Are Yoga Retreat People My People?

By Dagmar Spremberg on 09 February 2024


A guest post written by Emily Bradbury

I’d booked the retreat. One week in Costa Rica with Dagmar Spremberg, a yoga instructor I’d first met twelve years prior and followed online ever since. Anamaya, where the retreat would be held looked amazing—a jungle paradise in the still relatively undeveloped town of Montezuma. The fresh, organic food, nearby surf, warm ocean, and Spark Your Life workshops, appealed directly to my soul. 

But, what about the people? I’d be spending a week with a group of strangers. Would yoga retreat people feel like my people? Who goes on yoga retreats anyway?

In a word, humans.

Human beings navigating life the best they can, just like every other human on the planet. Just like me.

Among the 24 souls on the retreat was Claudia, a PhD candidate with a gorgeous smile who is returning to Columbia next summer to connect indigenous language speakers with high school students. Angie, a self-described “type-A” civil rights lawyer taking a break between high-powered jobs in Washington, DC. Kerstin, a microbiologist turned homeopath and mother of five, traveling with her husband, Salah.

Honestly, if we had all been sitting at the same gate at the airport, I don’t think any of us would have looked over at the others and thought, “Ah, there they are. There are my people.”

But that’s the beauty of being at a yoga retreat. People are so open and willing to be vulnerable that you crack right through those outer facades and get a glimpse of the humans inside. 


On the second day of the retreat, in a workshop led by Dagmar called The Art of Relationship, Charlene said that she needed new ways to communicate with her adult children who had recently left home. Then her voice wavered. “Actually,” she said, “that’s why I thought I was here, but it’s not. I’m here because during Covid my son was so depressed he became suicidal. I just didn’t see it. He had a noose hanging from his treehouse. He’s okay now, but I have so much fear about letting him go.”

Oh. A mother’s fear that the world is an unsafe place for the most precious piece of her heart that just happens to be walking around in a teenage boy body. Yeah, Charlene is my people.

She credits daily yoga, healthy food, and just sweating everyday with helping to heal and strengthen her body and, in turn, her mind. Or maybe it was jumping into the pool fully clothed under the moonrise that set her free. “I’m just not as fearful anymore,” she said. “I do think my kids will be just fine, they will make the right decisions in life.”


And then there’s Debbie, an upbeat woman in her sixties who loves yoga and just wanted to travel to Costa Rica. “I thought it would be nice to come and maybe reflect a little bit, learn how to communicate better with my husband,” she said. “In a marriage you can always have a better relationship.” 

Okay, so Debbie is my people too. Even a long-term, successful marriage is not without its challenges. I don’t know Debbie’s husband, but I bet he’s going to be just as excited as mine to try the Dyadic communication practice we learned, where you set a timer and take turns listening, without reaction, to the other person for 10 minutes. 

“Everybody has a story and everybody has a path,” said Debbie. “I don’t care how good your life might be or how shitty your life might be. Everybody has something they are dealing with.”


Taras, one of the few men on the retreat, was at Anamaya for the third time. Approaching 40, he realized that the successful family medicine practice he had built over a decade no longer felt fulfilling. “I was exhausted,” he said. “But it defined who I was—professionally, financially, and everything in between. I knew that to grow and progress in life, I had to get uncomfortable. Giving up my professional identity was probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done. But it created a space for something else that stimulated me and that I believe in.” Taras is now exploring the use of psylocibins to treat his patients.

So, a milestone birthday prompting self-reflection and the desire for a meaningful career? Yup, Taras is my people too. I turn 50 on my next birthday and filled many pages of my journal this week exploring ideas for work aligned with purpose. We all have a professional “superpower” that we can bring into the world, but it takes courage and conviction. 

For Taras, the path to that courage this week was meditation, reflection, and the group experience. “You see all these people that look one way on the surface,” he said, “but then at different times during the retreat you hear them speak and you’re just blown away by their story. It’s humbling.” Indeed it was.

Points of light.

There was one woman, Soula, in opening circle who said she was there because she wants to be a point of light for her family and friends. I think we all were there to some degree for that reason. Humans looking to shed the weight of responsibility, guilt, fear, and traumas large and small so that we can return to life lighter, brighter, stronger, and happier. For ourselves and for everyone around us. Humans who want to connect over books they’ve read and experiences they’ve had. Who want to watch the sun rise, meet the day with movement, and swim in the ocean. Who want to be real and kind with each other.

That’s the kind of person who goes on a yoga retreat. Hell, yes those are my people.

>> Inspired to go on a retreat? Please visit my retreat pages for upcoming retreats in Costa Rica or Mallorca. Leave your email in the newsletter box or click here to receive your FREE 3 part Jungle Yoga Video series and be the first to find out about upcoming events and yoga retreats.

By Dagmar Spremberg on February 9, 2024 / , , , /

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