Earlier this year I was really feeling the frazzle. The news was overwhelming, we had some family issues and funnily enough rage tweeting into the wee small hours was doing nothing to calm my nerves.
So, when I saw that my favorite yoga teacher Jennifer Isaacson was hosting a Spring Balancing weekend retreat at the Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island, I jumped at the chance to kick back, relax and unwind. I had no idea that I would come away feeling like a different person.
Tucked into a clearing in the old-growth forest, the Yoga Lodge is a secret oasis of tranquillity in the heart of Whidbey near Greenbank. The pretty lodge melds perfectly into the landscape and as you arrive, smell the rain on the pines and hear the sounds of the forest, the calm and peaceful energy of the place starts to weave its magic.
The Lodge is not luxurious – rooms are shared and you have to leave the building to get between bedroom and bathroom – but everything is super comfortable and immaculately clean. Aside from the shared bedrooms, the building houses a big upstairs sitting room and kitchen, with a balcony looking out over the forest, while in the garden, you’ll find plenty of outside seating and a huge wood-fired sauna in a cabin across the grass. The yoga studio itself is gorgeous, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the trees and shy deer that tiptoe across the lawn, and comes equipped with every possible prop. By design there is no wifi and mobile reception is poor, so I set my devices aside with a sigh of relief.
Jennifer had scheduled several sessions of combined vinyasa and yin yoga, woven through with time to rest, read, write and recuperate. Following a dinner of nurturing Ayurvedic foods and a sauna, she encouraged us not to talk for the rest of the evening, go to bed early and remain quiet through an early-morning forest walk culminating in a long silent meditation in the studio. The Lodge is girded with soft, easy forest paths, and walking through the enchanted woodland – I kept expecting fairies to dance up through the sunlit ferns - was nothing short of intoxicating, as I experienced a profound connection to the ancient trees and tuned into the soothing spirit of the forest. When we returned, the prolonged period of silence had quietened the chatter in my mind, and meditation came more easily than it ever had before. Yoga class with Jennifer was a delight, with enough time to go deeply into the asanas and connect with them in way that went beyond a normal class at the yoga studio. Jennifer’s profound knowledge and love of yoga shines through and informs every aspect of her teaching.
Wendy Dion is the owner of the Yoga Lodge and she is no stranger to restoring both mind and body. A native of the East Coast, she majored in both Psychology and Dance, and after a knee injury put paid to her dancing career, she became a rehabilitation counsellor focused on both the physical and psychological aspects of healing. Yoga became part of her personal rehabilitation and soon she was teaching it to others, fascinated by the physical and mental aspects of this ancient practice.
Thirteen years ago, when she heard that the original owner of the Yoga Lodge wanted to retire, Wendy made her first trip to the Puget Sound region and fell head over heels in love with Whidbey Island and the energy of the Lodge and its ‘guardian’ trees. She kept the Lodge’s original mission, to provide a studio where locals on Whidbey could practice yoga, and a haven for personal retreats and group retreats with selected teachers. At first she did everything, from teaching, to cooking to growing the veggies, but now she collaborates with a number of small local businesses – the deliciously soothing Ayurvedic food we enjoyed on our retreat was provided by yogi Aria Peterman of the Elephant’s Kitchen – to provide an intimate retreat experience, a ‘brave space’ where people can ‘immerse themselves in the subtle essence and profound teachings of yoga, a place for self-care that goes beyond the spa or a workout.’
All I know is that when I returned from the Lodge I felt an inner peace that had been missing for a long time. I’d lost a pound or two, made new friends and learned a lot of yoga, but most importantly my whole nervous system felt calm and quiet. I can’t wait to return and play with the forest fairies again.
Check out the Yoga Lodge's schedule of daily yoga lessons and the program of group retreats with hand-picked teachers. Contact Wendy if you’d like to host a retreat or visit the Lodge for a personal retreat. Jennifer teaches all over Seattle and has an upcoming Summer Balancing retreat at the Lodge and Aria is hosting several upcoming retreats at the Lodge combining yoga and Ayurveda.