The 1-Minute Morning Habit That Will Change Your Life
You are what your deepest desire is. As is your desire, so is your intention. As is your intention, so is your will. As is your will, so is your deed. As is your deed, so is your destiny.
— Upanishads
Sunrise obx corolla.JPG

How do you start your morning, that very first moment you wake up? Be honest.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of waking to the alarm on my phone, which then means my phone is in my hand and by habit, my first moment awake, I was checking email and social media.

That’s a pretty passive, powerless, stressful and mindless way to start a day.

Fortunately, each morning is a chance for a renewal, a new beginning for the rest of our lives. So think about your morning routine. Maybe you do good things for yourself. Maybe you work out or go to a yoga class, maybe you enjoy tea or coffee and downtime. But it’s the very moment we wake up that has the most profound impact on our thoughts and successes for the day ahead.

How do you wake? Do you wake exhausted and unhappy that you have to get out of bed? Or do you wake up full of promise and positivity?

It just takes one minute each morning to vastly improve your day ahead.

Here’s how to change your life in just one minute each morning:

Every morning when you wake up, set an intention for your day. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel?” or “What s my deepest desire?” You can use the same intention each day or create a new one. Phrase this affirmation in the present tense (as if it’s already been accomplished) and use it as a powerful and positive way to start your day.  

When we first wake up, our bodies are fully relaxed and our minds are just starting to clear into awareness. We are still tapped into our subconscious state, which is the perfect time to really seal an intention within you.

This quick moment setting your intention each morning will change your life. Not only will you start each day feeling positive, powerful and uplifted, you will mindfully create your own destiny.

Lighter with Each Step: Trekking Solo in the Himalayas
Sunrise from Poon Hill in Ghorepani at !0,000 feet. The Annapurna Range reaches to 26,000 feet.

Sunrise from Poon Hill in Ghorepani at !0,000 feet. The Annapurna Range reaches to 26,000 feet.

I’m playing catch up on some of my travel journeys, grateful that 2016 was another full year of adventures. In May and June, I took several weeks of vacation to trek the Himalayas with the aim of learning about myself, enjoying some quiet and enhancing my spirituality.

The Call to Trek Nepal

I was living in San Diego and feeling a little restless. I needed to get away and find some quiet and clarity so I could peacefully reconnect.

One night, I couldn’t sleep. I gave up trying and grabbed my iphone. For some reason, I googled “Nepal yoga treks,” and in bed between 2am and 4am, I figured out my entire trip, plans, dates, flights and affordability. By 6am, it was time to start work, and I emailed my boss for the time off. I got my approval and booked my ticket that day. I knew it was a rush, but I just felt called to go. I booked the trip giving myself 8 weeks to prepare. I spent that time hiking several days a week in San Diego to get my legs ready.

Getting there

After 36 hours of travel time, I arrived in Kathmandu around 10pm. I had chosen an inexpensive guest house which turned out to be pretty run down. There was only one other traveler staying there with whom I shared a bathroom. The room was basic and had a decades old television in it that was more like a piece of furniture and probably didn’t work. No matter, I was just there to sleep and catch a flight to Pokhara in the morning. I was pretty tired and hungry when I arrived and the owner brought me my first meal of dal bhat, pretty much the only dish in Nepal. It consists of lentil soup, pickled veggies (questionable for western stomachs) and rice served on a large metal plate.

Retreating in Pokhara

Purna Yoga Retreat Centre, Pokhara, Nepal

Purna Yoga Retreat Centre, Pokhara, Nepal

I headed back to the airport for my flight to Pokhara noting to myself I might want to spend more extravagantly on my room the next time I’m in Kathmandu. I landed in Pokhara and headed to the Purna Yoga Retreat Centre, which sits atop a hillside overlooking the lake and is decorated with beautiful gardens and prayer flags. The yoga studio’s perfectly picturesque panoramic views made me feel I would find all the bliss and zen I had been seeking. But I realized quickly the center was a bit too isolated and empty. Only a handful of travelers were staying there, not really the place for a sociable solo traveler. I got to join yoga classes, kirtan and all kinds of wonderful yogic activities. But the seclusion of being up on the hill away from town combined with the lack of other travelers cued me in that this just wasn’t going to be the place for me when I returned from the trek. I was told by the manager that my trek hadn’t been booked by anyone else so it would be just me and my guide and porter on the journey. (I knew there was a risk of this when I booked it.) I didn’t fly all the way to Nepal to not go trekking, so I accepted that I’d have to face these mountains alone. We took off the following day.

Trekking the Annapurnas

Dal Baht power, 24 hour. Fueled only by rice and lentil soup.

Dal Baht power, 24 hour. Fueled only by rice and lentil soup.

The first couple days of trekking and yoga/meditations went pretty smoothly, all that hiking prep work paid off. The Annapurna trek was much cozier than I thought it would be. The “teahouses” you camp in are quite luxurious compared to tent camping. There are showers and beds and the ubiquitous dal bhat! In fact, there’s a common phrase for trekkers, “Dal bhat power, 24 hour.”

My first days getting to Tikhedunga and starting toward Ghorepani were  pretty easy and delightful. Each day of the trek we walked about 6-8 hours, a lot of it was straight up or back down stone steps.

Comfy little "teahouses" along the trek offer a comfortable bed for the night.

Comfy little "teahouses" along the trek offer a comfortable bed for the night.

 

Entranced

The struggle came by day 3 heading to Ghorepani. I began getting fevers and feeling sick. Meditation, my guide’s Reiki therapy and my sheer determination helped me to keep trekking. But the loneliness of trekking solo started sinking in. I felt like I was on a silent retreat. I would walk alone, eat alone, repeat. I started to lose my mind a little, why was I doing this? I decided there was nothing I could do but embrace every bit of it: the steep inclines, the exhaustion, the cold and rain, the dal baht, the quiet.

The most challenging days physically were actually the easiest, as I had something to focus on. My friendly Nepalese guide would try to talk to me but after several days in the mountains with only him, I let him know I just needed my space. He was very dedicated to his job and trying overly enthusiastically to be my “yoga master” or healer. He was a good guide and respected my wishes. Meditatively, I took each step, one by one, telling myself “I am lighter and lighter with every step.”

Later, after the trek was complete, my guide told me this day my pace was about an hour and half faster than average. “You were in a trance,”  he said. I am so glad he phrased it for me, because really, there is no other way to explain how I did it!

Meeting a Travel Sister

IMG_6978.jpg

During the meal stops of the trek, I kept crossing paths with an English woman, Phillippa, also traveling alone with just a guide. Phillippa was on holiday before starting her new job. She seemed to be doing great on her journey, trekking with Three Sisters, an amazing company that specializes in hosting women trekkers and training female guides. Phillippa and I really enjoyed the moments we encountered each other, both desperately seeking some company. There’s just something about being able to share with someone the struggles you are going through. Struggles like, “Did you get any leaches on you from that last day?” or “Omg, I really need pizza, I can’t take eating dal bhat anymore!”

That fateful meeting with Phillippa was the universe helping us both out in a time when we needed it. Phillippa began to get sick on the trek as I had been earlier in the week. We weren’t staying in the same teahouses, but our walking pace seemed to make it so that we would run into each other at least once each day. After a few more chance meet ups, we made plans to stay in touch after our journey.

The Views of a Lifetime

During all of this struggle, self-doubt and meditation, I was taking in the most incredible views of a lifetime. When we ascended to Ghorepani, the magnitude of the Himalayas really struck me. I was walking for days up steep inclines, and at this point I was high enough in the green mountains that I couldn’t see the bottom where they started. I was high, my head in the clouds and my feet still firmly on the ground. A look ahead and I could see endless towering giants, mountains that reached 30,000 feet. I was lost in awe in the Earth’s great magnitude. But I didn’t feel small, I felt connected, a part of this greatness. Poon Hill was the apex of this trek, where we spent a dark dawn hiking up by headlamp to arrive to the magnificent sunrise.

One of the best parts of the trek is experiencing the tiny little mountain villages and passing their schools and meeting the people who greet you at the teahouses. I was honestly suffering so much during this trek, that it took being home to fully appreciate the ability to visit so many adorable little villages tucked in the massive Annapurna range. We reached Ghandruk and got to see more traditional life in a village and history of its development - trails and cobblestones in a mountainside leading to a monastery, museum and school.

Battling the Banda

It had been about seven days of trekking to exhaustion and eating dal baht for lunch and dinner. The fever sickness I had experienced earlier had settled to a bronchitis and my body was weak. Phillippa and I both were anticipating getting back to town, relaxing and eating something (anything!) other than dal bhat.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy. One word you don’t want to hear in Nepal is “Banda.” A banda is a strike, and they happen all the time! This banda was on public transportation, meaning it was forbidden that day to get my transport back to town. It took a few hours of waiting at a convenience store on the side of the road, but my guide was able after many phone calls to find us a private transport out of the Annapurnas. This was pretty miraculous, considering we passed many travelers on the side of the road desperately looking to accomplish the same. We picked up as many as we could and packed them into our car, two girls even sitting in the trunk of our hatchback.

Pizza and Pokhara!

Later that afternoon, I finally got to collapse into bed. I was pretty much unable to move! But the temptation of pizza and meeting up with Phillippa was just too great, and I summoned my strength once again for one of the most satisfying meals of my life, thank you Godfather’s Pizza in Pokhara, Nepal! I also was able to pick up some prescription medicines to help with ear infection and bronchitis.

After a lot of rest, Phillippa and I spent a few days in Pokhara together unwinding from our trek and still wondering why the heck we put ourselves through it, laughing about my guide’s overbearing sense of duty and our dal bhat woes. Kindred spirits, we understood each other and that need to challenge ourselves through travel.

Lakeside, Pokhara, Nepal

Lakeside, Pokhara, Nepal

Overall, Pokhara was a peaceful place to unwind and experience Nepal. You still get cows in the streets, litter and loud noises--the experience of Nepal--but sprinkled with delightful western conveniences like lattes, wifi and massages. Our post-trek massages were through a charitable organization that hires and trains the blind, Seeing Hands Nepal. We walked around the serene lake, took a local bus (always an adventure!) to old Pokhara, and visited the World Peace Pagoda. Phillippa and I were such a support for each other, we were sad to part ways but her plans had her heading to Kathmandu and home just a little sooner than me. On my own, I visited the Tibetan settlement and listened to the chanting monks.

Kathmandu Ass Kicking

Eventually, I made my way to crazy Kathmandu. This city is overwhelming to the senses. There are people everywhere. Walking down the street is like walking out of a concert venue after a show has ended, full on crowded! The smell, the dirt, the constant shouts from store owners and tour operators, it was the complete opposite of the quiet and bliss I had come to Nepal to seek.  The crowdedness even overshadowed the heaps of rubble leftover from the earthquake that seem to just blend into the daily life. But the tents were set up end to end along highway medians to house the homeless after the disaster were a stark reminder.

Hindu cremations at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Hindu cremations at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal.

I found what looked like the most touristy and safe place to eat, a beautiful restaurant that looked so trendy and full of westerners it was as if I could have been back in California. I was desperately seeking nourishment after eating only dal bhat and no vegetables for the entire trip. I ordered a salad as the menu noted that all vegetables were washed in iodine, and enjoyed the western comforts and free wifi.

Later that day, I had plans to visit Pashupatinath Temple, the most sacred Hindu Temple in Nepal, with a day tour. I had really looked forward to this as much as the trek. Again, I was the only tourist signed up and it was just me and the tour guide (this is a common occurrence as tourism took a hit after the earthquake). The ride to the temple was on public transport, which was the back of an enclosed pickup truck with two benches, packed full of locals, hot and no ventilation to breathe. Picture when you see chickens being transported on the highway, that was me in this truck. After that we jumped on a bus, also packed, but with windows for polluted city air to circulate and interestingly loud blaring music. We made it to the temple, and I witness the cremations that take place along the banks of the Bagmati River. There were about five in progress, small groups of people standing around their loved ones burning out in the open converting to ashes that they would sweep into the river. The smoke stacks aligned the gray, polluted waters in a scene that I’ll never erase from memory.

The energy of this temple was intense. The banks of the river were silent, but you could feel the loss for the families grieving and the flow of life reincarnating. This pilgrimage site was so profound and everything I had hoped it would be. Maybe it was the salad, stirred up by the hectic transportation, and garnished by the burning bodies surrounding me, but I lost it! I threw up everything I had eaten all over this holy place as family members carried on with their memorial services. I got myself back to my hotel quickly, skipping the local transport experience and springing for a cab.

The next two days of my trip were spent in the pristine (by Nepal standards) Kathmandu Guest House (which still loses power several hours a day), in fetal position in bed swearing I would just do anything to be home. My body had never felt so weak. Nepal defeated me. I was so ill and exhausted and alone. I cried, wondering why I had this undeniable passion for wanderlust. Why do I always go off on these adventures that seem more like self-punishment?

I realized curled up in that hotel bed that I seeked “home.” I seeked the quiet and stillness of being back in North Carolina with my loved ones. Just as quickly as I had booked my trip to Nepal, in that hotel room bed, I was surefire planning my next trip driving across the country with my belongings from San Diego to North Carolina. Nepal showed me with certainty where I needed to be next in my life and put me on a new path. Months later, I know it was the right decision as I got hit by major life challenges and was in the right place to deal with them.

When I felt better, I took all of my meals in the hotel and would sit in the tranquil garden surrounded by bright, beautiful marigolds. I felt no need to go back out into the streets and fight the craziness of Kathmandu.

The Himalayas showed me that deepest connection with the universe I had been seeking. It didn’t go at all as smoothly as I had hoped, but I experienced Nepal the way it was meant to be for me. I was broken down and defeated, and tested. But I came back stronger, and that may be the best answer I can find as to why I push my limits so often traveling. The spiritual experiences I had in Nepal are now a part of who I am, how I experience life and how I teach yoga. I left Nepal changed forever, with stronger intuition and understanding of myself. I returned home accepting what I learned and experienced with no regrets.

 

 

Flower Power! Lemon Lavender Sugar Cookies

I returned back from teaching yoga in the Dominican Republic to a chilly 25 degrees and snow in the OBX! In protest of the cold, I decided to stay in all day and explore my domestic side. I have a few friends I have missed dearly who deserve some delicious baked treats! I decided it was time to experiment with the culinary lavender buds I had stashed in my pantry. These Lemon Lavender Sugar Cookies bring a delicate and refreshing lightness to the buttery comfort of a sugar cookie. 

I realize this cookie recipe is a stray from my more healthy, plant-based recipes. But we all have to live a little. And a made from scratch cookie with organic ingredients makes this a pretty fair sinful indulgence. Also, they offer a unique exploration for your taste buds over the typical chocolate chip! Enjoy!

 

Prep time: 10-15 minutes, Bake time: 10 minutes

FullSizeRender.jpg

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened (1.5 sticks)

1 egg

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pure lemon extract

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1.5 tbsp lavender (I used Pepper Creek Farms French Blue Lavender)

 

Directions:

1. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar, butter and egg together. 

2. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, lemon and lavender and mix to form a dough.

3. Form the sugar cookie dough into a long-thin log shape. Roll the log in sugar sprinkles on all sides.

4. Chill the log in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

7. Use a knife to slice 1/2-inch thick cookies and place on an un-greased cookie sheet.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. 

I left my cookies in for 12 minutes to get a perfect chewy-crunch combination. If you try the recipe, let me know how it works out for you! I'm looking forward to exploring more ideas with my lavender stash, lavender water, lavender pancakes, lavender crazy!

Here's How You Can Live Your Dream

This morning I was a bit stiff as I woke up to teach my 8am yoga class in a beautiful beachfront studio overlooking turquoise waters and white sand in Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. I was a little worn from teaching arm balances and inversions late the evening before and having little time to sleep and recover. I'm traveling, teaching nearly 10 yoga classes a week and pushing myself to soak up of every minute of this opportunity.

I stepped to the mat to begin teaching and began with some simple asansas to help my students warm up, but also restoring my own sore body. After a few deep breaths, it came to me: Gratitude.

I realized that my "bad morning" was the actually quite incredible. I mean, my work is to teach yoga on the beach in the Caribbean! I realized just how amazing my life really is, because I'm realizing a dream and goal I set for myself.

I flashed back to a time when I worked in marketing for large companies. I did this for 17 long years,12 of which were spent fighting traffic to reach a downtown office building each morning. I would wake at 6:30am, rush to shower, put on makeup, iron my dress clothes, scour to find panty hose that didn't have runs in them, pack a lunch and hurry out the door without eating breakfast. I would arrive to my desk, usually a few minutes late, and log in to my computer. For the next 9 hours, I would sit within gray walls of a cubicle (later upgraded to an office) and I would work hard as I watched the small clock in the bottom right corner of my computer screen. I would challenge myself to learn and improve my skills. I would work hard to earn a paycheck and even stay late each night with hopes each year of a pay raise. But I would not work with passion.

During the long workdays behind my computer, I would dream of traveling abroad and living on an island. I would think of ways that I could bring meaning to my life. At the time, I wasn't even practicing yoga. So I would dream of ways that I could help people, possibly volunteering and using my Spanish language skills from college. This daydream was relentless, and evolved into creating goals, and like I would do for large companies, I created a "strategic business plan" for my own life, complete with a budget and timeline.

Fast forward to years later. Years of life experience, years of work toward my goal, years devoted to yoga practice and years of teaching yoga and self discovery. I made countless preparations and took each step of my strategic plan, I calmed down and listened to my heart, and I find myself exactly where I dreamed to be. I reached my goal: making a difference people's lives and doing it in beautiful places all over the world. How could I ever wake up unmotivated when I think about how far I have come?

Each yoga class I teach, I begin by asking my students to create an intention (a present tense affirmation) for their practice and to carry that intention with them throughout the day and throughout their week. This intention setting is the first step to making self improvements and working toward goals and dreams.

While currently teaching many tourists in the Dominican Republic, I'm often asked with wonder after class how I ended up here-- essentially how I ended up with my dream job? It's my hope that by my example and by my yoga instruction, that I'm making a difference in each of their lives, inspiring them on their own path to pursuing what makes them happy. It's my passion to help others to find peace and wellness in their own lives, one-hour of yoga at a time.

If you are not where you want to be right now in your life, you are not stuck. You can make the right choices each day and put in the hard work to find a new outcome. Perhaps that starts with a daydream. Or perhaps that starts with taking those first steps to the top of your yoga mat and setting an intention. With determination and the right plan, you can find yourself exactly where you dream to be! Believe.

8 Confessions of a Shoestring Traveler

I recently read a traveler bucket list article, and one of the items on the list was to live off of just $10/day.

I’m currently traveling for about five months. People always ask me, “how can you afford to travel?”

I realize if you are used to the spending style of a short vacation, you would think I have a lot of money for all this carefree wanderlust. The truth is, I’m just stretching each dollar to pay for long-term travels. So, I can mark this item off my bucket list because right now, I’m at about $4/day while traveling and teaching yoga in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

How? Well I’m doing this with some travel experience and savvy, some working skills and a bit of shameless frugality. And I’m not alone, I’ve met travelers everywhere who do the same.

First, I’ve got accommodation and meals through a work trade, an arrangement to live abroad and do work for someone in exchange for accommodation, meals or other non-financial payment. My work trade for a yoga and wellness center in the Dominican Republic includes a shared apartment (four girls, two bedrooms), wifi, bottled water, daily meals of veggies and tropical fruits, and a holistic treatment (e.g., psychosomatic shiatsu, applied kinesiology) once per week. This is all in exchange for teaching yoga classes and doing marketing for the yoga studio (mostly writing blog posts) for about 25 hours a week. Pretty fun, interesting and meaningful work!

Honestly, it’s not the ideal travel situation but shoestring travel is about sacrifices. I’m too old to be sharing a room with someone long-term, the apartment is a bit far from the beach and the food is basic (but healthy!). It’s a good temporary way to keep my travel costs down and enjoy the Caribbean. I am treated like family where I work. I love teaching yoga and helping my yoga students. I can stay as long as I’d like.

So, I have most of my expenses paid for, now it just takes a few frugal methods for everything else. But I suppose it’s for a good experience, what somebody deemed worthy of a bucket list.

So, here are some confessions from this frugal traveler, how I travel on a shoestring.

  1. Make up, hair, don’t care. Traveling, you have to be a little more careless with your personal upkeep. You can get away with looking a little rough when you’re sun-kissed in a faded bikini. I do look forward to cleaning up and using nicer products when I return home. As for clothing and shoes, tropical third-world countries have a way of ruining everything you wear. I’m walking through mud and dirty streets daily, so best to keep the wardrobe simple. You also don’t really want to do much shopping in these places, as the costs for quality clothes are more expensive than they would be in the states and the lower cost items where the locals shop are very poor quality.
  2. Simple food. Where I work, a simple healthy lunch is cooked for us (usually lentil soup), but we cook our own dinner with provided vegetables and grains. Sometimes boring, but this is cheap eating and at least it’s healthy. I do my best to pass up buying food out and eat what’s provided. Being vegetarian also keeps the food costs down, and honestly, in a lot of foreign countries it’s safer on the belly to forego the meat. 

  3. Free rides. Transportation can add up quickly, even when it’s just a $1 perilous motorbike ride. My roommates and I have gotten to know the local custom of “bolas.” That is, hitchhiking. Definitely don’t try this at home, kids. But now I’ve got some crazy stories to tell.

  4. Fewer drinks. Or more drinks, if they are free! Maybe I just have good drinking karma, but the free drinks have just flowed the few times I’ve been out. In any case, I only buy food and drinks out on rare occasion. I have work to do each day and drinking less is better for you anyway. But if they are free, that’s another story. Somehow, I’ve managed to drink plenty thanks to lots of kind people I have met.

  5. Beach bumming. The beach is free! For that matter, so are a lot of my other hobbies. I can play with my hula hoops or ukulele (yes, I travel with both!) by the pool and not spend any money. Working at a yoga center, I have a space to do yoga for free.

  6. Living local. We’ve discovered that night club covers for tourists are $60, versus $10 or $20 (depending on how many drinks you want) for locals. Avoiding the gringo line at the club offers a huge cost savings. Also, long-term travel gives you time to meet people and get invited to fun activities that you might otherwise have to pay for. My roommates and I have been added to guest lists at clubs and taken a free boat tour via new friends. We also get invited to dinners and parties with the locals. To me, this is a more unique and fulfilling experience than joining an expensive tour.

  7. Straight up mooching. I’m teaching yoga at all-inclusive resorts while here, which means I can take free coffee and pastries each day. I’ll also take a yogurt and a juice, please. Basically, I take as many free pastries and tea bags as I can shamelessly stuff into my bag each day to share with the roomies! I felt a little weird doing this, but no one seems to mind, and I’m assured by my roomies this is acceptable behavior (good enough).

  8. Less of everything. “Shoot, I only have a dab of sunscreen left. I’ll save it for tomorrow.” “Ew, I dropped my Q Tips on the nasty bathroom floor. Oh well, I’ll still use them.” “I hope I can make this toothpaste last 3 more weeks.” These are all random daily thoughts I have. Sure it would be easy to pop to the store for more of everything, but you don’t want to weigh down your luggage either. So it becomes this game, how long can you make everything last?


So what have I spent money on? Pizza and ice cream, a few grocery items (chocolate bars, nuts) and then a few meals, nights out, mojitos and even a yoga workshop. I’ve still spent less than $25/week. That would be impossible to do living at home, so I’m actually spending less money by traveling. And that explains how I can afford to travel for so long.


Yes shoestring travel is a struggle of willpower and self control and also a sacrifice of vanity and conveniences. Sometimes it involves shamelessly hitchhiking and accepting free drinks, sometimes it involves skipping a meal or eating toast for dinner. But I can say I’ve checked traveling on a shoestring off on my bucket list. More importantly, I know I can stretch my money and stay warm here in the Caribbean as long as I’d like to this winter.

Chel Rogerson
3 Reasons to Take a Yoga Class on Your Next Vacation
Vacationers enjoy deep relaxation at the end of a yoga class at resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Vacationers enjoy deep relaxation at the end of a yoga class at resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

I’ve spent the past few years teaching yoga to tourists, mostly in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but I’m currently teaching in the Dominican Republic. This offers me the unique opportunity to teach students who are often brand new to yoga or do not have an ongoing yoga practice. Often students come up and talk to me after class, expressing how much they needed yoga and how great they feel afterward. 

If you are not currently practicing yoga, why not take an hour while on vacation to explore how yoga could help you? Here are just a few benefits to adding yoga to your vacation plans.

Relaxation

The point of a vacation is to relax, right? Many times, we come back from our vacations with more stress. We return back to our normal lives thinking, “I need a vacation from my vacation!” That’s because we’re so busy rushing around to have the perfect vacation, we don’t take the time to simply relax. Taking even just an hour of yoga during your weeklong vacation dedicates time to simply chilling out without interruption. You take time on the mat (or on the beach) to breathe, relax, stretch and enjoy - one hour completely disconnected (No smart phone or social media! You will survive!).

Savor the Moments

Often times, our vacations go by so fast that they feel like a blur. Yoga allows you to take time on your vacation to connect with yourself and fully observe what’s happening within you - how your body feels, what it’s like to quiet your mind and just enjoy each moment. This feeling of peace will always be associated with your vacation experience.

Chart a New Path

While vacation is a time to relax, it also offers a break from normal life to decide what you would like to achieve or how you would like to feel in the future. When you take a yoga class on vacation, set an intention for how you wish to change your life. Do you want to exercise more, reduce stress, eat more healthy or make other positive changes? Take time for yourself to reflect on how you are living your life and what improvements you can make. Perhaps you will even decide you should continue taking yoga classes or meditating when you return home.

Life is busy, and it’s never easy to start a new habit or try something new. Use an hour of your vacation time to explore the benefits of yoga and how it may improve your health and quality of life. “I wish I hadn’t taken that relaxing yoga class,” said no one ever!

 

Hay Girl! Change Starts With You.

I'm so proud to know the beautiful sista-girl, Katie Fuller, who is behind this flyer inspiring women in the streets of New York and spreading the love now across the country!

Light up your own town by printing out and posting this PDF flyer.  Here's the story behind Katie's creation. 

Oh hay there,

The world is a bit bleak right now.

Initially, I found myself full of fear. Fear for my body, fear for those who are marginalized, fear for the future.

But I truly believe this is the time to shine our bright, bright lights.

This idea came to me a couple of months ago when I was walking to the train in NYC and many men felt inclined to holler at me. On one hand, I was so pissed that men can just say whatever the hell they want to a passerby. On another hand, I thought, “Dang, I wish I could tell random women the compliments I always say in my head.” For example, “Wow! Her posture is amazing!”

So I whipped up this little flyer to make the world a tiny bit better.

If you feel so inclined to print a few up and paper your town or share with rad friends, I would be honored.
— Katie Fuller
5 Truths About Why You "Can't" Hula Hoop
I can’t hula hoop. I literally can not keep a hoop spinning around my waist.

These are words I hear often from adults of all ages, sizes and fitness levels.  This excuse often is what keeps people from trying out one of my hoop classes and possibly finding a new hobby to enjoy, a new way to work out, or a fun activity to enjoy with family. I’ve heard them all, so here are the top five excuses, and the true reasons why you CAN hula hoop.

EXCUSE: “I really can’t hula hoop. Even as a child, I was never able to keep a hula hoop up.”

TRUTH: While it comes naturally to some without instruction, the majority of us just need a few pointers on how to maintain momentum of the hoop, which motions to make with our waist and how to practice. I have never had anyone willing to learn come to a class who couldn’t hula hoop after a few instructions.

EXCUSE: “No, really, I can’t hoop. I have tried over and over playing with my child/friend, and I just can’t get the hang of it.”

TRUTH: It’s very difficult, almost impossible, for an adult to learn how to hula hoop with a child-size hoop. You wouldn’t use a child’s backpack to carry your college textbooks would you? Likewise, you need an adult-sized hoop that accommodates your height and size. Also, a more experienced hooper tends to use a lighter and smaller hoop that is not suitable for beginners. Most hoop classes (and those offered by Bliss Fit!) provide a variety of beginner-friendly, adult-sized hoops so you can learn more easily.

EXCUSE: “I have tried to learn a few tricks, but it’s just too hard. I just can’t hoop like you do.”

TRUTH: We hoopers put hours and hours into drilling tricks over and over again until we learn them flawlessly to incorporate into our flow. The thrill and fun of it comes from the journey. Don't expect to be able to just pick up a hoop for a week and match the level of someone who has spent years training. Enjoy spending the time getting to know your hoops and finding your own hoop flow. Working each day or week on a new trick or skill is what makes hooping a lifelong hobby.

EXCUSE: “I can’t hoop well yet, so I can’t come to your class. I would make a fool of myself.”

TRUTH: This is exactly why you should attend a class. Beginner-friendly classes are perfect for those who have no hoop background. The first few hoop classes I took, I didn't own a hoop yet or practice anything at home first.  Even experienced hoopers were once beginners, so we all understand that it's tough trying something new for the first time! Go on, be brave!

EXCUSE: “I can’t find time to hula hoop.”

TRUTH: You can practice hoop dance using just a few minutes of your spare time. Take a break during your day, turn on your favorite song and spend just 3 minutes hooping. One of my favorite tips: Keep a hoop by your fridge and when you wander over for a snack, instead of mindlessly eating, hoop for 5 minutes. All you need is to dance for 3-5 minutes a day (more, of course, is welcome!), and it will do wonders for your mood and happiness!


If you find the hula hoop intriguing, don’t let these excuses keep you from exploring something you potentially might really enjoy. Trying anything new means reaching out of your comfort zone, feeling awkward and humbly and patiently being devoted to learn. Hooping is an excellent hobby because it’s really just up to you and the hoop. You can learn when, where and whatever you want. Just be true to you and let the journey unfold.

FitnessChel Rogersonhoop dance
Trataka - The Enchanting Practice of Yogic Candle Gazing

Candle gazing, formally known in Sanskrit as Trataka, is an enchanting way to quiet the mind and enhance your ability to meditate. One practices trataka by focusing a gaze with high concentration at an object (yantra). (In this post, the yantra is a candle flame, but there are other wonderful options that can be explored, such as gazing at an om symbol or “Stare Gazing,” a powerful technique of gazing into another’s eyes).

Why practice trataka?
This very calming and enjoyable yogic technique offers many benefits (to both the energetic and physical body). Let’s explore a few of them.

  1. Practices concentration. Candle gazing is a form of concentration (Dharana), the sixth of the eight limbs of yoga. People unfamiliar with yoga often consider yoga as just the physical postures (Asana, or the third limb of yoga), but it’s important to focus on all eight limbs of yoga to reach our supreme state of consciousness. Adding candle gazing to your yoga practice advances you to the sixth limb of yoga. This will better prepare you for meditation.

  2. Enhances Your Sixth Sense. The third eye energy center of the body, located in the space between the eyebrows, is known as the Ajna Chakra in the east and commonly thought of as our “sixth sense” here in the west. The third eye is stimulated by candle gazing and concentration. Controlling the blink reflex stimulates the pineal gland, relating to the intuition center of the body. Stimulating this chakra leads to more clarity, self-confidence, spirituality, psychic ability or intuition, and deepens the connection with our higher self.

  3. Eases related health conditions. An unbalanced Ajna chakra is associated with depression, insomnia and sleeping difficulties, migraines, brain injuries and vision and hearing issues. Candle gazing balances the Ajna chakra, which could help to improve these conditions.

  4. Improves eye health and vision. Trataka strengthens the eye muscles and cleanses the eyes. During trataka, it’s common for the eyes to water or tear up. Healthy tear ducts fight eye infections and keep our eyes healthy.


There are many approaches to practicing trataka. I offer you the method I learned in my yoga teacher training with Marion McConnell of South Okanagan Yoga Academy. With this method, you can practice Trataka in less than five minutes!

Create a quiet, relaxing space and sit down comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Light a candle and place it about a foot in front of you. Gaze at the flame for a minute or two, withstanding the urge to blink or look away. Next, close your eyes and visualize the image of the flame for a minute, letting this image “burn” into your third eye. Reopen your eyes and reconnect your focus to the physical flame for another minute. Gently blink the eyes and return to your eased state of awareness before you began the exercise.

This is a method I often use at the end of deep relaxation in my gentle yoga classes and in my yoga healing workshops. I hope you enjoy it and will make it a part of your yoga practice. Namaste!

How to Practice Trataka

InspirationChel Rogersonyoga
Raw, Vegan Cashew Cheese Recipe (You Will Lick the Bowl)

Let’s taco serious for a minute: This is nacho average cheese dip recipe.

This raw, vegan nacho cheese dip made with creamy cashews will blow your mind. This dip will put any dairy (cheese-like, processed) dip you buy at the store to shame. Seriously, I’ve had friends licking the bowl.

What’s great about this raw, vegan cashew cheese dip is that it’s unbelievably delicious while also guilt-free. We’re using all healthy ingredients for nourishing goodness. Use this dip in recipes, or eat it like I most often do, with baked non-gmo french fries. One more amazing tid bit: It takes just 5 minutes of effort to make!

Note: This recipe is designed to work with a Vitamix blender. This wonderful piece of kitchen machinery is nacho average kitchen blender. It has the ability to pulverize ingredients for a smooth creamy finish, and it warms as it blends. If you do not have a Vitamix you may have to adapt this recipe. Perhaps pre-soak your cashews to soften them and expect a grittier texture and room temperature dip.

 

Raw, Vegan Cashew Nacho Cheese

Total Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Serves: 10-12

Instructions: 
Place all ingredients into Vitamix blender and process at highest speed for 3 minutes until warm, smooth and creamy! Devour on everything.

Big thanks to Summer Pulice, an incredible aerialist friend of mine in San Diego, who shared her recipe with me. She has worked doing Vitamix demonstrations and promotes a vegan, plant-based diet.

One more thing:

Q: What does a nosey pepper do?

A: Get’s jalapeno business!

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
1/3 onion
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 lemon (use the juice)
1 red pepper, seeded

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
3 cloves garlic
1 pkg taco seasoning (check the ingredients, there should only be spices listed!)

Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water

 

FoodChel Rogersonrecipes
5 Unique Ways to Entertain Guests at Your OBX Wedding Reception
Party guests are entertained by LED hoop performer Chel Rogerson.

Party guests are entertained by LED hoop performer Chel Rogerson.

It’s so critical to get those perfect photographs of the wedding party after the ceremony, but guests can get a little antsy waiting on your big arrival to the reception. Hor d’oeuvres and cocktails can surely help, but there are more unique ways to entertain a crowd of all ages. Here are some ideas to wow and entertain guests, Outer Banks style!

  1. Regional Drinks. Serve local beer and rum to enhance the experience for guests who have traveled to the Outer Banks for your wedding. A beer and wine tasting with local brewers, such as Outer Banks Brewing Station or Weeping Radish Brewery, and winery Sanctuary Vineyards would be a great way for guests to experience the Outer Banks. Be sure to serve a signature cocktail with Kill Devil Rum by Outer Banks Distilling, made right here in Manteo!

  2. Outdoor Games. Corn hole is a fixture at many Outer Banks restaurants with backyard areas. Outer Banks locals love to toss bean bags or basically play any game where you can socialize at the same time. Adding some games like corn hole, bocce ball or life-size Jenga and Connect Four to your wedding reception are inexpensive, family-friendly ways to keep a crowd lively. Check out the back yard of Kill Devil Hills restaurant Bonzer Shack for game ideas and inspiration.

  3. Hoop Dancing. The Outer Banks is a place that nurtures free spirits! Hoop Dancing (using a hula hoop as a dance prop) is a beautiful performance art of this self expression. You can share this with your guests by either hiring Bliss Fit’s professional hoop dancers to roam and dance around your mingling crowd, or go even further by providing hoops and letting your guests try it for themselves. This is sure to be a big hit with kids!

  4. Fire Dancing. Time to wow your crowd. Fire dancing is a stunning and awe-inspiring art form that many of your guests have likely not witnessed in person. The massive flames and sound of fire “swooshing” around a dancer is a magical experience. Bliss Fit’s fire dancers are trained professionals who take all safety precautions to bring this exciting performance to your wedding reception!

  5. Drumming. Why not get your guests involved in a drum circle, providing percussion instruments for both children and adults. There are many drummers in the Outer Banks who can lead in syncing your crowd to one beautiful vibe! Imagine incorporating a little of this musical creation into the soundtrack of your wedding video. Bliss Fit is happy to refer you to local drummers who we often dance with on the beach.

You chose the Outer Banks as your wedding destination because it’s a truly magical and unique place. Choose entertainment that embraces the wonder of this beautiful destination and your guests are sure to be dazzled at a wedding they will never forget.

 

Why I’m Not Celebrating Curvy Women

U.S. Women's FIFA World Cup Team, photo from npr.orgEach week, social media explodes with “real women,' showing off their curvy or plus-sized bodies with pride and confidence. Like everyone else, I was applauding the positivity--the intended message that women are beautiful at all sizes.

This week, we turn our attention to U.S. Olympian Amanda Bingson, with her self-described “dense” body. Undeniably, this woman is not only strong and talented, she’s bravely showing confidence to appear in a national magazine naked. She’s encouraging a lot of women who have body image issues, and she’s dispelling stereotypes about what top women athletes look like.

But this well-intended, politically correct “celebrate your body” cause has run amok. What we’re really doing is objectifying our bodies more. The reality is, we don’t post photos of overweight men and call attention to how they do or don’t compare to Channing Tatum. We don't post photos that we claim are "real men." We don’t objectify short men, tall men, skinny men, stocky men. While we certainly appreciate the rare perfection of a man who resembles the chiseled physique of Michaelangelo’s David, when we see most photos of men, we are not categorizing their body types.

Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two

But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do

’Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase

All the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazines working that Photoshop

We know that shit ain’t real

Come on now, make it stop

If you got beauty beauty just raise ‘em up

’Cause every inch of you is perfect

From the bottom to the top

Yeah, my momma she told me don’t worry about your size

She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night

You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,

So, if that’s what’s you’re into

Then go ahead and move along
— I recently took a burlesque dance class which was choreographed to a version of “All About That Bass.” I hadn’t really thought about the lyrics until then:

I was hoop dancing the other day with my beautiful, tall and thin friend Megan, and told her about the class and the song we were dancing to. Surprisingly, she said, “That song offends me. What, men won't like me because I don’t have a big booty?” She went on to explain that growing up thin was no piece of cake either, with people always asking her if she had an eating disorder. Is Megan not a real woman?

Yes, beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes. But we need to be more inclusive with our messaging. And how about we just stop making this a conversation about appearance all together? If we really want to celebrate our bodies, we should be celebrating what our bodies are doing, not how they look.

At 36-years-old, I’m stoked that I’m able to do the splits or challenging inversions in my yoga practice. Whether I’m a size 0, a size 8 or a size 16 has nothing to do with it. The only way I have these accomplishments is through regular practice and training.

We can’t ignore size completely. I applaud my curvy friend and yoga instructor, Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga, who focuses on teaching yoga to bigger women. Her focus is on teaching women to accomplish asanas with instruction that helps address their specific issues, such as a little junk getting in the way during a forward fold. Likewise, when a thinner girl takes pole dance classes, she’s got less thigh fat to hold onto the pole with, which presents a challenge. We all have challenges, and it’s important for instructors to teach to every body type. But outside of an instruction setting, do we really need to call so much attention to our bodies?

I was so proud this weekend to watch the U.S. women win the World Cup, in awe of their athleticism. And for once, Americans were gathering to watch a women’s sporting event, making it the most watched soccer game in American history! Who cares what their bodies look like, look at what they accomplished! Let’s start appreciating healthy bodies by what they can do, and not by size, shape, or appearance.