Events: Yoga and Wine Tasting Retreat in the NY Catskills
With Dina and Liz of Yoga Wine Party
“Yoga. Wine. Feelin’ Fine.” – Yoga Wine Party
Happy Fall Everyone! I love this season for plenty of “basic” reasons, but what I really enjoy most about the fall is being able to cozy up with beautiful views of colorful mountains and trees; wearing big sweaters; sipping on a warm cup of hot apple cider; reading a good book with a wool blanket around me and, most of all, doing yoga and meditating around the foliage.
To start off the beginning of fall, I attended a well-needed yoga and wine tasting retreat in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York. During this wonderful retreat, I was able to enjoy and learn more yoga techniques from Dina Ivas of Yoga with Dina as well as taste amazing wine, while receiving an informative education about the award-winning Boisset Collection with Liz Howng of Wine with Liz. Both Dina and Liz are great friends who combined their passions and Yoga Wine Party was born! Make sure to visit both Dina and Liz’s website to learn more about them and their amazing services.
Dina and Liz host their Yoga Wine Party in New York City. Dina will use her expert yoga teaching skills to conduct a flowing yoga session and then Liz will conduct a tasting so that the wine-loving yogis can chill out and gain knowledge of six great wines from the Boisset Collection. If you live in New York City, definitely check out a Yoga Wine Party or even book one for your own private gatherings!
Last weekend, Dina and Liz took their Yoga Wine Party outside of New York City to the beautiful Heathen Hill Yoga property in Franklin, NY. Prior to attending the event, Dina informed us that there would be no cell phone service or Wi-Fi, giving us a rare opportunity to unplug for the weekend. At first I was a little iffy about that since I like to be able to stay connected with my loved ones while I am away. It ended up being nice to disconnect and not check my social media accounts for the weekend!
Heathen Hill Yoga is nestled in the Western Catskill Mountains, two hours away from my home in North Jersey and 15 minutes outside the baseball-famous city of Oneonta, NY. It has been a while since I had been to the Catskills (as I bring back flashbacks of my 6th grade field trip to Frost Valley), so I was excited to go back! The property hosts a Guest House and Retreat Center for people to rest and recharge. There is a yoga house, pond for swimming, hot tub, hula-hoops, horseshoes, hiking and more!
The owner of Heathen Hill Yoga is Susan “Lip” Orem. She is a fun and spunky woman who was once a dancer in Las Vegas, Off-Broadway actress, Ringling Brothers clown and sign language interpreter who found her love for yoga and became a yoga teacher. During the week, Lip teaches yoga in New York City and then recharges and continues to pursue her passion for farming, hosting retreats and cooking on the weekends in the Catskills.
There are three houses on the Heathen Hill property. The Main House is where Lip stays; the Big House is usually where retreat attendees stay and the Guest House (aka the Yoga House) sleeps up to eight! The first night I arrived, I sat down for dinner in Lip’s kitchen where I got to meet everyone and enjoy one of Lip’s famous farm-to-table meals. Since I had arrived later than everyone that night, I had unfortunately missed out on the explanation of the meal, but I remember there was cabbage and beans involved. It was delicious! I also enjoyed my dinner with a refreshing rosé and warm cookies, straight from Lip’s oven.
After dinner, we walked back up to the Big House where I settled into my room (I was given the Honeymoon Suite!), enjoyed another glass of wine from the Boisset Collection and interacted with the other people on the retreat. This was my first yoga retreat, so I didn’t know what to expect and I attended it by myself, since a friend who was supposed to come with me had something to do last minute. I ended up liking the fact that I came alone because it got me out of my comfort zone and socialize with people I’ve never met before. I always enjoy connecting with people who share a similar interest as me, so it was nice to get to know everyone regardless of our age differences and talk about life until midnight. It felt like I was at an adult sleepover!
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to take the optional tai chi class being offered by one of the retreat attendees. The class was offered outside, which was awesome because the property is beautiful and fall foliage was starting to take place! Tai chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that is practiced for both defense training and health benefits. This awesome practice refers to a philosophy of the forces of yin and yang, related to moves. This was my first time doing tai chi and I thought it was really cool and a beautiful practice.
When we finished our tai chi practice, we had a half hour to spare, so we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of homemade zucchini and honey oat bread that Lip made for us with fresh fruit that was grown on the farm as well as a delicious cup of coffee. Everything that Lip makes is homemade and straight from the property. Isn’t that so cool?
After breakfast, we were ready for our first yoga class of the retreat, which took place at the Yoga House. Before we entered into any of the houses, we were told to take off our shoes. When we finally entered in through the kitchen, I was adorned by how warm and welcoming the house was. Off to the side of the house is a big room where yoga usually takes place. The great thing about Heathen Hill Yoga is that they provide all of the yoga props for you, so you don’t have to worry about lugging them all the way Upstate. They offered yoga mats, blocks, cushions, wool blankets and more! The lighting in the yoga room was amazing as well, as it offered the perfect amount of sun light and many views of the beautiful colors outside.
Dina led a beautiful Vinyasa class that was perfect for all levels! If you don’t know what Vinyasa yoga is, it is coordinating movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next. What I love about Vinyasa yoga is that you can get creative with it. Since I used to dance competitively for 13 years, yoga brings me back to those days where I would express my creativity and feelings through movement.
One of the best things about Dina’s classes is that she goes around and assists everyone whether it be getting into a pose or helping out with a sequence or working with someone to get deeper into a pose for more of a challenge. After Dina’s class I felt rejuvenated, awakened and ready to enjoy the rest of the day at Heathen Hill Yoga.
We relaxed and wandered around the beautiful property before our amazing farm-to-table picnic lunch. The lunch we had that day had to be one of the healthiest AND tastiest meals I ever had in my life. (I need Lip to come to my house and cook for me!) We had delicious cauliflower curry flatbread that I could eat for days in a row; butternut squash stew with brown rice, which was amazing too; delicious corn-on-the-cob; fresh red and yellow tomatoes with olive oil and more! My mouth is still watering as I sit here and write this.
After our amazing lunch, we had a few hours to relax and do whatever we wanted. Since fall foliage was beginning to settle in the Catskills, I wanted to hike around the area. A very sweet woman who was from my area at home offered to walk with me and we enjoyed a great conversation about two of my favorite activities – yoga (obviously) as well as skiing! It got me excited for winter ski weekends to come.
Fall foliage in New Jersey usually isn’t in full force until mid-October, so it was pretty cool to walk around in leaves and see beautiful red apples grow on the trees. When we got back, I decided to grab a book and walk around the property to the small swimming hole area. Heathen Hill has a chicken coup, two ponds, fresh gardens, streams, flowers and the list can go on. As you walk to the swimming hole area, it feels like you are entering into the “Secret Garden” of Upstate New York. I loved walking through the flowers and meadows and finding hidden gems such as secluded wooden benches by the stream.
When I finally reached the swimming hole, I saw Dina floating away and savoring the nature. Even though it was a hot day and the water was super clear and clean, it was too cold to jump in and go swimming, so I put my feet in the water instead and caught up with Dina. A few other ladies joined in on the fun. It was a perfect day!
After hanging around the swimming hole area for a while, I walked to the other side of the property where there was another pond that had a lot of lily pads. Unfortunately, this pond wasn’t a swimming area, but it was the perfect place to find stillness. I found a mini dock to sit on as I read my book and I even decided to meditate for 20 minutes. I started practicing meditation a couple of months ago and it has done so much for me, both mentally and physically. If you don’t do it already, I definitely recommend starting it.
I have to admit, it was very difficult to get me to start meditation. A friend of mine recommended the app Calm to me and it offers the perfect, guided meditation to reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier. I definitely recommend it to everyone reading this. In addition, meditation brings us into the present moment; raises our frequency; opens us up to receive unlimited information and ideas; relaxes us; relieves stress; strengthens our intuition and ability to focus; allows us to hear our inner voice more clearly; fill us with light and love; puts us in a good mood and helps us love ourselves.
I felt amazing afterwards and couldn’t wait to enjoy the rest of the evening, into the night. Lip offered a great homemade botanical workshop for those who were looking to make their own lotions and creams. Unfortunately, I didn’t participate, but those who did, went home with their own homemade goodies! Next time I come to Heathen Hill Yoga with Dina and Liz, I am totally going to do it.
At 5pm that evening, it was time to head back to the Yoga House for our Restorative/Yin Yoga class with Dina. I was so excited for this because my body needed it. Yin yoga involves multiple variations of seated and supine poses that are typically held for 3 to 5 minutes, accessing deep tissue. Restorative yoga involves calming and relaxing poses to help reset the body and mind to prepare you for the ultimate relaxation of savasana! (You know, our favorite pose of the practice where we just lay there and close our eyes.)
Dina did an amazing job helping us use props to get us into the deepest yin postures. My shoulder blades have been bothering me recently, so it was nice to get into a well-needed fish pose using a block to support the center of my spine. I also enjoy hip openers, so it was nice to use the cushions to get into a deep pigeon pose. I could actually use one of Dina’s restorative classes right now after a long day of work, sitting at a desk all day.
There was nothing more perfect than enjoying a sunset wine tastingwith Liz after yoga. If you are looking to
get a wine education, Liz is definitely your go-to person. She conducts wine tastings for small gatherings, company team building activities and large-scale industry events and galas. Liz holds a certificate from the London-based Wine & Spirits Education Trust and is a Wine Ambassador for the Boisset Collection – so you know she knows a good glass of vino!
As the sun was setting, we tasted delicious red, white and rosé wines on the porch of the Main House. The views of the mountains and Lip’s property were out of this world! We all got a great education, enjoyed stories and laughs and even got some awesome pictures in!
The wine tasting helped us build up an appetite, so we headed inside of Lip’s home to enjoy a homemade pasta meal. Lip and her friend made a delicious penne pasta dish with fresh pesto sauce, sautéed broccoli and fresh, out-of-the-oven garlic bread. Having this meal with a delicious glass of red wine hit the spot! The meal was topped off with a delicious chocolate cake to celebrate one of the girl’s birthdays.
Later in the night, we went back outside and enjoyed a lovely campfire around Heathen Hill Yoga’s magnificent fire pit. Yes, in addition to the chocolate cake, we enjoyed delicious s’mores – one of my all-time favorite desserts. I love bon fires in the summer, but there is something cozier about fall campfires. While part of the group went to hangout at the hot tub, another went to sleep and a few girls and myself decided to stay out and enjoy the night. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, the stars were absolutely amazing. It was cool connecting with the other girls. I enjoyed hearing about one of the girl’s recent wedding proposals!
After our fulfilling day, we got a good night’s sleep and were recharged to enjoy our last day at Heathen Hill Yoga with Dina and Liz. In the morning, Dina had a fun workshop where we got to work on inversions. Since I was a dancer growing up and not a gymnast like a lot of other yogis, it is extra tough for me to get into handstands and I usually need a lot of assistance to get myself into a cool inversion. Dina was a great help in getting me into a handstand! I was so excited to finally be up in one.
In addition to headstands, handstands and arm balancing postures, we even worked on our forearm stands – one of the toughest inversions. If you are looking to get into an inversion of your choice, Dina is the perfect person to walk you through it!
When we were finished with our last yoga class of the retreat, we headed back to the main house to enjoy a delicious breakfast, made by Lip and did a fun and creative champagne tasting with Liz. I had never done champagne tasting before, so I thought this was pretty cool! There is nothing better than enjoying a Sunday morning with yoga, champagne and a full breakfast that consisted of blueberry pancakes, fresh scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. It was the perfect way to end our time at Heathen Hill Yoga.
Before we left, we all enjoyed a couple more hours on the property. There are several secluded hammocks to take a nap and the Big House’s porch was a great place to enjoy the nature.
I want to thank Dina and Liz again for hosting this amazing retreat and I am looking forward to doing it again next fall.
Happy Travels (and Yoga)!
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