Are you thinking about going on a yoga retreat or starting a yoga practice but a little hesitant? Or maybe you just want to find a really cool place to go in wine country? I’m sharing my experience of going on my first yoga retreat beautiful Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma.
Westerbeke Ranch is a family-owned ranch located a 10-minute drive from downtown Sonoma and an hour north of San Francisco. I had never heard of Westerbeke until the owner of my local yoga studio, Thriveability, planned a yoga retreat here. As soon as I arrived at the ranch though, I knew it was going to be a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend. I felt like I was discovering a hidden gem!
The eleven acres of land offers many spots for moments of solitude or chats with friends with wooden tables and chairs by the fountain in the garden, couches by the fireplace in the dining room, or lounge chairs by the pool. No matter where you choose to sit down, it is so quiet and peaceful at Westerbeke and the grounds are well-maintained and absolutely beautiful!
Our group of a dozen yogis was one of three groups on the ranch that weekend. You don’t have to be on a yoga retreat to go to Westerbeke. The ranch hosts groups that are focused on business, leadership, writing, and the arts to name just a few different types of retreats and they also serve as a venue for weddings too!
Westerbeke has four cabins to accommodate groups and my fellow yogis and I got to stay in the red cabin. Each cabin has multiple beds, a private bathroom and entrance, and a deck by the entrance with chairs to sit down and take in the view of the pool and grounds below. If you aren’t able to go with a group to the ranch, I heard from the staff that in the summertime they offer glamping tents out by the pool for smaller groups so you’ll want to check with them for more information!
Our daily yoga sessions, journaling, talks, and meditations took place in the Round House which sits near the top of the ranch above the cabins and pools. With wooden floors, lots of windows bringing in natural light, and tranquility, it was the perfect place for our group to gather and stay present in our retreat. There are three other meeting rooms on the ranch with tables and chairs available in case your group won’t be partaking in yoga. Every retreat will be different!
My group took advantage of our beautiful surroundings and went on a hike around the ranch with stops at various points to do some outdoor yoga. Behind the Round House was a hill that led us up to a spectacular view of Sonoma. When we all got to the top, we took a few minutes to do some poses, feel the sun on our faces, breathe in the fresh air, and listen to the birds chirping.
We also walked around Westerbeke’s garden where they grow a lot of fresh produce which shows up in the delicious meals they prepare on site. Next to the garden was a small, empty square which we used for more impromptu yoga on our hike around the property.
Before we had breakfast in the mornings we had meditation sessions, one of which took place in the Celtic labyrinth. Unlike mazes, labyrinths have no dead-ends nor are they puzzles to solve. There is only path so you don’t have to think about how to get out and can just walk with not a thought or care in your head – or at least that’s what you can practice.
We all walked through the labyrinth in a line, going at our own pace and listening to the sounds around us including the sounds of our shoes on the gravel below us. It is such a simple way to meditate. You could do it as you are going for a walk in a park or in a bustling city paying attention to the sounds and sights around you and bringing it back to those senses every time your mind wanders to a thought or worry.
As our group got to know each other better, we also put trust in each other to do some poses in the labyrinth. Tree pose requires balance and holding onto each other’s hands and shoulders for support made the pose that much easier and also brought about some laughs as we weren’t used to doing the pose that way!
Our group also had some down time at Westerbeke to do as we pleased. Some of us went into downtown Sonoma, others enjoyed the hot tub and lounge chairs at the pool, and a few like myself enjoyed the spa facilities. An hour-long massage amped up the relaxing weekend a notch and was a nice treat for myself.
The kitchen would ring out a bell fifteen minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner and boy did we come to love hearing that bell! The food is famous at Westerbeke Ranch (they have even have their own cookbook) for offering lots of seasonal, flavorful, and locally-sourced vegetables, meats, poultry, and fish. You can be guaranteed that you will leave each meal completely stuffed but satisfied!
At night, our group would hang out by the fireplace in the dining room for glasses of wine and snacks before heading to bed. We had so much fun getting to know each other beyond our yoga sessions. Food, wine, and yoga can be great connectors!
My biggest takeaway from my first yoga retreat is how important it is to take a break from our daily routines. Whether it’s a three-day retreat, a short meditative walk around the block, or even just mindfully brushing your teeth, breaks can give us some perspective amidst our busy lives about what’s really important, which for me includes connecting face-to-face with others.
I got to know some really great people on this retreat including some people who I always see at my yoga studio but never took the time to chat with so I’m really grateful for this experience.
If you’ve been interested in trying a yoga class or a yoga retreat, try out a few yoga studios in your city to see which one you like the best and just start taking classes. There are great communities and new friends to be found at yoga studios and it could lead you to your first yoga retreat too!
Have you been on a yoga retreat? Share your experience in the comments below?