Ashtanga Yoga Teacher, Sara Intonato, Shares Her Tips On How To Stay Fit And Balanced While Traveling
After watching a video of Ashtanga yoga teacher, Sara Intonato, contort herself into a human pretzel with utter grace and self-awareness, we were instantly infatuated with her amazing athleticism, poise, and inspirational lifestyle and message of being a Yogi. More importantly, she’s found a way to bring together her two joys, travel and yoga, into a balanced lifestyle and business, while also being a mom of two. Talk about accomplishments!
Sara is a level two Ashtanga Yoga teacher, traveler, and self-discovery leader. In between the numerous sold-out retreats she hosts around the globe (she just got back from a day retreat in Montauk and is heading off to Tuscany, Italy in July), we got to chat with Sara and learn just how she stays balanced while living an on-the-go lifestyle and her weirdest travel encounter to date. Check out her interview below!
1.) What inspires your travels and how do you choose your retreat destinations?
When I am choosing a yoga retreat destination, I look for a place that is both relaxing and inspiring. Lounging at the beach is always fun, but I love giving my students a unique, jaw dropping experience which can’t be found at home. Being immersed in a new culture inevitably shows you parts of yourself and of life which you have never seen before. It’s eye opening.
When traveling alone, I often return to India to study. It provides a jolt of spiritual based self study which is crucial for my own journey, therefore influencing my work tremendously. My husband and I love exposing ourselves and our children to art and culture, which influence our travel very much.
2.) Hands down, the best meal you’ve ever had while traveling?
Hands down, the best food I’ve encountered is at Fattoria Poggio Alloro, my [Italian] yoga retreat venue in San Gimignano, Tuscany. It is a family owned organic farm, and my favorite dish, is their risotto with saffron & fresh vegetables, all of which are grown on property. Even the organic olive oil is grown and made there. The flavors are divine, unlike anything else I’ve experienced. I can’t wait to have it again this July. The retreat (in Tuscany) is worth attending for the food alone.
3.) What are your tips for practicing yoga and staying balanced and fit while traveling?
The best jet lag prevention for me is to fast on the airplane. I often choose night flights and sleep as much as possible, which makes this easy. I wake up on local time when landing and make a point to practice as soon as I settle in at my destination. The movement is crucial after sitting for so long.
I also find morning practice to be quite important. Once the day gets going it is simply too tempting to experience the local food and culture. I could never retreat back to my hotel and practice in the middle of it all! Practice first, then total and utter immersion into my destination.
Hydration is a huge factor in comfort while traveling. Air travel dehydrates us more than we realize. Drink far more than you think is needed, especially the first few days.
Lastly, I walk as much as possible. It allows me to explore and get my bearings, and I love seeing locals in their own element. Evening walks allow me to see my locale in a completely different way. My husband and I recently traveled to Paris for our anniversary. One of our favorite memories was walking by the Seine after dinner. The city was lit up, the air was fresh with spring blooms, and seeing Notre Dame in that setting brought tears to my eyes. You’d never have that moment while driving by in a taxi!
4.) What are your favorite travel beauty products that you can’t leave home without?
The Nomaterra Cape Cod scent is my absolute favorite to wear daily. It is feminine but not overpowering. I also love the name, as I spent my summers on Cape Cod growing up, so it invokes beautiful memories. I hadn’t worn perfume in years because the chemicals make my skin react adversely, so discovering Nomaterra has been delightful. The roll on bottles are perfect for travel. I also love Bite lipsticks, which are made with good grade oils. My eyelashes are blonde, so I never leave home without black mascara and black eyeliner. Armani Eyes to Kill mascara and Nars self sharpening pencils are my favorite. Not requiring a sharpener makes carry-on air travel easy. Paula Dorf makes an eye pencil called baby eyes, a flesh colored pencil I use on the bottom eyelid. It gets rid of redness and makes you look rested, even after flying all night!
5.) What is your favorite travel scent memory?
The smell of incense burning in homes and temples in South India is forever etched in my memory. The scent is smoky and rich with sandalwood. I associate it with holiness and devotion.
6.) An inspiration destination that has somehow changed your outlook on life?
India. No contest. So much richness, so much learning. Nothing else can possibly compare for me.
7.) What is the most exotic place you’ve ever visited? Would you go back?
Sardegna stands out as an exotic place I dream of visiting again. It is an Italian island, but has a much more primal feel. It’s energy has a strong connection to ancient times, even now. The Mediterranean Sea is an emerald green color and so clean, you can see straight to the bottom. While at the beach, I remember seeing a man catch fish and squid with his bare hands. I’m a vegetarian, but I appreciated his connection to the land and his reverence for the food he caught. He and his family celebrated it and gave thanks. In America, it is easy to forget where food comes from. The language, the food, and the landscape in Sardegna were unforgettable. My husband and I drove a Vespa around the island 10 years ago and I long to do it again.
8.) How would you say your life has changed since becoming a Yogi?
There is no way to properly articulate it, and there is definitely not enough space in this blog! The essence of it is I’m a more conscious person now. I function with a level of clarity which I never had before. I’m acutely aware of my choices and how they affect myself and others. Both simple (what I eat, for example), and grand, such as how I raise my children. I pay closer attention to everything. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m an infinitely kinder, more loving, more thoughtful, and more grateful person since taking up a daily Ashtanga Yoga practice.
9.) What are your next steps in your yoga career? What are your goals?
My next steps are to continue making my own personal practice a priority. Everything else blossoms from that. In the next 12 months I am leading retreats in Montauk, Tuscany, and Peru’s Sacred Valley (Machu Picchu). My goal is to lead another sold out retreat in the summer of 2017. The Greek Islands are a possibility. I’m constantly receiving requests for a retreat in India, which would take an immense amount of planning, but I’m ready for the challenge now. I love teaching daily classes and lessons, but retreats are my strength and passion.
10.) What advice would you give to someone who is just beginning to get into Yoga?
Find a teacher you connect with and take that relationship as far as possible. Learn as much as you can from one person who you trust. It will take you much deeper than you can go while hopping around from class to class. In Ashtanga Yoga we value lineage, handing down the tradition from teacher to student for many years. This profound experience is what allows transformation to occur. How can you move through deep obstacles and challenges if you don’t trust your teacher to lead you through? You can’t. When you find the right teacher, stay the course for the long haul.
11.) Most unusual travel encounter you’ve ever had?
Ha! Unusual travel encounters are part of the fun for me. In 2007, during my second trip to India, a local family invited me to a special puja (prayer ceremony) at a relative’s home. The shoes of the Hindu Saint, Sai Baba, which were considered a holy relic, were being taken all over India that year. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and attended the ceremony, during which Sai Baba’s shoes were placed on my head during prayers. The energy was incredibly special. The devotion was palpable. I was honored to be part of it and was welcomed into the community with such open arms. I’m neither Indian nor Hindu and it didn’t matter. If we can share love and blessings with one another, why wouldn’t we?
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Ashtanga Yoga expert, Sara Intonato! If you’re interested in participating in her Italy retreat next month, sign up ASAP! She only has a couple of spots left. Discover your scent style with our Nomaterra quiz.