I’m back from my Beach Yoga Bliss retreat in Aruba and full of stories, great memories, and a ton of pictures to sort through. I’ve still got some sleep to catch up on and way more to write about, but for now I’d like to share the top 10 reasons why I am so full of joy from this experience!
1) Beach Yoga. One of the primary reasons I picked Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa was for its unique beach yoga settings. I saw the pictures and dreamed for months about how lovely it would be to teach under the yoga pavilion or on the wooden yoga deck overlooking the white sand beaches and clear blue Caribbean waters. I know that pictures can sometimes be deceiving, but as I flew down to Aruba, I hoped the yoga venues would be everything I had envisioned. When I arrived at the resort, the lovely Rita (who is the assistant general manager) took me on a tour, and as soon as I stepped into the Manchebo Yoga Pavilion, an overwhelming feeling of emotion came over me and I started to cry tears of joy. I was so overwhelmed and couldn’t believe that I would get to teach yoga in such a beautiful space. Everything just kind of hit home – that I was in Aruba, leading my very first yoga retreat, living the dream – and I got a little verklempt as my heart burst wide open.
The view from the Manchebo Yoga Pavilion!
I typically teach right on the beach, close to the water, so I was concerned about having a roof overhead and not being right by the shore. But that did not matter one bit – you could still see the incredible aqua blue waters of the Caribbean, feel the ocean breeze, and be protected from the sun. It was pure bliss for me to teach there and pure bliss to practice there as well. Yes, I got to attend classes with the lovely Rachel Brathen, the resident Yoga Director at Manchebo, as well as do my own practices on the beach every day!
Digging my beachfront yoga studio!
2) Aruba Rocks! They have t-shirts that say this, and it’s true. I had been to the island once before for just a few hours on a cruise ship. When you are touring an island with a pending deadline, it is hard to really take in the culture, the people, and the beauty. This time I was able to relax, soak it all in, and enjoy the natural beauty and awesome people on this island.
I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out here to Jovita, one of the best tour guide/taxi drivers I’ve ever met. Jovita is an incredible ambassador for the island of Aruba and shared her knowledge and passion for the beauty of Aruba with all of us. If you go to Aruba, do yourself a favor and contact Jovita at jovitaaruba @ hotmail.com to set up a tour of the island.
Boca Keto Beach – A Truly Magical Place!
3) Adventure! If we wanted to lay on the beach and chillax we could, but if we wanted a little island adventure, it was on the agenda in some form almost every day. Hiking, swimming in a natural pool, and snorkeling were all part of the outdoor fun, and I’ll write more about these adventures in the coming weeks.
Hanging out in the natural pool.
4) SUP Yoga. On Monday the yogini goddess girls of summer got their first taste of not only standup paddleboarding, but a yoga class on top of their boards. After learning the basics from Rachel, we all jumped on our boards, paddled down the shore to the yoga studio on water, anchored our boards, and busted out some downward dogs and sun salutations. Rachel’s only rule is that if we fell off the board we had to laugh, and she guaranteed that everyone falls off. Suffice it to say there were lots of giggles and two proud yoginis who never once fell off.
The yogini goddess girls of summer heading out for their first SUPYoga adventure!
I am thrilled to report that I was able to get up into shirshasana (headstand) on my paddleboard, but alas have no pictures to prove it. I do have eleven witnesses who can vouch for me, though! The best part of the SUP yoga class was lying in peace on the board in the middle of the Caribbean in savasana with the sun shining down on me. I’ve always loved savasana, but doing it while floating on the ocean is absolutely sublime.
5) Sisterhood. The women who came on the retreat were from different parts of Ohio, California, and Florida. Some came with a friend or a sister, some came not knowing anyone else, but we all left together with a special sense of sisterhood and some newly forged lifelong friendships. When you go on a weeklong yoga retreat, a special bond forms, and it was evident in how much we all cared, supporting each other as we overcame fears, realized dreams, and offered comfort and compassion. One of the class themes was about the importance of supporting the goddesses in our lives, and time and time again I witnessed these women uplifting their goddess sisters.
6) Exceeding Expectations. At Manchebo it starts with the friendly welcome and complimentary mojito at check-in, and the thoughtful amenities just kept popping up. Like the healthy smoothies for breakfast, refrigerator and microwaves in the room, a cooler we could fill with our own beverages to take down to the beach, a waterfall shower, and a garden-view room with an actual Zen garden to hang out in.
The garden view rooms at Manchebo really do have a beautiful zen garden to enjoy.
Our first and last night, the resort put together our very own private beachfront dinner with tiki torches, table decorations, and fancy decorated chairs to accompany our three-course meal. I felt like a princess! I want to give a big shout out to all of the awesome staff – Swinda, Rita, Dilia, Ignacio, Debbie, Dilia, Cynthia, Blanco, June, Carlos, Frances, Lincoln, Jean Pierre, Diane, just to name a few – you all were wonderful and made us feel like a part of the family!
Totally blown away by the beachfront dinner Manchebo arranged for our group!
7) The Gift of Peace and Solitude. I love the fact that Manchebo caters to yoga and Pilates practitioners. With a full week’s schedule of classes, great venues to practice, a beachfront spa, and healthy food options, it really is the perfect place to give yourself a special gift – the gift of peace, solitude, and honoring your body with the practice of yoga. One of my class themes was about taking the time to give yourself the gift of solitude, to unwind, let go, and recharge. A walk alone on these beautiful beaches to breathe and meditate was my gift to myself each day, and I brought home some seashells to remind me to keep giving myself that gift even when I’m back in Ohio.
The view on my daily beach walks. A great way to connect with nature and experience solitude.
8) Journaling. Or, I should say having the time to write in a journal. I love writing in my journal, but I have to admit I don’t always find the time to do so. I provided everyone on the retreat with their very own journal from Global Goods Partners (an incredible non-profit organization that sells handmade, fair trade products in order to improve the economic status of women in marginalized communities around the world), and we set aside time before or after class as well as during the day while lounging on the beach to write. It was fortuitous that we happened to be in Aruba on Wednesday, April 11, the day of a new moon, so you can bet we were jotting down a lot of our dreams and visions on that auspicious day.
9) Growth. When you have the opportunity to practice yoga and meditate twice a day for a week, your practice is going to blossom. By supporting one another, some women were able to do balance poses they had never done before, and I high-fived and shared the sense of accomplishment a few women felt after they got into headstand for the first time. And, my friend told me after class one morning that she experienced her very first yoga high! I can’t even tell you how many times my heart burst forth with joy as I witnessed these women overcome their fears, saw the bliss and peace on their faces during meditation, and shared their hugs and revelations at our final dinner. I experienced just as much growth and enjoyed some special moments of sharing yoga that I will never forget.
10) Making Dreams Come True. I’m not going to lie, I put my heart out on the line when I decided to host this retreat, and there were many times when I doubted if anyone would sign up. For at least two months, there was only one woman registered, and I joked with her that no matter what, if no one else decided to come, she and I would still be doing yoga together in Aruba come April. The group grew to ten, and every single woman that experienced beach yoga bliss in Aruba gave me the most incredible gift. They believed in me and helped make my dream of hosting a yoga retreat come true, and for that I will always be grateful. Danki, danki, danki (that is Papiamento, the native language in Aruba, for thank you) to Amy, Holly, Mary Ellen, Maureen, Rachida, Barbara, Esther, Grace, Nancy, and Pam for sharing your yoga practice with me, for SUPing, snorkeling, dreaming, meditating, journaling, and taking this yoga journey with me. I’m sending out a wish that you manifest all the dreams and intentions you set in Aruba, and I know you all can if you BELIEVE!
I want to send out a huge thanks to Cado de Lannoy who took the photo above and several on this page. If you go to Aruba check out his Salad Skate Shop, and follow him on Facebook, Tumblr, and Instragram at CADO_SaladSkateShop. I’ll be posting more of the awesome pics and videos he took in the coming weeks.
Also big hugs to Jennifer Hoddevick of the Travel Yogi for her travel wisdom and prowess in seeking out so many yogalicious resorts for yoga adventures. Her awesome customer service helped all of us get to Manchebo. Jen – you ROCK!
Stay tuned because this is not my first and last retreat. I foresee many more yoga retreats in my future; in fact, that is one of the messages the universe sent me loud and clear last week. On the last night at dinner, the group posed the question, “Where will the next retreat be?” Since I started with A for Aruba, I figure I’ll just keep going through the alphabet, so B is next. Hummm… Bali, Bonaire, Belize, Bermuda… it is going to be fun figuring out where to do Beach Yoga Bliss next!
Ready for a week of Loving Kindness by the Sea?