Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Sunday, August 21

ancient secrets | neti pot

COMPANY: Ancient Secrets
COST: online it looks to be $11, I found mine at the local organic/vitamin section at the grocery store years ago. 
DESCRIPTION: The Neti Pot™ naturally cleanses, refreshes, and protects the nasal passages, one of our body's first lines of defense against illness. Recommended today by doctors and pharmacists worldwide, the Neti Pot™ has been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicine to alleviate sinus and allergy problems. [review by Himalayan Institute]

I have to start off by saying, this isn't so much a product review as a practice review. Above there are two links to neti pots, because I don't have loyalty to mine (from Ancient Secrets). But after going on vacation for a week with out my neti pot and then returning home to being sick... I had to chat about this. Every morning I do a nasal cleansing, and I don't have allergies but people I know who do swear by this practice also (reducing their allergies enough to get off of medications... bonus!). 

Yeah, it's weird. You put some warm water and salt in the pot, stick in one nostril, tilt your head, and have the water run out the opposite nostril. But, again, being sick this week, it works! The crap that comes out of those nasal passage, ew! Definitely save this for when your partner isn't walking through the room, you know, to keep the romance alive in your relationship :) 

Also, maybe an obvious reason to discuss... being able to breathe. The cleaner and bigger the breath, the better the yoga practice, yeah? Yes. Pranayama is the practice of controlling your breath, which I'm still very new to, but find immediate benefits in reduced stress, building energy, and after one practice... aide in digestion. Impressive. 

The only downside to my pot, I don't feel comfortable packing it when I'm flying somewhere. Maybe I'll find the perfect travel neti pot (or do you have any suggestions?!), that I can review next. 

Friday, August 12

Open Space | Honolulu, Hawaii

I had six classes planned for my week in Honolulu, but as vacations or life in general go, we can't plan out everything to our wishes. Missing four other classes (one of which, the studio was closed, Moga Hawaii), I was reminded that even in "paradise" we cannot escape stress. To be quite honest, it was a week of mental challenges for me... questioning what I'm doing with my life, wondering where the next path even starts let alone choosing one, searching for happiness inside of me and wondering why I was holding myself back from it. There were a few moments that brought me back to me... two of them were my yoga classes. My practice has quickly become my number one priority in life, and it's to a point that other priorities have lost importance all together. Before I start this review, I ask all you yogis out there, have you experienced this? And if so, any words of wisdom?

LOCATION: As my last day in Honolulu, this was a bittersweet walk along the beach towards Diamond Head. The weather was (again) perfect, the breeze was divine, and the walk was longer but included passing (non-stop) amazing views. At the end of the walk, I saw the same thing you see in the image I posted... Just the word YOGA and many prayer flags. If you were driving, I imagine this would be just as easy to spot, because it's on a corner and on the 2nd floor with the big YOGA sign. I didn't pay attention to parking, sorry. There was a small lot I walked through, but I'm not sure if it was free. I was too excited to get to my class. 
COST: I had noted to myself that class was $17-30, which is a big range, and I'm not sure why it was set up that way, but it was a nice surprise when I was charged $10 (plus tax). I used my credit card, so I know they accept them. 
STUDIO: The studio is on the second floor, which is smart in Oahu, as I've found the difference in breeze is amazing by just going up one floor. You walk up the back stairs towards more prayer flags, kick off your shoes outside, and enter a waiting area to check in. I believe there were two rooms for classes, as people asked the instructor which room to set up in. The room we were in fit 12-15 people easily (maybe more). One wall was windows on the top half, and the studio itself had open top halves through out, I assume for further air circulation. Although I wondered how that would work if there were two classes going at once, maybe they never run it that way. There were mats, blankets, blocks, and straps to grab for free. And I was grateful for the pitcher of water free to all students at the end of class, since I forgot my water bottle. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: I planned to attend the 10:45am Relax Deeply/Yoga Nidra class, but I wanted to have the morning for more vacation time with my partner, before his plane left. I'm curious how that class went, but was quite happy with my switch to Kama'aina/Hatha Flow: A balanced practice between opposites. Hatha yoga balances "ha" or sun/stimulating energy with "tha" or moon/calming energy. Hatha Flow focuses on the inclusion of all yogic techniques including asana (dynamic and static), pranayama, mudras, bandhas, and kriyas. Visualization and deep guided meditations are also taught. This class is open to all students with some experience in yoga. (I just looked up Kama'aina, and it seems to mean locals. I may have just intruded on a class specific to locals, which may be why the instructor gave pause when I denied the new student discount because I was leaving that same day. I hope I didn't offend her/the studio... I had no idea!) 
INSTRUCTOR: Celina's yoga journey began as a freshman in college at the University of Washington in Seattle. There, Celina studied Hatha yoga, Psychocalisthenics, and Pilates. After three years of practicing Bikram, she moved to the North Shore of Oahu where she continued her Bikram studies under Vicki Wells for another year. Celina had the feeling that she was barely scratching the surface of what yoga could offer and intuited that she needed more information on pranayama and breath. Serendipitously, Celina's friend introduced her to Open Space Yoga and upon taking her first class, Celina knew she had found her new yoga home. She soon signed up for the OSY teacher training where she studied under Mary Bastien, Jennifer Reuter, and Murti Hower.
CONTACT: Open Space

As I set up, a couple of regulars made an effort to smile at me, which is always welcoming (mahalo). Celina started the class talking about the focus of class being namaha (I knew we were off to a great start for this yogi). I wish I took notes on what she was saying... I know she related the parts of the word namaha to our chakras. It was one part technical in relation to the body and one part spiritual, and all parts fascinating!

In our comfortable seated positions, she asked us to start focusing on our breath... or I assume that's what she said, because the outdoors decided to get noisy with jackhammering, honking semis, and who knows what else was going on out there. We all laughed, but Celina mentioned a great thing about how her mantra teacher recommended she try to find the om in all noises. It was an amazing switch in my head, and I'm so very grateful for her sharing her lesson with us. We slowly warmed up the joints, rotating in that same seated position, cats/cows, etc. In practicing our salutation, she took it slow reminding us of the many parts to check in with, to keep breathing. Celina spent some extra time on how to go into chaturanga, which was different than what I am familiar with... I should take a moment to point out that you may be doing something different than what the instructor is asking you to do, which doesn't always mean you're doing it wrong (or maybe you are, I don't know that myself, yet). What I'm saying is, there are many ways to teach yoga out there, from what I can tell. I would recommend doing what the instructor you are with is asking. You may find that you get into the pose better or find a new part of your body you didn't know existed. You may find you don't like it at all, but this is just as beneficial. This is the reason I love visiting new studios!

I really did appreciate how Celina would come back to the spiritual aspect of the poses while never losing touch on the physical parts of it... and reminding us that taking it down a notch (not pushing ourselves) is often the better practice since a lot of us don't know our edge yet (ain't that the truth!?!). The class recommends having some experience, maybe because the spiritual aspect was being brought in also. But I feel like it was a well-rounded, beautiful introduction to yoga, and Celina was wonderful working with the different levels in the room, having modifications for all.

Thank you Celina, it was a pleasure meeting you and learning from you... I do truly hope I wasn't imposing on a locals' class, and if I was, thank you for letting me in anyway. It was the perfect end to a vacation and a studio I would love to visit again if/when I return. Namaste. 

Silent Dance Center | Honolulu, HI

LOCATION: I'm going to be honest about my walk to this area of Waikiki/Honolulu... it's pretty rough looking. I don't think I'd be comfortable walking around here at night, to say the least. People were friendly in passing, but the garbage, the dilapidated buildings and the overall despair of it all, I wasn't expecting. Beach town, laid back, rundown is quite different. BUT... the place was easy to navigate and walk around (they also have a fantastic & cheap bus system). This place would have been a little difficult to find in a car, as it's not visible at all from the street. Although their website has a great map explaining it's location and showing the studio front. There seemed to be free parking for customers, and it was right next to an all vegetarian/organic grocery store (LOVE!). 
COST: First time students get to go for free! This is great, and quite common around Honolulu. They also supplied blankets, blocks, straps, etc. for free. I didn't see any sort of credit card machines around, nor do they seem to have online payment. See their site for further fee descriptions.
STUDIO: This one room, open-air studio was beautiful. It reminded me of a Japanese tea room or something. I'm not sure why, maybe the simplicity of it all. The two long walls of the room opened up completely, one with doors and the other with shutter-style windows. The window side had a dance bar running the length of it (it either was a dance studio before, or they also teach dance there, not sure). Straps hung from the barn-door side, as this is an Iyengar-based studio. I believe Iyengar is big on props, I'm still learning. I would say there were at least 20 students comfortably in the space. We faced one another from the long walls, while our instructor worked from the center of the space. There was no music, just the wonderful breeze rustling the palm trees outside and cooling down the studio.   
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Yoga 1A Basic yoga postures and concepts (including alignment, breathing, and relaxation). Recommended for new students. 
INSTRUCTOR: Deb (I hope this is your name, it's what the website said and I, unfortunately, did not introduce myself) is a teacher trainer subbing for Val (the regular instructor) through August—because she's a teacher trainer (I assume), I can't find a bio for her, sorry. 

Walking in, after removing my shoes outside (reminded me of Mexico), I wasn't sure who the instructor was. Most of the students were there already, and I was happy to see so many at a class on a Monday morning. I set up my mat, and waited. When the instructor magically appeared, she had us start in Supta Baddha Konasana, with our toes pressing against the wall. We used our blocks to support our lower back and head. For a first level class, this was a bit intense, as I'm use to doing this with a bolster. She did mention using a bolster, which I probably should have done with my unhappy sacrum, but I just propped up my knees a little more (ahem, side note, you should not be lazy or embarrassed about any injuries you have... because if you make it worse, you can't do yoga at all. Why I haven't quite come to terms with this, I'm not sure. Sometimes I adjust, sometimes I push through... I have been trying to remind myself at every class to pay special attention to these areas instead of paying attention to my pride or laziness to get up and get a prop. I'd love to hear feedback on why you may or may not do the proper thing when offered up a modification). 

This class reminded me why I love basic-level new experiences. Some techniques I did, I couldn't tell if I was doing them right. As a new yogi, you should know this is common. And often, by doing the position a little bit wrong, it may even be easier. So you may think you're not really challenged by a class. It wasn't until probably six months into regularly doing yoga that I discovered how being in a pose the proper way caused me to pour sweat. The heat generated in your body when you engage all those muscles the right way is amazing! 

Deb had us get a chair and face it towards a wall. We sat down in the chair backwards, pressed our entire lower back to upper back and shoulders against the wall. She then asked us to raise our arms up. This is hard! While your entire back and shoulders are against the wall, you also should be able to touch your entire arm and back of hand against the wall... with your elbows straight. I have pretty tight shoulders, so I couldn't do it... but, wow, the sweat! She walked us through a few more basic poses, adjusting us all when she could, and giving special attention to those who needed more modification. 

Deb mentioned Lois Steinberg a couple of times. I couldn't believe it. Here I am, for the first time in Hawaii at my first class of vacation, and my instructor is mentioning an instructor based in Champaign-Urbana, IL! So often I find my world falling together in these magical little moments, connected by yoga. Today is the day I feel I truly understand why this practice is called yoga... which means "yoke"  or to join/unite. We really are all connected, in peaceful and encouraging ways. 

I spoke with Deb after class, to tell her about the Lois connection, and it made her teary-eyed. I also learned she's a teacher trainer, not quite at teacher level yet. I would have never guessed as she was so comfortable with everyone, with the space, and with the practice. Deb, thank you so much for a beautiful Monday morning experience in Mal'ili'ili... for your wonderful class (and my first Iyengar practice), your kind conversation, and your pure and vibrant energy. Mahalo and namaste. 

Monday, August 1

Calling All Instructors!!

This giveaway is pretty special, and for the very special people teaching us yoga. I hope this reaches as many instructors as possible, because I think it's a pretty amazing drawing: free stay (in your personal palapa on the beach) and food for an instructor that brings her/his retreat to Hotel Lagunita in Yelapa, Mexico. That's around a $1000 value, plus all the value to experience and share a beautiful fishing village to practice yoga with your class. For a full review, you can read how I fell in love with Yelapa here.

Now... how do you enter? 
1. Visit Hotel Lagunita's site to learn more about this fantastic hotel and location.  
2. 'Like' Hotel Lagunita's facebook page
3. 'Like' No Expectation, Only Intention's facebook page
4. Leave a comment below telling us what sort of retreat would you like to have... special focus? other excursions? etc. 

That's it! Then check back in two weeks to see who the winner is!
Giveaway open until Sunday, August 14th at 10pm CDT

Side note or the small print, so to speak. Because Hotel Lagunita is almost booked with all their retreat weeks, you will have to work with what they have available. I wish we could be more flexible with dates, but I'm guessing it's a small price to pay for a great opportunity. If you have ANY questions about the location, hotel, their studio, Yelapa—don't hesitate to ask!


The winner of last week's I AM MARYANN necklace give away is Danielle!
Email me (anni.poppen [at] gmail [dot] com), so we can get your prize shipped. Congrats!!!