I stopped practicing yoga over fifteen years ago after I seriously injured my right wrist. I was taking “Power Yoga” classes and I don’t think I paid enough attention to what was going on with my body.
I couldn’t focus long enough in class. My mind was always racing, thinking about all the things I had to do or didn’t do. The injury was a convenient excuse to say, “arriverderci” to yoga.
I’ve known Erin for over eleven years. We met via our former blogs before meeting in person and we moved to Italy at the same time. Erin was on a sabbatical in Florence for a year or so and then moved back to the States. She returned frequently and we would always try to see each other. I remember when she started Eat, Pray, Move, Yoga seven years ago. She began with one retreat in Tuscany and over the years has added more locations. In 2014 she left her corporate job and now she holds on average sixteen retreats in nine countries, Italy (multiple locations) France, Spain, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, Indonesia, India, and Japan. The latter she added this year.
It’s very inspiring to see how Erin has built this wonderful life and business from scratch. She has tapped into something very special.
Last month I had the opportunity to see, in person, what Erin’s accomplished. I was worried about the yoga. I had asked her in the past if it would bad form to go to a yoga retreat and pass on doing the yoga (ha). Erin assured me that all levels (including those with no experience) were welcome and that participation in all activities was optional.
It was an incredible experience and I’m already planning my next retreat. This retreat was yoga and art. It was held at a country house right on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. I took the train into Chiusi, where I met the other participants. Julian and Erin picked us up.
The house, Siliano Alto, is part of the “Le Coste” Estate (a 1500 acre protected nature and hunting reserve), and dates back to around 1760. Other sections were added in the 19th and 20th centuries. During the Second World War the house was used as a billet for German soldiers until it suffered a direct hit on the front side from an American bombing raid. After the War, the house was home to the farmers who worked on the estate. Five separate families lived upstairs and cows, horses and pigs were kept in the cantinas below. Julian and his family moved to the property in 2006 and began a two-year restoration project before opening up for art courses.
The location was wonderful with beautiful views and incredible sunsets. I was told that some wild boars were hanging out by our doors during the first night. I didn’t hear them, which is a good thing.
I appreciated this welcome aperitivi.
During the welcome Erin went over the week’s schedule was (there was a print out as well). I couldn’t stay the entire week because of a work commitment back in Rome. There’s plenty of free time built into the schedule. Breakfast and dinners are included, along with some lunches.
The food is vegetarian and delicious. I didn’t miss eating meat or fish at all. If you must get your meat-eating on, it’s possible to so during the lunches that are not provided.
Erin is a certified yoga instructor and the morning classes usually start at 8:00 a.m. and last an hour and fifteen minutes. I’ll be honest, I was struggling to get through our first class. I kept thinking about how hungry I was, Idris Elba, and work stuff. I couldn’t get it together. Erin was great, checking our poses. If there was one movement that was too difficult for some of us in the class, she would suggest an easier one. The next day my abs were on fire.
The second day I had some fruit before class and made more of an effort to focus. Anytime I felt my mind starting to race again, I pumped the brakes. By the time I left the retreat, I was able to make through an entire class without any distractions.
The non-yoga part of the retreat was fantastic as well. We visited the town of Chiusi where Julian, who is an artist and art teacher, gave us an excellent tour. We had pizza in town with the perfect crust. We also drove to the small borgo of Panicale and had a fun wine and olive oil tasting.
The next day was our day trip to Siena. I visited Siena during my second vacation to Italy. I had my guide-book and everything but I learned a lot more about the Duomo and the town with Julian. He went into detail regarding how the Plague impacted the city. Seven out of ten Sienese died.
The Duomo is breathtaking. What Julian said about the cathedral architects of that era was profound. The architects were designing buildings that would be finished long after they died. They knew they would never see them completed. Very different from these McMansiony times.
On my last day we had an art class. We did several drawing exercises. Later, during our free time, several of us took advantage of the watercolor paints in the studio.
That day we also had a pasta making class. I haven’t made pasta from scratch in years. I need to do it more often. The pasta was ridiculously good. All of us had seconds.
In the afternoon we went to Cortona. Of course we had to stop by Bramasole.
I can see why so many of the participants are repeaters. It’s a genius way to travel, especially if you’re a solo traveler. The retreats are small and personal. Yet, there’s plenty of alone time if you need it.
Since the retreat I’ve been trying to practice yoga at least three times a week. My friends, who are very serious about it, recommended a few beginner videos to me. It’s a great way to start my day (good thing I saw 45’s unhinged press conference this morning after yoga). I say this as someone who is not crunchy. I still don’t understand what the heck is going on with this bulletproof Matcha tea craze.
One of Erin’s goals when she started Eat, Pray, Yoga, was to find a way to include charitable work. You can read more about the organizations they collaborate with here.