotions, desires, and if they are aligned with our swadharmas, the universe will find a way of bringing it to us. Regardless of all the changes that may come my way in the upcoming months, I will keep yoga as part of my lifestyle and I hope to be able to share with others all the love, peace and kindness that I cultivate. Om tat sat.

Yoga Training in Nepal

We arrived in Kathmandu on September 21st, about 1 week before our training. At the airport the immigration process was very manual but it went by rapidly. We could get the visa on arrival for up to 3 months.  Outside of the airport we got a phone chip and had to get our fingerprints for that (not with a biometric reader but by sticking our fingers in ink). We had a recommended driver to pick us up. The car was so tiny, almost like Mr. Bean’s car, and had only 4 gears. All other cars looked old and most of the streets were under construction due to a road expansion project. It felt like we had travelled back in time!

A simple country with simple people and SO MUCH to teach us! We stayed at Budhanilkantha, north of Kathmandu, at a peaceful Cottage on top of the mountains with a beautiful view.

 

Shivapuri Mountains_Budanikantha_Nepal

In the village of Budhanilkantha lies a 5 meter tall sleeping Vishnu (a popular Hindu God) in the middle of a small pond. The sculpture from the 5th century represents Vishnu sleeping in the cosmic ocean while resting on Ananta Sesa the thousand headed snake.

Vishnu Temple_Kathmandu_Nepal

Salva was blessed by the sadhu (holy man) dressed in white on the right
Yogi_Sadhu_Vishnu Temple Nepal 

On September 29th we headed to the house where we would spend our next 6 weeks in our 320h Yoga Teacher Training & 50h Thai Massage Certification.

Yoga is a Sanskrit word derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” which means to connect or join.  That is why Yoga is commonly understood as body, mind & soul union, or matter with higher consciousness or self with Divine. The most important thing is that Yoga is a powerful means to an end. In Yogic tradition, the ultimate goal of all human pursuits is moksha, or liberation. Liberation from insecurities, desires, and limitations; freedom from all that separates us from the Divine. The end of all human pursuits is everlasting peace, happiness and a sense of fulfillment. Yoga helps to cleanse and purify the mind, which in turn prepares us to know our true Self.

In our journey to learn about different holistic healing therapies in Asia and to realize our svadharmas (true purpose in life), a training in Yoga felt like the right path. Before the training we were required to read 3 classical Yoga books: The Bhagavad Gita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We highly recommend these readings. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what is yoga and several people are starting to believe that physical excercises is all to this practice.

During our training we learned about the history of yoga, the different branches, the eight limbs of yoga (yama, niyama, asana,pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi), anatomy, subtle-anatomy, prana, koshas, vayus, chakras, mantras, mudras, bandhas… basically we were introduced to a whole new language, world and lifestyle of Yoga.

We were 9 students from all over the world training and living together in a house – ashram style. We woke up around 5am, daily activities started at 6am and ended at 8:30pm. Sunday was free.

This was our first day at the house after the Initiation Ceremony

Nepal_Yoga Teacher Training_Initiation Ceremony_Trip We Love

Our Yogi-Nomad teachers kept us on a tight schedule but also gave us their hearts during our training. We feel grateful to have been part of such a beautiful group.

Our teacher Yogatara (founder of Isha Center) teaching Yoga Nidra, a technique which we loved!


Nepal_Yoga Nidra_Trip We Love

Tarci & Salva Teaching Yoga Classes

Nepal_Tarci Teaching Baddha Konasana_Trip we Love


Nepal_Salva Teaching Navasana_Trip we Love

Besides the Yoga training, as part of our course we also learned Thai Massage. The theoretical foundation of this spiritual practice is based on the concept of invisible energy lines running through the body. Working on these energy lines can break blockages, stimulate the flow of energy and help to restore well-being. An Indian physician called Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, who used to be a friend of the Buddha, is the founder of this healing technique. The giving of Thai massage is a physical application of loving kindness.

Tarci & Salva giving and receiving Thai Massage from each other

Nepal_Salva Blind Thai Massage_Trip We Love


Nepal_Tarci Thai Massage_Trip We Love

At the end of 4 weeks our teachers organized a 3-day “field trip” to visit some of the most sacred places around Kathmandu.

View of Himalayas after sunrise

Nepal_Nagarkot_Himalayas View_Trip We Love
 

The picture above was taken at Nagarkot, which is a village part of Bhaktapur district. It is about 2,200m above sea level and is renowned for its sunrise view of the Himalaya (including Mount Everest), as well as other snow-caped peaks. It was worth waking up early in the cold to see this sunrise!

On our way to the temples and villages that we visited we were lucky to meet very interesting holy men, like the one in the picture below.

Nepal_Baba_Trip we Love

This is a beautiful family we met at a local village

Nepal_Beautiful Family at Village_Trip we Love

We visited a charming medieval town called Bhaktapur, which means “City of Devotees”, and is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and artwork. 

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Nepal_Bhaktapur Durbar Square_Trip We Love

On October 31st, Tarci’s Dad birthday, we visited one of our favorite places due to its powerful energy, the Boudhanath stupa. It is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is said that anything you wish for comes true as long as it is aligned with your svadharma (purpose in life). We prayed and lit candles for the birthday Dad, our families and friends.

 Boudhanath Stupa

Nepal_Boudhanath Stupa_Trip We Love

In the last 2 weeks of training we had to give a one-hour and a one-hour and a half yoga class. We also had to give a Thai massage blind-folded. These were all experiences we will never forget. It was beautiful to see the growth of our classmates, our own development and to share an important part of our lives with such special souls.

Our wonderful group!

Nepal_Yoga Training Class Nov 2012_Trip We Love

After the training it was harder to unwind than we imagined. We kept waking up early, chanting mantras and practicing every day. It did not take long for us to realize that we had not only gotten a diploma but a complete change in lifestyle.

During our last 3 days in Nepal we stayed at Isha Center and met Darshana, a sannyasa who is continuing her yoga studies at the Bihar School in India. On November 11th she took us back to the Pashupatinath Temple, which is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We had been there before in our tour with the group but this time she showed us the more local side of the temple. We stood in front of the entrance to the main temple (which is forbidden to enter for Non-Hindus) while we made our offering and received and amazing energy! We also walked by the cremations on the riverbank, had prasad (holy food offering) with a Baba in his cave and found a hidden Ganesh temple where his mouse showed up to greet us! A lot of auspicious encounters. We had wished to celebrate our anniversary in a more spiritual way, but we had nothing planned. That was the best gift the universe could have given us!

Tiger Baba preparing prasad in his cave

Nepal_Tiger Baba in Cave_Trip We Love

 Tarci with Darshana at the hidden Ganesh cave in Pashupatinath Temple

Nepal_Pashupatinath Temple_Hidden Ganesh cave_Trip We Love

After Nepal, instead of continuing to explore different places and cultures, we decided to stop for some time to process what we have learned, brainstorm new ventures and prepare for Africa.

Rishikesh ‘Yoga Capital of the World’

“Ever since the Beatles rocked up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ’60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers.”

The Beatles traveled to Rishikesh in 1968 to study Transcendental Meditation and composed nearly
48 songs, many of which appear in the White Album. This inspiring place, set in the foothills of the Himalayas, and on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, was where we started learning about the spiritual and philosophical aspects of Yoga. We highly recommend the book Bhagavad Gita as well as others in our library.

Meditating by the Ganges River

Meditation_ganges_river_rishikesh_trip_we_love

Peaceful view of Rishikesh and the Ganga early in the morning
Rishikesh_ganges_view_india_trip_We_love
We thought this would be a very quiet city but it is actually not that easy to find peaceful places among the cars, motorcycles, monkeys, cows, people and other noises that you would only know if you have been to India. It can also be a little “dangerous”! Salva was attacked by monkeys who stole his mango and bananas while he was crossing the bridge. He tried to hide it from them but the monkeys were pretty determined. They would not let us by until we gave them everything! Check out the short video below.

Tarci_rishikesh_bridge_india_trip_We_love
To get the full experience we could not miss a visit to a local recommended astrologer, where we did our Vedic horoscope, birth charts, palm reading and a spiritual ritual to bring us protection, love and health.
Salva making an offering to the Gods with the astrologer B.P. Uniyal and God Ganesh on the back
Meeting_with_astrologer_rishikesh_india_trip_we_love

What is your favorite spiritual, yoga or meditation book? Let us know in the comment section below. Thank you!

The fasting and colemas begin – Day 1

This morning we found out we could start the Detox program and that our pre-cleansing steps haved worked. We woke up around 6 am to do the pH Test of our saliva. The pH test is performed to find if it is safe to start the program. Too much acidity means we could have problems with lactic acid later on. We moistened with saliva the yellow pH paper and it turned green/blue which meant our acid levels were fine.

At 7 am we started our cleansing fast with a detox drink. This drink is composed of “Bentonite” clay liquid detoxifier mixed with “Psyllium” husk bulk intestinal cleanser in a glass of pineapple juice or watermelon juice. We took 5 detox drinks every 3 hours.

Picture: At 7am sharp Tarci waiting for her Detox drink

Detox_Drink_Waiting

At 7:30 we had our meditation session with Yongdu, who teaches loving-kindness meditation. During the last 10 minutes of each session we send healing energy, love and happiness to our body, family, friends and to the world.

At 8:30 we started taking the herbal supplements: 3 intestinal cleanser capsules plus 3 Herbal Nutrient capsules.  We took a total of 30 capsules throughout the day.

At 8:45 we had a class of Yin Yoga. Much of the yoga now practiced in the West is Yang practice, which is an active practice that primarily focuses on movement and muscular contraction. Yin Yoga focuses on body awareness and deep stretches of joint, ligaments and fasciae.  With Yin Yoga you hold poses for at least several minutes and stretch the connective tissue around a joint. In order to do so, the overlying muscles must be relaxed.  We did a whole hour of stretching the hips.

Early in the afternoon we went to the steam room and had our first ampuku massage. Ampuku therapy, or abdominal massage, is an offshoot of Shiatsu which deals with the stimulation of the “Hara”, the area of the abdomen.  All vital energies flow into the hara. The major blood vessels including the Aorta and Vena Cava pass through it, and, obviously, the hara is the seat of the digestive, reproductive and sexual organs. At an emotional level, the hara is the place where much of our deepest emotional armouring is found.

The colema is probably the scariest part of the program.  It consists of putting a bucket filled with freshly ground coffee (2 cups) and apple cider (2 table spoons) and about 16 liters of pure water on a hook high above in the wall. Then you have to  lie down on a “colema board” which is attached to the toilet and make yourself comfortable. Finally you insert a small tube in your anus and let the solution fill your colon. Then you release the water inside and you re-fill the colon. You continue this process until the mixture finishes.

It was a bit of a dramatic experience for both of us to have so much liquid mixture in our colon and more shocking to see how much “stuff” we had in our body. We were thankful that our landlord Steven had given us plenty of tips. He took a whole afternoon explaining what to expect and how to make it a more enjoyable experience.

Now at the end of the day we are dead tired! It has been a long day without food and a lot of emotions. We are going to have a broth that tastes like a tea and is made by boiling 21 different vegetables. This should help replenish the minerals and vitamins that we are consuming throughout the day.

We don’t think the next seven days will be easy, but we have decided to start our trip taking care of our bodies. This fasting cleansing that we are doing has been highly recommended as the first step to healthy living.   By experiencing this detox program we expect to learn and build our knowledge on holistic healing.

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