I’ll admit that last spring when my friend, Ilene, asked me if I’d like to attend Mountain Yoga Sandy’s Revive Your Soul Adventure Yoga Retreat with her, I hesitated. Though I’ve practiced yoga for most of my adult life, before last summer, I had never been to a yoga retreat. For some reason (I’ll blame Eat, Pray, Love), I imagined yoga retreats as days-long meditation sessions interspersed with attempts at placing a foot behind your head. But when I talked to MYS founder and owner Jackie Wheeler about my worries, she assured me that Revive Your Soul would not be about marathon meditation sessions or competitive body pretzeling. “My intention with this retreat—as well as all the retreats Mountain Yoga Sandy hosts—is for participants to come away feeling grounded in their presence, invigorated and recharged by nature, and supported and inspired by connection and community,” Jackie said. With that appealing explainer in mind, I decided to sign up. Not only did the retreat over-deliver on what Jackie promised, but almost six months later, memories of those four days continue to be a reserve of soulful joy that I draw from almost daily.
“For some reason (I’ll blame Eat, Pray, Love), I imagined yoga retreats as days-long meditation sessions interspersed with attempts at placing a foot behind your head.”
A major factor in how resonant the Revive Your Soul was for me—and, if I had to guess, many other retreat attendees as well—was the venue, Maple Grove Hot Springs & Retreat Center. Nestled along the Bear River’s Oneida Narrows Reservoir, Maple Grove is 45 acres of minimally developed, nature-infused tranquility. Its summer-camp-chic accommodations, sweeping mountains-meet-river views and lack of cell phone service foster a vibe squarely focused on community, authenticity and sustainability. Jackie reserved the entire property–which accommodates about 30 guests–for the retreat. Ilene and I booked one of Maple Grove’s clean, Boho-style yurts, furnished with comfy beds and bath robes. Other participants stayed in the shady camping and van sites, glamping tents and a quaint cabin. While we were there, Maple Grove owner, Jordan Menzel, gave us a tour of three under-construction stone shelters he and a group of volunteers were building according to traditional and sustainable methods. The Quartz, Basalt and Granite shelters have since been completed and are now open for overnight stays.
Maple Grove’s main attraction is, of course, the hot springs. An ancient source—which, before the arrival of the pioneers, had been visited and enjoyed by Shoshone Native Americans for millennia—feeds the property’s five therapeutic pools. Two swimming-pool-sized soaking pools are located directly adjacent to the River House; three smaller, more intimate pools are located closer to the river along charming flagstone walkways. “Maple Grove is one of the most exceptional environments I have been blessed to discover,” Jackie said. “The elements of nature coupled with the hot springs bring an unmatched environment for connection and healing individually and collectively. I am also very impressed with the strong intention the owners hold to create a space of intentional connection to nature and self.”
Revive Your Soul began soon after our Thursday afternoon arrival with a 90-minute yoga session inside Maple Grove’s Forest Yurt. I drank in deep breaths of the yurt’s subtle cedary aroma as Jackie led us through a familiar yet pleasantly challenging vinyasa flow. We’d meet in the Forest Yurt several more times over the course of the three-night, four-day retreat: for energizing morning yoga sessions, accompanied by a crackling fire in yurt’s woodstove; for evening fire and cacao ceremonies around the yurt’s outdoor firepit; for the best sound bath I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing; and for the retreat’s closing ceremony on Sunday. Middays during the retreat were interspersed with free time and creatively fun workshops that included making mandalas with items collected from the landscape, tarot card-prompted journaling, paddleboard yoga, guided hikes and more. In the afternoons, the entire group came back together for restorative, nature-bathing yoga under the branches of a leafy willow tree on Maple Grove’s riverside lawn. The retreat’s final yoga session–a series of slow and meditative movements held in one of the therapeutic pools–wrapped up the weekend’s practice absolutely perfectly.
As a self-confessed busybody, I loved how each day of the retreat was filled with thoughtful opportunities for learning and interaction. But I also loved how Jackie–along with the other Revive Your Soul guide yogis, Jen Folkman and Autumn Salinas–cultivated acceptance for individual needs by making participation in each offering completely optional. A few attendees took advantage of this invitation and the incredible setting to spend their afternoons relaxing in a hammock under Maple Grove’s dreamy, fabric-draped pavilion.
“I was able to simply be.”
Getting to indulge in yoga twice a day for four days, without having to bat away thoughts of where I needed to be after each session, was hands-down, my favorite part of Revive Your Soul. I completely underestimated how thoroughly blocking off a few days just for me would recharge my batteries, both physically and mentally. The memories of those four days that I now savor the most are rooted in the unscripted moments, like waking early to take my coffee and watch the fog rise off the river while soaking in one of the pools and getting to know my fellow retreat goers over the delicious and healthy meals made by professional chef and MYS student, Jake Wallin–moments that I know now were made possible and enriched by all the thoughtful content and people that surrounded them. There’s no cell service at Maple Grove and the break from technology and media was an especially sweet gift. I picked up my phone just twice over those four days, to take a few photos of the magical landscape. It’s now mid-November, and as I sit at my desk and write this, a much-needed early-season snowfall coats the landscape outside of my home-office window. While I am excited about the promise the cold and precipitation holds for the coming ski and holiday season, I am also reminiscing about those four magical, sun-splashed days at Maple Grove last June when instead of looking forward to the next thing, I was able to simply be.
Written by Melissa Fields for Mountain Yoga Sandy