by Andrea Blumenstein
photo credit @kitchencoma
I had a sense that not all fun is the same, but I didn’t know until recently that a specific type of not-your-average good time has a name.
If you aren’t into the extreme mountain sports, you might not have come across this before. It’s called Type II fun. I heard a lot about this Type II fun while sitting at dinner or sometimes breakfast during the past month when I was teaching yoga at a mountain lodge (Llullu Llama if anyone is looking for a great spot!) in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian Andes are full, brimming really, with people who are all about that Type II fun. Don’t get me wrong, they like Type I fun too--that’s the stuff that is fun while you are doing it and after you are doing it, like mountain hot tubs and drinks on a boat.
How do you know if you are having type two fun? Well, it is a bit tricky because the “during” of the event/activity you are miserable. It sucks, everything sucks, you hate yourself for doing it, you hate your friend/boyfriend/whoever for convincing you to do it--even if it was your idea. BUT, what distinguishes this from your run of the mill bad times is that later, maybe much later depending on the level of trauma, you are so glad you did it. You are laughing about it! Telling stories about it! Even considering doing it again (you crazy beast!).
Did you get lost on a hike? Type II fun! No one tells a story for years to come about that time they went for a hike and then went home and ate a sandwich. But, if you went on a hike and got lost, forgot your sandwich in the kitchen before you left and ended up splitting a banana with some backwater type before slowly, painfully finding your way home, then you stumbled upon that sweet sweet Type II fun.
For me, just going hiking in Ecuador was Type II. It was so hard, I thought I was dying. I couldn’t believe that all of these people came all the way out there to do this. Ugh. (I went to teach yoga! Yoga is generally not Type II fun but never discount the possibility.) But then, later, over dinner with fellow hikers laughing about how my yoga skills somehow kept me upright when, if gravity had anything to say about it, I should have definitely slipped and fell in that steaming pile of cow dung! Yeah! And cool, beautiful photos to boot! Hello, Type II fun. It’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet. You know, to go over everything… they say that time’s supposed to heal you.
Other people that I met didn’t think a day of hiking in the Andes was Type II. Apparently totally forgettable in the mill of life. Fine. Those guys were usually also talking about spending twelve hours scaling an ice cliff and then--YES!--getting to the top. That is their level of Type II and that’s okay. It is a subjective thing.
Things that are almost always going to be ripe with opportunity for Type II:
The moral of the story? Get after it. Spring is here and there are all kinds of opportunities for Type II fun and the family-friendly equivalent. Here are a few suggestions to get you started
The Appalachian Trail offers a multitude of Type II fun opportunities and Pennsylvania boasts 229 miles of the trek that spans from Spring Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Head north from one of the many spots to enter in PA to find a challenge and for a small fee, outdoor adventurers can purchase a variety of trail maps and guides on the official website or join the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) to meet some folks to go along with you.
Lehigh Gorge State Park is characterized by a steep-walled gorge featuringing sharp rock outcropping and waterfalls of the Lehigh River with an overall span of 6,107 miles of nature. Hiking and climbing abounds but the region also offers white water for those looking to get wet.
Treetop Quest Philly will take you high with a range of courses spanning from easy to extreme. This aerial adventure park is really only Type II if you are under the age of 12, but family-style fun is always worth noting!
Hellerick’s Family Farm in Doylestown, PA also falls under the family-style category. Open seasonally, from spring through fall, this local gem offers an aerial adventure park with options for thrill-seekers over the age of 7. Reservations recommended.
Shades of Death Trail has to make the list if not just for its name. Located in Jim Thorpe, PA, the trail runs through Hickory Run State Park with enough ups and downs to challenge anyone game to try it.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia is a half marathon (with 5K and 10K options) set along some of Philadelphia’s most historic landmarks. Scheduled for Sept. 15th, the music and community engagement makes this a great race for everyone!
Finally, a friendly reminder to Leave No Trace if you embark on any of these nature journeys!
by Andrea Blumenstein
Remember how mindfulness and self-care topped the New Year’s resolution lists for yet another year? Well, now that January is behind us (Thank you, next.) we can all take a few minutes to reflect on set goals and expectations. Close your eyes. Breathe.
How did you do?
This is an observation, nota judgment. Simple, consistent meditation practice eludes many; what matters next is identifying why. Some get stuck because of the relatively liquidness of the concept. The terms mindfulness and meditation can mean different things in different contexts. For others, scheduling a time and establishing a meditation routine that doesn’t get slashed from the schedule as though it was merely saving space for overflow can be challenging. Maybe you need some network of support or community to stick to it. Or, maybe you need a little nudge or external reminder to stay on track. Or, you just have to decide to do it. Either way, there’s an app for that™, so read on.
When Apple successfully received trademark approval for the catch phrase from a popular iPhone commercial in 2010, they knew that they had a direct line to the future of, well, everything with the whole app thing. Including mindfulness. It might be because tech bigwigs are rumored to have had the whole brain break thing perfected for quite some time. Meanwhile, others of us were pulling out hair or turning gray with “work breaks” that involved restarting or unplugging-and-re-plugging malfunctioning devices. OM? More like um.
If technology has become more accessible, and, in theory, making our lives easier, why are stress levels and burnout reported at alarming levels? Research shows that a big chunk of anxiety stems (and productivity lost) from smart phone usage and our need to be constantly plugged-in. Scientists have actually designated a term for it – nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) – in order to streamline discourse on the growing phenomenon. So, in a seemingly counter-intuitive move, many are opening up their app store for help.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to support with science, rather than specific spiritual teachers/teachings, a practice that enables the practitioner to disentangle thoughts and emotions from the present moment.
Back when the iPhone commercial aired, Apple proudly boasted 250,000 apps. Today, the tech powerhouse is currently tailing Android, where users choose from 2.1 million apps to Apple’s 2 million. Paltry!
Among the millions of apps to choose from, almost ironically, mindfulness and meditation apps accumulated at a staggering number in recent years. One could easily slip into an internet vortex just trying to pick one to try out. So, for those of you looking to change up your current practice or develop a new one, here are some picks for digitalized meditation to help you sift through the noise. Though the best thing would be to sign up for all the free trials and pick one where you enjoy the voice and the interface because honestly, they are all kind of similar.
Beginners, start here! This is not only the most popular meditation app, downloaded by millions of users, but arguably the simplest. Some might say that the interface is too juvenile. I’m talking cartoons to teach the nuts and bolts of mindfulness. This app focuses on getting users to establish (and keep) a daily meditation practice.
This is the most social of all of the apps. It is free with an optional upgrade. It is incredibly user friendly, if you can get past the poor design, but is better suited for people that have at least some meditation experience. Features like Tibetan singing bowls, chat and ability to “meditate together” are the stand-outs of this long running app. There are more than 5,000 guided meditations and have recordings by some well-known mediation teachers but the real tour de force is that users who don’t need their hands held can keep track of their meditation practice.
This app boasts more than 500 guided meditations led by 40 experts. Downloading the app costs $2.99 but comes with rave user reviews. Instead of scrolling through your phone, the meditation studio app offers help with stress relief and anxiety as well. Most of the guided recordings are under ten minutes, so they are totally accessible for a dose of zen on the go.
“Discover your mind” with Sam Harris, neuroscientist, author and host of his popular podcast by the same name. If you are a fan of his already, a trip to this app makes total sense. The opposite if you can’t stand him. His method is geared toward both novice and more experienced users, with the goal to help users sift through their mind to get the most out of their individual internal experiences.
This app is regarded by many as having the best visuals, and claims to do more than just help users meditate. The company lists anxiety, depression and stress as among their target conditions. For free, users can access a handful of guided meditations, but they are reported as being less strong than others like Insight Timer. A subscription unlocks additional features and showcases a variety of meditation techniques, nature sounds and cool background choices. Calm is also a website, and the internet buzz suggests that there is a Calm Island on the horizon. Vacation anyone?
This app is geared toward meditation, relaxation and sleep. This is definitely a next-level app, and you might even consider it like the Porsche of the bunch. That may or may not be your thing. The app has a journal feature and a bunch of guided meditations – a lot focused on adult, work related issues. Inscape is also a studio in Manhattan where users can go to meditate.
Dan Harris published a book, 10% Happier in 2014 and after its off the charts success, he launched a podcast and then “meditation for fidgety skeptics” with this beginner friendly app. Added bonuses include courses in the form of video content aimed at improving relationships, work and health. There are a handful of meditation teachers to choose from, so subscribers can try out different voices and personalities. New users can check it out with their free 7-day trial.
by Andrea Blumenstein
So you still have no plans for New Years and some cash to spare? Instead of spending New Year’s Eve smoking your last pack of cigarettes or New Year’s Day drinking Pedialyte® and consuming all of the remaining holiday calories from your fridge before “eating healthy” or binging all of the Netflix before taking a serious screen break, how about something a little bit more inspiring?
Life is all about making choices and loads of people look to the New Year for a fresh start. But habits are incredibly difficult to break. This is why an overwhelming percentage (Business Insider estimates 80%) of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
Self-care is increasingly gaining popularity among heady resolutions, but without really defining it, how can you succeed? Odds are not in your favor. So, if you are looking to prioritize the mind/body, taking yourself out of your routine while also meeting a bunch of other people who feel the same way about another holiday season hangover (No thank you!) might be just the thing.
Head south for one of these awesome New Year’s-themed holidays.
Hola 2019 – A New Year’s Retreat at Apoyo Lodge – NICARAGUA
Saturday December 29, 2 PM – Wednesday Jan 2, 11 AM
Investment: Starting at $240 USD per person
(Image courtesy of Apoyo Lodge)
Spend 4 nights unplugged from the outside world and connecting with your inner self at Apoyo Lodge, Health & Wellness Boutique Hotel. Start the morning with an inspiring yoga practice and then, with the support of a professional team, choose to read, relax, hike or swim in the clean waters of the volcano crater.
- 4-night accommodation in the room type of your choice
- Three plant-based meals per day including a natural drink with every meal and dessert at lunch and dinner
- Daily morning yoga class
- Unlimited water, herbal tea and bananas
- Round-trip airport shuttle service
- Unlimited WiFi (if you choose to use it)
Exhale Yoga: New Years Yoga Retreat – El Salvador
Friday, December 28 – Saturday, Jan 5
Investment: Starting at $1,999 USD per person
(Image courtesy of Facebook)
If you like to move your body, this is for you. Lead by Yoga Teacher & Yoga to Life Coach Rachel Wainwright at Las Flores Resort, this retreat is focused rhythm, dance, yoga and surf that will foster a deeper connection to self and other like-minded individuals. The retreat schedule offers two daily yoga classes, healthy eating and a host of other activities plus welcomes in the New Year by coming together to dance open heartily with a group of positive people so that you will go home feeling lighter in love with yourself, others and life.
- 8-night, 7-day accommodation of your choice.
- Twice daily yoga classes
- Three daily meals
- Surfing (board rental and lessons are extra)
- Salsa dancing
New Year’s Rejuvenation Retreat with Doron Hanoch – Guatemala
Saturday, December 26 – Wednesday, Jan 2
Investment: Starting at $847 USD per person
(Image courtesy of Doron Yoga and Zen Center)
Immerse in a spiritual community and ring in the New Year from a place of balance, joy and gratitude at the Doron Yoga and Zen Center at Lake Atitlan. This is an ashtanga-vinyasa retreat, mixed with bhakti and kundalini, for all levels. This week-long retreat will focus on bringing your mind and body back to alignment to start the New Year. Prepare to laugh, eat, dance, practice powerful yoga, focus your mind like a Jedi, and learn to love yourself and others like never before.
- Detailed workshops
- Morning yoga sessions
- Osho Kundalini and zen meditation
- Pranayama practices to enrich your energy and life force
- Yin yoga to deepen flexibility and balance the body
- 3 daily meals with drinks
- 7 nights accommodation
Exotic Yoga New Year Retreat at Xinalani – Mexico
Sunday, December 30 – Saturday, January 5
Investment: Starting at $1,995 USD per person
(Photo courtesy of Exotic Yoga Retreats)
Begin your year in vibrant health, rejuvenation, yoga and fitness at Xinalani, an award-winning eco-resort near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The retreat features gentle flow yoga with Nina Butler and fitness with personal trainer Lisa Nielsen on a private beach. Take in the sun and sea amidst a gathering of multicultural, like-minded yogis focused on relaxation, gratitude and inspiration.
- 6-night, 7-day accommodation
- Airport pick-up in Puerto Vallarta and boat transfer to Xinalani
- Three meals daily: delicious vegetarian and pescatarian dishes with option of meat on request
- Exotic Yoga Retreats’ New Year Program to set your intention for 2019!
- Two yoga classes daily with yoga teacher Nina Butler
- Two health and fitness classes daily with personal trainer and coach Lisa Nielsen
- ‘Guac Walk’ through the jungle to a neighboring beach for swimming and fresh chips with guacamole!
- Evening activities: Latin dance lesson and beach bonfire
- Ocean kayaking