Yoga & Spanish Immersion July 2015: A Cultural & Linguistic Plunge into Peru

Updated May 16th, 2018.

There are a dizzying amount of yoga retreats around the globe to choose from. There’s everything from yoga and surfing, yoga and green juicing cleansing, yoga and hiking, yoga and plant medicine. The options are infinite!

Earlier this week, we caught up with American expat Katie Williamson who recently created a very special trip for those wanting to travel to Peru. It combines yoga with Spanish immersion! Her company, called Sacred Retreats Peru allows people to plunge into the authentic heart of Peruvian culture by learning the language, as well as exploring some of the more mystical aspects of the country.

Her mission is to spread the beauty, mystery and sacredness of Peru with others. 

3. statue lima C

As we’d never heard of anything quite like it – we decided to interview her on her unique and exciting project to find out more…

Tell us about your relationship with Peru?

Peru is my second home although now it feels like my first. I have lived both in Lima and in a city called Iquitos in the Amazon. I have also been blessed to be able to travel extensively around the country. The people, the food, the land, the music….I love it all! Part of the reason why I can experience the country at such a deep and rich level is that I speak Spanish fluently.

 4. Machu PicchuPeru is an adventure lovers’ paradise!

How did you learn to speak Spanish?

I was interested in learning Spanish from a young age. My journey led me to take a gap year in Salamanca, Spain before beginning my college years back in the States. I had so much fun in Salamanca and learned quite a bit about living on my own, but I didn’t particularly learn a lot of Spanish – at least not on the practical side! I could order tapas and vino – but that was pretty much it! Part of the reason is because I lived with other international students and the go-to language was almost always English. That happens to most native English speakers during their study abroad experiences.

Back in the States, I studied Spanish in college but I still was not comfortable conversing whatsoever in the language! Like new learners of all languages, I felt shy and nervous to make mistakes. I was forced to get over that shyness when I moved to Peru after college to work as Program Director of an orphanage on the outskirts of Lima! Wow – talk about being thrown in at the deep end!

In wasn´t until I moved to Peru, that I could call myself an actual Spanish speaker. I’ll never forget the moment when it really clicked. It was my 9th month in Peru and I had traveled 8 hours outside of Lima to give a training to a handful of nuns at an orphanage in the Andean city of Huaraz. While explaining the project to the nuns, I realized I was thinking, feeling and speaking fluently in Spanish! It was a real “a-ha” moment!

 5. Nuns in HuarazMy ‘ah ha moment’ with the Nuns of Huaraz! When I realised I was fluent!

With regards to Peruvian Spanish, I love the accent. I love how clear it is, and I love learning new slang words in Peruvian Spanish. It’s been such a gift to speak a second language well and has opened many doors for me in both my professional and personal lives.

* Find out more about Katie’s journey with Spanish here.

How does learning a language help to immerse you into a culture?

When you travel, it’s easy to feel like an outsider looking inside the fishbowl. This can make some people feel isolated or scared. Sure, you´ll have a great time seeing the sights, but you can never really dive fully into a country unless you speak the language (at least on a basic level). Culture and language are inseparable! Learning Spanish is a gift I want to share with others.

6. Peru childrenLanguage can open up a culture in so many ways…

That´s the reason behind this summer’s retreat Yoga and Spanish Immersion – it is going to be quite an epic trip!

So why did you decide to combine Spanish with yoga – tell us about your background with yoga?

I definitely tend toward a Type A personality. I double majored in Accounting and Spanish in college and due to my rigorous academic schedule, needed a way to de-stress (we all do!). Yoga was originally more of an exercise for me, a way to stay fit and keep me relaxed during my busy college life. Yoga is now so much more than that! It is truly a way to access a deeper, calmer, and more spiritual part of myself. I can’t imagine my life without yoga. In 2013 I travelled to Brazil to take a training in order to become a yoga teacher. The training was in Spanish (not in Portuguese) and allowed me to meet yogis from all over South America. That was another major plus of speaking the language fluently.


7. Yoga & Spanish Immersion Retreat_Postcard_front-2

So, tell us all about the retreat?

The trip begins on the 11th of July when everyone arrives in Lima and ends 8 days later on the 18th. The group will be housed and fed at a lovely old mansion converted into guesthouse called La Casa Roja. It is a beautiful red building in a neighborhood of Lima called Miraflores. Miraflores is right on the Pacific Ocean and is probably the most humid section of an otherwise desert city. Lima is actually the second most populated desert city after Cairo! 8. Lima sunsetSunset in Lima – the desert city.

What will an average day be like?

We will begin every morning with a delicious breakfast at the Casa Roja. We will then be taking our daily two-hour Spanish class with an amazing teacher named Santiago. The classes will be focused on grammar and vocabulary but also on some rules and tips that will make it easier to speak with grace and ease throughout the day.

Wrapping up our Spanish classes at the Casa Roja, we will walk over to Casa Ninfa. Casa Ninfa is a beautiful yoga studio space also in Miraflores run by a yogi named Omar. Omar is Peruvian and besides his Casa Ninfa project, he is the director of the nonprofit organization called Fundación Yoga Peru.

Omar’s classes are designed to suit all levels of yoga so even someone who is interested in Spanish and a beginner of yoga should definitely not be frightened away from this retreat! Omar is a talented teacher with expertise in making adjustments so that everyone feels comfortable, peaceful, and supported in their yoga practice. When yoga is done, we get to eat lunch back at the Casa Roja! Que delicioso!

Will there be time to explore and do cultural activities during the day?

Our afternoons will all be unique and adventurous! No one afternoon will be the same! We have several trips planned to see some of Lima’s most sacred pre-Inca ruins like Pachacamac and Caral. (Of course, we’ll be taking these tours in Spanish) We will also be taking african Peruvian dance classes, listening to sacred Andean music, going to storytelling events, and singing along to yoga kirtan!

9. Lima's main plazaLima’s main plaza – Plaza de las armas

Do people need to be able to speak Spanish before arriving?

Our goal for the trip is 100% Spanish spoken all-day, every-day so participants should ideally have at least a little background in the language before coming along. There will also be a virtual classroom set up beforehand so that people can practice beforehand and feel prepared prior to our arrival to Lima.

Tell us about The Fundación Yoga Perú.

Part of the trip proceeds go to the Fundación Yoga Perú. We will also be volunteering with Omar and his Yoga Perú team during the week. It will be such a blessing to offer our love and support to his projects and learn from the people he works with.

Omar began the nonprofit to spread the yoga philosophy to populations of people in Lima and around Peru that don’t normally have access to yoga. There is some physical yoga involved, which is what most people think of when they think of yoga. However, he has other unique projects as well.

Prsion - Fundación YOga PeruuuBringing yoga to the people of Lima who normally wouldn’t have access to it

Omar goes once a week to San Juan de Lurigancho, a tough prison in a northern Lima district. He has the prisoners do things like write love letters to themselves, so that they can start to see the positive in themselves and in their lives.

Prison Yoga - penaldeSanJuanVolunteering at the prison

Omar also works with young girls who have been abused. He uses yoga as a a means of healing both the body and the spirit. I feel blessed to be able to help him in his project. I know it will keep growing, and they will keep sharing the yoga love!

Where can people go after the retreat?

The amazing thing about Lima is that if you do decide to travel elsewhere in Peru or in South America there are cheap, daily flights to destinations around the continent. It’s easy to continue your adventure in South America after the retreat is over.

Let us know if this is your plan and we can help guide you with some ideas about not to miss spots! You’ll certainly be well prepared with your Spanish to navigate around Peru and beyond. Peru is an epic, transformational place and it is a privilege to guide people around the country.

10. Llama PeruNos vemos en el Perú. (See you in Perú!)

Sacred Retreats Peru –

11. AD - Yoga and Spanish Immersion jpg

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