This year’s Tuscany Yoga Retreat was an auspicious one, indeed, as it began on the Summer Solstice & Full Moon: June 20th. That is to say, it was a momentous occasion to release anything holding us back from shining our brightest. Over a year in the making, I was looking forward all year to the manifestation of this work. There were some challenges in the process, as with any major project; but time and time again what I learn is that everything happens for the right reasons, and everything is perfect, even when seemingly imperfect. PURNA, or fullness, perfectly explains the experience all in all. I had the honor of guiding an incredible group of smart and savvy women on a journey of yoga in one of the most beautiful regions of Italy I have had the pleasure of visiting. Italian food, culture, language and awe-inspiring nature were additional sources of inspiration that contributed to the overall success of the retreat. I must acknowledge my husband who was a HUGE help in making everything come together smoothly, and who supported me all along the way to making this happen in the stylish way that it did, true to the Italian way of living, doing and especially being (those Italians are real good at that and us Americans could really learn from their slower-paced, high quality of life).
So now onto the details: For a week we lived at Casa Pera, which is a traditional Tuscan villa dating back to the 16th century in Sant’Andrea in Caprile, a village close to the Medieval city of Lucca. What history in that home! I loved seeing all the old family photos and documents framed on the walls, as well as old books and even domestic items like an old school iron, spindle, TV, radio… walking through the various rooms, you could really feel the centuries of life that had lived there. It was incredible, something perhaps Europeans are quite used to but for which I don’t think Americans will ever cease to have a fascination. The property even has a private chapel, as nuns lived there before the Pera family took it over in the 1700’s. There is an old-world oven in the basement kitchen where they used to bake bread for communion.
Surrounding the villa are vineyards and olive groves, and various plant and tree life (and we had the pleasure of enjoying the wine, olive oil and herbs locally harvested). The nature is truly luscious, and the views spectacular. Casa Pera is up in the hills, so we had a panoramic view of the Lucca valley, which really blew my mind every morning when I awoke to realize the paradise all around us. We practiced yoga twice a day, in the morning and early evening, and in between we enjoyed leisure time, mostly by the pool as it was a HOT week! Thank goodness for the refreshing water. I hired a local chef to cook lunch and dinner for us; Patrizia is an absolute angel on Earth. Her meals were made with love, true to the Lucchese tradition and delizioso!!! We were lucky enough to make home-made tortelli with her, which is like ravioli but with a more circular shape. I attribute much of the wonder of the week to her and the food she prepared, her smile and the overall warmth she exuded.
It’s nice to break up the retreat with an excursion, so mid-week we took a break from poolside yoga and lounging to explore glorious Cinque Terre in the neighboring region of Liguria to the north. That was some of the most gorgeous hiking I have ever done, and I come from California where we have Yosemite and Lake Tahoe among other beautiful places, so that is saying A LOT! The hiking was not beginner, either; at first, we detoured in a wrong direction and got into the advanced hiking portion of the area; thankfully, we soon realized where we were, sweaty and exasperated under the strong sun, so we turned back and got on course. Altogether, we hiked for about 4.5 hours, with Mediterranean Sea views all along the way. It was an experience I will cherish forever, and I look forward to going back and spending more time there so as to hike between all five of the coastal fishing villages.
I believe everyone on the retreat learned something not only about Italy but about him/herself, as well. This is the beauty of yoga, what it reveals to us from deep within, where we can allow and love ourselves more, and how to direct our energy and focus so as to open up to our infinite potential of being. I am forever grateful to the beautiful souls who trusted in me to craft this intimate retreat of a lifetime, and for showing up fully receptive to all that the experience could offer. I genuinely love leading yoga retreats, as I see the transformation, the letting go of limiting beliefs, the progression in the practice and the presence cultivated in each individual while there. Thus is the beauty of travel, new experiences, time for healing and nourishing Self… as well as a supportive community in which to do this inner and outer work. I couldn’t be more grateful that facilitating this in people is my job, and I am further inspired to continue my work in the realms of healing, art, spirituality, fitness… they all go hand in hand and for me are mutually inclusive.
A beautiful lesson to take away from the Italians is to live everything as if it were a work of art; to truly savor it, take time with it, not rush the process, and bask in the glory of its creation. For me, this retreat was a work of art and its memory stays with me. Grazie mille to all who were a part of the journey… Please enjoy the photos! I’m sure they do not do the real thing justice, but they are pretty amazing!! (taken by retreat participant Jessica McDonald- thank you!!)