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Mandrem Beach, Goa India November 2009

Namaste All!

So this blog has taken a short hiatus due to my recent trip to India. I spent the past few months living on the gorgeous beaches of Goa, India studying yoga with the Himalaya Yoga Valley. I received my 200-hour Hatha  Yoga teacher certification after lots of blood, sweat and many many many happy and purifying tears. The choice to partake in the experience was one of the best decisions I have every made, and one that I am still trying to soak in, make sense of and put into words.

November 2009 graduates of the Himalaya Yoga Valley Teacher Training Course

During my program, our schedule was extremely full and I also wanted to avoid sharing a lot of my experience until I got back; hence the blog hiatus.

I am excited to create a refreshed and renewed approach to this blog after having this incredible experience, and I will begin writing again every day!

So now that I am back I look forward to reflecting on this past yoga-travel experience and all other musings on yoga and life in general with all of you, my dear readers! My first post will be coming at you by tomorrow morning, I can’t wait!

With love and shanti…

Fellow yogini, Lori, during a Morning Meditation walk on Mandrem Beach, Goa, India

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Pirates and yoga...interesting...(photo: tropicyoga.com)

Pirates and yoga...interesting...(photo: tropicyoga.com)

Being a New Englander…one of my favorite midsummer activities is sailing….well, that’s a stretch. I like watching other people sail who know what they are actually doing, while I just wait to be given a simple task, like skirting the mainsail in a lazy Saturday race, or making sure everyone’s beers are full.

my friend, Brian's boat, Blitzen, before a race...i think I may ave more than a liability than help in this one

before a race...I think I may be more of a liability than help in this one

the high side

the high side

I have some friends that are fantastic sailors, and who’s lives consist of  living aboard ships, small and large, and are therefore at the whim of mother nature and their own instincts.

Sailing 'Nirvana' to Nantucket last Summer overnight my friend dave up there)...dawn...perfect time for some yoga

Sailing 'Nirvana' to Nantucket last Summer overnight (my friend Dave up there)...dawn...perfect time for some yoga

When racing, core strength, leg strength, balance, and arm strength are essentials. You must be quick on your feet, perceptive, completely aware of what’s around you at all times, calm in times of utter stress, and you must be able to think extremely quickly in dire situations. Sailing well depends on your understanding the environment, your relationship with the elements of wind and water, and letting go of the idea that you can control the outcomes of your endeavors.

As an activity, it is environmentally friendly, if you don’t use the motor at all, and can humble your entire being.

although it doesn't look liek it here, my brother, Andre, is a much better sailor than I would ever be

although it doesn't look like it here, my brother, Andre, is a much better sailor than I would ever be

love those cold mornings on the water...my friend James (left) surveying the sea...

love those cold mornings on the water...my friend James (left) surveying the sea...

Yoga can help calm a sailor’s mind, get him/her in tune with elements that determine his/her course, and prepare his/her body for a race, or a casual sail.

My main fear when sailing, especially racing, is going overboard because I am so awkwardly tall and clumsy. Also, I know many of you get nauseous just at the thought of boats in the water, but I may have a few curing poses.

Even for the casual sailor, or guest on a boat, I have a few poses in mind that may be great for before, during and/or after your sail!

Wheel is great on a boat!

Wheel is great on a boat!

1. Chakrasana (wheel)strengthens legs, arms, core and increases balance and clarity of mind. Learn more from my previous post on wheel, here…

probably one of my favorite spinnakers I've seen, well at least the one that related to my life the most...saw it at a race outof boston two summers ago

probably one of my favorite spinnakers I've seen, well at least the one that related to my life the most...saw it at a race outof boston two summers ago...

2. Adho Mukha Savasana (Downward Dog)…great for the core and arm strength. Also reduces nausea and increases clarity of mind. Learn more here.

3. Balasana (Child’s pose)…calms the nerves, rejuvenates and reduces nausea. Learn more here.

4. Bakasana (crane pose)…fantastic pose for arm and core strength! Make’s you feel like you can conquer the world after conquering this pose.  Learn more here.

Tree by land or by sea!

Tree by land or by sea!

5. Vrksasana (Tree pose)…my balancing favorite…great on board! Learn more here.

Warrior III is great for balance and core strength

Warrior III is great for balance and core strength

6. Virabhandrasana (Warrior III)…also great for balance, leg, and core strength. Learn more here.

7. Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose)…increases balance, hip strength, core strength and leg strength. Learn more here.

Walk the Plank!

Walk the Plank!

8. Plank…one of the best for core and all over body strength. Helps energize the entire body and get you centered for a long sail! Also try side plank. Learn more here.

9. Matsyasana (fish pose)…just because of the name….learn more here.

Boat pose

Boat pose

10. Boat…see Monday’s post here!

11. Malasana: Yogic squat

I also like the idea of using some recycled products while sailing and reusing ripped and old sails that typically would go straight to the landfill after use.

Go local to find recycled sail products in Gloucester, MA with Second Wind Sails…

Love this recycled sail wine bag from Secon Wind Sails...who doesnt love a great glass of organic pinot on the deck at dusk...

Love this recycled sail wine bag from Second Wind Sails...who doesn't love a great glass of organic pinot on the deck at dusk...

thats a baby in a sail bag...who does their marketing? they should get a raise...

that's a baby in a sail bag...who does their marketing? they should get a raise...

The Gloucester company, Second Wind Sails,  makes everything from Christmas stockings, to dog collars, to shower curtains, to wine bags, to pillows, to duffel bags using recycled sails.

Recycled sail yoga bad from seafevergear.com for only $19.95!

Recycled sail yoga bag from seafevergear.com for only $19.95!

Seafevergear.com also has great recycled sail products including a yoga bag for only $19.95 and is located both in San Diego and Cape Cod…

ReSail doesnt just make the typical tote-they make everything from duffels, to garment backs, to change purses and can customize any bag with your company or boat logo

ReSail (predecessor to the popular Sea Bags) doesn't just make the typical tote...they make everything from duffels, to garment backs, to change purses and can customize any bag with your company or boat logo

Although I posted earlier about “Sea Bags” recycled sails into bags…ReSail, of Newport,RI, claims to be its predecessor in style and purpose, has much more variety and is actually cheaper!…The line began with using recycled sails, and now includes any recycled material from a working sail loft (Dacron, Kevlar, etc.) using sail stitching techniques. They even make recycled Kevlar dog collars, recycled sail bean bag chairs, and recycled sail sailing jackets/vests! Check the website out here.

Yoga Onboard

Yoga Onboard

In the, why didn’t I think of this? category:

Kim Hess of Miami has created a book called “Yoga Onboard”. Kim, an avid sailor and yoga teacher, created a system of poses she believes would work well for sailors and live aboard’s. She also charters sailing yoga retreats and vacations for small groups! Find out more here.

Kim Hess, of Yoga Onboard doing some downward dog action

Kim Hess, of Yoga Onboard doing some downward dog action

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Now that the weather is finally becoming pool/beach suitable (we’ll forget about the hiccup yesterday), I have been on the hunt for the perfect combination of a pool and beach…and a little eco-consciousness might help to!

Well I think I found a new favorite pool that I would die to visit…if I ever win the lottery

The infinity pool at the Huvafen Fushi Resort in the Maldives.

Huvafen Fushi resort and spa in the Maldives

Huvafen Fushi resort and spa in the Maldives

The freshwater infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean at the Huvafen Fushi resort in the Maldives

The freshwater infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean at the Huvafen Fushi resort in the Maldives

Have your cake and eat it too...at your room: a private infinity pool, hot tub, expansive deck, and a private portion of ocean (maldives.tropicalideals.co.uk)

Have your cake and eat it too...at your room: a private infinity pool, hot tub, expansive deck, and a private portion of ocean (maldives.tropicalideals.co.uk)

Named the best beach resort by Harper’s Bazaar and featured in Conde Nast Traveller, the resort is located in the North Male Atoll area of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Arrive by plane to Maldives International airport and either take a 30 minute speed boat ride, complete with complimentary champagne, or a sea plane out to this man-made, but nature conscious, paradise.

Map of the resort...

Map of the resort...the Maldives are located off of the South West coast of India

The hotel created an underwater spa and organic raw restaurant as part of their sustainable luxury endeavors. They also take part in fair trade practices of local goods and conservation of their local island reef and the greater reefs of the Maldives.

The freshwater infinity pool, surrounded by day beds, the private pools for each of the 43 rooms, the sustainable reef and the healing floating saltwater pool, all combine to give this resort the title of holding the best quality pool:ocean:guest ratio.

ariel view of a portion of the resort (maldives.tropicalideals.co.uk)

Ariel view of a portion of the resort (maldives.tropicalideals.co.uk)

Every room comes with either a private plunge pool, or if your are willing to pay the really big bucks…a larger private pool.

This particular room even comes with a telescope for prime romantic star-gazing in the middle of the Indian Ocean....ahhhh (maldives.tropicalideals.co.uk)

This particular room even comes with a telescope for prime romantic star-gazing in the middle of the Indian Ocean....ahhhh...the rooms also boast 7ft x 7ft beds (maldives.tropicalideals.co.uk)

green saltwater therapeutic spa pool  (3.bp.blogspot.com)Lonu Veyo is a “green” saltwater floatation therapy pool…the first of its kind in the Maldives

The resort also boasts a “green” saltwater pool, called Lonu Veyo, that has “special healing techniques”.

The resort has its own area of reef for SCUBA and snorkelling that is preserved by the hotel

The resort has its own area of reef for SCUBA and snorkeling that is preserved by the hotel, complete with rays, turtles, and on occasion, even sharks...

I just melted when the website states they have complimentary SCUBA out of their PADI dive center…I would probably find myself fully addicted again, doing 2 dives a day…spending all my time in those glorious waters looking at rays, exotic fish and sea turtles, that are abundant and viewable even from some of the decks of the resort.  The resort also boasts sunset fishing, deep-sea fishing,snorkeling safaris and boating trips.

The hotel even has an “in-house” reef, and a spa, Lima (by the Per Aquum group),  immersed under water surrounded by the reef! Even if you aren’t a swimmer, you can enjoy the reef while experiencing the resorts spa treatments which include all natural spa treatments and remedies, spa cuisine, aromatherapy massage, and yoga massage, among a slew of other treatments that can be customized for you. The spa boasts “chromotherapy” lighting and an indigenous treatment known as crystal therapy. Wooden tools for massage were created by locals specifically for the spa, while the virgin coconut oil was purchased in a fair trade, sustainable way and is used as a staple in  signature treatments for guests.

An organic spa paradise in the Huvafen Fushi resort (photo: maldivedigst.com)

An organic spa paradise in the Huvafen Fushi resort (photo: maldivedigst.com)

Even though you are on a private island, it does not mean you go hungry…far from that, actually. As I mentioned before, there is “spa cuisine” and fresh fish plucked from the ocean at the resorts many restaurants and bars. The main bar, UMbar, has been frequented y some of the world’s top DJ’s,while serving designer cocktails.

There is also an underground wine room/restaurant called Vinum and a more casual restaurant called Fogliani’s.

Meanwhile, for a healthier stay, the restaurant, Raw, serves that aforementioned spa cuisine and even raw cuisine for optimal health benefits. Celsius and Salt are also options for deliciously fresh food on the island,or take a break from the resort and explore other restaurants in the Maldives through the resorts speed boats or plane, along with “destination dining” at private locals around the island.

Yoga pavilion at Huvafen Fushi

Yoga pavilion at Huvafen Fush...picture doing yoga out there at dawn...mmm

I must admit, the element of the resort that really got me hooked was its perfect yoga pavilion…completely separated from the rest of the resort, jutted out into the Indian ocean…your yoga practice here is sure to bring you to new levels physically, spiritually and mentally. You can even experience the resort through a yoga retreat through teachers such as Annoushka Hempel.

The reosrt boasts a yoga therapy sessions as well as numerous yoga retreats from world-renowned gurus

The resort boasts a 'yoga therapy' sessions as well as numerous yoga retreats from world-renowned gurus

The pavilion is not the only delgated yoga spot...you nca practice practially anywhere...even in the underwater lounges, surrounded by fish! (photo courtesy of blog.360dgrs.nl)

The pavilion is not the only delegated yoga spot...you can practice practically anywhere...even in the underwater lounges and spa, surrounded by fish! (photo courtesy of blog.360dgrs.nl)

The resort is expensive, I am not going to lie.

It can range,depending on season, from about $1100 per night to about $8000 a night if you are one of those people who just absolutely needs the larger private pool.

For me, I think I’d be happy just working as a concierge here, or maybe as a visiting yoga teacher…hint,hint, Huvafen?…sigh…

I think I would easily find paradise atthe place where ifinity meets the ocean

I think I would easily find paradise at the place where infinity meets the ocean

For more information on sustainable tourism in the Maldives click here.

For more information on the Huvafen Fushi Resort click here.

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namibia jolie-pitt

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt put Namibia on the pop-travel and sustainable travel radar when they visited a few years ago to adopt

We all remember the media frenzy that was the adoption saga of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Namibia a few years back, bringing a large, seemingly obscure, yet beautiful African country on the radar.

However, most of us are not celebrity philanthropists and therefore cannot enjoy Namibia on their budget. The Jolie-Pitts actually rented an entire hotel in Swakopmund for their stay while enjoying privately chauffeured adventure tours all over the country.

In Namibia you can literally drive for hours and hours without seeing a single soul...which is both disconcerting and liberting...reverting your psyche back to a time when people were not encroaching as much on the planet...Here's a picture of some people we drove past after four hours of seeing no one...they drove off into the distance in a old pick up truck but we had no idea where they were heading...no place in sight

In Namibia you can literally drive for hours and hours without seeing a single soul…which is both disconcerting and liberating…reverting your psyche back to a time when people were not encroaching as much on the planet…Here’s a picture of some people we drove past after four hours of seeing no one…they drove off into the distance in a old pick up truck but we had no idea where they were heading…no place in sight

Ostriches...feels like the African version of Jurassic Park

Ostriches...feels like the African version of Jurassic Park

Because Namibia is such a tremendously large and spread out country, with a population of only  about 1.8 million people, the task of seeing everything is economically and physically daunting, while the airfare to he country is expensive to begin with. The density of people in Namibia i roughly about 6.6 people per square mile…compare that with another vacation destination, Bermuda, which has a density of 3,140 people per square mile. Getting around can get expensive.

I lucked out.

our tents...camped out the night before our hike through the Namib Desert

our tents...camped out the night before our hike through the Namib Desert

I spent the past semester studying at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and when Spring (South Africa’s Fall) break came around, I heard the red deserts of  Namibia calling my name. Because Namibia borders South Africa, I did not have to fly, and to save money, a few friends and i decided to join an “Overland Tour” through Nomad Travel. Yes, one of those camping, roughing it, big bus (well we were forced to call it a truck, not a bus) tours. They do provide tours that are luxury, or accommodated, or camping depending on your budget, age, and type of traveling you want to do.

the overland vehicle, and our guides...making a stop in the middle of no where on the way to Fish River Canyon

the overland vehicle, and our guides...making a stop in the middle of no where on the way to Fish River Canyon

The experience was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. It was more luxurious and laid back than I could have thought, and I was able to travel to so many parts of this beautiful country, but I’ll focus this post mainly just on the “adventure” part that Brangelina explored just outside Swakopmund and the Namib Desert.

One of the first places we visited after crossing the border was Fish River Canyon...unbelievable...my friend Meg took a moment to survey the lands

One of the first places we visited after crossing the border was Fish River Canyon...unbelievable...my friend Meg took a moment to survey the lands

My tour only covered southern Namibia and yet we covered a lot of ground. We started off in Cape Town, naturally and, over the course of about 8 days, we traveled through Springbok, camping at the Namibian border at the Orange River, to Fish River Canyon (the oldest canyon in the world), to Solitaire (the smallest town in Namibia), to Soussesvlei, to the Namib Desert, to Swakopmund, to the capital Windhoek and back down again.

a map from thimbi-safaris.com of a similar route in Namibia we took, minus crossing the border from South Africa

a map from thimbi-safaris.com of a similar route in Namibia we took, minus crossing the border from South Africa

The whole trip, including extras, nights in guest houses, sand-boarding and adventure sports, nights at the pub, and miscellaneous purchases probably cost me a total of $600.

The most expensive part about traveling in Namibia is the initial cost of airfare…however, once you are there, it is extremely cheap, especially if you book hotels and tours once you are there. Also, even there off-season has good weather, so stay flexible in your plans and stay for a long time, at least 2 weeks…there is so much to see!

I couldn’t believe it either…

jumping into the Orange River to cross to Namibia! That's the dock at the Bushwacked facility

A couple friends, the owners son, and I jumping into the Orange River to cross to Namibia! That's the dock at the Bushwacked facility

We stayed the first few nights just south of Namibia and then drove up to the border and camped out there at an adventure travel campsite called “Bushwacked” click here. This place was a blast! It was beautiful, the people were friendly, the facilities were wonderful, and the bar was a party!The camping is also only about $6 per night!!

Bushwacked

Bushwacked

We were able to jump into the Orange river and swim across it literally crossing over from Namibia to South Africa, as well as canoe up to the river on a day trip!

We then drove up to Fish River Canyon (pictured above) which was a trip, literally and figuratively. The drive was long, but it was magical. Fish River Canyon transported us into a different time and place because the Canyon is so incredibly old. For more info…click here

Solitaire...smallest town in Namibia

Solitaire...smallest town in Namibia

We then camped at the smallest town in Namibia…Solitaire. population: ~30 people and the town mayor is also the manager of only store…the General Store…which is famous for its apple pie….weird enough.

Solitaires only hotel- the Country Lodge was actually really nice!

Solitaire's only hotel- the Country Lodge was actually really nice!

You can camp out like we did, or stay at the town’s only hotel: the Country Lodge, complete with a refreshing pool and great little restaurant! (click here)

My friend, Kevin, checking out the waters after hiking down into the Sossusvlei canyon

My friend, Kevin, checking out the waters after hiking down into the Sossusvlei canyon

the boys playing frisbee at dusk at Sossusvlei

the boys playing frisbee at dusk at Sossusvlei

We then made our trek down to Sossusvlei canyon to watch the sunset and camped out nearby at a great lodge and campsite also complete with pool. For info on Sossusvlei click here. There are plenty of camp sites and luxury lodges nearby that offer the ability to self-drive to the canyon, or guided drives that are reasonably priced.

Dawn at Dune 45 - the hike was so much more difficult than we antivipated- but so worth it!

Dawn at Dune 45 - the hike was so much more difficult than we anticipated- but so worth it!

We spotted a movie set in the Namib desert!!

We spotted a movie set in the Namib desert!!

My friend, Lucy, enjoying the solitude of the Namib Desert

My friend, Lucy, enjoying the solitude of the Namib Desert

Eye Spy!- see if you can spot the hot air balloon in the distance- it s areally popular activity to do over the Namib desert at dawn or dusk! we spotted this one in the distance

Eye Spy!- see if you can spot the hot air balloon in the distance- it s areally popular activity to do over the Namib desert at dawn or dusk! we spotted this one in the distance

In the morning we made the highlight of our trip…watching the sunrise at Dune 45 in the Namib desert located in Naukluft park and then touring the desert with a seasoned Bushman. The Dunes are among the highest and oldest in the world, tinted with a brilliant shade of red which we learned is because of the amount of iron in the sand. For more info on the Namib Desert click here

Tree pose in the desert at dawn

Tree pose in the desert at dawn

petrified trees in the Namib desert through my sunglass lenses

petrified trees in the Namib desert through my sunglass lenses

Ariel view of Swakopmund...courtesy of watchingamerican.com

Ariel view of Swakopmund...courtesy of watchingamerican.com

Swakopmund is the largest vacation destination in Namibia. It’s mild weather-wise because it lies on the ocean at the edge of a desert.

Because Namibia was a German colony, the town is filled with German people and its architecture…which is strange in appearance and emotionally disconcerting when considering the implications of the colonization. However, the town is a fantastic place for people looking for a relaxing beach vacation in a serene town, and for adrenaline junkies alike.

There are numerous adventure travel tours…and the one we went on to go sand-boarding was actually the same one celebrities use and is located right outside the center of town! You can customize your own adventure trip which may include skydiving, sandboarding, quad-biking, and anything else you want! I decided to go for the sand-boarding-quad-biking combo and it was amazing. A private tour through the desert with me and two of my girlfriends on quad-bikes and stopping to sand-board! The whole morning ran me about $50 bucks total.

For a great company- use “Desert Explorers”– they were amazing! Click here for their website!

According to their owners, and photos, the Jolie-Pitts used their services over 13 times! While most of us cannot afford that, a day trip is worth the money!

We went quad-biking and sandboarding with "Desert Explorers"- great company! (that's me on the right)

We went quad-biking and sand-boarding with "Desert Explorers"- great company! (that's me on the right)

My tour-mates and I were able to forgo the tents after a few nights in the Namib desert and stay at a fantastic and cheap guest house that was complete with an indoor pool!

The great think about Swakopmund is you can literally walk the entire town.

Stay where the celebs stay in Swakopmund for only $100 dollars per night- The Burning Shore beahc lodge

Stay where the celebs stay in Swakopmund for only $100 dollars per night- The Burning Shore beahc lodge

If you want to stay where Angelina and Brad Pitt stayed during their trip and are looking to splurge in Swakopmund, try The Burning Shore . The Jolie-Pitts actually rented out this entire hotel during their stay, but you can rent a room for only $100 per night!

Stay at the Chameleon Backpackers while in Windhoek...only $12 per night! there are so many unique and creative backpackers lodges for young people and families alike!

Stay at the Chameleon Backpackers while in Windhoek...only $12 per night! there are so many unique and creative backpackers lodges for young people and families alike!

If you decide to travel into Windhoek and want to stay on a budget, even though we didn’t stay overnight while there,  a friend of mine stayed at this unique backpacker’s lodge called the Chameleon for only $12 per night! click here

For more information on the Overland tour that I participated in Nomad Tours,  click here

For more information on traveling to Namibia in general click here

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn

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Kayaking in my used kayak called "Perception"...how appropriate

Kayaking in my used kayak called "Perception"...how appropriate

Now that the weather is finally cooperating, knock on wood, I’ve been able to do a lot more of one of my favorite summer activities…kayaking.

Heading down to kayak in the Putnamville Reservoir...my dog Magic loves to kayak too and follows me out to the water everytime I go

Heading down to kayak in the Putnamville Reservoir...my dog Magic loves to kayak too and follows me out to the water every time I go

Kayaking can be an intensely athletic and competitive endeavor for some, which is wonderful,  but for me, I kayak simply for the pleasure of getting my blood flowing and putting my mind at ease while  escaping from land for an hour or two (or an entire day when allotted the time).

The original Kayakers

The original Kayakers

Kayaking, which was originally developed by the arctic Inuit people, and brought to mainstream recreational trends in the 1850’s, is a wonderful avenue to utilize mindfulness, pranayama, meditation and yoga to maximize one’s kayaking experience and performance.

Connecting with water physically, mentally and spiritually has been emphasized in every culture and religion. It is widely known that water has an extreme calming effect on the mind and humbles the spirit. Religions such as Islam use water in rituals to purify the soul, while water is regarded as holy areas of the natural world in Shinto. The fact that our bodies are also made mostly of water means that being close to the water would have wonderful therapeutic effects on us.

A Shinto shrine marks the gateway to a holy place...water... (photo courtesy of touchnote.com)

A Shinto shrine marks the gateway to a holy place...water... (photo courtesy of touchnote.com)

Here are some tips on how to incorporate yoga and your kayaking experience, physically and mentally.

I. Yoga, the physical body, and kayaking:

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water…yet nothing can resist it” -Lao Tzu

Even if you are not “into yoga”…taking ten minutes to stretch certain muscle groups will increase your maneuverability of the paddle, kayak and yourself, while decreasing the likelihood of injury and post-kayaking soreness.

A. Lower back pain and tension in the shoulders and neck are common problems associated with kayaking. Some poses to help included…

Cobra pose before a morning kayak out back

Cobra pose before a morning kayak out back

1. Cobra, Bhujangasana (click here for details or view the photo above)

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

2. Wheel, Chakrasana, is a great shoulder opener and supine pose (above)…click here for my previous post on this pose, and here for the post on a more advanced version… Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana

Twists and binds, especially in the Warrior II sequence, are great shoulder openers, which is necessary when getting ready to paddle for a few hours...

Twists and binds, especially in the Warrior II sequence, are great shoulder openers, which is necessary when getting ready to paddle for a few hours...

3. Warrior II modification with a bind, Virabhadrasana.

3. Cat/Cow pose: Marjaryasana (click here)
B. Your hip flexors and groin also have a tendency to get tight while kayaking, as well as your glutes. Some of my favorite stretches for these areas are

1. Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-facing Dog, with the hip open to the sky (click here for some instructions)

2. Warrior IIVirabhadrasana (click here)

3. Pigeon, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (click here).

C. And the most important part to tie these all together is strengthening your core.

Plank is great for your core...Dolphin pose is a similar pose where the elbows are lowered to the ground

Plank is great for your core...Dolphin pose is a similar pose where the elbows are lowered to the ground

1. Plank pose (click here)

2. Full Boat pose, Paripurna Navasana (click here)

Sirsasana on the back porch- great for core work and calming the mind before heading down to the water

Sirsasana on the back porch- great for core work and calming the mind before heading down to the water

3. Headstand pose, sirsasana…click here for my previous post on this

Eagle pose....a favorite of mine for shoulders, lower back, core, leg strength and balance (great before sailing too)

Eagle pose....a favorite of mine for shoulders, lower back, core, leg strength and balance (great before sailing too)

—> Eagle Pose, Garudasana,  is one of my favorite poses that addresses all three of these areas (the upper body, core and hips) plus increases concentration and balance, which is much needed when kayaking (especially in the ocean). (Stay tuned for a more thorough Yoga Pose of the Week feature on this pose!)

—->  Upward-facing Dog, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, is fantastic for the lower back, core and hip flexors....click here for my previous post on this.

Cultivate mindfulness in a meditation practice before heading out to kayak, even if only for a few minutes, i promise you'll notice a difference!

Cultivate mindfulness in a meditation practice before heading out to kayak, even if only for a few minutes, i promise you'll notice a difference!

II. Meditation, breathing and kayaking:

“Give up your selfishness and you shall find peace, like water mingling with water, you shall merge in absorption…”– Sri Guru Granth Sahib

One of the wonderful things about Kayaking is that it allows you to escape from the noise of land for a little while to calm your mind. We can all find answers to our questions and concerns in nature, we just need to open our hearts and free our minds to find the answers.

Before, and even during a kayaking trip, I suggest trying a little meditation to calm the mind and open the heart to receive all the benefits of being alone, on the water, with just you and a small vessel.

A good meditation I like to try is as follows:

1. Take a comfortable seated position on a mat/pillow overlooking the natura destination you about to kayak across/down. Align your shoulders, neck, back and hips over one another, close your eyes, inhale and exhale deeply…

2. While breathing deeply, scan through the body, relaxing hips first, than consciously relaxing body part by body part up through the abdomen, spine, chest, shoulders, jaw, space between the eyebrows, top of the head, the head as a whole, the body as a whole…

3. Chant the mantra “Om” three times. The first “Om” will connect you and your physical body, the second, to connect you and the outside world, and the third will connect you and your inner spirit and mind. Notice and perceive the vibrations of mantra “Om” filling up our whole body, harmonizing it.

4. Focus on a light in your third eye, let this become a ball of light, becoming bigger and bigger in you sight until it encompasses you and you are a part of it. Let the light soak through your entire body, rinsing your body of negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

5. Next, set an intention for your day, repeat a personal mantra (always a positive one) for your journey…such as “I will be aware of the natural world around me”, or something even more specific…repeat this as a command to yourself three times.

6. Take a few more deep breathes and let the mind settle. Thoughts will come and go, but do not judge yourself for having random thoughts because “you aren’t supposed to in meditation”. Let the thoughts come in and pas through as they came, not dwelling, just noticing them being there. Let them pass over like clouds in a windy sky.

7. Take a few more deep inhales and exhales, slowly open your eyes, and begin your yoga practice and/or kayak adventure!

–> It is also important, after Kayaking to do a few spinal twist poses, some stretches like the one’s above and then finish with a savasana pose and more meditation to fully receive the benefits of your adventure!

Meditative thinking before and during Kayaking can increase your ability to flow your paddle strokes more freely, consistently, and with more ease than normal. You become less focused on your destination, time limit, or external worries and focus simply at the task at hand and the vista surrounding you.

Becoming conscious of each stroke and the present moment… the feel pressure of the water against your paddle, the sound of the droplets of water falling of the paddle as you raise it out of the water, the smell of the ocean salt beginning to speckle your skin, and the panorama of the natural world around you…all of these sensory gifts can be utilized to enhance your mood and your kayaking flow.

“Kayoga” or “Yogak” has been catching on along with other yoga-sport cross-training methods because the benefits are undeniable.

If you simply google the terms “yoga” and “kayaking” together, a slew of programs will show up and one is bound to match your skill level, desired amount of either yoga or kayaking involved, and ideal location.

Even my dog loves to kayak!

Even my dog loves to kayak!

Kripalu does a “Yoga for Kayakers” workshop, as well as any other yoga retreats, while adventure and outdoors expeditions are now incorporating yoga into their kayaking trips. There is actually one coming up on July 17th at Kripalu I believe…and more are available through the summer and early fall led by Greg DiLisio and Johnny Snyder…click here for details.

You can also customize a ocean kayaking-yoga trip in Mexico with a company called “Sea to Sky Yoga” (based in Canada)…click here.

To go it alone, and locally…check out this Kayak Route website (here) which lists kayak routes in your area and beyond!

My kayak is also not the most innovative and fancy kayak in the world, but it does the job and was bought used from a friend…no need to buy new. So I feel satisfied that this big hunk of plastic at least wasn’t a brand new purchase. However, there are actually ways to “green” your kayaking trips…

The Walden Vista Expedition Kayak at earthfriendlykayaks.com is made with recycled plastic

The Walden Vista Expedition Kayak at earthfriendlykayaks.com is made with recycled plastic

Aside from buying used kayaks instead of new ones like I did, it is pretty difficult to find eco-friendly kayaks. However, I did find some and there are also eco-friendly kayaks for sale through companies like Walden Kayaks.

The Walden Kayaks are made from recycled HDPE (plasctic code no. 2) and sold via Earth Friendly Kayaks…click here

Now, go get your paddle on!

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When the weather is nice, classes move outoors...overlooking Stockbridge Bowl

Kriaplu center, Lenox MA....When the weather is nice, classes move outdoors...overlooking Stockbridge Bowl

Now that the weekend is approaching, I would like to offer a weekend activity for all you Bostonians out there. Take a drive out to Western Massachusetts, to Lenox, and spend a day…or two…or a week, at Kripalu Yoga center.

This place is a sustainable yogi’s utopia!

the gardens around Kripalu are little sanctuaries waiting to be discovered. There are multiple meditation gardens all of the property and in the woods...

the gardens around Kripalu are little sanctuaries waiting to be discovered. There are multiple meditation gardens all over the property and in the woods...

I have spent numerous days at Kripalu,  and a week out there for a workshop with Raphael Cushnir. Although the center is famous in yoga circles, especially for its phenomenal yoga teachers, Ayurveda, and massage practitioner, trainings, I had not heard much of it before a few years ago. I almost literally stumbled upon it while out visiting my grandmother in Pittsfield, MA. I had experienced dreams of going there, and finally, after she passed away, I decided it was time.

The KRiaplu center from the back, it used to be a church, so its architecture is a little odd on the outside...but it is stunning on the inside!

The Kriaplu center from the back, it used to be a church, so its architecture is a little odd on the outside...but it is stunning on the inside!

At first I spent only a day. You can get a guest pass which allows you into all the facilities, includes free general yoga classes and includes a meal. I was hooked! The center focuses mainly on “Kripalu” style yoga, started by Swami Kripalu, however, the best teachers from all types of yoga in the world come and teach workshops there, such as Shiva Rea.

Birds eye view of Kripalu yoga center

Birds eye view of Kripalu yoga center

I spent a week last year, kind of a birthday present to myself, doing a “Transformation” workshop for 5 days with Raphael Cushnir. He is an amazing resource on incorporating Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness in every day life.

The program was a bit pricey, but it was completely worth it. I lived in the “dorms” which are just big, pristine rooms for about 6 people. They have options for doubles and singles but it was cheaper to live in dorms and I am really glad I did. I met a wonderful friend there and numerous other women from all walks of life who I will continue to stay in touch with.

The atmosphere at Kripalu is light, mindful, gracious, calm, compassionate and yet everyone almost acts as if they are in summer camp, because that is what it feels like!

There are evening activities, like chanting, yogadance and book readings, while you can take kayaks out on Stockbridge Bowl (the lake it looks over), go hiking in the trails behind the center, or even take in a Boston Symphony Orchestra Concert right next door at Tanglewood.

Class at Kripalu

Class at Kripalu

My schedule, while there, basically consisted of waking up extremely early, going for a swim in the lake at dawn, heading to a 6:30 am yoga class, having an amazing organic microbiotic breakfast (one of the best parts of Kirpalu is the food) attending my workshop, lunch (amazing again), more workshop, maybe another yoga class or a hike, then relaxing in the sauna or giant whirlpool, having a wonderful dinner with new friends at the dining hall, writing for a bit, then attending an evening event, or just relaxing and reading.

If I had my way, I would go every weekend! Lenox, MA also has so many artisan shops, cafes and galleries to entertain you when you want to leave the space. Definitely a must try!

Workshops at Kripalu are usually themed and can be anything form “Kayaking and Yoga”, to “Yoga for Women”, to “Yoga for Relationships”, and even “Yoga and Horses”.

If you do not want to commit to a workshop, try a day pass for $50…you’ll be hooked!

Because the place also runs on volunteers, you can also arrange to do a volunteer stint at the center in exchange for room, board, and unlimited classes!

For more informaton on Kripalu Yoga Center click here.

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Great White Shark Cage Diving in South Africa...the sharks that work hard for their food

Great White Shark Cage Diving in South Africa...the sharks that work hard for their food...(photo courtesy of dsc.discovery.com)

So this Wednesday, I wanted to share an experience I have already had, but that I would do again in a heartbeat.

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks off of Seal Island in South Africa.

Do I look scared? Because at that moment...after seeing 3 different Great Whites attack a bunch of seals...I was terrified to get anywhere near them...

Do I look scared? Because at that moment...after seeing 3 different Great Whites attack a bunch of seals...I was terrified to get anywhere near them...

If anyone else watches Shark Week as religiously as I do, then I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this couple…Chris and Monique of Apex Predators in False Bay, South Africa.

They are the foremost experts on South African Great White Sharks and Chris’ photos of the breaching Great Whites have been featured everywhere from newspapers to National Geographic, and their expeditions have been a feature on Shark Week’s segment “Air Jaws” (1 and 2) and BBC’s ‘Planet Earth’.

You can watch a YouTube copy of the BBC ‘Planet Earth: Great White Shark Attack‘ special with Chris Fallows to get an idea of our expedition…here.

Yes, that is a Great White Shark attacking a rubber profile of a seal Chris lowered into the water...right after I captured a video of another Shark attacking about 5 baby seals...

Yes, that is a Great White Shark attacking a rubber profile of a seal Chris lowered into the water...right after I captured a video of another Shark attacking about 5 baby seals...

Chris Fallows of the well-known Apex Predators lowering the steel cage into the cold waters with his team

Chris Fallows of the well-known Apex Predators lowering the steel cage into the cold waters with his team

Basically, these specific Great White  sharks in this region exhibit an extremely rare predatory behavior in which they actually BREACH, lifting their whole body out of the water, to catch their seal prey. A behavior they learned from chasing seals who would jump out of the water to catch fish off of fisherman’s lines.

April through September is prime viewing for this spectacular phenomenon, and I was lucky enough to experience it last April with my dad, another adrenaline junkie with an appreciation for all creatures that are extremely dangerous and majestic.

We decided to go with the best..and chose Apex Predators, which was surprisingly inexpensive for a day long dive with about 5 others excluding Chris himself and his crew.

The trip was roughly $200 per person, and for the experience…it was MORE than worth it.

The trip started at dawn, and included watching sharks attack seals during feeding time, breakfast on the boat, and then the good stuff…

getting into a steel cage and becoming a Great White shark magnet.

On the trip with my dad, the morning started off with a lot of predatory activity. We witnessed two attacks and one on a seal “dummy” in the water (pictured above). Chris was incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining, which made the trip extremely personal.

We then anchored near the island while Chris chummed the water with the largest most disgusting pieces of Tuna I had ever seen, but was careful not to feed the sharks, because then it would become habitual for them.

When Chris asked who wanted to go first into the cage, I jumped at the chance.

My dad and I got into the frigid waters, with the cage top open…something I found extremely disconcerting considering I knew full well these sharks jump out of the water…but Chris didn’t seem so concerned…so I decided not to worry either.

no turning back now

no turning back now

Within a minute, my dad and I saw an enormous, gray, graceful creature emerge out of the abyss…gliding as if without effort through the icy waters right towards our cage.

I grabbed the edge of the cage and then fear for my fingers after seeing the hundreds of sharp teeth, peeking out of the shark’s mouth like stalagmites…

The Shark itself was bigger than a Cape Town Minibus (van), yet it moved so lightly through the water, gliding past us and disappearing back into the dark waters.

We saw three other Great White Sharks within the span of 10 minutes, all coming within 20 feet of our paralyzed, adrenaline filled bodies, suspended in fear….like mice dangling from an entertained young boy for his pet snake to eat…a perfect shark buffet…

Two guys on vacation also got into the cage after us and one shark literally rammed head first into their cage, slamming it into the boat!

Overall, a successful day in Cape Town…

Chris and Monique focus heavily on conservation and the study of Great White Sharks and their predatory habits.

Seal Island at Dawn...feeding time for the Great Whites

Approaching Seal Island at Dawn...feeding time for the Great Whites as the seals leave the sanctuary of the island to seek out breakfast

Click Here for more info on Chris Fallow’s, his work and his expeditions…

For accommodations in  Cape Town….

Some proffessional pictures of The Atlanticview hotel from oceqanviewcampsbay.com

Some professional pictures of The Atlanticview hotel from oceqanviewcampsbay.com

Lounging at the Atlantic view by the infinity pool...my parents had the room on the upper right.

Lounging at the Atlantic view by the infinity pool with some friends ...my parents had the room on the upper right.

I cannot say enough of the place my parents stayed (and I stayed for a few nights)….The Atlanticview hotel in Camps Bay.

View from noe deck over the infinity pool to the Atlantic Ocean at the Atlanticview Hotel

View from one deck over the infinity pool to the Atlantic Ocean at the Atlanticview Hotel

Featured in Fine Living Magazine and even by the Guardian, the Atlantic view is a surprisingly still to be discovered hotel treasure.

The Atlanticview Hotel with the Twelve Apostles Mountan Range in the background

The Atlanticview Hotel with the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range in the background..this view is of only HALF of the hotel

The hotel is a bit of a splurge, but offers 50% off of normal room rates during low season…which is coincidentally prime time for shark viewing!

Camps Bay is the Malibu of Cape Town, and this boutique luxury hotel was a great find. Tucked into the mountain and close to the shops, boulevard, fantastic restaurants and beaches of Camps Bay, the Atlanticview was a personal hotel experience like no other.

With two infinity pools overlooking the Atlantic, views of Table Mountain, amazing suites, a gym, en-suite fully stocked kitchens, free breakfast in bed, included cocktail hour with hors-d’oeurves and a  wine tasting at sunset, free wireless, and AMAZING STAFF…this place was a dream.

View from the Atlantic View during cmoplimentary sunset cocktail hour

View from the Atlantic View during complimentary sunset cocktail hour

The bathroom floors were even heated…sigh…

Unique statue in the Bathroom by the open air shower complete with heated floors and a full length window to view the Atlantic Ocean!

Unique statue in the Bathroom by the open air shower complete with heated floors and a full length window to view the Atlantic Ocean!

My parents were upgraded for free, and they even allowed me to stay there in a room despite the fact it was a couples-oriented hotel. The staff was simply incredible and knowledgeable.

My mom stayed for an extended period of time and really bonded with one of the staffers, Nabil, who went above and beyond the call of duty on every occasion to make sure we had everything at our fingertips, from personal transport by him when necessary, helping us arrange a safari in Sabi Sands, reservations at the best restaurants, and helping us find local spots…he was the bes

The owner, Greg, was incredibly helpful in our travels, while Andrich and Ashley who worked there also made our stay there unforgettable.

For more info on the Atlanticview Boutique Hotel…click here.

Another sunset at the Atlanticview...the sky looks as if it were on fire!

Another sunset at the Atlanticview...the sky looks as if it were on fire!

Rooms at the Atlantic view are furnished with African art made by local artisans...such as this piece over the bed

Rooms at the Atlantic view are furnished with African art made by local artisans...such as this piece over the bed

Another picture of the Atlanticview hotel...the whole top floor to the right was my parents' suite

Another picture of the Atlanticview hotel...the upper Lobby is on the top floor, while there is also a lower dining room/lounge and deck.

Lush and comfortable couches in the lounge area of the Atlanticview...to the right there are floor to cieling glass doors that open up to the Atlantic ocean....and to the left? A bar, of course

Personal touches make the Atlanticview feel like a luxury home rather than a hotel...lush and comfortable couches in the lounge area of the Atlanticview...to the right there are floor to ceiling glass doors that open up to the Atlantic ocean....and to the left? A bar, of course

Dining area at the Atlanticview

Simple, elegant, African-inspired decor in the dining area at the Atlanticview...the colorful painting on the far wall (as well as the on e over the fireplace in the other picture above, and other paintings around the hotel) are made by a local commissioned African artist. You can purchase his paintings, and any other local African furnishings and artwork at the hotel, right off of the walls!

A complimentary appetizer and wine tasting occurs with the staff every evening at sunset out on the deck, or inside at the bar if it is too chilly...

A complimentary appetizer and wine tasting occurs with the staff every evening at sunset out on the deck, or inside at the bar if it is too chilly...

There is so much more to say about South Africa, but I am reserving all the goodies for more Wanderlust Wednesdays…so stay tuned!


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