Friday, April 24, 2015

reflections in baja -- a full circle experience

The deeper I travel into my yoga practice and the further I push myself outside of my comfort zone to discover new parts of the world, while discovering new parts of my self, one thing becomes abundantly clear -- life is a full circle experience. We give, and we receive. One cannot occur without the other. Where we get ourselves into trouble from time to time, is when we give too much, without boundaries, and find ourselves depleted. On the flipside, taking too much without recycling that positive energy back into the world leaves us feeling imbalanced and incomplete. When we stay in the flow and honor the karmic circle of life, we feel energized, purposeful and complete. 

This past weekend in Baja, Mexico was just that -- a full circle experience. Positive energy, love, and purpose oozed from every corner of the Baja Yoga Soul Retreat. Every moment felt like I was doing exactly what I was put on this planet to do. Help people relax, unwind, breathe a little deeper, reconnect with themselves and nature, indulge, and then of course, complete the karmic circle by paying it forward. I felt honored to lead this trip, alongside my partner Amar Harrag, in benefit of a cause that is near and dear to our hearts -- Corazon de Vida Foundation. CDV overseas 13 orphanages in northern Baja, Mexico, one of which, Casa de Paz, is located in one of my favorite places in the world -- Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico's famous wine-producing region. Only a 45 minute drive from the coast, we created a unique experience where our retreat participants could wake up to the waves, practice yoga while gazing out at the ocean, then travel inland to explore the wine country and visit the beautiful children at Casa de Paz. A full circle experience, indeed. We give, we receive, we give, we receive . . . and the Universe smiles as we honor the intended flow of life. Here is a photojournal of our Baja Yoga Soul Retreat. I hope you join us on the next one!

valle de guadalupe ~ mexican wine country
thank you to our generous hosts Villa del Valle, Vena Cava, and Quinta Monasterio
for the delicious meal in the middle of your vineyard and VIP tour of your new spa, Viniphera.

karma yoga at casa de paz
this particular orphanage is set on a many acres of lush, fertile wine country land, so one of our key projects there is building organic greenhouses so they can live off the land and become completely sustainable. with wide open space to roam and sweet animals providing love and free therapy to the over 40 kids that live there, this home is becoming a healing sanctuary that I'm so proud to be a part of. {lesson learned:  piƱatas are always a good idea!}

thank you to Omar Araiza Photography for capturing theses stunning images of our yoga retreat.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

follow the sun - 10K GIVEAWAY winners announced!

Follow, follow the sun, and which way the wind blows when this day is done.
Breathe, breathe in the air. Set your intentions. Dream with care.
Tomorrow is a new day for everyone, Brand new moon, brand new sun.
So follow, follow the sun, the direction of the birds, the direction of love.
Breathe, breathe in the air, cherish this moment, cherish this breath.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone, Brand new moon, brand new sun.
When you feel life coming down on you, like a heavy weight.
When you feel this crazy society, adding to the strain.
Take a stroll to the nearest waters edge, remember your place.
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came.
So which way is the wind blowin', and what does your heart say?

First off, I want to send a huge love-bomb to our friends over at ISLE Surf and SUP for their generous donation to my #zengirl10kgiveaway. Last year, they asked me to help design their women's inflatable paddleboard and I'm so proud of what our collaboration created! When I hit the 10K milestone last week, all I could think of was how to pay this positive energy forward and keep the love flowing. I know the the majority of my followers are travel-loving yoga girls, so what better gift to give than the ability to explore and connect with mama ocean wherever you happen to be in the world. Of the hundreds of entries I received on instagram and here my blog, one captured my heart. I'm happy to announce that the grand prize winner is -- Sarah Colmenero aka @theyogagypster! Sarah is active duty Coast Guard based in San Fransisco and teaches yoga to her shipmates while on deployment. She has a deep love for the ocean, it exists in ever fiber of her being. She is a true mermaid yogi with a heart of gold. Sarah, enjoy your new ISLE paddleboard!

THANK YOU to our generous friends at VIRA SUN for hooking up 3 additional AMAZING yoginis with the sunnies of their choice. The winners are: @andreamicheleb // @gypsini // @aimeejm11 // Each of their stories spoke to my heart. I was reminded time and time again that the soul of a woman has depths only rivaled by the sea. I think that's why this whole "mermaid" thing resonates with all of us. We understand that life is way too short for shallow living and breathing. We dive deep into all that we do and never look back.

I know that these gifts will be an every day reminder to always ~ follow the sun, set your intentions, and dream with care.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Hi friends ~ I've got some exciting news to share! My instagram account just reached 10,000 followers and I'm ready to do my first big giveaway to say thank you for being a part of my journey! My heart is bursting with joy that so many people are interested in connecting with me, and above all that, that so many people resonate with my mission of inspiring myself and others to create more love, health and happiness in their lives. The time is NOW to release your fear. Life is waiting for you to get out of your own way and open up the channels for more positivity and abundance to flow to and through you. Yoga, breathing, paddling, connecting with my girlfriends and spending time with the ocean have been the biggest sources of inspiration and healing for me. Connecting all the dots of this journey, I thought it couldn't be more perfect than to pay it forward, and give this gift to someone else who really needs it. 

For all of these reasons (and more!) I'm thrilled to announce that for my 10K Giveaway, I'll be gifting an inflatable ISLE Stand-Up Paddle Board to one lucky ZEN GIRL follower! It's the perfect must-have for the traveling gypsy free-spirit mermaid yoga girl!

This time last year, I worked with San Diego local board company, ISLE Surf and SUP to design the very first inflatable paddleboard specifically made for yoga girls. It came out better than I ever could have expected! It's seriously so adorable and makes me so happy every time I get to paddle out. 

I've had some pretty epic adventures on this board. One time, my friend Jenny and I were filmed by a drone while practicing SUP Yoga on this beautiful board -- watch the video here


- upload fun photo to instagram
- tag #zengirl10Kgiveaway
- tag @zengirlmandy and @islesurfandsup
(in the text and in the photo itself)
- in the caption, tell us:
what epic adventures would you plan this summer on your new ISLE inflatable paddleboard?
- post as many times as you like between now and Wednesday, April 15
- winner will be announced Thursday, April 16

* note: to increase your chances, leave a comment here on this blog post. please include your insta account name. submit as many times as you like! make sure you use the #zengirl10kgiveaway hashtag -- that's where I'll be choosing from. the more times you post, the more likely we will notice and choose you. also -- we love creativity! get creative, plan an epic adventure and get your friends involved. they can share your post on your behalf. 

THANK YOU for believing in my dreams and being a part of my journey. I know that whoever wins this beautiful board will continue to spread love and light wherever their wanderlusting heart takes them! 

and  in  closing . . . 

all my love,
mermaid zen girl 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Baja - Yoga - Soul

What happens when you combine yoga, the beach, and wine tasting adventures south of the border?

Magic in Baja California, Mexico!

I've been traveling to Baja for the last six years and always kept it as my secret little escape, just one hour south of San Diego. When I started teaching yoga full-time in 2011, I thought it would be a perfect fusion of my two worlds to bring groups of open-hearted yogis to experience the beauty of my beloved Mexico. All these years later, I've designed and facilitated seven yoga retreats south of the border, with each one being more magnificently eye-opening and life-changing than the last. As I continue my own personal journey (both spiritually and geographically), I continue to meet more generous souls that inspired new, unique excursions to include in each subsequent yoga retreat. Every experience becomes a way of connecting the dots of my life, through people, places and powerfully blessed synchronicities. It is a constant reminder that -- we are all connected. 

Here is a little photojournal of my last yoga retreat in Baja, which included quality healing time near the ocean, letting loose in Valle de Guadalupe (Mexico's award-winning wine country), and giving back to the local community. We visited Door of Faith and Casa de Paz orphanages (through Corazon de Vida foundation) and got to soak up lots of hugs, laughter and gratitude from our time with the beautiful children. All in all, it was an incredible full circle experience. 

I'm hosting the next BAJA YOGA SOUL RETREAT the weekend of April 17th, see below for more details!

 Until next time . . .

all levels of yoga experience are welcome. 
all classes and excursions are optional. 
feel free to message me with any questions!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mermaid Yogis Spring Challenge starts April 1st!

I'm so happy to announce that we're bringing it back! Wednesday, April 1st, we will kick off the 2015 #MermaidYogis challenge. 30 days of yoga, connection, sisterhood, support and gratitude for mama ocean. This journey will be guided by me (@zengirlmandy), Amelia Travis (@stoked_yogi), Jaysea Devoe (@seavibesyoga) and Mary K Benney (@beachbeeyoga). Amelia, Jaysea and I live here in San Diego, California and started this movement in early 2014. Mary K lives in Havre de Grace, Maryland and will be representing all the East Coast mermaids. Join us on facebook and/or instagram to follow along with the challenge pose each day. 

sea foam and salt water in our veins, we live by the moon and the tides. in the sand and spray we are home, dancing with the rhythm of the waves. - mermaid manifesto

Here is the official challenge line-up! These poses were carefully selected with purpose and intention to help you embody the grace and strength of the ocean progressively, throughout the month. On day one, we start in seated pose, with a dedicated meditation to help set the tone for April. As we flow through the weeks, the poses become more challenging and complex, and as always, we ask that you listen to your body and only do the variation of the pose that is right for you and your energy at the moment. 

Embodying the goddess mermaid energy flow means that you are both authentic to yourself AND respectful of your community and environment. It is our hope that through these online yoga challenges, we can encourage yogis to become more connected to and therefore, more mindful of each other, the ocean, and our beautiful planet as a whole. One of our favorite mantras is: We are all connected!

How to participate:

1) follow us 4 hosts online (@zengirlmandy, @stoked_yogi, @seavibesyoga, and @beachbeeyoga)
2) follow our generous sponsors
3) repost the challenge collage (image above) and tag your friends to join you
4) participate in all 30 days, tagging #mermaidyogis and us 4 hosts each day

* Please note: You are not required to tag sponsors, however they are donating some really awesome prizes, so you may wish for them to see your posts. Totally up to you! We will also have some surprise weekly giveaways and tutorials via the Stoked Yogi YouTube channel.  
So.... are you in? 

Comment below if you will be joining us for the April 2015 #mermaidyogis take-over!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Zen Girl's Guide to Yelapa, Mexico

There's a famous saying, I'd rather have a palapa in Yelapa than a condo in Redondo. It made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it. Being from Southern California myself, I can tell you honestly that the condo's not so bad. Live any close proximity to the ocean, and I consider that blessed. But, it did get me thinking about exploring this little-known gem of a fishing village tucked away in the Mexican Pacific coast. I've been traveling in and out of the Puerto Vallarta aiport consistently for the last four years. Usually, as soon as we land in PV, I high-tail straight up north to the bohemian pueblo de amor of Sayulita (in the Mexican state Nayarit) where I teach yoga and lead adventure retreats. Rarely ever do I get to venture south of Vallarta. But, having heard rumors of magical jungle hikes through tribal land to giant waterfalls, and it being Bob Dylan's personal shelter from the storm in the 1970s, where he would retreat and find new creative inspiration, I finally took the opportunity to travel to Yelapa and see for myself what the hype is all about.

After spending 5 days there, I can tell you that I'm so happy I went. And you should too! Yelapa has something for everyone. The most rustic jungle lodges are nestled adjacent to luxuriously elegant villas. The all-day hikers and explorers share stories and margaritas at night with the sandy beach bums who never moved an inch all day. There's a palapa in Yelapa for everybody -- and that's just part of its charm. Here's my step-by-step guide of this world-class travel destination that you've probably never heard of . . .

1) How to Get There: After an easy 3 hour direct flight from San Diego, the adventure begins. Yelapa is only accessible by boat, so if you're not comfortable embracing the life aquatica, then this definitely is not the place for you. You catch a water taxi from either Los Muertos pier in Vallarta or from Boca de Tomatlan pier. From Muertos, it's about an hour boat ride to Yelapa; from Boca about 30 minutes. Grab a few cervazas before you hop on the water taxi (be sure to hook your boat driver up with one!) and it's all smiles as locals and tourists become friends on the high seas.

Once you arrive, you'll realize that the town has never been touched by vehicles, and there is a certain serenity to the fact that everything moves at a leisurely pace. No rush is the mantra in Yelapa.

2) Where to Stay: Hotel Lagunitas was the perfect fit for us. Charming and minimalist, with sand at our doorstep. Most places in Yelapa have little to no internet access, especially the higher you go into the jungle, so we chose Lagunitas specifically because there is a bit of reliable WiFi in the hotel reception. That came in handy big-time when my husband got an urgent work email during our stay, and was able to FaceTime with his business partner. All in all, it was the perfect place to kick back and watch some amazing sunsets from bed.

Oceanfront palapas on the north beach, ranging from $90-$130 per night. (more info here)

3) What to Do: After two days of laying face-down in the sand and having our margaritas replenished every hour, on the hour, it was time to move around! Yelapa has miles and miles of dense jungle that is just begging to be explored. Its most famous hiking trails lead to its 2 signature waterfalls. The first, most accessible waterfall is located a short 20 minute hike from town. That one was OK but over-run with tourists --meaning there were about 12 people ther. We had heard rumors of the second, more important waterfall, some locals called it Cascada Catedral, located a 2 hour hike deep into the jungle, each way. There are no markers and no signs, just some shady, contradicting directions we had received from a variety of hotel staff. We were down for the adventure, so we put on real shoes for the first time in days and set out to explore. We soon found out that people live along about 75% of the trail, up until you get really deep into the jungle, so just smile and ask for directions and they'll point you along until you need more help, and someone else will appear. It was a crazy experience, where we came across tons of sketchy wildlife (including coming face to face with multiple Coati -- a giant orange raccoon creature) but arriving at this huge mystical waterfall and feeling the vibrational healing of the earth and water elements colliding was so worth it.

4) Where to Eat -- put this on your bucket list, immediately! Ocean Grill is my new favorite spot to recommend to anyone that loves the mash-up of adventure and rustic luxury. It's reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast in the summertime, with a touch of European flavor and that amazing Mexican hospitality. There are only 3 reservations per day, so you must book online in advance of coming. Do not try to just show up in a water taxi -- we saw multiple people get turned away, even in yachts! The owners are down-to-earth and treat everyone with equally impeccable service, as long as you respect their policy of pre-booking. Once you're there, you'll understand why. Absolutely everything is hand-made or brought in from nearby. The octopus and oysters were caught off the pier and they want everyone to have enough space and time to enjoy the property. After eating the most delicious meal, you have time to explore the private beach and jungle on-site. The last water taxi leaves Ocean Grill at 5pm, so take the earliest reservation possible to enjoy this unique concept to the fullest.

5) A Special Treat: When I go back to Yelapa one day, I'll make sure to treat myself to a stay at Xinalani, or maybe even bring a yoga retreat group there. This award-winning center is tucked away on a private beach a few minutes boat ride north of Yelapa, near Boca de Tomatlan. This is the mecca for yoga, meditation and healing treatments in the area. Drop in for a personal stay or hop onto one of their existing yoga retreats and indulge.

Everything about our trip to Yelapa was a beautiful contradiction and stimulating to the senses. The warm smiles of the local people, the delicious fresh caught fish, the laid-back pace, mixed with the intensity of the jungle that draws you in deeper and deeper until you find exactly what you are looking for.
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