David Moreno, the founder of MorYoga, is a firm believer in the power of yoga and encouraging students to really connect, rather than just go through the motions of forming yoga poses. He has been traveling and sharing his experience since the late 1990s and knows his way around planning and international yoga retreat. WeTravel spoke with David recently and asked him to tell us how he began leading international yoga retreats to Jordan, a place that many might not think of as a top yoga destination or even a place they’d like to travel to.
How did you begin leading international yoga retreats, and how have things changed since then?
When I began leading international travel trips and retreats I started close to California, first going to Mexico but that quickly opened to further away destinations like India, Bali, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Italy. At that time many of these locations weren’t popular yoga destination like they’ve become, and there wasn’t the Internet to make things accessible, convenient, and less intimidating. Meaning that organizing and producing these events was also more daunting!
The focus of these yoga adventures was to visit sacred sites around the world, connect with the cultures of those locations—with the help of local contacts–and to create a like-minded community that shared both practice and values.
Group travel back then was more consumer/tourist based, with groups sticking close to themselves and not venturing too deep into their host culture. Back then there was also more of an emphasis on consumerism and socializing was often focused around alcohol consumption and partying. So, a yoga adventure offered something more meaningful to participants beyond being a tourist and consuming a foreign place.
Some of these adventures were more retreat oriented, where we would stay in one location, either a retreat center or resort, and then venture out for daily excursions. Others involved daily travel from place to place seldom staying in one location for more than a few days. Regardless of the format, all journeys included daily yoga as well as “heart circles” where we would come together for a check-in, both in terms of what we were experiencing in travel and what we were experiencing on personal-emotional-spiritual levels. And, yes, we partied…
How did you first end up traveling to Jordan?
My journey to Petra started in a yoga teacher training that I was leading in San Francisco. Out of the many students in that training, there was one woman that stood out above the others. I ended up jokingly calling her, ‘Princess.’ That student lives in Jordan and has family in the states that she visits quite often. In fact, she came with her aunt to a weeklong retreat I was leading in New Mexico that summer.
By the time she arrived at the retreat she had just become engaged and said that I had to come to the wedding. Jordanian weddings are as big and notorious as Indian ones so I was immediately tempted. Plus, she owned a yoga studio in Amman where I would be able to offer workshops.
Since I have been leading yoga travel trips since the late 90s I suggested that we set up one in Jordan so I could also bring a group out with me as part of my visit. At that time I was only aware of the 7th Wonder of the World—Petra–and didn’t realize how many other phenomenal historical and environmental sites there are in Jordan. I was also unaware–thanks to her low-key modesty–that my student was indeed a Jordanian princess…
What would you say to someone who isn’t sure about traveling to a yoga retreat?
Traveling to far away places can be a vulnerable thing especially when all of our creature comforts are shaken up. Our sense of adventure that instigates travel often comes head to head with our vulnerability as we are forced to take in so many new things at one time. Yoga is always the unifying, stabilizing, and nurturing factor of any day, but especially when jet-lagged, eating a different diet, or sometimes entering a different season.
Those with inborn travel fever are usually pretty independent and more accustom to traveling on their own. Adjusting to being part of a group can also, initially, be an adjustment. The flip side of that is the comfort and familiarity that comes when in traveling with newly discovered friends. It’s fun to share the newness of a place with companions and often we are more adventurous when taking someone else’s lead. Maybe on our own, we wouldn’t have wandered down that part of the town or hiked so far without encouragement. In fact, two of my students who met in Jordan are now married!
Why would you recommend a yoga retreat in Jordan?
The stresses of travel can also greatly depend on the country one is visiting. India, for example, can be an onslaught to the senses just in its enormity as well as from the raw exposure to its severe poverty. It can also take several hours by bus to get from one location to the next. Meaning that, on some days, more time can be spent just in travel rather than site seeing or hanging out at a resort.
Which is the great news about traveling to Jordan, a relatively small and surprisingly safe country with several amazing sites, besides Petra like, Wadi Rum desert (where “The Martian” and “Lawrence of Arabia” were filmed), the Dead Sea (where you can sit up reading a book in its buoyant water), desert hot springs and oasis like Evason Ma’in, Jerash (7th largest Roman city in the world), and the mountains where Moses first spotted the Land of Milk & Honey (Israel—the promised land), and even a baptismal pool where John the Baptist performed his rituals.
The Jordanian cuisine is also fantastic easily providing something for meat eaters and vegetarians alike and always fun when eating it with your hands in the middle of the desert, or sitting poolside at the Dead Sea.
As for that wedding…. 1600 people sat down to dinner, a band from Paris, a Burning Man lighting, and Las Vegas-style special effects, heads of state, yogis, with breakfast served the next morning!!!
David is currently preparing for his upcoming yoga retreat in Jordan, from November 1-11, 2017. David’s personal knowledge of traveling in Jordan has led him to set up an amazing retreat program for attendees, including visiting unique historical places, sampling delicious Jordanian food, and connecting with the local culture as much as possible.