Integrative Wellness Retreat

Food| Movement | Lifestyle | Soulful Travel

MALIBU 2016 RECAP | Ayurveda, Alignment + Yoga Retreat

Ayurveda, Alignment + Yoga| Malibu, CA | October 2016

Fall is a time of transition. It is evident everywhere around you. Many trees and shrubs are quietly undressing in preparation for the winter... And there is the wind: slowly gathering strength, carrying the tides of winter on its breath. The autumn harbors a certain emptiness that can leave us feeling exposed and a little raw, but it is also filled with possibility—a time when we, too, can strip down to a quiet essence of being and savor the simplicity.
— Melody Mischke


This past October, we packed the bus and headed to Malibu to gather under the autumn moonlight for our 3rd annual Ayurveda, Alignment and Yoga Retreat. In circle and ceremony we gathered for healing, for health, for transformation, for our dreams to be heard and for our love to be felt. We are all hardwired for wholeness, and to bear witness to a powerful group of women coming back to that knowing, makes for an unforgettable time. It is such an honor to be able to facilitate experiences that actively engage people in the process of living a more empowered, healthy, whole existence. 

Within the span of a year, we see themes, we see seasons, we see cycles. If we choose to examine them closely, within them, we can find our greatest teachers. To pause, breathe, and reflect on where you were this time last year, how you felt, how you've grown, and how you've changed can be quite the powerful practice. For some, the reminiscing will be sweet, for others, there may be an overwhelming sense of relief that those days are behind us. Setting aside time for self-reflection at the juncture of each season has the potential to bring a lot more meaning to the Nelson Mandela quote that says, "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."


In the fall, nights get noticeably longer. It is said that when outer darkness is at its greatest, there's great potential for inner work to be done. At IWR, we capitalize on that energy by hosting our fall retreat shortly after the Autumn Equinox. Autumn is nature's cue for us to draw inward. Inward to self-reflect, inward to gather with family and friends, inward to slowly cook nourishing meals, inward to connect with those aspects of ourselves that have yet to be fully integrated into our day to day.

To be deeply introspective and feel that life has to be serious and heavily contemplated all the time can become quite melancholic. Thank goodness we cycle through the renewing and uplifting forces of spring and see more expansive and care-free days in the summer. With each passing season, you too, may become more connected to the themes present within each cycle. The essence of this awareness was captured perfectly when, while grieving the death of Beatles legend, John Lennon, Yoko Ono said...

"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence

Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance

Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence

Winter Passes and one remembers one's perseverance." 


In modern medicine we see the emergence of "personalized medicine." Meaning that, we're relying a lot more on technological advances to confirm a patient's fundamental biology, DNA, and RNA, ultimately leading to more personalized medical decisions, practices, interventions and/or products tailored for certain individuals. Ayurveda has always been a personalized system, using the different doshas (mind-body types) to categorize qualities and account for differences and similarities between people. Although "personalized medicine" has been a well-established concept in Ayurveda, it is advised to live according to the seasons and cycles of the day first, and then the more specific principles regarding an individual's body type (dosha) can be better applied. For that reason, at our retreats, we use seasonal food, mindful movement, and awareness of daily rhythms to encourage everyone to live in a more connected way. 

Ayurveda looks at the world and sees that it is made up of 3 primary elements: wind (vata), fire (pitta), and water (kapha). These elements (known as doshas) are the building blocks for how the world and body are understood. Vata/Wind energy is responsible for the body, think nerve impulses and breath. Pitta/Fire energy is responsible for transformation...think digestion and hormone regulation. Kapha/Water energy is responsible for nourishment...think lubrication for your joints and the maintenance of a healthy gut lining. When you start assigning the qualities of wind, fire, and water to different situations, overtime, it starts to become intuitive how you can balance out disease in the body or shift mental states in the mind. 


Seasonal living invites us to embrace the changing of seasons and gain a deep appreciation for what each season has to offer. At our offerings we use food, movement and lifestyle to help us tap in. In Malibu, our chef, Claire Ragozzino, crafted an Ayurvedic inspired menu that highlighted locally grown, in season foods sourced from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Amanda Ramirez, Doctor of Physical Therapy and yoga instructor, guided everyone through movement and meditation practices that were intended to make the mind and body more resilient to seasonal shifts. During morning meditation, we were greeted by light breaking the horizon and at sunset, we were all gathered like family for ayurvedic-inspired dinners. Our days were filled with connection through lighthearted, truth-filled conversations. Between mind-bending workshops and mind-blowing meals, we did all the stereotypical beach things Malibu has to offer... mind-clearing walks on the beach, laughter filled swims in the ocean and deep sleep filled nights as we faded away to the sounds of the ocean.  


 At an IWR offering we envision like-minded people gathering to learn, connect, and engage in an environmentally sustainable, soul-filling way. When we create our offerings, we definitely consider our environmental impact. We ask ourselves questions like... How can we include more natural elements into the experience? Will we be able to re-purpose and re-use items we believe are needed? How can we reduce food waste? How can we create an event with a low carbon footprint? How can we promote sustainability?

 This year, we hoped to inspire our tribe to make small changes with their hygiene products knowing that this could lead to using products that not only support skin health, but are also more responsible choices for our environment. We did this by creating a skin microbiome friendly bathroom. The microbiome is the collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi living on and inside of our bodies. Researchers are only beginning to understand the complexities of the microbes on our skin and in our gut and the role they play in our health (especially in maintaining a robust immune system and influencing our mood). If you've been following IWR's soulful travel diary, you know we did a 4-part blog post series on how to upgrade your skin and gut microbiome. We used this series to educate our readers on how certain ingredients in our hygiene routine can be disrupting our health and be a hazard to our environment.

Overthinking everything that's wrong about a situation can overwhelm you to the point where no action is taken (a phenomenon called paralysis by analysis). For example, when you think of all the air pollution, water pollution,  and deforestation happening around the world, it's easy to believe your choices alone don't have any impact. This is the perfect time to adopt a "think globally, act locally" mentality. When you consider that tiny pieces of plastic found in soap, toothpaste and body washes have been bioaccumulating in rivers, lakes and streams where they are mistaken for food by fish, spreading pollutants throughout the food chain (including to humans), then you realize re-thinking your hygiene products can make a BIG impact. At our retreat, we not only wanted everyone to be aware of the problem, but we also wanted everyone to experience being part of a solution. It was our hope to empower everyone to know the role they play at a local level that can be the catalyst for change on a global level.

Creating and curating a skin microbiome friendly bathroom required a little help from friends. We called upon brands that are not only doing sustainable things for our environment, but also creating high-quality products that are skin microbiome friendly.

  • Ajai Alchemy: uses 100% pure, certified organic and wildcrafted ingredients. They use recycled, eco-sustainable packaging so that their alchemy arrives to you in the most conscious way with the least carbon footprint. Their packaging is so beautiful that we absolutely love that they have created a special incentive program to encourage the conscious community at large to recycle their used bottles. When your alchemy is finished, if you send them your empties, they will cleanse and sanitize the bottles before refilling with a fresh supply at a discounted price. YES!! Upon arrival, all of our guests were invited to dip their feet into the ocean while setting an intention for the weekend. When they were ready, Amanda helped them get present and clear with an individual ceremonial smudge that included: palo santo smoke, a pass with a smudging stick and a selenite wand, and for good measure, several spritzs of Grace Rose Mist. We used Ajai's Grace and Radiance serums nightly during our evening restorative yoga classes. Amanda and Jenn guided everyone into relaxing yoga poses outdoors under the moonlight, and while providing adjustments and massages, the use of Ajai Alchemy oils deepened the relaxation and enhanced the experience. The Solar Sun blend helped moisturize and harmonize our skin after days full of rays. Such a wonderful after-sun remedy to extend our California sun-kissed bronze. To keep the sensual scents going, throughout the day we also rolled Grace Alchemy - a synergistic blend of organic essential oils- on our temples and on our wrists. The vibe and intention behind this brand are so high and so palpable that when you use their products you can't help but feel relaxed and uplifted, soothed and enticed, opened and centered. Not enough good things can be said about this brand and it was such a joy and an honor to be able to share it in our bathrooms and with our guests.
  • California Scub Co.: This company upcycles fair-trade, organic coffee grounds to use as the base for their simple, yet exquisite, skin-softening scrub! Plain ol' coffee grounds make for a surprisingly effective exfoliant, but when combined with cold-pressed, organic almond and jojoba oils and infused with essential oils, the scrub is taken to the next level. So impressed that this company aims to be plastic-free from production to packaging! CaliScrubs are free of microbeads (those unnecessary plastics beads that wreak havoc on our oceans), and they use sustainable glass jars with metal lids so you can repurpose or recycle the jar after use. Totally in support of California Scrub Co.'s goal to raise awareness of the "Beat The Microbead" campaign by working with local non-profits to beautify the very oceans and beaches we have the pleasure of hosting our yearly gathering around. Moment of joy when a group of us scrubbed our body's down with their magic Spicy Chai scrub, smiled, and shrieked our way into the waves crashing at shore. When we got out, our skin felt healthy, hydrated, and smooth!
  • Salt AffairWe are living in exciting times, people are becoming more conscious about what they put in and on their bodies. AND not only are they questioning what ingredients are safe for the delicate balance of their skin's microbiome, but they are also concerned about what ingredients are safe for the planet. Salt Affair was proudly born in this era. In love with the fact that they source their salt from the very Pacific ocean we dip and dive into everyday in Malibu. This local, fine grain salt is unrefined for mineral properties and the addition of several organic moisturizers (coconut, jojoba, almond and sunflower oil) make it safe and gentle enough for repeated exfoliation throughout your week. When it was time to shower after our hot tub sessions, several of us indulged in the smell of fresh cut lavender + essential oils in the salt scrub and delighted in the scents of the rose petal sugar scrub. So happy to showcase this brand that beautifully prepares conscious products.


  • Omica Organics: It's not everyday that you encounter a company that is mindful of where and how their ingredients are produced, closely monitors production methods, and recognizes the impact of their business practices on the people they encounter, the lifestyles they influence, and the preservation of our planet. Because they sell in bulk, Omica Organics has the volume to partner directly with the source, avoiding the inconsistency and questionable practices of the common market. Instead, they are able to work closely with growers and processors in the US and around the world to offer the best products in ways that promote sustainability. We love their commitment to uphold eco-friendly office and shipping practices. The popcorn used in their shipping packaging is a biodegradable cornstarch product that breaks down completely within 2 months. Their paperless practices preserve trees, and in office, they recycle everything possible from shredded documents to toner/ink cartridges. To provide a refreshing touch to end our morning yoga practice, everyone was misted over the face and over the heart with  Omica's Organic, Biodynamic® Botanica Mist while laying in their much deserved final savasanas (final relaxation pose). This proprietary blend of uplifting, biodynamic® organic Lavender, Rose Geranium, and Rosemary hydrosols is next level. The perfect way to start the day is with revitalize skin and awakened senses. Grateful that Omica also stocked our showers with their Plant-Based shampoo, conditioner and body wash set. Our guests got to bring out their hair’s natural radiance and shine with Omica's 100% Plant-Based, Chemical and Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner and pamper themselves with a body wash made of soothing wild-crafted botanicals and organic, biodynamic essential oils. We're so happy we had the opportunity to connect our guests with Omica- a cutting-edge brand that's leading the way in natural health products for mindful, informed consumers.


Our last night together was filled with ceremony, song, crystals and cacao. We indulged in self-care rituals that promise to promote a sense of ease. And during times of transition, it is especially helpful to gather and connect in community. After Amanda engaged the group in a thought provoking lecture entitled "Our Feet, Our Foundation," our in house ayurvedic bodyworker, Kamala, began our evening by guiding everyone through the act of giving and receiving an ayurvedic foot massage. Attention to the feet in the form of a massage with ghee not only helps promotes flexibility and mobility locally, but according to Ayurveda, also brings a sense of relaxation to the nervous system and serenity to the mind. We found this portion of our time together to be so meaningful, we dedicated a whole separate blog post to the how, what, when and why of the Ayurvedic foot massage...we hope you check it out!

As the sun began to sink towards the horizon, we all gathered on our yoga mats for the next portion of our evening- Energy Muse Crystal facials. Energy Muse (EM) is another unique company we had the pleasure of collaborating with this year. Their mission is to provide empowering tools, inspirational insight and powerful rituals to assist in spiritual journeys. This year, when they wanted to support our mission by providing our guests with a set of crystals, we felt it was a good fit and couldn't wait to incorporate their beautiful gemstones into our experience in a meaningful way. 

To begin, Amanda invited everyone to warm their crystals in their hands to infuse the stones with their own energy. As everyone closed their eyes, they were guided to set their intentions for the evening. Once the space was cleared and intentions were set, our group carefully placed their stones in a designated arrangement on their face. Lepidolite was placed at the third eye, between the brows. According to our friends at EM, "connecting with this mica stone centers you during times of stress and chaos, making it wonderful to use during meditation." Also, "ancient stories say that many goddesses would gather tumbled rose quartz by the Nile River and use them in facial massages to promote a clear complexion and prevent wrinkles." This inspired two rose quartz crystals, the stone that opens the heart to all types of love, to be placed on our face, one above the lepidolite, the other below the bottom lip. Finally, two aquamarine stones, who's energy is known to resonate with the calming energy of the ocean, helping us connect with the spirit of the water element, were placed framing the nose. We felt that these crystal facial grids were a simple way to get everyone to tap into a sense of calm that was capable of creating clarity from within. 

To uplevel this experience, Paula Ferraro, from Scents of Awe, bathed us in sweet, sweet sounds. With the gentle weight of the crystals pressing against our skin, our faces relaxed and Paula's voice soothed the rest of our being. The drumming and strumming on her guitar seemed to melt our minds as we slipped into the simplicity and sweetness contained within the vibration of sound. Truly an honor to have Paula guide this chapter of our ceremony. Paula is an alchemical artist, weaving her passions for healing through creating wildcrafted products, conscious events, singing and songwriting.

Paula closed out our time together with a cacao ceremony. Yes, the cacao found in chocolate :). Cacao is known for having subtle heart expanding properties. According to Ayurvedic practitioner, John Douillard, " There are over 300 chemicals in chocolate that have charmed us and made us almost fanatical to its blissful uplift!" In terms of using it ceremonially, Paula explains, "Cacao has been used throughout the ages as a consciousness activator. We can access a higher realm of being by cultivating awareness, bathing our spirits in gratitude, and infusing our beings with ancestral plant medicines." Cacao is a plant often called an "activator," meaning that the invitation to let it expand you is there. Paula encourages people to "revisit and reestablish our connection to this often overused and undervalued substance for the potent medicine it is. The sacred, ceremonial use of this universal favorite allows for a greater balance and integration of what it has to offer. Ceremonial use of cacao optimizes our ability to expand into the inner knowing of refined intuition and divine guidance." For a great Q+A on cacao ceremonies checkout this interview and to really understand the seasonal use of cacao from an Ayurvedic perspective check out this podcast- the chocolate effect


To say our journey together at this retreat was an epic adventure seems like an understatement. We had women from all decades of life, all walks of life sharing and connecting in a way that I think some only dream of. Grateful to say that facilitating this experience is a part of our reality and thank you to all who have supported our vision here at at IWR. We are who we are for every moment we have lived and we are influenced and shaped by every person that has crossed our path. Through each and every experience, we learn, through each and every interaction, we grow. Our offering challenges the status quo for how many are currently approaching health and wellness and, at times, giving a voice to our dreams was difficult and bringing this experience to life seemed like a challenge. We were able to move forward knowing we stand on the shoulders of the thought-provoking influencers that have come before us who were willing to share their truths and, equally as important, we understand that our choice to learn, integrate, and share creates the foundation and inspiration for the generation that comes after us. It is our deepest hope that our offerings reflect that knowing. We invite you to explore how we've grown since our first retreat by checking out our retreat recaps from: Malibu 2014, Tulum 2015, and Malibu 2015. To see if we have any upcoming offerings, check in with our events page and subscribe to our newsletter.

In our closing circle Sunday morning there seemed to be a strong theme of ancestry. Daniel Foor, Ph.D., who has studied world religion with an emphasis on ancestry, shamanism and indigenous wisdom says, "No matter how complicated your family history, we can draw on our ancestor's wisdom and support for personal and family healing. We all have ancestors, both of blood and of spirit, and each of our lives rests firmly on the foundation of their sacrifice. They are as near to us as our breath and bones, and when related with in conscious ways, they can be a tremendous source of healing, guidance, and companionship." As we shed transformational tears, shared soulful stories, truth-filled triumphs, and brought to light our deepest doubts, a hummingbird flew over our circle reminding us the sweetest nectar is within. In a season of transition, transformation, and letting go, our time together couldn't have ended in a more joyful or hopeful way. With that, we leave you with the words of  Dr. Alberto Villoldo that helped us both open and close our sacred space and time together. . . 


To the winds of the South
Great Serpent
Wrap your coils of light around us
Teach us to shed the past the way you shed your skin
To walk softly on the Earth
Teach us the Beauty Way


To the winds of the West
Mother Jaguar
Protect our medicine space
Teach us the way of peace, to live impeccably
Show us the way beyond death


To the winds of the North
Hummingbird, Grandmothers and Grandfathers
Ancient Ones
Come and warm your hands by our fires
Whisper to us in the wind
We honor you who have come before us
And you who will come after us, our children’s children


To the winds of the East
Great eagle, condor
Come to us from the place of the rising Sun
Keep us under your wing
Show us the mountains we only dare to dream of
Teach us to fly wing to wing with the Great Spirit

Mother Earth
We’ve gathered for the healing of all of your children
The Stone People, the Plant People
The four-legged, the two-legged, the creepy crawlers
The finned, the furred, and the winged ones
All our relations

Father Sun
Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, to the Star Nations
Great Spirit, you who are known by a thousand names
And you who are the unnamable One
Thank you for bringing us together
And allowing us to sing the Song of Life

Photography by Alexa Gray

#IntegrativeWellnessRetreat #FoodMovementLifestyle #SoulfulTravelDiary