Imagine posting up for a week at a magical haven for yoga, meditation and plant-based nourishment in the ultimate retreat destination: Hawaii. Sound pretty great? Rivka Peiffer thinks so too—the yogi’s working on opening her very own retreat sanctuary later this year, complete with a lush garden, indoor jungle and, of course, space to let go and flow. Her passion for helping others discover their brilliance and find the strength to be themselves through yoga is palpable, and it stems from her own experience with the practice. Yoga transformed her life, and now she’s sharing the spiritual wealth. We managed to steal some time with Rivka between her sanctuary planning and yoga teaching to get the story behind her own self-discovery journey, what she has in store for her future retreaters and what music she’s practicing to.

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How did you get into yoga?

I found yoga when I was 21. I was feeling super out of it, disconnected and like something was missing. I was trying everything to feel more grounded and in tune with my purpose, but nothing was working. I always loved being outside, so I continued to hike and get out as much as possible. I was living in Southern California with my now ex-husband, and he suggested I try a yoga class. I went to Catherine Meyer’s class at Ra Yoga in Costa Mesa and fell in love. My anxiety, disconnectedness and depression lifted almost immediately. I started doing yoga every week, then almost every day, and about a month later I asked Catherine where she got certified. I felt called to share and teach this practice so that I could help others find what I had found inside myself: inner peace, confidence, a positive sense of self and a passion to help others. I’ve now been practicing and teaching for 5 years, and I don’t know where I’d be without it!

You’re opening a retreat sanctuary in Hawaii this year! Tell us everything—how did this come about and what are your goals for the space?

The decision to open Mahina Lani has been something I’ve been dreaming about ever since I started hosting retreats. I love the connections I’ve made and the friendships I’ve built over the years of adventuring and practicing in an intimate and remote setting. There’s nothing like spotty Wifi, beautiful beaches and being surrounded by like-minded souls to help you dive into your own healing practice! I’ve wanted to move to Hawaii for a few years, but life has thrown me a few curve balls and I am now realizing it all happens for a reason and in its own time. I am now ready and working so hard to find the perfect place to call home, as well as open up for students to enjoy too for a week or so at a time.

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November 2019 is my goal, opening the doors to volunteers to stay for free in exchange for help planting the seeds for Mahina Lani—creating community through painting, gardening, deck making and propagating outdoor plants to grow indoor jungles for future retreaters to enjoy. My goal is to provide an all-inclusive, affordable and magical experience for all, whether you come for a retreat, stay for a few days on your trip to Hawaii, volunteer, come for a teacher training or are part of the local community events like live music nights or a yoga class. Mahina Lani Means “Moon Haven” or “Moon Heaven,” and that’s exactly what I intend it to be.

“That’s the stuff I live for— helping guide others to open up and be unapologetically themselves, and providing a safe space for them to explore their greatness with the support and love from what becomes a retreat family!”

Can you share a memorable moment from the last retreat you taught?

I was volunteering at a retreat last June in Portugal with Kayla Nielsen for her nonprofit Go Light Our World. It happened to be all women, although it wasn’t a women’s only retreat, and I think it was the second night that we all broke out in song, singing a song from The Little Mermaid, and then we turned it into a dance party, listening to late ’90s hip hop and R&B! This particular group of girls held so much space and respect for one another, vibrating off of each other‘s openness, and it created such a beautiful atmosphere for each of us to be raw, vulnerable and completely ourselves without any fear or hesitation. That’s the stuff I live for— helping guide others to open up and be unapologetically themselves, and providing a safe space for them to explore their greatness with the support and love from what becomes a retreat family!

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What have you gained from your yoga practice?

Gosh, everything. I still have so much to learn, and I am continually humbled by this practice. It’s helped me navigate through things I never thought I’d be able to get through let alone heal from. It’s also helped me find myself amid this world of constant change. It’s helped me connect my mind, body and spirit and shown me how to hear my intuition over anything else. I honestly think yoga has saved my life in many ways. I am always a student and will continue to find myself, and that’s so beautiful to me. It’s a never-ending process of humbling and quieting the ego to stand in our greatness. To be able to look at ourselves with brutal honestly as well as compassion and use it to uncover our patterns and ways in which we can become kinder.

In what ways do you take the consciousness from the mat and apply it to your everyday life?

I try my very best in whatever situation I am in to treat others with love and respect no matter what harm or hurt I may have endured. I always come back and remember that we are all human trying our best in each moment. My practice is exactly that—a practice. It’s a daily dedication to love, non-attachment, non-comparison, kindness, understanding and so much more, in all the situations life presents to me.

Follow Rivka on Insta @rivkaloha & keep up with her upcoming retreat sanctuary @_mahinalani.

Cover & 2nd photo by Julio Bajdaun. Other photos courtesy of Rivka Peiffer.