My First Yoga Retreat
I’ve been living the broke but happy life for a little over a year now. Since giving up legal pursuits for yoga ones, I’ve been scraping by, but have not had nearly enough money to travel. When my long-time Instagram friend Pat Baily (aka Pat Russo, aka @patbailey) invited me to go on a retreat with her Hell Yes Agency in Sayulita, Mexico, I had to seriously pause before I considered it. This was the first time I’d had the money for a retreat in my bank account, but that would also mean nearly draining all my financial resources in the process. The fact that on my list of 32 things to do before I turn 32 renew and use my passport was something that weighed in on my decision-making process. I chose to drain my bank account and go relying on promises of some freelance work I had coming in in the few weeks after I returned.Now that I’m back and have secured my finances for the next month or two, I had the time to pause and reflect on the retreat. There was a lot I really enjoyed, some I could have done without, and a few lessons learned.
When I arrived in Sayulita at the Amor Boutique Hotel (more pictures on my travel page), I was instantly greeted with hugs and smiles. All the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. Most spoke enough English that I could use my broken Spanglish back, and we got things figured out. I really didn’t have any communication problems. The rooms were beautiful, there was a spa, pool, yoga villa, private beach, restaurant, free bikes, free surf boards, free yoga lessons, free paddle boards, massages, etc. My villa had two other people staying it. We had a balcony, a pool, a kitchen, fresh water, two suits and one bedroom with a separate bathroom, and my room had its own entrance and exit. The loner in me was really happy with that last one. Town was only a short walk away down the road or beach (maybe ten minutes), and fairly safe.
The town of Sayulita itself is a mixture of native Mexican people and foreigners (A LOT from Los Angeles) who moved to town to surf, fish, and/or teach yoga or open another business. Most places had someone around that spoke English if needed, and everywhere I went took credit cards if you didn’t have pesos. A lot also took US dollars. Not the street vendors though! I had a fun time haggling over pesos with them.
Back to the retreat. The thing I really disliked about the retreat was actually two things that sound contradictory. The retreat was both over, and under organized. We didn’t get our schedules, for example, until after we arrived. That meant I WAY overpacked because I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. And when we got our schedules, we only had about a combined 5 hours of free time per day and the rest was scheduled between 7 am and 10 pm. It was pretty exhausting. I opted to avoid a lot of the workshops (not yoga ones) to spend some time alone strolling through town or peeking in tide pools.
What I really liked was the location and the yoga instructor. Kudos to Pat for choosing an amazing establishment. The hotel was perfectly situated at the end of the beach so we were far enough from town to avoid all the noise, and we were right on the ocean (I mean the beach under us disappeared at high tide, right on the ocean!). Seriously, I loved my stay there and everyone who worked there that I interacted with. Major kudos to Janalyn who is the retreat organizer at the hotel (Instagram @janalyn.rose). She taught us daily yoga and met up with us for all meals. She also tried to teach us to stand up paddleboard yoga, but most of us were epic failures at that. Janalyn organized a lot of cool things for us like meeting other local business owners, taking salsa lessons, and a ladies’ Valentine’s dinner with chocolates. She even went out of her way to make sure that the place we met to have our meals could accommodate my gluten allergy. They were wonderful. The place is called Tierra Viva if you are ever looking for a restaurant with good food (really good) and fresh ingredients who can cater to any dietary restriction. They were very careful for me and I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t see Janylyn as much as I saw Pat, because she was mostly meeting us off property. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the schedule, the events I missed tended to be the ones she hosted like vision boarding or heart mapping. However, she always raised interesting and deep topics of conversation at meals to keep us all talking and bonding, so I imagine her workshops were great. Her yoga classes were a great mix of static and dynamic movements and were flows that deviated from the traditional vinyasa style which I really liked. I also learned more about paddle boarding from her in 15 minutes than I have from anyone in my whole life. She really knows her stuff about anything ocean related. Oh, and she’s also a photographer.
So, what did I learn? I learned that the next retreat I go on will be one with a more fluid schedule. I also prefer activities that get me out into the town or onto the ocean instead of hanging in the hotel. While I think vision boarding, for example, is a wonderful workshop, I would have preferred if it was on the beach instead of indoors. Same for the sister circle or ukulele and yin yoga. I love nature and I love the outdoors. If I’m traveling to somewhere I can be outside all the time, I want to be outside as much as possible. If I’m given the options of ukulele and yin indoors versus sitting by the ocean and night and looking at the stars, I’m going to choose the later. If the two were combined, it would have been perfect. Note to self for future retreat hosting.
I also learned I much prefer activities with a fitness aspect or some element of excitement. Rather than touring the shops of town, I’d rather explore the hidden caves along the beaches 20 miles away. Rather than going to a famous churro stand, I would prefer to hike to a waterfall. So now I know that if I go on another retreat that I would be happier with a yoga and adventure retreat. One of the reasons I didn’t bond with my fellow retreaters as much as I could have been because I was off exploring so much on my own. Maybe that’s because I’m an introvert, maybe it’s because I get anxious when I have to follow a tight schedule that requires a lot of bouncing from place to place. Maybe it’s because I just wanted to do my own thing. Who knows. That’s a topic for another blog post. I do know for sure that I will never do another retreat without the schedule upfront, but I would travel with Pat or Janalyn again, and for sure go back to Sayulita and the Amor Boutique Hotel. Maybe I'll plan my own retreat there. I will definitely be going back to Sayulita soon; there's a certain magic about that pltownace.
Check out my travel page for more pictures of Sayulita as well as my instagram accounts: @cherylandhercamera and @cherylfyoga. xoxo!
I'm Cheryl. I moved to California from Vermont in 2015, gave up the path I'd spent years planning for, and started down a road to a happier, more fulfilling life. Goodbye suits and courtrooms, hello bare feet and yoga mats. After a few years, a couple of cross country moves, and a broken heart, I know I don't have all the answers, but I'm slowly starting to get the hang of things. :) I'm just taking things one day at a time, trying to figure out how to live my best life and help others do the same.