Serenity Now: Galiano Island Yoga Retreat

Yoga, hiking, great food and new friends made for a rejuvenating weekend yoga retreat on Galiano Island

Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Catherine Roscoe Barr

The author savours her yoga retreat experience at the top of Mount Galiano

A weekend yoga retreat is a great way to rejuvenate your body, mind and soul

A three-day retreat is the doable way to escape the daily grind and reset your joie de vivre. And that’s precisely what I did when I signed up for a three-day, two-night yoga retreat with Semperviva Yoga, a Vancouver studio with five locations in and around Kitsilano. Semperviva offers four retreats per year – two on Galiano Island (the one I went on) and two on the Greek island of Kythira (the one I will go on…oh yes, one day).

I’m generally wound pretty tight and the itinerary was everything I needed to unwind – from the yoga classes and nature hikes to the guided meditations and gourmet vegetarian fare – plus, the incredible teachers imparted wonderful gems of wisdom that still come in handy (when I remember them) for approaching life with a sense of calm, wonder and respect for all life including one’s own.

Bodega Ridge Resort on Galiano

The Galiano retreats are held at Bodega Ridge Resort, an incredible 22-acre property at the base of Bodega Ridge with breathtaking views of the surrounding Gulf Islands. There are seven cozy, three-bedroom cabins and a main lodge where we had our yoga classes and ate our meals – divine vegetarian cuisine (much of it locally sourced) prepared by Bodega’s own certified master chef.

We were even packed paper bag lunches to take on our hikes, filled to the brim with delectable treats.

Lively conversation over a gourmet vegetarian meal. Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Throughout the day we were provided plenty of free time to spend alone, visit with new friends or explore the grounds. I’ll never forget sitting outside my cabin by the pond at night, looking at the stars and listening to a symphony of frogs. I am so glad I made a sound recording with my phone so that the frog symphony can give me a boost whenever I need one.

The frog pond and cozy cabins at Bodega Ridge. Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Hiking on Galiano Island

The weekend marked my return to Galiano Island after a 15-year hiatus. For a few years in my teens my family rented a cottage on the island and during the retreat I was able to retrace my steps on hikes up to Mount Galiano and through Dionisio Point Provincial Park.

So it was fitting that Scott Latham, our tour guide (and co-founder of Semperviva), had the same enthusiasm for the natural world, just as my dad had excitedly pointed out the flora and fauna of Galiano to my brother and I all those years ago. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being excited about this island paradise – the views literally take your breath away and at one point our group of yogis had the rare treat of seeing two otters eating their lunch on a rock.

Hiking in beautiful Dionisio Point Provincial ParkImage: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Meditation and Yoga

There were so many mind-body highlights over the course of the weekend, from the morning meditations led by the wonderful Peter Renner, a Zen Buddhist monk, to four different yoga classes – Kundalini, Yin, and two very different forms of Hatha – led by four brilliant instructors.

The first yoga class, on Friday night, was Kundalini with Semperviva’s director and co-founder Gloria Latham. “In just over an hour, using powerful breathing techniques and uncomplicated body movements, you can completely release the stress of day to day life,” Latham said.

I literally cried for joy as we shook our tensions and troubles away, moving through Kundalini’s dynamic, fast-paced postures – and even free-styling to It’s a Beautiful Life by Ace of Base.

Another memorable moment was an advanced move learned in Cameron Gilley’s Yin class on Saturday night. Especially for us type As, the meditative properties of yoga can fall by the wayside as we strive to stretch further and better than ever before. As I determinedly made my way through the postures, my steely gaze narrowed when Cam’s voice gave the instructions, “next we’re going to do an advanced move.“

I was ready, bring it on. But I could barely contain my composure when he provided the details of this move: “raise the corners of your mouth.” It was simple (and hilarious) advice that I’ll never forget – when the going gets tough, don’t forget to smile. 

Cameron’s yoga class in Bodega’s main lodge. Image: Mary Lee Massey