Baja Yoga Retreat
Viva La Mexico! We just returned from the most inspiring and joyful weeklong yoga retreat in Baja, Mexico. I had the pleasure of co-leading the “Surf, Sand and Seva” yoga retreat with Gina Murdock, Founder of Aspen Yoga Society. Gina embodies the heart and spirit of yoga – the most generous, selfless and grounded person I have ever met. We’ve already led quite a few trips together: Peru, Jordan and most recently, South Africa!
Gina and I had the most playful and easy-going participants join us. From the moment we all met, old friends and new, it became an instant lovefest. We stayed at the most beautiful and welcoming Prana Del Mar- a yoga retreat center about 30 minutes outside of Cabo San Lucas, but a world apart. The founder of Prana Del Mar, Erik Singer, has created a slice of paradise on his lovely beachfront property. His attention to detail is incredible. Every inch of the property and décor was exquisite. From the moment we arrived, we felt so grateful to be there.
Prana Del Mar Yoga Retreat Center
The yoga rooms were so beautiful. It was an honor and a pleasure to get to teach there. Most of the yoga classes we held in the Sun Room, which was on the second story of the property, and had beautiful 360 degree views. From mountains to desert to ocean, everywhere we looked was incredible! Gina and I offered an invigorating morning yoga practices and a relaxing and restorative afternoon class.
The meals were unreal. Everything was fresh, organic and delicious. Each meal the chef and kitchen staff prepared was a delectable and savory experience. They were so innovative in the kitchen, and we all had the pleasure of enjoying new dishes. Quite a few of us took a cooking class from the chef, which was so fun. We learned all kinds of new things- my favorite being how to make chia seed pudding and homemade tortillas from scratch!
Surf, Sand and Seva Yoga Retreat
We called the trip: “Surf, Sand and Seva” and offered the trip participants a healthy dose of all these 3 key ingredients! Two of the days of the trip, we ventured to Los Cerritos, a nearby surf break that is perfect for beginners. Almost everybody on the trip surfed. We had a wonderful local Surfing Instructor by the name of Mario. His English was great, and he was incredibly patient, funny and knowledgeable. Everybody on our trip was able to surf, and had so much fun paddling out and riding the waves! Everybody got their “Sand” fix as well. Prana del Mar is nestled on such a beautiful beach. I went on long beach walks everyday. So blissful.
My personal highlight of the trip was the “Seva” Service element. Before we ventured down to Prana Del Mar, Gina and I extensively researched an organization we could partner with and work hand-in-hand with on a project, ideally one that could enrich the lives of the local children in the community. On a recent Virgin Unite trip to South Africa, we worked with Pride and Purpose, and visited a local crèches that the organization had built, and we played with the kids, helped them move into their new school, and paint a colorful mural on their building. Gina and I had such fun, wonderful memories of the mural experience, that we had it in our minds to do it again.
Volunteering at Hogar Del Nino Orphanage
We ended up partnering with Hogar Del Nino, an orphanage located about 45 minutes away, nearby Todos Santos. Hogar del Nino has been in existence for about three years. The children come through DIF, Mexican family services. There are usually 20-30 children there at a time and everyone who works there is a volunteer. They are mostly family of the director, Joel, and his wife, Alicia. They have 2 dormitories – a girls room and a boys room – which were originally built to be classrooms.
We emailed them ahead of time, and they were delighted for us to come and visit. And were incredibly enthused at the idea of painting a mural. Before leaving for Mexico, we invited all of our participants to bring school supplies, gently worn clothing, toys and anything else they wanted to bring to the kids at Hogar Del Nino. Even Prana Del Mar got into the giving aspect- when Erik heard what we were doing, he sent a huge bag of towels and sheets for the orphanage. We arrived fully loaded, and were greeted with open arms and welcoming smiles.
From the moment you arrive at Hogar Del Nino, you hear laughter and sounds of kids playing. As you drive into the gate, you see a trampoline and a small basketball court. Nothing fancy by any means, but a place that immediately feels like a home. Kids playing, smiling and having a good time.
Joel and his wife greeted us at the entrance. We asked for a brief history of Hogar Del Nino. Joel was an orphan himself, and lived in over 5 orphanages growing up. He built the orphanage as a refuge for children due to situations of abuse, neglect, parents in jail, drug rehab, or death of parents.
Joel gave us a brief tour of the orphanage, which consisted of a girl’s dorm room and a boys’ dorm room. Their rooms were very clean, especially considering the amount of bunk beds and children living in each room. The rooms were initially intended as classrooms, but turned into bedrooms. The girls room had about 16 bunk beds, the boys room about 10. The kids proudly pointed out which bed belonged to them. The girls even gave us a little impromptu dance in their room.
We then continued on our tour and went into the kitchen, where some of the kids were having a healthy lunch of rice, beans and veggies. The kitchen, although modest, was also very clean. The orphanage also consisted of a bakery, which smelled very good as we entered. They sell their baked goods locally as a way to support the orphanage. Everybody loved the rolling pin wall- about 7 rolling pins neatly displayed.
Working Hand-in-Hand with the Orphanage
After our tour, we got down to work. Our team divided into two groups. Half of our team started coloring and playing games with the kids, while the other team began preparing to paint the mural. We were thrilled to find that the mural we would be painting was strategically located on the side of the building when you first enter into the front gate. It’s the first thing the kids and visitors would see! I don’t know about the rest of the crew, but I was determined we would make something cheerful, bright, and happy- and get the kids involved!
After opening up all of the cans of paint, a few of us made a five minute rough sketch of the wall with chalk, basically tracing a big tree in the middle of the wall. We then began painting a flowers, and started calling the kids over. The kids immediately wanted to get involved, and within just a few minutes, there must have been 10 kids and half our team painting everything from flowers and butterflies to snails, ladybugs and hearts with wings. We had so much fun, working hand-in-hand with the kids. Creatively was definitely flowing- I looked around and all of the kids were having so much fun painting and creating art.
As our team was painting, the other participants in our group were face-painting with the kids as well as painting on other parties of their bodies, arms and hands. The kids were loving it! Often, as I was painting the mural, I’d look over, and I would have a boy painted like spiderman on one side of me, and a girl painted with hearts all over her face. Many of the kids had paint plastering their hands, stamping the walls, and high fiving each other. Smiles abounded.
Creating a Masterpiece with the kids!
Together with the kids, we created a masterpiece! Joel and his wife got involved- Joel painting the smiley face on the sunshine from atop a ladder, as his wife stood nearby with a can of paint. My favorite part of the mural were the abundance of kids’ handprints of all shapes and sizes sprinkled throughout. One of the kids drew a heart inside the palm of one of the handprints, and so quite a few of the kids followed the lead. The outcome is the most cheerful, joyful and vibrant wall welcoming kids and visitors and brightening their days.
Joel was so pleased with the mural that we have an open invitation to come back- letting us know he has 2 other walls for us to paint. We as a group had such a remarkable time, and we are already planning a reunion trip next year.
We will definitely be returning. Our group had such lovely experiences together. We felt so looked after by the kind and thoughtful staff at Prana del Mar, and look forward to working again with the kids at Hogar del Nino! Viva Le Mexico!