All retreat days will run from 9am-5pm, starting with a quiet arrival between 8:30-8:50am, then a short meditation and yoga asana class starting at 9am. Rest, then lunch, and group hike will follow. The hikes will consist of approximately two miles of gentle to moderate challenge, with some "bushwhacking" or off-trail hiking at times! Some hikes require a short 5-10min car ride (Old Growth Forest, Chesterfield Bend and Gorge.) Upon return from our hike, you'll experience some personal time to refresh, relax and reflect, along with an afternoon snack, then closing class and group satsang. Click here for general details. All menus will based on seasonal and ideally organic availability; full menus will be shared with retreat participants a week or so before each retreat.
May to July 2019 Itineraries:
May 18, 2019 - Springtime Has Sprung Spring is a time for new beginnings, for regrowth, for regeneration, for rebirth from the seemingly lifeless quietude and chill of winter. Join Michelle in the morning for a rejuvenating and invigorating morning yoga asana practice to invigorate the entire body with attention to strengthening our legs and spine, starting at 9am sharp. This practice will awaken and refresh body and soul, filled with moments of challenge and serenity, too. Follow this with a fresh, filling and healthy vegetarian meal of hearty soup or vegetable stew, bread, spring greens and vegetables such as asparagus and arugula, plus dessert.
Our hike will be to the top of Smith’s Pyramid (elev. 1,198ft) a familiar, and very steep dimple of a hill that rises from the valley floor carved out by the Westfield River, near the Chesterfield Gorge. Smith’s Pyramid can be seen from Michelle’s home, as well as the center of West Chesterfield and the Westfield River Bridge, and along Ireland Street from South Worthington. It’s covered in 75-100 year old secondary growth of white pines, mountain laurel, birch and hemlock. Spring wildflowers such as trillium, lady slipper, mayflower, trout lily, cowslip, meadowsweet, and various ferns carpet the forest floor along our way. We’ll walk along some rolling and steep paths directly from Michelle’s house to the top of the Pyramid, alongside cliff faces covered in a variety of diverse lichens, and poke our nose into rocky crevasses and scramble over boulders and downed logs. At the summit, we’ll sit for a bit and experience a guided meditation with the intention of fostering our own integration with and connection to the planet. Challenge: gentle/moderate. This hike is approximately 2 miles, and will be steep in places.
After our meditation, we’ll hike back to Michelle’s along the Bronson Brook which borders the Pyramid and her property. We’ll take a short break for bathroom and a snack, and then finish our day in the Sacred Grove with restful, relaxing Yoga Nidra, guided yoga ‘sleep’.
June 15, 2019 - Old Growth Forest We’ll start our day at Michelle’s for a morning practice that will bring students of all levels - beginners to advanced - through a series of yoga postures designed to target hips and spine; our morning asana practice will include guided breathing exercises (pranayama), too. Our meal will be sourced from local farms and include a salad made of local spring greens, oven backed rice/pilau, a lentil stew or dahl, simple French carrot salad, and dessert with vegan cookies and seasonal berries.
This month’s adventure will be a special hike, gentle and easy for participants, but requiring a short car ride of 10 minutes from Michelle’s house to the Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA. There, we’ll park and walk the Rivulet Trail, a two mile hike through one of the only tracts of Old Growth Forest left in Massachusetts. This trail meanders along a deep brook, the Rivulet, and boasts enormous and breathtaking groves of huge, ancient hemlock and white pine, carpeted with ferns and mosses. Hiking and spending time in unspoiled and uncut forest is a rare opportunity that few living today have experienced; Massachusetts has a little over 1,000 acres of verified Old Growth Forest left, and the Rivulet Trail is a precious and rare gem of a place that must be seen to be fully appreciated. Challenge: gentle to moderate, approximately 2 miles through well-marked trails.
We will walk in silence during much of this hike; each participant may walk at their own pace, too, giving themselves the time to stop, smell, listen and feel the full sensory experience of the beauty and wonder of this rare and special place - amongst the last of its kind in our world! We will reconvene at the trailhead by a specific time, and drive back to Michelle’s as a group for a snack and bathroom break, then finish in the Sacred Grove with satsang/discussion of the experience, along with a guided metta meditation for ourselves, our fellow sentient beings, for the forests, and our planet.
July 20th - Earth My Body, Water My Blood
Morning practice will include yoga therapeutics for targeting back or shoulder pain, along with a gentle guided vinyasa flow style class, breath-oriented and accessible to all levels. After a short break, our lunch will definitely include some local corn on the cob, with optional toppings of feta and herbs, a delicious lentil and beet salad, oven baked rice/pilau, and polenta cake with berries.
You’ll experience July in the woods and waters of the Massachusetts Hilltowns, with a hike up the Bronson Brook, a tributary of the Westfield River, which crosses the land Michelle and her husband steward. The brook is fordable by foot in most places, but boasts a few sweet and deep swimming holes which, weather permitting, we will take a dip in as we hike upstream. Bring your swimsuit! The waters of Western Massachusetts a clear and pure, and were once home to wild salmon. But alas, the dams downstream all but made extinct native salmon in our waters in the 1800s. In the last decade, each Spring, Mass Fisheries and Wildlife in partnership with organizations in Connecticut and Vermont, stocks the stream with young salmon fry - so there are still salmon living in the waters, but breeding involves a human element and will continue to be hampered by dams downstream until those are removed and habitat is restored and sustained. Challenge: moderate, approximately 2 miles on marked and unmarked/bushwhacking trails.
We'll finish our day again back at Michelle's for a break and snack, then ending once more in the Sacred Grove, which, even on the hottest days, remains cool, comfortable and shady, for guided meditation and a group discussion of our experiences.