Monday, March 30, 2015

Hips, Honorifics, and Consciousness

This photo shows one of my favorite moments in teacher training. I have a weird lack of space in the front of my right hip. Forever, I thought my hips were just tight. They sort of are but they sort of aren't. Yoga isn't a magic bullet to cure all, but it does provide great information to get more specific. My practice has shown me that my left hip is actually pretty healthy. On the right side, the piriformis muscle spazzes when I'm stressed and there's some type of tight block in the front of the hip. Because of this, I can't get sufficient depth in forward folding, which shows up again in preparing to jump back to caturanga (or not as the case might be) and again when drawing the knees into the chest for sirsasana.

Often, I feel self-conscious about these type of limitations. I'm a teacher! I should be able to do all the yoga! But that's nonsense. I don't know that anyone can do "all the yoga." Even if someone can do a lot of asana, the physical poses, more likely than not they're challenged elsewhere, say, by meditation or using the yamas in their interactions with others. If any of us are not challenged by an aspect of yoga, than it's likely that we're not growing.

While in training, I decided to not identify with the story of my limitations. Limitations are teachers. I decided to offer them up, expose them, and detach from feeling like they're a judgment on "me." I had come so far to study. Why protect my petty fears?

So I raised my hand and asked Teacher David to help me with this blockage. And he did! I have a prescription of laying on a chair for 20 minutes a day to soften up the front of my hips. Then, 100 breaths in pascimottanasana. Who knows when or if this weirdness will ever open up. The bottom line is for me to be persistent and consistent in working it. That's my job and that is an illuminating process.

You may have noticed that I'm trying to refer to David Life as "Teacher David." I'm seriously not trying to be a tool. Here's another thing I learned from him and the rest of the faculty: use honorifics with your teachers. Not for them. For you. All of these practices help us become receptive. I could be very casual about my teachers and with them but I may listen less closely when they teach me. A funny thing happens when you address someone formally. You sit up straighter. You listen when you speak. The practice of addressing him with an honorific that he likes is that I feel like his student and I feel like I'm showing him respect.

I know that in the West some of us cringe over this type of behavior. It can feel like ceding uncomfortably to authority or shedding some level of ownership over ourselves. My take is that it's pretty nuanced. I'm still overall anti-authoritarian. I still feel strongly that I need to be responsible for myself and take charge of my own life. But these aspects of myself can co-exist with deep respect for a teacher and a receptivity to their teaching. I don't have to sign away the deed to my house and all my earthly possessions. But I can listen. I can be respectful. And I'm better for the act.

Another piece of Teacher David's teaching: bring consciousness where there is unconsciousness. This teaching came one morning at breakfast. He asked those of us at the table if we knew why we were completing an assignment called "morning pages." Morning pages are the practice of writing what you're thinking as soon as you wake. When we were given the assignment we were told that it's good to wake thinking of the Divine, but that was all. We chanted all the time and often before sleep. I often woke with the chants on my mind, which felt pretty close to thinking of the Divine!

We all admitted that we really didn't know why past what we'd heard. Often in yoga the "why" is revealed in the practice. It's a gentle and subtle art of faith in process. Teacher David said that we are learning to bring consciousness when we are unconscious. The more intentional consciousness we bring the more we're able to be directive. He gave the example of Mahatma Ghandhi. Ghandhi chanted the mantra given to him by his Guru constantly so that he would turn to it in moments of crisis. When Ghandhi was assassinated, he chanted his mantra. This is said to be a very powerful act, as it helps the potent transition of moving from this incarnated form, prakriti, back to purusha. In moments of transition we offer intention.

Teacher David said that we could begin to practice this type of consciousness by trying to still our mind on the Divine, and cultivate that eka graha, one pointed focus, as we fell asleep. Ultimately, we try to develop consciousness in our dream state to again focus the mind. In this way, we are always connected to the Divine. 

This might all sound really esoteric and woo. As with all potent teachings, it's also really practical. We often are incredibly unconscious with our bodies. We plop ourselves into a seat. We throw our limbs around and knock into things or trip. Yoga helps us develop consciousness in the body and move with intention. What if we always moved through space with great awareness? If that type of awareness was not effort but simply permeated our existence? Then the mental consciousness might feel like an integrated extension. 

What if I move with consciousness into that funny tension into my hip? And if it softly opens? And I still my mind? Well, I think only good could come.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Change Your Story

Yesterday I wrote about the Facilitators and mentors during my Jivamukti Teacher Training in India. I did not write about the co-founders, Sharon Gannon, who is increasingly being known as Padma-ji, and David Life.

There is so much to say about what they have and continue to teach me. There were a few lessons that landed with greater clarity during this last learning experience.

Padma-ji spoke often of changing our stories. Each of us has a story we know as ourselves. It's comprised of what we've done and what we feel has happened to us. We feel the story and it's repercussions in our bodies, relationships, and perceptions of the world around us. It's the imprint. I actually noticed this clearly last weekend when I was at a birthday party yoga class. The room was lit dimly. The door opened and I saw what I expected to see: a stranger popping in from the street. The reality was it was my friend, who was expected at the party. Because I was looking from my expectation and past experience I was unable to perceive reality and see this person I know. In the same way, most of our experiences are colored by our expectations and past experiences. We don't see reality.

Padma-ji urged us to see reality. She said again and again: you are not a victim. Do not be a victim. Be holy. Be Divine. Perceive reality.

There is a lot to say about this idea. As I write, I'm questioning my own capacity to explore responsibly. Well, as I said yesterday, when we learn we are responsible to share. I should try to share what I'm beginning to internalize.

Most of us feel defined by certain experiences or relationships in our lives. However, there is a truth that runs more deeply than these experiences and that truth is our essential nature. I heard a story that starts to chip away at this idea. A man decides that he wants to know his true nature. Krishna is revealed to him and the man devotes himself to Krishna, living in that consciousness. Krishna says to the man, "Get me a cup of water." The man goes to get the water. While fetching the water he sees a beautiful woman. The two fall in love, marry, and have children. Thirty years later the man is on his deathbed surrounded by his wife and children. He sees Krishna again. Krishna asks, "Where is my water?"

Krishna is the essential truth. The life we lead, or the life that the man in the story lead with his wife and children, is not insignificant, but it's not all. It's not the complete picture. We are meant to engage on this plane, have relationships, and be active. We're simply not meant to identify solely in those roles. If we do, when the roles are lost through death or retirement or any other way, we suffer. It's like we're wearing a costume at Halloween. That's a wonderful thing to do! But if we only know ourselves in the costume then we feel lost when the costume is inevitably shed. We can play in the costume, enjoy it, engage completely, but also unzip and release from the costume with ease. We have that potential.

There is an essential truth that we glimpse at from time to time, often in heightened states when we're aware of the precariousness of our current physical form. We have the ability to not identify solely with the stories of this body but to identify with what's more subtle and essential. We don't have to perceive ourselves as victims. We can perceive ourselves as incarnations of the Divine. Our experiences can be lessons. They can be the impetus we need to evolve. They don't have to stay our scars and limitations.

This is tricky subject matter. It deserves a lot of time and consideration. There's a fine balance between understanding this idea as empowerment or as victim blaming. Obviously, I found the teaching empowering, I believe that to be the purpose of this information. It's a reminder that our experience in this incarnation to can help us work through certain karmas and patterns to continue evolving and no longer feel stuck.

Next, Teacher David and consciousness.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Smash the coconuts

My Jivamukti Teacher Certificate is sitting on the passenger seat of my car, as one of my errands today is scanning it in at Staples (I don't have a scanner) so I can easily email a PDF when necessary. Looking at it is bringing back specific memories of what I gained during my training. Mainly, the powerful impact of my teachers.

I wrote on Facebook this morning a reflection from graduation night: "In her moving remarks during our Jivamukti India TT graduation, Lady Ruth said, 'You all are good. You are not wasting your lives. You are engaged.' It was a powerful affirmation, especially from her. It was also, and continues to be, a charge. Be good. Don't waste this life. Engage."

Lady Ruth herself is such a powerful example of engaged living. She is immersed in her studies and exudes what she teaches. She constantly reminded us to practice asana, the physical portion of yoga, with care. She would say, "put your foot down nicely," which created a lightness in our movement. That lightness powerfully woke up subtle energetic engagement, like bandha. It was a cue that reminded us to prioritize our breath and how that can govern and soften our movement. I'll happily stomp around like an elephant but if I do, I might not be engaging my practice with sufficient care. She taught me the care.

She extended this teaching off the mat. We had racks to place our shoes before entering the yoga shala. Inevitably, flip flops were strewn all over. The monks would often urge us to use.the.racks. Lady Ruth told a story of her Sanskrit teacher visiting New York. She went to find him during a break from a workshop he was delivering. He was carefully, nicely, placing all the strewn about shoes in orderly pairs. As she shared the story we all sort of glanced down. Place our bodies nicely. Place our shoes nicely. Act with awareness.

This morning I thought too of Yogeswari. Yogeswari is an incredible teacher who often facilitates Jivamukti Teacher Trainings as Jules Febre and Lady Ruth did in this instance. Yogeswari came on as a mentor along with Keith Kempis, Emma Henry, and Tomo Okabe. Yogeswari is a formidable teacher but there's no ego with her. She teaches in any and every capacity. I love that she came to teach us as a mentor. 

I was so excited to learn from her. Even though she wasn't my mentor, I would sometimes sit in on her classes to learn. One of the main things I took from her was her example as well. She worked so.hard. Her mentor group met a lot and we had very little time during training. That asked a lot of her students but it asked even more of her, as she's the one teaching and facilitating. I constantly saw her with a stack of student manuals. Sometimes I would see her students going over the notes Yogeswari had left them in the manuals-- she gave detailed feedback. Yogeswari stayed in a cottage near mine. I saw her light on often as she reviewed, prepared, and gave of herself.

And I saw the result of her big offering: her students were incredibly disciplined as well. Yogeswari was rigorous in her offering and asked a lot of her students but they gave what they had willingly. She asked only what she herself delivered. It taught me that as a teacher I should be disciplined and rigorous in my own practice and studies. If I am, I can fairly ask the same of my students. If I do, myself and my students are better for it.

I could say so much about each teacher in our program. Jules Febre moved me consistently. He's younger than I am but a wise, old soul. It seems like no easy thing to be the nephew of Sharon Gannon and David Life, and yet it's also extremely good karma to have been born into a family of yogis. Despite the attention and I'm sure the pressure, he moves with joy. He studies, knows his craft, and shares generously. I'm really grateful for him.

Tomo Okabe was one of our mentors from Japan and Korea. Tomo also gave ceaselessly of himself. There were a few students from Japan or elsewhere in Asia who struggled a bit with English. Sometimes I would go to the yoga shala to practice or study outside of class. Pretty much every time I found Tomo tutoring a student in their native language. Tomo is pretty much brilliant and inevitably spoke whatever the student did. One of Tomo's student sustained an injury where he couldn't write during the final exam. Tomo was his pen.

I also saw Tomo exemplify how to be a student. Lady Ruth was Tomo's mentor when he prepared to take his board exam to attain the level of Advanced Certified Jivamukti Teacher. Tomo was always there to adjust her headset with such care and kindess. Tomo was always there to help with technical issues, like turning on mics or setting up lecture slides. He was simply diligent and attentive. He sat up straight. He paid attention. He taught us to do the same.

Keith Kempis was our mentor from Sidney, Australia. Due to Keith's teaching in Thailand, there were four students from Thailand who will know expand the satsang there. Keith was always available to joke with us, keep our moods light, and encourage. He sang beautifully, assisted us with grace, and let us fall into the flow of the community. Keith made us all feel like we belonged before we realized that of course we did.

And our lovely, Emma Henry. Emma is an Advanced Certified Jivamukti teacher from London, England. Emma gave me incredibly good, specific, helpful feedback. She said, "I'm going to be direct with you to help you grow," and it did. I'm so happy that, as David instructed, she taught to our highest self. She didn't water down her feedback to cater to ego. She understood the highest in us and spoke to that. Teach as your best self. Use specific and considered language. Find the breath, keep it rhythmic, and hold the space. Emma knew we could teach and taught us to do just that.

One day Lady Ruth told us the story of a student meeting their guru. A student should bring two coconuts to the guru. The guru smashes the coconuts together in a symbol of smashing open the student's mind to truly perceive enlightenment. I drank a coconut a day. I lay them at the lotus feet of my teachers.

Friday, March 20, 2015


My house is now messier & in equal proportion, more fun. Once more, we have cats!

In the last year or so, Kevin and I began trying to emotionally prepare ourselves for when Laz left. He was almost 20 (or maybe 20, we're not quite sure on his date of birth) so we knew that every day we got with him was a gift. We were devastated to lose him. The plan was to immediately adopt brother kittens. We knew they would never replace Laz, but kittens are distracting, we have space, and there are tons of animals in shelters. We felt like it was the right thing.

However, Laz left us right before Thanksgiving. We had a good deal of planned travel coming up: holiday visits to family, the yoga retreat in St Lucia, and my study in India. We decided the most responsible thing was to wait to adopt cats when I got home from India so that the house was more stable and we were around to get to know the new critters.

We checked in with friends who foster and do animal rescue. Apparently, late spring is kitten season. During the winter, there aren't usually many kittens to adopt. After a week of looking through emailed photos (which felt weird-- how do you chose?) we started visiting shelters. Depressing. So depressing. So much love to those who do the work. I really can't imagine.

We got a call one night from a shelter coordinator. She knew we were looking for bonded cats, or cats who felt close to one another and wanted to stay together. We figured these cats often get separated. If we can keep them together, as there are currently no animals in our house, bonus. Also, these animals tend to do well. And, we travel some. We figured having each other might make our departures easier on the animals.

I was scheduled to meet with a couple whose wedding I'll officiate this spring at the time we were asked to go to the shelter. Kevin went in my stead. As I left my meeting I called Kevin. He said, "I have two cats playing on my lap. They love a third. Can I keep them?"

I raced to the shelter. When I got there, all three cats had sort of shut down due to the stress of being in the shelter environment. I didn't know what to say. Are these my cats? Or not? Kevin felt connected so I agreed.

Their foster Mom cried. She really loved them but couldn't keep them. She'd found them abandoned in the apartment of evicted tenants. We promised we'd take good care of them.

When we brought them home I started to cry. I didn't want to impose that on these guys, but the whole process brought on a new wave of grief over Laz's loss. I knew these cats would simply be a different experience. I still missed Laz. I felt his absence a bit more acutely.

Maurice, the white and black fluffy boy, immediately decided our house was his house. He is about a year and a half and was originally thought to be the mother of the younger black cats. It was discovered that he's a boy and only about 6 months older than the other two. He could be their father, but we don't know. Regardless, he cares for the little guys and plays with them.

And when I come home, this is what I see:

He's a character.

George and Estelle are the younger brother and sister. George is a love bug in the early mornings and loves to play with Maurice. Estelle is coming out of her shell a bit, but definitely the most reserved and skiddish of the three. They figured out our bedroom closet is where it's at: high ground for good visibility, slightly hidden, and a warm bed of all my sweaters and scarves.

These guys went from being abandoned in an apartment, to fostered in a sunroom, and now have run of our whole house. They are taking full advantage!

Everyday, we all get more accustomed to one another. Multiple cats is super fun. They're ridiculous and play with each other. Our friends have been dropping by with cat toys. I feel like it's a slow trickle baby shower. Our house is way more fun with their fuzzy presence.

I feel like I'm continuing to learn what Laz taught me: I can love really well and fully. I felt so connected to Laz. I knew him since I was 15. I thought that type of connection might have gone with him. Instead, I'm starting to see that he helped me develop that capacity. I still miss him and no other bond is quite the same. However, I'm getting closer with these animals. We're getting to know each other. Laz taught me that when you pay good quality attention to other creatures, they pay attention back. And your life is more full for the engagement.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cow dung shelter and a taste of Ashram life

Lodging at Hotel Lalit in Mumbai was cushy. Far cushier than I'm accustomed to in my travels! I tend towards small, locally owned spots. For retreats, I prefer boutique or unique design. Lalit is geared towards business people. It's comfortable!

The morning after the Flower Festival we boarded a bus to travel about 3 hours north to Govardhan Eco Village. I wish I was better at snapping shots from bus windows. I remember slowing for a toll booth. I saw a sign reading, "bike lane" and a long, single file line of goats. I saw women in saris doing hard manual labor in road construction. I saw big families piled on one seat of a motor bike.

Slowly, the paved highway turned to dirt. The scenery seemed to move back in time a few decades. I didn't see villages per se, but people and the occasional simple hut. I kept an eye out for a recognizable town, somewhere I could run off to a buy a cold coke. Nope.

We turned to the Govardhan Eco Village. The bus driver said he couldn't make it down the narrow dirt road. A golf cart showed up to begin taking our luggage. We disembarked and began walking. 

My Mumbai roommate, Annie, and I were shown to our cow dung cob cottage. There we met our other two roommates: Katherina from Berlin and Mish from Sidney. Unfortunately, Katherina sustained an injury during the first week of training and had to return to Germany for treatment. The cottage wound up housing Annie, Mish, and me for the duration.

Annie was our interior decorator. When we arrived we found straw mats on the floor, four twin beds, four chairs, and that was it! No hooks, shelves, dressers, or desks. We began requesting furniture and the kind Devotees provided it. We wound up with two desks for the three of us. Annie moved one on the porch, which became a popular study spot. Most mornings, Mish and Annie woke before me to study. (I know-- I normally wake at 4:30 am. However! I don't normally get home close to 11 pm!)

This is the view as you approach our little Cob G. The Devotees were constantly performing miracles. They built most of the structures needed for our training *this* year and many the week before we came. The monsoon season lasted a month longer than usual, necessitating crews working 24 hours a day! While we were in training we saw crews constantly working, building, and rectifying. They were building more cob structures on our little cul de sac while we were in residency.

The best part of this area? The neighbors. Four other trainees were nearby as were some of our mentors: Yogeswari, Keith & Tomo, and when he arrived, Radhanath Swami stayed next door! That meant that we'd cross paths with him frequently. Such a joy! David Life told me that he sleeps on the straw mats with only his swami robes. He has no possessions.

From our desk facing out. The circular center area was reserved for cultivation. You walked a big loop either to the right, where you could continue on the road towards the agricultural fields, the main Temple, Steiner school, and the exit; or to the left where you found the dining garden, Ayurvedic Center, Amenities Hall, the pool, and the road up to the Go Shala and Yoga Shala.

Annie decorated our door. We had two bathrooms both with hot water! On Sundays, Devotees cleaned and changed our sheets. You could also put laundry on the porch. It would be taken to local women who beat the clothes on rocks and line dried. They did a great job, but we were warned not to send any delicate garments!

I had brought mainly yoga clothes but I started to feel like my shorts were a little short for a spiritual community. I had two pairs of yoga capris that went past the knees. My routine became a quick lunch and then run up to the room. I'd shower myself (it was hot and we'd just done asana practice!) and put my clothes in the bucket. After I was clean, I scrubbed my clothes and hung them on the curtain lines to dry. This way, I kept wearing only two pairs of yoga pants and they stayed clean. In the evenings, I wore my satsang white tunic and leggings, loaned by my friend, Erica. On the weekends, I wore the leggings and traditional tunic I'd purchased before travel. Future Jivamukti trainees take note: if you do the same, you only need to bring 2 normal tunics & 1 pair leggings, 1 white tunic & 1 white pair leggings, 2 yoga capri pants & 2 yoga tee-shirts (covering your shoulders is advised), a swim suit, and pajamas.

We had many cohabitators in our rural cow dung dwelling. I kept hoping the lizard friends would eat the mosquitos. Maybe they did? Maybe they were simply out numbered?

Given that it was SO arid the mosquitos weren't bad during the day-- mainly at night!

Hence, around night 3 the Devotees gave us mosquito tents. I had just come from sleeping in these in St Lucia. I went from a mosquito tent for two to a mosquito tent for one. Whomp whomp.

Pre-mosquito tent gives you a better view of my little area. I used the window sill as a book shelf and herbal pharmacy. The curtain lines gave me space to wash and dry my clothes. Without a dresser or cupboard, I used the chair and my open suitcase. Simple, but it worked!

Annie took her mosquito tent on the ground. One morning a puppy joined us. 

Govardhan also has beautiful dorms and private rooms with stone floors and walls (which I think really cuts down on critter co-habitation). I know my accommodations might seem a little raw to some, but Govardhan offers a range of experiences. However! I love cob sustainable housing. I think it's worthwhile to stretch the range of experience. After incredibly full days of training, I slept deeply each night within those cob walls.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Flower Festival

Our Jivamukti Teacher Training began in Mumbai, in part, so that we could experience the Flower Festival. When we arrived at the Chowpatty Temple, we were offered a delicious vegan lunch served by the devotees. Their vegetarian restaurant is next door to the Temple. The meal we received spoke well of the restaurant's offerings!

We were shown the upstairs Temple, where we could assist in prepping for the festival. We weren't told much about it. I had heard about it some from my teacher, Beth, via her friends, Sri Kirtan. They had lead the kirtan for last year's festival.

Many had donated flowers or money for flowers. There were absurd amounts of flowers! We sat down in circles to prep. I opened a bag of flowers and felt their warmth! They were composting! Next to me was an engineer and mother from Bangalore. She had traveled for the festival. She told me that she comes to Mumbai periodically to worship and celebrate. I asked her how I should prepare. She told me to sit in sukhasana, or cross-legged, so that my feet were not towards the altar. I asked if I should recite mantra while prepping. She said that was best, though many were chatting and laughing. She had serious strategy to efficiently pull all the petals. We went through a lot of flowers!

Periodically, a monk would come by and collect the basket of petals. Others would collect the flower stems and leaves that we had set aside. Still others would deliver more flowers for us to de-petal.

This was the beginning of me feeling pain at sitting on the floor for lengths of time. While in India, I came face to face with my own impatience a lot!

Radhanath Swami, a spiritual leader and author of The Journey Home, was in attendance. I heard monks whispering that at festival times he often slept only 3 hours a night. He looked rested and present. He wandered around. Many people approached him. I was tempted to but didn't know what to say. I think everyone wanted some of his attention. I only wanted to disturb him if I had something to offer or a serious query.

Unexpectedly, we had another period of free time. My early break was devoted to visiting Ghandhi's house. Some members of the group went to a nearby Temple devoted to Shiva. I was tempted but I also felt like I needed to try to find gifts for my friends and family. Having seen the area around the Temple, I felt like I would be OK venturing out by myself. I also knew I would be far quicker! I stole away and went in the direction where I was told there was a good shop.

I passed by Ghandhi's house again, all the construction, all the traffic. I passed by shops for electronics and chai stands. I saw a lot of shops advertising jewels but nothing that seemed like a good contender for gifts. Finally, I came to a busy intersection. There were restaurants, offices, and computer repair shops. Still no real shopping. I stopped when I saw thick crowds of a parade. I read their signs-- it was a Pride Parade!

I watched the parade for awhile. I was scared to go further afield. I didn't want to get turned around or be late for the Flower Festival. I went back to the Temple. 

There was a small, crowded gift shop in the Temple. I made one last stab at this mission. Inside were beauty products made from cow dung and cow urine. There were so many depictions of Radha and Krishna. I began gathering items. I had to sort of push my way to the cashier where he wrote down every item by hand in a notebook. I had gifts!

Upstairs, crowds were assembling for the Festival. Long lines wound through the Temple and outside. In the courtyard, a huge screen had been installed to show the Festival for those who couldn't fit inside the Temple.

I entered and found a seat close to the altar. Radhanath Swami emerged to explain the Festival to those of us visiting. He shared that the sacred texts, or Shastra, that he studies indicate how to worship Krishna. At various seasons, there are different offerings a devotee can make. A few years ago, he read a passage instructing the devotee to bathe Krishna in flowers. This is how the Flower Festival was born. 

During a later reading he realized that he misunderstood the Sanskrit of the source text. From what I remember, Sri Radhanath Swami discovered that a more accurate understanding would be to bathe Krishna in water, not flowers. However, at that point the Flower Festival was born and had become one of the most popular events at the Temple. Even though it stemmed from a misunderstanding, it remains!

As I would hear so many times during my time in India, the Maha Mantra began: "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." We sang call and response. The pace and rhythm of the chanting shifted as determined by the kirtan leader.

The curtains opened and the crowd gasped at Sri Krishna and Radha. A screen behind the two opened. In this photo, you can sort of see the two monks behind them. They spent HOURS showering the deities with petals. They poured the petals over them, periodically pushing them out of the deity's faces, or adjusting their garlands. They offered considerable care.

We chanted and petals rained over the deities. Petals would gather three feet high and the monks would push them forward into a sort of empty pool at the deities' feet. 

When the once empty pool in front of the deities' filled with petals four monks waded in. They bowed down, scooped petals, and quickly threw them into the air. Over and over and over again. These monks were working HARD. Imagine digging, fast. It was an obviously devotional practice. The petals began raining on those of us close to the altar. The chanting crescendoed.

As petals fell on those around me, they scooped up the petals from their laps or the floor and threw them up again. In this way, the petals fell on more and more of the crowd. 

This little girl was bathing me in Bhakti! Bhakti is a practice of yoga, known as the practice of feeling. Bhakti is devotional practice. ISKCON is a society of Bhakti practitioners. Devotees consider their every act to be an offering to the Divine. The purpose of this Festival was to offer love and devotion to the Divine. The petals were offered first to the deities and then to each of us in the crowd. As the monks scooped and sent the petals scattering, they were pushing more devotion to each of us. This little girl scooped petals again and again and rained them over my head. It became a game-- I drenched her, she drenched me.

One of our facilitators, the amazing Jules Febre, with a huge pile of petals ready to go in his hands. I am standing behind him, unsuspecting.

My friends Hari and Elizabeth were at the Festival, which was such a treat. Hari leads the 500 hour teacher training at my home studio, Yogawood. He and his partner, Elizabeth, lead a pilgrimage throughout India. It was a comfort to see a familiar face so far from home!

Do you see those little balcony window boxes? Monks sat in each box. As the petals flew and the fervor grew, they suddenly poured baskets of petals over the whole crowd. We were all covered! The air was a big swirling mass of rose and marigold petals. As they fell on us, we scooped more up from our clothes and the floor to send them back. Imagine a huge water fight but with flower petals. 

I am still finding petals in my clothes a month later. Jai!

Afterwards, we went downstairs for dinner. The air was buzzy with excitement but we were also tired. Jetlag and adrenhaline peaked and waned. There were many groups eating dinner with us-- Hari's group on pilgrimage, a group traveling with Raghunath Cappo, and kirtaners traveling with Gaura Vani. There may have been more too but those were the stories I collected.

Sleepily, we boarded our buses back for Hotel Lalit. The following day we were headed north to Govardhan EcoVillage. There our study began in earnest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wandering in Mumbai... stumbling upon Ghandhi's home

Our first official morning of training was in Mumbai and wound up being pretty unstructured. We were offered a separate spot for breakfast away from the main buffet area so that all items could be assuredly vegan. There was a lot more waiting around. I saw folks milling by the pool and joined them. I was nervous about swimming in India as I'd been told that women typically swim in men's swim trunks and tee-shirts. (It's true-- I later saw billboards for water parks with women clothed this way.) I had brought Kevin's swim trunks in case but also bikinis in case I could swim in what was more normal for me. Ultimately, I saw some women in bikinis swimming. I figured, this is Mumbai. It's a big, cosmopolitan city. I'll go with it.

The water was incredibly cold but that was refreshing in the dense Mumbai heat. Later in the day I took a walk with a few fellow trainees. Hotel Lalit is close to the airport, which is on the outskirts of the city. There wasn't much around us. There were some densely packed neighborhoods. I saw a man bathing with a bucket in the alley by his home. There was a barber shop adjacent. A pack of dogs roamed.

Around the corner there was a gas station where tuk tuk's lined up to refuel. The streets were packed and traffic laws treated as suggestion. It reminded me a bit of Hanoi though Mumbai's traffic was way tamer. We found a way to cross the street. We stumbled upon a Muslim school. Nearby, a man was making shaved ice cones. My brave friends asked for some. I asked the man if I could take a photo and he shook his head, "No." I put my camera down. Later, I realized he was doing the Indian side to side of "Yes." Doh!

My brave friends said the ices were refreshing and slightly spicey. As they started feeling potentially parasite-y, we sought out trash cans. We finally found them and the ices were released.

I think this same day we went into Mumbai proper for the Flower Festival. We drove through the city, over bridges spanning bits of the Indian Ocean, until we arrived at the ISKCON Temple in Chowpatty.

The temple was beautiful. There was an area where we released our shoes to monks who gave us a tag, like a coat check. I found a restroom. A beautiful Indian woman asked why I was there. I said I was training as a Jivamukti Teacher. She said, "Oh! You're here with Sharon!" referring to Jivamukti's co-founder, Sharon Gannon. Sharon wasn't there yet, she wasn't scheduled to join our training until our final week. In a way, I definitely was there with or because of Sharon so I affirmed to my friend in the bathroom. In this way, I continually felt claimed.

The monks saffron robes drying.

We had a few breaks throughout the afternoon. My main objective was to try to find gifts for Kevin, my family, my community, and all those who supported me joining the Jivamukti training. Some people at the Temple had recently come from Govardhan, the rural eco-village where we would be training for the upcoming month. I asked them if I could purchase gifts there. Most said, not really. There's a gift shop, but it's small. It seemed like today was the day!

I set off from the Temple during a break with a group of fellow trainees. The city reminded me a bit of Buenos Aires in that there were a surprising amount of trees. However, it also felt totally different. Drier, dustier, and... Indian!

Now, I'm generally a pretty confident and adventurous traveler. However, I like to get my bearings. I always take time to observe my surroundings before exploring. I knew that this trip was about the training so I had promised myself and my loved ones that I would stick with the group. The little group that I'd left the Temple with was all coordinating which turns we'd taken so we could hopefully find our way back. I was working hard to not get disoriented. I'm good with directions, but we were moving quick and Mumbai moves even more quickly.

We bumped into one of our facilitator's, Jules Febre, and the training coordinator, Hachi. They were setting up sim cards at a kiosk. They told us we were about two blocks away from Ghandhi's house. Whoops! Shopping is out. We stumbled through the open construction of the street, tiptoeing in flip flops through rebar. We found a side, tree-lined street and turned.

It was so wild to stumble upon Ghandhi's Mumbai house. Life felt very surreal. We paid some rupees and wandered in. First, an expansive library covered in framed quotes from Ghandhi. Upstairs, video footage of notable moments. Hallways lined with newspaper articles and photos of Ghandhi with an assortment of notable people. And then, Ghandhi's bedroom.

Notice the looms? These are important. Ghandhi prioritized simple, humble menial labor as part of his spiritual life. Ghandhi, like all of us, was an evolving figure. He was a lawyer in South Africa. He was really flawed. When he focused on adopting a spiritual life, he changed and continued to grow. His focus on the loom and other labor stayed with me. It was also a message that was reinforced for me in Govardhan. Those of us pursuing bigger purpose and connection need to do more than yoga asana and meditation-- we need to be humble and connected. It behooves us to make things, grow things, put our hands in the dirt, wake early, and work hard. We are better for it. Meditating all day without any engagement in the material plane is a tricky course. I haven't seen it pan out well.

Nearby, there was a room full of dioramas depicting notable moments in Ghandhi's life and evolution. It reminded me of the activists I am close to at home. There was the same knack for being in the right place at the right time (which I later learned in training is a sign of evolution on the spiritual path). There was that sense that Ghandhi chose smart, strategic fights. There is so much injustice. How do you find the right angle to really push change? For all his faults, Ghandhi obviously chose many of the right battles. Again, I see this with my activist community at home. It heartened me.

Lastly, there was a scene of Ghandhi's death. At the time of his assassination, he recited his mantra. We are taught to practice mantra so that in times of intensity and transition, we are intentional. This is a powerful act.

We began making our way carefully back to the Temple. My feet were coated in dust. School children dodged us, chatting happily. Men sat drinking chai at kiosks with newspapers tucked under their arms. Cars seemed very unconcerned with whether or not they hit us. We turned corners, matched our step to the locals around us, and found our way back to the quiet Temple street.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Soft landing in India

In January, I celebrated the New Year with my friends. I taught a lot of yoga. I busily prepared to co-lead the Solar Vortex retreat to St Lucia. I paid bills through April. I met obligations. I don't know if I came up for air.

When I got to St Lucia, I felt a bit more free. Granted, as with any retreat I was responsible for a group of people and take that very seriously. I stayed diligent in attending to my retreat participants to offer them the best experience possible. But, there's a freedom in being on the otherside of a flight-- it was happening. No more preparations, just being. Also, wifi was less reliable, which also presents a bit of a release. I had prepared my collaborators. I had an automatic reply set for my email. I couldn't respond as quickly-- I had to focus on offering the retreat.

As the St Lucia retreat wound down, friends began to ask me if I was excited for India. We returned home from St Lucia on Saturday Jan 24. I was scheduled to fly to Mumbai, departing Newark on Wednesday Jan 28. Honestly, I wasn't. It wasn't that I wasn't happy about it but I simply couldn't really fathom it. Going to India wouldn't be backpacking with Kevin, the type of adventure I get *really* excited about. It wouldn't be offering a retreat, which has it's own sort of reality and experience. I was going to India to do Jivamukti Yoga teacher training. I was going as a student. I haven't been that type of student in some time. I'd never been to India. It was simply outside of the scope of my imagination.

Kevin and I got home late Saturday Jan 24. Looking back, I'm trying to remember what we did. Probably slept. Definitely did laundry. I remember running to the store a lot to pick up packs of tissues and other suggested items. I remember everything I was supposed to bring lying in a pile on my bedroom floor. I'm typically a good packer. I often travel for long spans of time with only a carry-on. This packing felt really daunting as I was required to bring bulky items like yoga props. I listened to Calexico. Double-checked a lot of lists.

Reality started sinking in that I was doing this thing. This thing that felt so fun, exciting, and adventurous. This thing that was starting to feel really scary. Would Kevin be OK? He kept saying that he would be fine, that he was looking forward to the time to focus on projects. Would Kevin be so OK he didn't miss me? No, he assured me, I'll be just *barely* OK. And on and on we go.

Would I be OK? What if I hated India? Well, I reminded myself, I've lived through plenty of places and periods that I wasn't fond of. It always had everything to do with me-- my frame of mind and perspective. I'm better skilled at dealing with reality and finding worth than I used to be. I could find gems. 

What if I hated the training? Well, that would be a lot of money towards an investment that I wasn't excited about. But I made the investment because I knew being a Jivamukti Teacher is valuable. Even if I didn't like the process, it would be worthwhile.

What if I didn't enjoy the people I was around? Been there, done that. Next?

What if they hated me? Again. Not the worst thing.

I didn't get to all the tasks I'd planned prior to leaving. I slept lightly the night before leaving. Early in the morning I heard Kevin in the office and knew he was writing me letters. Since we'd agreed that I would do this training, I'd planned to write him a letter for every week I was gone. I thought I'd mail the first and then leave the other three stamped and dated with Beth to mail. I never got around to it. I didn't know what to write. Suddenly I realized that Kevin had the same idea and did know what to write. And I was simultaneously touched and shamed.

He gave me my packet of letters with instructions. I had a card from my friend, Joanne, as well, with strict instructions to only open on my birthday. Another fear! I'm weird about my birthday. What if I was really unhappy celebrating my birthday away from my nearest and dearest? Again, I've been unhappy on my birthday plenty and always survived.

Our friend, Clarissa, had given us sage she'd kept in her life for a long time. Kevin and I smudged each other. Our friends, Mimi and Chalese had told us about Valor oil, an essential oil said to fortify in preparation for big events. Kevin and I applied the oil to keep us both strong.

Kevin dropped me off at the airport. I decided eating french fries was probably the way to abate my fears. I always like to find my gate before doing anything else at an airport. I cleared security and discovered that I was in a wing of the airport where every flight was bound for India, even though I had a stop in Belgium first. There was only one restaurant and it was themed as a British pub. No matter, I thought. I can get fries here. I ordered and received really dry, fried potato chips. Oh well. Drown my nervousness in grease.

Restlessly, I waited for the first-leg to Belgium. Once in the air, I picked up the novel I'd been working on since St Lucia, Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. I'm becoming a Danticat fan and enjoyed finishing the novel as we crossed the Atlantic. The novel describes a number of sacrifices to the sea. I found myself feeling scared. What if this was my last flight? What if? What if? 

Now, I fly a lot. I have never been frightened in that way. I decided it might have been due to my reading choice. I looked at the little library I'd brought. The other authors were Indian or writing about India: Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, and my shameful little secret, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. I'd specifically bummed a copy off a friend to have something light. I figured yoga theory might get heavy. I opened it up, trying to hide the cover. It felt like such a cliche to read on an Indian-bound plane. However, it was *perfect*. 

I felt better. I felt lighter. I was going on a big adventure. I was nervous. It would be OK.

I landed in Belgium and set out for waffles. I only saw a bit of the Brussels airport to and from India but I have to say, I did not find appetizing waffles. I saw a lot of ads for diamonds that made me uneasy (and think of the book, Blood Diamonds). I stuck with water.

I boarded my Mumbai bound flight. I had an aisle seat with one empty seat next to me. Score! But wait. On the other side of the empty seat was a 3-year old. His Aunt was next to him. His other family members were across the aisle from me. To his credit, he held it pretty well together for the first 6 hours. However, this was a 9 hour flight. I'll leave it there.

We landed in Mumbai at 11 pm local time. I'd been traveling about 19 hours. It was probably around noon at home. We actually exited through a duty-free gift shop. Customs felt intimidatingly bureaucratic. Indian bureaucracy is a unique animal. At baggage claim, things got real pushy. It actually felt a lot like New York. My bag didn't come. It still didn't come. Again and again, it didn't come. So, the nervousness. My bag won't come. My ride to the hotel won't wait for me. And then the saner inner voice, "It's out of your control so just chill out. You've handled worse and handled it well."

Ultimately, my bag came.

Outside, there was a placard for Hotel Lalit. My hotel was a 5 minute ride away. Of course they waited.

The air was warm. There were tons of people. My driver walked me to the parking garage. Driving on the other side of the road felt more normal as I'd been in St Lucia such a short time before. The parking garage had perfumed air. The air looked smoky or smoggy. I asked the driver about it but it looked normal to him. As we drove out of the airport, I saw highway on ramps with palm trees planted on the shoulders. Soon, we were at Hotel Lalit.

This was my one night in India with a room to myself. Hotel Lalit is probably very overpriced, but I went with it as this is where we stayed as a group when training began the following day. I think that it was chosen because it had the capacity for our group and was close to the airport. I kept things simple. This is a very soft landing in India. I was shown to my room with a king-sized bed and down comforter. I took a hot shower. I booked a massage for the morning.

The view from my balcony on that first hazy Mumbai morning.

My room included complimentary breakfast at the downstairs buffet. The buffet was a massive spread of just about anything you would hope for. There were ridiculous numbers of staff milling around. This hotel seemed to cater to business travelers. Lots of groups gathered with papers and cell phones spread amid their coffees and juices. I was wearing leggings and a traditional Indian tunic for the first time. The training information had suggested that women dress conservatively and possibly in Indian dress. I figured that I wouldn't have time to shop so I purchased two tunics and one pair of leggings from an Indian woman holding a sale in her suburban New Jersey basement a few months before travel. I felt weird and conspicuous. I wondered if it was cultural appropriation to wear this dress. Or was it like wearing the band tee shirt at the concert? As a waiter filled my coffee he asked if I had shopped locally. I explained and he said, "You look very nice."

This photo was taken the last morning of training with my friend, Stanely. It shows one of the two tunics I wore whenever we were not practicing asana. It turned out to be the perfect weight for the climate (makes sense!) and appropriate for just going out or spending time in places of worship.

I went to the hotel basement for my massage. Prices were comparable to the US, but I justified based on the amount of travel I'd just endured. My massage was more akin to what I'm used to in the US but with Thai elements as well. I was less covered than at home. The bashful should avoid massages in India! Women have no problem with being fully naked and touchy feely with one another. It's interesting-- men and women aren't supposed to be publicly affectionate or even touch. However, you can be as expressive as you want with your own gender. That said, every massage I received in India included breast massage. I remember thinking, "Ok, muscle, muscle, muscle, AND nipple." It never felt like it crossed a line, it's simply a different theory of body work.

Afterwards, the massage therapist showed me to the steam room. Massages in India are oil HEAVY, usually with medicinal oil. Afterwards you steam to really absorb the oils. The best part is that after the steam you're told to shower and they provide all shampoo and soap you need. You leave the massage feeling clean and refreshed. 

I'd paid so much attention to getting to India that once I was there, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. I had thought that registration for training began at noon. I began identifying others who were training and we compared notes. Some thought noon, some thought 2 pm, others 4 pm. Ultimately, we moved into the rooms booked for our training around 4 or 5 pm. There was a lot of awkward waiting around, which isn't uncommon for this type of thing. When I moved to my new room I was paired with Annie, who would be one of my roommates throughout training. She'd been in Mumbai for some time before training. We laid around swapping stories and getting to know one another.

That evening we had a group dinner. Looking back most of us reflected on how awkward it had felt. It's very sweet and reassuring to now know that we all felt just about the same: nervous.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Coming home

Last Sunday, I touched down in Newark after a little over a month in India. I still don't quite know where I am. I still am a little unsure with where to start.

Kevin and I both were looking forward to our reunion. This was the longest period that we've ever been apart! But we also became shy. Should I run up to him? What's authentic? Ultimately, Newark Airport decided for us. Another storm had hit so roads were icy and Kevin was delayed. Newark's staff made it so I had to run to the car while he idled. We got in a quick hug.

I had long set a plan to hit the first Starbucks at a road stop after being picked up. Kevin generously offered to bring me coffee but I wanted it FRESH. We stayed in ashrams in India that wanted us to experience life free from stimulants so I hadn't had coffee since Mumbai. Some folks experienced headaches and mood swings while we all went through withdrawal. I didn't feel different physically or in terms of my energy while living without coffee. It just reaffirmed to me that I really like coffee! When I got back to Mumbai to fly home, I did find a coffee shop in the airport. It wasn't so great though. I don't like supporting mega-corporations like Starbucks but they are reliably consistent!

As requested, we pulled off at the first rest stop. A young dude with a curly ponytail took my order. It felt comforting to be in this environment, with him-- just really familiar. Kevin and I got to hug more. We both were in a bit of disbelief about being reunited. For me, it felt a bit like I'd been in a parallel plane and we hadn't actually missed any time together-- India felt like a separate dream realm. For him, he'd been going through what was usually our shared, daily life, in our co-created home, without me, so my absence was felt.

When I received my coffee and took a sip, I actually felt weak in the knees.

The next plan was the Pop Shop. I had been craving buffalo tofu for the better part of my travels. I think I wanted vinegar. I also wanted garlic and onions. Garlic and onions are pretty much no nos in an Ayurvedic diet, which we had been eating. I was going fully rogue.

We finally got to the Pop Shop. The weird thing was that again, it felt like I'd just been there. The span of intervening time didn't feel real. I wished I could summon the desperation I'd had imagining that meal. My fantasy was pretty contingent on being in hot, dusty, rural India facing another plate of potatoes (cooked with such love). The two realities felt somewhat incompatible.

We did have a good meal though and it was amazing to talk to Kevin without the constant delays of Facetime and the non-stop interruptions of power and wifi outtages.

I had secretly been praying that we'd get March snows. The spring is Kevin's busiest season. I wanted some time with him before landscaping swept into full gear. Plus, I had spent a month with all of my time allotted to training, studying, and practicing yoga. I didn't sleep much (or enough for me) and I hadn't had any time to process. The theory behind this training is to immerse the student. I was thoroughly saturated and wanted time. Just time. Unaccounted for time. As much as I missed my community, I wanted some time to revisit what had happened before describing and sharing it.

I got my wish. The past week has been a series of successive snow storms. I was able to keep up with work obligations from home, which means I actually feel fairly on top of my game. Whoo hoo! So now just feeling like I'm truly here...

Kevin said this week that he feels like I'm not fully here yet. He's probably right. While in India, I would have happily come home. As much as I cherished the experience, it reaffirmed to me that my life and community here are intentional and I am so grateful. My training in India was intense and it's austerity created this weird, rare little bubble of existence. It's a funny transition leaving that type of quickly and intimately built community of such rarefied circumstances. Plus, jet lag. I've heard a top jet lag remedy is simply laying on the ground and letting your body feel the earth again after being so long in the sky. The earth where I am is frozen and covered in layers of ice and snow. I haven't been able to lay on it, though I have happily shoveled some of the frozen layers. So, I'll just keep peeling away until my feet finally, and firmly, touch the ground.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pūrņam-idam: A Yogawood Jivamukti Retreat to Vietnam

Pūrņam-idam: A Yogawood Jivamukti Retreat to Vietnam

In Sanskrit, purnamidam refers to “this fullness”-- of the moon, of this moment, of life. What better way to encapsulate the dynamism of 12 days in Hoi An, Vietnam. Jivamukti yoga is the perfect practice to facilitate full immersion into this environment as well as within your own skin. To learn more about the Jivamukti method visit here: As Jivamukti is a practice rooted within yogic source texts, it facilitates a deep connection to place as well. One of your Jivamukti yoga teachers, Maiga, has previously traveled throughout Vietnam and fell in love in particular with Hoi An.

While in Vietnam, enjoy a full week in Old Town Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site recognized for its well-preserved architecture. While there, wander the cobblestoned streets, visit temples and shrines, watch painted boats float on the river, or rent a bike to cycle through the surrounding rice paddies. Hoi An is known for incredible cuisine, so you’ll be free at lunchtime to sample, take a cooking class, or visit markets. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to commission custom made clothing from one of Hoi An’s many affordable tailors.  Vietnam is known for incredible body work. Be sure to make time for some massages!

We’ll be in Hoi An during the Full Moon, when all motorized traffic is prohibited so that all can wander the streets enjoying folk performances under swaying lanterns. Light a candle and set it to float down the river.

From Hoi An, we’ll be transported only 3 km away to stay in An Bang’s beach side bungalows on the South China Sea for the remaining 4 nights. Weather permitting, we’ll practice yoga on the private beach outside of our accommodations. Here we’ll enjoy three catered vegan meals daily-- no need to sacrifice beach time to cycling or taxi rides back to town’s restaurants!

Throughout the entirety of our stay, enjoy twice daily yoga practices, meditation sits, daily vegan meals (in town, breakfast and dinner; at the beach, all three meals), all internal transport, aid with simple visas, and accommodations. The world is rich and lush. Immerse yourself in its fullness.


The retreat is held from Jan 17-29, 2016.

It takes at least 22 hours to fly from the east coast of the US to Vietnam. Plan your travel from Jan 16-30 to include travel days.


Julie Kirkpatrick was granted an advanced Jivamukti Yoga teacher certification in 2005 by her teachers and founders of the method, Sri Sharon Gannon and Sri David Life. David Life ji is Julie's brother, so he brought her into the method when he and Sharon Gannon ji started teaching yoga in 1986. Julie has been and continues to be a student of the method since that time. Her association with Jivamukti Yoga has allowed her to teach abroad in Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain, and Turkey, as well as in the United States in New York, Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Julie has taught open, basics, prenatal, and children’s yoga classes at Jivamukti Yoga School in New York City. She assisted and taught at the August classes held at the Wild Woodstock Jivamukti Forest Sanctuary in Woodstock NY for 5 years. She has assisted Sri Sharon Gannon and Sri David Life at various times serving both as house sitter and cat caretaker to classroom assistant while they teach.

Before focusing full time on teaching yoga, Julie worked in public education, visual arts, and community gardening. She was an activist for fair housing on the Lower East Side of New York City, where she has lived with her children Jules and Alex Febre since 1981.

Maiga Milbourne is passionate about healthy bodies, relationships, and communities. Maiga is an E-RYT vinyasa yoga teacher, and she loves nothing more than offering amazing hands-on assists in yoga practice. As of March 2015 she is also an accredited Jivamukti teacher, after completing her training at Radhanath Swami’s EcoVillage outside of Mumbai, India, under the tutelage of Sharon Gannon, David Life, Jules Febre, Ruth Laurer-Manenti, and Yogeswari. She teaches yoga, officiates ceremonies, and makes people's travel dreams come true. Maiga has traveled in Vietnam previously, making her well-equipped to shepherd you through this adventure! Learn more at


To make this retreat affordable, we need a critical mass of 15 participants. We can accommodate up to 25 participants. Tell your friends to embark on this adventure!

As we’re in four separate accommodations in two locations, to simplify rooms, all are shared. The first 6 registrants are guaranteed optimal rooms, meaning La Tonnelle in Hoi An, and beach side in An Bang. You must make a deposit of $500 for your spot to be held.

Deposit $500
Remaining Tuition $2,235

We hope to make this experience accessible. Receive a discount of $200 if you pay in full by Aug 1, 2015. All tuition is due by Nov 1, 2015.


Visit “Special Events” on


We realize that things happen. Until Oct 1, 2015, we will refund $100 of your deposit, the balance held for administrative fees. There will be no refunds after Oct 1, 2015. You can transfer your spot to another participant and deal with the tuition independently.


All are shared. All bathrooms are shared with your roommate. If you’re traveling with your preferred roommate, please let us know. Otherwise, we will work to pair you with a roommate of the same gender.

Examples of rooms in Hoi An:

For the first 6 participants to enroll, rooms at La Tonnelle

The remaining rooms are located nearby at Hotel Vinh Hung I

Examples of rooms in An Bang:

The first 6 participants to enroll will stay in Hoi An Beach Bunagalows

The rest of the participants will stay in An Bang Beach Hideaway


All accommodations

Transport from and to Da Nang Airport and between accommodations in Hoi An and An Bang

Twice daily yoga classes

In Hoi An, vegan breakfasts and dinners

In An Bang, three vegan meals daily

$35 Visa on Arrival processing fee


Alcoholic beverages

Personal expenses

$45 USD Visa fee paid to Vietnamese customs upon arrival

Tips for tour guide & driver: 3 usd/pax/day is recommended


We suggest you book your flight into Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll go through customs and receive your visa on arrival there. From Ho Chi Minh City, book a domestic flight through Vietnam Airlines from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang. Da Nang is the nearest airport to Hoi An, about a half hour drive. When we have your flight itinerary, we can coordinate your ride from the Da Nang airport to your accommodations in Hoi An.

Plan to arrive at Da Nang airport on Jan 17. Know that it takes at least 22 hours of travel from the east coast of the US so search for flights leaving your home airport on Jan 16.

Plan the return trip the same: a separate domestic flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City, then connecting to your outbound international flight.

If you’d like to break up your travel with nights in other cities, feel free to do so. Feel free to check in with Maiga about suggestions for staying a night in Ho Chi Minh City or elsewhere.

Your visas will be good for 30 days. If you’d like to do on-going travel after the 12 day retreat, you should! Feel free to check in with Maiga about ideas or travel planning.

The retreat ends on Jan 30. If you travel home directly, you’ll be home on Jan 31.

We planned this so that participants could request two weeks off work and make the most of their time abroad. You will be traveling from Jan 16-31, on retreat from Jan 17-30.


There is an absurd amount to do, should you wish to, in and around Hoi An. Remember, this is a retreat, so offer yourself ample time to just be. If you want to explore, here’s some of what you can expect to find:

Religious houses (Temples & Shrines)
Traditional architecture
Walking tours
Body Work. There are affordable massages and therapies all over the place. Take advantage!
Cooking classes
Renting bicycles or motorbikes
Going to the beach (the furthest we’ll ever be is 3 km)
Taking tours of villages, rice paddies, or surrounding area
Visiting sites of historical significance, like My Lai
The Cham Islands are off the coast. You can independently arrange to visit if you desire. These islands are known for scuba diving if you’re certified.
Commissioning hand-made clothing tailored to your body
Shopping. Expect to find lanterns, hand-made clothes and shoes, and intricate house wares
And so much more…


7-8 am Vegan buffet breakfast at accommodations

8:30-9 am Meditation sit in our studio space

9-10:30 Jivamukti Yoga Practice in studio

12-1 pm Vegan lunch catered at An Bang accommodations

5-6 pm Sunset Yin Practice in the studio or on the beach

6:30-8 pm Catered Vegan dinner at accommodations or at a nearby restaurant


Consult your doctor. For more information, check here:


Many US citizens wonder about interactions with Vietnamese given the war between the US and Vietnam. There’s no hard and fast response to this. Maiga has personally traveled throughout Vietnam and was impressed by the friendliness of the Vietnamese people. Maiga also became aware that while the US and Vietnam were at war, Vietnam has had longer conflicts with France and China. The war between the US and Vietnam weighs differently in US and Vietnamese collective memories. This isn’t to minimize the war and it’s excessive impact-- you can visit My Lai outside of Hoi An or museums dedicated to the topic in Ho Chi Minh City. However, it’s unlikely to impact day to day interactions.

Also, bear in mind that the US has been in conflict with much of the world at one point or another. Only short decades before the war with Vietnam, the US was at war with Germany. Interestingly, this doesn’t enter many consciousnesses similarly. The US fought fierce wars with Japan, Korea, and elsewhere. Most citizens of the world are good at differentiating foreign policy from people.