About Doug Swenson
Doug Swenson is a master yoga practitioner, philosopher, writer and dedicated health advocate. Over the last three decades, he has incorporated influences from several different yoga systems along with his passion for nutrition and the environment to develop his unique approach.
Doug has had the fortune of studying with many great teachers including Dr. Ernest Wood, K. Pattabhi Jois, Ramanand Patel, and many others.
Over the years he has authored several books; "Yoga Helps", "The Diet That Loves You Most", "Power Yoga for Dummies" and "Mastering the Secrets of Yoga Flow" and coming soon “Poineering Vinyasa Yoga”.
Doug travels extensively offering workshops, retreats and teacher training courses around the world. Don't miss the opportunity to study with one of the world’s top instructors. Doug's classes are always invigorating and inspirational and his supportive style of teaching and keen sense of humor send his student’s home with a smile on their face and a softness within their heart.
The Adventure and Daily Practice
By: Doug Swenson
When I look back, it seems like just the other day, some 45 years ago, when most Americans viewed Yoga as a weird cult that was practiced only by the few lost souls, on the fringe, who were wasting their time just reaching for an abstract view of life. Back then, the aspiring yoga teacher was not revered as someone you would seek counsel for advice, much less travel to the ends of the world to study with.
You can Always Rely on Change
Life is always changing, and indeed, the view on Yoga has changed as well. Today, Yoga has become a highly valued and recognized philosophy, in which many praise as one of the most profound ways to positively change their life- from asana practice to the studies of the Vedas and Upanishads! As well, there is an attraction that is fashionable and intriguing, an inspiring adventure, and the ultimate travel quest for many. In todays’ society, if you practice yoga, you are automatically respected and valued for your philosophical view-point on life. You are recognized as, “the one who has it all together,” and quite often a celebrated hero!
In light of the recent overwhelming popularity in Yoga, I wish to share some of the positive and negative aspects on your evolutionary journey into Yoga. These suggestions will help you become more aware and embrace safety in both travel and practice, ultimately rewarding you with a blissful experience and beautiful memories to last a lifetime.
Problems are Gifts in Disguise
Problems are gifts in disguise, and no less true with yoga travel and adventure. One of the key elements of seeking the yoga travel path can be summed up in this lovely quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we will find it not.” Before my first yoga travel experience, I imagined a yoga master to be a combination of Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Yoda from Star Wars, you know, - a mystical being who lived a self-righteous path; the enlightened one, who I assumed ate only wheat grass and drank only coconut water, and every blessed word they spoke would be an inspired vision and gift for all humanity!
Ahh, but such is not the way wisdom is imparted onto the reverent yoga disciples; the destination is not the lesson, but the journey is, which now becomes you’re master! Much like the sweat and effort to achieve an asana in the yoga studio, we have unexpected tests, and trials along the path; this is tapas, and the lesson begins. “But I just wanted a ‘selfie’ with my Guru to show all my friends!” Yes, well, tomorrow is another day! And, yes, the yoga journey can certainly be very fun and memorable, but embracing awareness will always enhance the journey. There are many yoga students and teachers, with flexible bodies, but the real gem, is to complement your physical attributes with a flexible mind, refining the Manomaya kosa- or mind-sheath- which in turn inspires spaciousness. Then, a yoga Jedi, you become!
One way or another, we all pay for our education, on the one hand we no longer have to walk great distances over blazing deserts, climb frozen mountains, sleep on beds of nails, or walk barefoot on hot coals just to earn the right to practice. In almost any town across America, and around the world, or even online, you can now find great yoga teachers from an array of diverse styles. What's more, you don't have to audition!
On the other hand, the popularity, and easy access of Yoga also has its unexpected obstacles. Today, we have been instilled with an intricate maze of yoga choices, which are now accessible to everyone; you have the genuine gurus, along with plastic gurus, who quite often solicit those pricy tags on enlightenment. “Wow, Dude, you are really harshin’ my mellow, Bro!” No Worries, with a bit of insight and planning, I am sure you will have an epic yoga travel journey.
Planning Ahead / Expect the Unexpected
On one of my first yoga travel quests to India, I was not paying attention to details, and as a result, on the day of travel my backpack was stolen! I left my pack for only a moment, on a bench, to ask someone for directions. Then, I turned around, and it was gone! My pack had all of my important documents: passport, visa, money, and credit cards; and I also had my plane ticket, camera and cell phone. It was 3 weeks later, when I finally acquired back-up documents, and supplies to continue my journey. From this very unpleasant experience, I learned some very valuable tips.
- Take a photo of all your important documents, then e-mail it to yourself, and to a trusted friend. This will save you stress and give you an almost instant back-up plan.
- Don’t travel alone, and always keep your eyes on your pack, suitcase or other important travel gear.
- Learn to be flexible and know that everything happens for a reason. In my case, I needed to learn patience and the lady I stopped to ask directions from turned out to be a yoga teacher, and sometime later, she hosted me for a workshop.
Your Body is Your Temple
It should be common sense to try to eat and drink with awareness, and to be health-minded in your choices. The last thing you want is to get sick in another country, especially in India, Mexico, or most other less developed countries, for that matter. Be mindful with your food selection! If you eat healthy, drink bottled water or make sure it has been freshly boiled, and take care of yourself, you’ll have more energy and mental clarity; you will certainly have a much better chance of avoiding sickness, and especially, stomach and intestinal issues, - the ultimate curse and worst travel companion.
Respect the Local Culture
Along your journey learn to treat others and their culture in the manor you would like others to treat yourself! Be kind, humble, and caring, reflect gratitude for what you have, knowing many others are not as fortunate. Be the light, and try to see the world through the eyes of another. We are all both teachers and students, discerning the difference is the first step to higher consciousness. Respect different religions and cultures, be an observer, not a judge, remember that your way is not the only way.
With all due respect for all the great teachers and gurus of any philosophy, not one individual teacher, guru or system has all the idealistic qualities we perceive as being worthy of the status we grant them. The teacher, or tradition we seek, is often praised for all aspects of their physical, mental, and spiritual qualities. Although each individual teacher has something positive to offer, they also can harbor less desirable attributes. Find the good, and beautiful qualities, study the kindness, intelligence, and compassion, admire the philosophical wisdom, but leave the rest. Teachers and Gurus are only human and may excel greatly in one area and be completely uneducated in another. Be humble and express gratitude! You are not required to agree with everything that is taught, you are required to listen, much more than you speak, and keep an open mind.
Yoga the Practice
In the studio: don’t be too serious, relax, and enjoy your practice! There is no evidence to support the notion that the more flexible, higher ranked, or stronger student is a better person, more enlightened or at peace than yourself. In all actuality, they may have more injuries, laugh less, and entertain a massive ego. In yoga practice, be aware and responsible for yourself, never assume the teacher always knows best, especially with yoga adjustments. This can include: grabbing you in-appropriately, pushing too hard, or asking you to move too deeply into an asana. Respectfully, do as your teacher asks, but not if that includes possible injury, bad ethics, or poor judgment.
Personally, I have discovered much wisdom and clarity by seeking a proper location to do my own practice outdoors, within the soothing and relaxing arms of nature. This personal outdoor practice is also free from rules, group ego, and fashion competition. There is a time and place for everything, “balance is the door to wisdom.” The outdoor personal practice can also help you to feel the energy of the land, and fill your heart with peace.
Have a Great Time / Yoga and Beyond
Hey, relax and enjoy yourself! Yoga is great, but you really need to get your body and mind off the mat, then go out and enjoy the culture, recreation, and adventure. Most of all, don’t forget to be a tourist! Snap some photos, sample the local cuisine, enjoy music, and dance, this will all greatly enhance your yoga practice and create the necessary balance. On one occasion in India, while everyone else was chasing the perfect asana, I took a few days off and found some great surfing, with beautiful, uncrowded waves!
Strive to use the energy and wisdom you create along your yoga travel journey to help yourself become a better person physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you throw a pebble into a still pond, the energy releases ripples, which eventually touch every shore. In the same respect, your presence in life creates ripples in time; your choices of food, thoughts, words, and actions, in one way or another affect people in future generations.
Words to live by –
Think before you speak …
Think before you eat …
Think before you act…
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