Sunday, August 31, 2014

30 day Yoga Challenge is back ~ Mermaid Yogis starts September 1st!

Here we are, sweet mermaids ~ at the end of a glorious summer, planting seeds and re-shaping our energy and outlook for autumn to come. Luckily, here in San Diego, we experience an almost year round endless summer, but for those of you that are mourning the loss of carefree days at the beach, know that this sunshine can always exist in your heart. 

Amelia Travis and I have created another 30 day #mermaidyogis challenge to unite all our sweet yoga and ocean-loving mermaid sisters around the world. This month, we've got two new yoginis hosting the challenge alongside of us. Rivka Reynoso (@rivkayoga) lives in Utah and teaches Ashtanga, Vinyasa and SUP Yoga; and Jaysea DeVoe (@seavibesyoga) our resident mini-mermaid, who just turned 13 years old and is the youngest certified yoga teacher in the US. She teaches locally here in Encinitas and trained with Amelia in SUP Yoga. 

This month, we encourage discipline, focus and dedication as we collectively shift our gazes to the closing of 2014. With only four month left in this year, I invite you to ask yourself - What else is left for me to learn in 2014? What areas of my life need more nourishment and more of my focus in these last few months of the year? 

We purposefully chose to start this particular 30 day yoga challenge with a quintessential restorative, healing yoga posture -- Supta Baddha Konasana, also known as reclining bound angle or butterfly pose. By starting the month together in this way, let our collective intention be one of self-care and self-love. Earlier today, I saw this quote from Olivia Wilde and it made me laugh out loud: "Take care of yourself now that you’re old enough to know how. Drink water, sleep eight hours (I wish), and don’t go within 400 feet of a tanning booth or I’ll slap you. Hard."  Haha! Well, that about sums it up! Have so much fun this month. Stay connected to us and the hundreds (thousands?) of other yoginis playing along from all over the world. Make new friends, invite old ones to flow with you and most importantly: spend some quality time out in nature, breathing, moving and taking good care of yourself. Here's to an amazing month!

The four of us hosts (Amelia, Rivka, Jaysea and myself) will be offering variations on each pose every day. Check in with us the night before and morning-of to learn all the different ways you can modify the given pose to make it accessible to you. We will be posting lots of photo and video tutorials on instagram (find me here: @zengirlmandy) and facebook.

A huge THANK YOU to our generous challenge sponsors this month! For the first time ever, we will be giving away this Glide Stand Up Paddle Board and paddle, along with surf-friendly Jolyn bikinis, organic sunscreen by Raw Elements USA, this gorgeous "salty kisses" mala by Blooming Lotus Jewelry,  Teeki leggings,  this traveling-yogi friendly Manduka yoga mat, block and towel set, and also cute shades from Sunskis -- a great company that gives back 1% of its revenue to environmental nonprofits. We only partner with companies whose missions are kind to the Earth and all of humanity.

For more on our #mermaidyogis movement including our upcoming retreat to Mexico and free guided meditations, visit us here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

72 Hours in BAJA: How to Pull off a Birthday Bash, South of the Border

We are so blessed here living here in southern California, where we can drive a short hour or two south and be in a different country. Baja California, Mexico has so much beautiful, interesting diversity to offer, it would be a shame to not venture off the path a bit to explore this unique region.

For the past few years, my husband Devin and I have been hosting these baja birthday weekends which are an absolute blast! The weekends always include: our adventurous amigos, lots of beach loungin', surfing, paddleboarding, delicious fresh seafood on the coast and a day-trip inland to Mexico's famous wine country, Valle de Guadalupe. In 3 days, you really get to experience the best of what Baja has to offer. On each trip, we discover a new place to eat, sleep or watch the sunset.

Baja is constantly evolving and yet still stays true to its traditional roots. 

On one trip, the electricity went out, so we dined in candlelight and made new amigos over almond tequila. Another time, we treated ourselves to the 3 hour minimum prix fixe feast at award-winning Corazon de Tierra restaurant. When our foodie friends Josh and Liz flew in from New York City, we took them to the super-informative underground wine cave tour at Baron Balche, which they loved. And when my girlfriend Chantel decided to host her 29th birthday party in Baja, together we compiled a list of our favorites from over the years and all enjoyed this 12 person BAJA blowout fiesta in her honor . . .

We stay at the beach...

Day trip to the Guadalupe Valley. First stop: El Cielo winery

Next stop: fresh oysters and green juice at Finca Altozano

Private Dinner at Trevista Vineyards - the winery all to ourselves!

Nightcap at Convivia - fun new cantina at Encuentro Guadalupe. Menu designed by Valle de Guadalupe female superstar Chef Flor Franco; creative beverages by San Diego-based Snake Oil Cocktails. The result is a highly inspired, highly inspiring cross-border collaboration that will WOW even the most cultured connoisseurs.

here's what mi amiga Chantel has to share about coordinating a big group south of the border . . . "When planning a trip to Baja with a large group, don't try to have a plan for every moment. Leave some room for the wherever the wind takes us kind of moments. Make appointments, but leave open space to explore too!"

nervous to take your first trip down to Baja? 
try one of these two groups that provide fun (not cheesy!) guided tours:

feeling adventurous?
i'll whip up a customized itinerary and make it smooth sailing for you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mermaid Meditation #1: Acceptance

California mermaid yogis Janalyn Yanover and Mandy Burstein take you on a 7 week journey through your self, back to your self. Inspired by the ocean and all things divine, these meditations will help bring you clarity and purpose, when it's hard to see the light. Are you ready to dive deeper?

Meditation #1: Acceptance
Mantra: I AM ENOUGH 

[ if video isn't loading properly, click here instead ]

This two-minute ACCEPTANCE meditation was designed for those days when you just don't feel content with yourself or "good enough". We've all had those days! This meditation will build you back up to remember your natural state, your greatness and that tomorrow is a new day, a new opportunity to shine.

more here:

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= instagram = @zengirlmandy @horizonlightphotography

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mermaid Meditations - are you ready to dive deeper?

California mermaid yogis Janalyn Yanover and Mandy Burstein take you on a 7 week journey through your self, back to your self. Inspired by the ocean and all things divine, these meditations will help bring you clarity and purpose, when it's hard to see the light. 

Are you ready to dive deeper? This is only the beginning...

meditation #1: acceptance meditation
mantra: I AM ENOUGH
launches: wednesday, august 20

comment below to let us know you will be joining the journey.

- more info -

@zengirlmandy  @horizonlightphotography

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Never Stop Learning - Why 200 hours of Yoga Teacher Training is just the beginning...

Henry Ford once said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or at eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young." This pretty much sums up my experience taking the YogaWorks 300 hour Teacher Training back in 2012. Teaching yoga to the public (instructing the anatomy of yoga postures and also informing others on living a yogic lifestyle) requires such a range and depth of knowledge that a brief 200 hours of training cannot possibly encapsulate all there is to know. For this reason, continuing education in the form of workshops and advanced trainings were created. After teaching yoga in the community for a few years, most yogis naturally crave a deeper understanding of what this all means. Staying curious, open and receptive to new knowledge and different points of view is a sign of a truly great teacher.

In September of 2012, I embarked on almost 7 months of advanced training in the YogaWorks method at Prana Yoga Center in La Jolla. It was a life-changing, purpose-affirming time for me that allowed me to dive deeper into my own learnings and also start the process of specializing in what I really wanted to contribute to the yoga world. My final project, which I presented to my training group in February of 2013 was the creation of a yoga retreat company called ZEN GIRL RETREATS. I'm happy to report that this year, I'm involved with creating and coordinating 3 yoga retreats, all with different themes and demographics, with possibly more in the making. I owe a great debt of gratitude to the program for encouraging me to find my voice and own my place in the yoga world. Here are some of my biggest take-aways from my 300 hour yoga teacher training experience with YogaWorks:

1) Meditation is not meant to be boring
2) Stop stressing out!
3) Your voice is beautiful and necessary - express yourself!
4) How to be a business savvy yogi
5) The importance of mentorship
6) We've gotta take care of the mamas!
7) Sthira Sukham Asanam

If you currently have your 200 hour certification and are ready to dive deep into your studies again, consider the upcoming 300 hour training at Prana in La Jolla. The YogaWorks method is extremely focused on intelligent, alignment and anatomy-based Vinyasa Flow with a concentration on meditation, philosophy, literature, sequencing, developing yourself as a business person and much more.

Training runs from September 6, 2014 - February 8, 2015. Everything else you need to know can be found here. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions! Love and Namaste!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunset Salutations with lululemon La Jolla

Tomorrow I'll be teaching a class at the Catamaran Resort and Spa in the Mission Beach/Pacific Beach area of San Diego in support of The One Love Movement. My friend Kim Bauman founded this great organization to help better the lives of local at-risk youth and create meaningful service projects for the yoga community and a platform from which yogis can give back.  

lululemon La Jolla is sponsoring this series of classes called Sunset Salutations. I'm teaching a complimentary one hour vinyasa flow this Thursday at 6:30pm, with snack and drinks to follow. Come flow, mingle and learn about the awesome work ONE LOVE does, including their big charity event on September 13th.

I love their mantra ~ SERVE YOUR HEART. Here's more information on ONE LOVE:

One Mission: To be a creator of community & an activist for at-risk & homeless youth, inspiring people to get involved and serve their heart.
One Purpose: To create a better future for at-risk & homeless youth populations locally and globally by inspiring people to get involved & give back, and by raising significant amounts of money for existing youth organizations who are making a difference through support programs and initiatives.

Here are some behind-the-scenes from my photoshoot with lululemon in preparation for our special karma yoga class offering tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Simple + Sweet: Blueberry Green Smoothie

My friend Alyson has an awesome blog which she calls the guilt-free guide to an eco-friendly lifestyle. Her latest summertime smoothie caught my eye and I just had to share this simplistic sweetness with you all. I've started my mornings with a green juice or smoothie almost every day for the past few years and love trying new creative recipes. This one's a keeper! 
Direct from the Simply Alyson blog, here's her BLUEBERRY LOVE green drink . . . .  enjoy!

  • 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 small handfuls of greens (I used spinach)
  • 1 handful of ice
  1. Add all above ingredients in order into high speed blender and blend until liquid! If you don’t have a high speed blender first add all liquid ingredients and greens and blend until liquid. Next add all other goodness and continue to blend (if you slice your banana before freezing it, it will work nicer with a regular blenders).
  2. Pour into two cups, share and enjoy the taste of summer abundance!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

30 DAYS OF MERMAIDS: reflections on hosting my first instagram yoga challenge

June was such a crazy fun month, I've never experienced anything like it! I co-hosted my first instagram yoga challenge alongside some of my favorite water-loving yoga girls: Amelia Travis (@stoked_yogi), Anneliese Brosch (@thesupyogi) and Michelle Gierst (@olympussup). We called it #mermaidyogis because all 4 of us have been teaching yoga on the sea for years and along the way, have met tons of other yoga girls from around the world that have the ocean in their soul, salt water in their veins and on occasion, actually believe that they are part-mermaid. Present company included :)

Teaching and practicing yoga on a paddleboard has been so empowering for me personally over the years because it routinely pushes me way out of my comfort zone and forces me to be totally present and one with nature. In hosting this challenge, we offered a yoga pose each day that you could perform on a mat, at the beach, near a lake, on the ocean - wherever inspired you most at that moment. We had a massively positive response, more than we could have ever expected, with over 25,000 uploads in just 4 weeks. While I live one block from the beach and frequently teach on or near the ocean, hosting this challenge pushed me to really, truly connect to the sea every single day, without fail. Even when I didn't feel so great, even on my "days off", even while traveling -- as we say in the instagram yoga world, #everydamnday.


During 30 Days of Mermaids, here are some lessons I learned:

  • Inspiration is everywhereyou (and I) just need to look a little harder.
  • Make time for your own practiceeven five minutes each day is beneficial.
  • Don't forget to breatheespecially on the busiest of days. 
  • Build your tribe -  if you're not feeling fulfilled by the friendships you currently have, try something different. new friends with common passions are out there waiting for you. put yourself out there, you won't regret it.
  • Step out of your comfort zone - as often as possible. For those participating in the challenge, that meant doing an unfamiliar yoga pose, taking a picture of yourself in this new awkward position and posting it online for the world to see. Pretty crazy huh?! For me, this meant putting myself out there as a "subject matter expert" and hoping that it resonated with people. It meant shooting short videos of myself teaching a yoga pose and hoping I didn't sound ridiculous. It meant connecting with other women and trusting them with that connection. All in all, I can say without a doubt that I'm proud of myself and the hundreds of other participants for stepping out of our comfort zones and trusting the process.
  • Sisterhood is a beautiful thing - there really is no need to compete. Society tells us that there is limited room and that's just not true. There is space for everybody to explore their dreams and create jobs out of their passions. Witnessing women not competing and rather, collaborating and supporting each other was a truly magical experience -- see the photo spread below. The TWO mermaid yogis meet-ups that we hosted in San Diego during the month of June provided a space for that goddess energy to flourish. 
30 days, 30 poses video - inspired by the sea.

what's next?

mermaid meditations - free guided mantras and meditations inspired by the sea coming soon.

#mermaidsyogis challenge 2.0 - this September, we are re-uniting mermaids from around the world to connect once again in another inspiring pose-a-day challenge, stay tuned.

Mermaid Yogis Magical Mexico Retreat - want to spend a week mermaid-ing with us? This November, we are heading down to Sayulita, Mexico for a week of ocean and yoga adventures. It will be magic. With a side of margaritas. Hope you can join us!

[ thank you to horizon light photography for capturing this month of mermaids so beautifully! ]

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zen Girl's Guide to Valle de Guadalupe - Mexico's Baja Wine Country

I am so excited to share with you one of my favorite places in the world - Valle de Guadalupe or The Guadalupe Valley in northern Baja California, Mexico. I've been traveling to Baja at least once a month for the past 6 years and discovered this beautiful wine region 2 years ago when tourism was still slow and it was relatively untouched. Even during my very first visit, I knew it was special. I felt like I was walking on sacred ground. 

But, of course, nothing this great stays a secret long! It's as if the perfect storm erupted in late 2013: two of the Valle's crown jewel restaurants, Corazon de Tierra and Laja were ranked in Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants; the border region became more safe and stable, allowing Americans and other tourists to once again feel comfortable driving into Mexico; and lastly, a collection of superstar chefs started getting major international exposure for their signature Baja-Med cooking style {Javier Plascenia, Flor Franco, Drew Deckman, to name just a few...}. These 3 things happening over the course of 2012 and 2013 set the stage for the Valle de Guadalupe to finally get the international recognition it deserves. 

The icing on the cake might have been Wine Magazine naming the Valle one of the TOP 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations in the World. OK, get the point! :) This place is super special, sacred, a must-see. Especially if you live in Southern California and are within a few hours driving, there really is no excuse not to take a little road-trip adventure south to indulge in our own local version of Tuscany, with its charming Mexican twist.  

Having stayed in the Valle many time, with budgets ranging from ballin' out! to bare minimum, I can assure you that all options are wonderful. I put together this little guide to show you my recommendations and help take some of the work out of your planning. Here goes....

where to drink 
my favorite vineyards, in order from family-run (the wine-makers themselves will sit and sip wine with you) to super fancy, global award-winning:  Vinos Fuentes; Trevista Vineyards (by appointment only - their 2011 tempranillo is to die for!); Hacienda La LomitaChateau CamouLas Nubes; Baron Balche (do the guided tour!); Vena Cava (at La Villa del Valle)

[these are just my personal faves. find the full list of all 55 wineries here]

where to eat 
Finca Altozano (Javier Plascencia's little gem, feels like a fairy tale!)Troika (baja-med food truck located at La Villa del Valle, perfect for a quick bite after tasting at Vena Cava); Corazon de Tierra (their 6 course, 3 hour dinner was ranked best in Latin America); Deckman's en el Mogor (open-aire dining); La Cocina de Dona Esthela (home-cooked classic Mexican food); Trevista Vineyards ~  for a special occasion, book a private dinner here with Hilda. Will be the best dining experience of your life!

* My vote for hottest new cantina in the Valle: Convivia by Chef Flor Franco, located at Encuentro Guadalupe -- just opened at the end of July, perfect spot to finish off a long day of wine tasting. Their yellowtail ceviche and mezcal cocktails are to die for!

where to sleep  

less $$ ($100 range) -- Vinedos MalagonCasa Encinares

mid-level ($200 range) -- Adobe Guadalupe; Hotel BoutiqueLa Villa del Valle

expensive ($300+ per night) -- Encentro Guadalupe and Tesela
tesela is my pick for hottest new hotel in the Valle! As of July, it's still under construction, but should be open in early August for the wine festivals, get a room while you can!

* cool and different: Cabanas Cuatro Cuatros aka Mexican Glamping.
*not right in the Valle but is overlooking the ocean (near the San Miguel surf break) and has a restaurant and bar on-site, so you can just relax there all weekend. Or drive 20 mins to the vineyards. ($200 per night)

valle de guadalupe vernacular

campestre - means country, and in this context, means outdoor kitchens, open aire dining classic to this region (some of the best in the campestre game are finca altozano and deckman's)

vendimias - the annual celebration of the harvesting of the grapes. In Baja, this happens every year during the first 2 weeks of August and is marked with huge parties, live concerts in the vines, invite-only dinners, fashion shows, charity events, etc. Basically, the party of the year - not to be missed!

degustaciones - translasted as tastings, you will hear this word a lot during your time in the Valle, if you're lucky :)

here's a collection of some of my favorite photos from travels to the Valle de Guadalupe:

my go-to before I head down:
I always check in with this blog as it has the most up-to-date, real-time list of new restaurants/hotel openings, road closures, insider tips and more.

more reading material:
Bon Appetit - Travel + Food Review August 2014 // Wall Street Journal - Burgeoning baja region // Travel Proper - Valle de Guadalupe feature // The Guardian - Mexico's exciting new wine trail // New York Magazine - Discover stunning wine country...

explore with me:
I'm leading a yoga retreat this August called Baja Yoga Soul Retreat. It will feature 2 nights at the beach, 2 visits to a local orphanage and a full day in Valle de Guadalupe, hosted by Trevista Vineyards, all benefiting Corazon de Vida foundation. Details here.
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