Ariel Swan

Experience an Exhale Yoga Retreat

Amongst the jungle, atop a hill, overlooking perfect waves and electric skies, sits Maderas Village – and a village it is. Maderas is not a resort so much as a community, run by an eclectic mix of ex-pats who welcome guests into their life for as long as they decide to stay. Some never leave. The collection of casitas integrates into the jungle landscape perfectly, while offering the comforts of home (and food that’s even better).

Playa Maderas, just north of San Juan del Sur on the southwest coast of Nicaragua, is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, with some of the best waves for surfers at any level. Additionally, the long, bouncy dirt road leading there means the beach maintains its remote charm without being overrun by tourists swarming nearby San Juan del Sur. Although by tourists I mean 20 something adventurers and by swarm I mean overtake a couple bars – you don’t see the usual tourist scene you would expect from somewhere so attractive.

So this is the place. This is the place where Exhale Yoga Retreats begins the New Year. The place where I, surrounded by some of my closest friends and marvelous new ones, set my intentions for the year and began a routine of health, happiness, awareness, and play that I carry with me still. 

A Vinyasa practice led by the enlivening Yeva Glover was a powerful way to start each day, and gave everything that followed that much more meaning. Whether work-shopping handstands on the sand, meditating in the trees, dancing poolside atop a cliff or taking a catamaran to a private beach, the days always shaped up perfectly. 

Impromptu fish tacos at the bar on the beach and sunset surf sessions became a way of life in a short period, and no matter what the day had in store we all gravitated to each other and the jungle for a blissful Yin yoga class immediately following sunset. Hearing the jungle come to life as the stars came out was truly surreal, and with candlelight and incredible music to accompany Ariel Swan’s teaching, I was able to go deeper into yin poses and meditation than I ever have before. 

As we gathered for dinner, sun-kissed and content, I noticed how much everyone had changed from the day prior, or even just that morning. Each person became more open, relaxed, and self-assured, glowing from the inside out. Capping off the evening playing cards under the stars or taking some time to journal or read privately, it became clear to me that the combination of taking people out of their comfort zone into a magical place, using yoga to inspire reflection and growth, all during a transitional time of year, creates a perfect mix of play and personal development that I want to be a part of every year. 

So thank you Exhale Yoga Retreats for the amazing memories made with old friends and new; for the inspiration, introspection, awakening, and growth. I miss the wind and howler monkeys calling me to my mat each morning, the jungle struggle down to the beach, the humbling waves and sunset surfs with Disney animated skies. I miss family dinners and having to choose between a lime or watermelon margarita, dusty rides in the back of pick up trucks and bikes. And I miss not missing anything, living in the moment and drifting away in a hammock or a book or an asana.