Vad händer på Yoga retreat?

Ibland tycker till och med jag, som arbetat länge med skrift och kommunikation, att det kan vara svårt att i en event-beskrivning berätta vad vi KOMMER att göra på ett yoga retreat (eller kurs för den delen). Många gånger handlar det om att jag blir låst i min egen hjärna, jag har ju gjort det massor av gånger och det känns självklart och orden alltför upprepande. Därför tänkte jag nu istället berätta vad vi HAR gjort. Kanske blir det lättare att då förstå vad som händer på ett yoga-retreat, även om det aldrig kan på riktigt förstås förrän en själv har varit i sin upplevelse av det.

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Journeying the sweat lodge

The sweat lodge or temazcal/temaskalli is a ceremony or ritual that is part of many Native American as well as Latin American traditions. In the north, the indigenous Samii people had/have similar healing and self care rituals, using steams/saunas together with herbal medicines. Traditional medicine men and women have past on this tradition about being in contact with nature, the plants, and the four elements through this purifying ceremony. The healing work aims at working therapeutically on the physical body, spiritually purify, and to meet/heal/cleanse fears and negative aspects of the mind.

 

Some of the therapeutic uses of the sweat lodge/temascal are:

to eliminate toxins through the sweat of the skin

to improve the texture and color of the skin

to de-intoxicate body and mind

to increase vitality

weight loss

improve fertility

treatment with plants’ healing properties (herbal medicine) and the water steam

thermotherapy; viruses and bacteria don’t survive in the heat, the heat also stimulates the endocrine glands and remove impurities in the circulation.

 

(Read more in La Pipa de obsidian Danza de Luna, Anita Carmona Itzpapalotl.)

Sweat lodges can be built in various ways depending on the surrounding environment and tradition. It is, however, always the same with water poured on hot stones to create the healing water steam. According to the Mexica tradition, and others I have been fortunate to come into contact with, it is also important that the participants are co-creators when building and preparing the sweat lodge ceremony, under the lead of a temascalera/abuela/shaman.

Local medicinal plants are used in the ceremony. Usually there would be some aromatics, some calmatives, or maybe some with properties to heal infections and inflammations. The plants may for instance be hung in the roof of the sweat, used as herbal tea drunk before and/or after ceremony, or leaves can be spread out on the floor where they come into contact with the open and receptive skin and, thus, work healing. Herbs are also put directly on the hot stones, which allows for their healing properties to come inside the body through respiration.

Sage

Sage

The temascal has its navel in the middle and this is where we put the rocks or hot stones.  These rocks are our ancestors, coming to share their wisdom to us through the ceremony of the sweat. The stone people have been on earth since creation and carry deep knowledge. It is with great respect that we welcome and listen to them. Inside the temascal, we greet the ancestors with herbs such as copal, cedar or sage and prayers. The sweat lodge is covered in leaves and blankets and when everyone (including the stones) are inside the door is closed. Inside is humid and dark, representing the womb of the Mother as well as the darkness of ignorance we ought to overcome to heal. We enter the womb of Mother Earth to remember where we once came from, to remove the ignorance and, thus, to remember who we truly are. It is a ceremony that is profound, healing and nourishing. 

We share the ceremony in darkness and individual introspection, guided by the temascalera/shaman/medicine person. We conduct and create the ceremony together but as in all spiritual work/ceremonies it is crucial to understand the responsibility of the individual. You are in your journey as much as we are in one journey together- just as life itself and in both you are responsible for your own wellbeing. The temascal gets dark and hot and usually cramped. To honor and listen to the body is key to a good experience. 

Vestido de temascal 15 mil colones o 30 dolares

Vestido de temascal 15 mil colones o 30 dolares

To be able to sit somewhat comfortably, avoid heat on the skin and to wear clothes appropriate for the ceremony, in the Mexica tradition we use long dresses. Preferably, the ceremonial dresses are made of pure cotton and in a beautiful color that doesn’t get transparent when wet. On the pictures you see Abuela Lorena and Abuela Jane in dresses perfect for the temascal (or other ceremonies!). Personally, I prefer having the dress long so that I can curl up inside it if it gets too hot on the legs or feet. An aspect you don’t take into consideration in rituals I’ve encountered in Sweden is the surface underneath the bum. It’s one thing sitting on soft sand, grass or muddy dirt but in Costa Rica the temascal might be in the mountains on hard rocky surface. I like having some fabric between my butt and these sharp rocks! Yet a side of the coin is to create the feeling of ceremony by “dressing up” for the spirits. I know that when I put on my ceremonial dress (may it be for a sweat lodge or other), I am already focusing on doing my spiritual work and I am connected. Some traditions don’t have this policy but (my interpretation is that) focus on the fact that one ought to be comfortable in their nakedness as you are being reborn inside the womb. In the Mexica tradition, we wear clothes and if you’d like to get yourself one of these lovely dresses let me know at Service By Magie or magdalena@bymagie.com! They are 15mil colones or 30 dollars and the money goes to preserving an ancient and very important tradition: Danza de la Luna/the Moon Dance. 

Sweat Lodge dress 30 dollars

Sweat Lodge dress 30 dollars

The temascal helps you with what you need as long as you enter it with faith, humility, respect and determination to do your work. Personally, I always enter ceremony with the intention and prayer that my heart will expand and be open enough for me to be able to fully receive and listen to the messages brought to me by Great Spirit. 

Inside the temascal/sweat lodge we pray through silence, shared words, storytelling, songs and music. The temascalera or medicine person guiding the ceremony intuitively receives messages about the work we need to do and guide us through it as a group as well as individual beings. Remember that you are on your own personal journey inwards towards cleansing and healing the body and mind to find clarity and love.

Please, share your own stories and any questions below!

In love and in harmony 

Ometeotl,

Sofia-Magdalena Chandrakaí

Heal and Balance in Liverpool

As I require a special diet of vegan and gluten, sugar, yeast and onion free food, I occasionally have to make exceptions. Especially when travelling and I can't cook for myself. I am aware of this and, therefore, whenever I can I bring my own food, snack and essential herbs to help me digest what ever it is that I don’t normally eat. In the UK, gluten is hard to avoid even though nowadays many cafés have the option of gluten free bread. However, the main issues with bread are the yeast and the refined flour- gluten free or not. And they like their sandwiches, the Brits! Besides gluten and yeast, sugar and onions are vicious and difficult to avoid. We even found sugar in the oatmeal! So, during the week most of my exceptions concerned onions, sugar and yeast. My body required me to do a nice purge when I got back home!

In regards of non-animal food tho, most restaurants and cafés have at least one option of vegetarian food and my general experience is that most of these dishes are possible to make vegan or at least lactose free. Still, sometimes it’s nice to be prepared and know where to be able to eat FROM the menu! Check out my healthy travel tips for Liverpool below.

Look up vegan and vegetarian restaurants and eateries on Scouseveg There are several options around Liverpool center that are vegan friendly. For instance, we tried the vegan menu at Lunya, a Spanish tapas restaurant, and were very pleased! There is also a vegan café on Bold Street - a genuine and cozy bohemian feeling street which we found when walking from the Cathedral and down towards the dock. This street is where you’ll find alternative bookstores, independent businesses, world food stores, fair trade, organic and the like. Needless to say, I enjoyed the visit!

Always carry snacks such as unsalted nuts, seeds and fruit in your daypack in case of sudden hunger and absence of healing nutrition. Bring a thermos of hot water! Refill whenever possible. For instance, ask in cafes or at 7/11, I’ve always gotten positive outcomes! Why do you want a thermos you wonder? 1- to stay warm throughout the day if weather is rough 2- to aid the digestive fire (especially if you’re making food exceptions).

Put your hiking boots on! I love to walk around bigger cities because it offers a genuine way to get to know the city, its neighbourhoods and people. Liverpool is a good-sized city to walk around for the weekend tourist. A huge plus are the signs all over town, encouraging visitors to walk between attractions. Dancing is of course also a terrific way of moving your body and get the prana flowing! As we were alone in The Cavern, in The Beatles Museum, I saw my chance to move the booty and twisted around the dance floor in front of the stage for a good two rounds of the famous Twist and Shout!

The Beatles played remarkably 292 concerts in The Cavern before the place closed down 1973. The museum does a great job in reenacting the settings and atmosphere and when I closed my eyes to let my body move to the dancing rhythms, I traveled back to a time when The Beatles were rocking the stages.

Not only is dancing and walking around museums great for the physical body but also for the overall wellbeing, such as the mental, emotional, and spiritual health. More and more research on Health and Art & Cultural activities show that the two areas are much related. For instance, music and dance have long had social and ritual functions in traditions all over the globe and research has shown that these therapies have positive affects on the mood. In addition, there is science describing how cultural activities can increase the quality of life! My health routines include absorbing art, history, architecture, music, and nature to mention a few. Thus, I make sure to involve my routines wherever I am in the world! In Liverpool, we started our trip with a visit to the world’s largest Anglican Cathedral and ended it with a long stay in The Beatles Story- both deeply spiritual and healing experiences.

The Beatles Story was an emotional roller coaster but we came out with the message of healing the world and bring world peace, so that we can all live together as ONE. 

 

Ps. Before New Years 2014, you can lend your voice to the largest sing-a-long ever! Read more and listen to John Lennon's Imagine here

Staying Healthy On the Road III : Liverpool & Wales

Staying Healthy On the Road III

Before I left for the trip to UK I asked my Facebook crowd if they’d think that I would be able to follow my own Healthy On The Road advice, referring to the previous posts How To Stay Healthy and Balanced while Traveling, Practicing How to stay Healthy on the road I & II 

However, this time around I wasn’t flying across the Atlantic nor was I on the road for very long. Still, sticking to healthy choices and routines during shorter holidays, weekend trips and the like is just as challenging!

Let’s see how I did.

I washed my face with a tea bag! There are many reasons as to why our skin dries out, the most common being insufficient water intake. When traveling, the air in planes, airports, hotels etc. is very dehydrating and it is important to drink a lot of water. Another reason for dry skin is stress and anxiety and in How To Stay Healthy and Balanced while Traveling, I mention a few herbs to calm the body and mind. Chamomile is also one of the common herbs used all over the world for its relaxing and calming effects. So after having finished my relaxing chamomile tea in the air between Copenhagen and Manchester, I figured I’d use the rest of the tea bag to give my face some extra love! Since I usually feel the skin of my face and around my nails dry up on airplanes I carry a small bottle of oil in the carry-on, which I applied after the cooling tea. I felt not only better and more moist in the skin but more alert too!

Digest gluten with Mint Tea! Another of my favourite herbs that is easily found worldwide is mint (any kind). In the UK it seems standard to have at least one of the two in any place that serves coffee. Both mint and chamomile aid digestion, strengthen the stomach, and reduce gas and cramps in the belly. Therefore, I always bring with me one or the other, in case I have to make one of those exceptions regarding gluten or dairy so that after the meal I drink my tea to help the body getting rid of anything unwanted. That’s what I drink in this picture, just after having had a granola bar! After the tea I soaked up some sun before entering the museum underground....

Moving the booty! If not Yoga, at least walk around! Flying from Copenhagen to Manchester doesn't exactly involve long layovers. Still, I find it unnecessary to sit down and wait when I can stand or walk around and wait. We took several laps around the middle area of one terminal made up of sofas as we were waiting for gate information. Moving around helps maintain a good circulation throughout the day, reduces bloating and swollen feet and legs. The important thing is to stay on your feet (or head) so that the blood can flow freely. Personally when on an airplane, I feel like I’m putting on a strap around my waist that strains all the Prana, air and blood flow in my body. Not only is it the seat belt (which obviously is adjustable), but also the tiny legroom and seats, forcing me to hold a very unnatural position for a long time. Especially on shorter rides it’s not ideal to walk around the airplane. Hence, I do it before I board!

Give yourself a foot massage. Another great idea I got while waiting in the airport was to massage my feet! Seriously, you want to try this! Remove your shoes (just doing that makes wonder for the entire body!) and give your hardworking feet some gentle rubbing to get the blood moving. Especially press and pull the toes, press around the heels and draw your hands alongside the feet and around the wrists. Mm YUM, your feet will thank you! 

More tips and ideas? Post in the Comment below!

Stay tuned for the post about how we enjoyed Liverpool in many nurturing and healing ways!

Love and Light

Practicing How To Stay Healthy on The Road

I’ve been on the road since 5 am (it is now 11.25 am Swedish time). I still have a long way to go and many hours more in the air. I am trying to follow my own advice about staying healthy while traveling and (as suspected) it hasn’t been as easy as it might seem. However, I’ve managed to stay away from temptations like coffee and snacks ;) At CPH (Kastrup, Copenhagen airport) I had a sandwich (due to lack of time trying to find oat meal) and chamomile tea. Chamomile is great for relaxation and for the stomach so I was happy finding that! Needless to say, the breakfast we got on our way to London was awful. I had two sips of black tea, which is not ideal, and simply ignored the piece of white dough put in front of me. 

I am now at a café in Heathrow Terminal 5, waiting for my connection flight to Chicago. After having asked around for mint or peppermint tea and non-sparkling water in a few places, I eventually found a good spot! Since I want my stomach to keep doing its job, I was in the lookout for either ginger or mint. I’m extra happy to tell you that the tea is organic and I got to pay with dollars (tried Danish crowns but no go)!

It’s something about the UK, isn’t it? I mean, natural hand lotion for free in the airport toilet, organic and fair trade drinks and super friendly staff within most service areas.  

Not to mention the amazing view over London Eye and Big Ben as we flew in. Got me thinking about Sherlock. Of course.

When meeting friendly people in busy work areas all over the world, I think about Sweden. How come it’s not the same? Could it be because we don’t have the tipping culture? What do you guys think?

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