What even happens on a yoga retreat

"So what even happens on a yoga retreat?"

My roommate asked me this question when I arrived home from a weekend yoga retreat this Sunday. It was a good question, especially since I didn’t share any of the weekend on my Instagram account.

Yoga retreats have exploded in popularity in the last 5 years, likely due to an increased awareness around health but also thanks to social media, like Instagram, which gives teachers and students a platform to share these picture perfect adventures.

But yoga retreats are not just for committed "yogis" - they present awesome opportunities to relax, explore and connect with like minded individuals.

This past weekend I assisted in leading a retreat with my neighborhood yoga studio, Jewel City Yoga. It was such a joy to be a part of this experience, and such a pleasure to see how impactful this weekend was on each and every one of the participants, no matter their skill or interest in the physical yoga practice.

Yes, you can enjoy a yoga retreat even if you're a complete beginner, or if you decide not to participate in the yoga at all.

Today I'm sharing a bit more behind the scenes of this yoga retreat so that you can get an idea of what you might expect should you choose to participate in one in the future.

I'm also sharing three reasons a yoga retreat may be the perfect next vacation for you.

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Why go on a yoga retreat

Before we get into the WHAT, let’s talk about the WHY.

Why might you decide to go on a yoga retreat, versus simply traveling on your own?

  1. You prefer to have someone else take care of the logistics. With most yoga retreats, all of the details are handled with the exception of your flight or transport to the retreat location. You can literally just show up and not have to worry about food or outings or figuring out the best AirBnB to book. This can be especially nice when visiting a new foreign city, or if your life is particularly busy.

  2. You’re into health, wellness and/or self development. As I mentioned above, you don’t have to be an advanced yogi to go on a retreat, but you should have a general interest in health and wellness, or an openness to learning about these topics and yoga. I’ve taught at retreats where individuals opted out of the actual yoga, but they were happy to for the vibe of the trip to be health focused.

  3. You’re looking to connect with like minded individuals. In my opinion, the BEST part of retreats are the connections and conversations that co-habitating with other like minded humans for a week or weekend facilitates. Sometimes the retreat leaders initiate reflecting and sharing moments, but often it’s in the in between moments (in between yoga and brunch, during afternoon free time, in between dinner and bedtime) that conversation is sparked and connections are made. Each retreat will attract a unique set of people, all of which are there for a reason.

It’s definitely good if you like yoga, but there’s so much you’ll get out of a retreat regardless!

What actually happens? (example schedule)

Every retreat is unique, but I want to share this weekend’s schedule to give you an idea of what one might look like. With most retreats, the activities are always optional - you can choose to do everything, or decide to sleep in or spend some extra time with your journal (or hop over to the local winery, or whatever!).

The schedule below is for a weekend. Longer retreats usually follow the same flow, often with an adventure or excursion day in the middle of the trip to switch things up.

FRIDAY

5-7PM Arrive + settle in

7-8PM Dinner

8-9:30PM Welcome, intention setting + evening meditation

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SATURDAY

7:30-9AM Light breakfast + coffee and tea

9-10:15AM Morning yoga

10:15-11:15AM Free time

11:15AM-12:45PM Brunch

12:45-3:30PM Free time

3:30-4:45PM Afternoon yoga

4:45-6PM Free time

6-8PM Cooking class + dinner

8-9:30PM Post dinner discussion (we had a more formal chat about non violent communication, but often this will be additional free time)

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SUNDAY

7:30-9AM Light breakfast + coffee and tea

9-10:15AM Morning yoga

10:15-11:15AM Free time

11:15AM-12:45PM Brunch

12:45-1:30PM Free time

1:30-2PM Reflections, closing meditation + departure

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What do you eat? Is it only salads and green juice?

As you may expect, the food on yoga retreats is typically healthy, but also delicious. Sometimes a private chef is brought in to cook for the group, other times the retreat leader will do the cooking and ask participants to lend a hand with small tasks. If the retreat is held at a retreat center, the food is usually handled by their staff.

Most often meals are plant based.

Alcohol is usually not included, but not always discouraged - it’s simply up to you to purchase if you’d like to have it during your retreat. There was plenty of wine enjoyed this past weekend (not by me personally, but most everyone else had at least a glass or two with dinners).

DO I HAVE TO BE EXPERIENCED WITH YOGA?

The short answer: it depends.

Most often it’s completely fine to be a beginner, especially if you’re excited to learn. The beauty of a retreat is that you’ll get more time with a single teacher, and have the opportunity to ask questions, receive hands on adjustments and personal feedback.

There are some retreats that are geared more towards advanced practitioners and teachers. Likely you’ll know from the website if this is the case. And if you’re not sure, just ask! Get in touch with whoever is in charge and explain that you’re a beginner - would this retreat be a good fit for you?

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How do i find a retreat?

There are tons of companies these days who organize retreats as their full time business. And while you can absolutely find a great trip and have an amazing experience with one of these companies, I do suggest going with a teacher or studio you know if you can.

You’re way more likely to have a positive, enriching experience if you already know you like the teacher’s style (even if you’ve only taken a class or two but were into their vibe). In addition, you’ll meet people who live or work in your local community (which is less likely when going with a big, international retreat company).

That being said… YES, there are absolutely more yoga retreats in my future. Two are already brewing for this year :) Make sure you’re signed up for my weekly newsletter list to be the first to know about future retreat opportunities!




THANK YOU TO FROM THE HIP PHOTO FOR CAPTURING THIS WEEKEND SO BEAUTIFULLY

My morning breathwork practice [VIDEO]

Ever wish you could experience the calm and balance that comes from a good yoga class (or good therapy session!) in more moments of your life?

You can through meditation and breathwork.

Most people have heard of meditation. It's gotten pretty popular in the recent years as more and more celebrities and big executives reveal that they meditate on a daily basis. Due to it's popularity, meditation has also become more accessible - you don't have to go to a yoga studio to meditate, you can learn and practice in the comfort of your own home with apps like Headspace and Calm. 

Today I want to share a little more about meditation's lesser known cousin: breathwork.

You could totally say that breathwork is a meditation, and that meditation involves breathwork. The two are certainly connected. Today I'm sharing some specific techniques that fall more under the "breathwork" category and are less well known than long, deep and even breathing that's taught alongside most meditation.

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I've been practicing and teaching different breathing techniques for the last few years, but it's only within the last year that I've committed to exploring and owning more of these techniques, mainly through my studies of Katonah yoga (more on that another time!).

Your breath is a powerful tool that you can tap into at any time - in the middle of a stressful meeting, on a packed subway car (or in the middle of a bumper to bumper traffic), when your child (or best friend or partner) is having a meltdown. You don't need to make an appointment with your breath - it's with you wherever you go, and you can practice using it almost without anyone noticing.

Personally, I'm most interested in using breathwork techniques to connect with my body and intuition, and to regulate my mood and energy. There are certain breathing techniques that will chill you out and others that can fire you up. In goes beyond that though:

In their 2012 book, The Healing Power of the Breath, doctors Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg wrote: “Studies are revealing that, by changing the patterns of breathing, it is possible to restore balance to the stress response systems, calm an agitated mind, relieve symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), improve physical health and endurance, elevate performance, and enhance relationships.”

WOW.

Breathwork is inherently a part of most meditation and yoga practices, but it can also be practiced on it's own. I recently participated in a yoga training where we did a full 1 hour breathwork class, which was simultaneously one of the hardest and most amazing things I've ever experienced.

From this training I was inspired (ha ha get it???) to add a more formal breathwork practice to my morning routine, which is what I'm sharing with you today. Even on the days when I'm tired, or don't have time for a full yoga sequence, I do a few minutes of breathwork and I immediately feel better - more grounded, more energized and more in ME.

Watch the video below to experience this practice yourself!

As with a meditation or yoga practice, consistency is key. While you will almost certainly feel something after doing breathwork once, the power comes from making it a part of your regular routine.

Leave a comment below with ONE WORD explaining how you felt during or after trying this breathwork routine. And then challenge yourself - can you do this once a week? A few times a week? The magic of the practice truly comes out with repetition.

Guess who's back on the mat?

Just over a year ago I made a conscious decision to take a break from teaching yoga. This decision was not an easy one to make: I loved my students and I loved teaching. I loved that my classes and workshops were regular times where I was required to show up, be present and be seen.

 

 

Despite all that, I slowly started to resent my teaching commitments.

And I felt so guilty for feeling that way.

 

I was exhausted from running around the city, teaching early mornings and weekends, while still working full time on other projects during regular working hours. My attention was scattered. And I started to feel like a fake because between everything I was doing, I wasn't making it to my own mat regularly.

So I decided to take a break from teaching. I thought it would be good to have a month or two off during the summer when studio traffic slows down anyways. I figured I'd be back in the fall, refreshed and with a renewed excitement for teaching.

Well, it took a little more than a month or two (more like 12...), but I'm now READY to step back into this role, or rather step FORWARD into this new version of yoga teacher me.

"Always forward, never back" (name that TV reference!)

"Always forward, never back" (name that TV reference!)

I share this for a few reasons:

  1. For my students - "It's not you, it's me" I just want you to know I've missed you SO much. I'm beyond excited to practice with many of you again soon (see upcoming classes below!)

  2. For my fellow yoga teachers - It's okay to put yourself first, it's okay to take a break. It's okay to love what you do but not to want to hustle so hard. It's okay to want to make good money. It's okay to want more time to yourself. It's okay if the group class thing is not working for you - there are other ways.

  3. For myself - Writing is so therapeutic for me. Putting words down here allows me to work through what's been going on in my head. What I wrote above is important: while I am "stepping back" into this role, I truly see this as moving FORWARD into a different reality of teaching for me, and I want to hold myself accountable to holding the vision of that different reality.

 

 

Like I said, I see this as a new era of teaching for me.

 

Here are the things I've decided to commit to (at this time) so that teaching can feel sustainable and supportive of me:

  • Teach local - For regular group classes, I'm only going to teach at studios that are within walking distance to my apartment or office. Not having to commute makes such a difference for me!

  • Not just hot yoga - I love you hot yoga, but I literally burnt out teaching so many heated classes. While I'll still practice at a hot yoga studio occasionally, I won't be teaching exclusively in the heat.

  • Own my worth - I've increased my rates for privates and special events so that I can show up in the way that I want to: fully, and going above and beyond what's required.

  • Maintain my personal practice - If I feel like my personal practice is slipping, I will re-evaluate what I'm committing to on a weekly basis so that my practice can be a priority.

  • Invest in my own development as a teacher - I'm signed up for an advanced training later this month and will continue to take workshops and trainings to further hone my knowledge and skills as a teacher.

 

 

More than anything else, I want to continue to check in with myself before I commit to new classes, say YES to workshops or events or take on private clients.

Taking a moment to check in.

Taking a moment to check in.

All that being said, I'm thrilled to share a few upcoming opportunities for us to practice yoga together this month!!

Practice with me:

  • Friday July 6th 4PM // Jewel City Yoga, Crown Heights BK // I'm auditioning at my local yoga studio by hosting a community yoga class. If you're in town, I'd love your support at this class. Click here for details!

  • Monday July 16th 6PM // Virtual class via Facebook LIVE! // I'm going to try out teaching a virtual class on Facebook LIVE. LIKE my Facebook page for updates!

  • Sunday July 22nd 9AM // Lululemon Smith Street, Cobble Hill BK // Join me for a free class at the Lululemon on Smith Street. In addition to the yoga class, I'll be chatting about my favorite essential oils for summer and you'll have the opportunity to sample and buy some of these amazing oils! No need to RSVP, you can just show up!

I am also open to taking on one or two new private yoga clients. Contact me if you're interested and we'll chat!

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Whatever your job or schedule, I encourage you to check in with yourself before committing to events, activities, etc. This is YOUR life and you deserve to be in the driver seat. So take a breath and take the wheel.

We got this.

Three things I do when I can't sleep

FACT: I used to have trouble falling (and staying) asleep. While practicing yoga and meditation (plus some targeted supplementation and nutrition hacks) have helped TREMENDOUSLY, I still have nights where my mind is racing and I can't seem to wind down.

Last night was one of those nights.

I thought I would have NO trouble sleeping - I spent a ton of time outside, got plenty of exercise AND went to an hour-long gong meditation (yeah... that was COOL!). I even told my friend Nat "Oooh I'm going to sleep SO well tonight."

Yet somehow when I got home and got into bed I could not relax. My mind felt like it was going a million miles per minute. In the past I would've freaked out more: UGH I'm not going to sleep tonight, I have so much going on tomorrow, just FALL ASLEEP ALREADY!! Instead, I used some of my tools to quiet my mind and calm my body so that I could fall asleep peacefully.

Here are the three things I do when I'm having trouble sleeping:

1. Journal - I journal every night, but find it especially helpful on the nights where my mind is busy. I write down whatever is going on in my head (worries, to-do lists, things I'm excited about, etc) and imagine those thoughts literally coming OUT of my brain and onto the paper.

2. Breathe - Regulating your breath is the easiest thing you can do to calm down. When you breath slowly and deeply, you drop into your body's parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for stimulation of "rest and digest" functions of the body, so simply slowing your breath can drop you into this place of calm and ease. Try this breathing technique, it works every time.

3. Brain Balance - Brain balancing is a tool that I learned during my Universal Health Principles training. This simple practice has the power to stop anxiety in it's tracks and, like regulating your breath, brain balancing helps drop you into your parasympathetic nervous system. I'll probably write a longer post or make a video with more on this practice, but for now watch THIS HOW-TO VIDEO and just try it!


These three practices are so simple yet so powerful. Next time you are having trouble falling asleep, try one (or all three!) of these.

Lavender essential oil also helps :)

Lavender essential oil also helps :)


Do you ever struggle with falling or staying asleep? What do you do? Leave a comment below and let me know! I love to hear from you :)

Birthday Gifts!

It's my birthday!!

I'm celebrating by sharing a few special opportunities {gifts!} for YOU!   You guys allow me to do what I do, and I'm forever grateful for that. 

>>25% off tuition for the IIN's Health Coach Training Program - Mention my name for 25% (!!) off tuition when you enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition's Health Coach Training Program this week only! Two years ago I graduated from this program and now I wake up every day EXCITED to work (even on my birthday!), and my work includes things that I love like blogging about wellness trends, creating recipes, visiting health foods stores, teaching yoga, and more. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this is my life. I share a little more about my experience with the IIN program + my transition away from my corporate job in this video: My IIN Story.

>>*FREE* 30 Day Yoga Challenge [NYC only] - Join me for the second annual #30daysoftangerine yoga challenge at Tangerine Hot Power Yoga! If you've been looking to jumpstart a yoga practice, or simply want to re-commit to a regular routine, this is the perfect start! Every day for 30 days you'll receive an email with inspiration, recipes and MORE, plus we have awesome prizes from some of my favorite companies like Pressed Juicery and Manduka yoga. Sign up here! 

>> A FULL YEAR of Online Workouts for just $50 - You can now take my class from ANYWHERE (the comfort of your own home, your hotel room or gym) on FORTE Fit. What's FORTE? Think Netflix for boutique fitness classes. Through FORTE, you can take some of the BEST workout classes NYC has to offer: there's yoga and barre, HIIT and boxing workouts, and MORE! Classes are available via livestream (i.e. you take the class in real time! so fun!) but you also have access to the HUGE library of past classes (including my yoga classes!). Learn more here!

Again, THANK YOU. I'm so so thankful for each and every one of you.