“Be a warrior,” Sharon Aluma intones. Her students move into side plank, a core strengthening arm balance pose. “You have your heart, your soul and your breath.”
It’s Thursday evening inside the steamy, high-ceilinged Green Monkey Yoga studio in South Beach during Aluma’s weekly Vinyasa class. Her students line the room atop their many colored yoga mats for a flowing practice and Aluma’s instruction, which places meticulous attention on alignment while also delving into the spiritual and uplifting aspects of yoga. She’s explaining that “being a warrior,” tapping into your inner reserves of strength, is actually a more effective use of your energy than “running away.” It’s certainly a concept worth pondering while stretching your body into challenging, yet ultimately rewarding postures. And it’s these tonics of wisdom paired with physical exertion that keep yogis coming back for more.
With Miami’s growing and deepening yoga community, that desire for more is being met with a slew of locally led yoga retreats this summer. In a few days, from May 19-25, Aluma and private yoga teacher Rachel Novetsky will embark on a seven-day “Energy Shift” escape to Maderas Village on Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast. Later this summer, from August 17-22, Amy Dannheim and Dawn B. Feinberg (both Green Monkey teachers deeply rooted in Miami’s yoga community) will lead an “Endless Summer” excursion to the Blue Spirit retreat center in Nosara, Costa Rica. Both are set in eco-chic resorts with healthy, locally sourced meals included in the cost. They also provide the chance to commune with nature, learn to surf and, of course, soak up the good vibes.
Aluma and Novetsky, who regard each other as “soul sisters,” met through yoga over a decade ago and have spent every Tuesday evening for months planning their retreat. “It’s an opportunity to explore something deeper in your practice,” says Aluma. “We’re careful not to use too much dogma. The journey is almost subliminal. It’s gentle. We’ll focus on alignment, safety and healing resulting in an energy shift.”
Each day will begin with a two-and-a-half hour “sweaty detox sess” led by the duo, breaking down the mechanics of specific postures and relaxing into profound savasanas, the final resting pose at the end of a practice. They also plan to explore a deeper understanding of the body’s chakras and finding center. Restorative sessions are scheduled for the evening, while other options throughout the week include morning meditation, hiking, excursions into town, massage, surfing and workshops covering anything from arm balances to self practice and nutrition.
For Dannheim and Feinberg’s six-day Costa Rica retreat, the itinerary will be much the same with twice daily yoga sessions, surf lessons, journaling work and a fire ceremony. Of the appeal of a yoga retreat, Dannheim says, “People care more about healthy living today and they want to be able to do that while on vacation. There’s definitely a mindfulness movement underway. It’s a great opportunity to meet other likeminded people.”
She explains that the beautiful setting on a hilltop overlooking Guiones Beach, a three-mile stretch of sand with surf breaks for both beginners and advanced surfers, is as much a part of the appeal as the yoga practice itself. Attendees can participate in as much or as little of the scheduled itinerary as they desire.
For those intimidated or uncertain about whether a yoga retreat is right for them, Dannheim says, “There’s something for everybody and all levels of practitioners will be there. It’s a great way to make new friends and step out of your comfort zone.”
And if what’s outside of that comfort zone is an exotic, rejuvenating beach vacation catering to a healthy, active lifestyle and spiritual wellbeing with transformative possibilities, then that’s probably a zone we could all stand to explore.
Aluma agrees, saying, “The space we hold can carry anyone and everyone.”
Shayne Benowitz is the hotels & travel editor for Miami.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShayneBenowitz.