Could a Yoga Retreat in Greece be Your Next Girl’s Trip?

Are you like me and looking forward to the days we can travel freely again? I’ve led a handful of yoga retreats in Greece now and every time I’m there, I think, “this would be the perfect girl’s trip!” It’s been ages since I last went on a girl’s trip — and it was a disaster, lol. But I do have my favorite travel buddies who I’m always down to travel with. I’m a true Gemini at heart, I love a few days solo to explore, eat and do whatever I want, but I also adore the company of a good travel mate or two, and I love meeting other amazing, inspiring women — maybe that’s why I love yoga retreats so much? What about you?

girl's trip yoga retreat in Greece
Oh, how I miss these ladies!

I LOVE the greek islands and was daydreaming about planning another trip while looking over old travel pics. They’re so freakin’ beautiful — it’s the bluest water I have ever seen (I’m going to post a pic below so you can see), white stone beaches, and the most picturesque villages, tucked into their perfect tiny, little bays… I can’t get enough! How many hours have I spent sipping wine on the patio, telling stories by the pool, or swimming and lounging by the sea with new and old yoga friends. I mean, who’s counting?

luxury yoga retreat greece pool view
You see what I mean??? So blue! And how about this pool?

These Off-the-beaten-path Islands are Greece’s Best Kept Secret

The Ionian islands, on the west side of Greece, are a hidden gem. Well, Zakynthos is well known and has a bit of a wild party scene, but Kefalonia, Lefkada, and Ithaca are the perfect getaway — far away from the tourist hoards, drunk 20-year-olds, and honeymooners! Do I sound salty? LOL. I’m not, I promise!

I discovered Urania Villas a few years ago. At first, I was blown away by the gorgeous villas with the comfiest beds– I felt like a queen and I’m sure you will too. But then you go outside and each villa has its own pool with a jaw-dropping view of the sea. Then there is the yoga studio with the same gorgeous view, every prop you can imagine, and the option for AC (so perfect during summer in Greece) or you can open up all the glass doors and let the cool morning breeze in… they’ve thought of everything! After a day in the sun, walking into a cool yoga studio for a yin or restorative class is such a treat.

urania villas yoga retreat in greece
Me, Jason, my friend Angie and Urania

And the icing on the cake: Urania and her son, who take care of everything. They are so welcoming, kind, and generous. Have you ever wanted to have a Greek mama? Now’s your chance (I do hope she doesn’t mind me gloating about how amazing she is). And to have homemade Greek food for every meal, I’ve never been so spoiled.

Yoga Retreat in Greece? I Know That You Know You’re Worth It!

I don’t know about you but I adore having someone else prepare all of my meals with love and care. I’m usually the planner, when I travel with my friends or my hubby, so I love when someone else takes care of all the details, so I can simply relax — or do whatever I want! The structure of a yoga retreat makes life easy– especially when beach trips, boat trips, and sunset spots are already planned out (I don’t have to research because someone has already done it for me)– there isn’t any hemming or hawing about what to do(is that even how you spell that?). And it’s just nice to know that I have someone looking out for me and who will give me loads of great recommendations when I am exploring somewhere new, whether I’m traveling solo or with a posse. Can you relate?

Plan Your Next Girl’s Trip in the Greek Islands

Could a yoga retreat in the Greek islands be your next girl’s trip? I have an upcoming retreat in the Greek islands in 2022 — June 25 – July 2, 2022 at my favorite villas — Urania’s Villas. The retreat is basically built around all the things I love about yoga retreats, travel, self-care, good food, adventure, and an amazing sense of community. I’d love to host you, whether you’re flying solo or traveling with your girlfriends.

I’ve been to the Ionian Islands three times now and I am more than happy to share all of my favorite places with you (whether you’re joining me on retreat or not). I highly recommend visiting this little-visited group of islands– they feel like Greece’s best-kept secret.

Feel free to reach out with questions.

Love and Light,
Autumn

A Mudra for Letting Go: Ksepana Mudra

Ksepana Mudra is the mudra for letting go and boy did I need it this week. After a frustrating start to my week, I knew I needed a major attitude adjustment. I knew that I needed to shake off this cloud of frustration and overwhelm ASAP, so this morning I welcomed Ksepana Mudra into my meditation and asana practice. This is probably one of my favorite mudras, simply because I experience an energetic shift immediately. It’s so much easier to work through the tough stuff when we have the tools to do so!

ksepana mudra for surrender

The Mudra for Letting Go

In Sanskrit, Ksepana means to throw (away), to let go, pour off or to cast off. Ksepana mudra is the mudra for letting go of waste known as mala in Ayurveda. This waste, or mala, can be literal physical waste, toxic relationships, negative thoughts, or old habits, samskaras, and vasanas that don’t serve your highest self. I like to use this mudra when I’m feeling heavy or down or when I’m holding to tightly to expectations or my desire to be in control. I also like to practice this mudra when I’m feeling grumpy, frustrated, or overwhelmed… it’s like a tonic for the soul! Give it a go and let me know how you feel afterward.

Ksepana Mudra and Apana Vayu

Ksepana Mudra works with apana vayu, which is the down and outward flowing energy (prana) of elimination (defecation and urination), menstruation, and child birth. In addition to elmination through the large intestine, Ksepana mudra helps us remove mala through the surface of our skin via perspiration and through our lungs via expiration (the exhale breath).

Ksepana Mudra: Elements and Chakras

Mudras are often associated with specific elements according to Ayurveda’s five element theory (earth, water, fire, air and ether). Ksepana Mudra is often associated with the air element and therefore the heart chakra. What a beautiful act of self-love to say “no more, this doesn’t serve me, I’m letting it go”. After many years of practicing Ksepana Mudra it often resonates with the second chakra and the water element. I find that the imagery of water helps calm my nervous system and clears out stagnation, stress, etc. The second chakra is also very much associated with the energy of apana vayu and the act of letting go.

ksepana mudra for letting go

Ksepana Mudra Practice:

To practice ksepana mudra interlace the fingers of both hands and then release the index fingers. The index fingers are touching one another. The thumbs are crossed and the thumb pads rest, more or less, in the crook between thumb and index finger. When seated and practicing this mudra the index fingers should point down. The index fingers should point toward your feet when practicing this mudra lying down.

You can also practice this mudra in your asana practice. A flow that I like to do in a seated posture.

  1. Begin with the mudra at heart center. Index fingers pointing up.
  2. On an inhale turn the index fingers to point down and slightly away, extending the arms long toward the floor.
  3. Using the same inhale breath sweeping the arms up overhead.
  4. Exhale index fingers come to the crown of the head, to the forehead, the nose, then the lips and back to the heart like a waterfall tumbling over smooth stones.
  5. Each inhale envision vibrant, light energy flowing into your body and on your exhale let go of negativity in any of its forms.
  6. Practice a total of seven times.

mudra for letting go

Benefits of Ksepana Mudra:

Ksepana mudra helps us release negativity, frustration and suffering. Practicing the mudra, especially as stated above, creates a palpable difference in our energy. I call this letting go mudra an “attitude adjustment”.

Affirmations:

  • “I let go of what no longer serves me.”
  • “Spent energy in my body, mind, and soul flows away from me, and I thankfully accept all things that refresh me,” from Gertrud Hirsch’s book Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands. Gertrud’s book has been on my bookshelf for years and is literally my go-to book for mudras.
  • “I surrender to the flow of the Universe.”
  • “I embrace uncertainty with ease.”

If you want to learn more about Mudras and powerful meditation practices that you can combine with these symbolic hand gestures, check out my book, The Little Book of Mudra Meditations. Hope to see you on your mat or cushion soon.

Love and Light,

Autumn

*Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. These earnings help make the maintenance of this blog possible. You can rest assured that I only link to products I know and love.

Padma Mudra: A mudra to honor your inner beauty and light

Lotus Seal

Padma mudra is known as the lotus mudra or lotus seal because it resembles a blossoming lotus. It is a beautiful mudra to incorporate into any meditation or asana practice. In Sanskrit, Padma is commonly translated simply as lotus, but my favorite translation is “sacred lotus”. The sacred lotus is a reminder of the divine within and it’s a way that we can honor our own inner beauty and light and our ability to rise above the darkness of the muck and mire.

Lotus flowers grow abundantly in South Asia and Southeast Asia. (pic by Dietmar Dorsch)

Lotus Mudra Symbolism and Imagery

Lotus symbolism and imagery is common throughout Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. A lotus flower takes root down in the muck and mud and rises up through the water to blossom unscathed at the water’s surface. You can think of the path of the lotus as the journey to enlightenment. It is the journey from the darkness to the light.

The mud and muck represent our ego, our habits, our stories, our samskaras, our vasanas, our dramas. It represents life’s challenges, our shadow, and even inertia. The water through which the lotus must rise is cleansing and purifying. It is our yoga practice and our personal development. It takes action and awareness. The lotus flower’s rise from the muck up to the water’s surface requires action, and fortitude, it is a period of growth. And the fully bloomed flower represents our fully awakened self. Pure and beautiful.

Padma mudra is often associated with the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the shakti of all types of good fortune and abundance, both spiritual and material. She graces us with the gifts of auspiciousness, grace, compassion and love.

The Lotus Mudra opens our heart chakra to receive love, grace, compassion and abundance. When I notice that I’m starting to pull away from loved ones or pull away from experiencing love I find Padma Mudra to be a helpful reminder to lean in, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. Love is always worth it.

How to Practice Padma Mudra

Lotus mudra
Padma mudra

To practice padma mudra, bring your hands to anjali mudra, or prayer mudra, in front of your heart center with the palms of your hands touching. Keep the heels of your palms touching, your pinky fingers touching and your thumbs touching as you peel the palms of your hands, index, middle and ring fingers away from one another. The three middle fingers of each hand blossom away from one another like a lotus flower in bloom. Hold the mudra for five to ten minutes although it’s perfectly acceptable to hold the mudra longer.

Two Meditation Practices for the Lotus Mudra

One of my favorite lotus mudra practices puts a little spin on the traditional mudra. Sianna Sherman calls it prayer wheel padma mudra. I personally like to add either pranayama or mantra to this version. I’ll explain it briefly below:

From a traditional version of padma mudra, you begin to spin the fingers away from your torso, you roll to the backs of the hands until the pinky fingers touch again and then come back to lotus mudra. I often incorporate this version into my Lakshmi practice and chant “Om shrim maha Lakshmyai namaha” or simply Lakshmi’s seed sound “shrim”. I will often do 27, 54, or 108 rotations.

Another Lotus Mudra practice that I’ve been feeling called to share is a moving meditation that connects the mind to the wisdom of the heart. Here you can start with the hands in Padma Mudra at the heart center. As you inhale allow the mudra to float up to your Third Eye Chakra at the center of your brows. As you exhale, allow the hands to return to the space of the heart. This mudra practice can take you out of the thinking, analyzing, judging mind and into the wisdom of the heart. I like to do this practice when I need clarity on what is best for my higher self or when I need to work on trusting my own inner wisdom which is always rooted in love.

Benefits of Padma Mudra

  • Padma Mudra helps you remember that your very essence is love, radiance, and bliss.
  • the lotus seal inspires purity and perseverance
  • Reminds you of your own inner beauty
  • It is calming to the mind
  • Opens the heart chakra to love and compassion

Affirmations for Padma Mudra

I rise above life’s challenges with ease and grace.

My inner light shines brightly.

My heart is pure.

My Mudra book is now available on Amazon. If you’re looking to expand your mudra and meditation practice it is packed with 30 mudra meditations for healing. I would be honored if you checked it out!

As always, I am here to support you. Please feel free to reach out with questions any time.

Love and Light,
Autumn

What’s the Difference Between Yoga Nidra and Meditation?

yoga nidra meditation

What’s the difference between yoga nidra and meditation? Aren’t they the same thing?

Hey there! If you’ve been around the yoga community for awhile, I’m sure that you have probably heard and maybe even tried out yoga nidra and meditation. And maybe you’ve wondered what the difference is between the two practices. Isn’t yoga nidra just like guided meditation? Well sort of.

What makes yoga nidra unique?

At a basic level, yoga nidra is conscious sleep or sleep with awareness and os often simply called “yoga sleep” or “yogic sleep”. It is a systematic method of guiding our awareness from the external to the internal, the physical to the subtle. It moves through the five koshas or “sheaths”. The koshas are the annamaya kosha (the physical body), the pranamaya kosha (the energetic body), the manomaya kosha (the mental body), the vijnanamaya kosha (the wisdom body), and the anandamaya kosha (the bliss body). I won’t get into the koshas too much here. I have a whole blog post that explores each of the koshas in depth. You can check it out here.

Yoga Nidra Withdraws Our Awareness

This process of moving inward shuts down the thinking mind and into a state of pratyahara (hallelujah! — please tell me I’m not the only one whose brain likes to do, do, do). Pratyahara, known as the practice of sense withdrawal, is the fifth limb of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga. And yoga nidra provides a systematic approach to withdraw our awareness. In yoga nidra we disengage the parts of our mind that are linked to sense perception. The only sensory input we keep “open” is the auditory channel and perhaps a little “feeling”.

To me, yoga nidra is a passive practice of awareness and receptive consciousness. It doesn’t matter if your mind drifts off. It doesn’t matter if consciousness falls away and the subconscious comes forward. The practice still works, so there is no need to force your awareness. With the mind quiet and receptive, the thoughts pause and we enter a state of pure consciousness (even if it’s just for a moment or two). In this receptive state, it is possible to work with healing old samskaras that no longer serve us and by using a sankalpa we can create new, healthy samskaras.

And finally, yoga nidra slows down our brain waves and helps us enter a space of deep rest. In a way, I think of yoga nidra as a game of “follow the leader” for the brain because the practitioner guides the entire experience. The mind doesn’t work to maintain focus, it’s just “follows the lead” of the teacher. The practitioner is like a gondolier or river guide, yoga nidra is the boat, and the student is the passenger.

What makes yoga nidra and meditation different?

yoga nidra meditation

On the other hand, meditation has become a bit of a blanket term for any practice that helps us gain insight and awareness. It’s important to realize that meditation practices span many different traditions and lineages, so it’s a bit challenging to compare yoga nidra and meditation. 

However, especially when meditation is a brand new practice, it requires effort, there is basically no effort in yoga nidra, except to not fall asleep. Meditation is an active practice of training the mind to one-pointed focus, whether that’s a mantra, an object like a flame, your thoughts, your breath, or something else entirely. With this intention, the mind is brought back to the object of meditation when it loses focus and “wanders off”.

Yoga Nidra and Meditation are Complementary Practices

Yoga nidra and meditation both have numerous benefits and the two practices complement one another well. As a matter of fact, scientists on multiple continents are studying these two ancient practices and finding that they reduce stress, improve sleep, relieve menstrual discomfort and so on. Check out my other blog posts if you would like to learn more about the scientific benefits of the two practices.

I would love to have you join me for a live zoom yoga nidra (check my schedule). Or try an on-demand yoga nidra on YouTube.

I would love to hear about your own personal experience with yoga nidra. Please feel free to reach out!

Love and Light,

Autumn

Ganesh Mudra for Courage & Confidence

ganesha mudra for confidence
Gorgeous pic of Ganesha by Pete Linforth

Hello from Bali! Yogis if you ever have a chance to make it out to Bali DO IT! It’s so beautiful. I’ve already felt the energy shift of being here AND I’ve only been here a little over a day. It’s pure magic. Since I am in Bali I figured it would be wise to teach Ganesh Mudra today.  Statues of Ganesha abound all over Bali! Some covered in moss or lichen, others adorned with flowers or mala beads, some with incense and offerings at their feet. It’s lovely. This is my third trip to Bali. Each time my energy shifts and obstacles seem to drop away…. Ganesh at work!

Mudras are shapes that you make with your hands to guide and direct the flow of prana and your awareness or intention. They’ve been around for ages and across cultures. Typically, they’re practiced in meditation, but some lend themselves well to an asana or pranayama practice.

Ganesh (also interchangeably called Ganesha), the elephant god, is the remover of all obstacles. Not only does Ganesh help us overcome life’s challenges, his mudra is for confidence and courage on our yoga journey.

hand mudra ganesha mudra for confidence

Benefits of Ganesha Mudra for Courage:

Ganesh mudra helps activate the root, navel & heart chakras. Practicing this mudra for courage helps us to trust our foundation. When we feel supported it’s that much easier for us to step into our personal power, while staying aligned with the energy of the heart. Ganesh Mudra activates the fire element and can help you act with confidence, courage, self-esteem, compassion and openness. Ganesh mudra, just as with Lord Ganesha himself, helps dispel fear, so we can achieve our hearts desires. On a physiological level this mudra releases tension in the muscles of your chest and may also stimulate activity of the heart and open the bronchial tubes.

To practice Ganesha Mudra:

Bring your left hand in front of your heart and turn your palm away from you (your thumb pointing down) and fingers bent. With your right palm facing toward you hook the fingers of your right hand with the fingers of your left hand. Elbows pointing out toward the sides. From here, with an exhale breath pull the elbows away from one another while keeping the fingers locked together (don’t let them separate). You will feel the muscles of your chest and upper arms engage. On your inhale breath release the tension. Repeat up to 8 times. You can use this mudra daily OR as needed; like when you’re feeling self doubt, fearful, or closed off from others.

Try this, come into a posture that makes you feel small and closed off, just pause here for a moment and notice the shape of your body, notice how your energy shifted. Now, sit tall and bring your hands into Ganesh Mudra and gently pull your elbows out to the side, just like described above. Then bring your awareness again to the shape of your body and how you feel holding this powerful mudra. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?! Try to become aware of how you carry yourself throughout the day. If you notice your posture becoming rounded (like when you’re at your computer or on your phone) and take a few moments to shift your energy. Give yourself a little Ganesh power up! 

Incorporate This Mudra For Confidence Into Your Yoga Practice

This mudra is easy to incorporate into a yoga practice too! Since it instills confidence and courage, I like to incorporate it into powerful poses like Crescent Lunge, Warrior 1, and Warrior 2, especially if we’ll be doing a strong balancing sequence later in class!

Amplify Your Connection with Ganesh by Adding a Mantra

I love combining mantra with my mudra and meditation practice. One of my go-to mantras is “Om gam ganapataye namaha” which essentially translates to “salutations to the remover of obstacles”. You could chant this mantra when you’re starting a new project or have a big, seemingly impossible task ahead, or even when you’re just having a rough day. If you would like to learn more about Ganesha, his origin story and significance in Hinduism, here is an approachable blog post about him.

If you would like to learn more about mudras or need a little inspiration for your meditation practice, I invite you to check out my book The Little Book of Mudra Meditations or join me for a live class on Zoom or an in-person yoga retreat or teacher training!

Let me know how your meditation practice is going and as always, reach out with questions.

Love and Light,

Autumn