OKIINO Life in Mexico05. April 2016
I would highly encourage taking at least one retreat each year - whether it be yoga, surf, meditation, writing, etc. - to reinvigorate, recharge, re-center, and re-align with your values, priorities, and visions for your life.
I recently went on an 8-day yoga retreat at Haramara in Sayulita, Mexico, followed by 5 days in Mexico City. I had never attended a yoga retreat before, but I was drawn to this one because of the beautiful setting, easy access from San Francisco, and good surf breaks nearby. I booked the trip in December last year and didn't think much about it because I was so busy with work. A few days before the trip as I was reviewing the preparation and packing list, it hit me how remote the retreat was going to be. I was initially concerned that there was no wifi, cell service, or even electricity. I had not been so off the grid in a long time, especially after launching my own businesses where I am reliant on communicating and being accessible around the clock. I also realized that the daily schedule was quite intensive -- morning meditation, several hours of yoga sessions twice a day, and evening yoga philosophy lessons. I wasn't sure how I felt about so much structure. After all, I wanted to surf, explore the town of Sayulita, and chill. I decided to let go of expectations and just be open and accepting of a new experience. The retreat ended up being one of the most special and valuable trips I have taken, and I met an incredible group of new friends.
Imagine a week where everything is oriented towards your utmost health and well-being from the minute you wake up to the moment you lay your head to rest at night. At Haramara, we stayed in open-air cabanas built into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with outdoor showers. At night, the grounds were lit by candlelight and we only had lanterns in the cabanas. We slept under cotton mosquito netting and fell asleep to the sound of the waves. It was so amazing to be unplugged from modern electronics and return to nature and the rhythm of simple life.
The food was exquisite -- all organic, locally grown or sourced, mostly vegetarian and pescatarian, and incredibly delicious and nourishing. I felt like I was cleansing and fortifying my body from the inside out. Deborah Burkman, a Bay-Area yoga instructor who also leads Twitter's corporate yoga & meditation programs, organized and guided this retreat, and she did such an amazing job holding space and pace for a group of all different levels and reasons for being there while pushing us to achieve our own personal breakthroughs. As soon as we arrived, she asked us to set an intention for the week. This helped me let go of routines and responsibilities back home, be present, and appreciate the beauty and wellness of the retreat.
We had morning meditations in the open-air shalas set in the lush jungles overlooking the ocean. We meditated for increasingly longer periods of time over the week until our longest meditation was 50 minutes of stillness with our breaths and thoughts. We would then reflect and share as a group. This was followed by an ashtanga yoga session for several hours. There is just something so invigorating about moving your body and working up a sweat outdoors.
After lunch, we had the afternoons off to surf, hang out in town, read by the pool, get massages or other healing work, or simply nap in a hammock on the beach. I put my OKIINO leggings to the test by wearing them from sea to street to studio for yoga and surf sessions, and they not only protected me from the intense sun but they also keep me cool and comfortable in the humidity. We re-convened for sunset restorative yoga sessions which were blissful. After dinner, Deborah led sutra lessons on the history and philosophy behind yoga, of which the physical practice is only one dimension. This was fascinating to learn about yoga as a way of life and connecting with yourself and others. To top it off, I met and bonded with the other people on the retreat in such an authentic, supportive, and powerful way.
After the yoga retreat, my friend and I flew to Mexico City to make the most of our time abroad and throw in a few days in the famous metropolis. And it just so happens that it is listed as New York Times' top places to visit in 2016. We were a bit nervous to leave the utopia of Haramara and healthiness of our yoga retreat, but we figured, YOLO ("you only live once!").
What an awesome, colorful, and fantastic city! This is the largest and densest city in the Americas, and it truly has it all. There are so much diverse and eclectic influences in history, art, architecture, politics, religions, and cultures, and it is such a mashup of the old and new. The food is to die for, especially the street food, and the mescal is artisanal. We explored the city by foot, bus, and bike, and Uber is awesome and cheap there too. One of the most memorable aspects of the city is how genuinely kind, friendly, and polite the people of Mexico City are. We are already dreaming of another trip back as we felt like we only scratched the surface of the city's depth and vastness. I can't wait to go back.
Here are some helpful links on both the yoga retreat in Sayulita and Mexico City:
If you would like further recommendations or details on either the yoga retreat, Mexico City, or designing a similar getaway to feel healthy, inspired, and energized, please feel free to get in touch with me - I would be happy to share the OKIINO Life!