A Shakti Retreat in Italy - by Whitney Haldeman

Our dear friend Whitney Haldeman wrote a blog pot about her adventure in Italy last fall with the Shakti community. The early bird sign-up descaling to join Shakti in Peru this fall is coming up fast! Put down your deposit to join us in the Sacred Valley, Peru by May 1 and save $200 off of the retreat price! 

I spent over 200 days in 2016 away from my home in Nashville. Of those 200-something days, most of them were spent traveling with people I know and love. Some of them, I spent enjoying time all to myself. But there was a stretch of 7 days where I traveled predominantly with strangers I had never met before— and they ended up being some of my favorite. 

That may sound a bit odd— to travel with people you barely know (or don’t know at all). Probably because most of us have simply never done it before. 

What do you typically do with your vacation days? Some of us want to park by a beach and shut off our brain for the week. Others want to spend time visiting friends we haven’t seen in a while. But how many people do you know that would travel to the other side of the world with people they barely know to be introspective and exercise twice a day? It sounds a bit crazy written like that, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what a group of us did at the Shakti Power Yoga retreat in Cortona, Italy this past October. 

You probably have all sorts of pre-conceived notions about yoga retreats in your brain. I bet if you closed your eyes you’d picture someone incredibly fit and zen twisted into some incomprehensible position in front of a waterfall all whilst smiling an annoyingly peaceful smile. At least, that’s what I pictured at first. But on the contrary, I showed up after 2 months of traveling Europe, feeling tired, overfed, puffy from eating too many croissants and feeling like I'd lost any flexibility I once had. Lucky for me, I was in good company.  

Arriving at the Florence airport, I started meeting all my fellow yogis (all people who lived in Nashville, that went to my same yoga studio… but it took traveling to Italy together to ever even say hi. It’s actually quite funny if you stop an think about it.) As we were chatting in our shuttle to Cortona, we discovered most of us had never been on a yoga retreat and weren’t really sure what to expect besides- well, yoga. 

 

 

While we certainly did all the things we expected we’d do (again, the most obvious being yoga) the time we spent in Italy was so much more than just that. 

For starters, we all took full advantage of the idyllic environment we were in. There were options to explore Cortona (the nearby town), go wine tasting, ride bikes through the Tuscan countryside and even participate in an Italian cooking class. And if instead, we preferred not to leave our romantic villa with sweeping views, we could lay poolside to read, journal or simply be still. Some of us wanted to fully capitalize on the opportunity to see Italy. Some of us were tired and preferred time to rest. But regardless of what everyone chose to do during the day, we all spent our mornings and evenings together: sharing our practice as well as our meals together. 

But the true highlight of the week for me wasn’t the yoga, seeing Italy or even eating all the delicious food.  It was gathering around the dinner table every night, drinking wine, and getting to know so many different, wonderful people outside of the studio we all share back home. There was representation from so many walks of life: People who had survived cancer and survived heartbreak. People who were married and people who were single.  We had different colors of skin and hair. Different occupations and interests. But regardless of everyone’s differences we all shared the attribute of mindfulness that week as we focused on our present time together. 

Sure, it was a week of restoring our bodies with daily yoga practices and whole + nutritious foods. It was also a week of adventure as we explored Italy together. But I’d argue the greatest takeaway for most of us was the way this retreat both challenged and restored our minds. 

 

Leaving at the end of the week, I felt so different than the day I arrived. I laughed as I tried to articulate the feeling to a friend, because I found myself using cliché “yoga” wordslike gratitude and mindfulness. I suppose it’s not really something you can truly understand unless you experience it yourself. 

But with that said, I hope at some point everyone can experience it. Regardless of if you have a friend to go with. Regardless of where the retreat destination is. It will always require bravery to step outside of your normal routine: be it what you do everyday or what you choose to do with every vacation. But just ask anyone who attended our retreat in Italy, and I’d bet you’ll get the same answer: the payoff far outweighs any of the discomfort that comes with uncertainty. 

Want to see for yourself? Well, you’re in luck because Shakti is headed to Peru this September! I can’t think of a better place to practice mindfulness and be inspired (both on and off the mat) than the Sacred Valley at Machu Picchu. REGISTER/MORE INFORMATION HERE:

Thanks to my Shakti family for creating such an incredible experience for all of us in Italy! I can’t wait to see where else we go together in the years to come. 

Whitney Haldeman is a travel + lifestyle blogger (as well as a regular yogi at Shakti). She created Blonde Atlas as a destination to inspire people to live their best life while she spends hers doing more of what she loves: traveling. 

Svadhyaya by Jess DiNisco

Shakti teacher Jess DiNisco shares her love of Svadhyaya on the blog this week. Join Jess this Saturday, December 17 for her Svadhyaya Workshop. REGISTER HERE

 

Svadhyaya is the yogic practice of self-reflection. Through this process we learn how to identify what is and what is not our true, basic, loving nature. Using this knowledge we can make changes in our lives as we need in order to live aligned with our true purpose. I've been practicing yoga and meditation practices for over six years. Self-reflection has always been an interest and love of mine. I've used yogic, meditation and self- reflective practices to heal parts of my body, decrease anxiety and worries and live an honest and authentic life. I really could not have done it without these practices. 

Being of Service

This essay was written by Africa Yoga Project instructor Zablon. He is in his 5th year of AYP mentorship with our own Liz Veyhl, and working toward his Baptiste Yoga certification in Nairobi, Kenya. What an incredible collection of thoughts, offering both a shared and fresh perspective on what it can mean to "serve" - 


BEING OF SERVICE
‘Service to humanity is service to God’
Being of service to me means being selfless: which means getting out of my comfort zone to give and create a loving societal community. To be able to offer service one has to identify what the community needs most and to them its just a dream they cannot accomplish no matter what.
Building a school in a Maasai village in Amboseli is the one among service projects that I worked on and felt touched in such a way that changed my perspective about life. Being in Amboseli was like being in the middle of nowhere. Vast and empty space is all that surrounded me and the team I was working with. Save for a few Manyatta scattered in this expansive jungle the rest was vegetation and wild animals. Manyatta is the Maasai house or village.


It was amazing to be in an environment that is natural and full of life in its purest form. There was no shelter; we were sleeping in a tent inside a sleeping bag. To shower there were makeshift bathrooms and toilets. and it seemed to me that since Maasai people are nomads they did not see the need for permanent structures. During the day, the sun was so hot like really scorching with limited shelter and at night was cold. We used to make a bonfire outside where we had camped and this provided as good platform from which to share our experience about what had opened up during the day and if anyone had anything to share with rest of the group. After chatting and planning for the next day, we went in our tents to catch some sleep and rest for the task ahead.


The question of safety played in my mind because we were in the jungle surrounded by wild animals. I used to hear the sound of lions roaring and strange animal sounds. At some point fear of elephants trampling the tents and crushing me to death or lions invading was rife but I had faith and trust in the presence of Maasai morans or warriors guarding us. The morans have the power and secrets of keeping the animals at bay.


After one week of hard work, we had completed like 4 classrooms, a toilet and more than 30 desks. That to me was humbling because of how the students and parents were so happy about having a roof over their heads. They broke in song and dance, performing Maasai dance. The area administration was around to witness and appreciate this noble gesture. There was a lot of love from the locals to our team. I was given milk in a traditional guard and that symbolized a lot of respect accorded to me. This I realized that being of service is the noblest thing that ever happened to me.


Being of service helps create pathways for me and in my students, because it revolves around embodying what I say and the dedication I gave to the project. Leaving the comfort of the city to go and share with a school a loving heart my energy into building a school and desks in Maasail and without being paid. I enjoyed the result created by service because when I am teaching I normally remind students to trust and enjoy the asana practice the same way I trusted the Maasai warriors guarding our camp looking in the dark for any sign of intruding predators. They were inspired by the idea of how freely we shared around the bonfire, because it meant we were so connected for a noble cause.


The whole process taught me to be more relaxed in whatever I do. I felt relaxed there because of the serenity of the countryside, at night insects singing and animal noises. No worries about being late for appointments. I felt complete relaxation, serenity, sense of ease, hadn’t had that experience for a long time. reminded and made me to cultivate an inner serenity and a sense of satisfaction, to cultivate Shanti and Santosha irrespective of how busy my city life is.
 

Land of the FREE, Home of the Brave

Today we celebrate Independence Day!  

HISTORY: it all started because on July 4th 1776 the US adopted the Declaration of Independence and the United States of America was no longer a part of the British Empire. We became a new nation!  Today we celebrate our freedom with fireworks, families, cookouts, fun and yoga of course.

The word Freedom is often linked to this holiday which got me thinking...

What does it mean to be free?  The dictionary definition of FREE is not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.  

I made a list of activities that I choose. I choose to Be outside. I enjoy walking, hiking or being in or near a body of water. I choose to teach and practice yoga. I spend time with my husband Chris and quality time with my sister, family and friends. I travel, pray, and enjoy time alone. I choose to meditate and write in my  journal. I drink fresh water and eat delicious food, and enjoy cold delicious rose with friends.

I do these things because they are what I value in my life.  Today may we celebrate & honor all the people from the past and present who have fought, worked, marched, and who keep our freedom sacred.  May we respect each person’s right to be free in our communities and most of all “use of our freedom to serve one another in love” Galatians 5:13

Namaste & Happy Birthday America!

How Yoga Unlocked My Jaw and My Life

Walking around with my jaw locked and tongue pressed to the roof of my mouth became the norm. There were times when I realized I hadn’t inhaled or exhaled for 90 seconds as my boss stood over my shoulder. Corporate life for me was a lot of sitting, waiting, worrying and crippling anxiety. My 15 years in Pharmaceutical Sales was a blessing in many ways and I am eternally grateful for the experience. I learned so much about business and relating to all different types of people. It brought many joyful moments and life-long friends. It also brought the “hero to zero” moments and a dysfunctional view of what I thought to be a normal life. I felt my world crumbling around me and wasn’t sure what to do to make it stop. I was perpetually stressed, not sleeping, grinding my teeth and unhappy more than I should have been. It was this journey that led me to believe that there had to be a better way to do life. That’s when I was led through the big beautiful door of Shakti Power Yoga on Music Row. My life would never be the same.

Yoga started as a physical challenge and quickly turned into a life-changing journey. I started to realize that the emotions that were showing up on my mat were the emotions I was dealing with in my life. When the teachers would say ‘create ease in your breath’ while my legs were shaking, sweat was pouring off of my face and all I wanted to do was cry and tell her that not-so-nice two word phrase. Anger, frustration, self-doubt and feelings of panic came up. I also realized thatwhile I wasn’t alone in my frantic breath and frustration… there were people in the room who were quite calm and doing the same work. I wanted to feel that way; I wanted to experience that sense of peace. It was through my yoga practice I learned that peace is always accessible through my breath.

I didn’t just learn it… I believed it. When I’m focused on my breath, I can be nowhere else but present in this moment where there is ease and joy. Through linking my breath with movement I learned to stay calm in my heart, despite the world that swirled around me. This profound realization that came to me on my mat is also what sparked a change in my life off of the mat, too. The practice of yoga is about so much more than the physical work; rather, it’s more about learning how to breathe and maintain my internal sense of peace despite the frantic, stressful, and sometimes chaotic situations that surround me.

I started noticing changes in my world. My relationships with my customers grew because I learned to be truly present. I was finally sleeping through the night. My physical body no longer ached constantly and my face and jaw were relaxed for the first time in years. I still couldn’t control the hero-to-zero moments or what might happen next - but I learned how to control the way I reacted to them. I’m still human and shit still happens. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me or something triggers old emotions. The good news that I always return to is this: the sky is not falling and I get to choose to walk through life with a softened jaw and a joyful heart. There is a better way to do life. And I’ve finally learned to choose it for myself. It’s a practice and I’m choosing more joy every day. You can choose it, too.

This breakthrough in my life is impossible to ignore, and is why I’ve made it my personal mission to bring yoga to the workplace. The corporate world can be intense (to say the least), and we all have a choice how to react to that. We can choose joy. We can choose ease. We can choose the better way to live.

     InJoy,
        Murn


“Peace: it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means
to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart”


 

An amazing group of new yogis at the Gulch Crossings building

If you're interested in bringing yoga to YOUR workplace, contact me!

Handling Fear with Care

We are proud to share the interests & talents of our team of teachers that stretch far beyond our yoga mats. Jess DiNisco is an amazing writer, and just recently had an article published in Elephant Journal

Jess opens by discussing the dichotomy of love and fear, then goes on to share some extremely useful techniques in how we can move toward light and make our fear work for us.

"Most painful experiences are driven by fear and to no surprise, fear has gotten a pretty rotten rap. The idea of being “fearless” and “not living in fear” is frequently glorified. We, as humans, want less pain. Really, we want nothing to do with fear or anything it may show us."

Click Here for the full article.

 

Shakti Love

What does that mean? I often find myself ending emails, signing cards, hash-tagging, or just yelling out a farewell by saying "Shakti Love." I recently have been thinking about what that actually means to me as I throw that out to the universe. I have never thought of myself as a creative person.  I do not sing, draw, write, or dance exceptionally well, so it is funny to me the actual word “Shakti” means creation. Shakti is the divine creative energy we all have and the agent for change. Shakti is the reason things get done!  The word Shakti also means Community to me. The community we have ALL created together. We have come together with a foundation of gratitude, service, empowerment, and love. I have learned and been inspired by the Shakti community over the past 3 years that I am an agent for change and creation. I can give up the idea that I am not creative and I go forth and create whatever I want, and when I do it is from a space of love in my heart.

This community is an agent for transformation. I have the privilege daily to witness people in our community making an impact in Nashville and all over world. Whether it is teaching yoga, donating canned food, starting a non-profit, writing songs, dancing in the Nashville ballet, starting a band, sharing your story, making jewelry, the purpose is to create what fuels your soul. I say, whatever it is, go out and do it! Who cares if its not what you think it was going to look like - get messy, why not? When you are creating with love and joy, people gravitate to you and get inspired to do the same. 

This community was created to empower people to live their best lives and I know when I am creating, I feel Alive, connected, and Inspired. Which to me is the vibration I want to live in.  So when I say Shakti Love - I mean GO FORTH AND CREATE WHATEVER FILLS YOUR SOUL WITH LOVE and know your community has your back! 

I am grateful for each and everyone one of you.

Shakti Love.

Lauren

Lighten Up 2016!

It's 2016!
Cheers to YOU! 

We are so grateful for each of you! When we reflect on 2015, we see a community that is full of love, support, acceptance, and growth. We have been blessed each day of the year to be surrounded by people who are up to something Big in their lives and who inspire each other to be authentic and bold. This community gives back with open and generous hearts and it makes a huge impact in the city.  We look forward to growing in 2016 with each of you on and off your mat.

The New Year is an opportunity to start fresh, to clear a space for exactly what it is You want to be. There is a great saying “it's not about what you are doing, it's about how you are being.” In 2016, we want to be here for YOU. We want you to all know that Shakti’s intention is to be a space and a home of acceptance, empowerment, and courage...Oh and awesome yoga! We thank each one of you for Showing Up and Shining Bright each day.

We look forward to Lighting it Up in 2016! 
Cheers to the New Year and all the possibility it holds for us.  

Shakti Love, 
Lauren & Kelly 


A Christmas Note from Kelly

Dear Shakti Community,

The Shakti Power Yoga family would like to invite you to help us make Christmas really special this year for 3 incredible families from the Cross Point Dream Center in West Nashville. 

For over a year, I have been teaching yoga at the Cross Point Dream Center This center is a unique place that really serves others. They offer recovery programs, support for single mothers, food assistance, neighborhood outreach programs, Sunday services, and so much more.  

Most Thursdays, I teach to a group of ladies who attend Mending Hearts, a non-profit that offers support for women who seek changes from a life of drug and alcohol addiction. I also teach to the some of the staff of the Dream Center.  The staff members offer most of their days and time working to change and lift up the families in the neighborhood in west Nashville where the Dream Center is located. 

This space is close to my heart; the families are joyful, grateful & connected, even amidst struggle and hardship. We know you have so many opportunities to give this time year to charities and organizations you feel passionate about, and we love that. This is a place and people we love and feel if we pull together our resources from our community we can give these three families a really special Christmas. 

We are aiming to collect donations by DECEMBER 19 (just drop them by the studio). If you would like more information about the 3 Dream Center families we are supporting, please feel free to email me at hotyogakelly@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for your consideration, and for being such a big part of the Shakti community. We continue to wish you a wonderful holiday season full of warm hugs & cool moments shared among loved ones!


Peace and Namaste,
Kelly Carter

Holiday Schedule

'Tis the Season for Love, Play, Yoga...AND Rest.

The holidays are a great time to get on your mat to help ward off stress, manage overcommitments & that extra glass of wine. Even better to have an excuse to share yoga with a loved one during this time of year! We are open every day through the new year except Christmas Day. We have an abbreviated schedule so we all can have the opportunity to get cozy and spend time with family and friends.

Here is the Shakti Holiday Schedule!

December 24th - Christmas Eve
8am
9:30am
Noon

December 25th - Christmas Day - CLOSED

December 26th
9:30am
Noon
4:30pm

December 31st - New Year’s Eve
8am
9:30
Noon
4:30pm

January 1st - New Year’s Day
9:30am
Noon
4:30pm

 

May your holiday season be Merry & Bright!
Love from the Shakti family