Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Take a Vacation Inward at Heartwood Retreat Center

Jun 01, 2014 03:05AM ● By Suzi Harkola

Summer vacation is the chance to refill our personal resilience tanks so that we are more prepared to handle the stress of busy lives when we return to them. We travel to new destinations so we can relax, explore and get a change of pace from our life routines. Yet, sometimes vacations leave us more drained and stressed than ever, and upon returning, we fall right back into the very routine that we so desperately needed a break from. Perhaps we need instead a vacation that will truly renew the spirit and stay with us long after the bags are unpacked.
A vacation inward may be a more fulfilling option. Enrolling in a life-altering program not only inspires the spirit, but also instigates internal change that can make future summers more about counting one’s blessings than escaping.
Heartwood Retreat Center, the new, seven-acre yoga facility operated by ReFlex Arts, offers two yoga teacher training programs in the summer. Diving into yoga studies creates subtle shifts in how we think and feel and can set us on the path toward a life that is enriching, joyful and more in line with our deepest purpose. In addition to yoga teacher training, Heartwood offers health and wellness retreats, yoga lifestyle training, creative writing programs, horse and yoga programs and full-scale yoga weddings.
A 200-hour level registered yoga teacher training is not just for students in search of a new career. This introductory level of training is designed to teach people how to be yogis, because future teachers must first understand the essence of yoga, heal themselves and experience yoga’s benefits personally. For those that fall in love with yoga, full accreditation as a registered yoga teacher at the 200-hour level (RYT-200) is achieved along with the skillset required to pass the art on to others.
Heartwood’s four-week intensive provides comprehensive training in a single month with sessions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The weekend program involves eight, three-day weekends beginning Friday afternoons and continuing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Both programs are accredited by the nation’s leading yoga organization, Yoga Alliance, and taught by experienced instructors with registered yoga teacher accreditation at the 500-hour level (ERYT-500). The teachers are also Reiki masters, certified ayurveda counselors and have a wealth of other holistic and spiritual training to provide a deeply authentic, broadly based yoga experience.
Heartwood Retreat Center’s remarkable 2,600-square-foot yoga facility makes the training truly feel like a summer getaway and soul-enriching retreat. Nestled in lush, tropical foliage, Heartwood seems worlds away from the closest highway, even though it’s located only five minutes off Interstate 75 at the State Road 64 exit, in Sarasota. The campus offers a holistic library, a tearoom and several outdoor conversation and practice areas. The grounds also feature a beautiful quarter-acre chakra meditation garden, a reflective glass garden, a Thoreau-inspired meditative trail and other spaces designed to help students reconnect to nature, art and their inner spirit.
Many of Heartwood’s students cannot put their families and jobs on hold for a month, but this yoga teacher training provides them the feeling of an immersive learning experience in an exotic setting with the opportunity to still sleep at home and attend to daily life. Yoga trainees share community meals, meditate among flowers and butterflies and connect as a tribe.
Before anyone enrolls in the training, Center Director Ginny East suggests visiting Heartwood’s website to read about the program and consider the myriad choices offered for personal growth. She then likes to meet with potential students to explain the difference between yoga programs available today and what the Heartwood training program involves. Together, she and the student explore whether training is indeed the path toward wholeness for that individual.
“It seems like most people come to yoga when they really need it,” remarks East. “They don’t always know why they are here, but they are at a crossroads or ready for change, and yoga is the doorway they need to step through to grasp a different state of being. That was the way it was for me, so I understand. Yoga can heal the world, but the work involved is highly personal. What is most important to us is that each person finds the best path for them, be that with us or elsewhere. This kind of ‘vacation’ is never quite over. Once the door to personal discovery, insight and understanding is opened, they are unlikely to close it ever again.”
For more information, visit
Natural Awakenings of Sarasota April 2020 Digital Edition