For more than half a century, Cuba was obscured in the guise of soviet mystery. As diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba improved in 2016, the travel ban lifted and Cuba started welcoming American travelers. Upon hearing the news, I knew the timing was perfect for a Cuban Yoga Retreat!
Fueled by curiosity and a desire to experience the vibrant Cuban culture, we traveled to Havana to host an Exploratory Retreat. For five days, we embraced the Cuban lifestyle with an open heart and open mind. From the streets of Havana to the orchid filled mountains of Soroa, our journey in Cuba was an extraordinary adventure that left me energized and excited to share the beauty of the country.
Each day opened and closed with a 75-minute Yoga class on the roof of our luxurious villa outside Old Havana followed by chiropractic alignment from Vivian of Alliance Healing Arts. We found balance while enjoying a panoramic view of the Havana suburbs and breathing fresh air that smelled like rain. When the sun came out, we felt its warm energy but it was never too hot. The evening classes were mesmerizing, the deep blue sky completely transformed as the clouds turned into stars. It wasn’t until halfway through the trip that we realized our villa was near a school! The sound of children chattering and teachers teaching on Monday morning was an enchanting and uplifting melody for the soul that gave us a unique understanding of Cuban life. It was breezy on the rooftop and occasionally the wind would test our focus by lifting our mats beneath us, but luckily our travel Lululemon mats never budged.
The food in Cuba was absolutely delicious! The meals were simple, fresh and pure. With Cuba being isolated for so long, the country became an unlikely leader in organic farming. I was blown away by the careful use of spices that highlighted the true flavor of the food. Our meals came with a healthy serving of rice and we ate fish almost every day. The abundance of fresh fruit was a colorful sight and I doubt I’ll find papaya as flavorful as it was in Cuba.
While exploring Havana, we found a cute coffee shop that served Café Bombon, espresso served with condensed milk. We drank something similar in Latvia during the days of the Soviet Union. I try not to drink it frequently on account of the sugar, but I couldn’t resist a sweet cup of nostalgia.
The people of Havana were so welcoming it almost felt like home. We didn’t speak the same language, but we shared a connection. The locals were nice, humble, helpful and ensured we experienced the best of Cuba. In a country developing their tourism infrastructure, we felt safe. Cubans take pride in their country and want visitors to embrace the beauty of their home.
About an hour outside Havana is the city of Soroa. Known as the “Rainbow of Cuba,” Soroa is an orchid mountainscape with a 70’ waterfall that flows into a natural pool. While others had a revitalizing dip in the mountain water, I hiked all the way to the top of the majestic forest. With more than 700 species of orchids, lush foliage and countless wildlife, the view was absolutely breathtaking.
The nightlife in Havana is unparalleled. There’s a rhythm that pulses through the streets and it comes alive at night. Our evenings on the town were underlined by strong beats that compel you to dance and move your hips. Despite the enticing appeal of dancing the night away, my favorite thing was relaxing under the stars in our beautiful Cuban villa.
There are moments from this trip that I will cherish forever: being among the first to see Cuba develop as a nation, laying on the rooftop watching the clouds fall into stars, and of course watching my bestie get a haircut in the front yard of a local barber who sang while trimming his locks. This trip to Cuba was magical and reminded me to keep an open heart and be ready for new experiences. It’s beautiful when Yoga can be the uniting force to challenge people to explore beyond their comfort zone and find balance in new surroundings.
After an unforgettable journey exploring Cuban culture through Yoga, we are planning another trip later this fall. Mark your calendars for Escape To Havana: Chapter Two September 28 – October 4. Save $100 off early bird pricing if you book by May 31, 2017.
Thank you to everyone who helped make our first Cuba retreat an amazing experience. I cannot wait to come back! In the meantime, we’ll be reliving the trip through our instagram pics!