If you live in The Bay Area, chances are you’ve heard of The Pad Studios, a yoga and pilates studio that feels like an oasis from hectic city life. Which is why, when we heard that one of the owners of The Pad, Leila Burrows, was opening a retreat center at The Farm Grand Island just over an hour from San Francisco, we were beyond excited. We were able to speak with Leila during the creation process, all about her personal journey with yoga, how the retreat center came to be, and what sorts of things it will offer to both yoga teachers and students alike.
What Are The Key Elements of Planning Successful Retreats?
Timeline planning • Selecting your venue • Itinerary & program design • Sustainability considerations • Marketing • Financials & profitability • Legal forms & liabilities • Insurance
What has been your journey with yoga?
I started studying yoga in 2003. I had just come back from studying abroad in Chile. Back in LA, I took my first yoga class. I had no vocabulary for why I enjoyed it in the beginning, but I kept going back because I thought, ‘there’s something here.’ I left dance and hip hop and picked up yoga instead. I stayed in LA, working in hospitality for a luxury hotel. I continued my yoga practice at a lower frequency. My best friend from high school and I did yoga together at our favorite studio, Maha Studio with Steve Ross, author of Happy Yoga. That studio was the inspiration for The Pad, the yoga studio that my friend and I opened together. We wanted our studio to be a light, airy, simple space with fun, happy music.
In 2008, I decided to do my Yoga Teacher Training at YogaWorks, instead of following the family track of going to business school. 10 months later we opened our studio, in The Bay Area, where I’d grown up. My business partner had an image in a dream of this yoga space, and that’s how it came to be. We took on the lease and called our studio The Pad, as a throwback to the ‘60s.
How did your idea for this retreat center on a farm come to be?
It came about kind of the way my whole career has developed: organically. People develop businesses in different ways. We had a vision that our studio would focus on vinyasa yoga and pilates. Then it developed and grew, based on personalities that got involved with The Pad over the years. We brought on business partners, and invited Dana Damara to host her Embody Truth 200 hour yoga teacher training at The Pad. By the third training, we were sold over capacity. Teacher training is a big step up. It deepens who we are and what we offer.
As for the farm, part of my childhood was spent on an island in the Sacramento river delta. I grew up spending summers on the family farm – an English style farmhouse. There were horses, and lots of space to run around and play. Today, a local grape grower and winemaker putting in 85 acres of grapes to harvest for wine. A Vietnamese couple farms organic seasonal produce on 16 acres. My mother wasn’t sure if she wanted to keep the property anymore.
I went on a retreat to Costa Rica with MC Yogi, and he said, “Okay you guys, what is your dream? Where do you want to be two years from now?” My dream was to open a retreat center in the Bay Area. Organizing a yoga retreat in Central America can be so energy consuming. People living in The Bay Area need an accessible, easy retreat they can go to multiple times a year. And so basically, earlier this year, I went to my mom with my idea. She said she had a full price offer on the property, but she just couldn’t sell the land. I said, “Let’s give my yoga retreat program a try.” My mom agreed.
One of my best friends is a custom woodworker, and he and his mate built a beautiful state of the art yoga studio elevated off of the ground, overlooking the pond. I contracted a guy to build a canopy for shade. A month later, pretty much everything was done. Our yoga studio and outdoor yoga space was ready to go. We held casual yoga retreats on the farm before, but now it’s stepping up the whole experience. Yoga is sacred, and the space where you set intentions has to be intentional as well.
How is your retreat center going to offer new opportunities to yoga teachers and students in the Bay Area?
I talk to people who have to search far and wide for a retreat center. Yoga teachers rent properties on VRBO and Airbnb. There is no sacred yoga space. Yoga students and teachers in The Bay Area now have somewhere to go that’s nearby while feeling like a true getaway. The location of the farm is somewhere you’d never know about unless someone invited you. Everyone is always blown away by the property. People will be totally enchanted. We also have a one of a kind yoga space. I came up with the design myself, so it’s completely unique. Plus, you get to practice in a beautiful natural setting.
The food will be super high vibe and thoughtful. We allow creative license to our chefs. Our chefs get to pick produce from the farm. Plus, a lot of the produce comes from the nearby land. Two recent retreats offered a gluten, dairy, sugar, and meat-free menu. At another retreat, the wine grower himself was pouring his own wines to taste. Our farm to table food will be a highlight of our retreat offerings.
I know that not everyone can afford to go away for a week, so we will offer plenty of 2-3 night retreats. We offer dorm style sleeping arrangements because we want to create a thriving retreat experience even for those who can’t afford luxury. We think that it’s about the experience, not necessarily where you sleep. We also have three private rooms with a queen bed available. The home can sleep 20 guests per experience – with 5 spaces for staff. And more in tents outdoors.
My goal with this space is to go deeper. I want time and space to share in a more substantial way. On the farm, you’ll be able to connect with like-minded people who care about healthy and conscientious living and who are excited to spend a weekend away from the city, unplugged yet tuned in.There is a fellowship that is created by spending time together, which is so fulfilling. If you live in the city, it can be hard to create those connections. Maybe you don’t have people around you who support you in your yogic path. When you go away on a retreat, you find that support. You may come away from the experience with new friends to go to a yoga class with.
The beauty of my work is that through practicing and teaching yoga, I am and together we are cultivating and refining a life enriched by mindfulness, presence and conscious living. My hope as retreat host is for people to leave the retreat feeling more connected within themselves and to the environment and fellow human being around them.
Thank you, Leila, for taking the time to discuss this new venture of yours! Check out The Farm Grand Island on Facebook and Instagram.
If you live in The Bay Area and are a yoga teacher or student, check out these upcoming yoga retreats on The Farm: