August 31, 2011

Looking forward to Yoga & Surf Retreat @

Filed under: Uncategorized — Leela @ 3:56 pm

Leela Travel is gearing up for our upcoming yoga retreat which includes: Anusara, Music & Surf.  Everyone is excited about making their way to the gorgeous Jalisco coast of Mexico- just south of Puerto Vallarta.  Our days will be filled with waking up to morning yoga, eating healthy local cuisine, catching some waves and sleeping to the sounds of the ocean.

For those who plan on surfing,  you’ll find that surfing in the Jalisco Coast offers a fantastic surfing getaway.   The waves are perfect for all skill levels including beginners (first time), intermediate, and advanced surfers.  Waves can break in the bay all year round.  Don’t be shy and give it a try!  Adventure awaits you.

Everyone at Leela Travel is looking forward to sharing in this experience with all of our participants!

June 13, 2010

Vishnu-devananda: The Flying Yogi



For awhile there life was nothing but busy.  Trying to be somewhere all the time without being fully anywhere.  Rush, rush, rush.  No time for yoga, no time for writing, no time for dancing, no time for me.  Of course sometimes the biggest sacrifices bear the sweetest fruit and in my case her name is Percie Rose Littlewood and she is my pumpkin noodle shnicker doodle.  You know what I mean?

So life is slowing down a bit and returning to shades of normalcy.  She goes to bed happily at 7pm, she can entertain herself for periods of 5 – 10 minutes, and she constantly shows me my world through entirely new eyes.  But, for the first time in 20 months I am awakening from an emotional fog and I realize that I am spiritually parched.  I go to look for book suggestions from some of my favorite yoga teachers but am left disappointed by uber esoteric tantric texts that are more in Sanskrit then they are English and the translations just don’t work for me.  I can try to read some striking yogic principle into them but it’s just not the same as the simple, empirical “ah ha” moments you get from a really good teacher (you know the one who’s theme is always exactly relevant to your current life and everyone else’s)!  But class is not available, it’s too late at night or too early in the morning or sometimes the middle of the day, and I need a shot of inspiration – right now!

So I go to my special yoga bookshelf, the one now blocked by bags of too small and too big baby clothes, and look through my old gems.  And there it is!  In the back, almost un-noticeable is my copy of “The Yogi:  Portraits of Swami Vishnu-devananda” by Gopala Krishna.  The slightly odd shaped pages and old thick paper make me smile as I remember I bought this book from the bookstore at the Sivananda Kutir Ashram in Uttar Kashi, India.  A small, gentle ashram nestled into a mountain village along the sacred Ganges near the Indian border with China.  A place of peace and magic and hope like I had never experienced before and have not experienced since.

There on the cover is the smiling face of Swami Vishnu-devananda, the Indian disciple of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, some say one of the last great saints.  Vishnu-devananda was responsible for opening yoga centers and yoga ashrams at Sivananda’s request and in his name all over the world, including India, the US, Canada and Europe.  Go on their website and check out the thriving international organization that he built! Now, already I am enraptured and inspired.

Suddenly Vishnu-devananda’s amazing story and even more powerful energy come back into my life.  His incredible life as Sivananda’s primary asana teacher, being one of the first to bring asana practice into ashrams in India.  The story of Vishnu-devananda, hereto referred to as Swamiji’s first meeting with Sivananda, his Guru.  On their first encounter he hid in the bushes to avoid bowing to Sivananda’s feet, as was customary of disciples, as he was not yet sure that Sivananda was worthy of this kind of devotion.  As he hid, Sivananda walked directly in front of where he stood, and bowed down to touch Swamiji’s feet.  In a moment Swamiji knew he had met his Guru and began the work of distancing from ego-mind.

Later in his life Swamiji had dreams and visions of flying.  So despite the strange looks he got from some disciples – “who does this Swami think he is flying airplanes?”… he learned how to fly.  Then he went on international peace missions where he “bombed” some of the world’s most troubled spots with flowers and peace literature including Northern Ireland, the Berlin Wall and Middle East.  Swamiji was very aware of artificial man-made barriers in this world, and strove to show that they are false and only figments of our own imagination.  Being in the sky meant that no one could stop him from “going where he shouldn’t” unless of course they shot him down which no one actually did.  Swamiji’s peace missions were reminders to everyone that we are Earth Citizens, made in a State of God. 

But the sweet, sweet nectar to my tired and frazzled soul are his words.  Thank you, thank you, thank you author Gopala Krishna for putting together this first hand source of Swamiji’s teachings!  Clearly, this contribution you have made is part of your dharma to inspire and encourage people like me.

Some words from Swamiji, quoted from Gopala Krishna’s firsthand book “The Yogi:  Portraits of Swami Vishnu-devananda” Yes International Publishers, USA 1995:

This story is about a shepherd and his sheep living in a valley.  One night a pregnant mountain lioness came to hunt amongst the sheep.  When the shepherd saw the mountain lion he started shooting at her.  The shooting frightened her.  Suddenly she gave birth to her lion cub, and then ran away to the forest, leaving her cub among the sheep.  Luckily there was a nursing sheep.  She started nursing the new born lion cub.  So the lion cub started thinking that the sheep was his mother, and he started to bleat like sheep – Baa Baa Baa Baa.  He was drinking milk and eating grass, becoming a vegetarian.  So the lion cub grew up among the sheep thinking that he is just like any other sheep.

                After several years, the king of the forest, a big mountain lion, came to the sheep’s valley to hunt.  There he saw among the sheep one of his own royal family members, bleating like a sheep, eating grass.  What a disgrace!  It was like Prince Charles going to live with the hippies.  What would Queen Elizabeth think? That’s what the lion king thought.  “What a disgrace to our royal family!”

                So he ran shouting at the sheeplion, “What are you doing with the sheep?  Why you are bleating like a sheep?”

                And the sheeplion was terrified.  Seeing the mountain lion running after him, he shouted, “Mommy!  Mommy help me!  This fellow is going to kill me!”

                But the sheep mother ran away and the mountain lion caught the sheeplion.  “Don’t be afraid of me.  You are a lion like me.”

                “Oh no no!  I’m not a lion.  I’m a sheep.  I’ve got my mommy there, my beautiful mommy.  “Mommy!  Let me go to my mommy!”

“Oh no!  You are not a sheep.  You are a lion like me.”

                “Please leave me alone.  I beg you lion, let me go.”

                “No. No. No.  I’m going to take you and show you who you are.”  So he dragged him to the mountain against his will and brought him to a big lake.  “Look in that lake.  What do you see?”

                His eyes shut tight.  “No. No.  I don’t want to open my eyes.  I am afraid.”

                “Don’t be afraid.  Just look.  See who you are.”

                “I know who I am.  I’m a sheep.  I got my mommy; I got three brothers and two sisters; I live in the valley.”

                “Oh no, that’s all wrong.  Look!  You have forgotten who you are.”  After some time, the sheeplion opened his eyes.  “What do you see?”

                “I see waves.”

                “Wait for the waves to subside.”  After some time there were no more waves, no more ripples; the lake was as smooth as glass.  Suddenly he saw his face.  He didn’t look like a sheep.  He saw the other lion’s face beside his.  “Hey I am like you.  You are like me.  I am you.  You are me.  We are both kings!”

                And the mountain lion said, “Don’t bleat like a sheep.  Roar like a lion!  Go to your kingdom in the forest and enjoy your life.”

                So for the first time in his life, he roared.  No more bleating like a sheep.  He realized who he was and lived happily ever after in the forest, in his kingdom.

                Who are the sheeplions of this story?  We all are.  We are bleating morning till evening:  Baa Baa Baa I am German, Baa Baa Baa East German, Baa Baa Baa West German, Baa Baa Baa I’m Russian, Baa Baa Baa American, Baa Baa Baa Protestant, Baa Baa Baa Catholic, Baa Baa Baa I’m a Jew, Baa Baa Baa I’m Arab, Baa Baa Baa I’m a PLO, Baa Baa Baa I’m Chancellor, Baa Baa Baa Prime Minister, Baa Baa Baa I am male, Baa Baa Baa I’m female, Baa Baa Baa I am a Swami, Baa Baa Baa.  That’s all we are doing all day long.

                The mountain lions, the great masters, like Jesus and Sivananda, come and say, “Oh, you are bleating like a sheep.  You are not a German, an Austrian, Russian or American.  You are the immortal self.  I am in you.  You are in me.  I am He.  I am Brahman.  You too are Brahman.  You too are God.  But this body is not God.  Look within.  You’ll find who you are.”  “Oh no, no!  I don’t want to find out who I am.  I know who I am.  I am a Swami.  I have three ashrams; I have ten students.  I have two hundred and twenty rooms and thirty bathrooms.  I have money, two million dollars in the bank.  Master says, “Hey, that’s not you.  These things just belong to you.”  “Oh no, no!  I have my wife and children.”  “They won’t come with you.  They’re all objects.”  “Oh no, no, no!  I love my wife and children very much; I have a beautiful home and a lovely family, children” And the teacher says, “Don’t bleat like a sheep.  When you die will your wife go with you?  Will your children go with you?  Can you take all your money with you?”  He starts thinking, “Hey, something is wrong here.”

                You will also die.  You can’t take your credit card with you.  You can’t even take this body with you.  The germs are waiting for it.  Death is waiting for you because you identify with this body.  You are immortal.  “Oh Teacher, tell me how to find it, how to escape death.”  “I’ll show you come with me.”

                Close your eyes.  Look within, in that mind-lake.  What do you see?  Pizza, ice cream, bananas; heart beating, lungs breathing.  They’re all objects.  That’s not you.  You are not a heart, or lungs, etc.  Just close your eyes and breathe very gently.  Practice.  Go on, practice.  You must practice breathing gently every day.  When there are no more thought waves, what do you see?  Now Teacher, I am you.  You are me.  There is neither disciple nor teacher, neither I nor God; we are one.  I am in everything; everything is in me.  I am that I am.  Aham Brahma Asmi.  Sohum.  I am He.  I am He.  Sohum.


May you take these words with you for your own sweet inspiration, renewal and connection to the energy that created us, that brings us together, that makes us smile and makes us One.



June 9, 2010

Black Rock Lodge – An Insiders View!

Enjoy a day trip to Tikal on our October retreat!

Enjoy a day trip to Tikal on our October retreat!

As we gear up for our October retreat with Geoffrey Roniger I wanted to share some information about our destination eco-resort – Black Rock Lodge located near San Ignacio Belize. Who better to give the inside scoop than one of the owners? I asked Kelley Johnson Boyd, co-owner of Black Rock Lodge, to share her experience and let us know what makes this place so special?

Question: Are you an owner of Black Rock Lodge and how did that happen in your life?

My husband, Cameron, and I are the owners of Black Rock. We traveled to BRL as guests in January, 2007 from our other eco-lodge in Quintana Roo, Mexico. We were interested in the visiting the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala and were looking for a lodge in Belize from which cross the border and launch our tour to the Tikal ruins. We found BRL’s website online because it advertised as being 100% off grid and powered by solar and micro-hydro power. We were enthusiastically curious about BRL’s operation and conservation ethos – as Cesiak runs on solar and wind power and we knew how demanding, (and rewarding!), running a lodge off-grid with clean, alternative energy could be. Plus, we were fascinated by BRL’s pristine location and adventure opportunities.

Once we arrived to BRL we fell in love instantly! The location, the views, the food, the staff – all were simply incredible. Giovanni Fernandez, one of the managers at the time, and our Head Tour Manager now, informed us the Lodge was for sale. And although our initial intention was to see Tikal…we wound up beginning the process of figuring out how to purchase BRL as well!

We learned that the synchronicity between Cesiak and BRL was uncanny. They are entirely different topographically and geographically, but they share a dedication to active adventure travel with a minimal environmental footprint and maximum enjoyment of the stunning surroundings and culture.

Question: How does the Lodge interact with the local community?

Black Rock’s staff of 20+ come from local, surrounding communities and we take great pride in supporting these communities through various donation and outreach programs. Examples of organizations that the Lodge supports are:

Belize Audubon Society
Stann Creek Ecumenical College
La Ruta Maya Canoe Race
Belize Defense Force (BDF)
Cayo Tour Guide Association
Remar International
A Hospital Without Walls
Angel Says Read
Cristo Rey Women’s Group
Hand In Hand
Belize Bank
Belize Cycling Association

Question: What’s the best part about a BRL vacation?

Guests have the opportunity to experience a perspective-shifting vacation in one of the most beautiful locations in Belize. Black Rock is not a typical, one-dimensional destination…but rather an experience that strives to offer guests a multi-layered immersion in the environment, culture, and tradition of Belize. In addition, the ecological conservation ethos of the lodge infuses each guest’s stay with the knowledge that we can enjoy Belize’s natural gifts while also conserving and preserving its beauty and resources for future generations.

Thanks for sharing Kelley! Perspective-shifting in a responsible, sustainable way is exactly what Leela Travel is all about.


April 21, 2010


Earth DayThursday, April 22, 2010 marks the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day.  Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment and is celebrated all over the world.  It is a perfect time to think about the impact you have on the environment, make a commitment to learning more, knowing how you can help to protect it and living sustainably.  What, exactly, does green or sustainable living mean? Different people use different definitions, but it all comes down to one fundamental concept: The Earth’s resources shouldn’t be depleted faster than they can be replenished. From that concept comes everything else, including caring for the environment, animals and other living things, your health, your local community, and communities around the world.  Reduce Consumption – Anything that you can do to decrease the amount of the Earth’s resources that you use is impactful.  Reduce the amount of energy, water and materials that you use.  Choose Carefully – Assessing where certain products and services come from by thinking about their entire life cycles from manufacture to disposal. How did this item get into your hands and what impact did it have on the environment?  Thinking in this way helps you to make the greenest choices possible.  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle all day long-  Buy as little as possible and avoid items that come in lots of packaging. Support local growers and producers of food and products – these don’t have to travel as far and so reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Take your drink container with you, and don’t use any disposable plates or cutlery. Recycle all the things you do use for the day or find other uses for things that you no longer use. Carry a cloth bag for carrying things in and recycle your paper bags. Travel Responsibly- As an eco- traveler, it is your responsibility to prevent or minimize any negative impacts on the environment, local community and economy of the destination you are visiting. 

Here are some Earth Day Actions that you can commit to on Earth Day and every day: 
• Limit the length of your shower and turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth.
• Walk, bike or use public transportation- car pool, use public transportation or drive a fuel efficient car – reduce your carbon footprint by 1 pound for every mile you do not drive.
• Turn off the lights in the rooms you are not using.
• Turn off computers at the end of the day and turn off power strips at the end of the day.
• Invest in a reusable mug, cup or bottle- don’t buy any plastic bottles
• Try to use as many recyclable containers as possible.
• Recycle & Compost properly in the office and at home.
• Open blinds instead of flipping the light switch and open windows instead of using the air conditioner.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
• Donate old clothes, electronics and furniture.
• Get rid of paper waste by going electronic whenever possible.
• Shop and buy locally- buy local products with less packaging and recycle paper, plastic and glass – reduce your garbage by 10% and your carbon footprint by 1,200 pounds a year
• Buy organic food because the chemicals used in modern agriculture pollute the water supply, and require energy to produce.
• Styrofoam Lasts a Really, REALLY long time – Try 500 years or more. Millions of burger boxes, packing peanuts, and take-out containers, sitting in landfills, not biodegrading. • Use Cloth Instead – Carry cloth shopping bags. Use rags or towels instead of paper towels for cleaning.
• Make a donation- the green movement has really come into public awareness thanks to the efforts of environmental nonprofits. These organizations run on shoestring budgets and are managed by volunteers who frequently receive little or no pay, yet they speak for hundreds who feel that the planet is worth saving.  Support them by making a donation.

Earth Day tips for Greener Travel:
• Choose your travel provider on the basis of their eco principles and practices.  Leela Travel promotes sustainable tourism, involving community/environmental projects and partnering with eco-sustainable resorts.
• Educate yourself about the destination you are visiting by reading guidebooks and travel articles.
• Be aware of local history, culture and customs of the locals before arriving. By making the effort to learn even the basics it will be appreciated by locals; and enrich your experience.
• Learn about the vital eco-systems before arriving.
• Participate in voluntourism & give back to the local communities
• Use local transportation, guides, inns, restaurants and markets to benefit the local economy.
• Comply with international environmental conventions. Do not buy any animal products while travelling. Do not remove any objects, plants or animal products from nature. Not only can these affect fragile ecosystems, but is also illegal.
• Conserve Resources. Be aware of resource shortages such as water and food as many tourist destinations are under increasing pressure.
• Don’t leave your eco-sense at home when traveling: Turn off lights, conserve water (avoid lengthy showers in water-needy spots) and use air conditioning and heating sparingly.
• Consider your carbon footprint when using air travel by buying carbon offsets- a system by which an individual or an organization can compensate for their own carbon emissions by investing in energy alternatives, including wind power, or hydroelectric energy, or other Greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

January 28, 2010 Review of Tulum Resort

Check out the awesome review of our resort partner in Tulum Mexico posted on a great source for information for the green community from travel & nature to food, fashion and politics.

The author, a yogi traveller from Brooklyn NY also has this to say about participating in the Turtle conversation program which we also plan to take part in during our retreat in May…

“Watching the creatures leave land for their underwater destiny is like watching a piece of pre-historic history. It is beautiful–but overwhelmingly sad. We know that the fate of these baby turtles is grim but better then most. As we are reminded in our educational talk prior to the volunteer expedition, other less fortunate turtles born on more developed strips of hotel and resort beaches easily confuse the artificial lights dotting the developed strips for the moon. They end up walking away from the natural home they’re evolutionarily designed for, the ocean, thus making them more likely to be caught and killed by either a poacher or predator. Or killed even wandering onto nearby roads…

I had never known how much forming a personal relationship with a green-shelled reptile could re-ignite, inspire and motivate my take-action-ness. Not only for the turtles–for this entire environmental movement.”

I am so excited to spend time off the grid in the biosphere in a place and time when I can get away from our mechanized world and soak in the pure power of our natural world.

Check out the blog here:

November 18, 2009

Haadson Yoga Shala is Open for Business

Filed under: Yoga Retreats — Tags: , — Leela @ 12:18 pm

Earlier in the year when we began planning our March yoga retreat to the Haadson Resort on Khao Lak, Thailand with Shanghai-based teacher Pablo Alvarez there was only one problem – no yoga shala! However, our friends at Haadson were more than happy to accommodate our retreat and offered to build a customized yoga shala for Leela Travel and other yoga retreats to their property! Truly amazing work! Adele and I spent some time imagining the perfect shala, thinking about available and affordable materials in Thailand and of course conferring with my husband Simon on the proper translation of our measurements into the metric system. Amazingly, the shala is done and already in use. Check out the photos and stories on Haadson’s blog:

Beautiful! I can’t wait to test it out.

Khub-Kun-Ka Haadson!

blessings, Whitney

Haadson Yoga Sala

Haadson Yoga Sala

October 8, 2009

Leela Travel Yoga Retreats for 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Leela @ 9:36 am

Greetings Yogi Travelers!

We are pleased to announce the details for six amazing yoga retreats for 2010. We have a Yoga and Surfing retreat in Nicaragua with Pete Guinosso, a Hatha Yoga and Nature Immersion in Tulum Mexico with Michelle Andersen, and a Greenpath Yoga and Adventure retreat on a private island in Thailand with Clayton Horton and David Lurey – just to name a few of our fabulous offerings!

Leela Travel and our partners are working hard to offer great value to our clients with competitive prices for our weeklong vacations including accommodations at ecologically sustainable boutique resorts, daily yoga sessions with world class teachers, gourmet meals, cultural tours, activities, spa services, airport transportation, signature Leela Travel gifts and volunteer opportunities with the local communities we visit.

Leela Travel personally contacts and connects with every traveler to answer your questions, get you prepared and offer vital travel tips. Feel free to ask us any questions here on our blog or offer comments on our services!

We’re hoping to see the clouds of this gloomy economic recession begin to burn away for sunny skies full of travel and adventure for a fabulous 2010!


September 24, 2009

THANK YOU for making Leela Travel’s launch party a huge success!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Leela @ 2:49 pm

Welcome DeskMailing ListDJ Simo groovesYummy Veggie Nibblesat the BarMix & MingleInspiritational SlideshowShrineTeachers- Pete & GeoffreyPete G & the girlsFriendsFounders-Whitney & Adele

August 28, 2009

Launch Party September 23rd in San Francisco

Filed under: Events — Leela @ 3:34 pm

After many years in the making Leela Travel has become a reality!  We’ve managed to launch our website, set up seven fabulous trips and develop lasting relationships with all sorts of service providers.  So come help us celebrate! 

Yoga students and yoga teachers welcome!   Find out more about us and mix and mingle with the wonderful Leela Travel yoga teachers, guides, web designers, lawyers, business consultants, graphic designers, PR & Marketing consultants and more who made it happen.

Wednesday September 23rd, 2009 from 7pm – 10pm

Morac Restaurant & Lounge

3122 16th St. (at Valencia), in the Mission

Middle Eastern Nibbles, Travel Slideshow in the Garden by and DJs from Sleevin Records!

I look forward to having a toast with all of you.  Thanks for your support!

Please RSVP here.



Launch Party

Launch Party



San Francisco

July 30, 2009

Wanderlust Festival

Last weekends Wanderlust Festival was a one-of-a-kind event successfully merging majestic scenery with music and heart-expanding yoga. Everyone was all smiles going up and down the mountain, shopping for eco goods and tie-dye stretchy yoga pants, and snuggling mat to mat for a chance to practice with some of yoga’s current superstars. As my friend put it, it was kind of a Yoga Burning Man, definately attracting the contingent of yogis that frequent that other festival in the desert.

Leela Travel was there soaking in the energy and churning it into inspiration for our future! The idea of wanderlust – or a lust for travel and adventure fits perfectly with the Leela Travel mission of helping people find their bliss through travel, nature, community, yoga and play! Play on Wanderlust, we’ll see you at the next one… if you don’t come away with us first.