Take the Break

By: Lisa Greenbaum

I write a lot about Yoga. Why we should regularly practice Yoga, with the central goal of connecting back to our Self. How a daily practice that includes meditation we can hold this space and then how we watch its effects ripple out into all other parts of our life. I didn’t come up with this on my own, this is what all great sages and Yogis talk about. If you truly want to experience Yoga, you must commit. The thing is most of us are what is considered “householder” Yogis. We practice Yoga, we love Yoga, but we also live in the world with jobs, families, relationships and homes to care for as well. As opposed to those who dedicate their entire life to the practice, spend the majority of their day in meditation, forego all worldly attachments and essentially live as monks. While the latter sounds to me like a bit of luxury, I would miss my mom (I assume my husband would be leading the way if I even suggested this as an option) and my cats and the hustle of the city, my friends and classes etc… But there is a middle ground, and why I felt called to throw myself into this new venture (and I’m a bit of a pitta/workaholic and can’t help myself) and that is to step outside of our regular life from time to time to take a real break, unplugged and dedicated to connecting to Self, to our practice. In other words, a Yoga retreat.

While Yoga retreats come in all shapes and forms, for me I use them as a true reset button for my practice. A chance to explore, peel back the layers, remove all other obstacles of daily living, set intentions, and completely dedicate myself to my practice. Though I practice for roughly an hour each morning at home, my day quickly sets in of all the things that need done and I’m pulled into my householder life. I love my life, and I’ve spent the last few years shaping it to be so. But nothing helps me be more grateful, look forward to my regular routine and to do lists like taking a break from it all and coming back with fresh eyes and a renewed connection. Any Yoga retreat that I lead holds this in mind and why when I built out the itinerary for 7 days in Costa Rica, I called it “Journey to Self.” Because that’s what we are doing. Each day we have the opportunity to meditate to the sounds of nature, watching the sun rise overlooking the jungle from the Yoga deck. A different physical practice dedicated to each of the 7 chakras as the week progresses. To explore Yoga philosophy, ask questions and spend time in introspection, contemplation. To spend the week falling in love with our practice and deepening our connection to Self. A chance for renewal and growth and with the timing of our retreat this year in April it will be like the perfect lift to the winter fog and into spring.

Whether it be this retreat, or any other time that you can really step back and focus on replenishing your cup, the important thing is that it happens. If you have carved out time on a daily basis to practice you are already in a pretty incredible space. Imagine the luxury of a few days or a whole week? (India is two!!) If you feel like you are pushing to get through each day. If you are beginning to resent what you once loved so much. If you’ve begun to take yourself for granted and are continuing to increase the demands on yourself to keep up. It’s time to step off the wheel. Take a break. Reset. Trust me as one who has been through the ringer of burnout more times than I can count. If we don’t do this for our self, no one is doing it for us. It’s time to replace that little voice in our head falsely telling us that we are not enough with one of love. Put down your phone, close your laptop. Take the break. In fact, right now close it all down and spend 5 minutes just simply paying attention to your breath. It’s amazing what you will find.

With love and light, namasté.

The Beauty of India

By: Lisa Greenbaum

There is something so very magical about India. Perhaps the history dating back thousands of years, the people, the food, the magnificence of the Himalayas and Ma Ganga. There is something so provocative and beautiful it will draw you back again and again. Even sitting here just now invoking the sensation of being there, the smells permeate my senses of rich cumin and cinnamon, cardamom filling my nostrils and settling into my skin. Surrounding me like a giant hug, calling me home.

Rishikesh is the birthplace of Yoga. Yoga being approximately 6000 years old the history of the human race connected to its eternal soul. Preserved traditions that have become fundamental texts of Yoga philosophy outlining how to live a pure and enlightened life during our brief time on earth. How to recognize the divine within us and to treat all others in reflection of this divinity. Vedantism – the oneness of life. Looking into the eyes of the people you meet, beside you on the mat, in cafes or vendors on the street we see this purity. All of us living, seeking love, seeking connection, wanting to be seen as a reflection of our hearts. Yogi’s united and spreading the ripple effects of this understanding, of this great work and practice that is Yoga.

I’ve also written about the Fire of India, which is always a deep and non-negotiable part of our visit. Running as an undercurrent to the burning and cleansing of fire is the unmistakable pure beauty of life. Ma India shows you both, and you can only have both together – it’s part of the package. But the beauty is so profound, more profound than our eyes can see it, than my words can describe it. The beauty is everything. Holding you like a newborn, cherishing you for simply being present and alive. No questions, no judgements, just love. So, as we walk through the fire, our fears held in front of us, our worries and stories and samskaras ready to be broken, underneath it all is this beauty and purity. Unconditional love. Love for the sake of love.

We hold it in our hearts. We surround ourselves with it like a giant blanket protecting us. And then we come home. Back to our life and our jobs, our bills and dirty dishes. We question how we can stay in the arms of Mother India and still live our “regular” life. The worry sets in, the fear creeps back. But we can, we only need to practice. For it was the immersion into daily rituals and practice that brought India alive into our hearts in the first place. We get on our mats each day. We breathe, we close our eyes and we move inwards. We move with our spine and hearts leading the way. We cultivate gratitude and love in our hearts. In fact “we stay in meditation until we experience the grateful heart” the wise words of Anand, Yoga Master and Founder of the Sattva Centre. This is the beauty of India. This is how we continue to cultivate our experience. To continue our evolution. To raise our vibrations. Holding the beauty in our hearts always.

hope you will join us in India for 2020

The Art of Vacation

By: Lisa Greenbaum

Full disclosure: this is a shameless plug for our upcoming Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica. However, the true purpose of this blog, both individually and as a whole, is always to bring you back to YOU. To step back amidst life’s chaos to honour what is important to YOU, either by reminding you about or inspiring you towards a regular yoga and self-care practice. And so if this is my purpose, shown to you in numerous ways to create balance in your life, then we must also talk about your dedicated time out – your holidays!

First of all, what do you need a vacation from?

Are you working full time maybe in fitness/yoga, taxing your body everyday? maybe a couple side hustles with added long hours and constant emails all day long. Or, are you working the same 8-hour job day after day with little changes, a long and boring commute with most evenings spent in front of the TV? Do you see how both of these individuals will need something different in their off hours?

The person who doesn’t stop, essentially needs to stop. The other person needs to get up and go with a little adventure. The challenge is when a) both of these people are vacationing together and b) like attracts like. I think ultimately what I’m trying to say is an all inclusive resort with excess food and alcohol is not going to be the answer for everyone, nor is the big backpacking adventure. Most of us don’t have the luxury of a 3-6 week holiday all at once  (especially if you live in North America) where we can combine everything and truly hit the reset button. So, if you only have one week – what do you do? My best advice is the opposite of what you do at home.

If you are over-stimulated on a regular basis you need to rest. In fact you have to rest! Find a space where you can settle in either with a book by the fire in a cozy cabin or a lounge chair by the beach (I’ll leave the temperature up to you). Listen to music, stare at the sky, turn off your phone, and literally do nothing as much as you can. This is a great time to finally commit to your meditation practice. At the same time, roll out your mat everyday and do a practice or run, walk whatever workout your body is craving (one hour is perfect), as we both know too much stillness won’t work either.

If you are under-stimulated it’s time for a little inspiration. Though you are most likely attracted to the holiday outline above – and you should have some of that, it needs to be slightly limited. Instead, get out into nature and move! A ski vacation? snorkelling or diving, hiking or long walks. Spend time moving and no stay-cations for you! where as someone over stimulated could probably use a few days on their own couch, you need to get out and break the monotony. Try new foods or cultural experiences, surround yourself with people but then make sure you have a quiet space to come back to at the end of the day to recharge.

Ultimately, this year let’s not say: “I need a vacation from my vacation” Let’s also TAKE a vacation. Even just a day trip a couple hours away on your own or with your BFFs or spending the day at the art gallery or museum in town will work wonders for your overall outlook and vitality. Please, take time to do something a little different, to reset and recharge so you can be your best YOU.

How to Mentally Prepare for a Wellness Retreat

At Sangha Wellness Retreats, one of our mottos is to “enjoy a vacation you don’t need a vacation from.” Essentially, we want to make sure we come home feeling rested and relaxed. Unlike some all-inclusive holidays that seem to require a 30-day liver detox or an adventure holiday that is so jam packed we forgot the “holiday” part of it. Why is it that we often know far in advance that we are going away, yet we still rush around like maniacs trying to get everything and more done so we can relax when we are away? The irony is, we amp ourselves up so much that we can’t actually make that happen.

When we have a lot on the go, our stress response keeps us elevated or in fight/flight mode. We are alert, moving fast, checking things off and barely pausing to take a breath. This is how most of us spend our entire day – we have a lot to do! To keep up with our self, and to be ready for action, we stay in this mode long past when we need it, just in case. This is also why we struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep during these busier times. This is also why it takes us a few days once it all stops to actually relax. We end up our precious vacation time amped up and unhappy or worse, coming down only to have our immune system go on vacation, and spending our holiday sick.

Here are a few tips that you can use to help mentally prepare for your retreat:

  1. Plan your busy “I have to get everything done week”, the week before you actually leave. This gives you that last week to come down (I am being a realist – we all stress out before we leave to go away) this gives you time for those last few things you forgot about and a chance to eat and sleep well before you leave.
  1. Is there anything that is making you nervous or worried either on the trip or what you are leaving behind? If it is on the trip, get in touch with your retreat guide for extra re-assurance on anything you are concerned about – that’s exactly what we are here for! Also, if we know we can better support you and help watch for any triggers.  If it is for things at home, have those additional conversations or write certain instructions down to give you peace of mind. Try to pinpoint exactly what is causing the worry and build a mantra around it. Example: My kids/cats are fine!
  1. Keep up your regular yoga and meditation practice. Despite the fact that you will be doing a LOT of it while you are away, keeping up with your practice before you go will help you maintain your stress and anxiety levels. Helping to ground you and keep you present. Exactly the reason you started a regular practice in the first place.
  1. Let it go! You will probably forget to pack something you might not cross off all the things on your to do list before you leave. It’s okay! Someone will be able to loan you an extra sweater, you’ll be able to buy a toothbrush at the airport gift shop. You won’t remember everything, it’s all good.

I know that sometimes in the last few days before we leave, we get wrapped up in all the organizing that we forget about how exciting and awesome it is to actually go! Focus on that!! Before we know it we’ll be back home in the middle of it all once again.