Selfless Service At Elephant Nature Park and Shopping at Night Markets in Chiang Mai With Alyson Simms
For this post we interviewed yoga teacher, Alyson Simms. Alyson is returning to Thailand for a third time to lead another very special Yoga Retreat Plus Service Week at Elephant Nature Park in early 2023.
Hey Alyson! Tell us a little about what it’s been like to lead groups to Thailand and what retreat number will this be for you?
The Thailand retreat I’ve led 2 times now with One Yoga Global has been one of the most life-transforming experiences I have had…..and I’ve had a lot of those! Going back for a third time is such a blessing. Before Thailand, I’ve led retreats to Costa Rica and Bali. But, it’s this one I keep going back to. I’ve been to over 45 countries and I can share with certainly, there is nothing like Thailand.
What makes this retreat so special? How is it different from other One Yoga Global retreats?
Having lead other One Yoga Global retreats and also attending as a participant in OYG retreats, I will tell you they have only top notch teachers, locations and the friends you make on these experiences are ones you keep forever. This is a special retreat because after four days in Chiang Mai doing yoga, getting massages, visiting temples, shopping and eating the most delicious food ever, we then spend another week serving. In the yoga world, we call this Seva, which is selfless service. We will be at Elephant Nature Park helping the sweetest on earth, the endangered Asian elephants. After a week with these gentle giants, I can see how everyone has slowed down to a joyous pace, connected to that inner place of love for self and all beings, and also an overall reset of what’s important in life and how to incorporate that into their life back home.
What type of traveler would really enjoy this experience being that it is so unique?
This is for anyone who loves experiencing different cultures and Thailand is what i’d call a very traveler-friendly country. Having been to over 45 countries, I can say there is no place on earth like Thailand and if it’s on your bucket list, make it happen, friends. This is also a great trip for animal lovers because not only does Elephant Nature Park have rescued elephants, they rescue all kinds of animals whenever they are in need. We get to visit (and work with if you like!) the Cat Sanctuary and also the Dog Sanctuary. We have had past participants even adopt dogs to bring them home! We’ve seen ducks and baby monkeys being rescued, so you never know what other animals will be at ENP. Also, if you love serving those in need, this IS a trip for you. One of the best way to get out of our own “stuff” is to serve and this is the perfect trip for that! And lastly, I can’t forget to mention if you are a foodie, love really good inexpensive massages, enjoy temples, and night markets for really fun shopping, this is the trip for you!
Can you describe what someone might feel after having just experienced their first day at Elephant Nature Park?
IN AWE. I will say the first day on my first retreat, I completely cried in gratitude, joy, surprise and just awe at how this Park is a magical, healing sanctuary for all. We learn so much from the elephants and mostly, our hearts opened so wide, especially on that first day. Each day just got better, I will tell you.
Let’s talk yoga and the rest of the glorious retreat itinerary. What can someone expect to enjoy as far as activity, culture, food and exploration and having you as their retreat leader?
While we are in Chiang Mai before Elephant Nature Park, get ready for daily yoga classes and adventures if you so choose! We’ve got temples to visit, night markets to explore, massages on every corner, and get ready to have some of the best food in the world. Want to rest at our retreat and read by the pool…that is an option too! One thing I love to let participants know is I LOVE sharing information about certain restaurants, which market sells what, and even things like “That ATM inside that 7-11 has the best exchange rates”. I’m telling you, I can be a mama hen when you need or let you enjoy figuring it out if you like that kinda stuff (Like I do!)
What is your most favorite moment from all your Thailand retreats so far?
Oh yes. I recall the first time I put my hand on one of the eles, I felt how big their hearts were and had such sweet tears of love. It was a moment of “I’m forever changed.” Ok, I have to tell a second one. There is nothing like being on the pavillion in the middle of the park at sunset, watching the eles walk under and all around you. No one ever got tired of watching the elephants, that are around us all day!
How did you pack for Thailand your very first time — and is it any different than how you’ll be packing for the 2023 retreat? Do you have any tips for retreat attendees?
I love this question! For Thailand, I pack very few clothes because the night markets have such beautiful and inexpensive clothes. I am a little obsessed with my noise cancelling headphone for the airplane rides and I highly recommend them. You arrive more rested! And of course, any medication you think you may need is a good idea. There are plenty of drugstores there, but I always bring my own in case I need.
What are you most looking forward to experiencing again or for the first time this time around?
I am actually really excited to work with the elephants again. Elephant Nature Park relies heavily on volunteers and covid really put a burden on the staff. I am so happy to return to help. Personally, I’m so excited to see some of the elephants I got to know on my first two trips and see what new ones are getting such good care at ENP.
What would you tell someone who is considering joining you on the Chiang Mai Yoga Retreat and Service Week at Elephant Nature Park?
After such a challenging past few years, it’s time to make your dreams come true. Life is precious so take those leaps to do those things on your bucket list! And I don’t know how to share that I am an avid traveler and adore taking care of the participants on the retreat in whatever way you need.
Thank you, Alyson!
If you’d like to join Alyson in Thailand in 2023, registration is now open.
Alyson Simms, E-RYT 500, is a natural bridge between the earthly and divine realms. Her teaching style brings an intensity of Spirit, while enveloping you in grace and humor. Your body will tune, your mind will balance, your courage will be summoned, and most importantly, your soul will shine.She was drawn to her first yoga class in 2001 to live a deeper life. Her True Self was ignited and her life became one of devotion. Alyson has studied: hatha, vinyasa, tantra, ashtanga, restorative, yin, zen mediation, qi-gong, yoga nidra, trance dance, and some good old fashioned sitting quietly on the floor. Her teaching, yoga practice, and healing ability and has taken her around the world to practice, study and teach.
Alyson has always carried healing energy in her hands and has studied healing modalities with Liliana Barzola, Vanessa Stone, Francis the Healer, Guru Dev Singh, and Mother Nature herself.
Besides yoga and teaching, her passions include world traveling, ecstatic dance, contact improvisation, healing stones and mala beads, and also creating community through business and healing groups.