We arrived in Guatemala City together on a Friday night, worlds away from the cold March air in Seattle. Jenny Hayo had convinced me of the power of this remote location on an enormous lake beneath two towering volcanos. She had taken two previous groups to Lake Atitlan and was my tour guide en route to the retreat we were leading at Villa Sumaya.

In March 2010 I was ready for a vacation. 8 Limbs Phinney Ridge had opened the previous fall, after a complete built-out that had drained me on all accounts. I had concerns about teaching on a retreat when in need of one, but by the time I arrived on the dock of Villa Sumaya, the hours of travel without having to juggle work, care for my children, cooking, and the rest of it left me relaxed and ready to find the balance that one has to when leading a retreat – the give and take that we as yoga teachers are always dancing with.

Most of the group joining us had also spent the previous night in Antigua, the “old city” and former capitol of Guatemala, a beautiful cobblestone and bright walled town full of old-world charm, not unlike the French Quarter of New Orleans. Before meeting for a group van to the lake, many of us made out way to a local café for huevos and coffee and some last wi-fi coverage. We could see the surrounding volcanos from the streets, bougainvillea climbing out of the walled courtyards that lined the sidewalks. I left an out-of-reach outgoing message on my cell phone to enable me to fully unplug for the entire week and enjoyed a delicious breakfast, completed by fried plaintains.

By plane, taxi, van, and finally boat, we stepped off of our last leg of travel into a garden paradise with innumerable textures of growth and tile winding up the hill from the clear lake. After a tour we each settled into our rooms, all overlooking the lake and its counterpoints, the volcanos, which were more stunning than photographs can show. I was most taken by the gardens just below our rooms, complete with hammocks, wooden lounge chairs, and a covered area for those seeking shade.

Each morning we rose before dawn in silence, a couple of us tapping on one another’s doors to walk quietly to and from the lake for a wakeup plunge. AM practice led into breakfast, after which silence was broken and we all enjoyed time to explore the lake, read on the lawn, or nap. Some days were lazy, others included excursions to neighboring towns to better experience the rich Guatemalan culture and lovely people surrounding the lake. All of our transportation was by boat or foot, a welcome change for us urbanites. Every afternoon we would again gather in the yoga temple for lecture and practice on the Koshas, before dinners on the terrace, surrounded by flowers and vines.

By the end of the week I had shed every last stitch of stress and control. After a bodywork session in the “Buddha Hut” I experienced a deep emotional and physical release, one that lasted for days and ushered in my 40th birthday with a new freedom and perspective.

For 2011 and now 2012 we asked Douglas Ridings to take over the reins, an opportunity for this experienced teacher to share his wealth of knowledge in a more intimate and leisurely environment. Douglas Ridings and longtime 8 Limbs instructor Dawn Jansen will welcome this year’s group to the March 10-17 retreat. They are excited to usher this year’s group into their own journey of exploration and reflection.

We have extended the early registration rate through January 5 to help encourage those considering taking the plunge. Take my word for it – this place is special. Check out the photos posted on the 8 Limbs Facebook page and plan your next vacation now! More info on the retreat at www.8limbsyoga.com.

Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer

Neighborhood Studios