Finding Grace in Dominica A Yoga Getaway in a Tropical Paradise

Three weeks after returning from a yoga retreat on the Caribbean island of Dominica, I saw one of the other trip participants. She smiled broadly and said she was still feeling high from our weeklong stay at the Jungle Bay Resort. Jungle Bay radiated a sense of health and well-being. First, there’s the landscape: lush, tropical forest bordered by blue-gray seas. The Atlantic laps softly against the granite rocks and boulders strewn along the shoreline and surrounds the island with salt water breezes. Cottages perched high above the water offer intimate jungle views. The “Nature Island,” as Dominica is known, has very few flat areas, limiting development and allowing the island to remain in its natural state.

Land Alive

Situated in the middle of the Lesser Antilles, Dominica’s vast expanses of greenery are maintained by its rough and actively volcanic topography. While it’s less than one quarter the size of Rhode Island, mountains rise to 4,500 feet, waterfalls cascade down hillsides and provide clear pools for swimming, interior valleys spew steam and bubbling pools of mud, rivers run hot from underground thermal springs, and even the ocean floor emits bubbles from subterranean cracks.

We’d come to Jungle Bay as an organized yoga group, with our own Anusara Yoga certified instructor. While Jungle Bay offers hour-long yoga classes each morning, our group was committed to at least three hours of yoga per day. I felt a real connection to the island surroundings in my daily poses—especially the powerful and clearly evident forces of water, earth and fire.

Sustainable Jungle

Abigail and Sheree doing yoga on the coastline. © Abigail Rome

It’s because of Dominican-born owner Sam Raphael that Jungle Bay is a model of environmental and social responsibility. His resort has a mission statement: to enhance the natural environment and provide sustainable livelihoods for surrounding communities while offering comfortable, nature-based experiences for guests. Specifically, it includes siting buildings within the forest rather than clearing it for development; using stone left over from mining operations; minimizing energy use by making use of ocean breezes instead of air conditioners; utilizing on-demand hot water heaters; and reducing and managing waste. Jungle Bay employs more than 50 people from three adjacent villages, offering banana farmers opportunities to develop skills in gourmet cooking, massage, guiding, accounting and business administration.

In addition, Jungle Bay helped set up a regional development committee to create jobs that support biodiversity, conservation and local heritage. A micro-credit program helps entrepreneurs create small businesses relevant to tourism, including organic agriculture, local music and dance and crafts. The spirit of the place has stayed with me—the daily yoga practice, the delicious meals, the hikes through intact forests along sparklingly clean rivers, and the compassion from the lodge and its people: respect for the environment, the community and the guests. At my yoga studio, we call it grace.