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Yoga, Food and Wine goes Bulgarian style

I visited Bulgaria for the first time back in 2011, invited by a very good Bulgarian friend I met during my first month in Amsterdam. She took me to her house in Sofia and her sister drove us all the way to the Black Sea, were we enjoyed some relaxing days at the beach in a couple of small towns across the coast. To be honest Bulgaria was not in my top 10 destinations, but I was pleasantly surprised by its nice people, good weather, tasty food and of course the breathtaking mountain scenery of the Balkans.YoryogaSo when Kremena told me she was organizing a yoga retreat there, I knew right away that I wanted to join.This time the location would be Apriltsi, an enchanting little town in the province of Lovech, Northwest of Sofia.   It was a full week retreat but me and three other friends could only make it for weekend from Thursday to Sunday. We were picked up at the airport in Sofia by a gentle man with a tempting sign: “Yoga, Food and Wine”. I assure you we got some jealousy looks from the people at the airport. This is when you realize that you have nothing to complain, on the contrary, what a life to be grateful for.     Yoga, Food and wine

During the car trip to Apriltsi, my friends were mostly resting, after having to wake up very early that day to catch the flight to Sofia. So I enjoyed the silence and indulged in the contemplation of the beautiful landscape to both sides of the road. I love mountains. Maybe just because my home country is flat. Not flat as a pancake like the Netherlands, but we don’t have any big mountains around. Being there cruising across the highest region of the Balkans just made my day. After a couple of hours we arrived in Apriltsi and in the Trinity Retreat House. We sat in the relaxing garden for a snack and I had a chance to eat again those amazing Bulgarian tomatoes, so tasty you can’t imagine. They are earth-grown, by the neighbor next door. You know… the real thing.YFW 1 dMost of the group was out visiting a nearby monastery, and when they returned we had our first yoga workshop for that day. The yoga room was big and comfortable, nicely decorated and with window walls on both long sides. It was very special to do a warrior pose and see your arm stretching into the mountain forest ahead.Yoga food and wine

Later that night we had a surprise guest: a sommelier that introduced us to Bulgarian wine tasting. A way of getting into the mood for the next day’s activity: a visit to a real winery. Maryan winery is branding their wines with the names of kings and queens, mixing real history with legends. Their Rose wine (that won a Silver medal at the Balkans International Wine Competition) is called Sense of Tears, as a tribute to the sad tears shed by princess Kera Tamara. Her brother the king Ivan Shishman gave her in marriage to Sultan Murad to keep to the peace in Bulgaria, and legend has it that the first vines in this region arose from her tears. I thought this was such a touching story. Maybe because my wine tasting is more like wine drinking, or maybe it was all those heart-opening yoga postures… who knows.YFW2ff

Our last day was quite memorable. Early breakfast, yoga workshop, closing ceremony and a fun fight with colors in the back yard. At night after dinner we sweated it out learning some Bulgarian traditional dances. Later some of us sweated it again with party dancing. We didn’t stop until it was time to pack our stuff and say goodbye. A moment a bit sad, when you feel like a child pulled out of your friend’s house by your mother.But once again, like whenever I travel with a group, I’m always left most impressed by the people. It’s not a surprise that holidays and travelling -and of course specially a yoga holiday- seem to bring out the best in people. I’m happy I made some new friends, and connected with some office colleagues after this chance to really get to know them. And taking the time to talk to somebody you thought maybe you didn’t fancy so much, and be gladly surprised when they show you kindness. Another lesson learned, is what yoga and travelling are all about: a lifetime of learning.

By Romina Alves Pons Romina

Romina is an expat in Amsterdam that moved to Europe seven years ago with an itching desire to travel and see the world. She likes to stay fit and do sports specially yoga. Her favorite quote is from Anais Nin: “Throw your dreams into space like a kite and you do not know what it will bring back: a new life, a new friend, a new love or a new country”.



Why people do not like me?

Ok it is a painful topic and although I am celebrating today my 500th like on Facebook (non deniable great achievement ) I have to admit I am suffering from a well-known in the yoga scene disease- the need to please everyone and even worst of all the need to be liked by everybody.

This happened recently, one day I went to bed and when I woke up I had 7 people less on my Facebook. Overnight somehow 7 people got into conspiracy to ruin the peace of my week-end and disliked my page all together. Surely this was injustice I did not deserve. I felt so bad about it that I was all day asking- why people do not like me?

I spent the whole day asking anyone that will listen (mainly my homies (meaning the people I live with))this same question. Then my boyfriend said it clearly- Who cares? Are they still coming to your classes and events? And then it hit me- somehow the growing number on our pages makes us believe the importance of our work is bigger. Tortured by this for a good part of the rest of the day suddenly it made me realize few things about myself and it helped me find these truths:

  • The likes on my page do not measure my abilities as a teacher
  • The attendance of my classes should be the inspiration for me
  • The real connection I have with students is what really matters (unfortunately often I am unable to join them for social events and that is what I should focus on)
  • The fact that I have to learn to deal with rejection is part of growing as better teacher

Is about time we yoga teachers start seeing what we really do- we help people and it does not matter if they are 300 or 3 people. I appreciate each and every student- past or future one.

Now if more people dislike my page I will be in peace with that.

What about you? Where do you get your sense of accomplishment from? Namaste

5 clues that you need a break

mini breakSo the New Year started and you find that you are still your old self. Yes all the resolutions like get rid of old habit were only on paper. And now what? It’s been few weeks you are feeling down.

Here are 5 clues to find out that you are definitely in desperate need for mini winter break:

  • Your flow is been at least twice the same for the past few week (aka lack of inspiration)
  • You find that social events are not worth your presence instead you are taking it slow on your sofa watching the same sit come over and over again
  • Your lack of concentration reaches new peak when you actually take the train back to work instead to go home.
  • You are missing important meetings due to a badly panned calendar (or worst you still did not put your commitments in that same calendar)
  • You fail in your detox attempts miserably blaming the cold for it

There can be quite a few more added but I would like to hear from you. What are your clues?


Diary of a yogini

Diary of a yogini

YorYoga blog

How I spend my time off the mat

Reflecting on the past year.

So in attempt to start sharing more with you guys I said I will have a blog- J (here is where I totally made you follow my journey in 2015 just by reading my short entries in my diary )

I always pictured myself like some type of Carrie Bradshaw (she should have easier to spell name) typing furiously on my brand new laptop in a nice cafés or exotic places like Ocho Rios. Having cute outfits to go with my creative (well let you be the judge of that) writing. The reality is that whenever I will feel like I have something to write about I will have the time in the train(if I manage to stay awake or be able to sit) commuting to work to do that and then I will spend endless hours hoping you will read it.

Yes it is this time of the year again/ the most wonderful time some say/when you get the chance to reflect on the past 356 days and say honestly to yourself that what you did with your time was valuable or not.

So here is my year in achievements (more like facts really) laid out for you:

Number of classes taken 80

Number of classes given 217

Number of my own workshops 2 (nailed it -not quite sure what the big fear was all about)

Number of events hosted 6

Number of continents visited 3 (actually not sure on which part of the Istanbul my connecting flight landed)

Number of life changing trips taken 1

Number of times crying in frond of my students 2

Number of injuries due to x-mas party 1

Number of concepts for next year’s workshops literally gazillion

Number of casual yoga class taught 2 (I really need to bring not just jeans to class is just not professional)

Number of own places for yoga found 1

Number of friends /ex colleagues that is willing to sub for me and I am extremely proud off 1

Number of articles for my blog 2 (including this one- pretty lame)

Now if you have few of your own achievements on the mat or off, that you would like to share please do so I will love to hear those.


When the student is ready, the teacher will appear


As a fresh-out-of-yoga-teacher-training graduate, I was hungry for anything to do with yoga; I wanted to learn more, to practice as many styles of yoga as possible and by doing so – find my own style. I spent countless hours in yoga studios, from the very posh to the quite unknown ones, in search for my inspiration. I went as far as going to many countries and practicing anything that had the word yoga attached to it (in most cases I ended up being disappointed and annoyed that I still wasn’t not getting anywhere close to my goal).

Ironically, I was once back home in Bulgaria and went to a class that changed my perception of yoga for good. The pages from the Alchemist – “All you are looking for is just where you left it.” – were echoing in my mind so clearly that it made me laugh out loud LOL. Surely I was not wasting all my precious time and energy (and by energy I mean money) before this class- it all happens for a reason.
On many occasions when I was home, I wanted to go and see the local yoga teacher Hristo Iliev but something always came up and prevented me from doing so.
Finally, I made it to the one of his classes with my newest yoga mat in hand and I entered a world that was utterly different from what I was used to.

The class was 3 hours long, on a late afternoon and held in an old public library floor, the better days of which were long gone. There was no waiting list or gorgeous receptionist/host trying to sell you coconut water or a towel for 50 EUR. There were no deals or special registration – you enter, find a spot and then leave a donation so that the room could be paid for. There was no special routine to be done (like a couple of down dogs on your own)- there was no one to impress, or to compare yourself with. You enter and you immediately feel connected to the group, no separation or nervous small talks about nothing in particular.
The people going there could not have been more different from the ones I would normally encounter at the usual yoga studios of The Hague or Amsterdam. They went to the practice because they knew yoga works – they would say ‘this is the best part of my week”. Clearly yoga to them was much more than a fashionable activity they could add to their already full agenda.

Hristo’s simple approach to yoga left me speechless – he didn’t do a fancy flow as featured in pretentious yoga magazines, but rather conducted the class in a real yogi way. Ahimsa is a big thing in yoga – meaning non-violence (it all starts with not hurting yourself) and he was going through the practice with such ease that everyone around him got the same relaxed look on their faces too.
The calmness of his voice, the simple explanation of various assanas the extensive insight into how and why certain practices had evolved – taught me more about yoga in 3 hours, than the 4 months in school trying to remember poses names in Sanskrit or the 10 most effective ways to correct them. I realised that before this class I was practicing yoga from a different place – one that provoked me to prove I can do this, rather than allowing myself to truly experience the positions and actually enjoy them.

The day after the class felt as if moving in slow motion, everything seemed so clear and vivid, down to the smallest details.
I knew then that my yoga practice would never be the same. It took one class (not counting the 6 years prior) to understand that yoga is something within you. You shouldn’t change a bend or do anything that doesn’t feel like it comes from you. I am extremely grateful for this present and I look forward to sharing the philosophy that you can enter a room with bare feet and open mind, and simply enjoy the experience. Showing you that you are sufficient and that you can do more on your own than you think. You should start where you are and do what you can, without stressing your body needlessly.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Get ready to do YorYoga differently.

Enjoy your very personal journey in yoga – it is the best one you will ever take.