SOUL ZEST

Yoga & Culture in Cuba
March 10-17, 2018

Take the trip you’ve always dreamed of taking: eight days and seven nights in Cuba!

Yoga + Culture

Each morning savor sunrise meditation and yoga by the beach at our retreat center in the tropical paradise of Playa Del Este just fifteen minutes from Old Havana.

After yoga we’ll explore the culture and life of Cuba with a curated schedule designed to give you the best week of enjoying Cuba and refreshing your soul.

We’ve created a full schedule of cultural activities including:

  • Twice daily yoga sessions featuring vinyasa flow and restorative yoga
  • Cigar rolling demos and tour of plantations by horseback
  • Beach, pool and relaxation time at an untouched Caribbean beach
  • Nights out at Fabrica De Arte, an old factory turned art and music venue
  • Sunset meditations overlooking the Caribbean
  • Authentic cafe con leches and amazing coffee
  • Salsa dancing lessons
  • Overnight excursion to the stunningly beautiful mountain region of Pinar Del Rio and the small town of Vinales
  • Special yoga practices with celebrated Cuban yoga teacher Eduardo Pimentel
  • Vintage car rides through downtown Havana
  • Delicious Cuban cuisine both at the retreat and out exploring

All these experiences and more will combine to create an unforgettable adventure full of inspiring and unique moments only to be found in Cuba.

You have just arrived at a tropical paradise on the beach just outside Havana for a magical week of exploration, adventure and bliss with Jai Rhythm and Colin Brightfield.

A Typical Day..

Rise to the sound of waves lapping on the shore just steps from your beach bungalow. Grab your morning tea, coffee or fruit and stroll to the open-air yoga pavilion. Enjoy sunrise with a morning meditation as the Caribbean sun slowly rises and the birds start their song. We’ll transition into a rejuvenating vinyasa flow yoga practice that sharpens the senses and energizes you for your day of adventure and culture ahead.

Following practice, we’ll enjoy an organic and delicious breakfast followed by free time for exploring, going out for a stand-up paddle, making new friends, or lounging at the beach or pool. Your freshly sourced lunch will be waiting for you after your morning adventures.

A couple of the days we’ll go on amazing and unique excursions like exploring Old Havana together with a local English-speaking guide. We will take an excursion trip to the gorgeous mountainous region of Cuba and the small town of Vinales known for its organic cigar plantations. Another day you have the option to visit Hemingway’s Finca Vigia residence. We’ll also enjoy ample down time at our hidden tropical paradise Playa Del Este where our retreat center Mhai Yoga is located.

Connect with everyone in the main lodge for a family style supper while you recount the fun of the day, laugh with new friends, and plot the next day’s escapades. Most evenings we will gather for delicious cuisine at our retreat center followed by relaxing music and conversation. Sprawl out under the stars and take a night swim. Or enjoy the nightlife of Havana at the blossoming Fabrica De Arte – a multi-level venue featuring all kinds of art, music, food, and culture all under one roof in a restored old factory.

Collapse on your bed, instantly floating off into a restorative sleep in a stupor of joy combined with deep relaxation and calm. Wake up the next day to do it all again.

Retreat Highlights

Soul Zest Highlights:

  • 7 nights beach-chic accommodations at Mhai Yoga
  • Delicious, organic & nourishing breakfasts, lunches and dinners daily
  • Yoga & meditation practices daily led by Colin Brightfield
  • Group salsa dance lessons
  • Guided walking tour of Old Havana with English speaking local guide and lunch at a famous Havana restaurant
  • Insider insight into Cuban life and culture
  • Guided tour of Old Havana
  • Overnight excursion to UNESCO World Heritage region and town of Vinales, enjoy a guided horseback tour of an organic tobacco farm and time for exploring the area
  • 4 Special yoga practices with celebrated Cuban yoga teacher Eduardo Pimentel
  • Nights out in Havana dancing and enjoying live music
  • Raw adventure and fun everywhere you turn
  • Fun loving community and relaxed, laid back vibe

Soul Zest Daily Rhythm:

  • Morning Meditation + Yoga
  • Breakfast
  • Free Time/Relaxation/Optional Excursions
  • Lunch
  • Free Time/Relaxation/Optional Excursions
  • Yoga Workshops during 2 afternoons during the week
  • Dinner
  • Relax/Optional evenings out in Havana
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About the Retreat Center, Mhai Yoga:

We will stay just east of Havana at the sweet Mhai Yoga retreat center. The staff is even sweeter than the beach. Located only 15 minutes away from the spectacular city of Havana, this beach is renowned for its pristine white sands and crystal aquamarine waters. This beautifully secluded atmosphere is perfect for relaxation and rejuvenating your mind, body and soul.

Beautiful beach villas surrounded by lush plants and tropical flowers are the perfect setting for your yoga journey.

These villas are situated just steps away from the beach. Take serenity on the outdoor terraces, perfect for reading or sunset meditation.

All rooms are spacious, comfortable, include air conditioning and en suite-bathroom. There are single or double occupancy options. The villas are partially sustained with solar panels, as all water is naturally heated.

The location provides ample indoor settings and numerous outdoor green spaces for your yoga practice.

Investment & Registration

Traveling to Cuba Update:

Due to recent changes, we will be required to make use of a third party firm with Treasury Department licensing to keep our travel legal. I have reduced my pricing and so has the retreat center, Mhai Yoga, in order to help defray some of these costs.

This trip is administered by Cuba Candela, a travel services provider authorized by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to conduct people-to-people and other licensed tours. The program consists of a full-time schedule of authorized people-to-people educational exchange activities which will promote meaningful interaction with the Cuban people.

Retreat Investment Includes:

  • Seven nights beach-chic accommodations at Mhai Yoga in Playa del Este just 15 minutes from old Havana
  • Three healthy, organic meals per day
  • Beverages including all fresh juices, smoothies, coffee, tea etc.
  • One morning flow yoga practice per day led by Colin
  • Morning meditations everyday
  • Two afternoon yoga workshops led by Colin
  • 4 special yoga practices with Cuban master teacher Eduardo Pimentel and his students
  • 1 overnight group excursion to small town of Vinales, the picturesque, rural, cigar growing and mountain region with guided donkey tour of area
  • Cigar rolling demonstration in Vinales
  • Walking tour of Old Havana with local English speaking guide and lunch at one of Havana’s top restaurants
  • Group salsa dancing lesson with local teachers
  • Visit and tour of local urban organic farm
  • Trip Manager to support and help manage the week’s events
  • Access to all of Mhai Yoga’s amenities including beach, pool, lush grounds, etc.
  • All transportation, guides and staffing for cultural activities

Not Included:

  • Airfare to Havana, Cuba (HAV) – flights can be found between $300-$400 USD from most major cities in North America
  • Airport transfer to retreat and back to airport (One way transportation in a 4 person cab is about $35)
  • Activities and excursions not listed above additional and range from $20 to $40
  • Alcoholic beverages

Book Now for Discounted Early Bird Rates Until December 1st:

All rooms are simply appointed and have ample space to spread out. Each room has its own private en-suite bathroom as well as air conditioning and daily maid service.

SHARED OCCUPANCY:

  • $2,400 if paid in full by December 1st 2017
  • $2,500 if deposit received before December 1st 2017
  • $2,600 after December 1st, 2017
  • Arranged as Doubles or Triples
  • We can match roommates for you if adventuring solo
  • Final balance due by February 1, 2018
  • $500 non-refundable deposit to reserve

SINGLE OCCUPANCY:

  • $2,800 if paid in full before December 1st 2017
  • $2,900 if deposit received before December 1st 2017
  • $3,000 after December 1st, 2017
  • Final balance due by February 1, 2018
  • $500 non-refundable deposit to reserve

Register for Your Cuban Adventure Here

Common questions about the retreat and traveling to Cuba are answered below in our F.A.Q. For more information and questions, please contact the retreat leader, Colin Brightfield, at colin[at]jairhythm[dot]com.

Information & FAQ’s

What are the different rooming options?

Most rooms are doubles, but there are a limited number of triples and singles available. Each room has it’s own ensuite bathroom in the room.

If I sign up alone, how do you organize roommates?

We’ll arrange roommates based on gender, age and interests.

What airport do I fly into?

You will fly into Havana, Cuba (Airport Code HAV).

Where is the retreat center located and how do I get there from the airport?

The retreat center is called Mhai Yoga and is located about fifteen minutes from downtown Havana. Taxis from the airport will cost about $45 to the retreat center. Mhai Yoga will arrange the transportation for us, but guests will be responsible for paying their for taxi ride to the retreat center. Please bring some cash so that you can easily take care of this when you arrive.

If you are planning your own transport, please let your driver know the following address (and please let us know that you have organized your own travel): Tarara, Playas del Este, Havana
Villa Harmonia, Casa 309

Once you arrive to the gate of Tarara please let the guard know you are attending the yoga retreat.
We will be staying in Harmony Villas (Armonia).

Do I need a passport or visa to visit Cuba?

You WILL need a valid passport to enter Cuba and US citizens do not need a visitor’s visa since we will be traveling under the People to People program that supports cultural exchange.

This trip is administered by Cuba Candela, a travel services provider authorized by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to conduct people-to-people and other licensed tours. The program consists of a full-time schedule of authorized people-to-people educational exchange activities which will promote meaningful interaction with the Cuban people.

As long as you have a valid passport, it’s all taken care of through Cuba Candela. If you have questions, please let us know and we can get you in touch with you. You can contact the retreat leader, Colin Brightfield, at colin[at]jairhythm[dot]com.

What kind of cuisine will be served?

All the cuisine at Mhai Yoga is fresh and of the highest quality and purity available. They support local and organic farms as much as they possibly can. The cuisine features primarily vegetarian dishes with some fresh seafood as well.

The kitchen is happy to customize the meals for you depending on your dietary needs, whatever it may be – gluten free, soy free, dairy free, nut free, vegan, etc. Mhai Yoga is willing to do whatever they can to meet your dietary requests.

I have dietary restrictions/food sensitivities. Can the kitchen accommodate my needs?

Yes, the kitchen at Mhai Yoga welcomes all diets and is happy to meet your needs. Please just let us know when you sign up so we can let them know.

What level are the yoga classes?

The yoga classes will be all levels and Colin will make each class accessible for beginners while also offering a challenge for the more experienced participants.

Yoga classes will be multi-level, so there will be options for all sorts of practitioners. The beauty of retreat classes is that they offer more time to break down poses and explain things, so chances are that everyone will be learning something, no matter what level they are! We will also do yoga with Eduardo Pimentel along with meditations and more restorative sessions.

How much yoga will we be doing?

We will enjoy a long morning practice each day. The length of the practices may vary from day to day but will all be about 90-100 minutes, with some longer, some shorter. Two of the afternoons Colin will lead a yoga workshop explaining and breaking down specific aspects of the practice. Some of the practices will be more fiery and energetic while others will be more grounding and restorative inspired practices, creating a balanced yoga experience for everyone to enjoy.

We will also enjoy the chance to take a class by the celebrated Cuban yoga teacher Eduardo Pimentel who learned yoga from BKS Iyengar via mail.

Is there WI-FI there?

Our hotel in Havana does have wifi, but it will be spotty. Consider a trip to Cuba an excellent opportunity for a digital detox! Forget Instagram. Log off from Facebook. Even if you’re prepared to pay for data roaming, it won’t work here as there’s no unregulated internet access. Occasionally you’ll see an internet cafe but be prepared for working with 1995 level internet – and that sound you hear…that’s dial up. Some major cities recently introduced wi-fi hotspots in public plazas where you’ll find people gathered to try and get a signal, but it’s best to assume you’ll be cruising Cuba offline only.

How many people will be on this yoga retreat?

There will be about 20-25 people on the trip.

Can I drink the water?

Stick with sealed, bottled water on this trip.

What will the weather be like?

In February, Cuba tends to be in the high 80s Fahrenheit during the day and in the mid to high 70s in the evening. Most of the time you will be comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt or tank top. Most days will be sunny and clear.

Will I have free time?

YES! Everyday you will have plenty of time to explore any of the activities you are interested in. Follow your bliss.

What should I bring?

Bring yoga clothes, a swimsuit or two, and comfortable walking shoes. Some other things we recommend bringing are a camera, hat, water bottle, sunscreen, and yoga supplies.

What is the currency in Cuba? Will I need cash?

The peso (CUP, sometimes called the “national coin” or in Spanish moneda nacional) is one of two official currencies in use in Cuba, the other being the convertible peso (CUC, occasionally called “dollar” in the spoken language). There are currently 25 CUP per CUC.

Most Cuban state workers receive their wages in national pesos, but some receive a portion of their salary in convertible pesos. Shops that sell basics like fruit and vegetables generally accept only the normal peso. “Dollar shops” sell the rest. The word “pesos” may refer to both types of money.

Cuban convertible pesos are 25 times more valuable, but that does not completely eliminate the confusion for tourists. Since goods bought in national pesos have government-controlled prices, tourists are sometimes confused by prices that look “too cheap.” The hard (CUC) pesos are easy to tell apart from the national (CUP) ones, as CUC coins have an octagonal shape within the outer round rim. Also, CUC currency shows monuments, and CUP bills have portraits. However, if you have some free time to explore on your own or choose to go on any optional excursions, you will be responsible for the costs but we can definitely help you arrange anything.

Why is it traveling to Cuba not as cheap as I thought it would be?

Cuba is an amazing place but it is also challenging to access. These challenges have also contributed to the characteristics that have made Cuba such a spectacular place to visit.

There is only one certified yoga retreat center in all of Cuba, Mhai Yoga, and it where we will be enjoying our retreat. Because demand has risen while the availability of access has gotten stricter, prices have risen in the past year. Furthermore, due to recent policy changes made by the White House, it has become more expensive to travel to Cuba because we must work with a special agency, Cuba Candela, that has clearance to operate licensed trips and tours in Cuba.

Despite these changes, Cuba remains a magical and beautiful land full of wonder, joy and the Cuban zest for life. It is worth every penny to get there and see for yourself this unique land.

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