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?

Tuesday, July 23

Water Yoga | Indian Acres Swim Club

What?! I can do yoga during the sweaty months of July and August in the water? For $5?!
Sign. Me. Up!

LOCATION: Indian Acres Swim Club is a family-oriented swim club in the Lincolnshire neighborhood with four pools of varying depths. Normally you would need a membership to go in, but they offer drop-in classes to non-members. Score!
STUDIO: An outdoor pool (the lap pool, so it's shallow + all at the same depth) with blue skies and greenery around the outer fence. Pretty great. I've hear at the earlier classes (I went to a 7pm class) it can be more rowdy with kids. Free parking. Cash only.     
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Aqua exercise has been a popular way of staying fit for years. Generally more low-impact than land-based aerobics, water classes have most of the fat-burning and endurance-building benefits that you get from other forms of aerobic activity. 
INSTRUCTOR: Jessica Nolen, a Champaign-Urbana native who works as a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master Teacher and Practitioner. A University of Illinois graduate, she lived in Berkeley, Calif., and Hawaii before returning here. She is passionate about yoga practice and teaching — in home and at Green Yoga Spa in Urbana.
CONTACT: Indian Acres Swim Club

I so love getting to know more and more of the yoga community—recently my yoga gal pals introduced me to Jessica at the Yoga in the Park last weekend. And they told me she taught water yoga... hold the phone, I can do yoga in the pool? 

So you can imagine how excited I was tonight, to try water yoga. When you arrive it is a bit awkward—it's late enough in the day there is no one at the front to check you in. There isn't a waiver form—and if Jessica didn't happen to be in front of me when wandered through the ladies room to get to the pool I would have probably just left and gone home. But don't! Look for an instructor grabbing a pile of pool noodles and laying out her mat (she stays out of the pool). Then, if you're not a member, you give your money to the instructor and hop on in the pool! 

Jessica started us up with a little bit of warming up—swaying in the water, kicking our legs up in the back, moving the water around with our arms. Then it was like a regular yoga class (short of laying down on our mat... or a mat at all, for that matter). We did warrior one into warrior three. We moved in and out of goddess pose + dancer pose. 
Goddess Pose
Dancer Pose

Then we took our practice to the pool edge for some more warrior poses into triangle. It was amazing working through all these balancing poses and being challenged by the movement of the water! You couldn't help but giggle a little bit and then go back into some major drishti work (the practice of drishti is a gazing technique that develops concentration). We still ended in savasana, floating around on a noodle in complete bliss. I cannot wait to go back for more classes. What a wonderful way to experience a gentle class. 

Jessica, thank you so much for a lovely experience. Namaste.

If you want to learn more about Jessica and (bonus!) support her effort to win a yoga teacher training scholarship, please go to this link and like/share. I'll be honest, I think it's unfortunate that the studio offering this scholarship is basing it on popularity of your facebook post—but I also want to support Jessica + see her win this because she really does deserve it. *heart*

Saturday, July 20

Yoga in the Park | Urbana, IL

Ever since I went to my first Yoga in the Park in Des Moines, IA I have wished Champaign-Urbana would do the same thing—and my wish came true! But, as summer goes, my weekends kept booking up, so when I found out my friend and instructor from Living Yoga Center was teaching this Saturday AND I was free—pure excitement!

LOCATION: Meadowbrook Park is probably one of my favorite places in Champaign-Urbana—it's a sculpture park in Urbana with paved paths, community gardens, and regular deer sightings. When you need some quiet time, but can't get too far away—the perfect little walk there will bring you back to you. 
STUDIO: Blue skies, rolling clouds, green grass, and a beautiful prairie behind the instructor. Can't argue that!   
CLASS DESCRIPTION: The Urbana Park District invites you, your friends and family to spend a relaxing and rewarding Saturday morning participating in a free weekly yoga session at Meadowbrook Park. Conducted on an open lawn overlooking beautiful Meadowbrook Prairie, this is an ideal environment to relieve stress, achieve a sense of calm, and enjoy a great workout! No prior yoga experience is necessary, all ages and abilities welcome! 
INSTRUCTOR: Jodi Adams, RYT, has been practicing yoga since 1991.  Jodi believes in the restorative benefits of yoga.  No matter one’s age or flexibility, she offers a practice to awaken strength, balance, and a mind/body connection.  Yoga has served Jodi well through adversity and times of stress, and she is ultimately inspired to empower others to tap into their own inner strength, to find their voice, their breath, and their true Self.
CONTACT: Yoga in the Park—Urbana Park District

What a beautiful way to start a weekend! Before I go into the practice, here is a little list of things to bring with you to any outside practice: your mat, a beach towel, bug spray, sunglasses, and water. 

OK! Jodi chose a gentle, cooling practice for our somewhat muggy morning.We stayed close to the mat for over half the practice (bug spray!), and just as we go into our first downward dog—rain! It was amazing. Although I questioned whether the rain would be dangerous on a mat (beach towel!), to go through the sun salutation with your face pointing toward the sky, rain pouring down. Incredible. 

Then, once the rain stopped, the locust starting chatting... One fella started chatting so loud, I felt like I was zapped into a scene from Trainspotting or a rave or something... seriously, techno music was inspired by locust. Hands down. Listen next time, you'll want to grab your nearest glow bracelet and baggy clothes to start dancing your ass off. 

So—as you can tell, I wasn't necessarily focused on just my yoga. But it was part of the beauty of the practice, to be honest. Peeking over at my friend's mat with two pools of water where her hands and feet would go—made me smile. The kids laughing hysterically at the park—made me smile. All while being led in a beautiful practice by my friend—made me smile. I am very grateful for this Saturday morning. 

After our sun salutations we went into a warrior sequence on both sides, followed by balancing into warrior 3. I love balancing poses during outside practices—with the uneven ground and occasionally a breeze—you really learn  about what to activate and be strong. You're a tree! After a little bit of heat, Jodi cooled us down again. We did some hip openers, a little core work, and of course savasana. A little bit of everything—it was great. 

Jodi is also a photographer, her current project in the making is asking people to write down their intentions after class (if they like) and matching them with her photos.  So every class starts with her encouraging people to find their intentions. Leading them through how they may find their intention. With my back and knee being in so much pain and keeping me from all forms of exercise—this has been a wonderful reminder to be patient. Patient with myself, patient with my ego, patient with my healing—patient with all the parts of my life that aren't exactly where I thought they'd be. Thanks to this reminder I've been able to slow down and appreciate what is present instead of always looking to the future. Thank you, Jodi. Namaste. 



Monday, July 8

Yoga with Elin | Venice, FL

I've been attempting to do yoga every day in July—ok, I actually was attempting to do it everyday in June. Then June became July... and it feels like July is quickly becoming August. Bleck! I've somehow slipped into this horrible habit where everything else is getting in the way of what I really want to be doing. So, I'm trying to break that habit with this one month challenge. I know I will keep trying, and small successes will just become the way of life again. But geesh... So! When I had the opportunity for some free yoga on the beach, you can bet your sandy bottom I was there.

LOCATION: I had to do a little more sleuthing (sometimes Facebook pages are more useful than websites) to get a specific address besides Venice Beach—type The Esplanade at Venice Beach into your GPS, and it will take you to a free parking lot just North of the corner of West Venice Ave + The Esplanade S.
STUDIO: Can you complain about the beach, a clear blue sky, and the gulf? Nope. But when you go to free community yoga classes like this or yoga in the park remember your mat/water/necessities for your yoga class, because there won't be any equipment or props. Since I was traveling and knew this was going to be on the beach, I just grabbed a beach towel. I would also recommend bug spray (hey, I can plug my mom's new business Poppy's—she's a distributor of a natural bug spray called No No-See-Um™), sun screen, and sunglasses.  
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Increase your energy and learn how to breathe as nature intended. Yoga classes with different levels to fit everyone’s abilities and needs—including beginners who have never practiced yoga before and students with disabilities. 
INSTRUCTOR: Elin, a certified yoga instructor who bring’s her unique style to Yoga with Elin – Venice Beach Florida, to share with all. Her goal is to provide an environment where people feel comfortable and safe to practice this amazing discipline.
CONTACT: Yoga with Elin | Facebook

This is a really nice set up for people curious about yoga. The first half hour is a really gentle yoga, then Elin breaks for a bit so people can pack up and leave if they choose to. The second half hour is a little bit more challenging, although still friendly to beginners. The moves, for the most part, were very basic with little instruction for adjustments. I say for the most part, because during the second half we did sun salutations that led into a balancing star pose (Extended Half Moon Pose or Utthita Ardha Chandrasana)... on the sand. Which takes balancing to a whole new level. I enjoyed the challenge (and giggle, for that matter), but would have been concerned about this pose with my grandmother (who I was trying to get to go to class with me, but opted to sleep in a bit longer). Overall, it was a nice way to start the day, as always! Namaste, Elin!