Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Wednesday, November 9

find. me.

I've been debating on whether or not I should share my first practice back after taking an unexpected three week hiatus from yoga. Is it a review of a studio? No. But can't we all relate to this topic? Yes. Maybe sharing my perspective on the whole month would be helpful to you... or helpful for me to reflect upon. So, obviously, I've decided to share it with you.

The sanskrit word yoga means, literally, to join or unite. In class, when this is referenced, I always hear it as more of a greater joining of community. We forget, or I forget definitely, that there's a community going on inside of each of us that we need to bring together. The mind and the body argue, the ego and the heart/soul are in constant battle. The outside world is challenging the inside world, and I need all those pieces (mind, body, ego, soul) to come together, right? And I wouldn't encourage anyone to take three weeks off from your practice (whether it be running, healthy food choices, or in this case, for me... yoga), but when it happens (and it's bound to happen—it has to me numerous times over the course of this yogic journey) it's a humbling reminder that I am nowhere where I think I am on my spiritual path. If my whole world is falling apart around me, and I'm still choosing to fall apart with it—then maybe I need those three weeks off to fall apart and come back to yoga. Have it be fresh and new and miraculous, all over again, because it does bring all those parts of me together. Sometimes we forget that when we're doing our weekly schedule of yoga practice. That really was the experience going back on Monday (and continued today, also). Rediscovering my love of yoga.

I found it interesting that the other weird perk of going back to yoga is you may have physically improved. Which doesn't make any sense to me what-so-ever, so I came to this conclusion that when you take one week... two weeks... three weeks... six months off, and you come back to it—sure some things are going to be lacking—but at that point when I say to myself, "It's time, you need to take care of yourself. You need to go back to yoga," my mind is exhausted, it's defeated, it's done—the white flag is flapping in the wind. So I go in and do my yoga, and my mind isn't getting in the way. It's reaffirming physically—inspiring even—but mentally it's another reminder of how much control our mind has over our body, how connected they really are, and how so very important it is to appease all these parts of ourselves. Yoke them together. Yoga. 

When I walked into class today, I sat down and tried to clear my mind while everyone was setting up. Looking for my intention in my practice for the next hour and a half... The past three weeks have been spent screaming inside (to others for awhile, and then to myself), "Hey! I'm right here! Can't you see me? Look at all this stuff I'm doing to try and help! Why don't you value me? Why can't you find me?" And those last two words landed in my intentions this morning with a thud. Find. Me. That's all I have to do—in all this noise—in my head—in the room—outside the studio—let it go. Find. Me. 

Mary likes to start and end her classes by reading poems by Danna Faulds—today's first reading is still echoing, so I'll end with it here. 
Walk Slowly
Danna Faulds
from Go In and In 
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens,
makes space for imperfection.
The harsh voice of judgment drops to a whisper
and I remember again that life isn't a relay race;
that we will all cross the finish line;
that waking up to life is what we are born for.
As many times as I forget,
I catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I am going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and
walk slowly into the mystery.
Thank you for spending your time with me—namaste! 

Thursday, November 3

Heartland Spa | Gilman, IL

LOCATION: Heartland Spa, Gilman, IL 
COST: We had a groupon deal, which I think is pretty regular for them. But here are their rates.
SPACE: The countryside location was absolutely beautiful this time of year... with trees changing colors (which there are plenty of trees, you're not surrounded by corn fields). There was a pond outside the door you could take a relaxing walk around. The rooms were set up nicely and kept clean. The space was sufficient for classes, meal time, and lounging. There was an obstacle course set up in the front where you enter, though we never used that. One barn was three levels: level one was space services, sauna, steam room, hot tub, and indoor pool. Level two was the tech space (exercise equipment), and level three was an open room for classes. 
SPA DESCRIPTION: The Heartland Spa's team of experts help you to make positive lifestyle changes in the areas of nutrition and weight loss, stress management, fitness, massage therapy, and skincare. 
CONTACT: Heartland Spa

Quick story? Way too overpriced for what they offered. The classes were lead by great instructors, but not really challenging. The services (massage, reflexology, and LOTS more) were amazing. What really cast a huge shadow over this weekend was the food and food service. The food I could eat wasn't that good (re: nothing was organic, and you could taste it), and they definitely don't know how to accommodate people with food requests. My partner in crime for the weekend has a garlic allergy and I don't eat meat or dairy... not only did we have to make sure our food needs were met (which they regularly weren't), we were treated like nuisances when we had to correct them. Mind you, we actually spoke with their chef before we arrived for the weekend, so it's not like it was shocking we were asking these things. Basically, if you say you don't eat meat they say "What about fish?" and if you say you don't eat dairy they say, "So no cheese? How about milk?" What?!? Not to mention, rumor has it, their nutritionist smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. Old school thinking of nutrition to say the least. So disappointing.

But there are definitely highlights to my weekend—obviously I got to hang out with my amazing friend for over 15 years now. I adore her. Each morning we woke up for a 7:15am walk. The second day I was beckoned over by the neighbor's horse for attention—the sweetest horse I've ever met. We met some great people—shout out to Jen Smith and her aloe vera line of cosmetics (L'Bri). The first day all the guests were sitting through orientation and asked to introduce themselves. Jen mentioned her business (I was excited to ask her about it) and the woman she came with said that they have been friends for 37 years (she was her mom)... so sweet. Then we had dinner with them one evening and found them to be even more charming and hilarious. Another person we were lucky enough to meet was Renee Marie—the reflexologist they have on staff every other weekend. We went to her discussion and were just blown away by her.... sign us up for a session with her! Both of us had AMAZING interactions with Renee Marie, and I plan to make her a part of my healthcare regiment. I'll review more below.

So, I can't say this weekend was a waste, but it definitely wasn't worth the money spent (and that was at a buy one get one free deal). I do have 4 gift certificates to give away, so if you want to take part in my next giveaway (see below) and see what you think for yourself, I'd love to hear about your experience.

OK—my schedule in review:

7am wake up call
7:15 am 2 mile walk: beautiful countryside walk during the fall. It was brisk, but what an amazing way to start the day
8am breakfast: i could eat the oatmeal, and that's about it
9am Zumba (latin-based dancing for a workout) class: The only other time I did Zumba I really didn't like the instructor, so I wasn't too excited about this. But our instructor Becky, was great, and I was able to not only get into it a little bit... but laugh at myself a couple times too.
10:10am snack: a cookie, I couldn't eat it. They do have a small bowl of fruit and veggies sitting out to eat whenever you want, but like I said earlier. You can tell they weren't organic and just sorta gross.
10:30am Sculpting with Xertubes & Dynabands: With Becky again! This was actually much more challenging than I expected, muscle work with bands around your ankles and also work with your arms with bands that had handles on the end. This was the only time all weekend that I felt there was instruction on how to do this when you get home. And honestly, if you're preaching you're a place to kick-start your healthy lifestyle... shouldn't you be giving more instruction all weekend long?
11:30am I opted for my 40 minute massage that was included in the package. You could easily upgrade these massages, but I didn't want to spend even more money. Deby was my massage therapist and she was great. It felt like a long 40 minutes, she definitely worked the muscle more—which I need. The room was relaxing, she put heated pillows under your back and neck. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.
12:30pm lunch: I can't remember what we had, but I can guarantee, for me, it was with a boca burger... Heartland Spa really strives to make everyone's meal look the same. I guess they don't want those with special food requests to stick out. It's a nice gesture. They also spend a lot of time telling you the calories of everything you're eating. So when the person next to be has a 175 calorie chicken entree I was irritated... because I didn't get extra food even though the boca burgers are like 40 calories or something. Needless to say, I was hungry the entire weekend.
1:15pm Discussion with Renee Marie: This is when we met Renee (the reflexologist). She walked into the room saying Namaste!, and I knew I was finally around one of my own. She talked about how she got into her line of work and then described what all she does (reflexology, lymphatic drainage, and energy healing). She was a breath of fresh air, and I was immediately excited that I signed up for an hour session with her. It was the first time (in a looooooooong time) I felt like I was around a similar attitude as my dad (he was an acupuncturist). This weekend was definitely meant for me to meet Renee.
2:15pm Aqua Motion with Raelene: Pool time! This class was a little silly—one part silly fun and one part silly not a challenge. But I love being in water, so that made it great. We learned a few exercises we could take away with us (if we had a pool). I definitely felt like I was sweating at one point. What made it ridiculous was that I kept being put in the back of the group... in a more shallow area, and I'm taller than a lot of ladies. So the workout wasn't as useful for me, and the woman in front of me kept backing up into my space with legs kicking. It made for a good giggle between my girlfriend and me, but still... more play time, less work out—still active though, so that's good.
3:15pm snack: Fruit smoothie—at this point I'm learning not to ask if there's dairy in things—they'll just say no and I'll ask—what about yogurt? and they'll say, yeah. Like I'm the idiot.
3:30pm Yoga Stretch & Relax with Raelene: Definitely the most basic intro to yoga I've ever had. And I don't think this is because of the instructor, she definitely knew more. We didn't do a single salutation, we barely got off the mat. I did learn that the twists are what are hurting my sacrum (I know, obvious, but I needed the reminder), so I'm going to get back into my yoga routine and skip the twists. To be honest, as I'm writing this, I haven't been to yoga in 2.5 weeks (minus this weekend). Between my sacrum, launching the new site, and some personal stuff... Really distracted. Why is it we choose to abandon the stuff that is needed most during the hard times? This class reminded me—it's hard to sit with yourself for an hour and face you. It usually ends in tears for me—when life is challenging me. But after, my mind is so much clearer, and really, how can I expect myself to face these obstacles with out a clear mind and open heart? I can't. So I'm going back to yoga on Friday (with my main instructor, Hayli). Don't want to go and can't wait, all in one fell swoop.
6pm dinner: boca burger with an orange sauce. Orange sauce is good—nothing but sugar, but good. Barley with veggies was ok—give me some indian seasonings please! I wish I could provide them with vegan food menu options.

7am wake up call
7:15am morning walk: On the mile out we watched a horse playing in his field—jumping and running, so beautiful. One the mile back in—this will sound odd—but that horse and I made eye contact and he started walking straight for me. So I told the gals I'd catch up, I had to meet this horse. We met up, ears facing me so attentively and he turned his right side to me to show me his eye (he had what I assumed was cataracts), and he did his ears went back—almost ashamed. I told him to show me his good eye—he turned his face—ears facing me again. I pet his nose—we leaned in forehead to forehead—and then as playful as ever he tried to knock me over. It was hilarious. I told him I needed to get back to my walk—which I don't think he was too happy about, I'm guessing he's used to getting apples or something from the walkers in the morning. But, honestly, if I don't want to eat that apple, why would I give it to that sweet, sweet horse.
8am breakfast: Yes, eggs! Oh wait, egg beaters. Barf. Oatmeal it is.
9:15am Session with Renee Marie: She hugs you immediately, welcoming you into her room. I laid down on the bed and she gauged my energy to see if she should start with my head or feet. Head it was. The night before I had this crazy dream (the kind of dream that feels real) that she kept working on my right shoulder with one hand under and one hand on top. I wondered if that would happen—but kept telling myself to not make it happen... like if she brushed up against my shoulder, I couldn't be floored. What did happen, the first spot she worked on was that shoulder and she kept coming back to it—I had to share my dream with her. What I loved most, and this happens when you see a good acupuncturist too, she told me what was wrong. She would ask me questions about health or diet or injuries—but she already knew what was acting up. Western medicine would benefit so much from working Eastern medicine into their practice—more importantly, patients would benefit from it. Anyway... at one point, after touching points on my head, she focused in on my jaw. The heat coming off her hands was insane. Slowly I felt my jaw relax—which I could have been doing myself—but then a bunch of spit released in my mouth and it tasted gross. When I'm stressed (which there's always an underlying layer of stress for a lot of us, right?), my jaw clinches. I knew right then, she opened up that tension and all the toxins I've been holding in those muscles released. It was disgusting and cool. She did some foot reflexology, but I didn't really have any reactions to it that I could notice. I do know by the end I felt amazing—from jaw to sacrum to hips to stomach aches to hamstrings. I will be visiting Renee again—without a doubt.
10:10am snack—my session with Renee ran late, so I missed the snack (which was a cookie I couldn't eat anyway) and we missed the BOSU training we were going to try. But honestly, my friend just had her 40 minute massage, so we really wanted to keep swimming in our relaxation mode. At this point we decided to call the weekend short—I was going to stick around for another yoga class to review, but neither of us could find much sense in staying for a lunch we didn't want.
11:30am Yoga Stretch & Relax with Crystal: The day before Raelene told the ladies that Crystal was teaching today's class and she really knew her stuff. So I knew I had to stick around and review this class. And though she really did know her stuff (she could name every pose in sanskrit beautifully)—we did even less work than the day before. This was perfect after a reflexology session with Renee Marie, I really wanted to get a genuine yoga class this weekend. It's unfortunate. I feel like all these instructors/therapists are being held back by Heartland Spa (and overcharging for it), and that's just not what I'm looking for.

With that not-so-lovely review, I offer up my next giveaway (woo-hoo!): I have four $100 gift certificates to be used towards anything at Heartland Spa & Fitness Resort during your overnight visit (one per person, for first time guests only).

What I'm going to do is leave it up to the contestants to decide what they want... if you request all four certificates for you and three friends and are the winner—you win all four. If you request two certificates for you and a friend—two people have a chance to win. Hopefully that makes sense. I didn't want to restrict it to only one option for people.

What do you have to do?
• If you're not a fan of my facebook page—fan. it. up.
• Share my facebook page on your page (please tag me in the share—so I know you followed through)
• Visit my new site—I'm offering free marketing to 11 NFP organizations (deadline Nov 27)
• Leave a comment below telling me how many certificates you would like

Ends Friday, November 11th at 10pm CDT

Thanks so much for sharing your time with me!