How Yoga, Meditation and Sea Lions Nourished My Soul in Mexico

Todos Santos Ocean Retreat FORM yoga Soul Nourish

Life can be an incredibly difficult and enlightening journey. I learned this at an early age. I’ve suffered through losses—my father, brother and my first baby have all died. My mother and I do not speak. At all. I’ve survived gang rape and molestation at the hands of many men and boys. For far too long, I have chosen to suffer mostly alone, not knowing how to share with others without burdening loved ones with my pain. I’ve found the ability to do transformative work in yoga sessions but it’s only 60 to 90 minutes. Then it’s gone. The benefits leak out slowly. As hard as I work to retain them, it’s like capturing air with a fishing net. I wanted more and I needed guidance to do it.

How yoga meditation and sea lions nourished my soul in mexico

So when my yoga teacher Mandy Roberts told me that there were still spaces open on her and her business partner’s Soul Nourish retreat, which was heading to Todos Santos, Mexico, I gave it real consideration. I’d seen the posters for previous Soul Nourish Retreats when I’d gone to practice yoga in her studio in Decatur, Georgia. But when she personally reached out to say, “Hey, Kirsten, I really think you might enjoy this,” it gave me pause. It wasn’t just yoga, after all. Mandy Roberts, owner of Form Yoga, has teamed up with Shari L. Fox, owner of Soul Nourish Institute, who is an enneagram instructor as well as a certified yoga instructor. The six-day trip promised to be full of adventure, plus loads of mindful meditation, inner work—a soulful journey. A gift to oneself. And I said yes.

I said yes to magic. To transformation. To nurturing myself and to nurture others. I said yes to feeling the quiet strength of 15 women in a room sitting silently, setting intentions for themselves and then going about the day mindfully intent on carrying out their intentions. I said yes to swimming in the Sea of Cortez, blue water deep, sea lion pups whirling around us, saying yes to the fun too. I said yes to learning to surf with Jan Federico William Bird, a Mexican-born holistic health mentor and regenerative ecological designer, consultant, and educator. I said yes to going on a Seva trip, which was an opportunity for the retreat attendees to serve selflessly by planting an organic vegetable garden and fruit-bearing trees at a local elementary school where families are often hungry during slow tourism months. I said yes to rising with the sun and meeting my new friends for guided meditation on the rooftop of our eco-luxury resort looking over the desert toward the Pacific Ocean.

It is incredibly hard to suffer, but it is brutal and unnecessary to suffer alone.

I said yes to practicing yoga in a room with women who all had different body shapes than me, some who had been doing yoga for far more time than me and some who’d only taken a class or two. I said yes to laughing during yoga and even a little dancing too. I said yes to holding a new friend’s hand. I said yes to a vision quest of which I was doubtful of at first but ultimately felt tremendous healing from while watching energy of spirits pass through me. I said yes to learning about enneagram, a typology that maps out your personality type, and I said yes to being open to what my type says about me, my vices and my virtues, and how I can better navigate the world knowing both my type and my instincts. I said yes in letting a room full of women come together and offer their love and healing blessings to me and to each other. I said yes to sharing my losses and listening to others share theirs. I said yes to feeling less alone. I said yes to making magic, to being magic. I said yes to myself and I said yes to others. I said yes to the lessons that came to me there: We are all emanating lights of energy with or without the vessel of a body. It is incredibly hard to suffer, but it is brutal and unnecessary to suffer alone.

How yoga meditation and sea lions nourished my soul in Mexico

About Kirsten Palladino

Kirsten Palladino is the author of Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding (May 2017, Seal Press), and the cofounder and editorial director of She’s currently working on a memoir about healing herself after trauma, a topic she infrequently blogs about on She lives with her spouse and their twin boys in Atlanta, Georgia.

Class Highlight & Student Showcase COMBO

Happy Hour Express FORM yoga class

This student showcase comes from Derek Hambrick, a proud broga practitioner and halfway-decent copywriter who does some of our wordsmithing at FORM{yoga}.

Like many love stories, my relationship with FORM’s Happy Hour Express class was love at first sight (after I read and helped write the class description), which was followed by a healthy amount of second-guessing myself when times got tough. Literally, like when my alarm goes off at 5:20 a.m. for class. But don’t get me wrong…I want Happy Hour Express in my life. I NEED Happy Hour Express in my life. It completes me…on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 a.m.

Heather Freiman is always there, welcoming and more coherent than many of us THE faithful. She’s like a little bit of sunshine just before the dawn…a bit of sunshine that guides you through 45 minutes of moderate vinyasa flow in a low-lit yoga studio.

Heather weaves in plenty of opportunities to go deeper for the more adventurous among us: “If you want to take this pose further, extend your [random appendage] further down your [random area] maybe twisting your [God knows what]…and don’t forget to breathe.” Or summin like that. Anyway, the point is that she understands that we’re all at different levels and she accommodates us while facilitating our growth. What a great teacher. Somebody should bring her an apple. An organic, cage-free apple.

The soundtrack is bitchin, too, with a definite 80s-90s vibe. We’ve been Walking in Memphis, driven in A Fast Car, seen True Colours, faced the fact that we’re Addicted to Love, and more.

So what’s with the “Express” part? After we put the work in, we get out without a long cool-down period. Sure, there’s a savasana, but it’s shorter than you’ve probably come to expect. Think of it as a savasespresso. Any longer than it is and I might doze off. Remember, it’s still still plenty early–you’re outta there by 7 and on with your day.

Happy Hour Express is a big part of making my 2018 a kickass year. So if you’re ready this kind of asskickery, come join us. The traffic’s light. The class is fun. And you’ll get your workout in before most people get outta bed.

About Derek Hambrick

Derek Donald Hambrick writes words for a living and for fun, but not always in that order. Well-traveled and semi-witty, he’s a transplant from Sacramento, California, but an Atlantan at heart.

Maybe that explains his ability to switch deftly from punchy headlines to insightful body copy, polished for both web and print. Derek distills the memorable from the mundane, all while bringing out meaning (and the occasional laugh).

He married his sweetie pie over a decade ago and welcomed their son into a world that the Ham Fam is intent on improving one family – and one word – at a time.

Read more (a bunch more) at

Student Showcase

student showcase FORM yoga

Some years ago, a lot of years ago, my son – via my husband – gave me a blue yoga mat for Christmas at a moment when yoga was particularly invaluable in my life. The mat was very nice and was a great investment; however, the time has come now for me to replace that mat, but I have been reluctantly leaning on nostalgia and the comfort of the known.

(Reader: stop here and look up “Aparigraha”: learn early and do not be like me.)

Perhaps you too think you need a new mat but are unsure. Let me share with you how I have come to know that it is, indeed, time for a new yoga mat.

  1. At a time now forgotten and for reasons I probably never knew, I spilled coffee on my mat. That stain is now indiscernible among all the other (sort of gross) stains on my mat.
  2. Last week after a lovely up-dog, I brought my feet forward to find the blue fibers of my mat stuck to the top of my feet. And they weren’t even sweaty yet.
  3. The stick of my sticky-mat is wearing down in a random pattern across my mat. Not infrequently, I am afraid that an unfortunate hand or foot placement will result in disaster (the most) or distraction (at the least.)
  4. The black backing of mat gives folks like Mandy one extra thing to sweep up after a particularly vigorous flow class.
  5. If I ask my son what he got me for Christmas in 2008, he would neither know nor care.

And, folks, it’s a yoga mat, a tool for my practice. It is not a tool to self-enlightenment; it will not secure my place in heaven; and it will do little to make me understand who I am and what makes me … well… me. What it will do is aid me in my asana practice and help me feel strong and solid on the studio floor. I put good gas in my car, I buy organic food for my family, and I enjoy a quality glass of wine when it is offered to me. Why wouldn’t I invest in a yoga mat that will help me grow in my practice and help ensure that I will land on my feet (or hands) when I need to?

Teena Scott

FORM yoga Student

Do you have a story to tell or a few wise or witty words about your practices on and off the mat? Shoot us an email, we would love to feature you in our newsletter and on our blog!