Leaving the golden cage and starting a yoga retreat. Here is how.
Before becoming a yoga instructor, Alessandra tried to put herself in a golden cage after the other. She worked as a researcher for the European Union, a fund raiser for rural electrification in Laos and energy manager in a production plant of and American multinational for consumer goods. In the back of her mind she was aware that was not the life she wanted, however being in a “prestigious career” and working long hours was distracting her from making the decision. Now a few years later she is running a small but personal retreat on a sailing boat. Read on and learn what it takes to step out of your comfort zone:
1. Before starting the yoga & sailing what were you doing for life?
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.
2. How did you start?
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.
3. How many retreats are you running every year with how many guests?
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.
4. How big is the group and crew usually?
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.
5. Yoga on a boat. What are challenges you face running a retreat on a boat? Do you have a plan B for certain situations like bad weather?
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.
6. What do you do for marketing, or how do people usually find you?
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.
7. How would you rate the opportunity running retreats for the upcoming years? Where do you see yourself and business in 5 years from now?
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.
8. What advice would you give yoga teachers or anybody else who wants to start running a retreat center?
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.