By Emily J. Weitz
There’s a secret to living on the East End year-round: knowing when to get away. It might just be for a few days, or it might be for a few months, but when the days get short and the company gets sparse, most everybody needs a little escape.
That’s why yoga and wellness practitioners based in the area have developed many opportunities to get a hit of something entirely different, whether it’s a sun-drenched beach or bustling metropolis. And even though the end of February is in sight, March and April can prove long and unforgiving. There’s still time to shift your perspective.
Gina Bradley is the founder of Paddle Diva, a stand-up paddle board company focused on empowering women to get out into the open water. All summer she can be found in the local bays and ocean beaches with flocks of followers floating towards the horizon.
She teams up with yoga teacher Jessica Bellofatto, owner of KamaDeva yoga in East Hampton, to offer yoga and SUP adventures. Come winter, when even the hardiest find it a struggle to get into those icy waters, Bradley makes use of her beautiful house in Rincon, Puerto Rico for SUP/Yoga retreats designed to rejuvenate, instruct, and inspire.
“There’s a real relaxed atmosphere,” says Bradley. “We’re just living in a house with lots of decks and spots for intimate conversations, or reading in nooks, or sleeping in hammocks. It’s a safe environment where women can be themselves.”
Rincon is a quiet part of the island of Puerto Rico. Three hours from New York, it feels entirely different.
“For me, it’s a magical place,” says Bradley. “People think of Puerto Rico, and they don’t think of Rincon and that’s what makes it so special. It’s very rural, cattle grazing in the fields. It feels like you’ve gone to Nicaragua but all you need is your driver’s license. The Puerto Ricans who live there are in love with their little corner of the island.”
Since Bradley owns her home there and has been going back for many years, she has a place in the local culture that allows everyone on the retreat to feel welcome and comfortable.
“I know the majority of locals, so any beach we go to, we’re always welcomed when we show up to paddle,” she said.
Paddling is a big part of the retreat, with daily outings to learn how to paddle and to get some practice. The rest of the day is spent relaxing on the beach, until an evening yoga class each day.
In the upcoming retreat (March 22 to 26), Bradley will team up with experienced yoga and holistic practitioner Janet Meredith, of West Palm Beach. Then, in late April, she and long-time friend and business partner Jessica Bellofatto will return to Rincon for another retreat. Both will be structured the same, with a healthy balance of yoga, stand up paddling, eating well, and relaxing. With Bellofatto, Bradley expects more surfing as well. Check out www.paddlediva.com for details on either of these retreats.
Bellofatto, for her part, has a few other excursions planned for the season. She’ll be in Tulum, Mexico for an annual yoga retreat this coming week, and spaces are still open for a retreat she’ll be leading to Costa Rica from March 25 to 31. She’ll team up with Adam Kelinson, author of “The Athlete’s Plate: Real Food for High Performance” to offer a yoga, surf and nutrition getaway. Check out www.jesssicabellofattoyoga.com for more information.
Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee have lots of travel planned in the next few months, although there’s surprisingly little on the calendar that includes bikinis and sunshine. Instead, they’ll be teaching in urban centers and cozy winter retreats.
On March 9, 10 and 11, they’ll lead students in a workshop called “Yoga Without Struggle” at Kripalu, an old monastery in Massachusetts.
“We’re addressing how we begin to let go of the constant tug of war about who we are and the expectations we hold ourselves to,” says Saidman. “We’re looking at how we can come to the mat with innocent eyes.”
Kripalu offers a thorough retreat setting, where everyone stays in dorm style accommodations and attends every class.
“Kripalu is really about studying, doing lots of yoga every day,” says Saidman. “There’s not much else to do up there. You might get some bodywork, take a class, bundle up and go for a walk…. You’ll really feel like you’ve gotten away.”
If a trip to New England isn’t enough of an escape, the pair will also be teaching in Toronto from March 29 to April 1, and then in Berlin from April 26 through April 29.
“Rod and I really like cities,” says Saidman. “We like urban culture, walking a city and getting to know it.”
The workshops they’ll lead in both cities will be large, with upwards of 200 people attending. Accommodations are not included but can be arranged by contacting the studio. Check out www.yogashanti.com for more information.
For those looking to retreat right here in Sag Harbor, Tapovana is keeping it local.
“We decided to do something different,” says Corey DeRosa, owner of Tapovana, “and host a one week Ashtanga and Ayurvedic retreat in Sag Harbor.”
This retreat is designed to help participants learn about an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Instead of getting away, it’s more about bringing the wellness home.
“The goal is to expose some of our regular practitioners to the idea of using Ayurveda as a tool to deepen their knowledge and experience of their yoga practices. We will be having Ayuvedic practitioner Kyle Roberts working with Erika and I for the duration of the event. He will be lecturing on Ayurveda and offering personal consultations while he’s here.”
The dates for this retreat are April 20 to 27 at Tapovana in Sag Harbor. For more information check out www.tapovana.com.