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Interning as a Yoga Teacher in Colombia

It’s been just over a month since I returned home from Colombia, and in that time I’ve been able to see some major changes taking place in my life. Many of these changes are things I’ve been working towards for months or even years, and others are changes I’ve more recently resolved to make, in large part due to the time I spend in Medellin, with Yoga Internships Colombia.

I’m now teaching yoga at my favourite Ottawa studio, Prana Shanti. I’ve taught two well-received Hatha classes this past week, and am teaching eight classes through the month of July. I’ve also cemented my involvement with Laughing Falcon Yoga and Wellness Center, a studio opening soon in the picturesque Ontario town of Barry’s Bay.  I’ve taken on a role as a support for their marketing efforts and am organizing a three-day Autumn retreat. I’ll also be teaching the Yoga Nidra workshop I developed in Colombia.

The dynamics of my social life have also shifted as well. I’m making new friends and have readjusted relationships with some of my existing friends and family members. I’m leaning less on unhealthy habits and tending more towards peace and ease in all areas of my life. And it feels so good; so authentic.

The role that Yoga Internships Colombia had in all these changes is, in my mind, in large part thanks to the container for growth it provided. I was already on a path to change in my own life, and the space, support, practice and clarity the program provided was an extra push in the right direction.

As I’ve written, finding space to do what I know is right in my life can be a challenge for me. At home it’s easy to get bogged down by my 9-5 job, relationships, and unhealthy tendencies. By travelling and taking myself out of my day-to-day repetitive thoughts and routines, I always feel a sense of opening of possibilities that allows me to reconnect again and again to what’s really important to me: yoga, building relationships with like-minded and loving people, my health, creating peace in my mind, nature, learning, and sharing my experiences through teaching and writing.

In Colombia, the balance of structured and free time at the internship at Flying Tree Yoga gave me the space to write new articles, begin to plan the yoga retreat, apply for other yoga positions, and to connect with new contacts and friends both in Colombia and in Ontario (not to mention teaching yoga in a foreign country, which had long been a dream of mine).

I also became much clearer on how I wanted to move forward, given my current reality. The support offered by Andrew and Sierra, the program facilitators, as well as other yoga teachers involved in the program, the other interns, and even the students who attended my classes and workshops was invaluable.  The workshops kept us thinking about yoga-related topics (the Yamas and Niyamas, use of hands-on support and the use of language in yoga, to name a few) and how we could apply them in our own teachings. They provided us with resources and ideas to advance our teaching and our personal yoga practice and encouraged us to share our own ideas. No topic, idea or style of yoga was pushed on us; instead we were invited to explore and to establish our own style of teaching.

The same was true of our opportunities to teach classes. We had the option to teach as much or as little as we liked, and the group of interns worked collaboratively to fill the schedule of the studio. It was clearly laid out at the beginning of the program that there would be a chance for us to teach workshops, private classes and/or to provide other healing services as we would like, and then we were left to take the initiative to plan them ourselves. As yoga teachers, I think this was so important, as it can be quite hard and take time and creativity to find a space to teach. Initiative is so important in the sometimes saturated yoga scene. Making new contacts, charting our own path, and creating opportunities for ourselves is just as important as actually having the skills to teach. The internship really reflected this, while providing support when we needed it.

In the end I think this experience, as with most in life, was what I made it. I went to Medellin with the intention to teach as much as I could, to write, to refocus on my health, and to gain some clarity on my next steps. I also wanted, of course, to explore the city and if possible, other parts of Colombia. I was glad to be given the chance to plan and create my own promotional materials for my workshop, to communicate with and schedule private clients, and to participate in the yoga community in Medellin. These are all skills that are so useful to me now that I’m back in Ottawa. I even got a chance to visit Guatape, a beautiful little town in the countryside. I knew very well going into this that it would not be like a teacher training- that I was there to make my own opportunities- and it was the perfect way to do so.

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Teaching My First Yoga Workshop

Today I taught my very first yoga workshop at Flying Tree Yoga Studios in Medellin, Colombia. In the first week here, I had the opportunity to share information about a specific topic related to yoga with the other interns in a very informal workshop type setting. I opted to share my knowledge of Yoga Nidra. It was quite well received, and so I decided to offer the class to the public. I found that there were a few important things to keep in mind as I developed the workshop.

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Simple and Delicious Fried Plantains

With all the yoga and activity I’ve been doing here in Colombia, I find myself wanting to snack quite a bit to keep my energy up. Since I have more of a salty tooth than a craving for sweets, I took a peek at the grocery store to see what savoury treat I could whip up quickly and on a budget. Having tried plantain chips in other countries, I decided to try my hand at making fried plantains, and in the last few weeks it’s become a staple in my diet.
This starchy fruit that looks similar to a banana, is native to tropical regions and is quite low in sugar. Plantains can be steamed, fried or boiled and seasoned in any way you wish.

Here’s my easy recipe for cooking up some really tasty and satisfying plaintain chips.

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Finding the Space to Do What You Love

There are so many articles, books and people out there advising us to ‘do what you love’ that’s it’s become an acronym. Yes, there are also articles that advise against this, and suggest instead learning to love what you do unless you want to be penniless and living on the street painting crappy artwork for pennies.

I can certainly see both sides of the coin, and yes, we all have to make a living, but I’m a firm believer that if you feel you have something you’re meant to share,  you should find a way to share it, even if it means sacrificing other things that society, our parents or friends tell us we ‘should’ want and pursue.

The books telling us to chase our dreams offer ideas for how to figure out what it is what you love, and then go after it.These are of course helpful, but in my experience, the hardest part of the equation can be to extricate ourselves from our day-to-day lives: the routine of going to work, socializing, finding time to relax- not to mention any bad habits and attachments we may have that don’t serve us. Sometimes we lose sight of HOW to do what it is we want to do, even when we know what that is. But it is possible.

In my first week here in Colombia, I had already taught a workshop on Yoga Nidra, a couple of yoga classes, and given a Reiki session. I’d written an article which has been published on Elephant Journal, booked two private clients for therapeutic yoga classes and made strides in so many other areas. People are asking about my services and want to schedule time with me for my healing and yoga sessions.

It makes me so grateful, and also really made me reflect on why I haven’t been teaching, offering Reiki or writing as much as I’d like to in Ottawa. Travel with the intention to be healthy, active and mindful has always stimulated my creative side and allowed me to share more and make more connections with a like-minded community.

Why does it take leaving to gain space to share the things I really want to share and do the things I really want to do?

I was really, really scared to come here. I also knew that the fear I was feeling wasn’t the kind that should prevent me from doing it. I keep travelling because it allows me to keep true to my heart, which tells me to find ways to share what it is I have to give- yoga, reiki, and my unique perspective in any way I can, even if that means I need to go halfway across the world to find the space to do so at this point in my life.

In a full moon fire ceremony last night, my housemates and I wrote down situations, feelings, people, habits or other things we were ready to release and burnt them in our courtyard, allowing the power of the full moon to help us let go of these things that were using up our energy. My list was somewhat long.

By first recognizing the things that keep us stuck in certain situations, we can take steps to detach from them and move towards sharing our gifts.

If you enjoy what you’re doing, are truly happy with your life, and have no urge to do anything differently, then great! But if any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to really look at what you can release from your life however you need to, and mindful travel can certainly provide that change of perspective.

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Gautape: The Perfect Active Weekend Escape 

Gautape, a tiny pueblo less than two hours outside of Medellin is a popular destination for Paisa’s and international travellers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The town itself is small, but lively and colourful.  

It is surrounded by a beautiful system of man-made lakes that shine turquoise, and is just a few minutes drive from the main tourist draw- La Piedra del Penol, a giant rock jutting out from the landscape with a staircase leading to the top.


Many also come to let loose on the lake, as is evident by the multiple party boats cruising the lake at any given time, but there are also so many options for those looking to get outside and soak up the fresh air and be active. There are a couple of delicious restaurants offering fresh, healthy food as well.

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Cycling in the City: Medellin by Bike

 Medellin sits in a valley, surrounded by the Andes mountains. A beautiful sight, but also a recipe for smog.

In recent years, the city has taken steps to develop its cycling infrastructure and promote cycling as a mode of transportation in order to curb air pollution and encourage healthy living among Paisas. These initiatives have had great success, and Medellin has become an excellent cycling destination.

There are now bicycle routes in many areas of the city, and plans are in place to expand biking them by 400 km in the next two decades. Medellin also hosted the World Bicycle Forum in 2015.

The ambitious Encicla program has also certainly contributed to the rising popularity of cycling: this bike share program has more than 35 stations in the city with over 600 bikes available for loan-for free.  Anyone in the city , including tourists may sign up online to access this service and take a spin on one of the recognizable blue bicycles. 

Bike clubs and serious athletes have proliferated, and the last Wednesday of each month has become a trendy event, offering the opportunity for bike lovers gather to ride in the Fiesta de la Bici.

Though at first glance the streets seem to be quite hectic, they are generally safe as motorists have become accustomed to keeping an eye out for cyclists on the road. On any given weekend, hundreds of cyclists take to the streets and the recreational paths to take a weekend ride. Yesterday, Earth Day, was also Dia sin Carro- Day without Cars here in Medellin. Only bikes, and public transportation vehicles were out on public streets.

Popular routes for serious cyclists, including the challenging Las Palmas and Alto de Minas routes, which take you out  of the city into the countryside, all include lots of hills. Be prepared for some steep incline training. There are also mountain biking options in the hills outside the city, with numerous operators offering tours.

In my week here, I’ve seen more cyclists than any other city I’ve been to. The lovely weather year-round and the forward-thinking initiatives of the local government really encourage people to get out and cycle the city.

 

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I’m in Colombia!

Yup. My latest wanderings have brought me to Medellin. The flight from Toronto was relatively painless, despite an unscheduled landing at the Bogota airport due to a ‘pothole in the runway.’ When we finally arrived, I was the air was cooler than I expected and the winding drive down from the high-altitude airport gave me my first glimpse of the city’s night lights in the valley. 

I’m here for the next month to teach yoga at Flying Tree Yoga and take some workshops as a part of Yoga Internship Colombia‘s program. The studio/my home while I’m here is in the Laurales neighbourhood, an up-and-coming area with beautiful tree-lines streets and lots of shops, restaurants and cafes near the university. 
My first day has already been productive and relaxing- I went to a writer’s workshop, watched my new roomies doing acro-yoga, ate some delicious mangos and explored Parque Llaras in one of the wealthier (and more touristy) areas called El Poblado. 

   
    
  

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Healthy Products from Around the World: Island Crisps

I love potato chips. They may not be the very best thing for me health-wise, but I think it’s really important to treat myself now and then, and chips are definitely my favourite indulgence. There are also options that are better than others: in Canada I buy chips that are fried in avocado or olive oil-both much better options than most vegetable oils. In Bali, I was delighted to find these organic chips made by Big Tree Farms out of melinjo seeds. They were crunchy, just salty enough and quite filling. Melinjo seeds are native to southeast Asia, and contain high levels of protein and antioxidants, making them a great snack.

Island_Crisps_Bali

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Back to the Pura Vida

This is my fourth time visiting Costa Rica. I can’t seem to stay away from this place that holds such a clear space in and for my spirit. I’ve always believed we can learn so much from place: the different physical, geographical, cultural, social tones and our perception of how we fit in to them. Each time I am here, I experience something new.


 This space that is created continues to grow as I see paths that never existed in my life or mind before. I am continuously pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways as it feels like this place is supporting self-reflection over and over and over again.

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