Digital Marketing, Health, Meditation

Train Your Brain for Maximum Productivity

In my on-going efforts towards building my Digital Marketing Agency, as well as my personal self-development program, I often find myself studying and strategizing about how to attain ‘Maximum Productivity’.  To be a successful entrepreneur requires a tenacious work ethic combined with a consistently positive and resilient attitude.  The business owner who can’t focus for extended period of time, or who reacts negatively to every business mishap or slump, will make his (or her) own life very difficult as they work to build their business.  Most successful entrepreneurs usually have an incredible amount of self-discipline, which enables them to work extraordinarily long hours to achieve the business goals that they are so passionate about.  But if we find that our own habits and perspectives frequently seem to be working against our own best business and personal interests, how do we ‘Train our Brain’ to function more in accord with our goals?

Scientists used to believe that our brain was fully developed, and ‘fixed’ by around the age of 25 – that our basic intellectual and creative capacities were fully established and that there wasn’t anything we could do to change them; fortunately, we now know that this is not true.  The science of Neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life, confirms that our brain potential isn’t fixed at any age.  So…  now that we know we actually do have the ability to strengthen and grow our brain’s capacities in ways previously deemed impossible, how best does the budding entrepreneur to do this?!  How can we get our brains to function in our own best interests??

 neuroplasticity

Nowadays, there’s a general consensus among scientists that Meditation is the very best method of changing the brain in a positive way (remember that Neuroplasticity means that the brain can change in either a positive or negative manner, so it’s critical you are ‘training your brain in a skillful manner).  1000’s of studies have found that Meditation is the best and most proven way to upgrade the human brain.  Although the practice of meditation may seem quite daunting in the beginning, following a sustained period of  training, our ability to manage our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions will dramatically improve.

meditation suit

All forms of meditation involve some form of concentration.  And one of the most common objects of attention is the breath.  To learn to meditate, and to begin to reap some of its benefits, we must demonstrate a willingness to commit ourselves to a meditation practice, and work our practice consistently regardless the obstacles that life may present.  As with any important task, we will reap benefits in direct proportion to the efforts we make.  As we continue our practice over a long duration, we find that our focus starts to come more easily and that we are able to maintain uninterrupted focus for a more extended duration.

 

As we proceed along the path of our meditation practice, we should start to notice specific benefits – we usually find ourselves experiencing greater levels of creativity and innovation in our work.  In addition, the practice of meditation is a fantastic tool for training your brain in the realm of attention, because it creates neural pathways dedicated to deliberate control of your focus.  Clearly, when you are able to focus more consistently through your day this has a huge positive impact on your business.  In addition, the process of directing the mind in a disciplined manner every day through a practice of meditation helps one develop that same mental self-discipline in their business.  There is literally no other practice that you can do that will have a more profound impact on your ability to manage your brain and business in the most productive manner possible.  And to think that medical imaging has shown that Meditation can change our brain for the better in as little as 11 hours!! 

meditation tech

There are many websites or gurus that you can turn to if you want to learn to meditate – some offer their advice for free, while others expect very generous payment to smooth your ‘path to enlightenment’.  If you are learning to meditate on your own, with the help of a book or online video, it’s good practice to start with small chunks of time, and work your way up until you’re able to sit for longer durations.  Train you mind consistently to achieve results – just like you would train a Muscle.

 

If you are serious about starting a meditation practice, so that you can attain the level of mind mastery that will serve as an unbreakable foundation for your business, my best suggestion is that you consider a Vipassana Meditation retreat (this is what I did).  There are numerous Vipassana Meditation retreats around the world – these are 10-day silent retreat where you Meditate for 10 hours per day, and you learn the indepth process of Vipassana with the help of a series of videos and lecture discourses. When you practice at one of these retreats, you will be learning the same type of meditation as the Buddha actually practiced.  And, the retreat is so genuine in its commitment to spreading the word of Vipassana Meditation throughout the world, that these 10-day courses are offered entirely FREE!  (But you will usually need to book several months in advance of the course as they fill up very quickly.)

 

Following my first Vipassana retreat I noticed many changes.  In particular, I found that I was much less reactive to external circumstances – rather than get stressed out in business, I found myself more able to simply process the information, and then determine the best strategy going forward with a calm and balanced mind.  My more balanced mindset made me easier to work with, and I found myself more constructive and less critical when dealing with contractors.  But one of the most profound changes I’ve noticed is that I’m now able to objectively observe whatever ‘thoughts’ occur in my mind; I can assess whether or not the thoughts are helpful or destructive to my goals and if thoughts are deemed ‘destructive’ I’m able to quickly eradicate them from my mind.  This constant pruning of rogue negative thoughts is one of the most important things to be done on an ongoing basis to train your brain to function in ways that serve your business and personal interests best.

umbrella

If you are like me – a person who is continuously working on their own professional and personal development, do not under-estimate the incredible value of establishing a Meditation practice in your life.  There is nothing that is as effective as meditation at training the brain to function in a manner that best supports your success.  But if you’re not convinced yet, consider that people who meditate are known to be happier and healthier.  And WHO isn’t willing to spend as little as 11 hours to be a happier, healthier person?!  It’s a no-brainer.  LOL.

 

Digital Marketing, Health, Uncategorized

The Role of Nutrition and Health in the Life of an Entrepreneur

I mentioned previously in another blog, that I began developing a more disciplined lifestyle a few years ago, when I started building my own Digital Marketing Business – it made sense to me that the more energy, strength and vitality I had, the better able I’d be to dedicate myself professionally to my business.  I committed myself to maximizing my health so that I could maximize my personal investment in my business.  Through extensive research of nutrition, it soon  was very apparent that the food and drink we consume plays a huge role in our overall health.  I’ve evolved my lifestyle and diet over the last couple years, and find that I’m now able to maintain the high level of energy required to work the twelve and fourteen-hour days that happen routinely for entrepreneurs when you’re growing a business.

running entrepreneur

When asked about the secret to his success, mega-successful digital marketing entrepreneur Sujan Patel said the answer was pretty simple:  he takes care of himself.  Sujan says that he treats his body and mind with respect and that this is one of the things that he does that most impacts his business success.  If you want to be successful over the long-term, ensuring your own good health is one of the most important things that an Entrepreneur can do.  Research suggests that a healthy diet leads to higher levels of productivity, happiness, motivation.  Consuming a healthy diet will also help you to live longer (which affords you more time to work on your business!!).  In fact, one recent study found that poor dietary choices are responsible for a 66% increased risk of loss of productivity.  For over-burdened entrepreneurs, this loss of productivity can be the difference between building a successful business and bankruptcy.  As a result, I’d like the share the tips and tricks I’ve learned that help me to keep my nutrition and diet on point in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

 

My 5 Tips for Healthy Food and Drink Consumption

 

Tip 1:

Keep It Simple:  I NEVER count calories.  And I’m not one that likes to weigh portion sizes or follow some rigid diet plan.  I focus on a Whole Foods/Plant Based Diet (I’m not stating that people can’t be healthy while eating meat, but most people do need to dramatically reduce the amount of meat that they’re consuming.  Plus, since I’m a Vegan, my purpose here is to share what’s been working for me, so I’ll be excluding the ‘meat talk’ for this blog.  By simply ensuring that you are eating the greatest majority of your food in its natural state, unprocessed by food giants, you will dramatically improve your diet and health.  Stay away from the middle aisles with their brightly colored packages in the supermarket and stick primarily to the vegetable and fruit aisles.

fruit

Tip 2:

Eliminate the White:  Refined products have no place in a healthy diet.  My personal goal is to eliminate white flour and white sugar 100% (occasionally I slip).  I stick with whole grains and healthy carbs and fibre that will provide lots of energy; if I do want something ‘sweet’, I stick with fruit, or have a few dates.  When you eat healthy carbs, like legumes, fruit and vegetables, whole wheat, millet, quinoa, brown rice and barley, you’ll feel full longer, and blood sugar and insulin levels will remain lower.  9 Healthy Eating Tips that Ensure Longterm Success –  The Business Journals

sugar

Tip 3:

Consume healthy Fats:  Nuts and seeds, avocados and mono-saturated fats from plant oils (like peanut, olive and canola), are all good choices to make when eating fats.  Through the last 30 years, fat has been blasphemed, as food industry giants began stripping products of fats and replacing with sugar for the taste value (it had been determined that it was ‘fat’ that made us fat).  Sadly, the general population got more and more obese, with experts now understanding that sugar is a greater factor in determining obesity than fat.

nuts
Tip 4:

Cook in BULK:  One of the biggest reasons for consuming unhealthy foods is convenience.  Although I’m a guy, I made sure to learn the basics in the kitchen so that I’m able to make the healthy foods that I enjoy without being dependent on others.  When you cook soups, or stews in advance and freeze, it’s always easy to grab a quick, healthy meal.  My mom’s a life-long vegetarian (now vegan), so I made sure to learn how to cook her very best recipes before I moved out into my first apartment.

bulk food

Tip 5:

Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate:  Drink Water.  Drink Water.  Drink Water.  I never drink juices or soda – why would I put that garbage in my body?  Good clean water is the drink that best replenishes our body’s natural fluids.  It’s ok to have the occasional coffee or to drink tea, but the drink you should consume on a routine basis is Water.  Proper hydration plays a significant role in entrepreneurial success, but during the craziness of a typical business day, entrepreneurs frequently ‘forget’ to drink a sufficient quantity of water to stay hydrated.   A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed dehydrations leads to “headache symptoms, loss of focus, a sense of fatigue and low mood both at rest and during exercise.” None of these symptoms associated with dehydration will help you to build your Business.

water

Great entrepreneurs aren’t satisfied to just make money – they want to build a lifestyle that supports their entrepreneurial pursuits and that also maximizes their enjoyment and happiness in all areas of their lives.  Many entrepreneurs would be surprised to learn that some of the most critical decisions they make on a daily basis are those decisions surrounding nutrition – the food you choose might not seem so important in the short-term, but eventually people are usually forced to face the gravity of their selections.  The saying ‘Money can’t buy you Health’ is very well-known because it’s TRUE.  To build a great entrepreneurial lifestyle, choose to excel and achieve mastery in ALL areas of your life.

Digital Marketing, Fasting, Health, Uncategorized

Fasting, Fitness, and How they Feed My Business Productivity

fasting

We’ve all seen the image of the fat, rich entrepreneur who uses his wealth to finance his numerous indulgences, generally leading to an early death (with the off-spring inheriting the business and ultimately ruining it – 2nd generation failure is a known ‘thing’ in the world of business and entrepreneurship).  But in my opinion, the true success stories, are the business leaders who’ve learned to master both their professional, as well as their personal lives; people who understand that the quality of your business success and bank account must always be matched by the quality and manner in which you live your life.  After all, it’s only when people truly lose their health, that many recognize it as one of life’s most cherished gifts, but it’s a gift that money can’t buy.

 

Over the past few years, as I’ve been focused on both personal and professional development, building my digital marketing business in Toronto, I’ve been studying and experimenting to find the very best strategy for maintaining optimal physical fitness, as efficiently as possible.  Even though I’ve been a runner, gym rat, and yogi for several years, I still found that I was occasionally carrying some extra poundage around the middle, as I also have a pretty hefty appetite (plus, I was also developing my strategy that would ensure that I could maintain my good health through my 40’s, 50’s and later years).  In addition, there are many other benefits that good health and fitness bestow upon the entrepreneur – poor health and nutrition has been linked to increased absenteeism and sickness in the workplace, as well as low morale on the job.  Workers who were overweight were found to have increased accidents on the job, and they were twice as likely, as average-sized folks, to call in sick for work.  None of these consequences of poor heath are helpful when building your business!!

‘Prioritizing Health can Help You and Your Business’ – Entrepreneur Online Magazine.

 

Studies also show that business people and entrepreneurs, who adopt a healthy lifestyle, are easier to work with, more productive and happier.  If you’re the type of person who always seeks continuous improvement and is always looking to maximize their chances for happiness and success, that it only makes sense that maintaining optimal fitness must be a critical part of their life plan.   ‘Don’t Overlook Wellness When Building Your Business’ – Entrepreneur Online Magazine.

 

I never enjoyed restricting food, and though I can’t be bothered to count calories, so most so-called ‘healthy eating’ plans required much more inconvenience and investment of time than I was willing to make.  But as luck would have it, a couple years ago I landed upon Dr. Fung’s book ‘The Obesity Code’, and I started to learn about the wonderful world of Fasting.

 

Much Misunderstood

Fasting has been practiced since the beginning of time and is a component of most major religions.   Although Fasting is often undertaken as part of a religious ritual, it is also the most ancient natural healing mechanism known to man (also known to animal – consider that when an animal is feeling ill, their first response is to refuse food!).  It’s probably because the last 30 years have seen such an upsurge in eating disorders and distorted eating, that Fasting is especially misunderstood  and maligned as a method of weight management.  Many doctors fear that engaging in periods of Fasting may increase the likelihood of a person developing an eating disorder.  Also many doctors and weight management plans discourage participants from weight loss that happens too fast as they insist the speed with which one drops pounds negatively impacts the participants chances of maintaining their loss.  Recent studies have proven that this is entirely false!!  And the rate at which you lose your weight doesn’t influence whether or not an individual is able to keep the pounds off.

 

Health Benefits

There are innumerable health benefits of Fasting, backed by Science.  I’ll list a few of the benefits here, but my best suggestion is that the results must be experienced personally to truly understand the incredible healing power of this natural remedy.

  1. Promotes the secretion of Human Growth Hormone – Human Growth Hormone has been used to treat obesity and also helps build muscle mass.
  2. Normalizes Insulin Sensitivity – Adults with type-2 Diabetes have shown significant improvements of key markers, including body weight and glucose levels.
  3. Normalizes Ghrelin levels (this is the Hunger hormone) – unlike traditional ‘dieting’, Fasting actually decreases peoples sensations of ‘Hunger’. From personal experience, I can attest that it was Fasting that helped me break my sugar addiction, as well as to decrease the portion sizes of food that I usually consume.
  4. Lowers your Bad Cholesterol levels.
  5. Slows the Aging process – food restriction is the only scientifically proven method of slowing the aging process and increasing longevity.

‘7 Benefits of Fasting + The Best Types of Fasting’ – Dr. Axe Food is Medicine

graph fasting

FAST!

As mentioned previously – Fasting is FAST.  There is no quicker way to drop actual fat and assume a healthier and more comfortable body shape.  Especially in the beginning of a weight loss initiative, when people may be feeling physically uncomfortable and lethargic due to a pattern of too many high sugar or carbohydrate meals, a period of Fasting can be a great way to jump-start your plan.

scale

FREE!!

The weight loss business is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Whether we’re looking at the endless list of the latest diet ‘fads’, to the huge number of diet and nutrition books, to the food giants, who pimp their processed concoctions as ‘healthy’, Fasting benefits none of them!  There is no upside to ‘Fasting’ for most of the players in the health and nutrition realm, as there’s little way to make a profit (in fact, the ‘faster’ always SAVES money!!).  So it’s no surprise that Fasting often receives negative reviews.

 

A couple of successful entrepreneurs/businesses who are open about fasting

Gregory @ https://kinobody.com/

Joshua @ https://www.utopianmarketing.com

 

The Types of Fasting

There are two main categories of Fasting – Intermittent Fasting and Extended Fasting.

 

Intermittent Fasting is more about limiting your eating to a specific window of hours, every day (example – you may practice what is known as 18:6 – this means you water/coffee/tea fast for 18 hours of the day, and only consume food during the 6 hour ‘feed’ interval.

 

Extended Fasting is generally considered any Fasts that last longer than 24 hours (Fasts that are longer than 10 days should be under doctor’s supervision).  Extended Fasting is a spectacular way to kick-start a weight loss routine or to drop those stubborn last five or ten pounds.

 

Personally, I now enjoy a lifestyle of consistent Intermittent Fasting (usually 18:6 to 20:4), with the occasional Extended Fasts (I’ve been doing a 5-day each quarter with a 10-day once per year).  And I have never felt so healthy or in command of my physical body.

 

Clearly, the more vitality and energy that you have, the more you will be able to dedicate your efforts consistently to your business.  In addition, your excellent health will enable you to truly enjoy the success that you achieve.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re growing, if you are frequently thinking about ailments and pain, the last thing your mind will be on is work. ‘6 Ways Yoga Can Improve Productivity At Work’ – Business.com.

 

Whatever I do in life, I make sure that I’m knowledgeable.  We’re so fortunate nowadays that there is so much information available at our fingertips.  Below are a couple of my best suggestions for reading material for those of you who are interested in learning more about the amazing benefits of Fasting!!

 

Eat. Stop. Eat. – Brad Pilon

The Complete Guide To Fasting – Dr. Jason Fung

 

Health, India, Uncategorized, Vipassana, Yoga

10 Lessons I learned on my First Vipassana Meditation Retreat

vipassana meditation

A few years back, when I was just starting to get serious about my digital marketing business, I began a serious pursuit of personal development. Having spent the last several years living ‘da life’, late nights, over-indulging in drink and other nocturnal substances, and generally leading a life of debauchery, I began to pursue a healthy body and mind with the same diligence and single-mindedness that I’d pursued everything else that I’d ever valued in life. Exercise and healthy nutritious foods were no-brainers to strengthen the body, but how would I tone and re-invigorate my brain? Meditation seemed like the perfect option.

 

I didn’t know how to meditate. And I wasn’t of those Indian-garb wearing, all-loving spiritual yahoos… But it made sense to me that meditation would exercise my mind in the same way physical exercises strengthened the body. So I did what I usually do when ignorance prevails – I turned to a book. I wandered into a second-hand bookstore in Toronto, and found a dog-eared book on Vipassana Meditation written by a guru of some acclaim; I studied the book cover-to-cover and set out on a ten-day self-directed meditation retreat, with the intention of exercising my brain back to its former glory. Below are the top 10 things that I learned on my own self-guided Vipassana Meditation course.

 

  1. Meditation is hard work: Although it would seem upon observation that Meditation is a rather effortless acivity, with people sitting passively cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, and breathing – not a lot sweat accumulation unless one is meditating in the heat of India – in reality meditation is hard work.  Meditation requires much effort (‘Right Effort’ it is called, in the philosophical writings about Vipassana Meditation). When one is training diligently in a Vipassana meditation practice, they are working intensely within. Training the brain to focus is HARD work.  And extremely rewarding.

     

  2. Good Posture really Matters: If you’re just sitting down to meditate for 10 or 15 minutes, your posture doesn’t matter too much. But just try extending that meditation session to an hour, several times per day (on a meditation retreat you may sit up to 10 hours per day), and you find out just how painful the simple task of sitting can become. You have to train your body to sit for these extended periods comfortably – there is nothing worse than being trapped in excruciating pain in the midst of a session, once you’ve already established you’re unwavering intention not to move.  You will get a glimpse of what true hell on earth really is. But knowing that this pain exists, and that it can be overcome with time and training, makes it much easier to withstand it.

     

  3. My Mind is Truly Nuts: Through the practice of meditation, we find ourselves sitting back and simply witnessing our thoughts for the first time in our lives. This may be a very disconcerting activity when you recognize what garbage your mind is frequently preoccupied by… tv shows, innocuous songs, trifling gossip are all among the wasteful nuggets that float across the landscape of our brains. Through the practice of meditation, it quickly becomes clear how much of our most valuable commodity – Time – we are wasting fixating on useless trivial information. The practice of meditation trains the brain to focus, and to become less distracted on time-wasting thought – this enables us to free our minds so that they can become more cnsistently engaged in activities that truly service our soul.  In our society, we have been conditioned to believe that our thoughts are important, sometimes even warranting psychological exploration. Through meditation we learn that our thoughts are not even us, and that the majority of these thoughts should be ignored and afforded no emotinal weight, so that our brain is free to focus on activities that best support our own personal developments.

     

  4. I Like Silence: During my 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat, I had to remain completely silent. That means no talking, texting or even eye-contact/communication with others was permitted in my program (it was actually pretty easy, since I set up my retreat for a party of one (me!) and didn’t make contact was any human or animal for the entire 10-day duration). I must admit, I was a bit surprised by how little I missed human contact, but perhaps as I was getting to know my most inner workings for the first time in my life, I may have been a tad preoccupied.

     

  5. I am Not Who I thought I Was: The intense practice of Vipassana allows one to peer below all the day-to-day bull that usually consumes our minds, And what we start to find is that there is a purity of spirit that exists beneath the garbage that’s been piled upon us by the influences of life activities and ignorant people. And we learn that the spirit beneath the crap is something we can actually trust. So it makes sense that the more frequently and directly we can learn to gain access to this purity of spirit within, the better we increase our chances of making high value choices going forward.

     

  6. Everything is Impermanent: During the course of the 10-day retreat, as you become enmeshed in painful physical and emotional sensations over and over again, you start to notice that these sensations arise and pass away many times; it becomes obvious that all sensations, whether positive or negative, are temporary. Translation – nothing lasts forever. This realization can have profound impact on the way you live your life as it’s a constant reminder that when faced with difficult tasks, nothing lasts forever.

     

  7. I am the Cause of My Own Suffering: Through my 10-day Vipassana Meditation practice it become clear that there was only one actual culprit to blame for my own suffering, In the past I used to look outside of myself to find the source of my pain – whether I thought some other person had slighted me, or whether I thought I’d been treated unfairly by circumstances, I now understood at an experiential level that my suffering is always the result of my reaction to an event, rather than the event itself.

     

  8. Equanimity is King: In Vipassana Meditation we learn that it is our attachment/addiction to Craving and Aversion that create our pain and suffering. When our mind yearns for something, or when our mind fears or abhors something, it will cause us great suffering. The main key is that we live must with joy in the moment, regardless our current circumstances – this frees us to pursue whatever step is required in our life-development plan, without being swayed by feckle emotions, yearnings, cravings or fears. We must be able to find joy always and know that that ability resides within us – a balanced mind which acts consistently with equanimity is our path to health, wellness and happiness.

     

  9. 4am is Good: Early morning rising is good for the soul. Initially, a meditation schedule that involves waking at 4am with an hour of sitting before a 6am breakfast might be off-putting for some people, but after a few days, I found myself enjoying the schedule. Waking so early really connected me to my more balanced animal nature, which innately seems to relish a schedule more in harmony with the sun cycle.

     

  10. Energy is Everything: Through the practice of Vipassana Meditation I experienced the reality that everything that exists, including our thoughts, are vibrational energy. And once we know this truth at a cellular level, we understand how connected everything is and how the arbitrary boundaries that exist between people and things aren’t real (not ‘real’ in the way we’ve been perceiving them…). We understand that our thoughts have as much power on the direction of our lives, as our words. And we become truly accountable to ourselves and our own highest good.

 

My 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat changed me in more ways than I anticipated. By gaining a greater understanding about myself and my own motivations, it actually made me a better sales person and more focused and effective digital marketing professional. I find I connect better and faster with my clients, and perhaps because of my enhanced focus, I’m more able to identify their business needs and objectives more quickly. I also seem to have developed amazing self-discipline and the ability to get things done as a result of my Vipassana Meditation practice.  Vipassana Meditation gives a person direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion. And the benefits of this enhanced clarity must be experienced to be truly understood. If you’re the type of person who is committed to personal growth and self-actualization, I strongly suggest you check out Vipassana Meditation and consider attending a 10-day retreat for yourself.

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Digital Marketing, Health, India, Uncategorized, Vipassana, Yoga

10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me BEFORE I studied Yoga at an Ashram in India

A year ago I decided to ramp up my yoga practice – I’d been studying meditation and yoga for a few years, and was starting to feel pretty darn yogic every time I visited the studio, so a trip to an Indian Ashram seemed like the next logical step in my journey! Having successfully survived India with many stories of life-changing adventures, I’d like to share with you the top ten things I wish someone would have told me before I left on my trip…

Ashram Yoga

1. The Daily Routine

Know that there will be a daily routine and that you will have to stick to it. You will, most likely, have to get up early in the morning, (sometimes as early as 4am!) and you will have to turn your lights off at a set bedtime. There will also be specific mealtimes and a schedule for lectures/workshops. If you have problems sticking to a disciplined routine, you may find the ashram schedule to be challenging.

2. Traveling Solo

For those people that don’t like to travel alone, Yoga retreats offer a great solution because there’s always a great group of like-minded people at the ashram. When you make a Yoga Retreat part of your travel plans, it enables you to enjoy the best of both worlds – time with others and time exploring your new surroundings alone. Traveling with friends and family is great, but you often find more adventures when you choose the solo option.

3. Pack “emergency snacks” such as nuts and dried fruits.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably soon be sick of eating Indian food all day, every day. Many students at the ashram found that digging into familiar foods on occasion gave their taste buds and body a break from digesting the heavily spiced Indian food.

4. Get your Gut ready months in advance

The stereotype about the food in India is true, with many Yogis suffering bouts of “Delhi Belly” – fever, chills, diarrhea, vomit and fatigue that lasts for days. This is definitely not the way you want to spend a yoga retreat. Strengthen your gut in whatever way you’re able. In the months leading up to your trip take daily probiotics, drink Kombucha, and eat cultured yogurts.

5. Pack Your Painkillers

Pharmacys in Rishikesh are Ayurvedic, which means that there is no western medicine. If you are a person who uses Ibuprofen to address mild pain, you will be thankful that you brought your supply from home.

6. Tame Your Cravings

Rishikesh is a vegetarian, booze-free town. When I went to Rishikish, I’d already been vegetarian for many years, but some of my classmates weren’t prepared for the dramatic dietary changes. When people are adjusting to new schedules and new challenges, adding the adjustment to a new diet is an additional unnecessary stress. If meat, eggs, or alcohol are a big part of your diet, it would be wise to gradually reduce these from your diet leading up to the trip.

7. Bring your own yoga mat from home

To put it bluntly, most of the yoga mats you’ll find in the ashrams for students to use have seen much better days; if you’re concerned about hygiene, you’ll not want to use one of the free mats. If you care about the quality of mat you use, bring your own from home. But if you just want something to last for your trip – you can buy cheap yoga mats in town, which you can donate to the ashram when you leave.

8. Bring Your Earplugs

India is loud. Whether it’s the incessant horn-beeping or the cows or the monkeys. India is loud. You won’t regret bringing your earplugs when you’re trying to get that shuteye before your 4am wake-up call! Sleep is critical when you’re on a Yoga retreat so I strongly encourage you to bring your earplugs.

9. Pack Light

Yoga retreats are generally very casual. In general, you’ll spend most your time in comfortable yoga style clothes. You’ll want to bring something basic to wear for the occasional dinner or evening out, but trust me – the simpler the better. Clothes are cheap in India, so leave space in your luggage to bring some Indian fashion home. Plan to buy your ‘India clothes’ in India!

10. Caution: Cows

Cows are considered sacred in India and they roam the streets. Often these animals elicit our pity as their bony frames are in such obvious need of food. Do be cautious though – I almost started a couple cattle stampedes through the streets of Rishikesh when attempting to feed some of my bovine friends.

Cows In India

11. (BONUS) Caution: Monkeys

Those adorable monkeys are everywhere in Rishikesh – but cuteness is merely a cover for their nefarious motives. While in Rishikesh, tourists are reminded to keep their purses and bags tight to their bodies or the monkeys will literally grab the items out of people’s hands. I witnessed one mom and her young daughter have their lunches swiped right in front of me. Bad monkeys.

Most important when planning a trip to a Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh is that you bring your sense of adventure. On my trip to India, I tried to cultivate a ‘go with the flow’ mentality.  India is a crazy country and can be a tremendous shock for someone traveling from North America. When you bring a relaxed and flexible attitude, you will be in the right frame of mind and prepared for all the unexpected challenges that India presents.