Master Intensive Program @ Istanbul

I have to be honest here. It took a long time of inner debate for me decide to do this intensive program. There a few main reasons why I wished to do it: 1. I was struggling with much emotional imbalance and needed to do long hours of yoga and meditation to clear up emotional blockage as well as my head. 2. The yoga teacher Chris Chavez that led the program is a great teacher and it seemed too good an opportunity to pass on. 3. I really missed Mert (my Turkish askim) – which was also the reason why I wasn’t sure about the idea of going.

Of course, I ended up staying for 16 days in Istanbul, completed the yoga program in this beautiful city and had an absolutely gratifying experience.

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Let me borrow the sentences from Cihangir website: In this Master Intensive, Chris guided guide us through the mystery and magic of the Upanishads. Using these ancient scriptures we went deep in study, practice, pranayama and meditation. This intensive was open to everybody who seeks to deepen their understanding of the journey we are all on. This program counts towards the Cihangir Yoga 300 Hour Transformative Yoga Path.

This was the description of the program but in fact it was so much more. Chris is the most personable yoga teacher I have ever met and I have taken a lot of classes with a lot of teachers. He treats every student of his as his friend and turns the most technical terms into something most easily understandable. He is a wise teacher as well as a humble student. Being a yoga instructor myself, I admire him greatly and have much to learn from him.

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And sunsets in Istanbul are most unforgettable…

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8 Great Reasons to Teach Yoga

Recently I read a wonderful article with eight important quotes from eight beautiful yogis. As a fellow yoga teacher and a yogi, I had to share them here with you.

Every day we go to work. Eat lunch. Commute Home. Work Out. Make Dinner. Repeat. Do you ever stop to think about WHY you do the things you do? Are you eating the quinoa salad because you’ve made it a million times already, or are you thoughtfully choosing the ingredients and preparing the meal with care? In other words, do you do things simply because it’s become routine or is there a deeper intention behind your actions?

This year, I’ve been questioning why I do certain things. And of course yoga was called into question. In a recent Wanderlust Journal article, I asked Wanderlusters why they do yoga. In the same vein, I was also curious about the yogis who had taken another step from student to teacher. So I interviewed a handful of Wanderlust teachers with one question, “Why do you teach yoga?”

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1. To help others feel good
“I teach yoga because it makes people feel good about their bodies. I’ve learned to accept myself more, and I want to give that to other people, especially in the dance world where it can be very discouraging sometimes.”
– Beau Campbell, dancer and yoga teacher

 

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2. To be a better student
“I teach yoga because I want to be a better student. You learn so much when you teach; it’s a never-ending process of learning by teaching. There’s a certain point you start to stagnate as a student, and you just go out there and you teach to learn.”
– Schuyler Grant, co-creator of Wanderlust

 

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3. To help others achieve goals
“I didn’t actually choose to teach yoga to be honest. I had friends who wanted to practice yoga but they were too scared to go to a yoga studio. So I offered to show them some things and then set up a “class.” I taught five of my friends in my basement and then five turned into ten and many more. I just wanted my friends to practice yoga, and then through that intention to help my friends accomplish what they wanted to accomplish, I became a yoga instructor.”
– Matt Giordano, martial artist and yoga teacher

 

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4. To allow others to choose what they need to learn
“I don’t think I teach anything. I think I hold a space for people to experience an honest, authentic, and pure version of themselves through me being radically honest, authentic and pure. If there’s anything I teach it’s how to hold a space to facilitate and people around you choose what they’re going to learn.”
– Cameron Shayne, founder of Budokon University

 

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5. To help others connect to a higher consciousness
“I teach yoga to serve the best way I can so people can learn how to connect to their own highest consciousness and connect with their inner being.”
– Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa, Kundalini teacher

 

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6. To send out love
“I teach yoga because there’s this force out there called love. At the end of our yoga practice we turn our bodies, minds, and hearts into this antenna that picks up the signal which we can then radiate out as positive energy and nothing in the world matters more than that.”
– Eoin Finn, founder of Blissology

 

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7. To fulfill a destiny
“I teach yoga because it pulled me to teach yoga. It was one of those things where my teacher of fifteen years said, ‘You will teach yoga.’ And I teach yoga because it is in service to my very practice because it reminds me to remain a student.”
– Janet Stone, vinyasa yoga teacher

 

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8. To keep it real
“I teach yoga to bring more ‘real’ into the world.”
– Alex Mazerolle, founder of Girlvana

 

What Does It Mean to be An Artist?

Lately I have been pondering the question “what does it mean to be an artist?” I started taking art classes since I could remember. When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always answer with pride “I want to become a painter”. My favorite art teacher considered me one of those very “gifted” children who were supposed to pursue the artists’ path and go to art school. However, reality hit hard; assignments and exams took over my life. I couldn’t go to art classes anymore and stopped drawing altogether. It almost felt like that part of me never even existed.

It was not until the second year in college when I started drawing again. I remember vividly that it was after watching La Belle Noiseuse, a movie about a painter who is fascinated by the female form. All of the sudden I was feeling inspired and started drawing with a black ink pen and it was a such a beautiful experience. Then I drew a portrait of my roommate according to one of her Facebook profile pictures. Without any charcoal drawing training, I surprised even myself by how good it turned out and the amount of compliments it received. From then on, I would draw and paint in my spare time; for me it was mostly just an artistic outlet and meditative process.

After graduating and traveling around the world, I returned home for a while and began oil painting at an art atelier with my mom who always believed in my artistic talents. I enjoyed it very much but at certain point it got frustrating because I could be a painful perfectionist and expect everything to be exact and take long periods of time to finish one painting. For my mother, it would only take maybe a few days because she was so much more care-free and less self-critical. She would often tell me that the reason for the schism was that I was not yet confident enough to completely express myself creatively despite my superior artistic skills. I did not agree with her then, thinking that I simply set higher standards for myself. However, now when I look back, I agree with her, being an artist is all about self-expression.

To be more free in self-expression, first of all, we have to be more in touch with our inner life and be genuine with our true emotions. It is about reinterpreting our experiences and transform our perceptions, thoughts, and emotions into something more tangible that can communicate with others or just yourself. In present society, we are so used to putting on masks and usually end up creating things that cater more to the taste of others or for commercial reasons. A music blogger Bob Lefsetz, once wrote about what it means to be an artist.

“It means to lay your soul down. Your truth. The fame is ancillary. If the success comes first, then you’re an empty vessel. It’s kind of like love. Would you like to get all your sex at a brothel? Sex without love isn’t as good as masturbation. Because what makes sex so good is the connection between the two people who are doing it. What made the records of yore so good was the connection between the creator and the listener.

Oh, don’t tell me you’re into this artist or that. It’s kind of like the movie business. We’ve seen it all. It’s just endless remakes. Endless riffs on what’s come before. But what if an artist went off on his own path, only following his own muse, desirous of connecting but unwilling to compromise. Then you’d have Stevie Wonder.”

Art is love, passion, life. Art is paradoxical, irrational and full of contradictions. Being an artist is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and completely open before engaging in the practice of contemplation and creation. It can be a daunting experience but only in this way can you create something you are passionate about and call yourself “an artist”.