When I made the decision to pursue a career in yoga, my motivation was to attempt to create a career for myself that would allow me to pursue what I was passionate about: yoga (obviously), helping people live the greatest lives possible, and travel. The first two goals have proven to be inextricably linked and most accessible in my daily routine, but the travel part is something that involves much more planning and foresight, especially when organizing a yoga retreat. I have made it my mission to lead at least one retreat per year, a mission that was galvanized by last year’s incredible journey to Santorini, Greece. I brought people there because I had been there before and had been knocked senseless by the majestic beauty and surreal landscape of the island. Before that retreat was over, I was already working on possible destinations for future yoga vacations, and I decided that every retreat I held from that moment on would take place somewhere in the world where participants could count on beautiful, peaceful surroundings, preferably in areas of the globe that would be once-in-a-lifetime destinations. So for 2012, I chose somewhere I had never planned on visiting, but had heard was second to none in terms of natural wonders and flawless beaches: Croatia.
My research was extensive when choosing a destination in Croatia – I had learned that the country boasts 8 national parks (the island of Mljet where this year’s retreat will be held is a national park itself), with vastly differing climates and ecosystems. I knew I wanted accessibility to beaches and lush vegetation, while still having options for day trips and exploring the surrounding areas. I found Mljet, and it met all the criteria. With a beachfront location, our hotel is the only one on the island. Bicycles are the main form of transport once on the island, and whether we decide to spend the day lazing on the beach, go snorkeling, or visit the underwater gardens and shipwrecks, I wanted to make sure that participants felt free to do what they wanted to, in their own time, alone or “en groupe”. I have had people tell me that I was falsely promoting my retreats by offering only one daily 90-minute yoga class in the morning, but still calling it a yoga retreat. I don’t believe that you need to have an asana practice scheduled two or three times per day to be able to label the event a “yoga retreat” – I make sure we start the day off with an active asana practice enhanced by a daily focus designed to help guide participants to a place of clarity, offering a perspective that allows them to not only detach from their daily routines, but to be fully present in new and magnificent surroundings. The ability to take mental pictures that stay with us for the rest of our lives is yoga…it’s alignment…it’s focus and awareness and all the things I know matter in this life we’re given. I want people to wander, to explore, and to not be interrupted by having to be back at a designated area in the afternoon or evening for class. Call it a yoga vacation, a yoga retreat, time away…what it ultimately proves to be is a chance to come back to ourselves, and to our Selves. To reconnect to what matters and to bring that connection back home after the retreat ends.
At the beginning of every retreat, I ask the people joining us what their motivation was in signing up – what they are seeking. At the end of the retreat, as we discuss whether we were successful in achieving what we set out to achieve by going on retreat, I am always blown away by 3 things: 1) The transformation in people’s physical appearances…in their faces, the light that emerges from their eyes…there is renewal and a realignment that occurs. Always…it never fails to happen. 2) The sense of community that results from being a part of the experience. When we spend 7 or 10 days with like-minded people in an environment of true beauty and authenticity, it becomes a life-defining event, and only those who are there to experience it really know the depths that it can move us. 3) The power of seeing participants understand that the overflow of emotion they feel as the retreat winds down is a result of their power to choose to take the time and money to invest in themselves. Many of the students I’ve had on my retreats didn’t know me or my teachings – they found me online, wanted to go on a yoga retreat, and either the destination, the cost, or the timing worked out for them. They took a risk, and by doing so, they found themselves exposed to the heights that living a life of wonder produces. I tell them at the last class of the retreat to remember that they hold the power to make their lives a series of truly magnificent events. We each have that ability, but we get muddled up in our daily responsibilities and roles, and often feel that we couldn’t possibly get away or spend the money or travel that far. But we can. And we do. I try as often as possible, and I want to show everyone how taking decisions to make ourselves happy leads to the greatest rewards life offers.
We leave in September for 10 days in Croatia. If you’ve considered taking a yoga retreat and have always found a reason not to, I’m giving you the nudge you need. It will change your life. You’ll see 🙂