Today we're SO happy to announce our new monthly blog series:
Tales of the Traveling Yogi
The purpose of this fun blog series is to give yoga teachers the opportunity to share with our community their journey as teachers, and how they came to lead amazing yoga retreats. Our hope is you'll get inspired for your own retreats when reading their cool stories.
First on deck is the amazing Claire Petretti!
Claire is a seasoned yoga teacher, retreat leader, pilates instructor, reiki practitioner and writer. You can find her in person in San Diego, or online at Yoga Download. She is also a cancer survivor, which inspired her to teach yoga for cancer recovery and co-create Yoga for Hope San Diego, an annual event that raises funds and awareness for how yoga helps those with life-threatening illnesses.
Claire planned her first yoga and surfing retreat in Nicaragua in 2010, but was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and had to cancel that retreat.
But cancer couldn't stop her from living her retreat dream and she vowed to lead a retreat as soon as her health allowed her to do so. Claire led her first retreat at Haramara in Sayulita, Mexico in January 2012. Read on to learn more about how leading yoga retreats has impacted her life and the lives of her students.
What first inspired you to teach beyond the studio and lead a yoga retreat?
I've always loved to travel and have been lucky enough to travel extensively. I thought it would be a great way to combine two of my passions and share those passions with others. I had a yoga and surfing retreat planned to Nicaragua in 2010. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and had to cancel that retreat. I vowed to lead a retreat as soon as my health allowed me to do so. I led my first retreat to Haramara in Sayulita, Mexico in January 2012.
We know you've been leading retreats for awhile. What do you love most about yoga retreats?
The chance to unplug from the stresses of everyday life and take the time to focus inward in an amazing environment. There's an amazing synergy that arises when a group chooses to step away and focus on themselves. I love the connections that form between the people that choose to attend. I've left each retreat with new lifelong friends, as well as strengthened bonds with existing students.
Was there any fear you had to get over/ transform in order to step into your role as a retreat leader?
Definitely! The biggest fear is nobody will come. Then, the next step in that is I'll be stuck paying tons of money to cover spots I haven't filled. It can be quite stressful when it seems that you'll be a few people short of a full house. Fortunately, it has worked out every single time.
How has leading yoga retreats impacted your life and your work?
It has given me an opportunity to marry my love of travel and yoga. It is an additional avenue of income for me, but I love the sense of adventure and sharing a special experience with others. It is very personally rewarding to know that I've impacted people's lives in a positive way. I won't say I've gotten rich off of my retreats, but they've definitely been an income source and worth it every time.
How have retreats impacted your students?
I've gotten so much amazing feedback! People seem to really focus upon the connections they made to other students, to nature, to themselves. For people who are on a retreat for the first time, they seem to recognize the enormous value in stepping away from their day-to-day life and how by taking care of themselves first, they are positively impacting everyone in their lives upon their return.
Are you planning another retreat? If so, what’s your vision?
Absolutely. This year, I've already done a four day retreat to Napa Valley--Vino and Vinyasa. It was such a hit with my 20 participants that I've already booked another one in September 2017. I'm also co-leading a retreat to Bali in May 2016. Next year, in addition to Napa in September, I'll be doing another international retreat--either back to Haramara or to Costa Rica or Nicaragua.
What advice would give to a yoga teacher who's never led a yoga retreat but is thinking about it?
Research! Go somewhere that is a known commodity--before my first retreat, I spoke to some other yoga teachers who had been there before and got the feel for it. So, I felt comfortable knowing how many people raved about the location, the service, the food, etc.
Also, know you'll be putting down an initial deposit out of your own pocket and don't stress about it too much. You will get it back. Next, if you do the retreat with another teacher, make sure you are both clear with your communication, how you'll divide teaching and other responsibilities--that way, you'll prevent any resentment or misunderstandings.
And, do make sure you've got a base of students who will want to go. I'd say my groups would fill up with about half my students, a quarter were people who knew of me, but didn't necessarily practice with me and then random people who found me online. It is helpful to go to a resort that has some name recognition.
We know you're also a writer and do lots of other super cool yoga related work. How do retreats support the other work that you do?
Well, I love that you've done a yoga and writing retreat and would love to chat about that with you! Going on a few retreats a year helps me get away and have some time in an amazing locale to recharge, gives me some extra income to support my other work. And, it is a fun challenge!