Name : Caroline Graham-Wood & ParadiseRetreats.Yoga
Website : www.paradiseretreats.yoga
Where are you based : Europe, Mexico and Costa Rica
ND: Tell me a little about your business and why you decided to become a yoga instructor?
CGW: Paradise Retreats Yoga is focused on hosting yoga holidays and retreats around the world in beautiful locations. My love of Yoga enables me to introduce fellow yogis and beginner yogis to truly experience the essence of yoga; outdoors and at one with nature.
I am thrilled to be hosting retreats in places such as Mexico, Costa Rica, UK and Europe, both by the beach and in the mountains. The retreats include other optional outdoor activities such as surfing, kitesurfing, biking and horse riding.
My journey with yoga began as I set off on an adventure around South and Central America; “The beginners guide to yoga” book buried at the bottom of my backpack; I think it materialised just once in El Salvador where my friend and I tried to comprehend the sequencing and breathing techniques, after that brief encounter, the book was once again shoved deep into my rucksack!
I joined a circus with my fire hula hoop performance and travelled around Mexico, finally settling on Isla Mujeres. Discovering daily Yoga classes, I decided to embark on this morning ritual and after some months the opportunity arose to teach the classes myself. Little did I know this was the beginning of a long love affair with yoga. I took to teaching straight away with a huge love and passion for the practice. My book, a little dishevelled at this point, suddenly turned into my favourite read and became a florescent glow of yellow as I highlighted and studied the names, poses and benefits.
Back in England I took my 200hr teacher training with the amazing Lara Bauman, continuing my studies with Ana Forrests’ Foundation Teacher Training, Ashtanga with Oliver David, Anatomy with Tiffany Cruickshank….to name a few. I dove into the world of yoga and began to realise the truth that yoga really does change your life.
ND : You are currently teaching yoga in Tulum. It must be a magical place to teach. What inspired you to move there and entices you to stay.
CGW : I believe it was fate, luck or whatever you wish to call it, but to me it was the greatest door of opportunity that I ever walked though. I decided, on a whim to go to Tulum. I hitched a ride down to the beach, with every turn falling in love with a place I didn't yet know would become my home for the next five years and counting!
I remember thinking I had arrived to Mexico’s mini India, where palm trees towered over the roadside and created a tunnel of jungle mystery, and then that beach!!! The beach every dream is made of!
What entices me to stay, its that feeling of when you arrive back home and you simply sigh with relief. You know you are here and this is where you are supposed to be. It is my home from home. I feel safe, happy and fulfilled.
ND: What do you think is your biggest achievement so far?
CGW: The feeling when a student comes up to you at the end of class to thank you for making a difference to their day and how uplifting their whole experience has been.
ND : What do you think was the toughest decision you have had to make with regards to your work?
Making a foreign country my new home.
I spent every waking moment studying, teaching and practising yoga in order to achieve my dream. It is only when I look back and see the force in which I approached this situation that I realise that being away from family and friends is not for the faint hearted; my first couple of years in Tulum were not easy. It feels contradictory to be in paradise but experiencing the feeling loneliness.
However, if you persevere and keep on going, any and everything is possible. This was not a life I planned but a wild dream that keeps on unfolding. Focus and commitment was and is my mantra!
ND : With regards to your business, is there anything in particular you didn't bank on happening?
CGW : Although it took longer than I anticipated to make the business financially viable, I did not bank on the utterly wonderful and lifelong friendships with clients, it is truly a very humbling gift that comes with the business (You know who you are!)
ND : Whats the best piece of advice you have been given with regards to running your business?
CGW : Commitment, Compassion and Communication.
ND : Many people spend a lot of time dreaming about starting out on their own, what advice would you give to spark the catalyst.
CGW : Self Belief.
ND : What do the first two hours of your day look like? Do you have any rituals?
CGW : Very much so; In Tulum I wake up and go to sat sang which starts at either 4:30am or 5:30am, depending the time of year. This is one of the most enriching practices I have experienced and dedicated my time towards. The day is still night, my path is lit by flickering candle light and I make my way towards the naïve, feeling the sand between my toes.
We sing a variety of mantras and kryias alongside Nuno and Lalo, who are the pillars that keep this practice alive at Uno Astrolodge. I love this morning ritual, the first vibrations that leave my body are the sacred sounds to the Hindu Gods, giving blessings, gratitude and sending love to all beings on Earth. When this finishes, the sun is just set to rise, I walk onto the beach and silently meditate whilst I watch a most magnificent spectacle. Listening to the waves and the wind I practice a my morning pranayama.
Next up its coconut time! They are readily available in Tulum. To my joy I have perfected opening them both by hand and with a machete, this is followed by my morning yoga practice.
I love mornings, they are my favourite time of the day. Everything is fresh and silently awakening to a new and exciting day that I know will be full of joy and lots of hugs from my friends and Tulum family.
ND : With regard to success, who do you respect the most and why?
CGW : Lara Bauman, for the best introduction to yoga I could possibly have had.
ND : How lucky are you and why?
CGW : Very.
I am happy and healthy and have a career that I find hugely for filling in which I will never stop learning and that I will carry on forever.