Create Your Own Sleep Retreat in 6 Easy Steps

I just completed a ten day sleep retreat. I didn’t plan it, it just happened. I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I was until I started sleeping 10-11 hours at a stretch.

Last month I struggled with insomnia. I’d wake up at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning and my busy mind would not let me fall back asleep. It was a rough couple of weeks, but it gave me a firsthand experience of what many people struggle with on a daily basis.

To share some stats about sleep disorders… according to the American Sleep Association:

  • 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder.
  • Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder.
  • 30% of adults suffer from short term insomnia.
  • 10% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.

The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep. Approximately one third of Americans report that they get less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24 hour period. Sleep disorders have been linked to drowsy driving, obesity, and death (due to medical errors).

People are taking steps to address sleeping disorders. Many luxury hotels and resorts have started offering Sleep Vacation packages. In an effort to combat stress, many couples are choosing to sleep alone.

[Recommended Reading: British couples too stressed to sleep in same bed.]

The practice of Sleep Yoga also encourages practitioners to sleep separately. Sleeping alone increases relaxation and allows for a more individualized dreaming experience.

Sleeping alone is one of 6 recommended steps for creating your own Personal Yoga Sleep Retreat. If spending a couple thousand dollars on a weekend getaway doesn’t fit your budget, a DIY home sleep retreat is an affordable and effective alternative.

Step 1: Take a Stay-cation. Give yourself the gift of some quiet time at home. Clear your schedule, and resist the impulse to fill it back up again.

Step 2: Clean your bedroom. Wipe down surfaces, vacuum, wash your sheets. Sort through clutter and donate items you aren’t using anymore.

Step 3: Avoid caffeine. People have different sensitivity levels to caffeine. As a general rule, if your goal is to fall asleep by 10pm reduce your caffeine intake after 5pm.

Step 4: Minimize exposure to artificial lights (this includes screen time). Candlelight or low lights will help you wind down.

Step 5: Bathe before bed. Take a shower or (even better) a bath. Adding a cup of Epsom salts to your bath will relax your muscles and increase your ability to sleep. Put on clean sleeping clothes and relax in bed with the lights off.

Step 6: Sleep alone (if you have the option to do so). It makes a huge difference in the quality of your sleep.

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Retreat Musings

When Life Gets Busy Your Practice is the First Thing to Go

One could say that moving falls in the top five life challenges. I’d say that’s a safe bet, just based on the volume of time and energy that moving requires. When life gets busy taking care of ourselves loses priority. Fast.

It’s been a week since I moved into my new home. It still feels like I have a thousand things to do and I’m juggling so many balls in the air. I’ll be so happy when I’m settled in and can get back on track with my practice.

As I’m unpacking I keep pausing in front of the window of my new training space. We just had a late spring blizzard and the beautiful pine tree outside is covered in snow.

I watch as the sunlight begins to shine through the clouds. I’m daydreaming about practicing in my new home.

I had to sacrifice my own training quite a bit this month. It happens. Especially when your home is under construction.

When life gets busy your practice is the first thing to go. – Garrell Herndon, Bodyworker and Yoga Instructor

At times like these I remember some wise words from an Iyengar yoga teacher that I studied with. They always serve as a good reminder to be gentle with myself during times of high output.

I know the work is worthwhile. I’m just so incredibly grateful to have a home training space. It’s a long term dream that requires very particular dimensions of space. I am not a fan of the tiny house movement. Or low hanging ceiling fans. Or big pieces of furniture.  I like to move!

I’m getting close to achieving my dream lifestyle: to have a job that I love, to be able to focus on my practice, and create Personal Yoga retreats. I can’t even begin to describe how happy this makes me…

Living my Dharma, one day at a time.

Self Teacher Study – Personal Yoga Training Chart

A Personal Yoga practice gives you the freedom to practice anytime, anywhere. Practicing at home sounds easy enough but it can take years to cultivate your own intuitive, organic practice.

Needless to say, it can be challenging to self-direct your own practice. Having too many choices can feel overwhelming. Without a clear road map you might start avoiding your mat altogether.

When I feel overwhelmed I get organized. I keep a wire-bound notebook on my desk at all times.

I love making lists. All kinds. Grocery lists, “To Do” lists, long-term goal lists, project lists, etc. I love the satisfaction of crossing things off and throwing lists away. I keep the best lists.

Six months ago I started developing my first Personal Yoga training chart (feel free to expand upon it). This organizational tool played an essential role in my recovery from a herniated disk.

Create your own Personal Yoga Training Chart

Step 1: Free Writing

Start by free writing a page of notes. Write continuously until you fill the page. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. Write about your goals. Write about any challenges you might be having with your home practice. It’s okay to go off topic, just keep writing.

Step 2: Movement Vocabulary

On a fresh sheet of paper make a list (!) of exercises. Think about your movement vocabulary. Which exercises will help you reach your goals? What do you enjoy doing?

[The key word here is: Enjoy. One pitfall to avoid is too much structure. Too many have-to’s. Not enough want-to’s.]

How do you want to move?

The level of challenge is up to you. You could include one or two exercises that you don’t necessarily enjoy but would be good for you. For the most part include exercises that you genuinely enjoy.

Step 3: Training Chart

On a third sheet of paper make a chart. On the left side of the page list all of the dates for the next month. Across the top of the page create columns for each exercise that you listed in Step 2.

The number of exercises is up to you. I recommend anywhere from 3-12. Your personal practice can be as simple or as challenging as you want to be. The idea is to pick exercises that you can see yourself doing on a day-to-day basis.

Tracking your daily progress is very satisfying. And a training chart provides you with a record of your efforts over time.

Off Days

Gaps in your training schedule are okay! It’s bound to happen at some point. Life gets busy or takes an unexpected turn. Be kind to yourself on your off days. Trust that you’ll get back on track as soon as possible.

Could you use a little help with with your budding home practice? I’d love to hear about your goals. Book a free no-obligation consultation today.

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Personal Yoga Benefits

Home Rituals – Maple Pecan Pie

I’ve had slow-cooked foods on the brain lately: French onion soup, barbecued ribs and pecan pie. Slow-cooked foods are ideal in the winter and when my body is craving certain foods, I listen.

I’ve wanted to make a pecan pie for ten years. My inspiration came from the Shoshoni Yoga cookbook, which I discovered after a day trip to the Rollinsville, Colorado center.

Even more outstanding than the high frequency of the beautiful mountain ashram or the gentle yoga class was the food…

The yoga class was held in the main hall next to the kitchen where I could hear the cooks chanting mantras (mantra: to protect).

The summer meal consisted of Mexican vegetable soup, salad with avocado dressing, and sopapillas with refried beans and cheese. I felt so nourished from eating these foods and left wanting to know more.

I studied every page of that cookbook. All great recipes (especially the desserts section) but the pecan pie was the most impressive. Why?

They use maple syrup instead of corn syrup.

I didn’t know you could substitute the two. Corn syrup is a standard ingredient in pecan pie. It’s also one of the sweeteners that I avoid.

Maple syrup is packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants. Combined with pecans’ massive health benefits this dessert is a phenomenal superfood.

“One saintly Ma from Bangalore tells us, “We need to eat a little sweet on occasion, so we stay sweet.” – Yoga Kitchen: Recipes from the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat

I’d been hesitant because I wasn’t sure how to do it. I didn’t want to mess up or waste good ingredients. But after a two week Personal Yoga retreat I felt more courageous and aware of my body’s messages.

It became clear that I needed more information. So I did some research which led me to this recipe. It’s similar to Shoshoni’s version and has more detailed instructions.

A Personal Spin

I used pre-shelled pecan pieces (slow food is great but ain’t nobody got time to shell 2 1/2 cups of pecans) and added a little nitrate-free bacon fat to the pie dough (bacon fat prevents the crust from burning). You could go straight butter – just keep an eye on the edges. [Is Lard Healthy?]

Maple Pecan Pie

Prep: 8 hours or overnight

Servings: 8

One 9″ Pie Crust

  • 3/4 cup white flour, chilled
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, chilled
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 Tbsp butter, chilled
  • 3 Tbsp bacon fat, chilled
  • 4-6 Tbsp ice water

Filling

  • 2 1/2 cups toasted pecan pieces
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon (optional)

Prepare the Crust

  1. In a food processor pulse to combine the flours and salt. Add chilled butter and fat and process until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add 4 Tbsp ice water and pulse until the dough gathers into a ball. Add 1-2 additional Tbsp of water if needed.
  2. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper. Form dough into a round disk, handling as little as possible. Wrap dough in parchment paper and place in a sealed ziplock bag. Place in freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Unwrap dough and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll dough into a 12″ circle. Transfer to a 9″ pie plate. Press rolled dough to fit pie plate. Shape edges into a fluted or decorative design of your choice.
  4. Chill crust for 30 minutes.
  5. Line pie crust with parchment paper and dry rice or pie weights. Bake crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove paper and weights.

Filling

  1. Prepare the filling while the pie crust is baking. In a medium saucepan melt the butter, brown sugar and salt. Remove from heat and add maple syrup, vanilla, and Bourbon.
  2. Stir in the toasted pecan pieces. Option: to infuse the pecans add them to the vanilla-syrup while they are still hot. Let cool completely.
  3. In a small bowl whisk the three eggs. Stir into pecan mixture in three additions.

Pour filling into hot, pre-baked pie crust. Reduce heat to 275 degrees. Bake pie for 20-40 minutes. I recommend reading the Bojon Gourmet’s article for how to determine when the pie is done.

Let the pie cool completely and refrigerate. One hour before serving cut into slices and bring to room temperature.

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How to Plan a Winter Solstice Personal Yoga Retreat

Winter Solstice

 

“Winter Solstice”

No more hurry

hurry,

time now for firelight

and dreaming,

for church bells

mingling

with the cold, quiet sunlight.

And somewhere

deep

inside of you

a kernel of courage

unfurling –

each day, more light.

– Irene Latham


“If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” 

A friend once shared this tidbit of wisdom with me, and it still rings true whenever my plans fall apart. I had every intention of focusing on my practice for the month of December but my immune system has been on the ropes from three consecutive colds.

Thankfully I’ve had a chance to regroup, just in time for the Winter Solstice. In some ways it’s better to start a Personal Yoga retreat now because I’ll have fewer distractions over the holidays.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to merge working life seamlessly with your practice. But according to the great Sage Patanjali, the first of 13 Obstacles on the Yogic Path is sickness. There isn’t much we can do until we’re feeling better. So incubation is key, which falls in line with the power and presence of the Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice Retreat

I like to begin a Personal Yoga retreat with a few simple preparations. These are especially beneficial if you haven’t been feeling well or have low energy from holiday season burnout. I recommend starting with Saucha, the second Niyama (observance) of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.

The Niyamas are foundational practices that relate to our internal world. Saucha means purity or cleanliness of our internal and external worlds. When we engage in Saucha on an external level (such as our bodies), we are also affecting the internal (mind and spirit) parts of our beings.

If my house isn’t clean I have a hard time focusing on anything. So I like to practice Saucha with a thorough and intentional cleaning of my home environment. A few of my Saucha materials include:

  • White Vinegar Spray: Great for counter-tops, bathrooms and floors (dilute 50/50 with water).
  • Baking Soda: Mix with vinegar spray to create a paste for sinks or tubs.
  • Essential Oils: Lavender and Tea Tree are powerful antiseptics. Add a few drops to a sponge or mix with grain alcohol for a DIY air freshener. (For more information, read Freshen Indoor Air Naturally )

I love the way burning candles and diffusing essential oils can lift the feeling of a space. [Fun fact: I recently learned that burning dried sage can reduce airborne bacteria.] Another nice touch is a vase of fresh flowers in clean water.

I like to conclude a meditative house cleaning with a hot shower and a fresh set of clean clothes. These simple steps clear my mind so that I can drop more easily into my practice and refill my “cup.”

I hope these tips spark your imagination with creating your own Winter Solstice Retreat.

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Hot Logic Mini

hot-logic-mini-parkDisclaimer: I am not paid to endorse the Hot Logic Mini. I am simply sharing my appreciation for the intelligent design of this product with my readers.

So I’ve never blogged about a product before, but this is one of the best things that I’ve come across in a long time. And it ties into past discussions about alchemical cooking, health, the Slow Movement, etc.

The Hot Logic Mini is a personal portable oven that uses what the company describes as a “low-slow conductive heating system.” According to their website:

The Hot Logic Mini is ideal for those of us who don’t like microwaves… busy people who don’t have time to cook… truckers / delivery drivers / travelers who don’t have a lunch room… food preppers & fitness enthusiasts… folks with food allergies or special dietary concerns who want to carry a safe, healthy, hot meal with them anywhere they go.

I can’t stand microwaves. Just the thought of ruining a good meal by wicking away all of the nutrients makes me feel pretty sad. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t like to eat out very much. I prefer to cook my own meals because I know exactly what’s going in them and how they were prepared.

When I go out into the world for work or school, microwaves tend to be the only available option. I am a firm believer in the necessity of eating hot meals. Hot food is as essential for good health as hot beverages are – especially in the colder months.

I am the kind of person who carries a toaster oven around with me. [Taoist Travel Tip: they do come in handy on the road.] But toaster ovens are bulky and can take up space, and it’s not so easy to be discreet with them. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered my new favorite thing:

The Hot Logic Mini

I just spent a month playing with my new toy. I paid $40 for it on ebay and didn’t want to take the risk of having someone steal it. So I kept it my car and used a portable jump starter with a USB outlet and a 100 watt car inverter (the Mini uses 45 watts).

I use glass pyrex containers for food storage. Glass is preferable to plastic or aluminum foil, because glass keeps the food safe from harmful chemicals that leach into the food when it’s heated. Glass is also non-porous so it doesn’t absorb food or germs.

hot-logic-mini-quicheSo what did I make? I tried a bunch of different things. Indian food packets with rice are easy and delicious. Pasta dishes reheat super well. Any kind of stew (like chicken pot pie with a mashed potato crust) is ideal.

hot-logic-mini-chicken-pot-pieI don’t recommend soups with the pyrex containers because they’re not leakproof. And spills are kind of a pain in the butt. The inner seams of the bag are not so easy to clean. But that’s really my only criticism of the Mini’s design.

hot-logic-mini-pastaMy favorite discovery was the defrosted breakfast burrito. I did heat them in the paper wrapping but they reheat really, really well that way. I could probably unwrap the burrito and put it in a glass container. But convenience won me over on busy mornings.

hot-logic-mini-breakfast-burritoAs far as heating time goes, you’ll want to turn on the Mini 60-90 minutes in advance of when you’ll be eating. The burritos dry out a bit if they’re left in any longer than that. But any dish with moisture can sustain even longer heating times. It’s kind of like a crock pot in that way…

Which brings us back to the topic of slow food and yoga. Slow cooked foods are ideal for many reasons. The longer you slow cook certain foods (such as beans) the more chi or vital life force is infused into the food. It’s kind of like adding a bottle of fuel treatment to your gas tank. Slow cooking helps you increase the power, function and mileage of your body-vehicle.

If you’d like some recipe ideas you’re welcome to check out my Pinterest. If you enjoyed reading this article you might also like:

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mind-body-mandala-mums

Practice, Practice, Practice Alone

Practice Alone Do Not DisturbI just completed a month-long Personal Yoga retreat so I thought I’d share a few insights while they’re fresh in my mind. I still had my day-to-day responsibilities to attend to but I managed to raise the bar of my practice. I also did a social media fast (well, except for Pinterest – does that count as social media?)

Taking a month to withdraw gave me a much needed break. And it helped to raise my awareness of the challenges of being a modern day sadhaka. A sadhaka is a Sanskrit term for someone who follows a particular sadhana (a spiritual practice or way of life).

Practice Alone Flowers

According to B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most famous yoga teachers of all time, a sadhaka uses yoga to gain knowledge, light and liberation. It also helps to purify the body and soul. – Yogapedia

Challenge #1: Practicing at Home

Some of the obstacles of maintaining a home practice are a result of, well… being at home. Home isn’t the gym, or the studio, or any other designated place for exercise. So we have to consciously make it into one, which takes work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started my practice only to have a “to-do” flash through my mind.

“Oh I forgot to change the laundry over, put the leftovers away, etc.” 

“Darn it, I meant to turn off my cell phone.”

“Oh man, I really need to shave my legs.”

It can be tricky to navigate the transition from housework or home office work to doing our home practice. My best advice is to stay on your mat. You’ll be able to take care of all of these things afterwards.

Challenge #2: Shared living spaces.

If you have housemates or family members around you may have to work at communicating your boundaries.

“I’m going to be practicing from now until such-and-such a time. Do you need anything before I get started?”

“I’d like to practice for the next hour. Could you please use headphones if you want to watch TV or listen to the radio?”

Practice Alone Purple FlowersChallenge #3: This path can be lonely at times.

We may or may not have a community (sangha) of practitioners to support us in our journeys. It’s okay though – you’ll feel far more connected, centered and whole after you practice.

Challenge #4: Interruptions

It’s very important to choose a practice time when you won’t be interrupted. The people you live with may or may not realize what you’re doing. I’ve had people walk in and start talking to me when I was in a extraordinarily expansive meditation. It’s incredibly jarring to the nervous system to be disrupted when you’re in that state.

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “Useless Talk” is one of the 6 Destroyers of Yoga Practice.

Hopefully you’ll remember to turn your cell phone off. You can also minimize unexpected guests or workmen by telling people you work from home and can’t be disturbed.

Practice Alone MandalaIf you’re thinking about doing a personal retreat or just want to start a home practice, my very best advice is (to echo the words of the master himself) – practice, practice, practice alone. Try to practice when you won’t be disturbed. You can avoid many of these obstacles simply by making good use of your alone time.

As someone who used to dread the idea of being alone, I can tell you that practicing alone is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. And when you do your sadhana (translation – good for you) you’ll have more than enough energy to extend to others.

Practice Alone Tea Cup

Personal Yoga Retreats

Personal Yoga RetreatsLast night I trained in a temple of clouds. The gentle currents of air mingled with the sounds of water. I watched two young mule deer peek their heads above the long grasses in the nearby field. In the distance a billowing cumulus tower ignited with flashes of lightning. The blazing sunset warmed my back as I moved and stretched my body.

Summer training season is here.

I love training outdoors. As much as I appreciate the privacy of an indoor space, as soon as the weather allows I like to go to the park, trail or playground whenever possible. In public spaces there’s usually an audience, but most people are nice. Like the elderly lady last night who said, “Thank you for the entertainment.”

Summer training season is a wonderful time for Personal Yoga retreats. These experiences replenish and refuel my whole being. It’s not just exercising – it’s the whole lifestyle. Eating alchemical food, feeling GREAT and laughing a lot.

Have I mentioned that I love my life?

Personal Yoga Retreat QuicheThis is not the kind of thing that you can teach in drop-in classes. It’s means taking a whole day to focus on eating, meditating and training. That’s my life – I create my own personal yoga retreats. I’ve been doing this for over five years now. I just enjoy feeling awesome and is this is how I do it.

It’s definitely possible to do this for yourself. You just have to carve out some space in your schedule and do some basic preparations, such as:

  • Clean the house
  • Clean and groom your body
  • Get your “to-do” list in order
  • Stock the fridge with delicious and healthy food

All of this will help to minimize distractions. Once you’ve cleared your slate start your Personal Yoga retreat nice and slow. Turn your phone off (or just don’t answer it). Cook with superfoods. Take some supplements. Drink lots of fluids. Move in ways that your body and mind enjoy. Rest when you’re tired.

If you’d like some help with designing your own Personal Yoga retreat I’d be happy to speak with you. I offer free no-obligation consultations in person, by phone, Skype or Facetime.

Red Rose Mandala

Small Group Yoga Training

Small Group Yoga Training

Let’s face it, exercising with friends is a lot of fun. We can learn so much about ourselves while being part of a team. And as life is moving faster than ever, quality time with friends and family is becoming even more of a priority.

Small group training is a wonderful way to experience the benefits of Personal Yoga in a supportive environment. Receive high quality instruction at an affordable rate, as you create meaningful shared experiences. Families, friends, couples and co-workers can form their own teams and work towards their shared goals.

Flying solo

If you would like to join a team simply request to be added to an open group. This is a great way to make new friends and connect with people in a positive setting. You might also choose to receive additional help through one-on-one training while participating in a small group program.

Small groups are small for good reason

Keeping the number of participants low makes it possible for each client to receive as much personalized attention as possible. Small groups are typically made up of two, three or four people.

How long does a training program run?

The ideal time frame for a small group training program is 5-10 weeks. You could start with a single session and if you decide to continue I recommend upgrading to a discounted package of five sessions.

Parker Pricing Menu

 

Assemble Your Team


Some helpful tips on forming your own Personal Yoga team:

INVITE A FRIEND 

Everyone needs a little motivation from time to time. Give your friends a little nudge and share this post with them.

 

FIND A TEAM 

Ask to be added to a team that is right for you. We’ll connect you with people who have similar needs and goals.

 

Get Motivated


Read a few success stories from past clients on the Testimonials page.

Learn about the many Personal Yoga Benefits

 

Get Started


Start your Personal Yoga journey today. Sign up for a free no-obligation consultation: Book Now

Off-Grid Living

Mescal CanyonIt’s pretty amazing to be in Arizona again. The first time I came here was twenty years ago as an apprentice for an artist in residency program. This time I’m fulfilling a dream of interning at an off-grid eco resort. I’ve been learning about organic gardening and assisting with the operations of a family-run bed and breakfast. In my free time I dive into my practice and absorb the life force of this extraordinary place.

Since landing here a little over a week ago, the effects of unplugging from the electromagnetic matrix have been remarkable. The most noticeable changes have been from being in a larger living space. After the experience of an Agenda 21 micro apartment it’s been wonderful to stretch out again.

I am not a fan of the tiny house movement.

Free range humans need space to thrive and create. While micro-apartments may offer an affordable housing solution, the health risks are significant. According to University of Texas psychology professor Samuel Gosling, an apartment has to fill psychological needs such as self-expression and relaxation, which might not be met in a cramped space.

Rosemary

The Mescal Canyon Retreat has been a welcome source of peace of mind. A crime wave was sweeping through Montrose, Colorado, the likes of which had never been seen by its thirty-year residents. After hearing reports of numerous break-ins, robberies and attempted abductions, it was time for a change of scenery.

It’s wonderful to decompress in an off-grid setting.

My brain has relaxed in the absence of cell phone towers, wi-fi and smart meter radiation. I find that I’m less inclined to go online or use technology. I see phosphenes more often, and the low levels of light pollution make it easier to observe the Milky Way.

Sunset

My sleep schedule has changed. I rise with the sun and go to bed early. I shower and wash dishes with solar-heated water that’s free of chlorine, fluoride and bromine. Hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies skim over the flowerbeds during my meditations. I eat fresh pomegranates from the orchard.

Ayla

Furry friends.

Ayla and Moki keep watch over the property. Moki the Hound takes his job very seriously, and sometimes you’ll hear him chasing coyotes through the canyon. Ayla is a cheeky red fox in a dog’s body. She’s earned many nicknames, including Face, Furface, Foxface and Naughty Girl.

It’s been raining here (a much needed blessing for this area). Last weekend a downpour caused a flash flood through the canyon. For a few hours there was no way to cross the river or leave the resort. There’s nothing quite like being stranded to make you appreciate self-sustainability.

Being here has inspired me to offer Personal Yoga retreats for my clients. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as being able to dive in to one’s practice in a serene and natural setting. It’s an experience that I hope to share with as many people as possible. Let me know if you’re interested!

Trumpets