The Truth About Yoga Retreats

Discover the Truth About Yoga Retreatsluxury-yoga-retreat-in-france

 

Discover the truth about attending a yoga retreat as we put these common yoga retreat myths to rest. There seems to be a lot of myth about attending yoga retreats and a lot of fuss in the yoga community about being a perfect yogi with the perfect body and the green juices, the incredible Instagram account and the fancy leggings, but yoga retreats are for real people like you and me with all of our lovely imperfections and uniqueness. So lets be real for a sec and get to the bottom of these myths that keep us stuck in a mindset of fear and uncertainty.

Myth 1: You have to be a rockstar yogi to attend a yoga retreat.

Nope. Absolutely not. You don’t have to be a rockstar headstanding yogi to attend a yoga retreat or know the difference between your warrior poses. You don’t need to know Sanskrit or have your own yoga mat. The only thing you need to attend a yoga retreat is a sincere desire to learn, expand, and improve your wellbeing. That’s it! And honestly you’ll be just fine if you’re not there yet and would like to attend a yoga retreat to go on a fancy vacation or support a friend or partner.

Myth 2: I have to be a vegetarian/vegan/(insert special diet here) to fit in on a retreat.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to attend a yoga retreat. From my experience most people that attend yoga retreats are not vegetarian. Many retreats will offer a protein option in addition to the regular (typically vegetarian) menu during a couple of the evening meals or sometimes eggs with breakfast. Not sure if you can survive a week on mostly veggies, fruits and grains? You can! Retreat centers have their menus dialed in. You’ll be surprised by the variety and deliciousness of the food offered… from raw lasagna to homemade rustic breads with marmalade, creative farm fresh salads and soups, to local delicacies like seafood stew, stuffed eggplant or that famous french cheese.

People who do have special diet restrictions are typically easily accommodated on yoga retreats as long as the retreat leader knows in advance and is able to give the retreat center notice. So don’t worry about what you’ll eat… it will be nourishing and divine. I always joke that I may be the only person that can attend/teach a yoga retreat and gain weight. The food is that good!

Myth 3: You can’t attend a retreat solo.

Say what?!?! Lady (or dude) you can attend a retreat solo. In fact, I recommend it. You will be embraced by a group of likeminded people and will form amazing friendships with people from all over the world. You may just find a lifelong retreat partner that you meet up with once or twice a year and attend yoga retreats together… I’ve seen it happen in real life! You will share stories. You will laugh until your tummy and cheeks hurt and you have happy tears pouring down your face. So attend that retreat solo. Invest in you… and if a friend does want to join in on the fun AWESOME. You’ll have an old friend to share the experience with.

Want a roommate? Talk to the retreat leader. The best retreat leaders will do there best to help you find a roomie.

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Fish pose with a smile at our Luxury Yoga Retreat in France.

Myth 4: Don’t go on a yoga retreat unless you know the yoga instructor.

Well, lets go ahead and say goodbye to this idea. There are so many phenomenal yoga instructors out there and you can’t possibly know them all. With the invention of the internet and cell phones it’s completely possible to connect with an instructor before attending a yoga retreat. Check out their social media accounts… Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest etc. and see if their message vibes with you. Get them on the phone, exchange emails or better yet Skype or FaceTime them. Instructors that are invested in their students will happily chat with you about yoga, philosophy, retreats, food, life, etc. Retreat leaders are there to support you along the way.

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New friends all brought together by a connection with one instructor.

Myth 5: The cost of attending isn’t worth it. I can practice with my favorite teacher at home.

yoga-retreat-mythsWhether you need to rest your weary body, find your inner power, discover self love… retreats have a way of bringing about awesome transformation and healing. You’ll get out of a yoga retreat exactly what you put into it.

You say, “but I can practice with them at home”. Yes, you can and you should. On retreat your yoga instructor has the leisure of time… longer classes (and seeing you everyday day) means they can weave in more philosophy, anatomy, and stories about growth, perseverance, love, etc. They can share workshops and knowledge that they just can’t squeeze into a regular group class. Your teacher might have a few extra tricks up their sleeve that they only pull out at yoga retreats, think dharma codes, breathwork, reiki, and shamanic journeys.

Yes, it’s true yoga retreats cost money, sometimes a lot of money. Instructors leading retreats have done hundreds of ours of prep and self study along with thousands of hours of teaching and learning so they can create an incredible experience for YOU. They are experts in their field and they put a LOT of thought into the nuances of a yoga retreat, the location, the classes, etc.

If you’re struggling to find the financial means or are hesitating about attending a retreat talk to the retreat leader. They will be able to answer your questions and occasionally there are scholarships or work-trade options available.

Wheel pose with a little assist.

Myth 6: There is a lot of yoga during yoga retreats.

Well, this is true. There is a ton of yoga during yoga retreats. Your yoga classes will also likely include more meditation, pranayama, and/or anatomy than they do at home. The classes are usually geared toward a certain theme, idea, or concept that is revisited throughout the week.

Here’s a little insider’s secret: you don’t have to do all of the yoga. If you’re tired sleep in. If you need an evening/afternoon alone to watch the sunset and enjoy a glass of wine DO IT. We understand that this is your vacation and want you to find your perfect balance of doing and being.

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That yoga isn’t always intense. There is plenty of time to rest and restore with restorative yoga, yoga nidra and breathwork.

So relax, unwind, let go of the masks, the pretenses and preconceived ideas about attending yoga retreats and enjoy your week away from the hustle and bustle of daily life while focusing on you. You’re worth it!

Healing Calendula Balm for Face and Body

Homemade calendula salve

In 2015 I started experiencing perioral dermatitis and this calendula balm saved me. I would break out in this horrible inflamed rash around my mouth, my nose and even around my eyes. I was embarrassed to teach class or go out in public.

The doctors don’t really know what causes perioral dermatitis, but they do know that steroid creams make it worse. I fortunately was warned about using steroid creams, so I never went that route. Instead, I went the holistic route. I changed my diet (goodbye sugar), changed my toothpaste (goodbye flouride, carageenan & SLS), and I changed my skincare routine (goodbye makeup). I said goodbye to a lot during this period. The biggest game changers for me were getting rid of carageenan (it’s in everything… even that “healthy” coconut milk) and using calendula balm on my face.

I originally used Weleda’s Calendula Baby Face Cream, but it was a little too greasy for my skin. Last year I had the opportunity to host a yoga retreat at Itha108 in Greece and the owner made this lovely face balm as a gift for us to take home with us. I now prefer this natural version over Weleda.

This healing Calendula balm blends all the wonderful properties of coconut oil, jojoba (or olive or grapeseed oil), calendula (marigold flowers), beeswax, and lavender essential oil. You’ll want to use the best ingredients that you can afford. Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, calendula is an anti-inflammatory and beeswax soothes while it helps hold moisture in the skin.

Calendula Oil 

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a clean mason jar with a proper sealing lid combine your calendula flowers with the oil to be infused. Make sure that the oil completely covers the flowers.
  2. Seal up your jar and place it in a cabinet. Allow the flowers to “steep” in the oil for about 2 months.
  3. After two months strain the flowers from the oil and discard the flowers.
  4. Store your calendula oil in the fridge until ready to use.

Calendula Balm 

Ingredients

homemade calendula balm

  • 2 Tablespoons Calendula Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons beeswax
  • 5-10 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a double boiler melt beeswax and coconut oil. Simmer until beeswax has completely melted. This can also be achieved by microwaving the two together.
  2. Once the coconut oil and beeswax are melted quickly add in the calendula oil and stir.
  3. Add the lavender essential oil last. Stir again.
  4. Pour your calendula balm into small clean jars and allow to solidify.

I usually store one or two jars in the fridge and keep one out in the bathroom.You can use this balm daily or as spot treatment. I’ve used it after too much fun in the sun, on bug bites, and cracked skin. One ounce lasts me a couple of months. These are great for traveling or for gifts.

How to Prepare for a Yoga Retreat

A common question from retreat attendees is “how do I prepare for a yoga retreat?” For most of us, we don’t practice yoga 2+ hours each day, let alone 5, 6, or 7 days in a row so I think there is a bit of fear and apprehension that comes into play during the lead up to a yoga retreat. Don’t sweat it. You’ll be fine whether you practice once a week or everyday…. an experience yogi or a newbie. The following are my tips for how to prepare for a yoga retreat, whether it’s your first retreat or your hundredth!

1. Prepare for a yoga retreat by keeping your yoga practice up.

Make sure to keep your practice up and add a class or two if you have time. But most importantly keep your yoga practice balanced. If you always practice vinyasa add a yin or restorative class or vice versa. Your body will thank you when it feels strong, open, vibrant, and relaxed on retreat.

Two weeks before your retreat is not the time to start practicing headstands/handstands/advanced postures if you’ve never done them before. Trust me you don’t want to injure yourself right before your retreat. Just wait. If those postures are on the agenda at your yoga retreat you will have plenty of time to explore them in a mindful manner.

yoga surf retreat nicaragua

Warrior 3

2. Trust the process and your teacher.

Booking a yoga retreat is a pretty courageous act, especially if it’s your first retreat or with a yoga teacher you don’t practice with regularly. Assuming you’ve done a bit of research to get to know the teacher a bit better, have chatted with them on the phone or via email and connected on social media it’s time to relax. An experienced retreat leader will make sure you receive all of the necessary information before you need it.  Let go of the need to micromanage your life for just this little bit… you’re going on retreat aren’t you? Let your retreat leader guide you on your journey.

3. Be willing to put in 110%.

I’m not just talking physically here. Be willing to open up, to let go of old habits and preconceived self-limiting beliefs, to let down your walls and to connect with others. You already have a lot in common with the other people on the retreat, so be yourself and enjoy new friendships.

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Yoga babes.

4. You don’t need 20 pairs of yoga pants, your hair dryer or your makeup.

I’m completely guilty of overpacking yoga leggings and I’ve seen it many times from my students too. You don’t need as much as you think. Likely, you will end up wearing the same couple of outfits over and over simply because it’s easy. And there is no need to primp during a yoga retreat. We will happily accept you as you are. Sweaty, crazy haired, and glowing.

5. Prepare fora yoga retreat by ask yourself “What is my intention?”

Get clear about your intention or sankalpa for the retreat. What are your goals? Why are you attending a yoga retreat in the first place? Is it to deepen your yoga practice? To learn meditation? To relax and rejuvenate? To connect with yourself? To heal emotionally, physically, spiritually? Whatever your intention don’t be afraid to honor that. Sometimes honoring your sankalpa means skipping a yoga practice to sleep in or journal or walk the beach. Sometimes it means being bold and letting down all the barriers you’ve built up. Sometimes it means trying something completely new.

6. Eat mindfully, so you don’t “shock” your system.

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Healthy eats! Raw vegan wraps. Yum!

Most yoga retreats have amazing, healthy meals with minimal processed food, meat, alcohol and caffeine. You can prepare for a yoga retreat by beginning to cut processed food and toxins out of your diet a week or two before the retreat. Ease your way into a new healthy radiant you.

7. Practice on your travel mat beforehand.

If you’re bringing a travel mat, or even a new mat, make sure to practice on it beforehand. A slick mat, or one that stretches in downward facing dog is annoying at best. Test it out beforehand and if it doesn’t work out pack your old standby. A “crappy” mat can make for a frustrating yoga retreat. You don’t want something as simple as a yoga mat to detract from your experience.

8. Learn about your destination.

Where are you going? What is that part of the world known for? Do you have time for extra excursions? Prepare for a yoga retreat by doing a little research beforehand. It will get you pumped up about where you’re going and it might even get your friends excited enough to tag along. Sweet!

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9. Set aside all expectations.

Manage your expectations. As you prepare for a yoga retreat make sure to ask your retreat leader questions about things you want clarity about…. transportation, food, excursions. Get the answers you need and want… and then let it go. The nature of retreats, especially international retreats, is that sometimes things need to change to bring the best experience to the students. Maybe the teacher has had to rearrange excursions due to whether or even swap them out completely… maybe instead of going on that jungle hike you’ll get a lovely massage instead. Don’t worry about it. The instructor wants you to love the experience as much as you want to love the experience, so roll with the punches, go with the flow, ride the wave. It will be amazing.

“To explore what it would mean to live fully, sensually alive and passionately on purpose, I have to drop my preconceived ideas of who and what I am.”

Dawna Markova

Happy Retreat Prep Yogis!!!

Love and Light,

Autumn

 

 

 

Neem Oil Cleansing Method

hot-water-faucet-natural-face-wash

Hey yogis, today I’m going to talk about skincare, specifically the oil cleansing method. A year or two ago I started having some “weird” flare ups around my mouth, chin, nose, and also near my eyes. I eventually realized that I had perioral dermatitis. I also realized that the docs don’t really know what causes it and that steroid creams would make it worse. Great!

After tons of online research and using my face as a testing lab… I narrowed down a skincare regime that has been working for months. I do know that if I start to slack off my skin will flare up again. I use a combination of calendula cream (or homemade calendula balm) along with the oil cleansing method to keep my skin in check.

Why do I use the oil cleansing method? It’s natural and synthetic chemical free! Oil dissolves oil. And I live in a super dry climate and it manages to keep my skin moisturized enough that I don’t need more than a spot treatment of calendula balm.

If oil cleansing is new to you, know that there is an adjustment period until you get your oil blend down to the right combination.

My recipe for oil cleansing:

  • 3 T. Castor oil
  • 3 T. Grapeseed or apricot kernal oil
  • 1/4 t. Neem oil
  • 3 drops lavender essential oil

I store it in an airtight 4 oz. mason jar in a drawer in my bathroom. Why do I choose the ingredients I do? Castor oil is antibacterial and astringent, so it’s good at removing the gunk from your face, but it is also very drying. Grapeseed oil is good for my sensitive skin and apricot kernal oil is good for dry skin. Neem has many natural properties like: anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-septic and antifungal. Neem is also good for those with dry, irritated skin, so it’s a must for me. When choosing your ingredients it is important to use good quality organic products, so you’re not putting synthetic chemicals on your face.

To wash I pre-rinse my face with warm water. I then pour a little of the oil into the palm of my hand. Then using the fingertips of the other hand I gently massage the oil into my face for a couple of minutes and let the oil set for a few seconds. To wash it off I use a CLEAN washcloth. I run the washcloth under hot water, wring it out and drape the washcloth over my face to “steam” and soften the oil. Then I use the washcloth to wipe the oil off. This will usually take a couple of swipes (rinsing the washcloth in between). I softly pat my skin dry and voila!

What is Dinacharya?

What is dinacharya?

Dinacharya is the daily ritual to live a healthy and balanced life according to the ancient tradition of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is yoga’s sister science. The two traditions have been practiced side-by-side for thousands of years. Yoga supports many of the functions of Ayurveda and Ayurveda supports many of the functions of yoga, so the two are often intertwined.

Most humans, especially in the United States, don’t have time to practice the full dinacharya practice… it’s just not practical with jobs, kids, etc. I’d rather not bore you with too much information, so here is a list of a fairly attainable morning practice of dinacharya…. but it’s still 13 items!!! Okay, but lets be honest you most likely at least do 5 of them already without thinking about it.

Sunset meditation

1. Rise early before the sun.

 

I’m not going to lie the morning hours are beautiful and peaceful, but I am kapha and getting out of bed in the morning is often the hardest part of my day. No joke. At least one day a week though I wake up before 5:00 am and I’m probably better for it.All my kaphas out there…. you understand how hard it is to get out of bed early (early I mean 6-7 am), but if you can stomach it just try to get up at 4:30 am or even 5 am before the first kapha cycle of day begins (first cycle: 6-10am; second cycle 6-10pm). According to Dr. Vasant Lad, the leading Ayurvedic doctor in the United States, “It is good to wake up before the sun rises, when there are loving (sattvic) qualities in nature that bring peace of mind and freshness to the senses. Sunrise varies according to the seasons, but on average vata people should get up about 6 a.m., pitta people by 5.30 a.m., and kapha by 4.30 a.m. Right after waking, look at your hands for a few moments, then gently move them over your face and chest down to the waist. This cleans the aura.”

2. Drink a large glass of warm lemon water.

Well this one is easy. Slice up a lemon and squeeze it into some warm water. Drink your lemon water before anything else goes in your body (including coffee). Warm lemon water helps jump start your metabolism and digestion and also flushes the kidneys.

3. Wash face and clear out sinuses with neti pot.

Likely you already wash your face in the morning, but using a neti pot might be new to you. To be honest I don’t neti pot everyday, but I do use it when I feel congested, when I am experiencing allergy symptoms, or suspect that I might be getting sick. I also will use my neti pot if I plan on having an extensive pranayama session. Want to try out using a neti pot? Watch this Web MD video first (also, please feel free to contact me if you have questions).

4. Scrape tongue.

Yep, give it a good scrape before you brush your teeth. The build up of ama (toxins) in the body is what causes that white filmy layer on the tongue. The practice of tongue scraping takes just a couple of seconds and helps improve overall oral health. You can purchase tongue scrapers at most natural food stores like Whole Foods or Natural Grocers.

5. Brush teeth.

Brush your teeth. Please tell me you’re already doing this!

6. Evacuate your bowels.

It’s time to go number 2. The warm lemon water should assist with emptying your bowels. In a perfect world you would relieve yourself within one hour of getting out of bed. When we are unable to evacuate our bowels a build up of toxins within the body can occur. Anyone else get headaches when the plumbing isn’t working right? I do… and it’s terrible. If the whole morning routine is new to you it may take a couple of days to get into the rhythm. Don’t stress.

7. 10-20 minutes of yoga.

Once you’ve had your bowel movement begin your yoga practice. A few simple stretches and movements to the body can help “clear out the cobwebs” that built up overnight and improve mood and overall wellbeing.

8. 5-10 minutes of pranayama or breathing exercises.

A very simple pranayama exercise would be 1:1 ratio breathing. An example would be inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 4 counts. Another option would be to practice nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing). If you will be venturing into more stimulating/challenging pranayama exercises please consult with your yoga/pranayama teacher. You may even want to consult with your doctor.

9. 5-15 minutes of meditation.

I recommend practicing meditation seated and not lying down. Find a comfortable seat in a comfortable quiet place. A simple meditation would be to follow the breath as it flows in and out of your body. There are also plenty of meditation apps that you can use for a guided practice.

10. 5-10 minute abhyanga.

Abhyanga, the self massage, is the best part of dinacharya. Use a warmed sesame or coconut oil and massage the limbs in long strokes, the joints and abdomen in circular strokes. Don’t forget your back, scalp and face. (I have sensitive skin, so I use a different blend on my face than on my body.)

11. 10-20 minute oil pulling.

Oil pulling might take a little time to get used to. Oil pulling clears out any residual bacterial buildup in the mouth. It improves breath and overall dental health. Use a tablespoon or so of coconut oil and swish it around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Spit it out when you’re finished. Do not swallow the oil. You can oil pull while you’re doing your self massage or while showering to save time.

12. Shower or bathe.

Yep, hop in the shower or bath and you’re good to go.

13. Eat breakfast.

Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast.

I’d love to hear about your morning ritual. What do you do to make sure your day gets started on the right foot?

Love and Light,

Autumn