After four years of work in multiple positions, I felt at a junction point. To either buy an apartment in Berlin postponing, again and again, the crazy decision or giving up the comfort of a “secure workplace and career,” come to terms with my fear of not being employed and confronting my family with the fact I would from now on change Alessandra.
In spring 2012 I took the “crazy decision,” deleted all that I had been doing until then, and started a long phase of self re-discovery. I had been living and working abroad since I was 21, and after 8 years I felt the need to come back to Italy. The year after I started teaching yoga and by pure chance – if it exists 🙂 – I ended up in Sardinia, where the idea of combining yoga and sailing slowly took shape.
The idea of yoga and sailing came from a vision I had during a Gestalt seminar I did in Germany, I saw myself sailing and practicing yoga in the Mediterranean. For someone who had been spending the previous 8 years mostly in German-speaking Europe studying wind turbines and solar panels, this was quite odd.
In 2013 a common friend introduced me to Ghego, the skipper of the boat, who was also keen to combine the sailing charter weeks he was already offering with yoga. He had never done yoga before but wanted to try it.
We usually offer our retreats during the first half of June and in September, and we run 4-5 retreats a year.
As Sardinia is pretty crowded during the whole summer season, we pick the weeks where the tourists and boats around are not many. This allows us to easily find quiet bays and beaches where to anchor and practice yoga.
Until now we are welcoming max. 6 guests on board. This makes the group very cosy and allows me to give specific correction to everyone’s practice. On top of that, everyone gets to learn the basics of sailing, steering the boat and setting the sails included. Ghego is a very experienced and patient sailing instructor.
The crew is composed by Ghego skipper/sailing instructor and me: vegetarian-vegan chef/yoga instructor.
There is a possibility to fill up the second boat, go around with a small fleet and 12 participants. And from next year we will have a bigger boat, where we will host 8 participants.
We never practice yoga on the boat. We always go by dinghy to the closest beach or dock, we place our yoga mats in a quiet and flat spot which is not rocking, and we do our morning practice.
It is quite rare bad weather in Sardinia during summer, and it seldom rains for longer than a couple of hours. Our yoga practice is usually planned in the morning around 8:30. Should it rain, we anticipate the breakfast, set sails and postpone the yoga practice to the afternoon.
We have three websites advertising the retreat. We have created one website specifically for the retreat: www.yogaandsailing.com. Ghego has his own website for sailing charters: www.altamarea.org. As a yoga instructor, I have my personal website dedicated to yoga and the massages I offer www.ayurvedayogasardinia.com. We also advertise on multiple listing sites.
I see an increase in popularity of yoga retreats, which I understand.
I guess it makes sense to use the holiday time to get out of the usual life and the unnatural environments most people live to “thank the person and body” with new input, skills, and nature. The week is though not only to be on holiday but also a detox to mind and body to come back full of energy and inspiration for the daily life.
I would love to increase the number of yoga and sailing retreats we offer at yoga and water sports in general, opening the water sports more and more to women.
We are also evaluating to expand our offer to beautiful islands with a warm climate during European winter. 😉
The four elements air, water, earth and fire summed up in the wind, sea, sun and granite stones of Sardinia create here one of the most beautiful realities Mother Nature has shaped.
Be patient, patient, patient. With yourself, with the others, with your ideas, before you find the right ways to bring your ideas to life and to advertise your offer.
Be passionate, passionate, and passionate about what you want to bring to life.
Offer something exclusive with particular attention to quality and care of the participants. For example, we offer 100% organic, locally sourced vegetarian food during the whole week, with gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan alternatives for participants requiring special diets. We cook vegetarian and the whole week is alcohol-free.
- Alessandra Silvestrini - Yoga & Sailing Sardinia
A wish for my business: I hope I can keep on bringing my passion to the world and work from it.
My personal wish: I hope everyone takes the courage out to bring to life their gifts and talents and create wonders that feed this world with goodness! 🙂
Thank you very much, Alessandra. May the wind cary your passion to all the ones who are seeking for it!
I was used to always being in the background and promoting other people, but there was always a little questioning inside me about my creativity, I wasn’t good enough to play an instrument, to sing or as a photographer, so I was wondering what my purpose, my art was? So naturally, when I moved to Costa Rica my first idea was to promote yoga teachers and help them organize and promote their retreats as a host at Montezuma Yoga. The first teacher who led a retreat at my place was Elena Brower, my teacher back in New York before I moved, and she then encouraged me to become a teacher too. It was scary because all of a sudden I couldn’t hide anymore behind other people and needed to find my own voice, at the same time it was beautiful because I loved teaching from the first moment and realized that finally, I had found my way of being creative and expressing myself.
Yoga to me was always about community. We don’t have to do it all alone. We realise other people have similar stories, challenges, and dreams when we share with each other. Whenever I was in a tough place myself, I would go to yoga classes and leave feeling better, grounded, connected and with a sense of hope and faith that things will work out. Montezuma Yoga offers this kind of sanctuary to the people who live here or pass through as they travel. It’s very authentic and personal, we have a lot of single travellers coming through and enjoying a place to feel home and inspired and to meet other people. All our teachers are very skilled and teach from the heart; you can tell that we love what we do and I think people can feel this energy. It’s not the fanciest shala, but it has a lot of heart and feels real. The sounds of the jungle and ocean and the monkeys and birds add their own magic and Sylvester, our yogi cat, who always hangs out in the middle of the studio gives it also a sense of home.
Consistency and Clarity.
I have some friends who started marketing courses for yoga teachers and have learned a lot from them. It’s a lot of trial and error still, but I think these days it’s important to accept this as a part of our business. I see a lot of other teachers struggling with their online presence, and I understand it because we all get into a place of “who am I to tell my story” and keeping ourselves small. But
I have been hosting and leading retreats now for over 15 years, so I have learned a lot from my own and other teachers mistakes. I think it is important to create something unique that represents you and to build your community so that you can stand out from the vast retreat offerings out there.
- Dagmar Spremberg - Montezuma Yoga
Yes, I can relate very much, there were many moments when I was scared to make the jump into the unknown, letting go is hard! But when you look back it’s those scary moments that always opened a magical new door, so you build a bit more trust and courage every time you jump! I always wanted to live life fully and with integrity and esp. as a yoga teacher I cannot inspire my students to follow their intuition and not live from my own teachings 😉
So it comes back again to the community, whenever I doubt myself or get scared I ask for support and help from my teachers and friends.
I think the market is very overwhelmed right now, you can book a retreat anywhere anytime and it’s a bit harder than ever to fill your retreats. So far I have been very blessed that I can fill all my personal retreats, so I always search for new exciting locations to offer something different, f.e. this summer we go to Iceland and Greece. I also teach the retreats together with my partner Gaudan, who plays the Hang instrument in some of the classes and we have created a unique and magical experience that I hope to share for many more years on the road. I am blessed to split my time between Montezuma and Europe, with the majority in Montezuma (8-10 months) which is a very beautiful, popular and transformative location, so hopefully, we can continue to thrive and share the space with many wonderful visiting teachers.
Recently I also started to offer private one-on-one retreats here at my property, where I rent out two beautiful lofts. I can see the demand for a more customized, personal retreat experience because not everybody likes to spend a week with 20-30 people all day long. These mini retreats can be booked on individual dates and include one private yoga session per day.
I have had couples, mothers-and-daughter, and single women as clients for these retreats and it’s always been a very rewarding experience for all of us to share. I have the vision of creating more magical experiences in different places for the next 5 years while also keeping a sanctuary for like-minded people here in my studio. It’s fun to be creative and have visions and as they say in an old song from Massive Attack: Never keep your eggs just in one basket!
My business is my baby, and so every wish will always be personal too. I wish to stay healthy and that the world moves towards more peace again, and that we are not destroying it.
More about Dagmar’s inspiring work can be found her:
Montezuma & Dagmars Retreats
I used to work as a model for 17 years and was more than sick of that environment and of being permanently on the road. Privately, I was looking for more grounding, deepness and nature. I had an intense insight during one of my meditations in nature. It was a very clear vision of what path I would have to follow next, even though I didn’t have the capital at that point.
Luckily, my partner who is half Indian took me on a journey to this extreme country, where I was able to get deeper insights into all kind of healing techniques like Ayurveda, Osho meditations, craniosacral therapy, ancient wisdom, shamanism, tantra etc. In Goa, I met my future landlord, a British photographer and immediately felt a very strong connection with him. One year later, I met him in India again by chance. An intense impulse guided me to show him the business plan I had already written for the future Chez Zen, which I wanted to locate preferably in France. A few months later, after visiting the location in France, I realised that this property provided most of the features I had planned for in my original business plan. Even so, I knew I still needed to invest a lot in order to transform my dreams into reality, but I felt truly guided and knew that there would be a way for me to do so.
I was able to cash in my inheritance ahead of time and get four private loans; one was from someone who was a stranger at the time, two were from friends and one was from my partner’s mother. I was so lucky that they believed in me.
Around 21. Some of them are our own retreats such as holistic silent meditation & yoga retreats or silent Ayurveda yoga retreats. Others are run by external teachers who bring their own group. Occasionally, we run small holistic festivals as well.
Aside from the picturesque beauty of the nature, the magical energy everyone feels sooner or later and the comforts (e.g. 9 bathrooms, 8 terraces), Chez Zen is a place where all human aspects and feelings are fully accepted in order to find your way into wholeness. It’s a place of detachment and deep transformation. Chez Zen accepts that polarity exists and doesn’t try to create a place just full of light. I strongly believe that polarity is both part of life and the human condition. The feelings that we don’t want to feel need the most compassion. Chez Zen is a place of conscious compassion. We want to support transformation (which we see as a transformation of the heart) and self-awareness. That’s why our own retreats include silent periods, although screaming is also allowed at Chez Zen. 🙂
On 2,2 ha, I provide nine guest rooms in two guest houses (single, double and triple rooms). Camping is allowed as well. The maximum amount of people who can practise yoga on the yoga deck and in the indoor hall at the same time is 23.
From my experience, the location can be a ramshackle hut as long as the spirit is right and the teachers are able to deal with the expectations of their participants. This is even more important when students have unfulfilled expectations and emotional issues. In terms of successful destinations, I would choose always a country where retreat centres are still rare.
— Isabell - Chez Zen
To constantly have an overview over the current state of each area as well as to remain in a state of permanent acceptance and equanimity for the clients‘ and team member’s expectations and projections around oneself. It is also quite challenging to find the time for your own little retreats.
The vision that I had about this life was truly intense. I strongly feel that I am nestled in the learning field I was supposed to end up for this time of my life. Also, watching my daughter Coco grow up in this environment of consciousness and looking at the soulful faces of visitors during and after their stay fills me with deep joy and gratefulness.
Actually, I don’t do much marketing. Word-of-mouth recommendations have been quite powerful from the beginning. We also get participants through holistic travel agencies. Retreats that are run by external teachers are mainly advertised by the teacher. I do, however, support them as much as I can through Facebook, the webpage and booking platforms.
It seems that a new retreat centre opens somewhere every week; retreats are becoming the new way to go on holiday. Many people nowadays prefer to spend more for a week of self-experience than for two or three weeks of the usual “doing nothing” on their holidays.
I fear that it will become more and more difficult for end consumers to detect the quality of retreats. Yoga & spirituality have become a lifestyle boom.
As soon as my daughter is a bit older, I want to run more holistic silent & bodywork retreats at Chez Zen and at other locations as well.
I very much enjoy running seminars that are influenced by the tantric philosophy of life. I would like to invite more Osho therapists to Chez Zen. Right now, I feel more than blessed that Klaus Eibach, author of “Philosophie der Gefühle”, found his way to me. He belongs to the community now and accompanies many retreats as a tutor or wise soul. Sometimes, reality can be more magical than dreams.
Chez Zen France
Wilhemeena Isabella Monroe is the founder and director of the SOUL CENTRE New Zealand. She has been working in dance and holistic health and wellbeing approaching two decades now. She is an established choreographer, director, filmmaker and dancer and has performed all over the world. Get inspired by her story:
I have been running and teaching at the SOUL CENTRE studio for over 12 years, it is the first of it’s kind in New Zealand offering a space to support somatic and kinesthetic education, research and development. The SOUL RETREATS came as an outreach from that centre – we wanted to take people on soulful adventures and travel and there seemed to be a genuine need there for our clients to choose a wellbeing retreat for their holiday instead of just going on holiday itself. Before that I was a professional dancer for 10 years. So I still get to kick my legs up, but just in a different way now!
We started our first retreat in Samoa in 2013, so 4 years. But the SOUL CENTRE is a retreat in itself.
2-3 a year, Samoa, and Tonga are our main BLISS retreats, and Nepal, and Tongariro Crossing are our TREK retreats. But we also do others to Bali and locally in Auckland. In 2018 we have a new one to Sri Lanka.
We have tried several spots for retreats but have honed our favourites due to the relationships we build with the community’s in each location – we give a percentage of our profits to local communities we visit so that we are giving back in many different ways to the places we visit. Samoa, Tonga and Nepal will always be my favourites but Bali is also a bit fabulous!
Our retreats give people an indepth transformation experience. There are many things you can get from turning up in the studio every week for daily practice, but there is also something very special that happens when people get out of their normal existence and experience somewhere different, with a group of people that are arriving open and ready to transform something, even just a small part of their lives. It creates magic and that is what I live for. Transformational open heart magic.
2017 – we are heading to – you guessed it – our favourites – Samoa, Tonga and Nepal, but in the beginning of 2018 we are trying out a new spot in Sri Lanka – come along – it’s going to be Magic!
Each retreat is different and has a different focus. The Samoa retreats we have around 20 people, the Tonga experience is more intimate with 8-10 people, the Nepal experience is maximum 8-10people. These are small group experiences that are about quality and connection.
I mentioned the word transformation before and I think this is one of our key elements. People come away from these retreats different. Perhaps you can say this about every retreat but really there is something divine about what happens and that is also the way we set up the intention for each experience and the care that we put into all aspects of the retreats. The people involved are also amazing, our tutors are heart-felt and beautiful people and especially Katherine our co-ordinator – she is probably the most beautiful person you have ever met.
Oh dear – that is something we really could improve on – most of our clients come from word of mouth. And we have many return clients who come every year to these retreats. It’s creates a community of people which is so great. Yikes – we don’t even have a proper website – I really should get onto that! Too busy transforming peoples lives! I think when things are meant to roll, they roll.
Get a team on board, there are so many logistics that are unforeseen at the beginning. It takes great skill to co- ordinate and facilitate retreats. If you are an awesome yoga teacher it doesn’t necessarily mean you are awesome at logistics. If you know it’s not your strong point – team up with someone that is the embodiment of organization – a virgo would be good! Also the amount of energy to hold people when they are out of their home space – energetically this can’t be underestimated – especially if you are facilitating a transformation retreat. This needs to be addressed, so having more than one tutor is always the most optimum. You never know what might happen. On one retreat I was attacked by wild dogs and spent the whole 10 days in bed unable to do anything – I had such great support from my team I managed to run the whole thing from bed! Get a TEAM you can trust!
This is a growing market as more people make the choice to conscious travel instead of consumerist travel. However the growth in people offering retreats is also rising. If this is your dharma then get out there and do it –
My biggest wish – that is an amazing question – I wish for all beings to be able to remember what it is they came here for and to have the strength to follow their heart. If we listen deep enough to our hearts we will find that the rhythm of our hearts is the rhythm of the earth. Let us all remember that she is our mother and that all beings deserve to walk in love and grace on an earth that is loved and cared for by us.
Our Sri Lanka retreat is going to be amazeballs – I am still planning it, so super excited! Come and experience a divine retreat in beautiful Sri Lanka. I also teach training programs in chi kung and shin somatics (movement therapy and developmental yoga!) and am happy to travel to people’s locale to train and/ or do retreats. So bring me to your retreat or hometown! I have so much wisdom and life to share.
A perfect team:
Katherine Tate on the left, peter Fernando in the middle and Wilhemeena on the right
You can contact Wilhemeena via:
Check out upcoming retreats