In search for the next retreat location for Blue Lotus Yoga Retreats, I decided to head west with Erica Gindele, my friend, business partner, and the principal travel consultant for Inspiration Travel. Although the trip was primarily for business with scheduled site tours, fortunately for us, fun and personal growth occurred incidentally. 

For us, Sedona, Arizona seemed a natural choice. A charming town set among the majestic 'Red Rock' monoliths, it has few towering buildings to obstruct the 360-degree views of its stunning landscapes. It offers the novice hiker, such as myself, an opportunity to safely explore this sacred part of the world within the safety of their comfort zone if they so choose. Wanting to explore this beauty and practice yoga, Erica and I set out with our guide who picked us up at our hotel. He would be the one to lead us up the rocks and guide our yoga practice. 

Among the higher plateaus of red rock are 'energy vortexes'. Several locals offered us their own ideas of what an energy vortex is. A more scientific school of thought is that the crystals in the red rocks are constantly absorbing the energy from the sun, reflecting it back at a myriad of different angles. 

Wanting to believe yet still skeptical, I nodded and smiled as our guide pointed out all of the tiny crystals and points of light visible in the rock when one pauses to look a bit closer. The energy vortexes also happened to be in an area above tectonic plates which shift underground, also generating energy. 

Showing us the visible fault lines in the rock, our guide pointed out the ancient dwellings carved out along the side of rock, another take on the energy vortexes is bestowed upon us. The land was, and is, considered sacred among a variety of Native American tribes. As the sunshine gently warmed my skin, I breathed in the scent of wild juniper in the air and took in the glorious sight of the bright blue sky against the red rocks. It was easy to see how the land could be considered sacred, no matter what your philosophy. 

As we went up the rocks gradually, with our guide describing all of the medicinal and edible uses of the various plants around us, my ignorance and misconception of the plants as desert scrub faded away. We paused to smell and taste the vegetation around us. Our guide's knowledge, patience, and confidence led me to sample these things without hesitation. 

Because the climb was gradual and because I was so impressed at his knowledge and genuine appreciation of the land, I didn't realize how high we were going, only to be suddenly afraid as he showed us where we will be practicing yoga. It was a very flat collection of rocks jutting out from where we stood. 

My stomach felt fluttery and light. My heart rate quickened. Seeing my face, our guide said that we could pick somewhere different if I was not comfortable with that spot. He also told us, however, that it was his favorite spot, gently urging me to face my fears. 

I looked at Erica’s face and it is warm, encouraging, and without fear. I don’t like being afraid. It makes me feel weak. 

When our guide offered me his arm and led me to the jutting group for rocks, I felt the warmth of the sun, the fear melting away. I allowed the movement of my body and my breath to absorb the fear. My shame disappeared. I felt warm and light. Erica and I giggled when we begin to chant—something we are unaccustomed to, but open to trying. 

Hearing our combined voices together was somehow comforting. I thought of how a beginning yogi may feel in one of my classes the first time they try meditation—somewhat awkward, but yearning for the benefit the practice brings. My empathy for newbies grew. As our practice ended, I felt free of fear and anxiety. I felt a deepened appreciation of the natural beauty around me and walked away knowing a little bit more about a different part of the world, the land, and civilizations that thrived there long before ours. I also walked away knowing that I want to offer similar experiences to others, that when I nudge my students to try something new, I would do it with a renewed feeling of empathy. 

This, I think, is why we should travel. When we travel we not only get to have fun and relax; we continue to grow and learn when we venture outside our comfort zones. It's what I want people to experience when they choose to retreat with Blue Lotus Yoga Retreats, the reason I became a yoga instructor: to share with others the joy, peace and health yoga can offer. 

Combine yoga with the transformational effects of travel, and you will get the best of both worlds.