Learn how to accept your challenge from this inspiring woman

Before stepping into opening up the inspiring Montezuma Yoga a decade ago Dagmar's home was the dazzling music business. Promoting bands and working with photographers organizing shoots for Bon Jovi and Black Crowes, which were at their best that time. But thats a long time ago. Dagmar is running retreats worldwide for more than 15 years. We are very excited to get to know more about this inspiring women and of cause share it with you!

 

1. Today you are running a successful retreat business. What would you say was the most challenging parts getting there?

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.

From the moment I accepted the challenges, everything started falling into place. Click To TweetI had a beautiful balance of teaching classes and hosting retreats and like that met a lot of really great teachers who I was fortunate to practice with in my studio! I hosted teacher trainings as well and could participate and continue my education, which was great since I was so removed from any other studios where I could have studied. When I started in 2001 there was not a lot of yoga happening yet in Costa Rica, so the community was relatively small, and that was wonderful because we supported each other and had a great exchange.

 

2. What makes Montezuma Yoga special? What is your approach?

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.

 

3.What’s your personal secret to success?

Consistency and Clarity.

If anybody had told me 30 years ago that I would be a yoga teacher in Costa Rica, I would have laughed, because I didn't think it was possible to live such a dream.Click To Tweet But then with the yoga, my personal journey became clearer to me, and it really helped me to develop the trust and courage to follow my heart. Once I had a clear vision, I just kept doing all the little steps to move forward towards that vision. I kept up my studies and practice, I asked for support when I needed it and found inspiration from other teachers. I kept a consistency at the studio so that people could rely on me. The first 10 years I did it all alone, and I was there every day, no matter if one student would show up or 20. When I doubt myself or when I feel I am getting stuck I reach out to my teachers or go on a retreat to get new inspiration and energy. I think I have a pretty clear style and am good at holding space for others to be themselves. People receive a lot of personal attention and care and appreciate this connection, it’s about putting love also in small details that is making a difference, and it’s never just been a business for me.

 

4. You have more than 10k fans and over 100 positive reviews on Tripadvisor. Where do you get your knowledge in online marketing?

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

the secret is to share your story in ways that it is inspiring and helpful for others Click To Tweetand then it becomes really fun. I am grateful to the people who inspired me on my journey, so if I can be that person for somebody else, why not share a bit of my story and my tools.

 

5. Do you have three personal marketing tips you would like to share?

  • Building a community on Facebook has been really working well for me because Montezuma Yoga is a very transitional place. People pass through from all over the world, and it’s a great way to stay connected. I get a lot of sign-ups for my retreats through Facebook posts and events.
  • Build your email list and write a newsletter. People want to hear from you and what you are up to. I am still a bit shy to ask people directly for their emails or to sign up for my newsletter, but there is a book at the studio where people can leave it, and I have sign-up forms on my website. I send out a newsletter about once a month, and I make it not just about my own event offerings, but rather also include articles that inspire me, free videos or recipes, so that people have fun reading it.
  • Start creating videos. I filmed my first yoga videos back in 2005 when somebody passed through and asked me if I was up for it. I didn’t think anybody would ever care about online yoga videos and did it just to be creative and play with it. These videos have now over 1 million views on youtube and people still write to me or come to my classes and retreats telling me that they have been practicing with these videos for years!  I never expected that, but I see now what a wonderful tool it is since the internet has grown so much. I have since produced more videos, and they sell really well. You can share what you love and reach a wider audience and create a following because it’s more personal and people who don’t know you can see your style of teaching, and hear your voice.

6. What advice would you give a person who wants to start running retreats but has no experience?

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.

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.

- Dagmar Spremberg - Montezuma Yoga

7. Many people are afraid of leaving their comfort zone. Any advise how to overcome fears and take risks?

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 do the things that make me feel alive and strong and nourish my spirit. Sometimes that means to take a break and pause, breathe, listen,Click To Tweet so I spend a lot of time in nature which always helps me to see the bigger picture.

 

8. How would you rate the opportunity running retreats for the upcoming years? Where do you see Montezuma and yourself in 5 years from now?

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! 

 

9. Let’s close with a personal wish. What is the biggest wish you have regarding your business and or maybe personal?

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.

It's heartbreaking to see what is happening right now all over the world, but I hope this is just what is needed to transition to a better place.Click To Tweet I wish for people to step out of their fear and to trust that they can create a life of their dreams and that I will always be surrounded by an incredible, inspiring community all over the world. I realize these are actually a few wishes, not just one, but it’s all connected 😉

Thank you very much, Dagmar!

More about Dagmar’s inspiring work can be found her:

Montezuma & Dagmars Retreats


What It Takes to Become "France's Best Retreat"

Before starting a breathtaking retreat centre located in the picturesque province of Gascony in the south west of France, Isabell studied business psychology and worked as a meditation teacher and model for 17 years. We had the chance to meet Isabel and would love to share her inspiring story.

 

1. What made you start a retreat location?

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.

 

2. Tell us a bit about how you started and how you found this beautiful retreat location?

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.

 

3. How did you finance this amazing space?

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.

 

4. How many retreats do you run at Chez Zen every year?

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.

 

5. What make Chez Zen special and what is your philosophy?

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. 🙂

 

6. How much space do you offer for retreat organizers?

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.

 

7. What do you think is the most important thing a yoga teacher should look for when choosing a location? 

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.

Sometimes, reality can be more magical than dreams.

— Isabell - Chez Zen

8. What is the most challenging aspect of running a retreat location?

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.

 

9. What keeps you motivated?

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.

 

10. How do you market your place and how do people usually find you?

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.

 

11. What do you think, generally, about the business of running retreats in the coming years? And, specifically, where do you see yourself and your business in five years?

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.

 

12. What advice would you give yoga teachers or anybody else who wants to start their own retreat centre?

 

  1. Explore your reason behind – your personal why!
  2. Have enough initial investment capital and reserve assets for each new coming season.
  3. Start with a proper business plan.
  4. Avoid selling weeks to fresh-baked yoga teachers.
  5. Build a team you can trust! I had good experiences with friends.
  6. Bury the expectations of your clientele being more “spiritual” or awake than other people.

 

13. Let’s close with a personal wish. What is the biggest wish you have regarding your business and maybe personal life?

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.

Thank you so much Isabell.


Interview with Wilhemeena Isabella Monroe the founder of SOUL CENTER

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:

Before starting retreats what were you doing for life?

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!

When did you start running retreats?

We started our first retreat in Samoa in 2013, so 4 years. But the SOUL CENTRE is a retreat in itself.

How many retreats have you been running in the past years?

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.

In which locations did you run retreats in the past and how did you select them?

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!

What’s your personal motivation for running retreats or what keeps you excited about it?

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.

What’s going to happen this year. Where are you heading?

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!

How big is the group of participants usually?

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.

What’s your unique approach or what makes your retreats special?

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.

What do you do for marketing, or how do people usually find you?

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.

You can do all the marketing in the world and still get no one or do no marketing and have a full retreat.Click To Tweet

What advice would you give yoga teachers or anybody else who wants to start running retreats?

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!

How would you rate the opportunity running retreats for the upcoming years?

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 –

if it’s not your passion – let it go – find your passion – find your path and do that!Click To Tweet It is better to struggle in your own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Live YOUR dream! Not someone elses.

Let’s close with a personal wish. What the biggest wish you have regarding your business and or maybe personal?

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.

Let every moment be a moment to return to the earth. Namaste. Jai Ma.Click To Tweet

If there anything else you want to share please just let me know? I am sure our readers (including me) will be super excited to hear about you.

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.

Thank you Wilhemeena for sharing your stories and insights with us!

A perfect team:
Katherine
Tate on the left, peter Fernando in the middle and Wilhemeena on the right

 

You can contact Wilhemeena via: 

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