Traveling around the world, but also yoga has taught me to be more mindful with myself but also with everyone and everything that I am surrounded with.
It's been already 3 months since we returned back home to Austria from our big trip that lasted for 13 months. Now, looking back it sometimes even seems like we never left. And sometimes I feel like nothing has changed at all. But, if I look closely enough, a lot has changed. Traveling around for such a long time was a big step in my personal development.
After a few months traveling I realized that one of the biggest mistakes was that I left my yoga mat back home in Austria. It must have been June 2015 when I decided to buy a yoga mat in Sri Lanka. We stayed around 6 weeks in Arugam Bay on the east coast. I joined a few yoga classes right next to the beach. Oh, and it was heaven! At one point I wanted to practice more though than just a regular yoga class. All of a sudden a thought came up in my head: "Why don't you attend a yoga teacher training?" I laughed at myself and didn't think about it until a few days or weeks later when the same thought came up again. I told Michael about it and he was really supportive. Actually it seemed like it was the most natural thing to him and as if he expected it to happen anyway. This is the point. Except my partner, who was very supportive throughout this trip, I didn't have any other long-term influence.
When you travel you're not surrounded by any kind of social network. You meet locals, travelers, you make new friends, yes. But there's nothing like co-workers who tell you their worries about your plans. Or your family who might worry about you. Nothing. I didn't hear any doubts or comments. So, the thought in my head started to feel better and better. After all, one of my biggest goals for this trip was to become a better version of myself. Also, I didn't tell anyone about this before I left for our big trip. It was rather a thought I had, a little promise to myself. Whatever you want to call it. I started listening more to my feelings, to signals my body was telling me. At one point, it was clear that I should do the teacher training. Funny enough, shortly before we left Austria, I met with my yoga teacher for a cup of coffee. As we hugged each other and said goodbye she told me: "Hey, do a yoga teacher training somewhere and when you come back you'll work for me. Isn't that a great idea?" Funny enough I completely forgot about this sentence when I booked the training.
I looked up a few trainings in Thailand and Bali (specifically Ubud and Canggu). As we traveled together, we decided for Canggu. Michael wouldn't get bored as he could go surfing twice a day and also do some yoga, while I could focus on my teacher training. Another plus, I could go to the beach during my day off. At one point I just decided I'm signing up. No matter what. And so I did.
Ahimsa - do no harm
On this trip I managed to learn more about myself, my partner and I started to reflect more on all of my actions. I have always been aware not to book certain tours that would harm locals or animals. Traveling through Asia brought this to another level. Of course, people need money and I respect that they do certain things to provide their families with food. Especially in Thailand I was shocked what many tourists do without even thinking if their actions could harm others. Tiger temple, monkey circus, elephant riding, etc. is nothing that I could ever support.
While during the trip at first I liked to call myself a traveler, I realized during my yoga teacher training that I just wanted to separate myself from others. Who was I, telling others that I wasn't on vacation, I was traveling long-term? There's no point in separating ourselves from others. Yes, we are all different but at the same time, we are all the same. So in fact, we are at one point all tourists and as a tourist, we do have a certain responsibility, at least in my opinion. We loved staying in a typical longhouse in Borneo which supported locals and helped the community. We loved to visit sanctuaries in Costa Rica where people really take care of animals. Also, I won't lie and I loved our stay in a luxury jungle hotel in Costa Rica which provides lots of work to locals. What I have learned is to do your homework and do some research before you go somewhere, especially in Asia, but that's true for about anywhere in the world. Make sure the animals are treated well and that it's not only something to make a profit.
My plan was to eat less meat during this trip. So I started slowly to reduce the amount of meat. In India, it was quite easy, so I told myself to only eat 3 times meat per week in Sri Lanka. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't. It was okay as I gave myself enough time to get used to it. I kept on with my practice to eat less and less meat and at one point I didn't even miss it as much as I used to. Something that has truly influenced me was an encounter in Thailand. We left the ferry and walked past a truck that was just about to enter the ferry. It was extremely hot. In the back of the truck, I looked straight into the eyes of around 30 or more pigs who were squeezed together during the hottest time of the day. They all stared at me with their eyes wide open, scared to death as they knew where they would go to. As everyone who had just left the ferry like us passed by the truck, I noticed that we two were the only one ones who stopped to take a look at them. To say I was shocked is probably an understatement. I remember I took a picture, but it was blurry and that's the reason why I deleted it. I still regret it. But, I can't delete the picture in my head though and it was quite obvious to me that sooner or later I would become a Vegetarian. You can watch thousands of videos where people do harm to animals but if you see it in real life it touches you even more.
I have to admit though that I don't really like the labels people give you like 'Oh, you're Vegetarian?' or 'I'm Vegan'. I don't want others to stop eating meat or being a Vegan. I just experienced a very healthy way of living (and specifically eating) during our trip. Now I know more than ever before what my body needs. I need lots of fruits and vegetables, things that make my belly happy. When I eat eggs from my great aunt's chicken, I feel good. Those are happy chickens and they lay eggs just because they want to. There's no need to throw away those eggs and call me a Vegan. I believe it's about giving and receiving. It's about living in balance with animals and unfortunately in most places, we forgot how to do that. Once we knew how to take good care of the animals, we knew what good things we need to feed them and were grateful for their givings (eggs, honey, etc.).
Another side effect of yoga and traveling was, that I became more mindful with others, but especially with myself. I took better care of what I ate, started to see what kind of food does good to me and which doesn't. I learned to listen more to my feelings (what kind of person did I like to be surrounded with?) A big learning was that I started to say more 'No'. Although I like to remind myself often kindly that I should say 'Yes' to things I am afraid of, I learned to speak out and say 'No' when my feeling tells me to do so.
Back home I would go for another drink with a person I didn't even really care about, just because I didn't feel comfortable enough to say 'No'. Especially during my teacher training in Bali I had quite a few moments where I simply said 'No'. Whenever I felt tired, bored or just not comfortable anymore with the people around me, I left and decided to go home or to spend some time with myself. And it felt so, so, SO good! Sometimes I just left a group and drove to the beach with my scooter to sit down and be in silence.
Let's say the teacher training really helped me to become closer with myself. During our stay in a surf camp in Costa Rica, I would leave the group in the evening whenever I needed space for myself. I went down to the yoga platform, laid on my back and gazed up into a sky full of stars. There was nothing around me. The camp is on a hill and I would listen to the sound of the waves below me and focus on my breathing. After a while, I would go up again and have fun with the crowd. It feels so great when you start listening to your body.
I think practicing influences the process of becoming more mindful of yourself and others. I can't save the world, but I can take small steps to improve it, step by step. If I care for nature and environment, maybe others will do so too. I refused to take plastic bags in Asia since they love to pack everything into a plastic bag even if you buy one single item in the store. Whenever I went swimming in Bali, I brought out every plastic bag that I could reach in the water. Being mindful of resources, of organic materials and fair produced stuff is important. I have to admit I used to buy clothes that were for sure not even close to fair-produced. And I think everyone knows the circumstances under which most clothes are produced worldwide. It's a sad fact and we can change a lot about it. As consumers, we can ask the companies and now more and more companies start to produce clothes out of fishing nets or plastic trash. Social influencers on Instagram show the issue worldwide with the hashtag #whomademyclothes and label it as Fashion Revolution.
To be fair, I don't think everyone can buy fair produced or organic clothes. Simply, because many people don't earn enough money. Well, that's another issue for sure. I also like second-hand shopping a lot. There are some really cool flea markets or second-hand shops in cities around you and it's a great way to live a bit more sustainable.
Living la vida yoga - Asananas Yoga Club
Recently I came across a new yoga clothes label which is made in Germany. I was super excited to read about Asananas Yoga Club. They have great designs even for every day life. I love the fact that I can go to a yoga class with their shirt and later meet a friend over a cup of coffee. It's a great multi-function shirt. And it's a nice fashion statement between all my other fitness shirts. The label is created by the two creative friends Kaja and Biggi. The idea to create an own yoga clothing line came up during their time in a yoga retreat last summer. I know what you're thinking all these yoga retreats and yoga teacher trainings are quite an inspiration? Yes, they are! As caring yoginis, it was important to them to have clothes that are fair produced and that everyone is getting their fair pay for their work. All clothes are made out of organic cotton and are printed in Germany.
Quite busy at the moment I enjoy every second I get to do some yoga. Finding a peaceful moment, enjoying the time I can spend with myself. My shirt is from a cool, German brand @asananasyogaclub - fair produced & organic cotton. Perfect for everyday use or on the mat. Get 15% off with my code mafambani_ayc_2016 🙌🏼 🙏🏼 #asananasyogaclub #namaste pc @nussbaumerphotography
Get your own shirt!
I partnered up together with Asananas Yoga Club and I am happy to tell you that with every order you get 15% off until the end of July. Their page is only in German. If you don't speak German, no problem. Head over to their Instagram or Facebook page, send them a quick message with my voucher code and they will help you with the order.
Grab yourself one of the nice designs here with your own code: mafambani_ayc_2016.
The shirt I am wearing was a gift by Asananas Yoga Club. All opinions on it are however my own. All pictures are kindly provided by the talented Nussbaumer Photography.
What kind of fair and sustainable yoga brands do you know? How do you like this brand? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading this very personal post of mine.