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  • Life off the Yoga Mat

yoga retreat diaries: esalen

I had the opportunity to stare at the Pacific Ocean for days. Nested on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, in Big Sur, California, sits a beautiful retreat site, the Esalen Institute. I had heard great things about Janet Stone, who lead the retreat, and she certainly lived up to the hype.

The title of the workshop was "Moving Into Stillness" so I had a feeling it would be a departure from my power Vinyasa Flow-hot yoga routine.

How did I end up here....

Last year, I went on a yoga retreat in Maui, and some of the friends I made there were talking about Janet and her retreats. And when they mentioned Esalen, I was entranced. I had only driven through Big Sur on the Pacific Coast Highway when traveling from northern to southern California a couple of times, many years ago. So it has always been in the back of my mind and these new friends brought it to the forefront of my mind.

What did I do all day?

A typical day @ Esalen is anything but typical......

Wake at 5am (due to being on East Coast time) and gaze out to my balcony to the ocean

Coffee/Tea in the Dining Lodge, sipping while staring at....the ocean

Workshop with Janet-Slow Flow/Meditation/Chanting- still staring at the ocean

Breakfast in the Lodge-best overnight oats/coconut yogurt/granola & chatting with my new "granola" friends-with an ocean view, of course

Soak in the hot mineral spring baths that overlook-you guessed it-the ocean

Get a massage/walk the grounds/journal/meet cool people/listen to the waves

Lunch-sitting with the most interesting people and having the exact conversation I needed to have at the exact moment I had it: about travel, relationships, kids, work, what we want more of, what we need less of-some yoga talk peppered in, too

Afternoon Session-more beautiful singing/chanting, deep dive discussions, and of course yoga

Dinner-delicious vegetarian/vegan/carnivore options-from Mexican to Asian, something for everyone

Back to the baths for a long soak before drifting off to sleep, curtains peeked open to keep an eye on and stay connected to.......the ocean...And yes, even after all this relaxing, I slept like a baby.

It may sound monotonous, but I was entranced by the ocean and the sound of the waves. It didn't get old, and it was in perfect, clear view everywhere I roamed. The property is huge. I thought I might want to venture out of Esalen but it's a beautiful bubble that you just don't need to leave.

As with even the best of the best getaways, vacations and retreats, when it was time to leave, I was ready to go. I was completely full of everything I had gone there for-the ocean, the yoga, the connections, the getting away from the everyday. I began to miss the everyday, and all the people in it.

The lessons continue to seep out my pores, into my conversations, thoughts and actions with everyone I encounter.

If you can hop to a retreat that calls your name, I hope you go. But whatever you consider "retreat" I hope you take it, even if you stay in your own home, in your own town.

You may not always be able to retreat across the country, but you can always retreat into....



A bottle of wine w/ your partner or a good friend (in sweats, of course)

A journal writing session

A home yoga practice-being your very own guide

A hot bath

A candle lit shower

A good book

A phone free hour (or 2 or 3)

Get creative, don't wait for a once in a long long while trip away. But if you do go, be sure to let me know.

Lots of love and tons of health,


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