Monday, January 26, 2009

Reset Button

Many Croatian architects seem to have skipped the class on curb appeal. The small city center, with all its charms and adorned facades quickly gives way to the utilitarian, industrial grey buildings surrounding it. But the stark cement outers belie their wondrous interiors.
In a squat, grey cement rectangle I find a bright, charming café, home to the lightest and most delicious cheese-filled croissant I have ever devoured. Down a dimly lit alley I find a world class bookstore whose voluminous stacks envelope me for hours. And on a side street, not far from the Centro, is a non-descript building with a frosted glass door, and inside that door lies the heart of yoga, at least for me.
In Bali I had three teachers, Katiza Satya, the Columbia born yogi firecracker, and Marco and Sandra Bianco my beautiful hosts here in Croatia. When I finished teacher training I gave them each a mala (prayer beads) adorned with one more than the requisite 108 beads. The additional bead was colored to represent each of them.

Katiza’s was pink and green – the color of the heart chakra, since to me she simply embodies love and joy. Sandra’s was red, the root chakra, for me she is the graceful ideal of rooted spirituality and practice. And Marco’s was gold – the crown chakra, someone so intangibly evolved that aspiring to be like him seems all too lofty of a goal.
So it is here in Zagreb that I have come to practice with the two ends of the chakra spectrum and to inadvertently, or perhaps not, hit the reset button on my yogic journey. Lately I have become more traveler/yogi, than yogi/traveler and without clearly defining that issue beforehand, I find that I have reestablished the balance I had in Bali, and hope to maintain from now on.

So funny how you end up with or where you need when you need it. I never planned on skiing in Italy on this trip, so I never planned to be a country away from my teachers. The old Rachel never dreamed of visiting Eastern Europe or India, but here I am and in a month there I will be.

Life continues to amaze me. Go out and live it!

Zagreb, Craotia

Friday, January 23, 2009

Snow Daze

Two days of fantastic Dolomite skiing under our belts, Roberto and I rented an Alpha Romeo and exchanged teleferics for the kind of gondolas that float. Beth flew into Venice where we met her and all spent the day strolling the cobblestone streets along the waterways of this fabled Italian city.

I insisted that we do the most touristy of activities and hire a gondola to float the canals. We momentarily balked at the steep price, but hey… we were in Venice and I was being stubborn. As it turns out it was money very well spent – the trip through the back alleys and corridors was a stunning journey through time. We passed the flats of Mozart, Galileo and the summer home of Mussolini. We floated under the Rialto and through the Grand Canal. It was seriously like a dream – like being in a movie.
We stopped for a late lunch and then made the drive back up to Cortina. As we drove the weather started moving in and over the next three days it would snow about five feet.

The innkeeper of our hotel is married to a guy that used to race bicycles and he and Bob became fast friends. Aaron and Louisa took such great care of us and made the trip so much more than it could have been otherwise.
It turns out that skiing in Italy is not like skiing in the US. They actually don’t like it when it snows here and amazingly they close the lifts. The first day of the storm Aaron took us to Cinque Torri where there were 70 centimeters of new snow when we arrived. Thankfully, it had fallen so fast the area managers had not been able to yet shut down the lifts.

The snow kept falling making for an Etch-a-Sketch day, where you never cross your last track because so much new snow has fallen in-between runs. The slopes were absolutely deserted, we jokingly thanked Roberto for buying out the ski area for us. Aaron proclaimed that these were the best conditions he had skied in his twelve years there as he guided me through the trees and over some of the most fun drops I have ever done. It was one of the greatest ski days of my life!
At 3:30 the lifties informed us that they were closing the lifts early due to “bad weather” – read as: snow. We had been the only people riding the lifts since noon, so we were hard-pressed to justify ten guys standing around for another hour for just us. We loaded back into Aaron’s car and for the rest of the evening I honestly could not stop giggling. I mean people do not get to do this stuff!

The next day every ski area was closed down. Now far be it from me to tell another country how to run their tourist-based economy, but I do feel compelled to inform the Italian tourism board that skiing is a SNOW sport and thus not only does it require snow, but powder days are what bring in the hoards and thus the Euros. Around noon we finally found a running lift and we managed to milk another day of powder skiing out of the Dolomites.
video FIS Women’s World Cup was supposed to be running training runs for the race starting the next day, but due to about 2.5 feet of snow on the course, it instead became a steep and buffed-out powder run that we poached all day.


Italy was an absolute dream! I am pretty sure I have gained 5kilos in the last week and undone the six months of cheese-free living I just endured. My legs are complete jello and my back is wrecked from sleeping on something softer than plywood, but I am blissfully happy and the memory of that day at Cinque Torri will bring a smile to my face for the rest of my life.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cold Plunge

When my friend Roberto invited me to join him in Cortina, Italy for a ski trip, my response was – sure if I can use miles to get a ticket. This comment pretty much (I thought) ensured that I would not be joining him as trying to get mileage tickets on less than a month’s notice, generally doesn’t go smoothly. Amazingly however, the gods of free airline travel smiled on me and a ticket was procured! My penance for this good fortune, was a brutal flight schedule and affectively 40 hours of travel to get to Cortina.

To get to Italy I had to leave Bangkok around 6am and fly to Shanghai, China (break out your world maps and you will notice that China is not obviously on the way to Italy from Thailand). In Shanghai I ate a meal of dumplings whose contents and cost were completely indeterminable to me before venturing onward. From China I flew to Munich, Germany where I managed to find Roberto in the sea of people – no small feat since neither of us had a working cell phone and had failed to set a rendezvous point.

We boarded a train south rode it for about three hours, slept through our stop, woke up too deep into Italy, caught two more trains to get to a town from which we could catch a bus and finally arrived in Cortina at around 9pm, a few times zones and a calendar day away from when I left Thailand. That night it was all either of us could do to not pass out in our pasta, but as we stumbled through the town the reality that we were together and we were in Italy began to sink in!
The next morning we went out to get a cappuccino as we waited for the tram to open. I am not sure there is a better feeling than the mixture of excitement and anticipation that filled me in that café. After six months of Nescafe, I was sipping on honest to God Italian espresso, while diligently studying the ski trail map and staring up at the Dolomites with my dear friend by my side. Wow – how is it I get to do all of these amazing things?
Unbelievably the day far surpassed my expectations, which were really quite high. The sky was crystal clear and so blue it looked purple against the stark grey rock of the Dolomites. Thanks to friends back home I had all my own ski gear brought over. Enveloped in Gortex, merino wool and boot heaters, I was actually hot on the slopes. My fear of heights quelled itself long enough for me to ride up the teleferic in an upright manner and the crush of people on the tram prevented me from assuming my standard fetal position when I am dangling hundreds of feet over rocks.Up top the grin across my face began to take hold and it would not release its grip on my cheeks until many hours later. The slopes were perfect, groomed by Ferrari red Piston Bully cats, the wide and steep runs were devoid of people, soft and buttery. On the sides of the runs were fields of untouched powder, which I indiscriminately popped in and out of. Lift lines were nonexistent, as were lift attendants, it was like we’d been given the keys to the kingdom and all the guards were out to lunch.
Roberto and I plucked vertical feet like they were cherries. We tested the sound barrier as we raced down impossibly steep groomed trails and stopped only to ogle at our surroundings and we used trees drowning in powder as slalom gates. The grin kept creeping up my cheeks and my eyes welled with tears which then would freeze mid-way down may face. Skiing in Europe has always been a dream of mine and this day was better than I could ever have hoped.
We ate lunch with a 180-degree view of the valley below and the surrounding peaks, after which we did it all again until finally around 3pm our jellified legs carried us back to the tram and delivered us to the streets of Cortina.

Jet lag set in pretty good once we got back to town so the grin melted away for a few hours while I napped, but when I woke up and realized that I had just had the greatest first ski day of the year ever, that I was in Italy and that a dinner of something cured, drowned in butter and topped with shaved truffles awaited me, the grin reaffixed itself to my cheeks and off I went to restore my cholesterol to Western levels once again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yoga CV

Rachel Roberts
www.thisendup1.com
rachelcatherinroberts@gmail.com


I initially found yoga at the recommendation of my naturopathic doctor who suggested asana and pranayama as a way to control my worsening asthma. Over the next several years, yoga came in and out of my life until 2004 when I became increasingly dedicated to expanding my personal practice and yogic knowledge. Though my practice I have not only cured my asthma, but I have expanded my life in ways I could never have imagined.

In 2008 I left my home in Colorado to travel the globe through yoga, practicing under great yogis throughout the world including world-renown Vinyasa Flow pioneer Shiva Rea and Sharath Rangaswamy of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India.

Learning from different teachers and through differing styles of yoga has allowed me to blend traditions and philosophies into my own method of teaching – a combination of Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow, focusing on pranayama, meditation, mantra and yogic philosophy.
My journey has been documented at www.thisendup1.com a website about my path and the profound changes that have occurred for me. The site has given me the chance to share the lessons I have learned with a broad audience and the positive responses I have received from readers have inspired me to expand my teaching experience and to host my own retreats. Yoga has so profoundly and completely changed my life in positive ways that I cannot help but want to share it with others.
Training
2005-2007
O2 Studio, Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga advanced study
Steve Roger

Aspen, Colorado

2008
Gaia Tree Teacher Training
Marco Bianco,
Katiza Satya and Sandra Bianco
RYS 200 Certification
Ubud, Bali


Vipassana Meditation Retreat
Goenka Center
Phitsanolouk, Thailand

Pranayama and Ashtanga Retreat
Paul Dallaghan and Neil Barker
, Yoga Thailand
Koh Samui, Thailand


2009
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Research Institute
Sharath Rangaswamy
Mysore, India

Yoga Mandala Teacher Training
Shiva Rea

Ubud, Bali


Bali Spirit Festival
Workshop study with Mark Whitwell, Katy Appleton, Eion Finn, Swami Shankardev Saraswati


Formal Education
Bachelors of Arts with honors, Business Administration/Marketing
Fort Lewis College
Durango, Colorado

Teaching Experience
2006-2008
Private Instruction - Vinyasa Flow
Aspen, Colorado


2008
One World Retreats, Escape the World - Retreat Leader
Ubud, Bali


Desa Seni
- Vinyasa Flow and Children's Yoga
Changgu, Bali


Prana Yoga - Vinyasa Flow

Seminyak, Bali

2009
Kumara Sakti - Beginning Vinyasa Flow
Ubud, Bali

One World Retreats, Escape the World - Retreat Leader
Ubud, Bali


This End Up! Yoga Retreat - Retreat Leader
Ubud, Bali

Private Instruction
Ubud, Bali

Ashtanga and the Chakras Workshop with Shelley Smith
Updog Yoga - Rochester, Michigan


Sangha Yoga
Hvar, Croatia

International Guest Teaching Experience

Phuket, Thailand

Zagreb, Croatia

Aspen, Colorado

Cortina, Italy
Bali, Indonesia


Upcoming Engagements

Sept. 13, 2009
Workshop: From Shiva to Shakti - Asana & Meditation with the Dieties
Cincinnati, Ohio

Sept. 17, 2009
True Body Project benefit
Pendleton Pilates, Cincinnati, Ohio

Sept. 19 & 20, 2009
Ashtanga and the Chakras Workshop with Shelley Smith
Updog Yoga - Rochester, Michigan

New Years Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Meditation Retreat
India - TBD

March 21-26, 2010
This End Up Yoga Retreat - Ubud, Bali
Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Meditation with Rachel Roberts and Shelley Smith
Kumara Sakti Resort



Click HERE to view full professional CV

Monday, January 12, 2009

Check!

Sometimes I get to do something that is truly amazing and afterwards I think – wow, I can’t believe this is my life. Sometimes I do things and afterwards I think – well I guess I can check that off the list now. Wow, I cannot believe this is my life. The latter applies to my trip to the Golden Triangle and Chiang Rai.

One of the hard parts about traveling alone is the financial learning curve. It is always easier to take a leap of faith when you are splitting the costs. If I had it to do over again I would have rented a car the day I hit Chiang Mai and let the wind carry me up into the hill country where there are plenty of really amazing looking little resorts alongside rivers, on mountain sides and in small towns. But I didn’t know that before yesterday and sadly now it is time for me to head back south and soon to venture on westward.

I booked a full-day tour to Chiang Rai, The Golden Triangle and to a Karen Long-Neck village. Firstly this is way too much to try and pack into one day and should you find yourself up here looking for a day’s worth of activities, I’d say pick one or two of the three, but not all at once. Because we had so much ground to cover, we never stopped in one place for more than half an hour.
The van picked me up at 7:10am, twenty minutes early – always a stellar way to start one’s day. Our first pit stop was at a natural hot spring. Since it is pretty much always hot here, the springs aren’t popular for bathing, seems their main function is as an elaborate egg poacher. Many women carrying dipping baskets with all kinds of eggs, duck, chicken, quail, approach you the moment you get out of the van and offer to cook you up an egg or two, or ten in the case of the quail eggs. The spring is surrounded by stalls hawking all the normal Thai souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings.

Thai Hot spring – Check!

From here we did a drive-by of Chiang Rai, never leaving the van. Around 1pm we arrived at the launching ground for a boat trip to the Golden Triangle. For many years I lived in Durango, Colorado, a relative stone’s throw from Four Corners, the point where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona touch. The Golden Triangle is Asia’s equivalent on a bigger scale since we are talking countries here not states.

Chiang Rai – Check!
For 900 baht ($10) we were piled into yet another questionably buoyant long-tail boat and motored out to a seemingly arbitrary point in the Mekong River where the countries of Burma/Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.
We stopped off in Laos at another tourist market where I sent a few postcards and meandered through stalls hawking all the normal Laos souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings. (Seems Laos gets their souvenirs from the same Chinese supplier.)

Laos market and life risking boat trip at the intersection of three countries– Check!
A quick stop for a buffet lunch of unidentifiable pork products and gelatinous sugared deserts, then we were off for the Myanmar border. We stopped for, I think, ten minutes at the border, which was a tourist market filled with stalls hawking all the normal Burmese souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings. (I am just copying and pasting now.)

Two trips to Burmese border in the space of one month – Check!
Then it was off for the main attraction. In Northern Thailand there are lots of different hill tribes, one is the famed Longneck group. The women of this tribe wear copper bands wrapped around their necks beginning at age three and throughout their lives. At differing intervals more coils are added, determined by kilo weight more so than the number of wraps or length of one’s neck. At three you start with two kilos, or so our guide told us.

I tried on one of the coils cut in half and fashioned for easy photo ops, it was less than half what the adult women were wearing and it was VERY heavy. I can’t imagine what an Xray of these women would look like, extra space between each vertebrae in the neck, but the remaining spine crunched under years of added weight.

Posing with a copper coil around my neck – Check!

The tribe has been relegated to a specific spit of land located conveniently near the highway for tour vans to visit and alongside some other novel tribesmen, notably, the ones who stretch their ears and chew a kind of herb that turns their teeth black. The tribal women are easy to find as they all have booths set up hawking the normal obscure hill tribe souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings.

Buying a bracelet from a woman with really long earlobes – Check!

That concluded the tour, from here we drove three hours back to Chiang Mai where I poured myself into bed and slept solidly for the first time in a week. No roosters, no pigs, no fighting dogs, mosquitoes or slingshot armed children to stir me awake.

A decent night’s sleep in Northern Thailand – Check!

Tonight I board a super VIP bus back to Bangkok where I have three days to complete various administrative tasks, embassies, gift buying/shipping, doctor’s appointment etc. and then it is time to be cold, fat and happy in Italy! Additionally, I got a wild hair a few days back, thanks to a fare sale email United kindly sent me, and booked a ticket to Colorado for a couple of weeks after Italy and Croatia. The lure of friends, a soft bed and Taqueria el Nopal were just too great for me to resist.

Since we are now more than six months into this trip I should probably update you on the amended 2009 itinerary*:

January 14-23
Cortina, Italy – ski trip with Roberto and Beth

January 23-27
Zagreb, Croatia – yoga with my teachers Marco and Sandra

January 28- February 8
Aspen, Colorado

February 15-March 15ish
Southern India

Mid-March – early-April
Vietnam I think

April, Bali
This End Up! Yoga Retreat

May – June
Australia, New Zealand and Fiji

July-ish
Aspen, Colorado

July 20-26
Tour de France

Beyond - suggestions now being taken.

*All dates and locations are subject to change on a whim and without notice.