Tuesday, November 24, 2015

February 2016: Yoga Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico

My next yoga retreat will be February 4th - 8th in beautiful Sayulita, Mexico. Join me, Heather Grisco, and Kelli Martin for the FREE YOURSELF FEBRUARY 2016 RETREAT! This unique experience will encourage you to take your yoga off-the-mat and into the real world as we journey through the jungle to our favorite bohemian beach paradise of Sayulita, Mexico.

For the 5th winter in a row, we're packing our bags and leading a group of open-hearted yogis on an adventurous getaway. Every year keeps getting better, and we can guarantee, this one will be the best yet! In addition to twice-daily yoga, we will also be including some fun excursions like paddleboarding and jungle hikes that will open your soul in new ways. 

Mandy and Heather have been taking their yoga students to Sayulita, Mexico since 2011. On their retreats, they offer a blend of powerful, invigorating vinyasa flow in the morning, as well as gentle, restorative yoga classes as the sun goes down to emphasize balance. This year, they are welcoming inspiring yoga teacher Kelli Martin into the mix to provide Reiki energy healing and aromatherapy to the retreat participants. Kelli is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about essential oils and tapping into what's below the surface -- the energy body -- to heal and empower you from the inside out.

Be prepared for 5 days of pampering on all levels: mind, body, and spirit.

- shared room: $1175
- private room: $1350

* flights from San Diego included in this pricing!
* if you will be arranging your own flight from somewhere other than San Diego, subtract $300 from your package. [shared room without flight = $875. private room without flight = $1050] 

Your retreat package includes: 

         - all ground transportation
         - 4 nights stay at beautiful Hotelito Los SueƱos
         - green smoothies and breakfast every morning
         - 2 group dinners, prepared by excellent local chefs
         - 8 inspiring morning and evening yoga classes
         - 1 specialized Stand Up Paddle (SUP) yoga workshop
         - 1 jungle hike
         - and your airfare, if leaving from San Diego

Optional Excursions: Boat trips to the surf Punta Mita and San Pancho. Additional stand-up paddle board and surf lessons, Snorkeling, Sailing, Kayaking, Jungle Excursions, Zip lines, horseback riding or just plain relaxing and soaking up the beach. 

Ready to take the leap? Click here to leave your $275 non-refundable deposit and reserve your spot on this unforgettable experience!

Space is limited. This retreat fills up fast every year. As of today (11/24/15) there are only 8 spots available.

*PLEASE NOTE:  all are welcome! the majority of the participants will be from our local San Diego (Bird Rock Yoga) community, but if you have an open heart and a sense of adventure, we'd love for you to join us on this retreat!

*FINAL PAYMENTS: your remaining balance after the deposit must be paid in full by January 8, 2016.

#designalifeyouLOVE #yogafiesta #freeyourself2016

Here are some of my favorite photos from my past few years of hosting yoga retreats in Sayulita Mexico . . .


fun facts about this retreat: 

-  average daily air temps in january = 85*
-  average daily ocean temps in january = 82*
-  winter is baby turtle rescue & release season! It's the most adorable thing, ever.
-  friday is sayulita's famous "mercado del pueblo" farmers market. we'll take you there on february 5th where you'll have the opportunity to browse the handmade bohemian and tribal art this town is famous for. I love doing some grocery shopping here and stocking up on fresh fruit and organic snacks for my stay. 

questions? ready to sign up?

  • leave a $275 deposit to reserve your spot here
  • feel free to email me with any questions! zengirlmandy@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bucket List It -- The Integratron

Over the weekend, my girlfriends and I took trip out to the desert to relax, unwind, reconnect with nature, and visit the highly-acclaimed Integratron. Never heard of it? Well, if you live in southern California, you are only a two to three hour drive from this super special (and scientifically proven!) energy vortex, so put this on your bucket list immediately! 

After two days of hiking, glamping, singing karaoke country music with the locals, and soaking up the incredibly peaceful energy of Joshua Tree, we drove even further East through no-mans land to reach this sacred site. When I took my first girls trip out to Joshua Tree back in February, some hippie local friends clued us in to the magic of the Integratron, but it books out 5 or more weeks in advance, so we couldn't get a reservation. This time around, we planned the entire girls getaway around a visit to the Integratron, so we made sure to reserve online in advance, We were bursting with anticipation, curiosity, and excitement as we cruised down the old dirt road known as Highway 247 leading up to the site. For a car full of San Diego mermaids who rarely stray far from the beach, the sight of actual desert tumbleweeds was all it took to send us into a fit of roaring laughter! Finally, we arrived at the Integratron, checked in for our visit, and got the low-down on what's so special about this place. 

The Integratron was built in the 1950's by the famous aeronautical engineer George Van Tassel. In the 1930's and 40's, he worked as an aircraft mechanic and in 1947, he left that life and moved his family to the Mohave Desert. According to George, in 1953 during frequent meditations, aliens from Venus started communicating with him and teaching him techniques for "rejuvenating the human body." In 1954, with extraterrestrial guidance, he began constructing the Integratron as a "time machine for basic research on rejuvenation, anti-gravity, and time travel." George believed that humans curate so much knowledge over a lifetime and become so wise and enlightened over the course 6 or 7 decades, then their physical bodies die without having the opportunity to realize all this potential, saying "Our life span is just too short." He believed if he could find a way to extend our time on Earth, so much more good could be done for humanity. His wacky ideas caught the attention of some serious businessmen, like billionaire Howard Hughes, who believed in his logic and financed the construction. 

In an ironic twist of fate, George died suddenly at the age of 67 just a few weeks shy of the completion of the Integratron. From there, the site passed from owner to owner for 20 years until a group of 3 sisters purchased it in 2000. The sisters recognized it as an acoustically-perfect structure with incredibly healing properties. For the last 15 years, they've been running group Sound Bath experiences in which participants lie down in Savasana (resting pose) and get serenaded by quartz crystal singing bowls and guided into a deep meditation. 

The sessions last one hour and my girlfriends and I were all thoroughly blissed out after our Sound Bath. There are 7 giant quartz crystal bowls, each one tuned with a different musical note aligning with each of the 7 chakras (energy centers in your body). For the entire hour, I tried to stay really focused on my breath and stay open to the process, and I definitely felt a subtle spiritual awakening. The sound bath is said to realign the right and left sides of your brain and (on a yogic level), harmonize the dualities of you -- balancing out your masculine and feminine energies; fine tuning the chakra system; and providing medicine for your soul via sound. All in all, it was a truly beautiful experience and I would highly recommend you take a trip out to the desert to experience it for yourself!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How To Choose the Right Yoga Retreat for You

With the explosion in popularity of yoga in the United States and Canada over the last decade, the opportunities to combine your yoga practice with travel and leisure are in absolute abundance. Flip to the last few pages of any yoga magazine and you’re inundated with an overwhelming amount of options on where, when and how to participate in a yoga retreat.

I've been leading Yoga Retreats abroad for the past 4 years and have had the honor of personally guiding more than 130 people on life-altering adventures. On each and every retreat, I witness incredible joy, growth, and transformation - along with a renewed sense of connection after just a few days of tuning into the natural vibrations. Magical stuff happens when we step away from technology, breathe with nature, and laugh out loud with new-found soul friends. 

So maybe you’re open to the idea of taking your first yoga retreat but not sure where to start? After designing and leading 10 yoga retreats (my 11th one coming up next month!), I've seen it all and want to help make the process as smooth as possible for you! Here are some important things to consider in selecting the right yoga travel experience for you:

1) Duration: Maybe your soul needs a month in Indonesia but your life currently only allows for a weekend getaway. No worries! A person with an open mind and open heart will get more out of 3 days than a distracted, closed-off person traveling abroad for a year. Don’t get hung up on the length of time, work with what you’ve got in front of you. If a week away is what kids, work and life will allow, then start by narrowing your search to retreats fitting that parameter. This very first step is your initial opportunity to practice non-attachment. Try not to focus on what you can’t do, be content with what you can do in your life right now.

2) Location: This one builds in harmony with the previous variable. If your heart is set on Bali, but you live in New York and can only get away for one week, Bali just isn't in the cards this year. Maybe next year! A good rule of thumb is the less time you have, the closer to home you go. Yoga, adventure, and health lifestyle retreats are intended to be a relatively stress-free way of traveling and experiencing new things. If you spend most of your time in the car or on long stress-inducing layovers, it sort of defeats the purpose. If you’re going away for 3 days, pick a location no further than 3 to 5 hours driving distance. Look for hidden gems in your own state or the next state over. If you’ve got a week, it’s reasonable to consider overseas travel. Insider tip: Be sure to tack on an extra day on each end to account for adjusting to time zone changes. 

Coming from the US or Canada, great one-week options are: Costa Rica, Aruba, and Mexico. If you can swing 8-15 days, consider jumping continents and heading further around the world. Greece, Morocco, Italy, Thailand and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador are definitely doable! Two weeks to a month? India, Bali and Peru are looking pretty good. Keep in mind that those 3 countries have quite a bit of arduous land and sea travel once you arrive. Make sure your mind, your body, (and stomach!) are prepared for true off-the-beaten path explorations.

3) Cost: Again, this variable goes hand-in-hand with the previous two. I am of the belief that everybody – regardless of budget – deserves to experience a health retreat. True -- a week at the Four Seasons in Maui can run you upwards of $4,000, but don’t be intimidated by that fact. For every fancy five-star retreat, there are a dozen low-maintenance, down-to-earth experiences out there. If you have a smaller budget this year, you will go on a shorter, closer to home adventure. There are lots of options for under $1000, most without the need to fly anywhere. Also, keep in mind that occasionally some retreats offer scholarships or work-trade opportunities. It never hurts to ask. If it doesn’t work out this year, maybe they’ll keep you in mind for next year!

4) Theme: Stand-Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga in Sayulita; Goal-setting in the Galapagos; Yoga and Cooking Classes in Chang Mai; Unleashing your Inner Goddess in Kauai; Yoga and Freediving in the Bahamas – these days, there is truly something for everyone! If, in addition to yoga, you’ve been hoping to hone your skills in another area as well, seek out a retreat that nurtures both. One of the most fun and empowering retreats I ever coordinated didn’t involve any yoga in an actual studio. We went on ocean adventures and practiced yoga on paddleboards for 5 hours a day for 6 days straight in Mexico, breathing and flowing with the elements. Keep an open mind and let your passions beyond yoga also help guide your decision-making process.

5) Teacher: I saved the most important factor for last -- who will be guiding you on this journey? When I started leading retreats in 2011 (only four short years ago), there were only a handful of retreat offerings each month. Now, there's a yoga retreat starting somewhere in the world every day of the year! With the increased amount of options, more people have access to these healing experiences, which is a GREAT thing, but there's also a huge lack of quality control. I've seen retreats offered by yoga teachers who just graduated a few days ago. I've seen retreats offered by teachers who have never even been to the place they are supposed to be guiding people to. Here's a quick check-list of things to consider when choosing your retreat leader -- 

  • Make sure you resonate with this teacher. 
  • Do you like the style of yoga they teach and their overall message? 
  • Take their classes if you live nearby, or do extensive research on them online.
  • Double check their credentials and look for testimonials from past retreat participants
  • Make sure they have a connection to the destination. Their desire to lead this experience should come from a pure love for the place, not them wanting a free trip to experience it for the first time themselves.
  •  If you are still unsure, ask for a quick Skype meeting. Most teachers would be more than happy to chat with you and answer all your question. Skype or Facetime (versus email) allows you to look in their eyes, feel their energy, and decide it they are the right teacher for you.

With all this information to consider, take a pause (and a big exhale!) and come back to your initial intention. What motivated you to seek out a yoga retreat in the first place? What do you hope to get out of this experience? In what ways does your mind, body and spirit need to be healed?
Now that you've considered all the variables, it's time to get out there and take part in the yoga retreat of your dreams!

To all the seasoned yoga retreat participants, I ask: What's your favorite retreat experience of all time? And why? 
Please share any tips below that can help others in the planning process!

Want to travel with me? 

Visit here to stay up-to-date on my upcoming yoga retreat offerings!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

15K Giveaway!

I love nothing more than hooking my people up with some awesome product from companies I believe in! I promised myself from the beginning to use my social media platforms to spread health and happiness, so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU so much for joining me on this journey! In celebration of hitting 15,000 followers on my instagram account @zengirlmandy, I'm partnering with Reebok to hook one of you up with a free outfit! They've got a cute new line of yoga activewear with creative designs that I know you all will love!

Here are a few shots from a women's empowerment event I did with Reebok two weeks ago. I gathered 15 of my favorite San Diego yoga girls and guided them through an oceanfront vinyasa flow class with the theme of releasing the fears and darkness that holds us back in life. After savasana, we tapped into our strength and played with some partner yoga while enjoying a mellow Sunday morning by the beach in La Jolla. It was a truly special experience that I'm grateful to have led. 

Need some fresh workout gear in your wardrobe? Scroll down and enter yourself in the giveaway!

Much love and namaste,


// photography by the talented @jason_neitzke //

To enter the Reebok giveaway, leave a comment on this blog post (say hi!) and be sure to include your instagram name. Winner announced on Monday morning!

11/09/15 UPDATE: the winner is -- @giraffemilyoga -- congrats girl! 

stay tuned for more Zen Girl giveaways to come! xoxo

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Yogi Confessionals: The Secret Magic to Sadness

Confession: I get sad. More often than I would like to admit. More often than you would think if you only knew me online. Social media has a funny way of only showing the highlight reel. On one hand, I love it because, let's be honest -- who would wants a newsfeed filled with Debbie Downers?! On the other hand though, all the rainbows and unicorns and mermaids fail to capture the entire other HALF of life.

In yoga, we strive for balance. The yin AND the yang. The light AND the darkness. Embracing the ups and the down, for they all have something important to teach us. I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with high-vibrational energy at all times, but it begs the question:

By putting only our highest moments out there on social media, as a culture, do we inadvertently push those low feeling even lower? 

So, here's my attempt at sharing some really raw, honest, real-life stuff with you all. One realization I've come to recently is that I'm highly susceptible to sadness. Scratch that -- I'm highly susceptible to feeling sadness, in all its many forms. I'm a sensitive soul, an empath, deeply affected by the energy around me. As a yoga teacher, I have learned how to channel this into my classes and create some really beautiful, raw moments for my students. It breaths life into my creative work, my passions, my philanthropic work with orphanages, and it pushes me into new break-through places on my spiritual journey. I've come to terms with my ability to feel deep sadness and  have even become grateful for it. But -- lingering in it for too long can be dangerous.

Here's a new agreement I've made with myself: a 12 hour free pass to Sadville. One way ticket to Mope-town. 

Instead of trying to fight the sadness, or pretend that it doesn't exist, I've made a conscious effort to embrace it when it comes and let myself dive as deep into it as needed. For half of one day, only. 12 hours to mope around, cry if I need to, eat comfort foods, vent, and watch ridiculously sad movies... The Fault in our Stars, Selena, and Titanic top on my list for temporary travels to gloomsville. Need more inspiration? Here's a list of the 50 Most Heart-Wrenching Movies of all Time

So, here's where the magic happens. Here's what separates the spiritual growth from my childhood days of getting caught up in a spiral of emotions for way too long. 

The next morning, it's OVER. It's done. Allowing myself to linger in the sadness for a bit and really FEEL it creates the space for releasing it and transforming it into something productive. 

Last week, my father-in-law came out to San Diego for a visit and dropped some serious wisdom on us. He's a 40 year-long student of yoga and eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism and left us with this little gem -- Feel the pain, but do not add suffering through resistance. 

BOOM. There was my big breakthrough I wanted to share with you all. Feel it, embrace it, don't add any extra guilt on top, and suddenly, the light begins to shine again. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to Make Chia Pudding

I wanted to share with you all my current obsession, something I literally cannot live without! Every Sunday night, I make a batch of Chia Pudding for the week and it's completely changed my mornings. Naturally, I'm not a big breakfast eater. I love to move my body first thing in the morning, then get on with my day, so typically I'll go until 12 or 1pm without eating. I'll have a glass of warm water with lemon, followed by a green smoothie or green juice, then get caught up in my day and forget to eat until the afternoon. I felt pretty good, but never great, and intuitively knew that my body needed something different to function at a higher level. Yoga has taught me so much about listening to my body and being present and aware of its changes. Over the last few years (and especially in the last few months since turning 29), I noticed that my digestion had been getting worse and worse. I experienced frequent stomach aches, food sensitivities and just an overall feeling of being bloated and weighed down. I started asking my girlfriends and yoga students what their morning food routine looked like. To my surprise, I found that most women I talked to had similar digestion issues and often went until 1 or 2pm in the day, subsisting solely on coffee.

Then, as luck would have it, my assistant Rozy and I were prepping to lead a 3 day bachelorette party yoga retreat in Mexico for 10 women and brainstorming healthy breakfast options. I picked custom Acai Bowls for the first morning and Rozy suggested Chia Pudding for the second morning. She explained to me that they are super simple to make, easy to prepare in bulk and packed full of FIBER, which women can never get enough of. It would be the perfect Sunday morning breakfast to help them digest all the delicious food, wine, and tequila from the weekend!

source: a million miless

After trying Chia Pudding for the first time on our yoga retreat in Baja Mexico, I was ready to start incorporating it into my life at home. The Sunday night that we got home, I made my first batch and ate it throughout the week. Almost immediately, I started feeling better in my body, like everything was moving around again, as it should. My favorite part is that it's portable and easy to take on the road, which I need for my lifestyle. Now, every Sunday night, it's become my ritual to take 5 mason jars, make my Chia Pudding for the week, then grab and go when I head out on Monday morning.

Here's my super simple recipe for a single serving -- 

  • 1 mason jar
  • Fill up 1/2 way with milk of your choice
    (I use unsweetened Hemp Milk, but can also use: Almond milk, Coconut, milk, etc.)
  • Pour in 1/3 cup of chia seeds, stir vigorously for 30 seconds 
  • Put mason jar lid on, seal up, leave in refrigerator overnight
  • Take out in the morning, then add toppings of your choice.

My favorite toppings this month are: a spoonful of local honey, then add banana or blueberries, then sprinkle local bee pollen and cinnamon on top.

source: yummy-healthy-easy

source: sweet sugar bean

From chocolate to walnuts to passion fruit to figs, the options are limitless, and can be modified to utilize ingredients honoring every season of the year. Need more inspiration? Click here to learn 22 Easy and Delicious Chia Pudding Recipes.

Do you have your own special recipe or favorite toppings? Comment below and share your secret sauce with us!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Desert Medicine: why a trip to Joshua Tree is good for the soul

I'm an ocean girl, through and through. It takes a lot to get me away from the beach, even for a few days. The mountains and the dry desert air just never really appealed to me. The thought of driving inland -- away from the coast -- seemed to go against everything I believed in. But, that all changed a few months ago when my girlfriend Leslie invited me on a trip to Joshua Tree. Having lived in San Diego for the last 15 years, I've heard friends (especially my beloved yogis) rave about "the magical energy out in J-Tree" but, in a decade and a half, somehow, I never made it out there myself. The perfect storm of it being February (not super hot), only a 2 hour drive from San Diego, and Leslie's 30th birthday (a milestone NOT to be missed), were exactly what I needed to get my mermaid soul away from the beach and heading east for a weekend of pure, spontaneous desert medicine.

Going into this trip with an open heart and no expectations led to one of the best girls trips of my life! We spent the daylight hours hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, mostly in silence admiring the natural beauty all around us. The desert has a certain level of stillness I've never experienced anywhere else. We stayed in a beautifully-designed mid-century modern house (pictured below) that transported us back to the bohemian days of the 1970s. Ready to shake off the stillness and have a fun night out in town, we ended up at the famous Pappy & Harriet's where we ate BBQ and danced all night to the live blues band. We even made friends with a great group of locals to close out the night drinking and dancing with. 

Now, as Summer 2015 fades away, the air gets a little crisper, and the healing desert energy of Joshua Tree has started tugging at my heart again. I'm being called in a big way, and another trip out east is soon-to-be on the books. While I spent my day reminiscing on this magical experience, I thought I would share with you my favorite finds in Joshua Tree, in the hopes that you will plan yourself a trip there too. It's powerful energy is unmistakable and not to be missed. If you live in southern California, there's no excuse! Gather your tribe of high vibration homies and hit the road!

Not to be missed -- book a session at the Integratron (pictured below) -- public or private sound bath sessions using crystal singing bowls as sound healing and transformation tools; by appointment only.

Here's a photojournal of our girls trip to Joshua Tree!

#desertmedicine #mermaidswelcome 

Until next time, J-Tree!

// all images captured by our friend, Stormula One Photography //
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