I sat down for tea with Sylvia Sable, the retreat leader of Living Our Intention, a 10 day yoga retreat in Kenya this February 18-28, 2018. Here's a look into the incredible opportunity, what it means to live with your own intention, and the priceless benefit of tapping into a yoga practice.

What is the Living Our Intention Kenya Yoga Retreat?

It’s a 10 day yoga, meditation, and exploratory retreat to Coastal Kenya. 7 days will be spent in Kilifi, on the Indian Ocean, and 3 days on safari in Amboseli National Park near Mount Kilimanjaro. We’ll practice yoga and meditation twice a day, swim, snorkel, sail, hike, reflect, and learn to live our intention.

Living our intention, what does that mean to you and why is it an important part of this retreat?

It means alignment–– between what you think, what you say, and what you do. Kilifi is a great place to check in on that alignment, and if you find there are some serious discrepancies––then it’s a matter of realizing you have the power to change.

Yoga is a really powerful tool for change. It gives you the confidence to realize that you have this ability to steer your own life in whatever direction you want. It’s empowering.

Yoga is a means to make yourself aware, and that’s what I want to share. Kenya is a beautiful country. We’ll go on safari and see some breathtaking sunsets, but at the core, I want to help people challenge the way they look at themselves, their behavior, and their patterns to live a more intentional life.

When did you realize that about yoga?

It was gradual. Yoga is this unique activity that people get into for different reasons. For a good workout, to get flexible, to have a space and time where a teacher pays attention to you. While I was living in Kenya, I would go on Saturdays to community classes, and there’d be 150 people in this packed, hot class. I would leave feeling like the world was a better place. It really changed my mindset but I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was creating the change – if it was the people, the moving, or the breathing that made me feel positive.

As I advanced in my own personal practice, I realized that it was all of the things: the people you practice with, what inspires you to practice, the movement that you do… it was a slow transformation but I knew it was good for me.

Seeing a change in myself, I wanted to invest more time exploring the practice, which is what inspired me to do my yoga teacher training. It was there that I realized the extent to which yoga helps you live life well. It makes the bad less bad and the good better. The power of yoga was a connection of all these things: your teacher, your inspiration, your beliefs, and challenging your own life philosophy. These things were so incredibly connected for me.

When you’re able to calm your body, you can calm your mind to its raw existence. People call it your soul, your energy. Whatever you call it, it’s you and you know you’re going to be ok no matter what happens. That realization takes time but once you have it, it’s powerful, incredibly powerful.

The retreat could be anywhere, so why take everyone to Kenya?

Kenya is near to my own heart. It’s a place where I started to come into my own and started this process of bringing intention into different areas of my life. I moved to Kenya for professional reasons but it became clear that I was learning so much more there. Kilifi feels like home in a way. During my travels throughout East Africa, I would go back there to rest and check in. It’s the perfect place to set aside your regular life and ask yourself how you’re doing.

The eco lodge we’re staying at,
Distant Relatives, is a gem. They take care that every decision about how the place operates matches their beliefs. That kind of intention is what I want people to get out of the retreat. The lodge itself is a community, a place for travelers to come and share their stories. It’s something I hope everyone can experience.

Who’s the right person for the trip? Are you looking for experienced yoga practitioners?

I want anybody and everybody to come. I think a lot of times people who haven’t practice yoga think they need to train for something like this… you don’t. In fact, the physical practice of yoga is just a piece of the experience.

Yes, we’ll practice asanas twice a day and so as long as you’re able, you’ll join us, but we’re also going to read books, talk about yoga beyond the postures, go sailing, be in nature, and relax. Changing how you engage in these activities is really what we’re trying to focus on.

We want the retreat to feel supportive for those who haven’t traveled to East Africa and exploratory for those who have traveled a lot and want to go deeper into themselves. Through practicing the asanas, reading the philosophy, and existing in a unique setting with an amazing group of people we think we can accomplish this. To avid travelers who enjoy stretching their physical boundaries, this is about stretching your mental boundaries too.

What do you want people to walk away with after spending 10 days in Kenya?

It’s unrealistic to say that people will come back completely transformed, but if someone takes the 10 days to really devote to the practice and the in-between time to reflect, journal, go for a walk, sail, enjoy the safari… in taking that time, you’ll come back to your regular life and notice that things have shifted. That’s the very first step in bringing about change in your life to live with more intention.

It can be very small incremental shifts like starting to realize that something makes you feel good or it doesn’t and making different decisions based on these small realizations. After a while your different decisions become your habits.

For instance, you might make changes in how you eat or how you relate to others. An example my friend uses is that our brain works just like Google. The first time you search for “How to make blueberry pie” you have to type out the whole phrase, the second time, you write “How to make” and it fills in the rest, and the third time “How” and it knows you’re thinking about the pie. It’s the same with the brain, you get used to the decisions and reactions you use the most.

Yoga challenges these default thought processes and gives you an opening to make a new decision, to react to a situation in a new way, and teach your brain a new path. Hopefully one that better aligns with your beliefs and the way you want to be in the world. After taking that new path a few times, it is all about training your brain to continue to use it again and again.

Is there something that you can pinpoint on a day to day basis that has changed over time through yoga?

One of the most tangible things that has changed for me is how I eat. I’m not perfect, but I’ve taken on a largely vegetarian diet as well as a more intentional one. Meaning I know a lot more about where my food comes from and how it’s produced. Part of my yoga teacher training was in Ayurveda, Yoga’s sister science. It deals with how we treat our bodies and minds, and what we eat so that we can practice yoga well, from a place of good physical health. Yoga and Ayurveda have been tools for making me aware of eating well, cooking better, and where I get my food.

Another is how I consume. When I left my job in Kenya and came back to the States, I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. During that hike I realized how much you have to eat to be able to hike 25 miles a day – it was a lot. My life became eating and walking and walking and eating. It’s this constant consumption of food, and of other people’s good will to give me a ride to grocery stores off the trail. After 1,100 miles, we were only consuming and not giving back. It woke me up to how I consumed in my regular life, a theme that followed me to yoga teacher training. With a framework from yoga for understanding how I wanted to interact with the world, I changed the way that I was consuming, how I was buying clothes, and how I took care of myself. I definitely lead a more minimalist lifestyle now than I did before hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and before I completed my yoga teacher training course.

Can you recommend a favorite book that inspires you?

The Book of Dharma by Simon Haas. He spent years living and studying the yoga lifestyle and somehow summarized all this incredible knowledge into easy-to-absorb language that is relatable.

What’s your favorite type of yoga to practice?

I’m trained in Vinyasa and I love practicing Vinyasa in a group with different routines. But for my personal practice, I do Ashtanga. I find value in doing the same thing every day. It allows you to see and experience progress in your body and mind in a new way.

How many minutes do you need practice to call it a practice?

Even if you practice for 10 minutes or do just 3 poses, it will make you feel better, it counts!

What’s next on your travel bucket list?

I want to hike the Transcaucasian Trail, which is being built right now through Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. I’ve also been told to go to Niger by a number of people, so I’m intrigued.

Is there a once in a lifetime experience that you think everyone should do or see?

Not having anywhere to be. I think people travel with the idea that they have to hit these landmarks and see these things. I think the coolest way to adventure is to not have a plan and see what happens…and actually see what happens. I’ve loved traveling like that, where I don’t have to be anywhere for days and you can do… anything!

If you're interested to learn more about Living Our Intention, reach out to Sylvia at or via Instagram @sylvia.sable.

Sylvia Sable, retreat leader and yoga instructor for Living Our Intention.