From Struggle to Living the Dream
My passion in life has always been to make a difference in the world, specifically with women. I’d dreamed for years of creating a life of empowerment for myself and all women. When my dream became a reality in 2004, I was thrilled. But I had no idea what I was getting into!
When I opened the doors, there were very few retreat centers in the state of Texas. As the yoga industry boomed, so did the retreat business. While I have seen many retreat businesses come and go, I’m proud to say Retreat in the Pines (formerly Yoga in the Pines) is still growing strong. And while Yoga and Meditation are certainly an important part of our retreats, the sharing of stories, laughter and tears while gathered around our community table is the real essence of our retreats.
I was inspired to begin hosting yoga retreats when I was invited to teach at a fitness retreat in 2004. While I was disappointed at the “un-retreat” like weekend – non-existent free time, very little sleep, and highly restrictive meals – I was also inspired. I wanted to create a more “retreat like” experience, inviting women to indulge in some of my (and hopefully their!) favorite things – wine, coffee, chocolate and delicious meals cooked from scratch – all as a complement to yoga. More importantly, I imagined a getaway that would be accessible to women of all sizes, ages, levels of yoga experience and budgets. Focused on that idea, my first retreat was priced ridiculously low at $199! In order to continue to reach more women and cover the costs of doing business, I’ve gradually had to raise the retreat prices. Prices now range from $399 to $499 for two night retreats and $649 (Love Yourself Retreat – a four day life changing retreat). The Retreat Assistance Program allows ALL women to attend a retreat.
After a disastrous attempt at co-ed retreats, I chose to keep our Retreats “Women Only” because I want women to feel comfortable and relaxed and not worry about makeup or wearing pajamas to breakfast. I want women to share their challenges, their successes and their sorrows. Having men drastically changes the dynamic, and many guests over the years have shared they like the women only aspect. Many women tell me that the retreat feels like a slumber party – and they love that. I believe keeping the retreats women only is where the good stuff happens, we are relaxed enough to get out of our comfort zones and find a change of perspective. The perspective change is usually life changing.
I am grateful to be a part of my retreat guests journey to empowerment. I am fortunate to welcome guests who return once a year or even once every other month. When I see a guest make a breakthrough: decide to leave an unhealthy relationship, find a job with a less toxic environment or introduce healthy habits into your life, I know that the retreat experience provides so much more than a weekend of relaxation.
In my first year of business, there were only a few retreats on the calendar and my first retreat had only two guests! Now, most of our retreats sell out weeks or months before. The retreat center attracts women from Texas, as well as around the country, most fly into DFW or Love Field. Jill recently drove all the way from Minnesota! We’ve had women from NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, Denver and all places in between. The more adventurous guests take Amtrak (and enjoy wine on the way!) to downtown Mineola and a staff member happily picks them up in town.
Cheryl , who traveled from Ohio for a Detox and Yoga Retreat e-mailed me shortly after her visit, she also shared it was less expensive for her to fly to Dallas and rent a car to drive to the retreat center, than go to a retreat near her home in Ohio. “I think of the retreat daily. This could be a very long email if I wrote you everything that has changed for me since the retreat! It amazes me, and all I can reason is I was ready and open to implementing some real changes.” Stories like Cheryl’s reaffirms I’m on the right path. Especially helpful when things are challenging.
The years after my divorce were particularly tough. During those lean years, I realized I was making less than pennies per hour. That’s when my stubborn nature kicked in. I wasn’t going to give up. I was working three jobs to make ends meet.
Substitute teaching at my children’s high school. Teaching up to 15 fitness classes a week. And doing EVERYTHING at the retreat. I cooked and taught yoga and hosted guests. Then I did the cleaning when they left. Making up all of the bed (15 total) was probably the hardest part. I was overwhelmed by the size of the property (30 acres) and all that needed to be done. I didn’t have the money in my budget to pay for help, so I would bring whatever guy I was dating at the time out for a weekend of work and other things. Not ideal, but it worked!
Nina, my oldest daughter told me I was smarter than that – true – but I wanted everything to be perfect. Gradually I released my grip on control and hired someone to clean. Then I hired someone to cook – originally Kaycee, now Heather, Christina, Kathy and Kelly handle the cooking duties. Kristen does my books, Tonya and Nina help with social media, Kaycee manages my property and does a lot behind the scenes. And I have an actual maintenance man who handles repairs. Good thing, because my current beau isn’t too handy!
The day I realized I COULDN’T do it all is when things changed. And since I tend to think of myself as a superwoman, it was eye-opening when I realized even I had limitations. So I hired women who complemented what I do well – which is teach yoga, lead workshops and (my favorite!) visit with guests. I also run the back end of the business, corresponding with each one of you. And I have plans for growing Retreat in the Pines into the future.
If you want to learn more about the beginnings of Retreat in the Pines, read our first blog post. Looking to the future, we have over 40 retreats planned for 2018 as well as a retreat to Sonoma. I’m grateful for the freedom to pursue my dream and for my persistence (some may say stubbornness) in not giving up.