Breathe In, Breathe Out
What happens when you pair a yogi from the U.S. with our Sunshinestories retreat? 3 months of pure yoga bliss! If you’ve been at our retreat, you’d know we love to incorporate a yoga lifestyle into your week to connect you to your body, mind, and environment. Not to mention it also helps immensely with getting your body into the rhythm of surf – a topic will be delving into in the future!
We like to think of ourselves as being a blend between a surf retreat and a yoga retreat here in Sri Lanka. After all, this island boasts peeling waves and the perfect place to put your mind towards personal growth. We’re giving you the inside scoop on what your daily dose of yoga looks like at Sunshinestories with Sydney, a visiting yogi. This gal is amazing at reaching meditation bliss, while helping others conquer that headstand they’ve always wanted to do. Without further introduction, meet Sydney:
How would you best describe yourself?
I’m a pretty light-hearted person – I don’t think anyone should take things too seriously! I have a pretty good sense of humor, and am a bit quirky at times.
Do you have any hobbies?
Aside from yoga, I’ve really started to love surfing being here at Sunshinestories. I was once afraid of the water, and now I’ve developed a deep appreciation for it and the sport of surfing. I love to write in my spare time to get in touch with my creative side. Oh, I also love to read which sounds nerdy, but I love it!
What types of books do you fancy reading?
I love creepy, dark books that make me scared. Anything by Stephen King is good by me. I must love the adrenaline and rush you feel from being spooked. I even worked at a haunted house at one point while I was living in California.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
I’ve been practicing yoga for about 5 years. A friend of mine offered me a free course and I decided to give it a try. I started to like it more and more and progressed into it. Instagram actually helped push me as well. I started to see other yogis on the platform and thought, what if these are my people? I started to mimick the poses I saw and find ways to learn more about yoga, which led me to finding Kino MacGregor who helped me develop an Ashtanga practice. Eventually I quit my job to fully embrace yoga as a practice and career by going to a teacher training program in Miami.
I left everything behind to dedicate myself to yoga.
What do you think it is about yoga that drew you in?
Yoga gave me a foundation that I never knew existed. Initially I just wanted to be strong and flexible. In the end, I found I gained so much more. Thinking back, I went to a gym for a year and could never do a pullup. I did Ashtanga yoga for a year and could instantly do so many pullups without even realizing my newfound strength.
I’ve never been extremely athletic, that’s why finding strength in yoga was so empowering. What I think is so great with yoga is that if you practice and put in the physical work, it just comes naturally. You can go into it for physical practice, but you’re going to get something else out of it. You just will.
What brought you to Sri Lanka?
It was actually Sunshinestories itself that made me decide to come to Sri Lanka. Before that, I hadn’t known much about Sri Lanka. I was actually visiting Cuba at the time when a friend of a friend sent me details about Sunshinestories. After taking a look, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to experience a new culture and teach yoga. They asked if I could get there in two weeks and I said just gave them a heartfelt yes!
What were your first impressions of Sri Lanka?
Hot. Green. Breathtaking. I was so overwhelmed because I had never been to Asia. It even smells different to me. The food is amazing and for Asia, it’s fairly clean.
What did your life look like before coming to Sunshinestories?
I was working in Seattle in dental insurance at one point and then found my way to California to further my yoga teacher practice, but living there I wasn’t really finding my footing. I decided to embark on a road trip throughout the states while I traveled back to my home state of Virginia. I went to Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Tenessee, and New Orleans. It was in Texas that I booked a trip to Cuba, which is when I found out about Sunshinestories!
Have you always been this adventurous? If so, why do you think that is?
Actually, no. Looking back on my childhood I remembered this moment when I was about 12 years old and went to a trip to Florida for choir. I cried the entire time because I missed my mom. I would always get homesick. It’s kind of crazy that I’ve really started to develop this sense of independence. I think I just matured and yoga really gave me the courage to do a lot of things.
You can go into it for physical practice, but you’re going to get something else out of it. You just will.
What does your daily schedule look like at Sunshinestories Retreat?
I start the day with a Vinyasa flow at 6 AM. Then most afternoons, we do yin yoga to end the day. On Thursdays I do an inversions workshop where my friends and I can learn to do headstands and apply what we’ve learned into our poses. On Saturdays, I do an 8 limbed yoga theory which explains the path to a yogi life. This can include lessons on morality and self-study, which is more of an inward reflection about yoga.
I also love to make clothes at the tailors in Sri Lanka and work on my website. I’ll be hosting a yoga retreat in La Fortuna, Costa Rica which I’m prepping for.
Sunshinestories seems to attract the nomadic traveler, what made you choose this life path?
I feel like, what do I have to lose? We all make sacrifices and you have to choose. If you need financial security and that’s what’s going to make you happy, then that’s what you need. I asked myself, do I want to be financially secure, or do I want to grow as a human being? I felt like staying at my job in dental insurance would teach me a lot about that industry and life, but not nearly as much as the culture of Sri Lankan people would. I also think there is something to be said about well-traveled people. There’s a different understanding about life.
Would you say you have a passion?
I feel that I’m so fortunate to have found yoga as my passion at such a young age. It’s been so life-changing that I don’t want to get to a point in my life where I’ll stop needing the practice.
What’s your favorite part of the week at Sunshinestories?
Friday, because it’s fish and chips night, which means french fries. I am a fiend for french fries, and I just can’t get enough of them here. I’m also vegan, so they make a delicious “cauliflower fish”, which has lemongrass and just – ohh it’s so amazing.
What has been your favorite memory at Sunshinestories?
I had a magical day surfing and enjoying the coconut swing in Wijaya beach. It was just one of those days that you really savor.
Describe Sunshinestories in one word.
If you have 10 minutes to go on a surf trip what would you bring?
If I’m being honest with myself, my phone. Charger to go with said phone. Yoga mat. French fries.
What is your favorite item from the Sunshinestories shop?
The kimonos from Ceylon Kimono Co.
Favorite post-surf snack?
The cookie from Ceylon Sliders cafe. Okay, sometimes two cookies.
Words to live by?
The good news is nothing lasts, the bad news is nothing lasts
Williamsburg, Virginia. USA.
Written by @mollyhenze and photos by @jkinphotos