True Nature Travels Blog

Recently, I spent a retreat weekend in the woods alongside a community of yoga teacher trainees. And though a retreat weekend should embody a framework of rest, I entered it a bit frenzied. As I planned for the weekend in the woods, I realized, truth be told, there wasn’t much rest at all.

Then suddenly, in the last couple days prior to the weekend, plans started to feel like they were unraveling. A variety of life’s unexpected happenings suddenly erupted for several students. Several in the group wouldn’t be able to attend. Then, during the weekend, additional people had to head out early and most who remained were exhausted. Me too. By early Sunday morning I sensed that my plans for the day ahead needed to change. There was no way we were going to be able continue with the level of work I’d intended.

meditationI thought of the ways I’ve resisted rest so often and have been left feeling like a packed closet that hasn’t been cleaned out in a while. There must be times of letting go. So, instead, I took out a little sword of discernment and sliced through much of the schedule, dissecting away all that felt like it could wait so we could work at a slower pace. 

That afternoon, instead of continuing to press forward with new material, we turned our attention to tending the beautiful grounds and house where we’d stayed. We’d been tasked with a service project of raking the grounds around the house and down the path to a labyrinth used for walking meditation. I took on raking the path and the labyrinth itself. And as I did, I felt the land start to draw me in and work suddenly became rest.

It can be hard to let go of plans, to remember that pausing, setting down agendas for the flow of life as it is, to stand still and ask for wisdom about which direction to go rather than rushing forward with deeply engrained behaviors. At least for me it can be hard. Maybe you too. 

Yet, this day I stood, I asked, and this is what I received: first, I found myself standing in the center of old trees on an ancient mountain, under a sky blue and bright with sunshine. As I raked, I thought of the Buddhist wisdom to remember that we must still and always “chop wood and carry water” with the same level of loving attention as any other practice we may be doing. No matter what we may be doing to engage our spirits, to settle our mind, to become more engaged and connected all around, the work is of little importance if we do not return to the world of tasks, of the nitty gritty of life, with the same spirit of loving attention that we’d give to sitting on the mat. 

So I relaxed a bit as I raked, softened my shoulders, stopped plowing through the leaves with the rake like they owed me something. Instead, I let my rake move in rhythm with my breath, I paused every few moments to stand, breathe in the smell of the crisp air, turn my face to the sun. 

When I finally made it to the labyrinth, I set the rake aside, began the walk to the center. The labyrinth is said to mimic the journey of life, a journey that is circular, so that the way in is also the way out. There are obstacles, roots, switchbacks, stumps, and uneven ground to navigate. I found myself pushing forward quickly at first, walking at my normal pace. As the trail and obstacles continued, I slowed, I considered, I realized I was breathing and walking in rhythm, my mind no longer scattered but deeply present. 

In the center, a stone rests like a stool inviting a pause to sit, to witness the journey. And, though I almost missed the invitation, just as I turned to walk back the way I’d come, I recognized where I was standing, and I paused. Here I was, halfway in the labyrinth journey and halfway on my life journey, too, here at the start of the year in which I’ll turn 50. Perhaps this isn’t exactly half the life I’ll live, but somehow it felt in that moment as if it is.

So, I sat. I saw trees and sunlight, landscape that vibrated with some wisdom I couldn’t quite hear but that I wanted to listen for. I recognized that my walk forward from there would be a return over the same footsteps I’d already traveled. An opportunity to return, perhaps, and do them differently this time. I felt myself having slowed, having allowed the rhythm of the day to unfold differently, having changed the pace of my raking to allow it to embody the same wisdom as the rest that I’d received. I felt the way I’d been drawn into the center of this circle. It felt very much like I was sitting right within the center of my heart pausing to take in the cumulative steps of this journey so I might collect myself before going onward and out from here. 

teacher friend shared another way of seeing this experience is to envision the journey inward from the perspective of release, the space in the middle as the moment to receive, and the journey back out as the opportunity to return.” Release, receive, return.

I’ve thought every day recently of this perspective and wondered over it. What is the release from? What is it that might be received? And to what might I return? 

I found myself walking the winter wooded paths around my house this past week wondering and listening for an answer. I imagined the ancient paths my boots tread and felt like I’d created my own kind of labyrinth, not circular, but marked and worn into a predictable inward and outward journey by my own treading.

One particularly quiet morning, after a particularly frustrating night, just after a snowfall, the world seemed to hold me for a moment, still as if in the middle, receiving. I stood and watched the sky balance itself between gray and soft salmon colored light. I paused and felt very sure that this was as much a moment of being in the middle as any other. My life, all life, precious, unfinishable—how could I do anything more than stand and receive. 

Returning from it, into my life, I walked with something I might call peace. I had walked away from my home and perhaps wouldn’t have named it so, but it was a release. With each step I had let my life behind me, my frustrations and confusions and lack of control, fall away. Pausing for a moment I’d received life back to me again, more beautiful as I listened, waited, looked around with the promise to receive. 

And so, I walked back, returning more spacious, like some stubborn thing in me had given way, if but for a moment. I could feel the whole moment in my body through my shoulders, my face, my senses. It wouldn’t last. Contentment is like that after all, a tender bird that comes, goes, comes again. And perhaps the next time I walk a labyrinth real or imagined, I will understand the whole journey in an entirely different way. Perspective, too, like a bird—light as a feather and floats with experience.

But this day, that moment, I had walked a good way, and on the other side, I returned to rest for my soul. 

Sit or lie down for a moment, friend, as if you’ve walked from a place of release into the stillness of receptivity. Place your hand on your heart. Feel your breath move inward and outward. Can you soften the muscles of your face as if your eyes and mouth have relaxed into a gentle smile? Imagine peace has come to land right in front of you, like a little bird. Imagine this lovely little bird breathing softly. See if you can remain here with this delicate sense of peace and your breath for just a few moments more. Then return, friend, from here. 

Christa Mastrangelo Joyce, E-RYT500, a dedicated yoga teacher with a diverse background and a passion for accessibility. In 2009, she founded Jala Yoga and has been offering yoga trainings since 2012. With expertise in Ashtanga, Hatha, Ayurveda, Yin Yoga, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Christa emphasizes anatomy, breathwork, and meditation in her classes. She brings a modern perspective to ancient traditions, incorporating storytelling and mythology to engage her students. Committed to inclusivity, Christa works to create classes that support adaptability and curiosity for all practitioners. Join Christa on Retreat!  Choose from Mexico, Italy or Portugal.

True Nature Travels Blog

Michelle Donice Gillis

Yesterday, as I was mindlessly scrolling social media, I came across a post from a woman I know who has recently begun practicing yoga. I was so moved by her photos and heartfelt words chronicling the transformative power of this practice that I felt the need to move beyond the voyeur role that social media affords in order to encourage her to continue her journey and to possibly consider yoga teacher training. Almost immediately she responded to my post stating that it was something she had considered because of the need for more representation in the yoga community. Agreed. We need to welcome older, larger, browner, blacker, and gender fluid bodies into our yoga community and mean it this time!

I know that over my decade long yoga journey, I am often the only woman of color in the room, which is surprising when we consider the origins of this transformational practice.

Many times, I am also the oldest.

In recent years, especially in the wake of BLM, the conversation surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has burgeoned, extending its tendrils into every nook and cranny of our societal framework, including the Zen haven of yoga studios. Though the practice is deeply rooted in Eastern traditions and philosophies, the modern yoga scene often exudes an aura of exclusivity, one could even say, elitism.

This elitism, which is closely intertwined with the ‘whiteness’ of wellness, is a multifaceted issue that continues to plague the yoga community. As we unfurl our mats and bend into our ‘downward-facing dogs,’ it becomes evident that the reflection staring back at us is starkly uniform—an amalgamation of bodies that are predominantly white, slender, and young. While it cannot be denied that the landscape is shifting, the question remains – how can we cultivate an environment where diversity is not just a buzzword but a living, breathing facet of our practice? How do we give honor to the people who created this practice beyond offering a trite “namaste” at the end?

At its core, the yoga community is a tapestry of narratives; stories interwoven by the quest for inner peace and the desire for wellness. However, these narratives are often shaped and dictated by those who hold more privilege within our society. The ‘whiteness’ of wellness is a phrase that encapsulates the idea that wellness spaces, including yoga studios, cater disproportionately to those who are white and of a higher socio-economic status.

This phenomenon is multifaceted, with several factors contributing to the isolation of marginalized communities. The lack of representation in media and marketing, the inherent sexualization of yoga that often caters to a specific demographic, and the historical erasure and commodification of yoga from its roots within South Asian cultures all play a role in perpetuating this exclusivity.

If I’m to be honest, there have been times when I’ve walked away from yoga studios because I didn’t feel welcome. Sure, there were signs on the door and attempts at inclusivity, but it felt formulaic and not a part of the studio’s true culture.

I believe the revolution (is that too strong of a word?) that is needed begins with a simple shift in perspective. It beckons to the community to dismantle the barriers that have been erected over time. Incorporating DEI principles is not merely a trend; it is a necessity.

To breathe new life into yoga, a conscious effort must be made to diversify the roster of yoga teachers and thought leaders. This is a critical step in ensuring that the narratives presented are reflective of the wider community. Encouraging and supporting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and trans practitioners to take the helm not only opens the door for new perspectives but also empowers groups that have historically been marginalized within Western wellness spaces.

The physical space of the yoga studio also plays an important role in reflecting the value of diversity. Studios that cater to larger bodies, provide sliding scale payment options, or are ADA accessible, and have non-gendered bathrooms, or culturally sensitive classes (e.g. all female courses for women who are unable to remove their hijabs in the presence of males) are taking tangible steps to welcome individuals who may have previously felt excluded. Furthermore, the content that is taught within these spaces should be sensitive to varying cultural and body diversities, ensuring that yoga is presented in a manner that is accessible and respectful to all.

One of my favorite symbols from yoga is the Lotus Blossom because they bloom from the murkiest of waters. In these muddy waters, the lotus becomes a beacon of light that shows us a path forward. There are many yoga studios and organizations around the country who have become these lotus blossoms. They have taken the initiative to champion the cause of diversity within their communities. By offering classes specifically geared towards BIPOC individuals, the LGBTQ+ community, seniors, particular religious groups, and larger bodies, these teachers have been able to carve out small but significant victories in the quest for inclusivity. They must be celebrated!

The road to an inclusive yoga community is a winding one, with no singular path leading the way. However, there are several actions that studios and practitioners can take to pave the way for a more diverse and equitable future.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Listen to and learn from the experiences of the marginalized. Consider creating a community advisory board or implementing survey questions beyond “How was your class” so that all voices can be heard.
  2. Education is key. It is crucial for the yoga community to be informed about the cultures and histories from which yoga originates. Understanding the tradition allows for a more respectful and authentic practice that is free from harmful appropriation.
  3. Amplify the visibility of diverse yogis. Making space for these practitioners in advertisements, social media, and within studio spaces serves to normalize and celebrate diversity.
  4. Build partnerships with local community organizations can be a powerful way to bridge the gap. Collaborative events can help to make the practice more accessible to a wider audience.
  5. Speak up! If you are in a yoga space that doesn’t feel welcoming, let them know in a loving way.

The quote “Be the change you want to see in the world is often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. The truth is that each of us holds the power to be a catalyst for change. As we roll out our mats and begin to practice, we must be mindful not only of our own bodies but of the collective body to which we belong. It is in this union, this shared breath, that the true ethos of yoga can be realized.

Join Michelle in Greece September 29-October 5, 2024 for 6 sun drenched days exploring the unspoiled island of Amorgos. 

True Nature Travels Blog

Christa Mastrangelo Joyce: Bridging Ancient Traditions with Modern Wisdom

E-RYT500 Certified Yoga Teacher | Founder of Jala Yoga | Retreat Leader

Christa Mastrangelo Joyce brings a wealth of knowledge and a deep passion for yoga to every class and retreat she leads. With her E-RYT500 certification earned through Kim Manfredi and over 1000 additional hours of training from esteemed teachers such as Sianna Sherman, Bernie Clark, Maria Garre, Shiva Rea, Desiree Rumbaugh, Tiffany Cruikshank, and Andrew McCaulay, Christa is a seasoned guide in the world of yoga. 

Journey to Jala Yoga:

In 2009, Christa founded Jala Yoga, a space that has since become a haven for yoga enthusiasts seeking a holistic and transformative experience. Her dedication to yoga training started in 2012, and she has been sharing her passion through numerous yoga retreats.

A Tapestry of Yoga Styles:

Christa’s yoga journey is diverse, encompassing Ashtanga, Hatha, Ayurveda, Yin Yoga, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her extensive training in anatomy, particularly the nervous system, allows her to tailor classes that promote adaptability, curiosity, and engagement. Christa seamlessly weaves breath work, meditation, and yoga philosophy into her teachings, creating an immersive and holistic practice.

Honoring Tradition in a Modern Context:

Christa is committed to honoring the ancient traditions of yoga while adapting them to the needs of the modern world. She recognizes and addresses barriers to accessibility in yoga, working to create inclusive classes that embrace diversity and cater to practitioners of all levels. Her love for storytelling and mythology adds a unique and enriching dimension to her classes.

Jen Rolston: Embracing Yoga as a Path to Joyful Living

200HR Certified Yoga Teacher | Morning Dharma Instructor | Devotee of Yoga Philosophy

Jen Rolston’s journey with yoga began in 2005, marking the culmination of a lifelong exploration of religions and philosophies. Drawn to the first yoga studio in Shepherdstown, she fell in love with yoga philosophy, meditation, and the transformative power of asanas, as taught by Shanti Saagar founders Judy Jenner & JiJi Beckett.Jen Rolston

A Self-Practice Journey:

Maintaining a self-practice since her initial introduction to yoga, Jen found a consistent practice under the guidance of Christa Mastrangelo Joyce in 2010. In 2018, she completed Jala Yoga’s 200HR Teacher Training with Christa, deepening her understanding of yoga philosophy and refining her teaching skills.

Morning Dharma with Jen:

As a dedicated Morning Dharma instructor since completing her training, Jen brings her unique blend of teachings inspired by Yogrishi Vishvketu, Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, and Buddhist dharma. She firmly believes that the combination of yoga, meditation, and a connection with nature offers the simplest path to a joyful life—acknowledging that it might not always be the easiest, but unquestionably the simplest.

The Joy of Teaching and Connecting:

Jen’s classes reflect her genuine belief in the transformative power of yoga and meditation. Through her teachings, she aims to inspire others on their journey toward a joyful life, fostering connections with both the self and the surrounding world.

As integral members of the yoga community, Christa Mastrangelo Joyce and Jen Rolston bring their unique perspectives, expertise, and genuine passion for yoga to every retreat. Together, they create an enriching and inclusive environment that invites practitioners to explore, learn, and connect on their yoga journey. Join them on a retreat to experience the profound impact of their teachings firsthand. September 21027, 2025 in the Algarve Coast, Portugal

Embracing Delight: Practicing The Art of Attention

True Nature Travels Blog

Tucked in the bosom of the Caribbean, Soufriere of Dominica serves as a pristine gem untouched by the hands of commercialism. This quaint community, located on the verdant island of Dominica, presents an unparalleled opportunity for cultural immersion and exploration of natural wonders.

Soufriere’s allure lies not just in its lush landscapes, but also in its vibrant culture. Dominica, fondly termed as “The Nature Island,” is a colorful amalgamation of Carib/Kalinago, African, and Creole influences. This cultural mélange manifests in a rich array of local music, dance, food, and language experiences.

Immersing oneself in the local culture in Soufriere is an experience full of rhythm, color, and spirit. The dance forms, predominantly influenced by African and Creole traditions, are vibrant expressions of community, history, and identity. One of the traditional dances you’ll likely encounter is the “Bele,” a beautifully delicate yet dynamic dance accompanied by drum beats that resonate deep within your soul.

The music scene in Soufriere is as diverse as its people. From the pulsating rhythms of “Jing Ping” bands, that use traditional instruments like the accordion, bamboo pipe, and the “gwaj,” to the enchanting Creole songs performed by local troubadours, music is a way of life here. You might also encounter the poignant melodies of “Bouyon” music, a genre that originated in Dominica, and seamlessly blends elements of reggae, dancehall, and traditional folk.

Dominican cuisine, much like its culture, is a flavorful blend of Carib/Kalinago, African, and Creole influences. In Soufriere, the food scene is a gastronomic journey steeped in tradition and local produce. From farm to table, each dish is an ode to the island’s fertility and biodiversity. One of the must-try dishes is the national staple, “Mountain Chicken” (locally known as Crapaud), a delicacy made from a frog species endemic to the island. The “Callaloo Soup,” a hearty blend of leafy greens, okra, and coconut milk, is another authentic treat. Seafood lovers can indulge in freshly caught “Langouste,” a local variety of lobster, grilled to perfection. Fruits such as guavas, papayas, soursop, and the island’s infamous breadfruit often find their way into meals, either as side dishes or desserts. Dining in Soufriere is not merely about sustenance, but a celebration of the island’s bountiful harvest and diverse culinary heritage.

The ethos of earth stewardship is ingrained in the everyday life of both Soufriere and the broader Dominica. The locals’ practices showcase a profound respect for nature and reflect an eco-conscious lifestyle. Dominica is also the proud custodian of one of the last standing oceanic rainforests in the world. The community plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the fertile, mineral-rich volcanic soil, the hot springs, and the marine reserve that brims with biodiversity.

The rainforest of Dominica, one of the last bastions of untouched nature, is a veritable paradise for nature aficionados. Stretching across the rugged terrain of the island, it boasts a diverse array of flora and fauna. The forest’s canopy is a vibrant mosaic of varied shades of green, punctuated by occasional splashes of color from blooming tropical flowers. Beneath this leafy cover, the forest floor teems with life, hosting everything from tiny insects to the island’s national bird, the Sisserou parrot. The rainforest is also intersected by meandering rivers and cascading waterfalls, adding to the serene beauty of the landscape. Within this lush environment, numerous trails offer an intimate, immersive experience of the rainforest, allowing visitors to appreciate the biodiversity and ecological richness that is a source of pride for Dominica.

A journey to Soufriere isn’t just about a visit; it’s an immersion into a different culture, a lesson in respect and appreciation for our varied backgrounds, and an awakening to our duty towards Mother Earth. This journey promises personal growth and a deeper understanding of the world around us. We invite you to join us in this expedition of cultural discovery and transformative learning.

True Nature Travels Blog

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, finding moments of feeling grounded & calm can be a challenge. But what if we told you that you could infuse your daily routine with the grace and mindfulness of yoga? The beauty of yoga lies not only in the serene moments on the mat but in its ability to enrich every facet of your existence. Join us as we explore simple yet impactful ways to weave yoga into your daily life, nourishing your body, mind, and spirit.

1. Rise with Intent


Begin your day with a clear purpose. Dedicate a few minutes every morning to connect with yourself before you engage with the outside world.

  • Enjoy a gentle wake up stretch
  • Check in with your body, your mind & heart – how is it now & what does it need today?
  • Start with mindful attention to set the tone for a grounded start to the day

2. Take a Breather


Embrace the incredible power of your breath, as you navigate your day. Whenever you sense stress, struggle, or overwhelm, take a pause to invite a few intentional deeper breaths into your body. Whether you are at your desk, in your car, waiting in line, walking in nature or meeting a friend, this simple practice brings attention into the body and into the present moment, offering a refreshing wash of calm.

3. Yoga Breaks


Integrate short yoga breaks into your schedule. Use your lunch break or other free moments to practice a few rounds of sun salutations, seated twists, or forward bends (even in your chair!) Pausing to stretch your body releases endorphins and these mini-sessions will help reinvigorate your body and refresh your mind.

4. Mindful Eating


Transform mealtime into a mindful experience. Sit down quietly at the table, savor each bite, and appreciate the nourishment your food provides. This simple act of mindfulness enhances digestion, adds pleasure to your day and helps you connect with the present moment. (Bonus: it can also help reduce overeating and increase awareness of food choices.)

5. Moving Mindfully


Infuse mindfulness into your daily activities. Whether you’re walking, cooking, cleaning, or even commuting, bring attention into your body and feel your experience. This simple shift in awareness can make the ordinary feel extraordinary, helping you find more joy in every moment of your day.

6. Nurture your Grateful Heart


Take a moment each day to pause and dedicate it to gratitude. Reflect on three things you’re thankful for, connecting with your body, mind, and heart. This practice of gratitude and appreciation can infuse your daily life with positivity and help you lead with your heart.

7. Cultivate Connection


Explore the power of being present and listening mindfully when interacting with others and our world. Whether it’s a conversation with a friend, a family gathering, a work meeting, or even a walk out in nature, create deeper connections by fully engaging in the moment and actively listening to those around you. Listening is a superpower for living more mindfully.

8. Yoga Nidra or Meditation


Incorporate a short session of Yoga Nidra or quiet meditation into your day. Even just 10-minutes of guided relaxation or mindfulness can help you re-center and cultivate a greater sense of inner peace.

9. Evening Wind-Down


As bedtime approaches, create a soothing personal ritual for yourself. Consider a warm bath to wash off the day’s energy. Gentle stretches and restorative poses to relax the body and a few deep breaths to calm the mind. Before settling in, take a moment to recall those things you feel grateful for – setting the stage for a peaceful night’s sleep.

10. Practice Presence


Above all, commit to the practice of being fully present in every facet of your life, as best you can. Whether it’s sipping your morning tea, engaging in conversation, or working on a project, immerse yourself completely in the experience of each fresh new moment. Wake up, connect, feel & enjoy!


Remember, yoga isn’t confined to a mat or a studio. It’s a way of living mindfully and authentically. By weaving these simple practices into your daily routine, you’ll discover that the essence of yoga can infuse every moment with intention, peace, and a profound connection to yourself and the world around you.

Escape and rejuvenate with Maria and Richard in a tropical paradise. Visualize a week, where each day is bookended on your yoga mat, gazing at the Pacific Ocean. Maria and Richard are thrilled to curate this 7-day journey designed to reinvigorate your spirit. Nestled at the juncture of a lush jungle and the pristine beach of Chacala, Mexico, we will together delve deep into the time-honored practices, enabling profound healing and spiritual awakening.

True Nature Travels Blog

I have been fortunate enough to go on yoga retreats in incredible locations throughout my adult life. Yoga retreats, for me, are digging deep with oneself, taking a break for self-care, and being within the community. For me, the collective group energy on retreat is so powerful, whether it be in meditation, having a meal together or in deep breathing conversation. The conversation you experience on retreat is rich and fulfilling because you are in the deeper headspace.That can be so rewarding for a person. 

My memories from retreats include: Watching the sunrise over a secluded beach in Costa Rica, Zipping through the rainforest on a zipline, feeling like Tarzan swinging over the trees, swimming with dolphins in the Pacific Ocean with a group of eight retreaters,while schools of  dolphins surround and swim with us. It was an incredible experience.  surrounding us and swimming with us was an incredible experience. Swimming over a gorgeous reef in the bright blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.And of course, the yoga, The guiding practice which puts you in the right headspace to make this trip. 

This experience is different from a regular trip. Getting in the mindspace of peace. where those experiences are so much richer than regular vacations. And so that it becomes an exercise in self-care in self-nourishment. I will treasure all of my experiences. Great connections I have made on retreat that will last forever. Retreat is truly a revitalizing experience. It enriches your life, and allows you to come back to the world rejuvenated. Rejuvenated by the sun, by connection, by laughter, by yoga, and a deeper connection with yourself. 

Even though, I have experienced such incredible retreat and travel destinations,whenever I see a new retreat destination that want to go to, which are primarily destinations where my teacher will teach, I think,” Is this location accessible to me?” I am a person with Cerebral Palsy, which is a disability that affects my movement and speech.Despite the well known fact that I like to challenge myself,  am really a person that really wants to live life,and will travel terrain, even if it may be difficult,It has been suggested on 4 occasions that I not participate on a retreat because the terrain is too difficult. Of course, this is very frustrating to me when I am told that this retreat is not open to me. Open to me because the terrain may be too hard or the altitude may be too high, or that the trails may be too difficult as would be in Machu picchu. Because I want to experience this with all my heart. By taking this away from me, it is taking away the chance for me to study with my teacher, which is something I treasure doing in these incredible locations. 

As I have stated before, I have had some incredible experiences on retreat,despite the fact that I haven’t been able to attend every retreat I’ve wanted to. Even though I was able to attend these retreats, some of these places where I retreated were more accessible than others to people with disabilities. None were totally accessible and had many obstacles. For example, at one place I had to, to hold onto a person in order to walk around the property.  Although people that were on retreat were more than willing to help me out, as an adult who values his independence and ability, this is hard for me. The yoga space at almost all of these facilities were upstairs,  or down inaccessible paths. Now, I could get you all of these yoga spaces, but being on a yoga retreat, you would think the first thing a property owner should do is make the place where the primary practice is held, accessible to everyone. Even though I have been able to overcome obstacles and go on retreat in these awesome places. When it comes to a person with a more advanced disability, or uses a mobility device, such as a wheelchair, they would have no chance of going on most of the retreats I have been to. 


Before describing what is needed for accessibility for people with disabilities, I would like to talk a little bit about the need for yoga retreats for people with disabilities. In a society where people with disabilities often feel discriminated against in many phases of their life, they are required to go to doctor appointments or cannot find a job in the field they want,  are unable to get a leg up in an ableist society. Retreats can be very nourishing for them. 

In offering them an accessible place to go, they are able to  rejuvenate and refresh, and come back into society. With that openness and freshness, this is really important. There is a growing, accessible yoga movement in society today and a press of making the practice accessible to everyone. It is imperative, as we make the practice more accessible than it is,  that the accessibility extends to retreat locations. So, we are able to invite people with disabilities to enjoy the richness of retreat. I understand, some retreat places that are indoors may be more accessible than outdoor retreat places, but people with disabilities are individuals with different interests, and they should be able to decide where they will wanna go and have several options, just like anyone else.

When we think of accessibility, we often think, can a person with a disability or in a wheelchair get in the door or access the basement. When looking at a yoga retreat, the accessibility extends to many things other than the front door. It extends to things like- Is the lodging accessible? Is the shower accessible? The toilet? The yoga space? The activities and other aspects of the retreat. People often think when they hear that they need to make a space accessible for people with disabilities. Their first thought might be “Oh my gosh, that will cost me a fortune.”Instead of thinking that you are just making a space accessible for a person with a disability, it may be helpful to know that by making a space accessible, you are benefiting many different populations and that principle is called universal design. Universal Design is the design in composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent passable by all people, regardless of their size, age, ability or disability. 

For example, think of a walking shower. Yes, you may first think of benefiting a person in a wheelchair. However, you would be benefiting someone with a large statue, or someone who is older and does not move it well, or someone who has had an injury that may or may not go away. With universal design, you are making an environment accessible, usable and pleasurable to use. Everyone benefits!  

Above, I alluded to the example of getting to the yoga space and my experiences retreating. Many of the walkways to those yoga spaces were rocks. They were not paved and were not easily accessible. Someone who is older, who is in a wheelchair, who uses crutches, would have a tough time getting to that yoga space. The solution does not have to be elaborate, but just make the surface smooth. So that way of getting to the yoga space is accessible for everyone and  everyone can use it. 

One of the things that I mentioned that was very meaningful to me is the excursions on yoga retreat.  Finding accessible excursions does not mean that the excursion has to be any less enjoyable, but instead looking for options that everyone can participate in, regardless of their accessibility level. For example, if you are going on a boat cruise. Look for a boat that is accessible. If you are going hiking, look for a trail that is accessible. I understand, on the True Nature website that most of the retreat locations are out of the United States; therefore, some countries may not have accessibility guidelines. However, it is important to make spaces, wherever you are, that are accessible to people with disabilities.

Welcoming a disability and people with different needs, like age or a different body type, is important. This not only welcomes people with disabilities, but if a retreat center is accessible, it increases your opportunity to bring in revenue. Because you are welcoming not only the guests you welcomed in before, but you are extending the invitation to another population, a population that may have previously been exempt by your center. 

As the accessible yoga movement grows into the business of accessible yoga travel and/ or accessible yoga retreating. People with disabilities are able to experience the power of retreat. It allows people with disabilities to easefully explore new countries, through hotels and activities that are accessible. Shouldn’t people with disabilities be able to choose a yoga retreat in a new country and just be able to go? To be able to attend a retreat in a new country, just because they want to, without having to be restricted? To see a sunrise over the ocean, a sunset over a mountain, to experience the rainforest and view the wildlife?

I am not an expert on which countries offer truly accessible locations. But I do know this, to go on a yoga retreat, with a teacher you love, is a gift. It is physically and mentally rejuvenating. Retreats offer the opportunity for the much needed self care that every person should be entitled to. The opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life can be life changing. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if a person in a wheelchair was able to experience those gifts of retreat without having to ask dozens of questions and/or encounter barriers at every corner? To be able to go on retreat, move around without obstacles, participate in activities, and just be another member of the group?

Ryan McGraw approaches every class with the belief that everyone can do yoga. As a person with cerebral palsy who has been practicing yoga for 15 years, Ryan is well aware that yoga poses can be adapted to meet the needs of the student, no matter their level of ability.

Ryan earned his 200-hour yoga teaching certificate from Prairie Yoga in 2011 and completed two adaptive yoga teacher trainings with Matthew Sanford. He received a Master’s degree in Disability and Development from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013 and created an adapted yoga manual for people with disabilities for his master’s thesis. He continues his studies in accessible yoga with Gabriel Halpern in Chicago. 

True Nature Travels Blog

Ireland Valley Ireland, the Emerald Isle, is known for its verdant landscapes, charming locals, and a rich tapestry of culture and history that stretches back thousands of years.

Irish Culture and Traditions

Irish culture is a melting pot of influences from its Celtic roots to the impacts of Viking, Norman, and English invasions. The Irish have a legendary reputation for their hospitable and convivial nature. A warm welcome or the ‘céad míle fáilte’ is not just a saying but a way of life here.

Music and Dance

One of the most distinctive aspects of Irish culture is its music and dance. Traditional Irish music, with its lively jigs and reels, has a unique sound that captures the energy and spirit of the country. Similarly, Irish dancing, with its intricate footwork and rhythmic movements, is a celebrated art form that brings people together in joyous celebrations. The most famous form of Irish dancing is the traditional step dance, popularized by shows like Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.

Pub Culture

Another quintessential aspect of Irish culture is its pub culture. Pubs are not just places to grab a pint; they are social institutions where friends and strangers alike gather to share stories, laughter, and good company. It’s a place where music, dancing, and conversation flow freely, making it an integral part of Irish social life.

Mythology and Folklore

Ireland is steeped in mythology and folklore, with ancient tales passed down through generations. The country is dotted with mystical sites like Newgrange, which dates back to 3200 BC and is older than the pyramids of Egypt. These tales and legends add to the enchanting aura of Ireland, making it a land of magic and mystery.

Irish Cuisine

Irish cuisine may not be as renowned as its European counterparts, but it has a unique flavor that reflects its agricultural heritage. The country’s rich pastures produce high-quality dairy products, such as cheese and butter, while its coastlines provide an abundance of seafood. The Irish also have a love for hearty and comforting dishes, with staples like stews, fish and chips, and the infamous black pudding.

History and Heritage

Ireland’s history is a complex tapestry of triumphs and tragedies that have shaped its identity. From ancient Celtic tribes to Viking raids, from English rule to independence, the country has a long and storied past that continues to influence its present. Visitors can explore this history through landmarks like the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, and Kilmainham Gaol.

In recent years, Ireland has also gained a reputation as a hub for innovation and creativity. The country’s tech industry is thriving, with multinational companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple establishing their European headquarters here. This juxtaposition of ancient history and modern progress makes Ireland a fascinating destination.


Ireland is a country that has captured the hearts and imaginations of people from all over the world. Its vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, rich history, and welcoming locals make it a must-visit destination for any traveler. So pack your bags and get ready to discover Ireland – you won’t be disappointed! Sláinte! (Cheers!)


True Nature Travels Blog

summer travel

Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or stuck in a rut? If so, it might be time to consider embarking on a retreat. Participating in a retreat can have remarkable effects on the brain, fostering a rejuvenating experience that positively impacts mental health and cognitive functioning. Let’s explore the five incredible ways in which retreats can transform your brain and life:

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Reduced Stress: Finding Serenity Amidst Chaos

In the fast-paced world we live in, stress has become an ever-present companion. Retreats offer a welcome escape from daily stressors, allowing your mind to find solace and rest. Scientifically, this is attributed to reduced levels of cortisol, the notorious stress hormone. As cortisol levels decrease during a retreat, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your overall mental well-being.

Increased Mindfulness: Embracing the Power of Presence

Mindfulness practices are often at the heart of retreat experiences. Through meditation, yoga, and contemplative walks, retreat-goers are guided to cultivate present-moment awareness. This newfound skill doesn’t just stay on the retreat premises; it translates into daily life, enhancing focus, attention, and emotional regulation. As the brain becomes more adept at being mindful, it paves the way for a calmer, clearer mind.

Improved Mood: A Ray of Light in the Darkness

Depression and anxiety can cast dark shadows over our lives. Retreats, with their nurturing environments and mindfulness practices, have been shown to improve mood and reduce symptoms of these mental health challenges. By synergistically addressing stress and fostering mindfulness, retreats create a supportive space for emotional healing and growth.

Enhanced Creativity: Unleashing the Imagination

If you’ve ever experienced creative blocks, a retreat might be just the ticket to reignite your imagination. The change in environment, exposure to new experiences, and opportunities for self-expression can spark a surge of creativity. Some retreats specifically incorporate creative activities like writing, art, or music, encouraging participants to explore uncharted territories of their creativity.

Improved Brain Function: Strengthening the Cognitive Arsenal

Scientific research has unveiled the transformative effects of mindfulness practices on the brain’s structure and function. For instance, meditation has been found to increase gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, an area associated with attention and self-awareness. Engaging in regular retreats can bolster brain health and cognitive abilities, empowering you to face life’s challenges with clarity and resilience.

Embrace the Journey: The Power of Retreats

Participating in a retreat is not just an indulgence; it’s an investment in your well-being. The benefits of reduced stress, increased mindfulness, improved mood, enhanced creativity, and heightened brain function are invaluable gifts that can positively influence every aspect of your life.

gift of travel

So, consider taking a step back from the hustle and bustle, and embark on a transformative retreat. Whether you seek solace in nature, immerse yourself in a spiritual sanctuary, or dive into an artistic haven, retreats offer a profound opportunity to nourish your brain and soul. Embrace the journey of self-discovery and growth, and let the power of retreats guide you toward a more balanced, inspired, and harmonious life.

True Nature Travels Blog

peru yoga retreat

Why Everyone Needs to Visit Peru: An Exploration of Culture, Nature, and Spirituality

Peru is one of those countries that seems to have it all. From soaring mountains to tropical rainforests, ancient ruins to colorful markets, and a rich spiritual heritage, it’s no wonder that so many people are drawn to this diverse and fascinating destination. As a travel and yoga enthusiast, I’ve had the opportunity to explore Peru several times, each time discovering new insights and experiences. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the top reasons why I believe everyone needs to visit Peru at least once in their lifetime.

Peru - Sacred Valley

The Incan Legacy

One of the most famous attractions in Peru is the mysterious lost city of Machu Picchu, perched high in the Andes Mountains. This ancient Incan site is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason. Machu Picchu is not only a marvel of engineering and architecture but also a portal into the civilization that built it. Exploring the ruins, you can appreciate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Incan people, who created this wonder more than 500 years ago. But Machu Picchu is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Incan legacy in Peru. The Incan Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, spanning from the present-day regions of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile to Argentina. In Peru, you can see Incan ruins scattered throughout the country, such as the sacred valley of the Incas, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Choquequirao. Visiting these sites allows you to appreciate the scope and complexity of Incan society and their deep reverence for nature and the cosmos.

Peru retreat

Breathtaking Natural Beauty

Peru is a country full of contrasts, from the arid coastline to the towering Andes Mountains and the lush Amazon rainforest. Each region has a unique beauty and character, and exploring them offers a chance to witness some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes on the planet.In the Andes, for example, you can hike through mountain passes and visit traditional villages, taking in the stunning scenery along the way. The Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world, offers breathtaking views and opportunities to see Andean condors up close. In the Amazon, you can explore the vast rainforests, home to millions of species of plants and animals, and learn from indigenous communities who call the jungle their home.

Vibrant Culture and Cuisine

In Peru, you can experience a rich mix of cultural influences, from the ancient Incan traditions to the colonial legacy of the Spanish. This fusion has created a unique and colorful culture that is a delight to explore. One of the best ways to immerse in this culture is through food. Peru is known for its incredibly diverse and delicious cuisine, which reflects its mix of indigenous, European, and African heritage. From ceviche to lomo saltado to cuy (guinea pig), there’s a wealth of flavors and dishes to explore, each more tantalizing than the last. Beyond food, Peru offers a vibrant arts scene, with music, dance, and visual arts that reflect the country’s diverse roots. From the colorful costumes of Cusco’s Inti Raymi festival to Lima’s world-renowned theaters and galleries, there’s always something to discover and celebrate.

peru yoga retreat

Spiritual Discovery

For centuries, Peru has been a place of pilgrimage and spiritual discovery. From the ancient Incan practices of honoring the divine in nature to the Catholic traditions brought by the Spanish, Peru has a deep and rich spiritual heritage that continues to thrive today. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the Sacred Valley, where the air is thick with the energy of countless generations who have come here to connect with the divine. Here, you can visit sacred sites such as the Temple of the Sun in Cusco or participate in traditional ceremonies and rituals led by local shamans. Combining these experiences with a yoga practice or other mindfulness practices can lead to a profound and transformative journey of self-discovery.

From Machu Picchu’s ancient ruins to the vibrant culture and food, varied nature, and soulful spirituality, Peru offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a yoga student, a nature lover, or simply a curious traveler, Peru is a destination that can enrich your life and expand your horizons. So come and explore this magical country, immerse yourself in its riches, and discover the wonders that await you.

True Nature Travels Blog

Happy Holidays

I have always been one who appreciates cycles. The sunrise and sunset each day, the new moon growing to the full moon each month, and the annual shift of seasons are just a few of the cycles I have grown to love. We have come to the end of a cycle as we prepare to culminate 2020.This has been a year none of us will forget, and to many, it will be one of our greatest years of challenge, and also of growth.

As we come to the completion of this year it is a time of reflection, a time of intention, and also a welcomed time of celebration. Although this year was very different, and this holiday season will also be unique for many of us, we have the opportunity to embrace the end of this cycle, another year of life, of tradition, and of self-exploration of our own True Nature. As we complete this cycle we also have the opportunity to look on the horizon, a fresh pallet ahead, filled with opportunities.

Where do you want to go in 2021? Who would you like to become? What parts of your life are most important? I invite you to pause this holiday season, to slow down, and to contemplate the gift of this life, the cycles, and your own True Nature.

Peace to you in this Holiday Season,
Joshua and the True Nature team