In May 2022 we had the pleasure of hosting a Balance and Bliss personal retreat experience for a lovely young lady named Bethany Demelza who had come away on retreat in order to process personal loss and take time out to refocus her attention on the next steps of her life's journey.
As a social worker, single mom, and part-time yoga teacher who had suffered the loss of a beloved family member, Bethany was in need of a little "me time" where she could contemplate her life and her next steps forward.
During the week-long experience, we shared our life stories and discovered many mutual interests, including our passion for yoga and yoga teaching, being moms to similar-aged kids, and our shared affinity for spending time in nature and for soft adventure. At the end of the retreat, we promised to keep in touch and made a vague plan to meet again in 2023.
But it wasn't until the end of our retreat season, which is when we take time out to envision what we want the next season to look and feel like, that it became clear to me that Bethany would be an ideal addition to our team.
First and foremost because of her positive disposition, which is warm, enthusiastic, and light-hearted, but, more importantly, because underneath that bubbly surface, there is a strong, independent, and compassionate soul whose life work involves empowering those who find themselves vulnerable and in crisis situations, not only through counseling but also by employing holistic technologies. As icing on the cake, she is also passionate about being outdoors and fell in love with the landscape of Hvar during her visit.
In my 20 years of leading retreats at Suncokret, the one thing I am sure we are here to do is to provide a safe and inviting space in which people can unwind and access uplifting holistic technology that can support their journey to the center of their soul and, from that platform, help them to discover a positive pathway forward to the next stage of their life's journey. The job of a retreat leader is to facilitate that experience and I have every confidence that Bethany will do an excellent job of it.
Therefore, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Bethany, a certified Yoga and Flow Dance Meditation Instructor who will be co-hosting two events at Suncokret in July 2023, including a Balance and Bliss program, from 16-22 July, where she will be assisting me with the morning yoga Sadhana practice and also introducing Flow Dance Meditation during the afternoon deep-dive sessions, and then a Yogi Explorer program, from 24-30 July, where she will lead us through an Embodied Vinyasa practice in the mornings, followed by SUP and Sea-Kayaking activities later in the day, and evening workshops in Flow Dance Meditation and deeply healing Neurogenic Yoga.
So, dear Bethany, please tell us a little about yourself; what else do you do besides teach yoga? How did you get into yoga?
I am based in the UK where I live with my beautiful 7-year-old daughter and our little dog Buddy. As a single parent, my life can get busy with school runs and extracurricular activities for my daughter, making sure she is happy and has all that she needs and of course spending that quality time together whenever we can.
I began practicing yoga 7 years ago when my daughter was a baby. At this time it was somewhere I could go to come away from the pressures and exhaustion of being a new parent and where I could feel restored after sleepless nights.
A year into my practice of yoga, I began to experience a very difficult time in my life through loss and trauma, and for a period of time after this, I felt I was surrounded by darkness with no way out. However, I continued with my yoga practice and it felt as if yoga was the one constant in my life, the one thing that made me feel safe, and slowly it allowed me to see the light once more and helped me down the path of my healing journey.
It was at this time that the benefits of yoga really shone through and it became a channel to connect to myself, my body, and the universe. I knew then that I needed to share the healing powers of this beautiful practice with others and this is when I enrolled in a yoga teacher training course in the UK at the end of 2019.
In conjunction with my yoga teaching, I have had a 12-year social services background in providing support for vulnerable parents and children, advocating on their behalf, and creating a heart-centred space for them to have a voice and work through unresolved trauma, often while in crisis situations.
Through this work, I went onto achieving a foundation diploma in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), where I can work with individuals to enable their minds to work in a more positive thinking pattern.
Alongside yoga, I have started teaching Flow Dance Meditation which is a conscious dance that invites you to get present and move the body in a natural and free-flowing way. I also provide one-to-one sessions that often focus on a trauma-led practice, where we can work with yoga to release trauma through the body in a therapeutic and safe way.
Besides yoga, what else do you love doing?
I have so many things in life that I love. I am deeply inspired by music, dance, and movement and I am currently learning to play the djembe drum, which I absolutely love. I also have a passion for being outdoors and in nature, where my favourite things to do are paddle boarding, surfing, hiking, exploring mountains, and finding that perfect view for a picnic.
These loves will blend well with co-hosting our Balance & Bliss and Yogi Explorer programs, indeed! Tell me, as a former guest of Suncokret, what did you enjoy most about your experience here?
As soon as I arrived at suncokret, I immediately felt at ease and safe, as if it was home. I could feel the tension and stress of everyday life drain from my body as soon as I arrived and slipped into a deep feeling of rest and relaxation. It was one of the most healing and inspiring weeks of my life, from the empowering yoga and meditation sessions to relishing in the delicious and homemade meals, the little daytime adventures to the best spots around the island where swimming and journaling were just the right things for the mind, body, and soul. The wisdom and guidance of you, Evening Marie, as a retreat leader was truly inspiring and I came away feeling more connected to myself than ever before.
What do you hope guests will gain by attending your event at Suncokret? How do you hope to enhance the retreat experience with your particular offerings?
During the retreat experience, I will be offering a couple of different experiences that will hopefully leave guests feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, more alive in their body, and feeling a deeper connection to themselves so they can get back to their day-to-day life a little lighter and feeling inspired.
First, I will be sharing a unique practice called "Flow Dance Meditation" where we will explore meditation in a dynamic, fun new way where I will invite you to let the music and my words guide you on a journey that can CONNECT you more deeply with yourself, MOVE and shift your energy, so you can RELEASE what no longer serves you and find your own unique flow.
The class is an un-choreographed, free-moving meditation practice, which encourages self-expression and discovery, and allows you to explore and express how you feel through movement. You don’t have to learn any steps and there is no pressure to perform, making it easier to relax, and allowing the body and mind to get into a state of flow. Flow Dance meditation invites you to get present so you can feel and heal in an accessible, fun, and dynamic way.
I will also lead "Embodied Flow Yoga" sessions where I will bring an embodied flow into my vinyasa flow classes and encourage you to find the freedom to move the body in a way that feels right, to release any expectations, and to explore new movement patterns and fluidity. I have developed a trauma-informed yoga teaching style, making sure each individual feels seen, heard, and feels safe to release, let go, and find that magic.
This is where I also bring in neurogenic/trauma release yoga, which allows the body to come into a natural and gentle tremor through certain yoga postures, allowing the body to release and let go of any stored trauma in a safe and supported space.
I will also be present with the students throughout the retreat and not just during the practice. This will give us time to connect, share stories, explore the island together, learn and grow from one another, and create that safe space where everyone feels seen to get the best out of their retreat experience.
What is the one thing you hope retreat participants will walk away feeling at the end of the events?
My hope is that the students will gain a greater connection to their mind, body, and soul and be able to walk away feeling released and free of what no longer serves them.
What advice would you give to aspiring yoga teachers who would like to lead retreats?
To be your true authentic self always and the rest will follow.
Perfect advice, indeed. Thank you, Bethany, for sharing a bit of your story with us, we're looking forward to co-hosting two wonderful events together with you.
If you are interested in attending a retreat with Bethany, you can book your spot here.
Want to learn more about Bethany? You can follow her on Instagram here.