This past January I developed and lead two retreats to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. These were my first retreats. I knew Atitlan was the place. It's so overwhelmingly beautiful, culturally rich, and I was grateful to know of some beautiful and responsible businesses to enlist in this endeavor.
It was more beautiful than I remembered. However, it's funny what you don't remember. I had traveled on rough Guatemalan roads, but last time I headed to Atitlan, I took a more traveled and maintained road from Antigua to Panajachel and then a water taxi to San Marcos. In the hope to give my groups a more direct route, I organized shuttles to take us from Guatemala City straight to San Marcos. Most of the road was fine. However! In the last hour, you take a pot-hole filled, steep, switchback road from Santa Clara to San Pablo. It is rough. Plus, due to weather, both weeks the flights into Guatemala were delayed, which meant we arrived during rush-hour traffic. Trips that were estimated at three hours took five!
So, travel-weary, both groups arrived. We settled in, slept the travel away, and woke to this.
Both weeks the participants had an opportunity to go to the market of Chichicastenango. While the adrenhaline was strong, we once more braved the switchback road into the north Guatemalan highlands. We moved through micro-climates of orchids and pines. Eventually, into the market town and the high holy services, and intoxicating blend of Mayan and Catholic tradition.
I think the votes were unanimous: it was worth it.
After meditation practice, active vinyasa, featuring cues like, "Turn to face the volcano. Now turn to face the banana trees."
After practice, we made time to answer questions and workshop poses. Students were able to truly advance their practices.
Our studio host took orders for fresh coconuts or super-food smoothies, featuring ingredients like shaman-blessed cacao, cinnamon, MACA, papaya, and avocado. Delivered lovingly after practice.
Some days we hiked into the nature reserve for good swimming points. Another change from my last visit-- it used to be free and open to the public. This time we had to pay 15Q to enter but that's only about $2 USD.
There are many ways to enter the lake. One is a thirty foot jump. I made it once. Kevin, many times.
The rope swing is pretty low now that the waters have risen. Emily gave it the college try!
Another benefit of our studio was it's Temescal sauna! These are saunas designed after traditional Mayan saunas. They are heated by wood fire. You can create steam by pouring water over the heater. We took rolling saunas, then wandering upstairs for Yin practice in the studio.
The sunsets were mind-boggling.
Week 1's participants.
Week 2's participants.
As organizer and instructor, I worked to take care of logistics, so that the participants could simply be. I didn't anticipate the amazing ways that they would co-create the experience. Each group was so different, but both cared for one another so sweetly. People made sure to invite one another to meals or on adventures. They checked in and were present.
I realized that as a yoga instructor, I work to hold space. I sometimes teach a daunting pose, like a handstand. Many students are scared-- it brings up a response. Obviously, my job is to keep them safe, but it's also to help them stretch into what's possible. Offering these retreats felt like teaching handstand on a much grander scale. Traveling internationally is scary at times. The roads can be really unpredictable. You might encounter new-to-you bugs. The water might not agree with your digestive system. Yet, if you breathe and stretch into what's possible, you might also find yourself awash in jaw-dropping surroundings. You might experience culture that's so palpably self-aware and deeply rooted. You might find a home in your own body and in the world.
We hope to offer these retreats again. We learned that our retreats are hopefully accessible (especially financially), culturally aware, environmentally-conscious, and unique. I'm scouting out other spots on the globe, studios, and housing that let you know where you are, and give you permission to just be. We're also inter-mixing domestic retreats that hopefully feel more possible to parents and those with demanding work schedules. Next up is a weekend yoga immersion in Vermont. I'd love to share the experience with you!