May 31, 2012

Ashtanga Yoga Retreat September 29 - October 6, 2012

1st Annual Ashtanga Yoga Adventure Retreat
with Krista Shirley and Elise Espat

at Xinalani Yoga Retreat (Near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

September 29 - October 6, 2012


An unforgettable week of Ashtanga Yoga, relaxation, exploration, and adventure.

Connect with like-minded people, immerse yourself in nature, and deepen your Ashtanga Yoga practice under the guidance of Elise Espat and Krista Shirley, both infectiously adventurous level 2 authorized teachers by the Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. This week will open your eyes and heart to the secrets of abundant living as you find yourself surrounded with grace, love, happiness, fulfillment, appreciation, humility, gratitude and inspiration towards effort.

Each day begins with traditional Mysore practice with the rest of the day to be spent as you see fit. Relax on the beach, cozy up with a book, or participate in a group excursion... Swimming with dolphins, anyone? Parasailing? Zip lining? Rappelling down waterfalls? (You get the picture.)

No previous yoga or Ashtanga experience is necessary. Just bring your mat and a willingness to learn.

Krista Shirley is a dedicated student and practitioner of traditional Ashtanga yoga. She travels to Mysore, India each year to spend time studying at the Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI). Krista humbly gives thanks to her teachers, Sharath Jois and Saraswathi Jois, for their guidance and love. "It is a true honor to study with Sharath and Saraswathi so that my own practice and teachings may continue to grown on the right path under their tutelage." Krista is a Level 2 Authorized Ashtanga teacher and founder of The Yoga Shala in Winter Park, Florida where she teaches traditional Ashtanga yoga classes in the Mysore method.

Krista’s dedication to her personal yoga practice and the Ashtanga lineage shine through in her teaching. Her energy is contagious and inspiring! Krista specializes in providing all her students with a lot of personal attention. Krista is here to help you begin or advance your Ashtanga Yoga journey.

Krista will be returning to India and KPJAYI for her eighth trip in January 2013.

Visit for more information about Krista.

Elise Espat is dedicated to the ongoing practice and study of the traditional Ashtanga yoga method. She is one of the few teachers worldwide to have received Level 2 Authorization, enabling her to teach both the primary and intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga. She is a student of many subjects including Sanskrit, philosophy, and anatomy and maintains an ongoing practice at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India with R. Sharath Jois and R. Saraswathi Jois and in New York with Guy Donahaye. Elise currently lives in New Mexico where she teaches at the Albuquerque Ashtanga Yoga Shala.

Xinalani Yoga Retreat is an intimate eco-conscious retreat center located on a private beach just south of Puerto Vallarta...

"Xinalani Retreat is about discovery, admiration, love for yoga, nature, magic, conscious travel, eco-adventure, wellness, serenity and mindful living. We aim to reveal the beauty of an unknown Mexico and share with our guests eye-opening vacations that inspire transformation.

We are an Eco Resort. We attempt to minimize our environmental impact. All guest accommodations have low consumption lights (LEDs) and are equipped with two outlets to reload cell phones and camera batteries. Our construction method was extremely organic: no concrete, no land modification, very little footprint. All guests are provided with high-end eco-friendly soaps and shampoo. Toilets are low-flow, and all water is recycled and used to irrigate our gardens. We use natural and biodegradable cleaning products, we recycle, and compost wherever possible."

7:00-9:00am Mysore Practice
9:00-9:30am Chanting
9:30-11:00am Breakfast
1:30-2:30 Lunch
Optional Group Excursion
5-7pm Lecture, Meditation, Chanting
7:30-8:30pm Dinner

All accommodation options are beachfront, spacious, palm-thatched cabins floating on stilts. The suites were designed with refined elegance and built and furnished by local artisans. Their cozy interiors inspire feelings of calm and serenity. Enjoy the closeness of the natural elements, the stimulation of the open-air private showers and the stunning views of Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific Ocean directly from your terrace.
more information

WATER: Swimming, surfing, snorkeling, dolphins, whales, scuba diving, kayaking, bodyboarding, boating
LAND: Hiking, zip-lining, horses, cooking, spa treatments, volunteering, visit Yelapa, visit Boca de Tomatlán, donkeys, waterfalls
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Everything you wanted to know about Xinalani that wasn't included here
Xinalani Yoga Retreat

More information and registration:


Beginners and new students are always welcome.

6:30 am Door Opens
8:15 am Mantra / Mysore
10:00 am Door Closes

Monday - Friday
6:00 am Door Opens
6:30 am Mantra / Mysore
9:00 am Door Closes (Friday)
10:00 am Door Closes (Monday-Thursday)

Moon Days (No Class)
June 3rd, Sunday
June 19th, Tuesday
July 3rd, Tuesday
July 18th, Wednesday
August 1st, Wednesday
August 17th, Friday
August 31st, Friday

More information:

May 15, 2012

Interview with Guy Donahaye, Author of "Guruji: A Portrait"

Last year I had this idea to interview Guy Donahaye - my long-time teacher in New York City - about his process in creating his book "Guruji: A Portrait".  Our process went on for months and led down many roads.  By the end we had more than fifty pages of dialogue and a feeling that we were only getting started and perhaps we ought to just start over.  And yet, there is something interesting in the bumps and stumbles.  Perhaps it tells us just as much and maybe more than a polished finished product.  So here it is, piece by piece, one by one, the first question and an answer.  More to come, maybe.

Reflections on "Guruji: A Portrait"
Interview with Guy Donahaye by Elise Espat - Part I

How and why did you choose to ask the questions you asked for the interviews?
When I arrived in Mysore in the early '90s Guruji used to give regular theory classes, but his ability to communicate was often thwarted by language problems.

Guruji spoke a little English but he had a strong accent which was often hard for English speakers to understand and mostly impossible to understand for non-native English speakers when he started to talk about philosophy.

In the first few years I was there, there were 15-20 students at his theory classes. We were French, German, English, American, Dutch, Swiss… a jumble of languages with varying limitations on the grasp of Guruji's broken English and Sanskrit. So his efforts were often mired in frustration. I felt for him (and for myself - I was also frustrated we were unable to learn more from him in this forum).

There were also increasing numbers of students who did not want to think too deeply. For them being in India with Guruji was perhaps a bit of a lark and not an opportunity to absorb the fullness of what he had to offer. Often they turned Guruji's theory classes into a bit of a circus.

Guruji was a scholar and had the desire to share the gems of the Upanishads or the Yoga Sutra with his students, but as time went by, the quality of the interest was often brought down to a lowest common denominator by questions such as "Guruji, what is the best kind of yoga clothing or mat to use?" or other perhaps important, yet mundane subjects.

In the end Guruji would often shake his head in frustration and resignation and say "You don't understand! Just do your practice and all is coming!" This was accepted by increasing numbers as a motto, and for some, as an invitation not to question any deeper. But I felt it was said in the context of frustration that direct teaching through the mind was not possible.

"Sat tu dirgha kala…" - perhaps Guruji's favorite words - "you practice for a long time! 10 years, 20 years, your life long, you practice!" He was able to convey this aspect of his teaching with absolute effectiveness - but what did he mean by "all is coming"? I think this is the subject of much of the book.

So my first motivation was to give Guruji a voice and to try to share his philosophy. Of course it is not his philosophy, it is the eternal teaching of the Vedas, Upanishads and other sacred literature of India, but unique in the way it came to expression through him.

Originally the interviews were part of a video documentary project. What I had in mind was to paint a portrait of Guruji, an Impressionistic image or collage, by juxtaposing different shades and hues of answers to the same questions. My questions were designed to be cut from the end result, leaving the interviewees to speak for themselves. You will notice there are very few questions which evoke a yes/no response.

I wanted to make the interviews as comprehensive as possible because I was not sure which parts I was going to want to use. When the interviews first started to take shape as an idea Guruji was still relatively unknown (Yoga Mala had not been translated into English) but by the time I started asking the first questions (1999), he was already traveling and teaching extensively and had become well known in the West.

While I had been motivated to write a book myself, I felt that the voices of others would give much greater authority and weight - and as it turns out also wisdom, eloquence and insight! The questions covered several areas such as: Guruji as teacher, the practice, theory, Guruji as family man, origins of the series and the individual experiences of the interviewees. As time went by the question list became more comprehensive, but it changed with each interview as I noted particular areas of interest or expertise. If I found the subject going in an interesting direction, I would follow it.

I have always known yoga as a spiritual practice, but many I have met on the path are more interested in the material benefits. Although the book is called "Guruji" and does contain biographical and anecdotal stories about his life, the larger part of the book is devoted to what he was teaching. What is yoga? And how should practice be applied? What are the benefits? And what is the metaphysical viewpoint which underpins the yogic knowledge? Guruji is the lens, the teacher,  but the main object of interest is yoga itself. Because there was no clearly (or universally) understood "Ashtanga Yoga Philosophy" amongst his students, his philosophy became summed up by many as 99% practice, 1% theory, do you practice and all is coming etc - and that was about it. I felt this imbalance needed correcting.

Guy Interview

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