I was in need of a recharge this past summer so searched for a yoga retreat knowing it’d be an easy sell to get my husband on board. I stumbled upon Solyoga Trips online and their Avalon Springs Like Water for Chocolate AcroYoga retreat. Any adult who has read the book by Laura Esquivel Like Water for Chocolate, full of food and passion, would naturally jump at the chance to live out the story, at least in parts. Perhaps to the dismay of some, that’s not what this retreat was really about. Instead, an intro to AcroYoga, hot springs, good food, and chocolate was on the menu. This surreal mix was a recipe for rejuvenation.
Ben Crosky, the kind soul behind Solyoga Trips, was easily accessible by email for questions we had before the trip. We got the chance to meet him in person, as he attended the retreat. He was a gracious host and his presence made our experience seamless and more enjoyable.
Avalon Springs is a 130-year-old natural hot springs eco-resort (in progress) tucked away in Northern California wine country near Napa. From San Francisco, the roads getting there are winding; so what we thought would take us 2 hours took a good 3.5. The traffic on a Friday through Marin County didn’t help. We finally arrived, albeit late, and rushed into our first evening yoga class. A few downward dogs later, the stress of the difficult drive was left were it should be—in the past. Around twenty like-minded adults filled the room, some looking to reconnect with nature or with each other or with one’s own inner balance (as was my goal), some modicum of harmony. Usually we travel with our toddler; these three days to ourselves to recharge with space and time to breathe were precious, necessary, and vital for my sanity.
I had never tried AcroYoga before and was a bit hesitant, but before booking we were reassured that it would not be only Acro. I went for it. My husband, an acrobatic performer who specialized in doing handstands on stacks of chairs, was excited about trying this new style of yoga that has been gaining popularity. Our instructor was Daniel Scott, yogi provocateur. Almost all in attendance were new to AcroYoga. Throughout the weekend’s 4 classes, the few basic AcroYoga partner poses we learned were surprisingly not so difficult. All involved a base (the person on the floor), a flyer (he person executing the pose on the base), and sometimes a third person as the spotter. I can see how handstands, headstands, plunges, and their one-arm versions can be satisfying for those pushing their physical boundaries, and it was fun to try the intro steps to these more advanced poses.
However, coming from a shadow yoga and dancing background, I like yoga that flows. It’s the harmony created by alternating movement and stillness while coordinating your breath in a steady rhythm that energizes the best part of me. I found AcroYoga doesn’t allow flow enough for my taste, but it felt great to switch things up a bit.
Of course, my circus artist husband loved AcroYoga, and we both enjoyed Daniel’s playful yet sincere personality and teaching style—not without random references to 80s’ pop culture—and this introduction to a yoga that inevitably builds trust.
Solyoga Trips offers other travel adventures to awesome destinations including Iceland, Morocco, and Nicaragua that, besides exploration and sometimes surf, always incorporate at least 2 key ingredients: yoga and excellent food. Avalon Spring’s small kitchen staff was skilled and good energy. The vegetarian meals were served buffet style, and although one could sit anywhere to eat, everyone joined at the monk’s table to share stories and get to know one another over a delicious meal. The eclectic mix of people, career choices, and lifestyles reminded me of a hostel breakfast table in Paris. Since I am the only one in my small family to grocery shop and cook for 3 people, not having to think about a menu, procure food, and cook it, even if only for a weekend, was a weight off my shoulders and an added bonus on the trip. To makes things even more magical, chocolate was at hand before or after any of the yoga classes and was incorporated into the menu. We had raw chocolate mounds of goodness (I don’t know what they were but looked something like macaroons and smacked of coconut and cacao), and chocolate banana milk shakes minus the ice cream, and what looked like a flourless chocolate cake and tasted like heaven.
Instead of wine tastings, we had water tastings. We filled our water bottles with different kinds of natural water from the springs. I was surprised at how different each tasted—the salty Lithia water seemed to be a crowd favorite.
Housing was provided in small houses or cabins and could be single or double. With robes, towels, a good queen bed, and a sink in the room, everything was comfortable. It wasn’t luxurious but was nothing like camping either. Still yet, the connection to the outdoors was inevitable as the various hot springs kept us out in the fresh air of the hills.
We bathed at all hours. Nighttime was my favorite as the sky in this scarcely populated area is full of stars. The pool wasn’t heated and so served as a nice contrast dip to the hot springs. In winter, I can imagine it would make a perfect cold plunge Kneipp style. We hit the hot springs like Goldilocks, trying the Magnesium-rich medicine Spring Water, the skin-softening Boron-rich Mother Spring, and the tension-releasing Iron-rich Dragon Spring alternately before deciding the Boron bath felt the best. Clothing was optional, and everyone was respectful either way.
There are hiking paths you can take a stroll along or go for a run on. We walked up to the back of the resort Saturday afternoon to see the valley view.
After working my body, refueling with whole food, and unwinding in the baths, I felt like a cloud—not like floating on a cloud but a cloud with legs, light and grounded. I slept like a rock and left the retreat full of energy.
If you’re into visiting Avalon Springs, I would recommend taking your time getting up there and maybe packing a light picnic and stopping at one of the wineries along the way to explore the area some more.
Still haven’t decided what to do on New Years? Solyoga Trips is offering a 30-hour tantra immersion at Avalon that will bring you into 2014. If that sounds too intense for you, there’s a rejuvenating yoga retreat weekend on January 10. Whatever your preference, I’d bet you can recenter, find strength, and stretch your boundaries with Solyoga at Avalon Springs while pressing your restart button for the new year ahead.
Go: Solyoga Trips