The following are some of the frequently asked questions about the yoga retreat in Guatemala.

Where is Lake Atitlan?

The lake is about a two and a half hour drive from Guatemala City or Antigua in the Mayan Highlands. The main town is Panajachel and Villa Sumaya is near Mayan Pueblo of Santa Cruz, accessible only by boat. The following link takes you to a web site with a great deal of information about the Lake. www.atitlan.com

How should we travel there?
Flights are into Guatemala City. Some people will likely be taking a short excursion in Guatemala on one side of the retreat or the other. If you are not doing that, we suggest booking a flight for the Friday February 10th and a return flight for Sunday Feb 19th. If your flight is early enough on Saturday morning you may go directly to Panajachel by shuttle or taxi. For ease of travel, we suggest most people travel on Friday, February 10th. You can take taxi or shuttle directly to Antigua which is and easy ride of 30 -40 minutes. There are many reasonable places to stay there – an attractive old Spanish Colonial city. In 2011 our shuttle from the airport to Antigua was $12. Rooms in Antigua range anywhere from $10 to $150 – with many around $30. Many of the hotels will arrange a shuttle to pick you up at the airport and take you to Antigua.

The following are some links to site with hotels in Antigua, many of which are converted Spanish Colonial homes with a center courtyard. The following links offer information about accomodations: Two sites with information and links to hotels are here and here. Also see hotels.

We will meet as a group at 12:30 pm Saturday February 11th at the Central Park in Antigua outside of Café Condesa for a shuttle as a group to Lake Atitlan. The shuttle from Antigua to the Lake is about $12 and takes about 2 ½ hours. Some people will prefer to make their own plans to travel to Villa Sumaya. You may contact Villa Sumaya to arrange a shuttle if you are not coming on the group shuttle on Saturday. The boat ride to Villa Sumaya is about 15 minutes and costs about $1.25. The phone for Villa Sumaya is 502 (country code) 4026 1390 or 4026 1455. The retreat coordinator is Lizzy and English is spoken. Xocomil is a good shuttle service – 502 7762 2005 (cell) and 502 5710 3903.

Will you find a roommate for me if I come by myself?
Yes. Many people attend the retreats alone and if you do not choose a private room you will share one of the spacious rooms with another participant.

What is the climate like in February?
February is in the “dry” season and considered one of the most pleasant times to visit. The combination of being about 15 degrees above the equator and 1560 meters (5100 ft.) above sea level makes for an ideal climate. Guatemala is called the land of eternal spring. It’s never uncomfortably cold or hot. The rainy season is from May to October. The days are warm and sunny (70 – 90 Farenheit) nights are cool (55-65 Fahrenheit)

What are the accommodations?
Villa Sumaya has a total of only 14 rooms. Each beautifully appointed room has a shower with hot and cold running water with a veranda and view of the lake. There are a limited number of private rooms. For the doubles, you may choose your roommate or we will assign you one.

Are there any additional taxes we need to pay?
No. All taxes are included in the price. However tips for the Villa Sumaya staff are appreciated.

Is massage and bodywork available?
Yes. Last year a number of practitioners living in the area for the winter months were available for many types of bodywork/energy healing. In addition a new solar heated Watsu pool has been constructed and will be available. Many of the people offering treatments in 2009 were from the community of Harbin Hot springs, often considered the birthplace of Watsu. We expect many of these practitioners to return to Lake Atitlan in 2010. This year Villa Sumaya is offering two categories of bodywork- “The Sumaya Massage” 1 hour $45 & 1.5 hour $65
and “The Synergistic Massage” 1 hour $55 & 1.5 hour $75

What is Watsu?
Watsu is a gentle form of body therapy performed in warm water. It combines elements of massage, joint mobilization, shiatsu, muscle stretching and dance. See the following link for further information here.

What is the food like?
Villa Sumaya as some of the best vegetarian food we have ever tasted. Last year each meal seemed to surpass the ones before it. The menu is a blend of local Mayan and international meals from the vegetables, legumes, grains and fruit from the rich agriculture lands of Guatemala. Perhaps most remarkable were the giant plates of avocados. Fish and chicken are available for an additional cost. Please let us know if you have any food allergies.

Are the retreats suitable for beginners?
These retreats are suitable for anyone, regardless of age, physical ability or prior experience in yoga and meditation. The teaching is primarily guiding each participant back to their own intuitive knowing. Students come to these retreats for different reasons and with different backgrounds. The retreat experience is unique for everyone, allowing them to have the understanding and experience they need at that particular time. The most helpful quality to have on retreat is an open mind free of expectations. This has been called a “beginners mind” by Suzuki Roshi, who said “in a beginner’s mind possibilities are many, in an expert’s they are few.”

How many participants do you expect to attend?
We expect about 20 participants.

What style of yoga is taught?
Surya has studied with many teachers in a variety of styles over the years – including Iyengar and the Viniyoga of Desikachar. The teaching is a synthesis of all that he has studied for 2o years and what has evolved during years of practice. See this page.

What are restorative poses?
In these modifications of classical poses, the muscles remain quiet; the shape and alignment of the pose is determined by props. Restorative yoga helps to trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System, also known as the PNS. The PNS is responsible for balancing the body and bringing its response system back into equilibrium. Stimulating the PNS helps to lower heart rate, blood pressure; it helps to healthily stimulate the immune system and keep the endocrine system operating healthily.

What is self-inquiry?
The practice of aligning with our true nature beyond the habitual patterns of conditioning.

What is the schedule?
7:30 Morning meditation ; 8:15 Breakfast ; 10:00 – 12:00 Asana class; 12:45 Lunch; 4:00 – 5:45 Restorative poses, yin yoga, pranayama and self-inquiry; 6:00 Dinner; 7:30 Meditation. There is plenty of time to walk to the nearby pueblo of Santa Cruz, take a boat to one of the villages on the lake, have a massage, take a hot tub or rest at one of the gardens and patios on the peaceful grounds of Villa Sumaya.

I have heard of “yoga vacations” but this is called a “yoga retreat.” What is the difference?
We have called these “retreats” because we consider them a unique opportunity to pull back and take a rest from our busy lives with the many distractions. Most people coming on these retreats have a sincere desire to explore and nourish their spiritual lives. There are no “rules” about how one should spend their time, but we encourage participants to use the time between sessions thoughtfully. Often traveling and sightseeing during a retreat is just another distraction and the actual reasons for coming on retreat are diminished.

Are there any silent periods during the retreat and if so why?
In order to support an environment of inward reflection, there will be silence after the evening meditation until after breakfast the following morning with additional periods of silence threaded throughout the retreat. Of course anyone may choose to have as much “alone time” as they would like to extend the periods of silence. Most people today have busy lives and spend very little time in silence. Silence is restful, being the mirror of our natural state. Silent community creates a supportive environment in which to deepen understanding, awareness, openness and compassion. This greatly enhances the benefits of a yoga retreat.

What shall we bring?
Passport, toiletries, flashlight, sunscreen, a watch or time piece, layered clothing to accommodate the range of cool mornings and nights. Villa Sumaya has yoga mats. You may want to bring your own sitting cushion or some blankets to fold and use as a sitting cushion. Villa Sumaya has to charge 8% if you use a credit card to pay for bodywork session, etc. Personal checks or cash are accepted. There are ATM machines in Antigua and Panajachel and this is a useful way to obtain local currency.

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