Roy Holman lives and teaches yoga and meditation classes near Seattle and he is what I would call I full time retreat leader. He has been doing it for many years and leads up to 6 retreats yearly. He shares with us the power and magic of yoga retreats when a group comes together… an experience that goes far beyond a regular yoga class.
I am not sure how it happened, but I am so grateful that I somehow found myself in a yoga class. It was 1997 or so, and I was struggling with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. Each class totally grounded and renewed me. I was hooked. I started teaching the best I could–even though I was still a mess personally–and eventually began to heal and quit all my other jobs to become a full time teacher and retreat leader. It has been such a joy and honor to serve.
Who were you mostly influenced by?
Amma the “Hugging Saint” has shown me what true love is. And then Amma (another Amma) and Bhagavan at Oneness University in India really woke me up, literally. But there are so many incredible teachers on the planet, and I have learned by countless people, including the “bad” teachers that show me what not to do! I love Jack Kornfield, Eckhart Tolle, Inelia Benz, Drunvalo, so many others. Krishnamacharya and Desakachar and Tracy Weber are my yoga teachers.
Where do you live and what is a typical day like for you?
I live just north of Seattle, WA. I teach a couple local yoga or meditation classes each day, and give local talks and workshops. My favorite talk is about the incredible shift we are experiencing on earth, which is challenging but so positive, bigger than most people realize. I also do a health and healing radio commentary each week. Oh, and we have a weekly Oneness Blessing night, which is such a bliss! Aside from all this, I spend too much time on my computer writing (my third book) and communicating via email and other projects!
What is your favorite retreat place?
I can’t answer this! I get asked this a lot by people thinking of coming on one of my retreats, and I love all the places I go–really! That is why I keep doing this; I love my “work”. In fact, I don’t believe in work. I am playing my way through life.
To try to answer your question, each place and country is so different. I love the sacred red land of Sedona. I love the friendly Mayan people and culture of Guatemala (I lived there for almost 3 years doing human rights work). I love the quiet car-less village of Yelapa, Mexico, where we have gone for 10 years now. And perhaps the most awesome retreat center we now go to is the Goddess Garden on Costa Rica’s Caribbean. Wow–what great hosts, food, rainforest and beach setting, yoga studio, monkeys and sloths right outside our rooms!
According to you, what are the top 3 benefits of taking a yoga retreat?
Much is said about the negative effects of what psychologists call “geographical”, but retreats are not simply an “escape.” Like a yoga inversion pose, retreats and travels help us get a new perspective, which is invaluable. Personally, my life travels have been life changing.
It’s also such a beautiful opportunity to deepen our friendships and connection with others. In a yoga or other type of class, we may meet some cool folks, but we may not have the chance to really connect, and to me, connection is everything: to each other, to nature, to our bodies, to our emotions, to our breath and to the Divine.
Lastly, we may get some sunshine, or get outdoors! We get to rest and rejuvenate. We work way too much, often work we don’t even like, so the break helps us relax and re-think our life.
What makes the retreats you lead special?
There are many good teachers and retreats out there, and I will not say I or my retreats are the best. But I have had success – well over half who attend come to a second or third retreat – because we keep it light, have fun, and encourage authenticity and joy rather than perfectionism or competition. We also are really good at adding a whole package beyond the lovely yoga classes in sacred settings. We tend to attract good people. We focus on great food, unpretentious yet fabulous settings, with tons of side options: massage, hiking, meditation, breath, kirtan (call and response chanting), swimming, snorkeling, wildlife, zip line tours, rafting . . . And I’m not a teacher who teaches and then hides in my room; I like to connect and have fun!
Do you accept all levels? If yes, how do you balance advanced practitioners with beginners during a retreat?
We have had people in all levels, sometimes with no experience whatsoever. All are welcome and we are good at working with people. I think most anyone can benefit from our retreats. Maybe if someone is super competitive and wants to really sweat, they might be best to choose another retreat. I am not into the boot camp styles! But we blend experienced yogis with beginners fairly seamlessly. It’s all yoga!
What is a typical day like during your retreats?
This all depends on if we are doing a local Washington weekend retreat or international retreats. Generally we do a sunrise and a sunset yoga class, with some meditation and breathing (pranayama). The day could include any of the above mentioned options, and we offer some workshops (emotional balance, self esteem, tips for 2012 and beyond, practicing presence are some of my current favorites). In Sedona we do more hiking — most every day. I also offer Oneness Blessings and trainings, which are amazing healings to facilitate the awakening process, calm the mind, and flower the heart.
Can you tell us some anecdotes about retreats you have led or taken?
I recall one time we were in Costa Rica, driving back from a visit to a National Park, and we saw a sloth on the ground starting to . . . slowly . . . attempt a road crossing, which would have been disastrous. Not wanting to see a sloth pancake, I intuitively asked our driver to pull over so I could try to stop traffic or something. But before I could get out, a motorcycle pulled over, and the driver got off, gently picked up the sloth behind the neck, and carried it across the road, a free ride to safety! It was such an act of compassion.
As for growing, healing and awakening, I’ve seen so many people soften and open and relax into life, with all the yoga, fresh air, hiking, swimming, and connecting. It’s kind of like ten times what happens in a yoga class at home.
Have you taken a retreat yourself? What was your most profound moment?
I actually have only taken a couple yoga retreats, but I’ve been to many other types of retreats. All I can say is that something magical happens when a group of people gets together with intention to heal, awaken, have fun, connect and grow. It is beyond words. All the yoga and workshops and hiking and wildlife is awesome, but in the end, it’s the people. I suppose the most profound moment each time is the sense of, “I’m not alone.”
You have retreats coming up in the US and Central America, tell us a little about it!
We always have something in the works. Right now I have 6 retreats booked over the next year: Returning to Happiness and Wholeness Oct 6-10 here in WA, Yoga and Hiking in Sedona Oct 16-21, Guatemala, which is a full on yoga, hiking, sacred sites, cultural experience, Nov 27 – Dec 9, Yelapa, Mexico–which I love–Jan 11-19, 2013, and Costa Rica at the Goddess Garden March 16-25, 2013. Life is good!
Thanks Roy for sharing your wisdom and reminding us of the power of retreats when a group comes together.