A yogi discovers a path to serving others in a Parisian park
I have always had a desire to contribute to the global good. While connecting with and serving others may appear to be an elevated pursuit, it is one I feel deeply committed to, however it needs to unfold.
And yet, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to make it happen — how I was going to thread my interests, vision and skill sets together. Growing up, I tried a variety of sports and had aspirations to be just about everything I learned about in school: archaeologist, artist, singer, actor, writer and fashion designer to name a few. The one constant in my life however, was dance — and an underlying interest in world peace, to add to my other lofty goals. In college my studies were in the dramatic arts sprinkled with French, but my heart remained rooted in the desire to help others.
Even though I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get where I was heading, that is often how the seed of desire is planted: with tiny steps of intention, even if on wobbly legs.
Somewhere along the way to finishing my thesis on sustainable fashion (not surprisingly, sustainable fashion is connected to this overall arch of sustainable living), I discovered that I was able to help others through yoga and nutrition — two things that went hand-in-hand and had turned my world right-side up.
After moving to New York in 2010, I dedicated myself to deepening my yoga practice by becoming a teacher while also pursuing wellness consulting. I learned how to work with my body with attention to alignment, to listen to my body, and connect to what it means to live an authentic life. I became increasingly more certain that this ongoing work of infusing mindful practices into modern day life was not only my mission, but also the continual undercurrent of my vision of being in service to others, both personally and professionally.
One of my mantras this year has been: I am a global leader.
The undertaking feels massive, but also exhilarating and in complete alignment with my personal path. It is an enormous privilege and, although I do not take myself too seriously, I do not take this task lightly.
I have always been an avid traveler. After hosting several retreats in the Caribbean and Costa Rica, I knew I would somehow find a way to keep sharing this work worldwide. So, after a week of teaching and co-hosting The Provence Experience at a chateau in Aix en Provence in the south of France this past June, founder Danielle Imperato and I decided to take the Provençal joie de vivre to Paris. As they say: Paris is always a good idea.
In Provence, we buzzed around for a week creating a well-rounded experience that involved morning yoga paired with French-style breakfast spreads, local excursions, relaxation by the pool or in the garden, beautifully prepared meals by a local chef, plus evening apéro and late-night conversations. It was, in a word, parfait.
Our team had no idea that we would then go on to host wellness pop-ups for the remainder of the summer.
We did, however, have every intention of creating community around culture, cuisine and a balanced healthy lifestyle (where wellness meets wine). Of course, behind the scenes of our rejuvenating pop-ups was exhaustive planning. Yoga mats, food, décor and swag were artfully arranged in a tiny Parisian apartment. Our days were spent running up and down stairs to cabs parked half on the sidewalk with bags of gear which we whisked from one pop-up location to the next — fueled with immense gratitude from our full yet slightly delirious hearts.
We were blown away by the incredible international crew that showed up to hang out with us and be a part of this spontaneous pop-up experiment. We couldn’t have imagined the new friends we would make and the deep connections amongst our group that would occur. It was a summer of a lifetime.
The locals and expats were happy to slip easily into a new, like-minded community of people who were seeking an outdoor experience in celebration of yoga and movement classes, and something fun to do on a sweet summer day (especially as it involved rosé).
We gathered on a few weekday evenings and Sunday afternoons in iconic parks like the Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg; designated a spot for everyone to join, plop down their yoga mats and indulge in a typical picnic of baguette or viennoiseries and beurre demi sel.
Eventually, attendees began bringing their own potluck contributions as we transitioned fluidly from yoga and meditation into an open-air gathering of music, food, and sharing.
It was not uncommon to stay late into the afternoon or evening getting to know new people, playing with the local acro-yogis, rolling around the grass, and generally just enjoying each other’s company set amidst gorgeous Parisian backdrops. It was love at first pop-up.
The Provence Experience in Paris was an unforgettable season. It was also an enormous honor to teach this community — and more importantly to be taught: how to be a better teacher, how to use my words more clearly and intentionally, how to see myself in others, how to listen and be present, and how to fully enjoy the moment (and the butter).
Bottom line: Keep doing what you love, even if the outcome is a total mystery and you have no clue how the pieces can possibly thread together. It may very well result in something much more magical than you could have ever imagined.
Enjoy this relaxing 12-minute mediation from Sasha Nelson
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