Your Personal Yoga practice: Tips for Integrating a Simple, yet Meaningful Practice into your Every Day Life. Part 1

It is March (already?!). The start of a new year is the most popular time when inspiration to improve oneself is at its highest. Often this motivation fizzles out after a few weeks or months, and we find ourselves back where we started: feeling guilty and stressing over the practice we are not practicing. Anyone there yet?

Like many Yoga teachers, I put a lot of time and effort into convincing people to come to Yoga class. That is because there are a lot benefits of attending a Yoga class. But that is for another article on another day. Instead, today I want to talk about your personal practice.

Part 1

Why a personal Yoga practice is so awesome:

1. Comfort and Convenience

Yoga is everywhere these days. The boom in Yoga Teacher Trainings has ensured that even the most remote places have at least several Yoga teachers competing for your business. Even so, finding a class time and location that fits into your schedule can be a challenge.

Pursuing a home practice means that you fit your practice into your own schedule, in the comfort and privacy of your own space.

2. No one is watching you.

Yoga trains us to free ourselves from the ego. But this can be one of our greatest challenges, especially after a lifetime of society training us to be obsessed with our appearance. One of the most common excuses I hear from people who hesitate to come to Yoga class is, “I am not the Yoga “type”, “I am too (old, out of shape, inflexible, insert self crticism here…) for Yoga”. Of course, this is a load of hooey, because Yoga is not just a fitness routine, it is a path to heightened awareness and self-transformation that can be modified to suit any body, at any age, at any level of fitness.

However, I can understand where this body image-related hesitation comes from. Type “Yoga” into Google images and what you will see is hundreds of shots of beautiful, young models in sexy, fashionable activewear, doing super impressive things with their seemingly perfect bodies. As a result, this is the image many people have learned to associate with the word “Yoga”. It is no wonder so many people have decided that Yoga is not for them.

Many of us are not in the physical or psychological condition that we would like to be (hence, why we want and need Yoga!). Pursuing a Yoga practice means that we must confront our present condition, which includes our stiffness, aches & pains, our weaknesses, and perhaps not looking the way we wish we did in our Yoga pants. It requires us to face parts of ourselves that may have deteriorated, that feel dysfunctional or even broken.

This acknowledgement is challenging enough on its own, but the thought of facing it amongst a class full of other people can be downright intimidating.

Many people have confided in me that they don’t feel comfortable practicing Yoga in public, that they are afraid of being judged on their appearance and abilities. I receive this familiar expression with both understanding and rejection. On one hand, for the reasons mentioned above, I can’t blame anyone for feeling that way. But at the same time it bothers me that so many people have been led to such a distorted image of Yoga that causes them to feel this way.

Just for the record: Yoga is not about impressing ourselves or anyone else. No one at Yoga class should be watching you or judging you (if they are, shame on them). But even though most practitioners have heard this over and over again, self-consciousness is one of the biggest things that stands in the way of pursuing Yoga.

If you are lucky enough to have a space where you can practice Yoga in privacy, this can free you from this self-consciousness, and provide an opportunity to try things that feel too awkward and uncomfortable in front of others. In your personal Yoga practice there is no pressure to impress. You can wear your underwear if you want, even the holey ones. Never mind those pit stains, let your rolls hang out, make some funny faces. Its just YOU.

3. It’s FREE – I consider myself pretty darn privileged, but I am not ashamed to say that for most of my life I have lived on a tight budget. Those who can relate know that during those times when you are fishing coins from the couch cushions to buy some beans and rice, $10 for a yoga class is simply an unjustifiable luxury. One benefit of a home practice is, it doesn’t cost anything.

Modern society has convinced us we need “things” to pursue just about everything. Before you pursue a Yoga practice you need a nice mat (maybe one with a flowery design on it), some cute leggings and a matching top,….maybe some essential oils and music to set the mood. Yup, those things are nice, but lets remember that Yoga has existed for thousands of years, long before yoga accessories and Lulu Lemon. Don’t let tight times be an excuse for not pursuing Yoga. All you need is YOU, and a willingness to practice.

4. A chance to connect with your inner guru

Every Yoga teacher experiences and shares their own unique perspective of Yoga. Coming to a Yoga class can offer motivation, fresh perspective, and an opportunity to learn new things.

On the other hand, Yoga is a very personal experience. In order to grow we must turn our awareness within and get very intimately acquainted with ourselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

This can be a challenge no matter where we are. Learning to maintain stillness and equanimity even in the face of distractions is an important thing we must learn from our practice.

Even the most tranquil Yoga classes have distractions. Its not just you in the room, so in addition to all the self-generated disturbances being produced in your brain’s chatter factory, you also have external stimuli challenging your focus.

Often when we practice Yoga around others we feel pressure or an urge to “perform”. Instead of connecting deeply with what is happening within our body, breath, and mind in that present moment, and doing what is right for ourselves in that present moment, we might find ourselves more focused on how we appear in front of others. This can lead us to compare, compete, and miss the whole point of our practice.

When we can still the body, connect with the breath, silence the chatter of the mind, and anchor ourselves in the present moment, a powerful awareness occurs. In this state we observe, listen, and receive wisdom from the core of our being and beyond. In order to experience this we need to set ourselves free from the expectations and judgment of ourselves and others. When we no longer have to perform we are left with our raw selves, and this is an ideal platform for discovering and communing with our inner teacher.

Are you feeling better now about not making it to Yoga class?

Don’t get me wrong, going to a regular Yoga class is an important part of your practice, and a great way to stay motivated, learn new things, and connect with others along the path.

But a formal Yoga class is only a sliver of the Yoga journey, and hopefully now you are not feeling too guilty about not making it to class like you intend to. And hopefully you are feeling really motivated to get back on track with your personal practice!

Yes, now with all that said, we now have to face the reality that a home practice may not come that easy. Perhaps there are kids, clutter, and other chaos that is turning you off from getting your om on. There are a million excuses for ignoring or avoiding your Yoga practice, and many of them are valid.

Building a sustainable, meaningful, personal Yoga practice is not as demanding as you might think.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I offer the simplest of tips for making Yoga a part of your every day life, regardless of time, space, energy, and mood.

Om Shanti

What is Hatha Yoga? Achieving Balance Both on and off the Mat

Photo credit: @Bess_Hamiti

In the past few decades, the popularity of Yoga, a practice thousands of years old, has exploded across the globe. During this time, different teachers have labeled their particular style of Yoga in order to distinguish it from others. As the popularity of Yoga grows, so do the styles and brand labels.

In contemporary Yoga, Hatha is often used to describe a specific “style” of Yoga, usually one that is considered particularly gentle and meditative. However, if pursuing Yoga from a traditional point of view, Hatha is fundamental concept that should be applied to any Yoga practice, regardless of pace, aim, and style.

What is Hatha?

The Sanskrit word “Hatha” translates as “sun and moon”, representing a balance between a pair of opposite energies (light/dark, masculine/feminine, yin/yang…). “Ha” (Sun) is represented by heat and an extroverted, active energy, whereas “tha” (moon) is characterized by a cool, passive, and introverted energy.

In our Yoga practice, we pursue Hatha by seeking an equal balance between effort and ease, strength and softness, and control and surrender in our asanas. When we can find this balance, we not only avoid potential injury, but are able to hold the position longer, breathe into it, explore it, and lay a foundation for expanded awareness.

Some people are very active, both in body and mind. They prefer to always be busy and in motion, and as a result they may find the “tha” aspects in Yoga to be quite challenging. In contrast, some people are very laid back and find stillness easily, but instead, being active and energized is difficult. A balance of both action and stillness is required in Yoga.

According to the ancient Yoga text the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “asana” is defined as “sthira sukham asanam” which best translates to a “steady and easeful position”. Interpretations of this Sanskrit phrase indicate that the relevance is not in the specific body position itself, but the state of steadiness and ease that is achieved in the position.

In the English language, asana is often translated to ” posture” or “pose”. Yoga is not about achieving an idealized body posture or doing impressive things with our bodies. From a traditional point of view our Yoga asanas are meant to provide an optimal foundation for meditation, and ultimately “union”.

A simple, seated pose like Sukhasana, can get the job done, and is one of the common examples of asana depicted in old Yoga texts. However, finding the same steadiness and ease in other, more challenging body positions provides the means to burn away impurities and achieve optimal health. With this being the popular focus of modern Yoga, more variations of asana continue to develop as Yoga evolves in the 21st century.

A healthy body is useful no matter what your goal is, and from a traditional Yoga perspective, it is essential preparation for pursuing the more transcendent aspects of the practice. Try being still in any position for an extended period, and soon you will understand why. After a few minutes you may notice tension, aches and pains, restlessness, and other discomforts in the body. These physical distractions can make it very difficult to relax and find stillness. From this perspective, the asanas aim to strengthen, limber, and purify the body so that we are not so aggravated by our physical form and can tune our awareness within to the more subtle aspects of our being.

In Yoga, you are taught not to strain and push past your limits, not just to avoid injury, but also because Yoga is a practice of mindfulness and discipline. This is what distinguishes Yoga from other conventional exercise. To achieve the state of sthira sukham asanam, we must pursue a Hatha balance in our asana practice.

Integrating your Hatha Balance into Every Day Life

Although our Yoga asana practice provides a very powerful hour or so of physical and psychological self-enhancement, the time that we spend on the mat is only a sliver of our practice. It is a formal pursuance that prepares us for the real challenge: stepping off our mat and out into the world. By learning to find Hatha in our Yoga Asanas, we gradually develop the ability to apply this same balance to every aspect of our physical, psychological, and spiritual life. This is how we transform.

We can’t always control the situations in our lives. But, still we try. When we don’t feel in control we tense up and fight, or else we throw up our hands, give up, and flee the situation, often by indulging in distractions, negativity, and self-harming activities. Fighting to control situations that are out of our control creates an endless cycle of anxiety and stress. On the other hand, it this very drive to strive for better that makes self-transformation possible. What is needed is balance.

We must be willing and able to push forward with an active, heated motivation to remove obstacles from our lives, to face challenge and discomfort in order to become stronger, more evolved beings. On the other hand, we must also know when and how to let go, to find equanimity and bear witness to the life lessons that are teaching and molding us. We must aim to find an equal balance between effort and ease, strength and softness, control and surrender, in all that we do.

This balance can be very difficult to find. Our body and mind are in a constant state of flux. Our circumstances, mood, and energy levels are continuously mixing, changing from moment to moment, and producing new moods and circumstances. In order to find our balance we need to develop a heightened state of awareness with a practice of mindfulness, anchoring in the present moment by focusing on one point, such as the breath.

Our breath is always present and it is the bridge between the body and the mind. At any moment, we can observe the breath. As long as we are with the breath, we are present. The breath can tell us a lot about what is going on in the body and mind. At the same time, the quality of our breath influences the state of our body and mind. This is the fundamental idea behind the Pranayama, or breath control exercises, that we practice in Yoga.

By regularly observing the breath during different activities, moods, and circumstances, we develop a heightened state of awareness, a better understanding of ourselves and our environment, as well as an ability to influence it. With this awareness we can seek out a Hatha balance in everything that we do.

SoulScuba Newsletter – Thank You 2018, Welcome 2019

2019, can you believe it? It is true what they say, time flies when you are having a good time!

Introducing people to something that makes life better is the best thing in the world to me. Combining two things that make life better is just… joy overload! I have genuine gratitude to everyone who has given me the opportunity to share my passion and creation, the Yoga Diver course with them this past year. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

In 2018 I had the privilege of bringing some new divers into the world and introducing Yoga to some beginner students who have now made it a part of their life. I also had the pleasure of certifying some new Yoga Divers, in diverse environments, from clear blue, tropical waters, to frigid, pea soup quarries.

I started out 2018 in my tropical home base, Nevis, West Indies, working as a freelance Yoga Instructor and Scuba Instructor.

2018 brought a new opportunity as a relief Yoga Instructor at the Four Seasons Resort, Nevis

My Yoga classes at Pinneys Beach, Nevis were regularly attended by a sweet little monkey yogi

In July, I headed home to Indiana, USA, for some annual family time.

Some thirty-something year old kids live in their parents basement. Some just turn theirs into a temporary Yoga studio! Thank you to my parents and thank you to those who came and did Yoga with me this summer!

In August/September, I was aboard the Turks & Caicos Explorer Liveaboard. We spent our time mainly off the shores of the undeveloped West Caicos and French Caye. I enjoyed offering sunrise Yoga on the deck enveloped by the tranquil, uninhabited surroundings, followed by 5 stunning wall dives per day with 100+ feet vis and regular shark encounters.

Later in September, I found myself in drastically different surroundings, Dutch Springs quarry in central Pennsylvania, USA, (or the “Amish Caribbean” as my host, Course Director Ron Willis of Harrisburg’s Westshore Scuba, likes to call it.) Why in the world would I leave the tropical islands to come dive here? Well, let me tell you, in the summer months Dutch Springs is a festival for divers who just have to get wet. All levels of divers come from all over Pennsylvania and the East Coast…New York, New Jersey, Maryland, even as far north as Massachusetts. We camp along the banks of the tranquil quarry, filling our days with fun diving and skill development (if you can learn to dive here, the warm, clear, Caribbean waters are a breeze, let me tell ya) and share our scuba tales next to the bonfire at night.

I taught my first ever Yoga Diver course here so it has a special place in my heart, and I have returned every year since, certifying up to 15 Yoga Divers in one weekend alone. Ron Willis and the Westshore Scuba team are honest-to-god one of the most professional, helpful, fun groups I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Every summer/fall I have to try to get there, even if just for one weekend.

This year, in addition to my typical one day Yoga Diver course offering, I offered a Weekend Yoga-Scuba Camping Retreat. The weather was slightly cool, but with the season winding down, the quarry and surroundings offered a tranquil and mystic ambiance for our weekend of mind-body wellness and bubble therapy.

Read about the Dutch Springs Yoga Diver Camping weekend first hand from one of its participants

And finally, one of the highlights of 2018, was getting the chance to share my sweet little island home with some Dive Yogis in the first (but not the last) Nevis Yoga-Scuba Vacation. A perfect balance of relaxation, wellness, and adventure in a tropical island paradise. Click here to read the Nevis Yoga-Scuba Vacation Trip Report. Don’t be upset you missed out, you can choose your dates and come anytime you want!

Ready for your next holiday? Packages for non-divers, certified divers, and those wishing to learn to dive available. Join me for personalized Yoga-Scuba experience with some authentic island vibes. Nevis Yoga-Scuba Vacation 2019 Get all the info here

Yoga Divers in Nevis, West Indies

2018 was my first full year as a freelancer, a fancy way of saying I am self-employed. Being a freelance Yoga and Scuba Instructor means that I have the freedom and time to move about and pursue my niche as a “Dive Yogi”. It also means that there are sometimes gaps of time where there is not enough work or income rolling in. Nothing to fear. There is always work to be found as long as your are flexible and open minded. Those who know me know that since starting work at the age of 13, I have never been a snob about taking on temporary basic wage jobs. I strongly believe in the adage, “never put all your eggs in one basket”. It makes alot of of sense, especially when pursuing a career in an industry that is highly desirable and saturated, like teaching yoga and scuba diving.

So, currently I have been putting some of my eggs into Taste of Fari – Ital Food and Rastacrafts. Along with my partner, Ras Derrick, we have been gradually nurturing some original vibes next to Sunshine’s Beach Bar at Pinneys Beach. Derrick cooks healthy, vegan, local “Ital” Rastafarian food and I make unique jewelry and crafts out of coconut, calabash, bamboo, stones, and sand, shells, volcanic lava, and other natural materials. We have started to build a beach side Yoga deck and eventually hope to develop a scuba presence as well. Stay tuned!

When I am not underwater, come see me at Pinneys Beach!

Now I end a great year full of gratitude, so lucky to be able to earn my bread doing what I love, freelancing with Kenneth’s Dive Centre in St. Kitts, and at the Four Seasons Resort.

In other news, one of my biggest accomplishments this year is starting this blog! It has only been on my to-do list, for I don’t know, 5 years or so. I would not say that I am clueless with technology, but it does take a bit of effort for me to figure it all out, and accomplishing anything requiring internet on a small island takes a lot of time and deep breathing. Not to mention, I have a love-hate relationship with social media and the expectations and demands of modern marketing. The self-promotion feels awkward, forced, and downright grotesque at times. A necessary evil in the modern business world, I suppose. But I won’t ramble on about that, not today anyway, perhaps a whole other blog post on its own…stay tuned!

My intention with this blog is to connect with all the Yogis and divers I have had the pleasure of meeting along the journey, as well as those that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. In addition to sharing SoulScuba and Yoga Diver events, offerings, and news, I will use this platform to share thoughts, stories, and anything I feel worth sharing in my world of Yoga, Scuba Diving, and especially in the world of “Yoga Diving”. I also have a separate blog dedicated specifically to SoulScuba Events, including Yoga classes, Scuba Diving trips, and PADI Yoga Diver course and other Yoga-Scuba offerings.

Another technological accomplishment, in my typical 5 years late fashion, was finally creating an my Instagram “handle” @soulscubayogadiver. #stillfiguringitout #laaarrrrdhelpme. I hear that it is highly desirable and important to have many followers, so please, by all means, I would be grateful if you will help me fulfill my duty and bless me up with your Instagram patronage.

Another recent technological accomplishment that I am very excited about is the launch of Yoga Diver E-Learning!

Yoga Diver E-Learning is your first step if you wish to pursue my PADI Yoga Diver Distinctive Specialty Certification. Even if you are not considering the Yoga Diver certification you might still find the E-Learning useful as an introduction to Yoga, to expand your practice, and/or to inspire and beneficial relationship between your Yoga practice and your scuba experiences.

For a one time payment of $34.95 you get access to the PADI Yoga Diver Student Manual, highlighting basic history, theory, concepts, benefits, and practices to enhance your experiences both in and out of the water. There are also downloadable audio recordings of guided meditation/dive briefing, Yoga Nidra deep relaxation, and soon there will also be some instructional videos added that are useful for both divers and non-divers.

When I began formally structuring the Yoga Diver course in 2014, internet search results on the concept of fusing Yoga and Scuba Diving were scanty. I would never claim to be the first or only person to recognize a profound and beneficial relationship between Yoga and Diving, but there appeared to be a wide-open space for a structured fusion course. Since the Yoga Diver course was born in 2015, the idea of marrying the two has become quite the buzz .

Be aware that there may be Scuba instructors teaching similar courses and possibly even using a name like “Yoga Diver” but are not necessarily qualified to teach this particular course. The original PADI Yoga Diver Distinctive Specialty authored by Amanda Parr of SoulScuba is hallmarked with the SoulScuba Yoga Diver turtle logo

Every week I get enquiries from divers from around the globe that are interested in taking the course. Unfortunately, I am only one person and can only be in one place at a time, so I would really love to connect with some talented instructors who are qualified to teach both Yoga and Scuba Diving…not as many out there as you’d think…who would be interested in teaching the Yoga Diver course in whatever location they are in.

This is not a specific job offer, but a licensing opportunity that would allow you to take a lead in a unique, growing market and give you a special qualification that can make you more attractive to employers and provide you with a skill you can offer as a part of courses and retreats wherever in the world you want to be.
As the author of the Yoga Diver Distinctive Specialty, I own the rights to my course. Other instructors who wish to teach it have to obtain permission from the author to certify to teach distinctive specialty. It is not practical for me to employ people living in other countries or to try to collect royalties from people each time they teach a course, so what I am offering is the chance for qualified instructors to certify to teach it for a licensing fee. That way they can teach wherever they want, charge what the want, and what they earn is theirs to keep, and the licensing fee provides me with a little compensation for the work, marketing, and expenses I have put into the course. Email me if you are interested in learning more about this licensing opportunity and stay tuned for Yoga Diver Teacher Training classes currently under construction

So, what will 2019 bring?

Those who know me can confirm that for most of my life I have not been able plan my life more than a few months in advance. I working hard to change that. Although some plans are still taking shape, here’s what is in the works so far:

January – July: Nevis, West Indies

Weekly Hatha Yoga Foundations Class at Oualie Beach Resort, Nevis, West Indies

Regular Beach Yoga and Meditation at Pinneys Beach

Regular PADI Yoga Diver Course and Yoga-Scuba Experience for Beginners offerings in both St. Kitts and Nevis

Nevis Yoga-Scuba Vacation – choose your own dates

March 29 – April 7: Bonaire

Yoga Diver Course – Bonaire

July – October: USA

Plans are still under construction, but here are some of the events I am working on. Stay tuned, and if you see anything that interests you, let me know! Nothing helps to solidify plans better than the interest and commitment of actual, real people 🙂

Yoga classes/workshops for both adults and children in northeast Indiana

Pretty Lake Yoga

Scuba Camp – Indiana

Yoga Diver course and other Scuba offerings, Northeast Indiana

Yoga Diver Course, camping retreat, and other Scuba offerings at Dutch Springs, PA

Yoga classes Indiana for adults and children

October – December

Stay tuned!

All the best to everyone for a happy, healthy, prosperous new year!

Bring on 2019!

Nevis Yoga-Scuba Vacation November 2018

On November 10th I welcomed an awesome group of Divers and Yogis to my home base, the beautiful island of Nevis, in the eastern Caribbean for the first (and certainly not the last) of SoulScuba‘s Yoga-Scuba vacations, a trip dedicated to wellness, adventure, and my specialty, a unique fusion of Yoga and Scuba Diving, the PADI Yoga Diver Course.

Hosted by my good friends at Westshore Scuba (Harrisburg, PA, USA), 4 people came to see what it is about this island that caused a career globetrotter like myself to put down some roots (or the closest I have come to it in many years). Kelly, Brian, and Earl are all regular yoga practitioners and have all taken the Yoga Diver course before. In fact, Earl loves it so much he has repeated the course 4 times! Earl’s wife Raquel is not a diver, but came and enjoyed the yoga offerings and other activities.

With daily yoga offerings, scuba trips, and other excursions, my goal was to provide my guests with a balance of wellness and adventure, comfort and novelty, and to use my intimate knowledge of the island to show them an authentic island-life experience that far too many tourists miss out on. For one week they had a private driver, tour guide, yoga teacher and dive guide (me!) ready to make sure they had a great time.

Nevis is not a well known dive destination. It is sometimes difficult convincing people why the places you have never heard of are worth visiting. Every diver has heard of Cozumel…Bonaire…Grand Cayman….so they must be phenomenal right? But Nevis? If I haven’t heard of it then it must not be that great…not true! The thing that makes Nevis so attractive is exactly that…not everyone has heard of it…which means that you can have a laid back, authentic island experience without getting lost in the tourist traffic (and in many cases, have the dive site, if not the entire dive boat to yourself!) My Dive Yogis were so impressed by the experience they are already itching to return.

Nevis, the smaller, quieter sister island of St. Kitts is only 36 square miles with a population of 11,000 people. With no cruise ship port and few signs of commercialization, Nevis is the perfect off the beaten track place to relax and dedicate some time to mind-body wellness. Nevis also offers an ideal atmosphere for those who love nature, being active, and want to be immersed in some authentic Caribbean vibes. A dormant volcano and lush rainforest rest at the center of the island, while the outer edges are fringed with both white and black sand beaches, old sugar plantations, historical sights (such as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton), cool beach bars, and some excellent dive sites.

Charlestown, the capitol of Nevis

Upon their arrival into St. Kitts airport (SKB), we made our way by ferry to Nevis. It is possible to fly into Nevis, but mainly on smaller flights from within the Caribbean. Regular direct flights from JFK, Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, and Toronto, makes St. Kitts airport a much more convenient option. After a 45 minute ferry ride we arrived in Charlestown,where we drove 15 minutes to our beach front accommodation at Oualie Beach Resort. Guests spent their first night and morning settling in and commented how quiet and peaceful the surroundings were.

View from Oualie Beach Resort

On Sunday afternoon it was time to get wet! Directly from Oualie Beach we cruised across the channel between St. Kitts and Nevis with our dive operator, Scuba Safaris and visited one of my favorite sites along the shores of the rolling green hills St. Kitts’ south peninsula. Buggs Hole, a 15 minute boat ride away, is the perfect dive site to ease ourselves gently into our dive adventure.

In a calm bay on the leeward side of the island, and a maximum depth of only 40 ft, the site is suitable for for all dive levels, with no shortage of critters. We saw turtles, (both green and hawksbill), eels, lobsters, octopus, crabs, shrimps, sea slugs, sting rays, and array of colorful coral and fish. Despite the visibility not being at its best my divers were really impressed. They said it was one of their best dives ever!

Following our dive we travelled to Pinneys Beach for sunset. Following a lecture on mindfulness and healthy eating, we enjoyed a healthy, Rastafarian “Ital” meal from Taste of Fari, a simple, a humble little beach shack run by my partner Ras Derrick that serves up some seriously tasty vegan food. Cooked over coals in a clay “yabba” pot and served up in natural calabash bowls with coconut spoons, this heavy stew was made with fresh, local produce, lentils, and beans in a rich coconut base. This is about the truest Caribbean vibe there is…hanging on the beach, sand between the toes, a bonfire, listening to cool roots reggae, while eating fresh, local food served up with love by a local nature-loving Rasta man.

Rastafarian food cooking over coals in a clay “yabba” at Taste of Fari on Pinneys Beach

Clean, healthy, vegan, “Ital” soup served in a calabash bowl with a coconut spoon

After some Monday morning Yoga and breakfast I drove everyone around the whole island, visiting beaches, historic sights, and old sugar plantations, some in ruin and others that had been turned into posh hotels. Earl accepted the island rum punch challenge…trying each of the hotel bar’s unique recipes. First prize went to the Hermatige, which is an old plantation turned hotel in the hills, and is the oldest wooden house in the Caribbean. Later he tried the famous “Killer Bee” at Sunshines Beach Bar. The verdict: not as tasty, but much more power! Needless to say, it was an early night.

Tuesday morning started with Yoga at Oualie Beach, followed by breakfast and then two-tank dive off the shores of the western side of Nevis. Normally this is where we would do the distinctive specialty Yoga Diver course, consisting of land based yoga instruction, knowledge development, open water skill practice, and underwater yoga. However since my divers were already certified Yoga Divers we continued our practice as Dive Yogis by approaching our dives with a foundation of relaxation,mindfulness and conscious breathing, fine tuning buoyancy and enhancing our focus and sense of oneness with the underwater world.

Our first dive was at “Hot Vents”, which is exactly that…down a sloping wall at about 90 ft there are some areas where you can see and feel the heat radiating from underground volcanic vents. Dive 2 was not far away at Church Reef, named for the St. Thomas Anglican church, the oldest church in Nevis, which you can see in the distance on the hilltop. A shallow dive site, we saw all kinds of cool little critters, including a ton of lobsters! There are places on this dive site where you can put your hands in the sand and feel the volcanic heat.

Since the Ital food was such a hit, we went back to Taste of Fari at Pinneys Beach for dinner. This time it was “Scrush and Stew”… the “scrush” is basically like mashed potatoes, made not only with potatoes, but with other starchy blessings from mother nature, like breadfruit and local root vegetables like tanya and dashie. The stew, served on top of the scrush, was pink beans, black-eyed peas, okra, season peppers, and garlic in a rich coconut gravy. Nom nom!

Taste of Fari at Pinneys Beach sells unique handmade crafts and jewelry made from coconut, calabash, seeds, bamboo, volcanic lava stone, sand, and more

Here at the beach, my dive yogis had their first ever Laughter Yoga experience. Yes, it’s a real thing! Laughter yoga, also known as laughter meditation, is a concept that was started by a physician in India, Dr. Madan Kataria in the 1990’s, who now heads a society called Laughter Yoga International. It started out by him inviting people to organized “laughing events”. This evolved into thousands of laughter clubs developing around the globe and now there are at least 6,000 official laughter clubs in over 65 countries. The goal of laughter yoga international is to bring good health, joy, and and world peace through laughter. Not only is laughter a means of improving our own well being, but because laughter is our social glue, it also has power to bring people together!

HA HA HA! HO HO HO! – Laughter Yoga session

On Wednesday we took the long, 5 minute water taxi ride across the channel from Oualie Beach to Reggae Beach in St. Kitts. From here we had our private van for the day that drove us around the entire island. We travelled through the heart of Basseterre, St. Kitts’ capitol city, and then into the countryside and the villages. We experienced local culture, historic sites, and some breathtaking scenery.

Our tour ended at South Friars Bay on the peninsula side of St. Kitts where we had arranged to participate in a stand-up paperboard (SUP) Yoga class at Shipwrecks Beach Bar. Unfortunately, the organizers cancelled the class because it was a bit windy and choppy, what a bummer! So we enjoyed the scenery and did some “beer and veggie taco” Yoga instead while watching a beautiful beach sunset. Afterwards we made our way back to Reggae Beach and took the water taxi back home to Oualie.

Thursday was a big day. We started out with a two-tank dive on the south peninsula of St. Kitts. I had requests for spotted eagle rays and turtles, so we went to some sites best known for both. We started at Nags Head North, where we moored up right along side the wild, craggy cliffside. At first we descended only 10-15 feet onto giant coral- encrusted volcanic boulders, then gradually down a sloping wall to a sand channel at around 50 ft. We saw the usual lobster armies and some seriously big southern sting rays. Schools of Creole wrasse, snappers, grunts, and jacks cruised past, and then a graceful, majestic spotted eagle ray blessed us with its presence. Our second dive was at Turtle Bar, where we would try to check the second request from our list…with success!

After a lunch break at Oualie, Derrick and I took everyone on a rainforest/waterfall hike. There are several accessible hiking trails in Nevis, with the waterfall hike being one of the easier ones, and the most challenging being the Mt. Nevis peak.

It took us about an hour to reach the waterfall. The rainforest felt fresh and cool, a nice break from the sunny beach. Along the way we saw some majestic trees, Derrick pointed out some different medicinal plants, and we picked some sour oranges and cocoa pods. Since we were just at the tail end of the rainy season there was plenty of water flowing at the waterfall. We took a dip in the cold, refreshing waters and spent a few moments in meditation in the magic surroundings.

One of the best ways to prevent sore muscles after a hike is to visit the natural volcanic hot springs in Charlestown. Even better, hot springs Yoga! It was already after dusk by the time we reached (the best time to visit the springs) so I wasn’t able to get any good photos of the hot springs yoga.

We found a small pool all for ourselves. The pools can reach well over 100 F, so you have to enter gradually and mindfully, starting with just the feet first and allowing the body to adjust to the temperature. With our feet in the water we did some gentle stretches and then slowly eased our way in to the water. The hot water is like magic for aches and pains and it is believed that the volcanic minerals and roots from nearby trees offer powerful healing qualities. Add some stretching, breathing practice, and self massage for even more benefit. Who needs to pay hundreds of dollars to go to a spa?

After a cool down meditation, the body feels like it is made out of jelly. Everyone was pretty quiet on the way home, a tranquil, happy kind of quiet. I wonder why? The last words I heard for the day were from Kelly. “What an amazing day….the diving, the waterfall, the hot springs…and this is your life!” Indeed, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with some awesome people.

Friday. How did Friday get here so fast? Last day in paradise. I always recommend the last day of vacation should be spent relaxing. So often we get so caught up in excitement and activity that we forget to give our body and mind exactly what it needs on vacation…stillness, rest, relaxation.

Everyone took it easy for the day and then we all met up at Pinneys Beach for a final sunset Yoga session, the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea in front of us and the misty, green Mt. Nevis looming behind us. We ended our day with a farewell dinner and “lime” at Sunshines Beach Bar and a final nightcap at Oualie Beach.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share my three passions (Yoga, Scuba Diving, and Adventure!) with 4 amazing people. Thank you to Kelly, Brian, Earl, and Raquel for visiting my little island and to Westshore Scuba for hosting the trip. I hope to see you all back here again soon!

Yoga-Scuba vacations like this one are available year-round in Nevis, and in other locations. Check out my upcoming events or email me for your personalized itinerary.

For more information on the PADI Yoga Diver Course and other Yoga and Scuba Diving offerings, follow me on Facebook under SoulScuba and PADI Yoga Diver Course.