Discovering Healing Through Yoga on FP Escapes’ Yoga Retreat to Peru With Ashleigh Sergeant
April 22, 2016
Dating back to ancient times, Peru has always possessed a special energetic power, so we chose Ashleigh to guide us through our practices daily on retreat so that we are able to experience all that Peru has to offer.
We spoke with Ashleigh about why she’s excited to join us in Peru, how she’s going to help us make this a healing pilgrimage, and we also asked her about her yoga origins. Learn all about Ashleigh below.
We are so excited that you are leading our Peru Retreat! Can you tell us a little bit about what makes this retreat special? What are you looking forward to the most?
I have been called to the Sacred Valley for as long as I knew about Machu Picchu. Having worked with the Quechua tribe in the past, I can’t wait to visit their homeland. This retreat is unique in that we will be traveling to multiple different locations and living at high altitudes and therefore getting to experience the power and majesty of this magical place in a way that affects us on a very physical level. This provides a perfect platform for the ancient and healing power of yoga—through pranayama, asana, and meditation—to support our adaptation, transformation and integration of such a powerful experience.
What makes Peru a special place for a yoga retreat? Have you been there in the past? If so, tell us a bit about your experience?
This will be my first time in Peru and the Sacred Valley has been on my bucket list for many years. I’m honored to be making this pilgrimage.
The Sacred Valley of Peru was the home of the Incan Civilization in the 15th century. Its key archeological site, Machu Picchu, was a secret ceremonial sight and an astrological observatory that the Spaniards never found during their invasion. Because of this, it is believed the resident spirits have maintained their original position therefore naming this sacred land. The roots of Inca philosophy are steeped in a mythology that gives great importance to the earth and the cosmos and the sun and the moon—an exquisite earth-based spirituality that holds tools for modern healing, awakening, and evolution. What could be a better place for a transformational retreat?
Obviously, a major part of every retreat that we have is the yoga. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into yoga? What made you interested in becoming a teacher as well? What styles are you the most inspired by these days?
Yoga was brought to me by my mamma. She was a badass fitness instructor, and she owned a studio called “Kick! Fitness” (which I still think is the best name ever) where I grew up surrounded by women in leg warmers and scrunchies doing step to incredible mixtapes. When yoga hit the fitness world in the 90s my mom and her crew were right there getting certified in power yoga! Bless their hearts. They could never have known the seeds they planted—teaching was a natural path for me.
My rebellious nature called for something to help keep me (and my family) sane in my teenage years and when mom handed me Bryan Kest’s DVDs and essentially locked me in my room, begging me to do them before I came out, I had to try. The sweaty, breath-based power vinyasa will always have a special place in my heart. Nothing can quiet the mind and enlist focus quite like a good flow practice.
On the other hand, living in physical pain from multiple spinal conditions guided me to Iyengar and then Anusara. For eight years I studied deeply in the therapeutic methodology of Anusara where I learned how to heal myself from physical pain. The magic of acquiring that kind of power had me instantly drawn to the philosophy. It was through the philosophical teachings that I kindled my desire for a spiritual life, this inquiry was not part of my early practice of yoga.
As my spiritual practice deepened and my unhealthy mental and emotional patterns became apparent to me, I found myself lovingly guided and supported in my desire to change by Sally Kempton and her thoughtful and grounding meditation work.
In addition, five years as Global Yoga Trainer for adidas brought strength training back into my life and now my classes and practice are a full spectrum soup of my 15+ year journey through yoga, fitness and wellness.
Can you tell us a bit about your yoga classes and the style that you teach? What will you be focusing on for this retreat in particular?
I’ll be teaching stillness, strength, breath, movement, power. I think that combination of words does a good job of representing my classes, which are always different, always challenging, always healing and always adapting to what is needed in the present moment. Some classes are playful and physically challenging, others are introspective, grounding and restorative. My understanding of yoga is that the power of this ancient practice meets us where we are in every moment and returns us back to our center. I strive to create a unique experience in each of my classes that facilitate awakening, transformation, and healing for mind, body, and spirit.
This retreat will focus on physical, pranic, mental and spiritual practices that support women in particular. We will use mudra, mantra and breath work and movement to adapt to the altitude, tune into the sacrality of the land and integrate the potency of the experience.
What do you hope your students gain through your classes on retreat and on retreat in general?
My intention is for each woman to walk away with a personal collection of wisdom, self-care practices, exercises and inspiration to support her in her own path of healing, growth, and creativity. There’s a great quote that says, “Magic is the ability to change consciousness at will.” To me, this is the essence of a dedicated spiritual practice and a uniquely feminine view of our personal power. We are each an instrument of power and with desire, practice and patience we can author our life by creating magic every day.
Can you tell us a bit about the significance of food for you? We are traveling to the superfood civilization, what is your relationship to superfoods?
One of the earth based traditions I study has a core belief that there are four essential sacred things: air, fire, water, and earth. The fifth sacred thing is Spirit, which lies at the core of all living things. My personal study of plants through herbalism and Ayurveda has brought this wisdom alive for me over the last 6 years and now I see every plant and herb as a unique expression of the four sacred things, creating its own unique spirit or healing gift. A root, like Maca, gives us grounding and fortifying qualities, a juicy fruit like Camu helps elevate mood and reduce inflammation. Our food is our medicine, it governs the way in which we interact, co-create, survive and thrive in this world. Prana (vital life force) is everywhere. We take in prana in the form of food as a way to increase and strengthen our own prana. When our vital life force energy is strong, our creativity is sparked and our ability to make conscious decisions that create a healthy and happy life is refined.
I could go on forever! My relationship with food and superfoods is an integral part of the way I see the world and live my life. During the retreat, we will be weaving in the medicinal properties of each plant through our yoga practice as we learn to generate the same healing properties of the plants through movement, breath and concentration.
Tell us a bit about your teachers. Who and what inspires you?
Fortunately for me, my mom was my first yoga teacher. She guided me towards Bryan Kest and Baron Baptiste where I worked out lots of my teenage angst through powerful vinyasa and sweating! Thank god for those guys! My spiritual curiosity led me to Rod Stryker and the Himalayan Institute where I did my first 200-HR training at age 18. Spinal conditions from birth and living in constant pain guided me to the therapeutic practice of Iyengar Yoga and quickly to Anusara Yoga with John Friend. The alignment based healing methodology of Anusara empowered me to finally, for the first time in my entire life, live a life that was pain-free. This practice also gave me my first set of tangible tools to bring myself out of acute pain when it arises. For these gifts, I will be forever grateful. From Anusara, I moved deeply into
From Anusara, I moved deeply into the more esoteric practices of the Shakti Goddess tradition with Sally Kempton. Through this work, I discovered the power I hold within myself being a woman. This work fuels much of the women’s work I share today. Presently I am diving back into prana based practices of Para Yoga with Rod Stryker and delighting in the depth this tradition holds for me.
Besides yoga, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about giving people experiences that change their lives forever. Living in Costa Rica, I help to produce the Envision Festival where we focus on living a creative and fulfilling life through sustainable building, permaculture, art, sacred movement, yoga and organic, local foods. Nothing makes me happier than to facilitate an experience where people get to reconnect with their essential nature so that they are inspired to create peace and freedom in everyday life.
We try to encourage self-care and love on all of our retreats. What’s one essential element to your self-care routine? What’s one self-care tip for the spring? Morning ritual?
#1 essential element—roll out of bed and sit my butt down. Even for just five minutes. Take in all the sounds. Watch my breath.
Oil pulling and dry brushing are my two prized self-care and morning ritual practices!
What’s one quote that inspires you?
“Yoga is not about self-improvement, it is about self-acceptance.” —Ganga White
What advice would you have for a student looking to break down her comfort zone?
First, you’re doing just fine! Try and connect to your deepest drive for this change and make sure your decision is based out of self-love and the desire to expand and grow—not because you think you need to change or are somehow wrong to begin with.
Join Ashleigh on FP Escapes’ FP Escapes Yoga Retreat in Peru—Superfood Civilization this upcoming July 16–24 on a healing, epic journey! Find out more here and book today.
I simply must explore this confusing, beautiful, mysterious and magnificent experience of being human. Yoga gives me the tools to do this in a meaningful and effective way that is connected to ancient wisdom. I teach yoga for the exact same reasons. Life is constantly giving to me, constantly waking me up to my Self, constantly providing for my growth and constantly helping me heal so I can walk in this world from a place of reverence and love. I teach because I simply must pay it forward. Being given the gift of human life is so profound I don’t think I could ever fathom it completely — yoga helps. I want nothing more than to stretch the limits of this experience infinitely, to live this life with as much purpose, meaning, presence and love as I possibly can. For me, the most authentic way to do that is share. Through my teaching, I strive to pass on these tools to family, friends and students so they too can delight in a life rich with meaning and purpose and presence.
Ashleigh is the co-founder of The Avahana School of Yoga and Expressive Healing Arts, spent five years as the Global Yoga Trainer for adidas, was honored to be the youngest Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor in the world and is registered with Yoga Alliance at the E-RYT 500 level. Ashleigh’s yoga videos are featured on My Yoga Online/GAIAMTV and Grokker. A regular presenter at the Wanderlust Festival and Lightning in a Bottle Festival, Ashleigh has contributed to Mind Body Green, YOGANONYMOUS, Latin Women’s Health and German Yoga Journal.
Ashleigh’s first teachers included Bryan Kest and Baron Baptiste. She received her first 200-HR teaching certification at the Himalayan Institute with a strong influence from Rod Stryker’s ParaYoga, whom with she continues to study presently. For many years Ashleigh traveled with and assisted John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, exploring the profound healing aspects of therapeutic asana. Ashleigh’s present passion is the deep exploration of the mystical and energetic side of the yoga practice and for this her primary teacher and long time inspiration is the great Sally Kempton.