Tag Archives: yoga retreat

Paros Musings Pt 3

I just woke up after the deepest sleep I’ve had here over the last two weeks, and as usual, the dogs are barking in a call and response manner, the roosters are crowing (don’t get excited, they do it all day, every day…even a broken clock accurately tells the time twice a day), and the birds are chirping. But instead of just taking it all in, the thought, “It’s the last day” came hurdling through my mind, and with it the onslaught of emotions.

This year’s group of people is a special one. Every year I fall right into the community we create, and every year I feel all the big feels when it’s time to splinter apart and go back into the world to resume where we left off just over a week ago. My hope is that those people who join me for these trips around the world find something unique and worth integrating into their lives, and then go back home and do exactly that. Last night one of the students here texted me to let me know that, “Need you to know this experience has changed my life.” And I couldn’t reply because even though that’s my intention in putting myself out into the world, I get so emotional when it actually happens that I can hardly put into words a response that conveys my gratitude and emotions.

For those of you who are still here, sleeping for the next few minutes before you get up to take our last yoga class together in Paros for this year, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking a risk and coming here for this event, because I know every single one of you did. Whether your risk was a financial one, whether it was related to leaving your family or your kids for this length of time, whether it was related to asking for time off, for yourself, to travel and get some introspection time, or whether it was related to joining a group of people you didn’t know to share an experience you couldn’t have envisioned, I thank you. Know that for me to execute my dharma in this life, I need other people to be on the receiving end of what I put out into the world, and your presence here closes the circle for me and for us all. Thank you for taking your risks. I hope that it either continues the pattern of doing so, or instigates a new one that reminds us all of the glory that is possible when we jump beyond our comfort zones.

I’m going to be the most unprofessional mess of emotions and childish “I don’t want this to end” thoughts today. But I know that although it may feel like the end of something, in actuality, for every single one of us, it really is a new beginning of sorts. I hate to sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. I wish you all the highest of life’s highs, the wisdom to navigate the lowest of life’s lows, and the presence of mind to know your Self and your potency as you make your way forward. Know that I am here for you all, wherever we may be in any given moment, and always remember this time we had. No one could know exactly how beautiful is has been, and still is. Only us. Take the energy of our community and the beauty of Paros and bring it back with you.

With gratitude and so. much. LOVE,

Bxx

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A Moment To Reflect

E B - Bram photo cover HIRES CC 06409With the intention of NOT making this post too lengthy, I feel that it would be irresponsible of me to not take a moment to acknowledge this past year and how pivotal it has been for my journey. I have the tendency of constantly focusing on the present moment and my future plans and projects, and so I felt like today, the last day of 2015, would be a great time to look back.

This past year was replete with travels. From England to the USA, from Italy to Greece, with a few trips to Toronto as well. The yoga vacations continued and evolved, bringing some familiar faces back together while introducing new ones into our roaming family of seekers.

My second literary labour of love was born just six weeks ago and is already almost sold out of its first printing, and there are some pretty impressive moments related to A Year In The Light: Daily Spiritual Life Hacks, Intentions & Reminders yet to come. The social media campaign created by the readers, in the same vein as the one begun years ago for The Examined Life, took off and keeps on keeping on, which makes me happier than I can say.

I let go of the morning television spots I have been doing for over two years on Breakfast Television Montreal, as I do with anything that I feel my time with has run its course.

And, of course, the teaching. 2015 has seen more workshops and yoga teacher trainings occur, giving me the honour of being able to facilitate the spiritual journeys of more and more people, an honour I take more seriously than I could ever express. The great news is that I will be on the faculties of two more yoga teacher trainings in 2016 at Energie EnCorps as well as at Jazz Yoga. Adding these to the Luna Yoga, Happy Tree Yoga and M.Power Yoga trainings I am already a faculty member of allows me to reach markets in Town of Mount Royal and the West Island, and I am grateful to be invited to do what I do in these areas. 2015 also saw me join the faculty of the Toronto Yoga Conference and Show, and I am happy to say that I will be back in 2016 for more of the goodness that the event offers.

I can also say that this past year has been instrumental in teaching me about life and death and the role of the seeker to pursue beauty and light, especially in the darkest hours. I feel more spiritually aware and anchored than I have ever been, and I know that this process of unfurling into deeper layers of awareness is occurring even as these words spill out.

With all that said, here’s the bottom line: I sleep at night. I work hard. I continue to learn how tricky it can be to balance work and non-work time, and can say that I have never been happier. I set my intention to be of service to as many people as possible and know that there are dazzlingly brilliant moments lying ahead for us all as long as we understand that the meaning of life is to be here for each other.

I hoped to not write too much for this post. I could go on, trust me. But I’ll wrap it up with gratitude: thank you. To every one of you who reads my words, comes to my classes, lectures, workshops, book launches, retreats and who supports my efforts with an encouraging smile or thought. To those who have created the physical spaces for me to bring my offerings to, to those who have come forward as retailers for my books, to those who believe in me when my own belief in myself wavers slightly. Thank you.

This journey is magnificent in all its blessings, its chaos, its murmurs and its subtleties. And while the words escape me to convey just how grateful I am to be witness to this spiritual pilgrimage/trek/journey that I have only read about and seen in films, trust me when I write that I will communicate every step of the path as it occurs to remind the world of the expansiveness of the possibilities that lie in wait for those of us pursuing light.

Happy 2016 to you all, and I mean that with every fiber of my being. Be well, be happy, be peaceful and be kind. Here’s to the coming year in the light!

Yoga City Break in Berlin, Germany AND Yoga Retreat in Bali, Indonesia

As you all know by now, I put a lot of planning and effort into organizing the City Breaks and Retreats that I give annually, and so it won’t come as a surprise to any of you to find out that 2014’s journeys are already planned! I figured I’d give you all as much time to plan and budget as possible, and so here we go!

2014 will see us make our way over to Berlin, Germany from May 3-10, 2014. I chose Berlin because it completely dazzled me when I was there for the first time in September 2012. When I went initially, I was expecting a cold city whose history was going to be hushed up and buried under soviet-looking architecture. I was wrong (once again). Berlin is currently the cultural center of Europe – arts, music, architecture, shopping, restaurants, theater; it’s got everything. And instead of pretending that history never happened, Berlin has monuments, museums and countless installations throughout the city that speak of and to its history. The museums in the city are world-famous, the vibe is young and vibrant, and the energy in the air is palpable. I rarely go back to the same city so soon after visiting, but I know how hard it was for me to leave it at the end of my stay there, and so I’m bringing the next group of traveling yogis to see for themselves.

We will start our day with one 90-minute yoga class held in the Kreuzberg Jivamukti studio (a 10-minute walk from the hotel), and will have the rest of the day to explore Berlin. We will be centrally located in the city, a perfect spot to weave our way outward into the brilliance of this bustling metropolis.

Later in the year, I will be bringing a group just outside of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia for a full-on retreat from November 1-10, 2014. We will be staying at a hotel surrounded by rice terraces, and will have a 90-minute morning asana class and a 60-minute evening iRest® Yoga Nidra class daily. Nestled in the tropical lushness of Bali, this event will bring movement, breath, intention and awareness back to the forefront as we delve deeper into our practice in this spiritual epicentre.

For more information or to register, check out my website at http://www.bramlevinsonyoga.com/retreats.html. I hope that you can make it to one or both of these inspiring locations with us!

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Yoga Retreat on the Greek Island of Paros

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I have always tended to work in 5-year chunks of time. From buying and selling property to carving out my niche in yoga, I have typically allowed myself a full 5 years to execute what I needed to, knowing that through hard work, dedication, and respecting the process, I would find myself exactly where I needed to be. Without trying too hard to see the end in the beginning, I have learned that the 5-year allowance always brings me to where I can continue to move forward, even if it’s not where I would have envisioned myself.

I told myself late in 2008 that a big change was coming, that I was going to drop everything I had built career-wise up to then and focus on foraging my way to a place where I could help people heal using yoga asana and philosophy. I also told myself that if after 5 years I simply wasn’t content with how things were evolving, I would rethink my plans. Little did I know how authentically I would be pursuing and beginning to live my dharma, and how after even one year I was hope-FULLY devoted to my life’s work.

It’ll be 5 years in November since that fortuitous chapter of my life, and 2013 is indeed the year of fruition. Traveling to Calgary and being received so warmly by the Bodhi Tree Yoga community…my jaunt to Kripalu this Sunday to get my Level 1 iRest® Yoga Nidra training…this summer’s Montreal Yoga Festival…the Wanderlust Whistler Festival…the Weekend Yoga & Personal Development Retreat that I am blessed to be giving with my mentor and friend Jennifer Maagendans…the Yoga City Break in Istanbul that I just returned from and fear putting words to so as not to diminish how truly perfect and magnificent and beaming-with-light it was…these are the just the things on my radar. There is much more waiting to be revealed to me, but there is a new blip on said radar that I am adding to the list of incredible events for 2013: Yoga Retreat on the Greek Island of Paros.

I have known that I would eventually organize and lead 2 retreats annually, and so this year is the year for it. One City Break and one beach retreat. Both set in locations that allow participants to feel truly away-from-home, both with dramatically surreal landscapes. I am returning to Greece simply because of its beauty. And its beaches. And its food. And its warmth (temperature and otherwise). Greece has been so good to my students and myself (ask anyone from the 2011 Yoga Retreat in Santorini), and I have been told by a few Greek friends that Paros is a true gem in the Cycladic Greek Island Chain, and so voilà! Here we go 🙂

The retreat will be a 10-day event – arriving on the island on Wednesday, September 11 and meeting as a group that evening, holding the last morning class on Saturday, September 21. We will be staying at a family-run, environmentally-conscious hotel minutes away from the beach, and where 3 meals daily will be prepared for us. Shuttle service to and from Paros airport or the ferry port is included in the price, as are the 90-minute daily morning classes, intended to instill everyone with clarity and perspective to fully be able to live the retreat to its fullest. Things to do while on retreat include excursions to neighbouring islands (which include Santorini), Greek cooking classes, going for dinner at different locations on the island (already included in the retreat cost), or simply listening to the waves of the ocean crash on the shore.

I am doing this retreat simply from a place of gratitude. Now don’t misunderstand me – this is my business and passion, my livelihood, my raison-d’être, if you will. I hold these retreats to be able to show participants how majestic our world is, and how capable they are of taking a decision to create a moment in their lives that they’ll never forget and always cherish. But I do it all from a place of gratitude. I want to share my passion for yoga and travel, and this is year 5. Join me in Greece as I ride it out as best I can, with humility, love, and gratitude.

For complete details, please visit my website here: http://www.bramlevinsonyoga.com/retreats.html.

Ritually Rich

IstanbulI’m writing this post lying in bed in my hotel room in Istanbul. I’m up later than I have been on any other night, as our retreat here has come to an end and most of the students have left on their return journeys home. As is typically the case, I’ve been very reflective as this experience winds down, and despite staying here for another few days, my reality in Istanbul as I have become accustomed to it is changing. The community we created over the past week was a very special one, insular and bonding, what with the coming together of and unifying like-minded people, as these retreats always end up doing. We ended up practicing yoga, obviously, and we did more sightseeing and touring than I previously thought possible in 7 days, but what proved to me most refreshing about this voyage to Turkey was the immediate connection we all felt to its people.

This city is older than almost any other I’ve ever traveled to, but unlike what I witnessed in Rome or Athens, there is a basic undercurrent of faith amongst its inhabitants who live their religion and faith in every step taken and with every gesture made. That faith doesn’t just manifest in the clothes worn here or the hauntingly seductive call to prayer booming from the minarets five times daily. The faith these people live their lives infused with is visible in how they touch each other, how they go out of their way for perfect strangers, how they have a smile waiting to break at the first opportunity, how they meet as a community to discuss spiritual matters before witnessing their devout enter the room to begin whirling in place with the intention of foresaking their egos and connecting with the oneness of existence. None of us were expecting to be consistently treated with kindness and generosity of spirit by every single person we came into contact with. None of us were expecting to be charmed by the warmth of the people here, in fact, I can honestly say that I expected to be treated curtly and dismissively as a western tourist here. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

After thousands of years, this city still emanates energy…an energy that runs deep in the streets, one that resounds through speakers and is visible in the eyes of the most heavily veiled women. What we were blessed to see this week was a people rich with rituals, rituals that take precedent over all else. Regardless of what any of us may think of the Muslim world, one thing I know I’m taking away with me from this city is that everything I’ve ever assumed about Muslims was wrong. There is a deep and ancient humility demonstrated by people here, a true Bhakti, or devotion, to a higher energy that is recognized as the source of all that is. These are a DEEPLY spiritual people, and after being here for only one week, I can say that I have a deep respect and affinity to them. Now before some of you jump at the chance to get all Western on me, let me say that I am aware that Istanbul is very progressive for a Muslim city, but nonetheless, the beauty I and the other 17 people that were here on retreat with me saw was unexpected and incredibly moving.

What I feel meant the most to us a yoga group was the fact that we came here to bring our ritual to a city already ritually rich. We weren’t expecting it to be so, but as the universe typically does, we were shown how little we know. We brought our faith in yoga and its powers to change, uplift and inspire to a city where faith is as common as kebab restaurants and traffic jams. We ended up not only meeting like-minded spirits in meeting each other as retreat participants, but we ended up realizing that we share more with this side of the world than we ever thought possible. This city has shown me just how deeply my own faith runs, and by doing so, it has touched me on a soul level, a heart level, as no other city ever has.

I will come back home in just under one week, more aware and sensitized to those whose culture differs greatly from the one I’m more familiar with. I will come home having attained greater depths of beauty and humanity, all because I was shown just how little I know, but how much I believe. As demonstrated to me by the whirling dervishes I was blessed to witness this evening as they expressed their devotion, I will not bow down to the city of Istanbul in reverence, but rather, I will leave with one hand uplifted to receive the blessings of the higher power that led me here, and I will place my other hand palm down to pass on those blessings to you all.

With only love, Bxx.

Yoga City Break Announcement

I’m on my way to Croatia. My last class has been taught for the week, my bags are packed and I’m prepared for my flights which will bring me to the Dalmation Coast to kick off my 2012 retreat on Monday. I’m excited and a little anxious to get to the island and get my bearings, but above and beyond all that, I’m grateful. To the people who have supported me and my efforts over the past four years, and to the people who believe in me enough to join me as I globetrot. I lead these retreats to be able to travel, obviously, but I also lead them to bring people to areas of the world they potentially never thought they’d visit, and in doing so, to show them how taking risks, i.e. time away from work, family, and potential income can result in re-discovering one’s own magnificence, as well as the unnameable beauty that each destination holds.

With all that said, for those of you who wanted to join us on our jaunt to Croatia but couldn’t make it happen financially or time-wise, don’t fret. As I depart for this retreat, I’m happy to announce that I have ANOTHER retreat already planned for 2013. You ready? You sitting down? Here we go: we are heading to Istanbul, Turkey from April 11-18, 2013 for a Yoga City Break! Details are already up on my website at http://www.bramlevinsonyoga.com/retreats.html, so start planning and reserving time off work now – 2013 is your year to join me as I continue to explore our world – don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of it 🙂

See you next month!

Bxx

The Need to Retreat

When I made the decision to pursue a career in yoga, my motivation was to attempt to create a career for myself that would allow me to pursue what I was passionate about: yoga (obviously), helping people live the greatest lives possible, and travel. The first two goals have proven to be inextricably linked and most accessible in my daily routine, but the travel part is something that involves much more planning and foresight, especially when organizing a yoga retreat. I have made it my mission to lead at least one retreat per year, a mission that was galvanized by last year’s incredible journey to Santorini, Greece. I brought people there because I had been there before and had been knocked senseless by the majestic beauty and surreal landscape of the island. Before that retreat was over, I was already working on possible destinations for future yoga vacations, and I decided that every retreat I held from that moment on would take place somewhere in the world where participants could count on beautiful, peaceful surroundings, preferably in areas of the globe that would be once-in-a-lifetime destinations. So for 2012, I chose somewhere I had never planned on visiting, but had heard was second to none in terms of natural wonders and flawless beaches: Croatia.

My research was extensive when choosing a destination in Croatia – I had learned that the country boasts 8 national parks (the island of Mljet where this year’s retreat will be held is a national park itself), with vastly differing climates and ecosystems. I knew I wanted accessibility to beaches and lush vegetation, while still having options for day trips and exploring the surrounding areas. I found Mljet, and it met all the criteria. With a beachfront location, our hotel is the only one on the island. Bicycles are the main form of transport once on the island, and whether we decide to spend the day lazing on the beach, go snorkeling, or visit the underwater gardens and shipwrecks, I wanted to make sure that participants felt free to do what they wanted to, in their own time, alone or “en groupe”. I have had people tell me that I was falsely promoting my retreats by offering only one daily 90-minute yoga class in the morning, but still calling it a yoga retreat. I don’t believe that you need to have an asana practice scheduled two or three times per day to be able to label the event a “yoga retreat” – I make sure we start the day off with an active asana practice enhanced by a daily focus designed to help guide participants to a place of clarity, offering a perspective that allows them to not only detach from their daily routines, but to be fully present in new and magnificent surroundings. The ability to take mental pictures that stay with us for the rest of our lives is yoga…it’s alignment…it’s focus and awareness and all the things I know matter in this life we’re given. I want people to wander, to explore, and to not be interrupted by having to be back at a designated area in the afternoon or evening for class. Call it a yoga vacation, a yoga retreat, time away…what it ultimately proves to be is a chance to come back to ourselves, and to our Selves. To reconnect to what matters and to bring that connection back home after the retreat ends.

At the beginning of every retreat, I ask the people joining us what their motivation was in signing up – what they are seeking. At the end of the retreat, as we discuss whether we were successful in achieving what we set out to achieve by going on retreat, I am always blown away by 3 things: 1) The transformation in people’s physical appearances…in their faces, the light that emerges from their eyes…there is renewal and a realignment that occurs. Always…it never fails to happen. 2) The sense of community that results from being a part of the experience. When we spend 7 or 10 days with like-minded people in an environment of true beauty and authenticity, it becomes a life-defining event, and only those who are there to experience it really know the depths that it can move us. 3) The power of seeing participants understand that the overflow of emotion they feel as the retreat winds down is a result of their power to choose to take the time and money to invest in themselves. Many of the students I’ve had on my retreats didn’t know me or my teachings – they found me online, wanted to go on a yoga retreat, and either the destination, the cost, or the timing worked out for them. They took a risk, and by doing so, they found themselves exposed to the heights that living a life of wonder produces. I tell them at the last class of the retreat to remember that they hold the power to make their lives a series of truly magnificent events. We each have that ability, but we get muddled up in our daily responsibilities and roles, and often feel that we couldn’t possibly get away or spend the money or travel that far. But we can. And we do. I try as often as possible, and I want to show everyone how taking decisions to make ourselves happy leads to the greatest rewards life offers.

We leave in September for 10 days in Croatia. If you’ve considered taking a yoga retreat and have always found a reason not to, I’m giving you the nudge you need. It will change your life. You’ll see 🙂