I’m doing cartwheels with excitement to team up with one of my favorite yoginis and passionistas, Rachel VerValin. On Labor Day Weekend, she will be hosting the first Finger Lakes yoga and food retreat at Firelight Camps. As part of the retreat, my dear friend and wild edible expert, Sarah Kelsen, will take us on a woods walk to discover the natural beauty surrounding Firelight and teach us how to forage for ingredients. On Sunday evening, I’ll be creating a special foraged feast for our retreaters to cap off the retreat on a delicious note!

Below, Rachel shares why she started Heart Thread Yoga, including her pondering on “life breaks,” forming healthy and happy habits on vacation, and dovetailing yoga with Finger Lakes food bounty. (And of course, you can sign up here too! www.heartthreadyoga.com)

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The concept for Heart Thread Yoga Retreats stems from the idea that everyone needs a “life break” every now and then – a chance to put their life on hold, and sort of catch up with themselves. Finding this sense of connection and relaxation is the reason people go on a vacation! A downside to a traditional vacation is having to plan everything out, coordinate food, lodging, activities – it can get exhausting, which is certainly not the point of the life break! The trips with Heart Thread are all inclusive – everything is taken care of. You can come to relax and unwind, and then go deeper into exploration through the principals of yoga to truly feel at ease in the body and the mind.

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Another interesting catalyst for me in starting this company was the idea of starting a “habit” when you’re on vacation – in this case a wonderful habit of yoga practice and eating well. As the mind relaxes out of it’s normal stress of work and home – even if you have a great home life, there’s still that laundry pile across the room 🙂 – you open up to possibility. Your local triggers are gone, leaving you to your nourish your body with fresh air, movement, breath, and healthy, local cuisine. You will feel better. The brain likes when you feel good, and you will consciously (and subconsciously) begin to seek these things out even after the vacation is over. Just to expand upon that a bit, the idea of fresh, healthy food is so key – this dovetails beautifully with the eat local, farm-to-table idea that is now sweeping the nation. Here in the Finger Lakes – the literal breadbasket of New York State – we’ve been growing and eating our own food for decades. And we are SO happy that the country has decided to jump on the band wagon! You can imagine my love when I realized that my beautiful friend from my yoga community, Emma Frisch, was showcasing the awesome power of healthy eating on the national level through her representation on Food Network Star!  

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Whenever I travel to a new destination, I seek out local cuisine and activities. Ask any of my friends – I love to eat, and I love to eat well. Learning about, and participating in, local food and culture always allows me to come home from vacation with a “sense of place” for that region. Similar to the way food unites us around the table, yoga connects us to one another and the human condition. The bonding of this Kula, or community, is unlike any other experience – and it’s strengthened by the small, boutique nature of the groups. There’s plenty of alone time, but there is also space created to share in experience, along with lots of juicy adjustments and assists from me.     

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Eventually I will be bringing this concept to places all over the country and the world. I’m so excited that my first official retreat as Heart Thread Yoga (I’ve lead two others, under my own name) will be here, in my amazing home, the Finger Lakes – and with the support of my local community. I’m using the Summer Sunset Retreat over labor day weekend (Aug 29-Sept 1) as an opportunity to showcase the Finger Lakes from farm to table, yoga mat to waterfall, and winery to woods. We will have not one, but TWO literal farm to table meals: First, on Saturday a brunch where we meet with local farmer Gordie, owner of Silver Queen Farm, to explore his farm and harvest goodies that will then be used by personal chef Brud Holland to create a meal right before our eyes – complete with local wine/spirits pairings, and followed up with a visit/tour/tasting at Silver Thread Vineyard on Seneca Lake. The second farm-to-table meal will come from Emma on Sunday evening, and will feature fresh finds from a food foraging hike with Sarah Kelson earlier in the afternoon. This three course meal will also feature wine from the ever expanding Finger Lakes wine region – we have over 100 wineries here, in addition to award winning distilleries and craft breweries!   

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There are many other exciting offerings for the weekend, including the unlimited use of August Moon Spa’s tranquility rooms, sauna, and steam room, discounted spa treatments, and of course our beautiful accommodations on the grounds of LaTourelle at Firelight Camp’s luxury camping tents. Please visit www.heartthreadyoga.com/fingerlakes for a full schedule of events, and additional information about the weekend. Space is limited to 12 guests  – sign up and pay your deposit at the above link. Early bird pricing by August 1 – save $100!

Please feel free to email me at heartthreadyoga@gmail.com with any questions or inquiries – I’d love to chat with you! 

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Rachel seeks to create a nurturing environment where students can learn and practice yoga in a caring and accessible way. As the owner of Heart Thread Yoga, Retreats Rachel promotes health and well-being by offering transformative experiences grounded in a holistic understanding of human wellness. She engages students who are looking for a dynamic way to explore their practice by providing personalized guidance in a supportive, relaxed and fun(!) atmosphere. When Rachel is not leading retreats you can find her teaching at Mighty Yoga in Ithaca, New York. For more information please check out: www.vervalin-yoga.com

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