Top 10 Yoga & Wellness Retreats

This week we are opening up our Editor’s “little green book” of top secret awesome yoga and wellbeing retreats.

We receive so many inquiries from people needing to take some time out to recharge, reflect and rejuvenate and wondering where in the world to go and do that.

Below is a list of personally experienced and recommend retreats where space is created and held for healing and transformation. Please feel free to respond or write to us if you have personally experienced a wellness retreat that was amazing. We are also interested in hearing from you if you are creating or hosting retreats.

Sunflower Retreats

A beautiful Italian Medieval village called Casperia forms the backdrop for a peaceful week of daily yoga classes, delicious food, cycling and hilly rambling. Conveniently only 1 hour from Rome.

I practised yoga there with Advertising Exec turned Ayurvedic Doctor and Yoga teacher, Jo Heath who is teaching there again this summer as the yogi in residence.

Casperia

Ibiza Yoga

Stay in a Balinese pagoda, a teepee or a room in a shared luxurious villa. Yoga classes are 2 hours every morning with a roster of world-renowned teachers. There are many healing holistic treatments on offer throughout the day as well as a delicious organic vegetarian lunch included at this wellness centre located next to beautiful Benirras beach on the hippie “quieter” side of Ibiza.

I trained there with Edward Clarke, founder of an experimental dance company called Tripsichore Yoga.

Ibiza Yoga

Yogabeats Holidays

Worldwide yoga holidays throughout the year with David Sye in The Canary Islands, Greece, Cuba, Ibiza and Dahab Egypt. I attended his Dahab retreat and found the combination of sunshine, moonlit desert meditations and red sea scuba diving to be out of this world. This holiday literally changed my life and set me on the path to becoming a yoga teacher myself. I also ended up assisting as an apprentice and making a lot of videos with David after becoming qualified as a yoga teacher. He is a truly amazing teacher and person.

Yogabeats

Desa Seni

A slice of heaven on earth at this paradise escape in Bali. Desa Seni is a year round wellness and yoga centre where guests stay in interior designed antique wooden joglos and eat organic vegetarian food grown in the gardens which surround the studios. The good vibes from the yoga and meditation classes also help the fruit and vegetables to grow.

I attended a powerful Satori Breathwork training retreat here, run by Dawn Delgado & Beau Robb of  Transformation Vacations

Desa Seni

PachaMama

Located deep in the jungles of Costa Rica, PachaMama is an Eco community setup by an Israeli Guru turned wildlife photographer named Tyohar. All sorts of wellness and yoga retreats happen here year round, the most popular being the cleansing, fasting and vision quest experiences. Community ground rules include one that all residents must gather to sit in silence in the great hall for one hour each day. This place is a jungle utopia for the inner Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, built entirely by it’s residents who also have their own school for the community children and their own monetary currency.

Pacha-Mama

Blue Spirit

A luxurious place to restore and unwind. All sorts of interesting wellness retreats are run here year round on a quiet beach in the un-touristy Nosara area. There are some great surf spots nearby and the yoga studio has one of the best possible views I have ever seen whilst meditating. It is an extension of the Omega Institute in the U.S so many of it’s retreats are linked to the Omega teachers and teachings.

Blue Spirit

Sacred Circularities

Jaguar Mary is a world traveller who runs these empowering hula hoop retreats in Sedona and in Bali. These weeklong retreats are focused on intention setting and workshops to expand dance and hooping techniques. I attended as a hooping novice and left that week with new friends, a fit body, trim waistline and surprisingly strong hooping skills.

Photo by Cadencia Photography
Photo by Cadencia Photography

Jungle Yoga

This place is so incredible, I almost do not want to share it! It was the most beautiful and powerful place I have ever visited and a magical weeklong retreat with world famous Yogi, Shaman and Singer/Song-writer Danny Paradise. After a one hour boat journey deep into a National Park you find a cluster of floating bamboo glam shacks and one large floating yoga studio.

We spent a blissful week practising and learning from Danny’s years of experience for 4 hours everyday and the rest of the time was filled swimming the huge lake, canoeing and observing the abundant wildlife. Every evening we had a musical jam led by Danny, with other talented (and famous) musical guests joining in too. I returned from this retreat the strongest and fittest I have ever felt in my life and still dream about it, hoping to return there one day.

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Lotus Yoga

A beautiful collection of simple tree-houses open to the surrounding nature yet offering complete privacy whilst decorated with beautiful antique Indian furniture. It is set inland from the quiet clean beaches of Patnem, Goa. Yoga is offered every morning and some evenings as well as a daily range of Ayurvedic and other healing modalities and the organic vegetarian food is delicious.

hut

The Findhorn Foundation

Findhorn is a world famous eco village and model of sustainability. Retreats and courses run all year at their Cluny College Campus and almost every week there is an “Experience Week” where visitors can get stuck into community life working in the gardens, the kitchens and care for the eco homes and Castle-like Cluny campus. It is a life changing experience and a very healing place. Many people who go there end up deciding to stay for years because they feel so happy and at peace there.

I trained as a “Sacred Dance” teacher there for a few months and loved it. I have returned several times since then to unwind and recharge and also for the annual Festival of Sacred Dance.

Findhorn

Cluny College

 

And here’s a bonus 11th retreat that I am on right now….

Vitala Yoga & Yoga Suite

High up in the Italian Valtellina Alps is an ancient spa town where I am on a family friendly yoga and hiking retreat specifically tailored to Parents and kids. This is run by a Nautropathic Doctor, yoga teacher and studio owner Beatrice Giampaoli and the “perfect Yang to her Yin” studio owner and teacher trainer Yoss Giancarlo Miggiano.

In my research, I found few retreats that welcome and offer comforts and services to help make it a relaxing experience for “Mummy and Babies or Mummy/Parents and Kids”.

I am being so held by the power of these magnetic mountains and have great babysitters organised so I can grab some quality “me time” for restorative yoga, hiking and soaking in the “aqua curativa” ancient healing thermal waters. Naturally, I am in bliss!

Bormio

© Lightening Magazine 2016

Highlight : Punnu Wasu

Photo by Heather Bonker
What type of healing do you do?
I practice a variety of healing modalities such as psychic surgery, reiki, pranic healing, chakra balancing/toning, sound healing therapy, shiatsu anma therapy, healing relationships with parents/children/partners, quantum touch, swedish massage therapy, Deeksha/Oneness Blessings, spiritual counselling, yoga, pranayama and various meditation techniques.
Why do you do this particular sort of healing work?
I have always been drawn to it and was keen on knowing ways to heal myself and others. When I was in my teenager, I used to have visions of sharing the healing “hands on”. At that time, I couldn’t really understand those visions as I wanted to follow my father’s dream of being a businessman.
When I started working as a healer, I suddenly had a deja vu and the same vision appeared to me- the one of healing hands, which I used to see in my teenage years.
When did you discover an interest in healing, yoga and kirtan?
In my early childhood when I was around 5 years old, I started sitting in kirtan with my father and then continued to learn from him. Seeing my interest in music, my father enrolled me into a Hindustani Classical Music school in aurangabad (Maharashtra) and while I was in my teenage years, I started attending yoga classes regularly and then began to have interest in learning various healing modalities.
How did you develop your abilities and methods as a healer and as a musician?
It took me quite a while to develop my abilities and methods by constantly inquiring, learning, practicing and sharing. In the beginning, I used to be very shy about expressing myself, but with Grace and the encouragement of so many beautiful souls that I have encountered in life; it became a smooth process to express and to learn again from the art that was expressed as music or as healing.
How do you prepare for your sessions and for your gigs?
By invoking the divine guidance and universal intelligence to guide, by thanking all my masters for all the knowledge that I have received, and also for the people who come to experience, I thank them for their presence, their inner beauty and openness to give me a chance to be part of their world.
Photo by Swami Arun
Photo by Swami Arun
What is your favourite music/artists to listen to?
I like many styles and genres of music such as: Indian classical/devotional music, kirtan and bhajans, mantras, folk, Sufi qawalies, Gazals, Bollywood/Bhangra, soul love songs, rock, rnb, hip hop, jazz etc.
My favorite artists are such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Nath Rao Narelkar, jagjit singh, Rahat Fateh ali khan, Lionel Richi, Nikki Bomba, Nahko and medicine for the people, Beatles, Jarah tree, Dave Stringer, Cynthia Alexander, Seal, Norah Jones, Ravi Shanker, Hariprasad Chourasia, Amjad ali khan, Zakir Hussain, Shiva Mani, Hariharan, Yesudas, Noorjahan,  Kailash Kher, Indalusia etc.
What transformations have you experienced through your journey as a healer?
In order to have the divine grace we need to help as many beings as we can.
My whole life has been transformed and is transforming through so much healing that I have also received by giving it. My relationships have healed in a major way, my spiritual life, health, finance etc. I would say that each and every aspect of my life has been touched with the healing. I am so filled with Gratitude.
Photo by Larissa Israel
What transformations have you witnessed in others?
I have witnessed transformations happening in many people, they have come to an understanding to see and perceive life in a holistic manner, their way of thinking has changed, there is a seed of growth, spiritual wisdom, healing relationships in a major way, health on all levels, finances and much more.
What has your greatest realisation or learning been?
To live fully and abundantly in each and every aspect of life, and to follow my dreams.
What is the most powerful type of healing you have personally experienced?
The most powerful healing that I have ever experienced is healing my relationship with my parents, partner and children- major growth in a spiritual understanding of life itself.
Do you have one tip to share for happiness and wellbeing in everyday life?
Yes, live life fully with happiness in each and every moment.
The outer world is merely the reflection of your internal state.
What are your plans for the future and the evolution of what you do musically and holistically?
My plans for future are to travel globally and share the love and healing through music and other healing modalities.
 Anything else you would like to mention or share?
Aside from my daily healing work and gigs at The Yoga Barn in Ubud Bali Indonesia, I will be at the following festivals:
Switzerland
Summer of Love Festival from August 26th to 28th
Austria
Yoga Summit Innsbruck from September 30th till October 2nd
Music and healing tour to Europe in September 2016.
More venues and dates to be confirmed.
Photo by YoGiada
Photo by YoGiada
Facebook : Bali Kirtan
You can find my albums on my website www.punnuwasu.com, iTunes and

© Lightening Magazine 2016

Melanie Rickey : Finding My Mojo

Melanie Rickey

Melanie Rickey thought she was well set for motherhood, but no amount of reading could prepare her for the complete loss of her mojo. Now, as her son Horatio has just turned two, that mojo is finally coming back…

I am a voracious consumer of words. I wish all my reading could take place in quiet contemplation overlooking a bucolic garden, but unless I am on holiday alone (ha!), when I can easily stuff my head with two Booker Prize winners in a week, it usually involves snatched time with newspapers, supplements and magazines. They make me feel like a member of society. I need them.

On the subject of becoming a mother, I used my voracious reading to construct a complicated personal philosophy. Month after month, for many years, I paid close attention to stories featuring mothers or babies, snaffling away tit-bits like a squirrel hoarding nuts for a terrible winter. From all this reading I gleaned that the whole thing would be a bad idea, a disaster for my life, but was something I nonetheless had to do. Every interviewee ever asked says that having a child has been the single most meaningful achievement in their life. I didn’t want to not have a meaningful achievement.

My bad idea / meaningful achievement is called Horatio, and he was two in early September. The sun shines out of his pores, he glows with goodness and life. We conceived Horatio using IVF, as I’m in a same-sex relationship with Mary. Two weeks before he was born, I fell and broke my ankle in three places, requiring immediate surgery to insert supportive metal to help knit the bones back together. In the end Horatio arrived via Caesarean section.

Thanks to all that reading, I was well prepped for the no sleep, no sex, sore nipples, saggy vagina, saggy boobs, loose skin and varicose veins. I was all set for the loss of my social life, to the point that a highlight of the week is watching Strictly on a laptop in the bath. I had the fat sanitary towels. I was a realist.

I was prepared for the fact that my career would stagnate for a while, that some friendships would fall by the wayside (my friend Brix jokingly said “see you in three years”), and my status would be altered, without consultation, from that of ‘person’ to that of ‘parent’. I was ready for all of that; in fact I was secretly looking forward to it. I remembered a story about the actress Milla Jovovich who let herself blow up to 16 stone while pregnant by eating lots of bagels, before just losing all the weight and bouncing straight back into movie roles.

So Mummy Melanie would be the same Melanie from before, but with a few new saggy bits and a gorgeous baby. I’d have six months off work, then come back better. It turned out the saggy bits also came with an eight-inch abdominal scar, a six-inch ankle scar, two stubborn extra stone—and a pronounced limp, served on the side. The health visitors came round looking for signs that I was about to go bonkers as I shuffled around on my crutches. I wasn’t. I was dealing with it all. But I was so busy dealing with it all that I didn’t notice the old me, who was so primed with dynamic moves, had gone. My mojo had done a runner.

What finally broke me was the day I tried to squeeze into a pair of jeans in one of those fashion boutiques where the largest size is a 14. I have been an 8-10 for my entire adult life. I looked in the mirror, made sure the changing room door was locked and cried until I was dribbling down my shapeless jumper. I cried for my pathetic vanity while acknowledging that to feel happy in myself back in the familiar world of my old life I needed to lose weight and get active, yet had no will to do so whatsoever. I thought about the packet of Jaffa Cakes I would eat while breastfeeding my son that night. I wondered if I might have post natal depression.

When Horatio was eight months old I asked my closest mum friends when I might begin to feel normal again. All three of them said, separately and emphatically, “two years”. One of them, Jane Bruton who edits Grazia, wrote me this: “Firstly, your body shape has changed, so you’re dressing for a shape you’re not familiar with, and is constantly changing anyway. You’re a different person when you’ve had a baby too, so you need to get your head around dressing for a new identity. I look back at pictures of me on maternity leave and wonder if I’d taken leave of my senses! It was a jumble of the old and the new me, and I never felt quite right. When you get back to work you’re panicking anyway about your brain not working, then you look around and think, aaaarghhh.”

My friend Yasmin Sewell, a fashion consultant, celebrated beauty and online street-style star had her son Knox a year before me. “I can’t explain it, but when he hit two, I felt like I had it all sorted.”

You’re wondering now what I did next. Did I take one look at my blobby arse, join a boot camp and get miraculously fit? Did I cut my sugar intake to zero, lose weight and start preaching about the wonder of spinning classes? No I did not. That is not how this story goes.

When Horatio was nine months old I tried to fulfil a long-held desire to dance like Beyonce. I signed up to Seen on Screen Fitness and learnt the routine to Single Ladies with the bootylicious Bonnie. It was fun, but my ankle kept protesting. Then I started yoga, which I’d done regularly for years, but I couldn’t keep up with my old class. In the end, I stopped fitness altogether until Horatio was 15 months old, when I began attending two Hot Yoga classes a week. I nearly fainted in the first one, but felt amazing afterwards and went back for more.

Two weeks later I pulled on my size 14 jeans and found they were too big. I foraged around the cupboard and pulled on a pair of old jeans—they fitted! Turns out the excess weight came off naturally with time, with just a bit of sweating and posing thrown in. My jawline got its old angles back, and my natural confidence began to slowly but surely surface in little bursts.

Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Nowhere in my stockpile of information had I read about this natural return of mojo. Most people seem to force their mojo back with intense bouts of starvation, carb cut-out and exercise. Or else they pretend they have their mojo back with staged images of perfection, posted on Instagram. Is ‘wait 15 months and it will start to happen on its own’ actually the natural order of things?

I asked Dr Ellie Cannon, a GP who writes books about new motherhood—books that when you read them feel like she is your honest best friend, whispering in your ear. Dr Ellie hasn’t heard of the Natural Mojo Reboot, as I have christened mine, but concurs that it took her about two years to get back to normal after the birth of her first child. “I think that we are overly prepared for the baby to come. But we are under prepared for the physical and emotional changes that come with a baby. Modern parents think there is an answer to everything on Google. And when the answers don’t come neatly packaged they don’t know what to do.” Sounds about right.

Dr Ellie says she commonly sees people needing therapy to adjust to their new life, once they have had a child. “Psychologically there is still an expectation that women will take second place to their husband and baby, while their partner’s life carries on. Then before women have a chance to fully recover, they are onto baby number two. Of course for some women it is the making of them.”

For me, it is Jane Bruton who gave shape to the two-year turnaround when she said: “It was a jumble of the old and new me, and I never felt quite right”.

The return of mojo is the magical moment when the ‘old childless you’ and the ‘new mummy you’ finally connect and harmonise instead of fighting against each other. My son Horatio has just celebrated his second birthday. Watch out world, here I come!

Photo by Caroline Irby
Photo by Caroline Irby

Many thanks to MELANIE RICKEY for allowing us to publish this article, originally written for KIN MAGAZINE

Highlight : Universal Empress

Nadine McNeil
Photo by Gaelyn Mirriam Larrick

What type of healing do you do?

The nature of my healing is largely intuitive. It is from this place that I offer integrated yoga workshops, yoga retreats, individual and corporate transformational coaching. 

Formally, I studied yoga at the Sivananda ashram in Neyyar Dam, India and Kripalu in Massachussets, USA. I’ve also engaged in workshops with the likes of Seane Corn and Baron Baptiste.  As far as my coaching goes, the basis of my approach is from my own work and studies with the Handel Group based in New York, USA.

When did you discover an interest in yoga, healing and empowerment?

Shortly after 9/11, I began to practice yoga.  For as long as I can recall, I’ve had a thirst for knowledge; formal academic studies and beyond.  Perhaps my first step into the world of empowerment was my work that I did with the Landmark Foundation i.e. The Forum. 

I consider myself to be a seeker of knowledge. 

How did you develop your abilities and methods as a writer, coach and yogi?

Practice, practice, practice, all is coming.” – Pattabis Jois 

Working with the UN for nearly 25 years, I met a lot of special people and formed incredible bonds. 

Writing was a tool I used initially to remain in contact with friends all over the world.  During a particularly daunting relationship breakup, I took to journaling; that became my refuge and my strength. For any aspirant following a spiritual path, you quickly come to appreciate that there is an inter-connectedness in all things.  As a yoga teacher, one is in essence coaching – be it through breath, asana or the few words of wisdom that we sprinkle throughout the class. One of my strengths, for which I am deeply grateful is my ability to integrate the teachings of yoga into the corporate arena – by making them applicable.

My extended years in the professional arena prepared me to do this.  In fact during my last UN posting in the Central African Republic, I offered yoga to the community as well as the staff.  Much if not all of my teachings are born out of my own experiences. 

One of my mantras is:  ‘practice what you teach.’

How do you prepare for your classes/sessions?

For each week and/or class, there is generally a theme that flows throughout all of my offerings.  These themes may arise based upon whatever issues I may be dealing with in my own life, or from observation of my surroundings.  It never ceases to humble and amaze me how often students will approach me after class and inquire, “How did you know that I was dealing with this issue?” Perhaps the best way that I prepare for my classes is to connect to the source within, through prayer and meditation and then surrendering to the information that I receive.  Source will always point you in the right direction.

Why specifically do you do this work?

Wow, that’s a big question! 

I’m not so sure that I ‘do’ the work. Moreso, the work embodies me and I simply become the vessel.  I was recently asked to imagine that I’d been given USD 5 MILLION, and to describe with exacting detail, how I would spend/use the money.  My responses surprised me because what I realised is that my choices weren’t altered as a result of becoming a millionaire.  They simply became more accessible and took on a wider scope.  Nothing brings me greater joy than to see ‘lightbulbs’ flash for students when they ‘get it,’ on and off the mat.

What transformations have you witnessed?

To qualify someone else’s transformation is a bit of a stretch.  I have seen people, through being exposed to my work, dare to become their best human selves.  As the teacher/guide, I am merely the mirror.  If you choose to put in the work that is required for your own shifts to occur, they can and will happen.  When people choose to commit to themselves, the results are astounding. 

What has your greatest realisation or learning been as a healer?

What is destined cannot be stopped.

When one chooses to refer to themselves as a healer, they must realise that with this calling comes, tremendous responsibility.  On my journey, I’ve learned that the more I do my own work, the deeper i’m able to go with others.  Nowadays, words like integrity and vulnerability get tossed around like confetti.  To be truly effective in one’s dharma as a healer, one must be prepared to bare it all.  As I’ve often shared with friends, it was important for me to clean up my own mess before even thinking that I was capable of serving others.  Anything less would have been hypocritical.    

What is the most powerful type of healing you have personally experienced?

Family constellations are deeply potent and transformative.  Especially as a person with African slavery legacy in my blood, being able to gain some insight into my intergenerational trauma has helped to liberate me from being stuck in areas of my life that before the experience, I simply couldn’t understand.  In order to heal, we must feel.  And that process demands that we return to the source of our wounds. 

Do you have one tip to share for happiness and wellbeing in everyday life? 

Be still and know.    

Nadine McNeil

What is your favourite music to listen to?

So many, I’m spoilt for choice.  Of course Bob Marley is at the top of the list. I also love classical music and am known to teach yoga with classical music — Bach, Mozart and Chopin are some of my favorite composers. I love old school too — Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Grace Jones, Madonna, Prince, you name it.  I also listen to my fair share of sacred music, Krishna Das, John de Kadt, OKA, etc.  Music flows through my veins. I’m also a sucker for the Spoken Word.

What are your plans for the future evolution of what you do?

Currently I am heavily in writing mode for my first book; a memoir of sorts.  My dream is to have at least two TV shows; one is a reality show with some truly extraordinary women who are a part of my inner circle here in Bali and the other is a TV talk show that features ordinary persons who are committed to consciousness rising and are actively engaged in transformative activities.  If you know of any potential funders, send them my way.  I already have treatments for both! 

I’m also super excited about my upcoming November retreat in Negril, Jamaica, from 13 to 17 November 2016, in collaboration with a California based company named YOL that designs bespoke yoga and service retreats.

Nadine McNeil
Photo by Gaelyn Mirriam Larrick

WWW.UNIVERSALEMPRESS.COM

For info on my Jamaica retreat: YOL : Yoga & Service Trip to Jamaica

To practice with me on line, please visit: SEEBENOW

Another great interview here: The Two Zen Bali Spirit Festival Interview

© Lightening Magazine 2016