Tagged yoga

How yoga ruined my life

How could yoga possibly change someone’s life? I know the whole yoga-practicing, green-juice-drinking, positive-attitude yoga hippie is such a stereotype, but somehow this practice, that usually starts as a new hobby, can slowly start affecting your diet, relationships and outlook on life. This is the story of how yoga allowed me to go from just existing to actually living.

A few years back, I was in a relationship where I saw my significant other about once a month. I was living in a city where I didn’t feel welcome. Every morning, on my way to a soul crushing job, I wondered if I should board the train or jump under it. Then I found yoga.

I had previously attended trial classes and weekend courses for beginners, but yoga had never become a part of my life. I decided to try yoga again and was so lucky that the first class I attended was Geoff’s. At a time when nothing in my life made sense, his classes had me going back to the yoga studio every single Wednesday.

The workplace bullying, loneliness and unhappiness had started to deteriorate both my body and my mind. But for that one hour a week, I felt like I was good enough. After a while, I started going to other classes as well and nothing filled me with more excitement than rolling out a mat on the studio floor. Without even realizing it, a shift was slowly happening inside of me.

Instead of feeling like a victim of circumstances, I became the hero of my own life. I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. I realized, I don’t have to live here or work there. I can do whatever the hell I want. While yoga doesn’t remove problems, it helps me deal with any challenges life brings.

But yoga also ruined many things for me.

Yoga ruined my diet, because I’d much rather eat a bowl of lentil soup than a juicy steak.

Yoga ruined my career, because I’d rather practice handstands than learn how to use Excel.

Yoga ruined dinner parties, because sitting in a chair for extended amounts of time feels completely unnatural.

Yoga ruined my social life, because on a Friday night, I’d much rather attend a yoga class than go out to a club.

Yoga ruined my romantic life, because I’d rather do sun salutations than go on a date.

Yoga ruined my fashion sense, because I’d much rather wear yoga tights than skinny jeans.

Yoga ruined awkward moments, because long hugs and direct eye contact has become the norm.

Yoga ruined small talk, because I’d rather talk about feelings than the weather.

Yoga ruined excessive gossiping, because judging people is no fun anymore.

Yoga ruined limited beliefs, because I’ve witnessed that anything is possible.

Yoga ruined staying inside my comfort zone, because the more I step outside of it, the better life gets.

Yoga ruined worrying about the future, because I’ve learnt to focus on the present moment.

Yoga ruined my life. And I’m so happy it did. Because without it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have one.

Tomorrow I start yoga teacher training.

© Sheri Lennon
© Sheri Lennon

Asanas in Istria

Yoga retreats are a convenient way to combine my two main interests: yoga and travel. They’re also a great way to meet like-minded people. And the food! It’s usually so tasty that you don’t only stretch your muscles but also your belly.

Even though my travel style is quite budget orientated, I don’t mind paying more for yoga retreats. The money is deposited to the best bank possible — my wellbeing.

I have been to a budget yoga retreat before. For 30 € a night I got one class of yoga and a big breakfast. The rest of the meals I cooked myself and accommodation was in tents. While the experience was absolutely amazing and I would gladly go again, I like trying new things. And sometimes it’s nice to pamper yourself instead of worrying about money.

As I found a retreat that coincided with my travel dates, I decided to go there after exploring other parts of Croatia.

In May I experienced an intense three day retreat in Finland — this time I opted for something a bit more relaxing. The seven day retreat was held on the Istrian peninsula, in a tiny village called Orihi. A typical day consisted of a two hour vinyasa flow class in the morning, followed by brunch. In the late afternoon we were pampered with a one hour restorative class and a three course dinner!

A big villa complex was exclusively in our use during the retreat.
A big villa complex was exclusively in our use during the retreat.
Classes were held in the patio turned into an outdoor yoga shala.
Classes were held in the patio turned into an outdoor yoga shala.
The outdoor area was decorated with colourful flags and fabrics, which added a lovely atmosphere to the classes taught by Nina Vukas.
The outdoor area was decorated with colourful flags and fabrics, which added a lovely atmosphere to the classes taught by Nina Vukas.
The interior of the villa was also super cozy.
The interior of the villa was also super cozy.
In between classes there was free time which was usually spent swimming, reading, talking or napping.
In between classes there was free time which was usually spent swimming, reading, talking or napping.
Nina's dog was also enjoying the sun.
Nina’s dog also enjoyed the sun.
Seeta, named after the hindu goddess, became everyone's friend.
Seeta, named after the hindu goddess, became everyone’s friend.
Professional chef Maja Kefecek worked hard every day to serve us healthy and delicious vegetarian food.
Professional chef Maja Kefeček worked hard every day to serve us healthy and delicious vegetarian food.
Brunch was huge, with a selection of bread, cheese, omelettes, pastries, salads, soups, vegetables, yogurt, granola, smoothies, tea — just to name a few.
Brunch was huge, with a selection of bread, cheese, omelettes, pastries, salads, soups, vegetables, yogurt, granola, smoothies, tea — just to name a few.

For 700 €, I got an entire week of yoga, food, excursions and a bed in a three person room. I think it’s funny how the cheaper option (not getting a private room) is almost always more fun! There wouldn’t have been as much laughter if it wasn’t for my roommates.

There were also different treatments on offer and I went for the one hour abdominal massage. Like I said, I like trying new things, and even though an abdominal massage sounded pretty intense, it ended up being a really relaxing experience and something I definitely want to do again.

Walking through the tiny village of Orihi takes about five minutes.
Walking through the tiny village of Orihi takes about five minutes.
One of the village locals.
One of the village locals.
One afternoon some of us made an excursion to the medieval town of Motovun.
One afternoon some of us made an excursion to the medieval town of Motovun.
Motovun is located on a hill 270 meters above sea level.
Motovun is located on a hill 270 meters above sea level.

Beautiful Monja, who in addition to being my roommate, definitely became a soulmate.
Beautiful Monja, who in addition to being my roommate, definitely became a soulmate.
Halfway through the retreat we visited an olive farm where we learnt about the harvesting process and got a chance to buy olive oil so tasty that you could eat it with anything (I have to try it with vanilla ice cream, as recommended by the farmer)!
Halfway through the retreat we visited an olive farm where we learnt about the harvesting process and got a chance to buy olive oil so tasty that you could eat it with anything (I have to try it with vanilla ice cream, as recommended by the farmer)!
On the second last night of the retreat, we visited Rovinj, and old city on the western coast of Istria. We went on a tour with a boat that was conducted by a Finnish man! He told me the story of how he works the summers on the boat in Croatia and the winters in a resort in Lapland.
On the second last night of the retreat, we visited Rovinj, and old city on the western coast of Istria.
We went on a tour with a boat that was conducted by a Finnish man. He told me the story of how he works the summers on the boat in Croatia and the winters in a ski resort in Lapland.
We went on a tour with a boat that was conducted by a Finnish man. He told me the story of how he works the summers on the boat in Croatia and the winters in a ski resort in Lapland.
Afterwards we walked around the old town.
After the boat trip we walked around the old town.

In Rovinj there are many small shops and galleries selling quirky artwork.
In Rovinj there are many small shops and galleries selling quirky artwork.
With my yoga retreat roommates in Rovinj.
With my yoga retreat roommates in Rovinj.
At the yoga retreat, I met so many amazing women, who provided me with inspiration, support, growth and laughter.
At the yoga retreat, I met so many amazing women, who provided me with inspiration, support, growth and laughter.
Final night at the yoga retreat — last chance to enjoy Maja's cooking.
Final night at the yoga retreat — last chance to enjoy Maja’s spectacular cooking.

Even though this retreat had more laughter than the previous one, a lot of tears were shed on the last night. It feels like we didn’t do that much, but time went so quickly, and true friendships were formed. I will definitely miss everyone I met in Orihi.

Check out Supersoul Yoga for retreats in Croatia and around the world.

The longest journey in just three days

It’s easy to think that travelling has to be into far away countries. But actually, this entire life is a journey. Just like on any other journey, you never know what life will bring you: surprises, disappointments, ups, downs, hellos and goodbyes. Travel is not a cure for anything (not even wanderlust – it just makes it worse!). I guess travel is my way to learn, to grow and to experience new things. That’s why, at the moment, being based in Helsinki, I try to fill the gaps between trips abroad with travel. How do I do it? I go to events such as World Village Festival, take a different route to work, try new restaurants, host Couchsurfers at my apartment and say yes to new experiences. It’s my way of bringing the world to me. It doesn’t make sense to dream about walking in a national park in a faraway country when I have nature at my door step. This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop travelling further away as well! It just means I’m right where I should be and happy about it.

When I found out that two of my favourite yoga teachers (and dear friends), Jack and Hanna, were organizing a yoga retreat an hour away from Helsinki, I knew I had to be part of it. The beginning of the year had been quite tough for me so I felt that this short holiday came at exactly the right time. Held at a Buddhist Retreat Centre on the shore of a serene lake, the retreat would include three days of yoga, meditation, healthy food and self-inquiry.

The last-mentioned scared me. Since the year had not been the best, it felt scary to plug out of the rest of the world and look within. For a long time I’d felt lost  – to the point of googling the meaning of life (believe it or not, even Google doesn’t have the answer to everything). What if more questions would reemerge at the retreat and I’d feel even more lost? Since it scared me, I knew it would be good for me.

The retreat started on Thursday night with welcome dinner and yoga class. As the retreat centre is located on the shore of a lake, those who wanted could wind down with a swim and sauna. The next day we continued with meditation, yoga, good food, discussion and writing exercises.

All the yoga classes and discussion sessions where held in the meditation hall of the Buddhist Retreat Centre.
All the yoga classes and discussion sessions were held in the meditation hall of the Buddhist Retreat Centre.
The day’s programme was always written on a flip board.
The day’s programme was always written on a flip board.
At the retreat, we had two private chefs, who prepared an abundance of nutritious and delicious food for us several times a day.
At the retreat, we had two private chefs, who prepared an abundance of nutritious and delicious food for us several times a day.
The sun shone almost the entire weekend. Whenever there was free time, you could sit outside with a cup of tea, while enjoying the weather and the company of other yogis.
The sun shone almost the entire weekend. Whenever there was free time, you could sit outside with a cup of tea, while enjoying the weather and the company of other yogis.

On Friday night, after yin yoga class, we had to team up with a partner and share things that haven’t gone right in our life. After that a silence was announced. The loneliness of being left completely alone with dark thoughts felt overwhelming. I think some of us just felt ready to leave the whole retreat.

On Saturday I felt so annoyed, confused and just lonely. Yoga didn’t inspire me at all and the exercises we did writing or discussing felt totally pointless. The weird thing was, no-one was judging me. I was actually acknowledged for having the integrity to not participate in something that didn’t feel right and for having the vulnerability to cry in front of strangers. It felt refreshing to show your real feelings and still be loved for who you are. I have noticed that the truest of friends stay by your side even when you’re going through tough times. But how could every single one of these eighteen people, most of whom I had known for less than 48 hours, completely accept me for who I am?

I am especially grateful to Jack, who instead of defining me as someone who doesn’t participate, kept pushing until I did. Sometimes you need the help of other people to do something. And even though it was so hard to declare out loud what was hard in life, when I was finally able to do it (between uncontrollable sobs), I felt cleansed.

Every day, someone read a chapter from “Journey to the Heart” by Melody Beattie. It was almost scary how poignant a text that was chosen randomly could be. There were even word-for-word sentences about something that had been discussed prior. After physical and mental exercises that completely drained us, the book gave us hope and encouragement.

It was incredible how a bunch of strangers could immediately form such a strong bond.
It was incredible how a bunch of strangers could immediately form such a strong bond.
In the words of fellow yogi Jussi, these really are the superyogis.
In the words of fellow yogi Jussi, these really are the superyogis.
On Sunday it was my 30th birthday. I could never have imagined five years ago, that on my 30th birthday I'd be at a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the middle of the Finnish countryside with people I'd just met! I guess I wasn't exactly where I thought I'd be, but probably right where I was supposed to be.
On Sunday it was my 30th birthday. I could never have imagined five years ago, that on my 30th birthday I’d be at a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the middle of the Finnish countryside with people I’d just met! I guess I wasn’t exactly where I thought I’d be, but probably right where I was supposed to be.
They say you become similar to the people you spend time with. I guess I should hang out with people who accept me as I am, so I can start accepting myself as well (and stop Googling the meaning of life, because really, how boring would it be knowing the answer to that?).
They say you become similar to the people you spend time with. I guess I should hang out with people who accept me as I am, so I can start accepting myself as well (and stop Googling the meaning of life, because really, how boring would it be knowing the answer to that?).

Like I said, you don’t have to travel to far away countries to experience a journey. But I never expected so much to happen in such a short time. I felt more emotions in three days than I usually do in three months. On Sunday night, before passing out after the most intense weekend of my life, my favourite quote sprung to mind: “The longest journey you will ever take are the 18 inches from your head to your heart”.

Yoga in the Catalan mountains

After spending a weekend in Tarragona, it was time to travel further south. I had booked a five night stay at a yoga retreat in Southern Catalonia. I took a train from Tarragona to L’ampolla which took about an hour.

I had organized a pick-up with Sarah, the owner of the yoga retreat, at 5 pm, but I arrived already around one o’clock and had time to eat lunch and have a look around L’ampolla (there isn’t much to see).

At 5 pm I met Sarah at the train station and we drove about 20 minutes to reach the yoga retreat. When I arrived, there was only one other guest, Marion, and two volunteers, Trent and Scotty. And not to mention the cutest cats and dogs!

Entry to Casa de Carrasco
Entry to Casa de Carrasco.
Sarah and her husband had created this magical place from scratch - including building a yoga deck, swimming pool, barbecue area and toilet block.
Sarah and her husband have created this magical place from scratch – including building a yoga deck, swimming pool, barbecue area, toilet block and a couple of casas.
Daisy asking for a scratch.
Daisy asking for a scratch.
Stella being cute.
Stella being cute.

The first day I walked with Marion and Scotty to visit Sarah’s mum, Cherry, who lives close by. She is an ayurvedic doctor and has such interesting stories to share. On her property there is labyrinth, which is used as a healing tool.

The environment on the way to Cherry’s house is quite rugged. There was a big fire a couple of years ago that wiped out a lot of the vegetation. Luckily Casa de Carrasco survived.
The views from Cherry's house were quite nice!
The views from Cherry’s house were quite nice!
Before stepping inte the labyrinth, you can set an intention. Once you’ve reached the middle, you can decide which way to face. North is for wisdom, East is for new beginnings, South is for awakenings and West is for letting go.
Let it remain a secret which direction I chose, but those of you who know me might guess. I got chills just from Cherry talking about how the labyrinth works, but once I walked it, I could really feel how powerful a place it is.

At the yoga retreat, guests can sleep in different sized tents or old stables converted into dwellings. You can also bring your own tent! I slept in a one-person tent. The price was 30 €/night which included a 90 minute yoga class plus breakfast.

The tent was so cosy! I was often late for yoga because of my comfortable mattress...
The tent was so cosy! I was often late for yoga because of my comfortable mattress… And to wake up to this view – not bad!

There was a yoga class every morning from 8 am to 9.30 am. Most days we practised in the sun on the beautiful outdoor yoga deck, but once we had to be inside due to strong winds. The style of yoga is Sivananda Fusion and I truly enjoyed it. And Sarah is such a positive and patient teacher!

Views from the yoga deck.
Views from the yoga deck.

Yoga was followed by a massive breakfast, consisting of porridge, yoghurt, jams, honey, croissants, cheese, eggs, fruit and cereal. Every morning you could also drink the delicious tea made out of leaves from one of the many organic olive trees on the property.

Besides olive trees, there were many almond trees in the area. Trent taught me how to pick and crack the almonds and I ate hundreds of them!
Besides olive trees, there are many almond trees in the area. Trent taught me how to pick and crack the almonds and I ate hundreds of them!

After yoga and breakfast, you could do whatever you wanted. Most days I did nothing. It was so good for my soul, I mean how often does that happen? I even read an entire 600-page book in five days, which would normally probably take me at least a month!

I had no idea what day it was, I had no internet or cell reception. I ate when I was hungry and slept when I was tired. This was exactly how I wanted to spend my holiday.

In addition to yoga, Casa de Carrasco organizes canoe trips, paella cooking workshops, ayurvedic workshops, wine tastings, spa treatments etc. Since there were not many guest during my time there, I didn’t get a chance to join in any activities, since they usually only go through if there are enough participants.

Besides doing nothing and feeling damn good about it, I did get a chance to visit the nearby town of Miravet with Marion and Trent. Marion had a rental car and she was so kind to drive us to the little ferry crossing River Ebro. From the other side of the river we walked all the way to Miravet.

The ingenious ferry uses only the river current as its driving force.
The ingenious ferry uses only the river current as its driving force.
Miravet castle lies high up on a hill.
Miravet is most famous for its Templar castle, which lies high up on a hill.
Miravet Castle is the oldest fort in Catalonia.
Miravet Castle is the oldest fort in Catalonia.
From the top you could see for miles - we even saw a huge eagle flying higher and higher into the sky...
From the top you could see for miles – we even saw a huge eagle flying higher and higher into the sky…
River Ebro is Spain’s biggest river.
We headed back to the town and enjoyed cold drinks at a local café.
We headed back to the town and enjoyed cold drinks at a local café.
The town is full of quaint little houses.
The town is full of quaint little houses.

My stay at Casa de Carrasco exceeded all my expectations. The yoga was refreshing, the tent was cosy, the breakfast was delicious, the area was beautiful and the people were so kind hearted and open minded. I felt really sad to leave Casa de Carrasco. After only five days there, it had made a massive impact on me and I really wish to return one day.