Vida Luna 2018: Community

The concept of Vida Luna Women’s Wellness retreat was conceived in January 2017 with longtime friend and Transpersonal Development Coach, Nikki Hartley.  We wanted to provide an affordable long weekend to help women refresh their minds, renew their spirits, and heal their bodies. To recharge.


Vida Luna was born.

This past weekend, 10 women carved time into their busy schedules to their make their way from four different states to Lake Ouachita for our second Vida Luna Retreat. It was an honor and privilege to welcome back so many familiar faces, to witness the joyful reunions, and to see arms outstretched to the first-timers. By the end of our first meal together, it felt like a group of old friends catching up at a weekend getaway.

Throughout the weekend we practiced morning yoga overlooking the lake, and guided meditations lit by candles and the stars. We turned inwards; cultivating mindfulness through daily journal prompts and the use of oracle cards. There were delicious family-style vegan and vegetarian meals, quartz crystal hunting, dancing on boats, flamingo floats, teary-eyed hugs, and endless laughter.

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Being surrounded by other women open to listening and sharing their own experiences creates the sacred space and support we need to allow ourselves to lean into one another’s shoulders, and inspire each other’s awakenings. Because working through your own shit alongside another human working on their own shit reminds us that we aren’t alone in our pain and fear. That on some level we’re all the same. Connected. One.

Everyone who signs up for a wellness retreat is searching for something – even if they don’t know what it is they’re seeking. I’m not sure if anyone found what they were looking for last weekend, but I believe they all left having found a sense of belonging.


Someone responded to one of my posts on Instagram asking if it was a retreat or just a girl’s weekend.

The answer: BOTH.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


That time we howled at the moon

Exactly a month ago, I packed my car with shorts, a swimsuit, 8 meals for 12 adults, and a long-lost friend from my early 20s to co-lead a wellness retreat in the tiny town of Mt. Ida, Arkansas.

Nestled in the Ozarks overlooking Lake Ouachita, Nikki (of Mind Body Mana) and I lead ten beautiful souls through a 3-night wellness retreat focused on helping women take a break from the daily grind to reconnect with their feminine energy.


Life gets fucking intense. It can get so overwhelmingly busy that you lose track of tasks, goals, dreams, friends, and which day of the week it is. I get it. Nikki gets it. We live it. We get that other people are living it too. And we understand that many of us have jobs, kids, families, and other obligations that don’t allow us to drop $1k+ and take off for a week to do the self-caring.

But all this stuff? This life stuff?

That’s exactly why we need to take time for ourselves.

To take care of others, you have to take care of yourself first.

So Nikki and I set out with a mission: Design an affordable long weekend to help women refresh their minds, renew their spirits, and heal their bodies. Recharge. We knew it didn’t need to be fancy (and quickly discovered that keeping the price point low actually forbid that), but it did need to be a comfortable and beautiful place that would allow connection with self, each other, and Mother Nature. (Also, room for all of the yoga mats.)

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After scouting several extravagantly priced locations that were exceptionally difficult to get to in Colorado, we opted for the exact spot on Lake Ouachita that my family has been visiting since the 1970s.

Lake Ouachita Shores is charmingly rustic, economical, and a short walk to the marina where we rented a beautiful, brand new party barge large enough for 15 adults and equipped with Bluetooth and badass speakers.

The natural beauty here is exquisite. We began each day saluting the sun on their two-level gazebo over looking the lake. (Confession: I occasionally paused practice to point out deer, ravishingly red cardinals, and adorable striped chipmunks. #sorrynotsorry).

We scoured the shoreline for quartz as Lake Ouachita features one of the largest crystal veins in the world. (Fun fact: Mt. Ida has been dubbed “Quartz Capital of the World.”)

We ate meals together, meditated together, worked with essential oils, wrote, laughed, sang, and even cried together. Our group encompassed women spanning more than 3 decades decades. We brought many different ideas and insights to the table, but we each gave, received, and practiced kindness, compassion, acceptance, and love, love, love, love, love. We honored our divine potential and created space for new opportunities and infinite possibilities.

And, yeah.

We howled at the moon. We did a lot of cool girl cult stuff. I’d share with you here, but that shit is sacred. If you want to find out for yourself, you’ll have to come next time.


A very special thanks to the following who contributed to gift bags to greet our ladies of the lake. I am so happy I had the opportunity to share products I use and love from companies I support and have a personal connection with.


What I learned leading a yoga retreat.

As soon as I finished my RYT 200 I knew I wanted to lead a yoga retreat. Preferably on the Greek island of Corfu after I had an epic 30th birthday adventure. I mean, a paid vacation seems like a no-brainer, right? Fast forward a few years, and I discovered a few things while leading my first yoga retreat in Paamul, Mexico last month:

  1. Leading a yoga retreat is not exactly a paid vacation. Theoretically, on a vacation you aren’t working. To lead a yoga retreat, you will work. Hard. Before announcing the retreat, you’re dealing with logistics. Who, what, when, where, how long, how much? After announcing the retreat, you’re hustling with word of mouth advertising, paid advertising, flyers, and endless plugs online. Not to mention, you’re planning classes, themes, etc. Once you’re there, you’re leading, you’re mingling, you’re assisting in any issues or problems that may arise. You are always on call. There really isn’t that much downtime.
  2. Be clear about what the retreat entails. Is the yoga practice going to be for yogis of all levels? Is it for more advanced practitioners with emphasis on inversions, etc? A more physically demanding vinyasa practice, or more relaxing with yin and restorative? Will you be staying at an all inclusive luxury resort and spa, or a charming jungle beachfront home? Camping among the redwoods, or sleeping in a cabin? These details are important! I love the outdoors, but tent life is not for me. I want a hot, indoor shower after my 5 mile hike. Make sure your guests know what they’re signing up for.
  3. Arrive earlier than your guests. Get to the venue early enough that you have time to do a run through. Check guest rooms to ensure cleanliness and to make sure they have all the things they need (towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, gift bags, etc.).
  4. Hire a private chef. This was by far the most successful part of the retreat. Delicious menus designed to meet each guest’s individual dietary needs. Everyone was happy with every single meal. Chef Shawn was by far the most popular human at the entire retreat.
  5. You can’t please everyone. People attend yoga retreats for a myriad of reasons. Some people go for physical or emotional healing, some go to further their practice, to make new friends, to visit new places, or because their friend talked them into it. Everyone’s yoga journey is different. Everyone’s needs will be different. As a teacher, all you can do is bring your very best to the mat each practice. It’s their job to take what they need from it.
  6. Make a schedule. Stick to it. If you’ve ever experienced group travel, you know it feels very much like herding cats. In theory, having a “go with the flow” island mentality is great, but you won’t get anything accomplished. Including yoga. You’ll have those who want to sleep in, those who want to welcome the rising sun. If a yogi doesn’t want to wake up early, they miss morning practice. If they don’t make it to the van at 4:30pm, they miss the trip to the cenote. You are doing your part by making a schedule. It is their decision to show up.
  7. Sunrise practice is the best part of the day. Well rested yogis with sleepy eyes and open hearts, snuggled up in hoodies with hot coffee looking out at the ocean in complete awe of such perfect, natural beauty. That was by far my most favorite part of each day. Leading practice on the rooftop terrace with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the ocean breeze dancing through our hair was a surreal and spiritual experience.
  8. Set personal boundaries. This was the hardest part for me knowing that these yogis traveled to another country and paid good money to do yoga with me. I was the first to rise each morning, and felt obligated to stay up until everyone had retired to their room. Unnecessary. Get lots of sleep, drink tons of water, and make sure to schedule time for your own practice and meditation. I generally chose meditation time prior to sunrise yoga, and practiced before sunset yoga while everyone was getting ready. Although the rituals that keep you grounded may have to be altered to fit a new schedule and setting, make sure that you’re still meeting your own needs. To be the best you can be for others, you have to take care of yourself first.
  9. Enjoy every minute. You are in a magical place with miraculous souls. Be present. Enjoy every single minute. Things might get a little chaotic at times, but ultimately you have the opportunity of leading yoga in paradise at your very own retreat! That in itself is a privilege and a huge accomplishment. Don’t forget it.

I had such a wonderful time at my first retreat, that I already have a Women’s Full Moon Retreat scheduled for early June. This one is different as I’m building it from the ground up instead of going with an establishment that specializes in retreats. In the upcoming weeks I’ll be documenting the process and my experiences. Stay tuned!

Four Ways to Let Go of Unhealthy Habits

It’s one thing to make a mistake. It’s another to continue making it.

You know something needs to change and you want to be free, but somehow you find yourself repeating the same patterns over and over again. You ask yourself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why can’t I find the strength to let go?”

Whether it’s a relationship that no longer brings you joy, an excess amount of caffeine or sugar in your diet or a bad habit in your workout routine that could lead to an injury, we all have habits that we know we should change. Letting go of unhealthy habits and behaviors is difficult. Sometimes it feels impossible.

The good news: It isn’t impossible.

The bad news: It takes work.

1. Acknowledge the pattern. It’s often easier to avoid problems than to deal with them. The first step is acknowledging that there is something you want to change. Try to access your behavior pattern without judgment. We’re human. We make mistakes. Guilt is a useless emotion, and self-blame isn’t helping you move in any new direction. So, acknowledge the pattern as objectively as possible and move on to the next step.

2. Identify your needs that aren’t being met. Take the time to pinpoint the different ways this behavior or habit isn’t serving you. Are you in a romantic relationship or friendship where you want to feel love but end up feeling like you aren’t supported, or that your time and emotions aren’t a priority or respected? Are you drinking so much coffee during throughout your day and notice that you’re losing your appetite, having trouble sleeping and your teeth are getting stained? What is this attachment doing for you? Is it helping you to be your happiest? Your healthiest? The best version of you? Maybe even ask yourself, “How would I feel if a loved one were in this situation?”

3. Practice self-awareness. Changing a behavior pattern without understanding why it’s there in the first place is like pulling up weeds but leaving the roots. It will solve the problem for the time being, but it will resurface again at a later date. Creating awareness gives you the tools to recognize emotional triggers that will help you to avoid recreating the pattern at a later date.

For many of us, this can be the most difficult step. Asking the hard questions, soul searching and digging deep can stir up many negative emotions. It’s so easy to blame external circumstances (people, situations, chemicals or genetics), but until you take ownership in your part of the equation, you’ll probably repeat it.

Self-awareness can be practiced in many different ways. There are more private options like journaling, reading self-help books and taking online psychometric (Meyers-Briggs is an example of this), or if that doesn’t seem to help or you prefer more interactive approach, you can ask for feedback from loved ones or try counseling.

4. Surround yourself with positivity. Replace negative patterns with positive ones. Try herbal tea or hot water with lemon instead of coffee, or if that’s too much of a trigger try taking a stroll around the block to help get moving. Spend time with people who make you feel good, who make you laugh, who inspire and motivate you. Try new things. Experiment. Reconnect with activities you enjoy. Write down three things you’re grateful for each morning when you wake up or before you go to bed. Do not waste time lamenting the loss of a habit that no longer serves you. Focus on a positive future. Focus on yourself, your goals and how to achieve them.

Yoga Poses for Seasonal Allergies

The pollen vortex has sucked me in, swirled me around, and tossed me back and forth a few times for good measure before spitting me out again. In short, seasonal allergies have made me their b*tch. Itchy eyes, snotty nose, swollen sinuses, coughs, sniffles, wheezes… there is no Neti pot, herbal tea, bee pollen, local honey, or over the counter allergy med on this beautifully blooming earth that can save me.

Thus, I find myself turning my focus towards yoga. Again. Here are some asanas, or poses, that can help to relieve some seasonal allergy symptoms. Good luck!

alternate nostril breathing yoga pranyama

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) – This breathing technique helps calm the mind, enhance rest and relaxation, and support the circulatory and respiratory systems.

Begin in a comfortable seated position. Place the left hand to your left knee, palm facing upward. Bring the right pointer finger and middle finger to the space between your eyebrows, also known as your “third eye.” Seal your lips, inhale and exhale through your nose. Close the right nostril with your thumb, and inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril using your ring finger (both nostrils are now sealed), pause for a moment, and lift the thumb exhaling through the right nostril. Repeat for 10 rounds of breath.

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Seated Side Stretch – This stretch gently releases the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) which can become overworked and exhausted due to wheezing and coughing. Their primary job is to help expand and shrink the size of your chest cavity as you breathe.

Begin seated in either Sukhasana (easy pose, aka: criss-cross applesauce) or Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose, aka: sitting on your feet). Reach arms overhead on your inhale. Exhale, fold to the right, bringing your right fingertips to the floor. Keep the sitz bones grounded, avoiding letting the left hip lift. Stay here for five breaths. Repeat to the left.

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Cow Pose (Bitilasana) – Stretches the front side of the body and abdominal muscles, which can get tight and sore with constant coughing.

Start on hands and knees with a flat back or in “tabletop” position. Hands should be beneath the shoulders and knees hip-width distance apart. As you inhale, lift your heart and tailbone towards the sky, allowing your belly to drop towards the floor. Exhale, returning to a neutral spine. Repeat 10 times.

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Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) – Helps to improve drainage and open nasal passages. Hold for one minute or less to avoid creating sinus pressure.

Lay on your back with arms alongside your torso, palms down. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor about hip-width distance apart (approximately two fists between your feet). Press your shoulders and palms into the floor, while hugging the knees into your chest (feet will no longer remain on the ground). As your tailbone and pelvis begin to lift from the mat, bend your elbows and bring your hands to the back of your torso (try to keep the elbows drawing towards one another, and in line with the shoulders. Raise your pelvis so that it is directly over the shoulders and the torso is perpendicular to the floor. Begin to straighten the legs, extending your heels towards the ceiling. Flex your toes towards your shins and squeeze legs together. To avoid pressure on the cervical spine, push your shoulders into the floor so that the back of your neck floats away from the floor. Gaze towards the chest, making sure not to turn the head to either side. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.

halasana plow pose

Plow Pose (Halasana) – Releases muscles in the back of the neck and base of the skull, which helps to loosen and clear drainage.

From Sarvangasana, bend at the hips and allow your feet to move towards the ground overhead. You can continue to press hands into the back of your torso, or you can release your hands from the back and stretch the arms out behind you on the floor, palms down. Another option is to interlace your fingers behind your back and press your first into the floor. Stay here 5-10 breaths. When you’re ready to move out of the pose, bring hands to your back and lift back into Svarganasana. Lower on to your back, slowly and with control, one vertebra at a time.

fish pose

Fish Pose (Matsyasana) – Opens the chest and neck, while stimulating the thymus gland. The thymus gland is located behind the sternum and between your lungs, and produces T cells which contribute to the body’s immune system.

Begin seated with knees bent and feet planted about hip-width distance apart. Keeping the legs where they are, move to a reclined position with your elbows beneath your shoulders and hands reaching towards your feet (forearms should be parallel and hugged closely in towards your body. On an inhale, press into the palms and begin to lift your ribcage towards the sky. You can look towards the ceiling, and if it isn’t uncomfortable for your neck, begin to drop the crown of the head towards the floor. Eventually your head might actually rest on the ground. This pose is traditionally done with the legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose), but for most people it’s most comfortable with the knees bent, or legs straight and toes flexed towards the shins. Stay here for five breaths. On your last exhale, lower your torso and head to the ground and hug your knees into your chest.