One of the most significant gifts you can ever give yourself is to step out of your comfort zone and explore your passions without holding back, in my case it was to get out my busy New York Citygrind and embark on a vacation for me. I began looking into , my two passions and practices I would love to immerse myself in completely. ’s 5 day-4 night trip to a rural surf town in Puerto Rico stuck out in my quest for the perfect getaway. Here, I’d strengthen my yoga practice and catch some waves on a with Gina Bradley and Jessica Bellofatto, women who shared the same boundless energy for life! Plus, the beach house we’d be living at would have a personal chef preparing all our meals with local, fresh, healthy fruits and veggies. Sounded like the ideal trip. So, I took a leap of faith and booked.
Fast forward to a few months later, and here I am in Rincon,Puerto Rico, sharing Gina’s beautiful blue beach house “Casa Azul” with 3 other athletic energetic women on the retreat, as well as Gina and Jess. Everyone is incredibly warm, nurturing, and passionate for keeping fit and being strong, so it’s inevitable that we formed an instant bond and hit it off great from the start! The house sits on a hill with panoramic view of the bright blue ocean which is an incredible backdrop for our dinners on the porch and both our morning and afternoon yoga practices where we can revel in the sunrise as we push back into our first downward dog of the day, and sunsets as we move into our last warrior of the day.
Shortly after arriving at Casa Azul, we enjoyed a quick nosh on the freshest avocados I have ever devoured in my life, drizzled in coconut oil and sprinkled in sea salt. Gina had been anxiously awaiting our arrival and strapped the surf boards to the car so when we finished our avos we headed down to the Marina to . It was pretty windy but I welcomed the challenge to stand up and paddle through it, and a fall was a chance to splash in the warm clear water, which definitely felt great being that early this same morning I was bundled up inNew York autumn weather. Playing in the waves with Gina was a blast. Gina’s SUP talent is outstanding! She’s in amazing shape and has this go-for-it-right-now attitude which is incredibly motivating and inspirational. She’s fearless, she’s bold, and she’s optimistic, which is why being out on the water with her was such a cool experience. Being surrounded by the clear warm blue waters while testing balance on a SUP board, and hearing the laughter of Gina and the girls, it all kept me smiling and happy to be in the moment with great company.
The thing I love most about SUPing is that it becomes a fantastic abs and core workout once you get in the groove of paddling and breathing, and you can get lost in the rhythm. I got down the motion of inhale exhale three times while paddling on the left then three times on the right, faster breaths would move me faster through the water and all the while my core keeping me strong and balanced as the waves passed me and my board. The feeling of standing up and moving gracefully with the beach as my backdrop brought me into a state of pure gratitude. Gratitude that I could be experiencing this trip with incredibly athletic and inspirational women and feeling strong and powerful in my own skin.
Each morning I woke bright and early, which isn’t my usual, however I was fueled with so much excitement for the day ahead. Oh, and the neighborhood rooster provided some helpful cues that it was time to start the day and get moving. We started each morning with a vibrant power flow Vinyasa yoga session on the porch and by the end of the practice we would be sweating bullets and getting lovely color from the bright morning sun. It is completely evident that Jessica has so much love and passion for teaching and practicing. She’s such a nurturing teacher and her voice helped me ease into my breath and focus on gracefully moving into each challenging asana. Jess shared her inspiration and experiences with us at the beginning and closing meditations and helped draw us closer to our own inner inspiration, and the music she played during our practices helped us to completely immerse in the flow. Jess is a truly amazing yogi, it was a treat to practice twice a day with her!
During shavasana at the close of one of our evening yoga practices, I thought about all the things and people in my life I am thankful for. And I looked inward and came to a realization- I will work towards showing more appreciation in my life, by being a better girlfriend, a better daughter, a better person to the world, a better person to my self- I am so hard on myself sometimes and I just need to be in the moment and appreciate just that- I am exactly where I need to be.
In between our twice daily yoga sessions, surfing, and lounging on the beach, our house chef Petra prepared the healthiest freshest meals for us which we all always looked forward to! Kale and mustard greens lightly sauteed in coconut oil with a splash of sea salt, vegetable cous cous with a light curried flavor, lentils, black beans, cajun spiced shrimp, oh and Jess made this phenomenal trail mix for breakfast each morning- goji berries, granola, coconut, almonds, it kickstarted every day! The girls and I made some delicious smoothies with almond butter, banana, coffee, and almond milk too, and in between surfing and yoga we raided the kitchen and cooked up some healthy snacks with leftover ingredients from lunch and dinners. We definitely worked out hard and ate like champions!
The best part about the retreat was the feeling of nurturing my body with amazing food, challenging my strength and balance with yoga and surfing, and proving to myself that I had the stamina to triumph through double daily yoga practices plus surfing in between, and most certainly some tanning in the sun on the beach. Being surrounded by energetic warm optimistic people kicked any weakness out of my system. Gina and Jess have spirit and fire in their veins, and it’s completely obvious that they truly love what they do. They inspired me every day to constantly challenge myself and find bliss and happiness in life, and to radiate that bliss to others. The was an invaluable experience and I’m excited for round two in the near future!