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Category Archives: yoga

yoga retreat in Iceland

I’ve always wanted to see Aurora Borealis, or what’s commonly called “The Northern Lights.” When The Travel Yogi asked me where I’d like to host a yoga retreat, there was no question: Iceland. I’ve had this trip in the works for a while now. It’s about half full. People often ask how many people travel with me on retreats. I feel as if 12 is a magical number. This enables me to offer everyone enough attention in the group classes. Beyond that number, I see bodies. With 12 people, I see souls.

As the trip nears, I’m planning what to wear (naturally). Suggestions for clothing from my friends above the Mason Dixon line is welcome. And, I’m becoming more and more and more excited about the classes I have planned and the sights we will see.

What I love about hosting a retreat through The Travel Yogi is that they create impeccable itineraries. When I host retreats on my own to places I’ve never visited, when it’s over, I often think, “Next time, I would’ve done this instead…” Because they have been to Iceland numerous times, they’ve fleshed out all the details for me. So, I can teach. Teaching is my favorite. This is the reason I don’t own a yoga studio or manage someone else’s. I long for one thing: to teach. This is my path, my dharma.

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(photos: guidetoiceland.is)

I am excited to walk along tectonic plates. This scientific phenomenon has always fascinated me. In Iceland, you can have one foot in North America and the other in Eurasia.
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(photos: Antti Pietikianen)

I’ve been researching and contemplating how to best photograph these lights. With my packing, how many cameras can I carry? Decisions, decisions…
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(photos: bluelagoon.com)

The Blue Lagoon – um, I cannot believe this is going to be my life for a week. If you want one of the 5 remaining rooms, find all of the details here:

ICELAND

I’m about to book my flight. I’m hopeful to go to NYC for a day and then to Iceland. On the way home, I’d like to go through London (never been). I’ve gotta talk this over with the people in my life who matter most, of course 😉

Atlanta and Seattle are also great places to fly from. You’d be surprised how reasonable airfare to Iceland is. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate. Send me a note: amber@ambershumake.com.

Life Vessel Fort Worth at the Center for Healing Arts

I’ve been going to this magnificent place for around ten years – since I was trying to quit smoking if that gives you any indication. I’ve long loved acupuncture and all the healing modalities that Kim Perrone offers at the Center for Healing Arts. One year it was my new years resolution to receive acupuncture every 6 weeks. Sometimes the date would come and I would think, “I don’t need it,” but I’d go anyway and always feel better.

2017-07-28_0001.jpgFort Worth is now privileged to have the Life Vessel relaxation therapy here. I tried it – four times as is suggested – and fell in love. As a teenager, I loved tanning beds, and the life vessel kind of reminds me of a tanning bed in size (a bit larger) without the heat. You recline in comfortable clothing on a memoryfoamish mattress. Infrared lights shine above you. Sound waves vibrate beneath you. I had some interesting experiences in the vessel. I can’t really put words to many of them. You know how you feel after a good massage or gong bath or savasana? Well, it was much like all of those combined.

 

I like intensity, you know? And, when I find something good, I want everyone to know. On my fourth day, I asked if I could come back the next day, and the sweet lady in charge explained that this isn’t one of those “more is better” things. I was sad to give up my one hour of relaxation in the vessel. I’ll be first in line to return in three weeks for some maintenance.

Here are some of the benefits I’ve received:

  • central nervous system reset (i.e., I can rest well. I can digest my food efficiently.)
  • improved circulation (i.e., the tension in my forearms, wrists, and hands has disappeared)
  • less tension (i.e., I am not grinding my jaw at night).
  • better sleep (i.e., I wake just before dawn often without an alarm).
  • less obsession with sugar (i.e., I don’t know that this is related to the life vessel, but I know that when I sit down to eat, I no longer feel I’m in a competitive contest 😉

Read more about the life vessel here: lifevesselfw.com
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I think when I do it in a few weeks, I’ll hire a driver.
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Gaia Collective Moon Box | DFW Product Photographer

A few months ago, I wrote an intention in a notebook for some steady monthly photography work. I didn’t really know what this would look like. I just know that if I want to continue teaching yoga sustainably for the rest of my hopefully long life, I cannot teach as frequently as I do and have over the past six years. And, I have this new house…that I love. Every morning, I say to myself or any human or animal in earshot, “I love this house. This is the best house.” Yet, because I work at the pace of a greyhound on espresso, I spend only minimal time in my home.

Not long after I wrote that intention, my friend, Paula, came to take a yoga class at SoulSpace Yoga Community. I met her several years ago when I was young in my teaching journey and she was still in college. She moved away. And then, a few years ago, we reconnected at a training called Yoga and Psychology at Esalen. Three months prior, a colleague said, “If you ever have the chance to go to Esalen, you should go.” I had not heard of Esalen; when I read about it, I saw the training. That was in January. I went in April. Greyhounds on espresso don’t do waiting, sitting, staying too well – you know? By the way, if YOU ever get the chance to go to Esalen, you should go. It’s amazing.

At that time, around four years ago, Paula was starting a business called Gaia Creative which would send out a monthly moon box for the full moon. I thought the idea was brilliant. I remember at that time, I was managing Karmany Yoga and really sensing I wanted something new.

Paula gave me a piece of citrine and told me to keep it in my left pocket until I knew. Citrine is the stone of abundance. And not long after that, SoulSpace Yoga Community was born.

Today, @gaiacollective has around 33k instagram followers now and sends thousands of moonboxes each month across the globe.

Wow.

When Paula took my class one Monday, she asked me if I’d be interested in doing the photography for Gaia Collective.

I knew it was exactly what I’d been seeking.

I get to play with rocks and crystals, loose leaf tea, essential oils, and handmade jewelry.

There’s so much soul in these pieces.

And, I get to photograph them all in the comfort of my own home. What a gift during the Texas summers!!! When we put our desires down on paper, we invite the Universe to collaborate with us. I’m grateful for this new partnership.

Each moonbox features products from other small business owners who are pouring their heart and soul into their work. What a beautiful offering. And there’s a box for every budget.

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It’s so much fun to receive these gifts in the mail. Check out these rings from Alva Parla in NYC.2017-07-22_0004.jpg
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And the tea from Fruits to the Roots.
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Learn more here: https://gaia-collective.myshopify.com/pages/subscribe

If you’re interested in personal branding or product photography, find more info here:http://ambershumake.com/photos-for-digital-marketing/

this is what democracy looks like | women’s march on Washington

I went to Washington D.C. I had no idea what to expect. I arrived on the day of the inauguration. I’d never seen so much red, white, and blue. People so proud of the President. Proud to be “deplorable.” And standing in the street, so many others: angry. I receive comments from time to time from people who say, “Amber, how can you practice so much meditation and yoga and still be so angry?”

To which I say: How can you *not* be?

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Anger is part of the stream of emotion. My meditation practice has taught me to *be* with all of it. My anger has morphed to compassion, mostly.

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I feel deeply in the marrow of my bones that women from all economic demographics should have access to screenings for cervical and breast cancer, that a quality free public education is important, that abortion should be an option, that Muslims – and all immigrants – are welcome in this country, that my wife deserves all of the rights that a husband would have, that clean water is important, that science is real.

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I have struggled to understand: how can you *not* believe in these fundamental rights for all beings?

And, I have realized that perhaps you feel just as righteously right in your beliefs as I do in mine: you’re as proud to be “deplorable” as I am to be “nasty.”

I think I’m starting to understand: you fear big government and/or high taxes and believe a businessman can turn our country around; you lost jobs to globalization or technology or both, and you’re angry because the American Dream you were promised has changed; you fear Islamic extremists and people who enter our country illegally; you are God fearing and do not believe babies should be aborted; somehow (though I still don’t quite understand how) you don’t believe in climate change; you can’t fathom why your health insurance premiums are so high and why you should subsidize healthcare for everyone else especially those who do not care for themselves; you served in the military where you were taught to serve and protect using semi-automatic weapons, and now the thought of some politician taking your right to arms away terrifies you; you believe marriage is between a man and a woman; you fear people who defy binary gender norms in bathrooms.

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Please write to me if I’m speaking out of turn. I can almost empathize, I think. I think I know how you feel.

And, while I can understand, I don’t agree.

I know, I know…you want us to give Trump a chance.

I’ll speak for a couple million people who marched on Saturday: we can’t. We can’t be quiet when equality and human rights are at stake. And, what we’d really like is for you to understand why your insistence that we stop talking about politics is part of the problem.

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Because, if you can afford to look the other way, your privilege is showing. And it’s hard for us to see our own privilege. (At least, I know it is for me.) When you choose to say nothing in the face of injustice, you feed it and condone it…you normalize hatred and inequality. And, it’s not normal. It’s not ok. So maybe instead of covering our ears and closing our eyes and defriending, unfollowing, and creating walls, we can build bridges with our dialogue.

It won’t be easy, I know. So much of what’s beautiful in my life today is the result of hard work, pain and suffering. This personal history as well as our nation’s history gives me hope. We are a resilient people. And progress is a slow march.

One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed was these women who formed a barricade around the women who were protesting abortion. Their voices were heard. Peacefully. Nonviolently. I hope I can hold this image in my heart for the next four years and eternally.

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One of my dear friend’s mantra this year is: the whole world is my church. May we cease to dress fear and hatred up in religous clothing. May we remember that we belong to each other.
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To purchase one of these images, click here. 25% of proceeds benefit a local refugee who was in a car accident and is trying to feed her children.

when you pursue the Path, the Path pursues you.

Most of the time, when I tell people what I do, they find it intriguing. Sometimes these same people have succumbed to a job with a stable income while their dream career haunts them as they lay sleepless on expensive mattresses and high thread count sheets at night. And they say, “that inspires me,” or “I’m trying to figure out how I can do what I love.”

Often, it seems, I have these conversations in the studio bathroom. Typically as I’m changing clothes from a yoga class to a sunset shoot. Perhaps the bathroom is safe sacred space to ask the yoga teacher / artist how she manifested her dreams. Or, at the very least, as I wash my hands and inspect my teeth, I’m a captive audience for someone who’s inevitably changing from their work to yoga clothes.

Occasionally, when I tell people what I do, however, they look at me with pity. it’s not compassion – there’s a difference. the “oh you poor thing” look. I assume – though I don’t know – it’s: “oh you poor thing, you have to teach yoga / take photographs / write / sell essential oils just to make ends meet.”

And that’s ok. Maybe I’m emitting a frequency of poverty. The first year or so, it certainly was touch and go.

Indeed, I occasionally have to pull back the reigns when my boundaries get lax and remember that I am one person with the same 40 hour work week as everyone else. I used to pride myself on working 60-80 hours per week. But, why? Is busyness in business what I seek to teach?

No.

Busyness distracts me from my Path.

But, I will say this for my friends in the bathroom who are looking for a way to pursue their passions: multiple revenue streams are helpful, if not absolutely necessary, to loving what you do in times of both busy and slow, in sickness and in health, for as long as you shall seek to work happily.

When I have felt that I *must* pick up another class / take a job I don’t want / undersell myself / forego vacation in order to make ends meet, this work – as much as I love it – ceases to be my passion. So, my point is this: seek your Path – your dharma. Your dharma might be to teach yoga. Your dharma might be to create art. But, if you’re a single parent or the primary breadwinner or would like to retire in this lifetime, your dharma might be to have a well-paying job that requires minimal brain power so you can spend the remaining waking hours pursuing whatever lights you up inside.

With my upcoming yoga teacher training, prospective students want to know, “Will I see a return on my investment?”

I’m the same way. I own $50,000 in photography equipment and would wager to guess I have spent at least that in yoga trainings over the past 5 years. and, I invested in a graduate counseling degree that I’m going to pay for monthly, for at least 5 more years. And with each course and camera, website upgrade and training trip, I’ve wanted to know “will I see a return on my investment?”

“You have a degree you don’t use,” my now wife who once helped me start my business, said to me when I was working my magic on our budget a while back. She’s kinda right and kinda wrong. If not for that decision to finish that degree, I’d not have pursued yoga teaching as a part time, temporary thing. I wouldn’t have met the friends I did – one soul brother who married us nearly a year ago. I don’t think I’d draw the private clients I do. I don’t think I’d know how to get the people I photograph to open up to me and my lens.

This I know: when you pursue your Path, your Path pursues you. So I’ve stopped asking, “Will I see a return on my investment” and I’ve started asking myself, “Will this propel me on my Path?” And then I get quiet and listen for the wisdom within. In August that wisdom led me to turn down job after job after job in favor of a foray in film where I took photos mostly of the ground and the sky and when I could catch them off guard – my Dana and Cash Diehl. And this time allowed me the space and dedication to get outside help for an eating disorder that’s plagued me off and on – mostly on – for years. I can’t pursue my Path if I’m starving myself. And, I can’t write much about this part of my journey just yet.

Seeking the Wisdom within has yet to steer me wrong. Yoga helps me tap into it. May you – all of you…those who meet me with curiosity and pity alike – have the courage to follow the Path which lights you up inside. With or without a financial return, your soul will be fuller for it. And all we take with us when we leave here is the light we garner in this life.
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light up your life retreat 2.0

prana del mar 2017 announcement

I can remember sitting in my room awaiting the shuttle to the airport and fully knowing that I would be back the next year. And then I got home. And life happened.

Illness. Bills. Work.

Don’t get me wrong, beautiful things happened, too. Even in the trenches of life, there is beauty to behold.

For a brief moment, I thought, Maybe I’ll wait a few years to book another retreat.

In all honesty though, the experience on this retreat, in many ways, prepared me for what were some of the most challenging days I’ve had in this life. I can see how one experience prepares us for another.

See the magic that occurred a few months ago here.

Packages are available for $2195 – 2995. If you sign up prior to August 1st, you receive $100 off. Email me for all the details. amber@ambershumake.com

light + laughter | Prana del Mar sunset shoot

All my favorite people laugh well. If I was to travel the world teaching yoga, I’d take this gorgeous woman with me so she’d laugh at my jokes. Her presence in class is always a gift. So 7 days with her on a fabulous yoga retreat – wow. I think God gives us people who help us along our collective and individual paths. I know she’s done that for me. She wanted to do a shoot for a big upcoming birthday.

“When was the last time you had your portrait taken?” I asked her as we traipsed out to the beach.

“Olan Mills,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anyone else,” she said.

You are worth celebrating. Who you are…what you do – it matters. You matter. Never will there be another soul exactly like you. You, make a difference in this world.

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wind + water | sunset at Prana del Mar

This beauty turned 25 while we were on retreat in Cabo at Prana del Mar. We celebrated with a windy and whimsical photo shoot. Ahhh, that light. Maybe someone will hire me to tag along on retreats and take sunset photographs each evening. A girl can dream…

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how I’ve realized my childhood career dreams

My father sits across from me, only a gear shift away. We are outside of my grandmother’s apartment. I want to live in an apartment. Like the last complex in the bad neighborhood where she lived before. The one with the courtyard and the peacock and Myrtle. Myrtle is 90. I am just 4 years old, as this is one of my earliest childhood memories. I wonder if I’ll live to be 90. And she is tall, unlike my grandmother who’s crippled. Grandma walks with a crutch under one arm, and her fingers are tangled like tree limbs.

But, we have a house which is supposedly better somehow. We live next door to a bad man. He poisoned our puppy.  This apartment has a basketball court, and I’d like to practice, but Grandma says it’s unsafe to play by myself. She worries all the time and always locks the top lock. In the summer, she watches me and we watch The Young and the Restless by day and WWF by night. Sometimes she calls Myrtle to see if the wrestler’s blood is real or fake. “Do you think that’s ketchup?” And Nicky and Victor are getting divorced. I wonder if my parents will get divorced.

My father rewinds the cassette tape once again, and we sing, “What a Wonderful World.” And it still is. And he asks me what I want to be when I grow up. And I don’t really know. Probably not a pool man like him. (He’s hardly ever home.) “A singer!” I exclaim.

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Long ago, I cast that little girl out. At once, she is wise and innocent, confident and shy, sensitive and bold. She knows who she is and what she wants. She sees others’ fears as irrational and has not yet developed her own. She knows she’s here with a big voice and something special to share.

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:

When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul.

Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.

On my recent retreat, we sang each day. Through the chakras we journeyed holding space for others’ joy and sorrow, and everything in between. And the sound moved all the emotion. Each time I’d lead the chanting, I felt so vulnerable. At one point, I admitted it – out loud. “I chant every day, but to lead chanting makes me feel vulnerable.”

Don’t.” One said.

She sings. Professionally. She’s given me voice lessons when I was losing my voice each week. Her single word of caution affirmed me.

Someone I trusted taught me to speak from somewhere deep inside of me. I’m grateful for the teaching. Yet, like so many other new things, I misunderstood. I thought deep inside me meant low and baritone. And speaking in that more “masculine” octave all of the time was causing me pain in my throat. I now understand that deep inside me is that young carefree girl who wanted to sing. And her voice was not deep nor low.

Through chanting, I’ve found a way to sing. And through chanting, I can sit afterward in the silence held by the Sacred. I am doing my best to bring the young girl inside of me home. I broke 2 malas this week. Some say this is good luck. Some say my intention has come to being. I know I cursed a phrase I’m not proud of when it happened – more vehemently the second time. Sometimes the Divine shows off.

What we say vibrates in the world. The sacred mantras vibrate at a frequency far higher than four-letter expletives.

I know how to connect to my lower consciousness. I can stare blindly at my phone and social media for a couple hours. That’s always a great start. Haha. Haha but it’s only funny because it’s true.

Chanting helps me access my higher consciousness. Thank you to the teachers – past and present, seen and unseen, the kind and even the unkind – who’ve helped me find this Way. And to the sweet, brave girl inside my heart, I bow. The way she sees the world – her curiosity and tenacity – continues to astound me. Sometimes life, should we choose to pay attention, is far more beautiful than we ever could have dreamed.

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photo by Susan Ross on the beach at Prana del Mar

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