Weddings at Granlibakken TahoeA stunning forested setting, award-winning catering, lodging onsite, and an experienced events staff will ensure that your wedding day at Granlibakken Tahoe is memorable and elegant. Granlibakken Tahoe’s location in a 74 acre wooded valley just one mile from Tahoe City and the shores of Lake Tahoe is convenient to get to year-round, and is breathtaking in all four seasons.


Granlibakken Tahoe offers lodging and event space onsite that can accommodate groups of up to 350 people. Lodging options range from standard bedrooms to three-bedroom townhouses-perfect for groups of all sizes. Indoor and outdoor venues-from the spacious Mountain Ballroom to the tree-lined Big Pine Lawn offer spaces that complement Granlibakken’s forest setting.


Catering and event services are offered onsite by an award-winning staff. Granlibakken’s wedding coordinator will work with you to ensure that all details of your special day are executed flawlessly. Granlibakken’s Executive Chef and kitchen staff prepare delicious dishes in a variety of styles, and the beverage list with options for signature beverages will guarantee a good time had by all.Weddings at Granlibakken Tahoe


Make the weekend memorable—Granlibakken offers a variety of activities onsite and nearby, from the Treetop Adventure Park ropes course to an onsite ski and sled hill. Hiking and biking trails abound around the property, as well as river-rafting, kayaking, swimming, and sightseeing. The newly renovated Soul Shelter yoga and meditation space is a perfect place to hold a group yoga class, or to take some time to rejuvenate and relax in the heart of Granlibakken’s property.


Get married under the snowy pines with Granlibakken Tahoe’s Winter Wedding Special. Get 50% off venue fees for weddings held between November and April each year. Granlibakken’s wooded mountain setting and onsite activities will make your winter wedding unforgettable.


Airport transportation to and from the Reno airport is available, and Granlibakken Tahoe is just a few hours’ drive from San Francisco and Sacramento—convenient for guests arriving from near and far.

Learn more about weddings at Granlibakken Tahoe.

Contact Granlibakken Tahoe's Special Events Team to inquire about pricing and availability.

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Granlibakken Tahoe, as a part of their Sierra Soul Series of Wellness Events, will be hosting two wellness retreats in 2018. These retreats are designed for health enthusiasts of all levels and abilities. Featuring workshops and seminars covering a variety of topics and practices, these unique events offer ample opportunity to learn, grow, and practice under the tutelage of some of the Tahoe region’s best wellness practitioners.

Granlibakken’s unparalleled setting in a wooded valley a short distance from Lake Tahoe offers the perfect setting for health and wellness retreats, and their relationships with health and wellness experts in the Tahoe region allows visitors and locals alike to engage with the Tahoe wellness community in an intimate and personalized way.

Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival, June 1-3, 2018

The second annual Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival (RAY), is designed to inspire and teach yogis and health enthusiasts of all levels of experience and practice. This unique event capitalizes on the expertise of Tahoe and Truckee based healers, wellness practitioners, and yoga instructors for three days of classes, seminars, and outdoor activities.

The schedule for RAY 2018 was just released, and features a variety of classes—from daily sunrise yoga classes to an interactive drum circle to close the weekend. RAY 2018 offers an unparalleled experience focused on the restorative arts. Many of the seminars focus on meditation, introspection, and inward and outward connections—to one’s self, to the earth, and to others. There is also ample time to connect and socialize with other event attendees—from an opening intention-setting ceremony to nightly fire pit socials and tastings offered by local breweries and wineries.

Discounted lodging is available onsite at Granlibakken Tahoe. The full weekend of events is just $276 when booked prior to February 28. Prices go up on March 1. Learn more here.

Wellness Weekend, November 9-11, 2018

In 2017, the sixth annual Wellness Weekend (formerly Women’s Wellness Weekend) opened registration to men as well as women, and made some significant changes to the schedule that had been used in previous years. More changes can be expected for 2018—with more movement classes, a focus on interactive education, and a third day of activity classes added. This event will remain open to all genders and ages, and will continue to focus on education in Eastern and Western philosophies and modalities.


Discounted lodging is available onsite at Granlibakken Tahoe. An early-bird rate of $260 for the full weekend of events is being offered for a limited time. Learn more here.

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Written by Carol Van Etten

Carol Van Etten is a Tahoe research historian who has been studying and writing about Lake Tahoe history for over 30 years.  Her love of Tahoe and its history date to childhood summers spent at the family cabin in Rubicon Bay, where she first heard stories of the lake in earlier times.  She is a 1970 graduate of UC Davis and attended University of Chicago graduate school in English Literature.

An important aspect of Van Etten’s research has been the collecting of oral history interviews.  Since 1982 she has recorded over 100 conversations with Tahoe’s ‘old timers’, adding greatly to the information available through written records.

Van Etten has written 5 books on Lake Tahoe history subjects, including Meeks Bay Memories, Tahoe City Yesterdays (out of print), Prewar Wood, Lakers and Launches, and Lake Champions.  More information can be found at her website,

Lake Tahoe History

Toboggan run built by D.L. bliss at Ski Canyon

Although the Sierra Nevada’s first snow sports activities can be traced to the late 19th Century, the Winter Sports Grounds of the Tahoe Tavern, a grand resort built by Duane L. Bliss near Lake Tahoe’s Outlet in 1901, are the ski area in longest continuous use of any in these mountains. Today this ski area is known as Granlibakken.

In December 1926, following the Tahoe Tavern’s sale to the D.M. Linnard hotel interests of Pasadena, Southern Pacific Railroad (Linnard’s parent company) converted the hotel’s 16-mile narrow-gauge line to Truckee to standard gauge, providing the all-weather access essential to a successful winter season.

A canyon southwest of the hotel was chosen as the Tavern’s Winter Sports Grounds, and Manager Jack T. Mathews hired local residents to build a toboggan slide and warming hut on its east slope. He hired international ski-jumping champion Lars Haugen to design and oversee construction of a ski “trajectory” farther up the canyon.

Mathews hired professional ski jumpers from the Chicago area to

Tahoe Tavern

Sleigh rides at Tahoe Tavern

perform exhibition jumps for weekend crowds who arrived at the Tavern via special SP trains and were delivered to the Sports Grounds aboard six-horse sleighs. The toboggan slide was iced nightly for speed, and sledders and skaters could thaw out with hot beverages in the warming hut.

Despite these attractions, the Tavern’s first Winter Season was a financial disappointment, and the next two seasons were shortened to several weeks at Christmas plus the weekend of Washington’s Birthday. Truckee’s annual Sierra Dog Derby, which debuted in February 1929, was the only significant winter event that year and the next.

Exhibition jumps performed on the “Tavern hill” inspired the local children to participate, and community enthusiasm grew, though the future of the Tavern Winter Season looked bleak. A bid by the newly-formed Lake Tahoe Ski Club to stage the 1932 Winter Olympics lost out to Lake Placid, New York. Snow in California? Preposterous!

Lake Tahoe Ski History

Skiing at Ski Canyon

However, at a dinner at Tahoe Tavern in January 1931, Wilbur Maynard, Truckee resident and SP Winter Sports Manager, announced that the National Ski Association had selected Lake Tahoe as the site of the 1932 National Ski Tournament. With less than a year to prepare, the LTSC scheduled a State Championship meet for February 1931.

The 1932 meet at newly-christened Olympic Hill was a moment of glory for Tahoe ski-sport enthusiasts. Governor Rolph was on hand, as was popular actress Anita Page, Queen of the Meet. Early February storms threatened to cancel the event, but abated just in time for local residents to foot-pack the hill to perfection.

The successful staging of the Nationals brought confidence to the LTSC and Ski Canyon would be the scene of dozens of tournaments prior to the outbreak of WWII. The Tavern’s owners, however, sensed that their financial opportunities from local snowsports had peaked, and their Winter Sports Grounds, though still used by LTCS members for recreation and competition, would not see another Winter Season for 17 years.


As the world returned to peacetime following World War II, retired

Tahoe City History

Kjell "Rusty" Rustad, Granlibakken's founder

Norwegian Naval Officer Kjell “Rusty” Rustad was searching for a postwar enterprise to suit his two favorite pastimes: skiing and sailing. He was expert at both, and Lake Tahoe seemed to offer opportunities worth pursuing.

In 1947 Rustad leased the parcel once known as the Tahoe Tavern Winter Sports Grounds from the Forest Service and, working alone with an axe and handsaw, began to prepare the north-facing slope for use as a ski hill. The following year Rustad hired local carpenter Bert Brolund, and worked with him to build a log warming hut using the tall, straight red fir trees removed from the hill. A living quarters for the Rustads and two dormitory-style rentals followed.

Rusty was also working to revive the old Olympic Hill, site of the 1932 National Ski Jumping Championships, and on March 7, 1948 the LTSC held its first state-sanctioned meet there.

On January 22, 1949, Rustad, his wife Marion and daughter Binth held an Open House to introduce the community to their new ski venture, which they named ‘Granlibakken’ (a Norwegian phrase meaning “a hillside sheltered by fir trees”). Rusty arranged to teach the students of Tahoe Lake School to ski, extended the existing rope tow and added a second tow for beginners, while Marion took care of the business.

At that time, what is now Granlibakken Road was not plowed in

Granlibakken Ski History

The weasel at Granlibakken Tahoe

winter, and access to the ski hill was by a military surplus Weasel, which could tow a sled carrying 12 passengers. About 1952 an auto bridge over the Truckee River was constructed on Tahoe Lumber Company property, briefly affording better access, but in the soggy winter of 1955-56, high water carried it downstream, and the Weasel was reinstated.

The hard work of Rustad and other volunteers to prepare a second, smaller ski jump for the use of local youngsters paid off on March 15 & 16, 1952, when the Junior National Ski Championships were staged at Granlibakken.

In 1953 Rusty and Marion divorced, and she and Binth left Tahoe, while Rusty continued to promote the ski venture alone. That year, Rusty sold acreage across the road from the ski hill to UC Berkeley’s International House, whose volunteers built a lodge there. In 1954 Rusty married Jeanette Gorham, who joined him in the operation of the business.


Cal Alumni Center Granlibakken

Cal Alumni Center

In December 1958, the Cal Alumni Association announced its purchase of the International House property, where it planned to build a ski lodge for the use of UC Alumni, including new kitchen facilities, a 150-person dining hall, a swimming pool and two buildings to provide sleeping accommodations for families. Built and staffed primarily by UC students, the Alumni Center was completed in 1960.

In 1968, the Alumni Center was sold to New York publisher M. Hughes Miller, who built the canyon’s first condos and developed The Four Seasons, a popular dinner house. In 1974, Miller would be riding the wake of his company’s huge best seller, The Joy of Cooking. However, his Tahoe venture did not fare so well, succumbing to bankruptcy in 1976.

Bill and Norma Parson purchased the resort in 1978, reviving it and

Granlibakken condos

Granlibakken Tahoe

the original name. Today the Parson family continues to operate Granlibakken, hosting international conferences as well as the general public. Among the amenities still available to all is the ski hill with the marvelous pedigree.

Join us in celebrating 95 years of family fun at Granlibakken Tahoe. Click here for details.

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Thank you for joining us at Wellness Weekend 2017. We had an amazing weekend with you all. We hope that you enjoy these photos from Wellness Weekend 2017. Click here to learn more about Sierra Soul Wellness Events.

Written by Roger Gabriel

Roger Gabriel first began his wellness journey in the 1970s, training to be a meditation teacher under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His extensive training and engaging approach has brought Roger to teach meditation, Ayurveda and yoga in seminars and workshops all over the world.  Roger is closely connected to Deepak Chopra and has assisted Deepak with numerous programs.  He has taught thousands of people around the world the power of self-transformation through meditation. Roger will be lending key insights from his many years of experience to attendees of Wellness Weekend 2017 at Granlibakken Tahoe.


Yoga Lake TahoeThe good news is that we are all already Enlightened, all perfect in every way - perfectly happy, perfectly healthy and all our desires are instantly fulfilled.  Unfortunately, the bad news is that we’ve forgotten it and so live these less than perfect lives, where we get sick, depressed and frustrated by unfulfilled desires.  Our spiritual journey to Higher States of Consciousness, isn’t about learning anything new, it’s about remembering what’s already here, remembering who we really are. 

Everything in the Universe has awareness.  We can choose to live in constricted, limited awareness or in totally expanded awareness.  The only difference between the average person and an enlightened sage is awareness.  Most of us live in self-imposed limitations, whereas the sage lives in the unbounded freedom of fully expanded awareness.  We say, “I’ll believe it when I see it”, the sage believes it and it becomes. 

The Vedas describe four different time periods or Yugas called Sat, Treta, Dwapara and Kali, each lasting for many thousands of years.   

Sat Yuga is the Golden or Enlightened Age.  A time of joy and peace, a time without crime or violence, sickness or suffering.  People had yogic powers and lived in higher consciousness, a state of Oneness. 

Over time, people allowed themselves to become tired and stressed, they became distracted and allowed the purity to slip away.  This led to the beginning of moral decay, dualism and the time of Treta Yuga where only half the people lived in higher consciousness. 

Lake Tahoe Wellness WeekendAs the ego awakened, trickery and fraud emerged, the true purpose of life became lost.  The world entered Dwapara Yuga where very few remembered higher consciousness. 

The collective consciousness continued its decline and the world entered a time of chaos and confusion.  Thinking became turned upside down, conflict and suffering became accepted as the norm.  Materialism dominated and the world descended into Kali Yuga. This is where we find ourselves today, where only a few shining lights live in higher consciousness. 

This obviously could be a very depressing story unless we remember that, at the Cosmic level, time doesn’t exist.  Sat Yuga never really ended, except in our minds, as a result of being distracted and seduced by the external world.  By simply turning our awareness inwards, away from distractions, we can, once again locate the field of Pure Awareness within and begin to restore the memory of Wholeness in our lives.  This is the journey of meditation, from chaos and confusion to peace and harmony.  A journey from ordinary consciousness to Higher Consciousness and its re-integration as our everyday reality. 

When God created the Universe, She wondered where to place the Essence of Life, the Light of Awareness.  Some angels suggested hiding it in the distant stars, others suggested the deepest oceans.  But God said, “We’ll place it deep in the hearts of every human being, only the wisest of seekers and the true lovers of life will think of looking for it there”. 

This Light has and will, always be with us, hidden deep within.  All we need do is turn our awareness inwards, away from the noise and into the Silence.  This Light is the Light of our Soul and, when we nourish it, it will grow brighter.  It will illumine our journey out of the darkness of Kali Yuga, back to the sunshine of Sat Yuga and Higher Consciousness.  As the poet Rumi said, “Why do you stay in prison, when the door is wide open?” 

Deepak Chopra

Roger Gabriel with Deepak Chopra

The Vedic texts describe seven states of consciousness.  Each of them has its own biology, emotions, and the way in which we experience the world.  We are all familiar with the first three.  These are the states we experience every day – the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states of consciousness.  Collectively, we have accepted these as our “normal” states of consciousness but, as we will see, so much more awaits us. 

We all have thoughts and one thought leads us to the next.  However, between any two thoughts, there is a space or what Deepak likes to call the gap.  If this wasn’t there, all our thoughts would be happening at the same time.  This gap also has two very important qualities – it’s silent and a field of infinite possibilities.  If it wasn’t silent, it would be the next thought and between any two thoughts is the possibility for any other thought.  However, we are not our thoughts, we are the one who thinks them so, the only place where the “thinker of the thoughts”, our Essential Self or our Enlightened Self can be, is also in the gap between thoughts. 

All the creativity, insight and inspiration, joy and peace in our lives comes from this gap.  Unfortunately, because of the chaos and confusion that surrounds our lives, we have almost squeezed the gap out of existence.  The key to regaining Higher States of Consciousness therefore, is to slow everything down so we can spend more time in the silence of the gap and less in the noise, so we can enjoy its blessing every day in our lives. 

Roger Gabriel


Transcendental Consciousness          

The simplest way to spend more time in the gap is through meditation and particularly mantra meditation such as Primordial Sound Meditation.  Mantra meditation is a systematic process to take our awareness from activity to the field of Silence and Infinite Possibilities.  Our awareness moves to subtler and subtler levels of thought until we slip beyond (transcend) thought and into the gap between them.  This can also be called Soul Consciousness, where we aren’t aware of anything in particular but everything in general.  A state of Pure Awareness or Pure Consciousness.  A non-local state of Being, which we can call a fourth state of consciousness.  Awareness becomes aware of itself, intentions come from Being not from ego.  This is your true birth place, your country of origin from where you temporarily travel to the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states. 

By regularly alternating between meditation and normal activity, Transcendental Consciousness begins to be established within Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep Consciousness.  The non-local field of Silence and Infinite Possibilities becomes available in the midst of your everyday localized experiences.  Higher States of Consciousness begin to unfold. 

Cosmic Consciousness 

Now a fifth state of consciousness dawns, where we experience the local and non-local at the same time.  The silent, unbounded, unlimited Self witnessing the small, limited self, performing its activities of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.  Past, present and future are experienced as the Eternal Now.  You realize that you are not the mind and body you are the role-player in the multitude of roles you play.  Now you can fully enjoy the roles without being overshadowed by the good or bad scenes.  The mind is fully awake.  The fear of death disappears as you realize that death happens to an experience, not to You. You experience the Divinity within yourself. 

Divine Consciousness 

As we continue our spiritual journey, our awareness continues to expand.  The non-local value you recognized in yourself, is now seen in everyone and everything else.  You recognize that you live in a celestial world filled with the Divine.  You begin to see everything at its most refined level.  The heart fully expands bringing a state of deep unconditional love. 

Unity Consciousness 

Finally, we reach the end of our journey.  Separation dissolves and everything is seen as an expression of one’s own Self.  You still function in the localized world but recognize that you also have a universal body.  Everything is your Self in different disguises. The whole Universe is your body, your projection.  You are in the world but not of the world. 

In Cosmic Consciousness we experience miracles, in Divine Consciousness we create miracles and Unity Consciousness everything is the miraculous. 

Higher Consciousness is with us right now, we can have glimpses of it at any time.  It’s in the spaces between thoughts, the spaces between breath and the spaces between objects.  Slow down, take time out from the events and objects and become aware of the spaces.  One day, the glory of Enlightenment will fully dawn in your life. 

Lake Tahoe Wellness Weekend


Click here to learn more about the Lake Tahoe Wellness Weekend and to see the full schedule of events.

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Sustainable Earth YogaAshley Aarti Cooper is a storyteller, Yoga instructor, nature guide, and nonprofit unicorn. She resides in Truckee, CA, leads international yoga retreats, and co-hosts the Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival at Granlibakken Tahoe in Tahoe City, CA. She can be reached at or on Instagram at @ashley_aarti.

The holidays are a special time, filled with family, friends, and loved ones, good food and good cheer. But often during the holidays, we don’t take time for ourselves. It is important over the holidays to not only give to others, but also to indulge in self-care—whether that be taking a few moments in the morning for yoga, spending some time outdoors, or meditating to focus and refresh your mind, body, and spirit.

We have all heard the benefits of meditation: decreased stress, Lake Tahoe Wellness Weekendanxiety and tension accompanied with feelings of well-being, patience, concentration and compassion.  These benefits are easy to grasp conceptually and many of us make ourselves grand promises to start integrating meditation into our daily lives.  With the best of intentions, we sit down in a silent room and get to “shutting our brain off.”  It is not long before our knees start hurting, our to-do lists start screaming and our shut off brain is running on overdrive.

The problem is not you or meditation.  It is all in the approach.  To begin, be easy on yourself.  Choose a technique from below or elsewhere that suits you personally, and just challenge yourself to five minutes a few times a week.  Meditate in a truly comfortable position-whether you are sitting cross legged, in a comfortable chair, or lying down with pillows supporting you.  You can practice at home or, if you do better with group activities, attend a class.

Yoga Lake TahoeWhen many of us think about meditation, we think of sitting down in silence with our legs crossed and our mind blissfully blank.  This is the Zen Buddhist practice of zazen, and it may be this simple for some of us.  Many more types of meditation exist, however, and for every learning style there is an approach to meditating.

Guided meditations are extremely useful in anchoring you to the present moment by providing structure and sound.  If you don’t want to attend a class, there are many excellent free guided meditations on the internet.  Visualizations are also extremely useful anchors and can be guided or learned ahead of time.  Some people use a mantra (a word, sound, or statement) that is silently repeated or murmured. When using mantras, you can also hold japa mala beads which resemble the Christian rosary: each bead is a single repetition of your mantra.

For whichever approach you choose, remember a few things:

  • First, the purpose of meditation is not to attain anything, we meditate to become present.
  • Second, the brain will not simply shut off; the trick is to allow thoughts, ideas, images, etc. to come without holding on or judging.
  • Third, meditation is a practice. The progression of this practice will reflect the amount of time and effort put into it.


Click here to book your Wellness retreat today!

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Sustainable Earth Yoga

Ashley Aarti Cooper is a storyteller, Yoga instructor, nature guide, and nonprofit unicorn. She resides in Truckee, CA, leads international yoga retreats, and co-hosts the Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival at Granlibakken Tahoe in Tahoe City, CA. She can be reached at or on Instagram at @ashley_aarti.

I came back to the woods four and a half years ago after spending my

Tahoe Retreat

Photo courtesy of Ashley Aarti Coope 

early adulthood amidst the rich, chaotic hum of big cities and the sweet, salty sunsets of easy beaches. I should have anticipated where I would eventually settle, for each visit home to Massachusetts would send me out to the woods of my childhood. And there I would stay for hours.

Sometimes I chased my dogs along the trails and swam in cold, refreshing reservoirs, pulling myself out to dry on sun-warmed boulders. Other times I slowly meandered along those peaceful forest floors that are alternatively spongy and resistant, blanketed in grass or the brilliant mosaics of autumn leaves. There, like all deciduous forests, each season pulses with its own distinct life, intoxicates you with the smell of muddy creek beds or spring flowers, chills the tip of your nose, or sits sticky on your skin. The woods welcomed me back with open arms upon each return. In my relationship with the wilderness I found a mutual respect and understanding that was more difficult to come by elsewhere.

I started Sustainable Earth Yoga Retreats (SEYR) in 2011 after moving from the madness of life in Buenos Aires to the peace of a jungle ecological project in Northern Argentina. SEYR is a yoga project built on passing forward the practices and healing of life attuned to nature, and living on this planet with more give and less take. I co-hosted my first retreat on that red-clay land to help participants connect with themselves and nature through Yoga, jungle immersion, and workshops on natural remedies and sustainability practices.

Forest Bathing Tahoe

I brought SEYR with me when I returned to the United States in 2012. Soon, I discovered Truckee and Lake Tahoe, California, and I’ve been here ever since.

As a wilderness and mindfulness guide, someone drew my attention to shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing.” Developed in the early 1980s, shinrin-yoku means to “take in the forest atmosphere,” and since its inception, substantial resources have been invested in researching its psychological and physiological benefits.

From 2004 - 2012, Japanese officials and researchers did a deep-dive into the potential healing effects of shinrin-yoku. The benefits include:
• Boosted immune system functioning
• Reduced blood pressure
• Reduced stress
• Improved mood
• Increased ability to focus
• Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
• Increased energy level
• Improved sleep

Shinrin-Yoku Lake TahoeThe research echoes what we already know intuitively: nature speaks to us, and we respond. Trees emit essential oils called phytoncides that protect them from germs and insects, and they extend this immune-boosting magic to humans. Breathing in forest air increases the activity of Natural Killer cells, white blood cells that play a major role in the body’s rejection of tumors and virally infected cells. These effects can be measured for a month after exposure.

Studies, like those performed at Japan’s Chiba University, have also found that just thirty minutes in the forest lowers salivary cortisol levels. Cortisol is involved in blood pressure maintenance, anti-inflammatory function, and immune function, among many other regulatory processes. Researchers also found that forest visits lower blood pressure, increase heart rate variability, and have a a profound effect on the nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the fight-flight-freeze stress response, is typically in over-drive in modern life. Shinrin-yoku puts the sympathetic nervous system at ease, and turns on the parasympathetic nervous system to regulate our rest-and-digest response and restore the body to a state of calm and balance.

All of this has implications for our chronically stressed populace as well as those who experience acute stress such as people recovering from surgery, disease, or traumatic experiences. Shinrin-yoku inspired me to bring more structure and directed intention into my meditative nature walks.

I saw the effects most clearly when working with combat veterans. Simply being in Tahoe was healing for my clients who often suffered from post traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. As part of five day retreats, my co-guides and I led Sensory Hikes which combined principles of shinrin-yoku, Yoga, and sensory experiences. On top of the medicine the forest was already delivering, tuning into the present through our senses, breath work, and mindful awareness taught our clients how to begin controlling their minds’ fluctuations. After each retreat, clients consistently reported they would bring these tools home. They were also eager to return to the forest with their families.Shinrin-Yoku Tahoe

To practice shinrin-yoku, or to truly immerse ourselves in a forest environment, we must approach the practice with intention. We draw our attention to the way the Earth feels beneath our feet, and may even sit, dig, or crawl in the dirt. We watch the subtle and drastic play of the wind in the grasses. We close our eyes to smell the sweet sap of a pine tree, and begin to decipher the subtle differences between a bird’s greeting and a cry of alarm. We may taste wild mint, or stick our bare feet into the shock of a spring creek. As a Yoga student and teacher, I often incorporate meditations on the five elements of Ayurveda and Yoga that are constantly at play in our external and internal landscapes: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether.

This deepening presence helps us recognize we are not merely passing through natural environments, nature recognizes us as one of her own. All the while, she whispers songs of ease and health to the cells of our body, the hormones in our saliva, and the chemistry in our brain. In our response to these songs, a mutual respect and reciprocity is discovered, and we begin to care more deeply for nature and her well-being as well. We begin to live with less take and more give.

Of course, like so many of our spiritual practices, none of this is any new secret discovered, only ancient wisdom remembered.

“May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being, may you walk gently through the world and know it's beauty all the days of your life.” - Apache Blessing

Click here to book your Wellness retreat today!

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Written by Roger Gabriel

Roger Gabriel first began his wellness journey in the 1970s, training to be a meditation teacher under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His extensive training and engaging approach has brought Roger to teach meditation, Ayurveda and yoga in seminars and workshops all over the world.  Roger is closely connected to Deepak Chopra and has assisted Deepak with numerous programs.  He has taught thousands of people around the world the power of self-transformation through meditation. Roger will be lending key insights from his many years of experience to attendees of Wellness Weekend 2017 at Granlibakken Tahoe.

The word ashram comes from the Sanskrit word, "srama," which means "religious exertion." However, in more recent times the term "ashram" is used to describe any facility used by a spiritual community. They can vary in size from a small hermitage housing just a few people to multiple building complexes which are home to hundreds, including whole families.

Roger Gabriel

Roger Gabriel at the Satuwa Baba Ashram School in Varanasi, India, which he helps to sponsor.

Ashrams have existed in India for thousands of years and, more recently, many ashrams have been established in other parts of the world. Whereas once, ashrams would traditionally be located away from the mainstream of human population, nowadays ashrams can be found in most parts of India and range from cheap accommodations for westerners to closed communities with strict rules and codes of conduct. Most ashrams are either headed by a living spiritual teacher or follow the path laid out by a particular lineage. Ashrams tend to have a set schedule, followed by the permanent residents, which visitors are invited or sometimes expected to join. Some ashrams also served as gurukulas or residential schools for children, adhering to a particular tradition.

Meditation Lake TahoeWesterners often have the impression that most Indians practice silent meditation and yoga asanas on a regular basis. While this may be true for some, the average Indian’s spiritual practices are more of a devotional nature. Most Indians will have a small shrine in their home, dedicated to the family deity and will visit their local temple to participate in prayers and rituals. Pilgrimages to sacred sites is also very much a part of an Indian’s spiritual duties and here, ashrams play an important role by offering food, housing and support to the thousands of pilgrims constantly on the move in India.

In general, an ashram is a sacred place and very different from a hotel. It represents an opportunity to step away from worldly affairs and return to a simpler way of living. A place to nourish your soul, to deepen your spiritual practice and awaken to your true Self. An ashram is a place for inner freedom.

The Ashram community I have been connected with for almost 14 years is the Shree Satuwa Baba Ashram in India’s sacred city of Varanasi. During this time, I have visited it 2-3 times each year spending from a few weeks to several months there each visit. The Ashram dates back 300 years and, although touched by the modern world, still functions in accordance with ancient Vedic traditions. It is home to a residential school for boys training to become Vedic priests and provides temporary accommodations for several thousand pilgrims a year, all on a donation basis. Because of its traditional nature and fairly basic facilities, it receives few western visitors. Fortunately, even though I am something of an anomaly, I was quickly accepted into their family.

Roger Gabriel

Roger with his late guru Shri Satuwa Baba Maharaji

The former head of the Ashram, Maharaji, who left us physically four years ago aged ninety-nine, was the purest, most highly evolved human I have been blessed to meet. He became my Guru and gave me my spiritual name Raghavanand. Although it was clear he had a great depth of profound knowledge, our language limitations restricted our conversations to simple subjects. At first, this created a bit of a dilemma for me, as I had spent the previous thirty years listening to spiritual discourses, reading sacred texts and questioning everyone.

Nothing happens in an ashram without the Grace of the Guru and I was soon to receive that blessing. Sensing my confusion, Maharaji invited me to just be with him, to watch, listen and breathe in his divinity. And so, this is what I did at every opportunity. After spending years in Himalayan caves and returning to become Guru of the Ashram, Maharaji lived very simply. He slept on a mat on the floor in the same room where he spent much of the day meeting the many visitors who came for his advice or blessing. I would rise early in the morning, bathe and them quietly enter his room, where he would have already begun his morning prayers and pujas. Sitting as unobtrusively as possible, I would meditate or simply observe his devotion. During the day, with me in tow, he might visit a neighboring ashram, take a boat ride on the Ganges or cross the River to visit the Ashram farm and cows. Maharaji loved his cows! During all of this, Maharaji would always make sure I was taken care of. He ate very basic meals but made sure I was properly fed and insisted on me drinking a cup of warm milk with him every evening before bed.

Looking back, I realize that the time I spent with Maharaji, though mostly in silence, was as important to my spiritual growth as anything I have read in a book or heard from a discourse.

Lake Tahoe Wellness WeekendAcceptance

I learned to accept that the moment is perfect as it is. Indian clocks seem to move at an entirely different speed than those in the rest of the world and this is particularly evident in ashrams. Some mornings Maharaji would announce that he wanted to visit somewhere. In my usual westerner eagerness to be ready on time, I would inquire when we would be leaving. The answer was always the same, “When Lord Krishna decides”. I soon learned that this could mean five minutes, several hours or even days.


From watching Maharaji, I have begun to learn the gift of humility. Even though he was respected in spiritual communities throughout India, his door was open to everyone who came. Whether a poor village farmer, a pilgrim or important politician, everyone was welcomed with the same degree of respect.

SimplicityYoga Retreat

As I’ve mentioned, Maharaji lived simply and being with him encouraged me to do the same. Over the years, the luggage that I thought necessary to take with me to the Ashram, grew less. Sleeping on a wooden bed, having no heat in the winter, bathing from a bucket of cold water and sitting on the floor to eat my meals without utensils has now become my ashram norm.

Selfless Service

Seva and the practice of Karma Yoga is very much a part of ashram life. Everyone is invited to pitch in with whatever needs doing. However, I soon learned that Indians who had grown up chopping vegetables on the floor, serving food to long rows of hungry people from a bucket or sweeping the floor with a broom made of twigs, were much more efficient than I was. After frustrating everyone with my slowness, I finally asked Maharaji what job could I do. Without hesitating he replied, “Official Ashram photographer” and to this day, that’s what I am!


I’ve always enjoyed my quiet time. Whether it was my meditation, reading or walking in nature, this has always been a regular part of my daily routine. This however, doesn’t always work out in an ashram with 70 young boys. The main focus of their education at the Ashram is learning Sanskrit, learning the Vedic chants and the performance of sacred rituals. Recently a daily English class has been added so now my quiet time is invaded by little boys eager to practice what they know. I remind myself that the reward of patience is patience!

Let the Universe Handle the DetailsYoga Lake Tahoe

Although the Ashram had a school, the actual school building had fallen down years ago and the boys slept and studied scattered throughout the Ashram. One day Maharaji called me into his room and said he wanted to rebuild the school but needed my help. My first fear was that he expected me to start mixing cement and laying bricks but he told me that my role was to raise the money. I mentally debated whether laying bricks would be easier. When I expressed my hesitation, he said, “Don’t worry, Lord Krishna sent you to help us”, definitely no pressure! I had no experience in raising large sums of money but I told him I would do my best. A week later I returned to the US and received a phone call from a good friend who I had traveled with in India and who was also a successful businessman. During the conversation, it occurred to me to ask his advice on raising the money. When I explained how much was needed, he said that it was no problem and that he would pay for everything. Wow! I immediately phoned the Ashram to tell Maharaji the great news. When I told him I had all the money, he matter of factly replied, “Of course, I knew you would, we’ve already begun the construction”.

If you haven’t already, I hope you all have the opportunity to visit an ashram one day. In the meantime, bring the energies of an ashram into your home. Create a special space where you can enjoy your spiritual practices. Set aside regular times each day for your practice. See if you can be more accepting, humble and patient in your life. Can you be more selfless when helping others. Ultimately your personal ashram is that place of pure love you always carry with you in your heart.

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By Stephenie Riley

Stephenie RileyStephenie Riley began her medical career in the conventional approach to healing, graduating from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Engineering and spending nearly a decade designing medical devices. Yet her pursuit of optimal health led her back to graduate school in 1999 to become a Naturopathic Doctor. It was a combination of her experience in the classical medical industry combined with a desire to understand the healing powers of alternative medicine that inspired her to explore healthcare from a different perspective.

Many people view genetics as a fixed variable in our lives. While our genetics are inherited, because we have certain genes does not mean that they will be expressed. This is important in looking at genetic information as empowering you, not just looking at your vulnerabilities.

Environment (epigenetic) influences can affect our genetic expression. Genetics information is valuable beyond determining the susceptibility to disease, it can also be used for determining critical supplements or lifestyle changes for an individual.  We have control over diet, lifestyle, and nutrients, all which play an important role in overall health and wellbeing.

Lake Tahoe Wellness WeekendFor instance, using the commonly talked about MTHFR mutation, a (+) indicates someone doesn’t convert folic acid well to folate. Folate and folic acid are water-soluble B vitamins that are necessary to prevent illness and maintain homeostasis. They have been shown to prevent a variety of ailments, from anemia to memory loss. Folate is found naturally in many foods, including leafy greens and some fruits. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, added to many foods regularly consumed by the average American, including flour, cereals, and bakery items.

Individuals with the (+) MTHFR gene have a difficult time processing folic acid into folate, which can lead to lethargy, sleep issues, and other complications. One way to mitigate this genetic influence is to change lifestyle and dietary habits. Reducing alcohol intake and some pharmaceutical medications may help, as will increasing vegetable intake, especially dark leafy greens.

The (+)MTHFR mutation is just an example of the many ways that individuals can tailor their dietary and lifestyle choices to better serve their overall health. At Wellness Weekend 2017, we will discuss other pertinent topics relating to genetic health and our overall wellbeing.

Click here to learn more about the Lake Tahoe Wellness Weekend and to see the full schedule of events.

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Retreat to be held November 11 & 12 as part of the Sierra Soul series of wellness events


Wellness Weekend 2017 is designed to rejuvenate, teach, and inspire in the Sierra Nevada, November 11 & 12, 2017. Hosted by Granlibakken Tahoe, a family-owned resort located in a peaceful 74-acre valley near the shores of North Lake Tahoe, this event features a unique fusion of Eastern and Western philosophies, medicine, and practices.

“Wellness Weekend is among the best events in Tahoe,” says Shawna West, one of the event organizers. “It offers a full weekend of learning, exploration, fun, and camaraderie. Health information is offered on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level, leaving participants with a fresh excitement as they return to their daily lives.”

A unique fusion of education and movement make Wellness Weekend one of a kind, delivering informational seminars as well as meditation, yoga, and energy-work classes in a peaceful mountain atmosphere.



About Wellness Weekend:

What’s New:

Now in its sixth year, Granlibakken Tahoe has made some changes to Wellness Weekend. Formerly Women’s Wellness Weekend, this event now is open to everyone who wishes to come, regardless of gender. An additional meditation, movement, and yoga class track has been added for 2017. Attendees can enjoy a refreshing Yoga Nidra meditation between seminars, or align their energies with Tai Chi. An entirely revamped speaker schedule will feature fresh content from experts in their fields-ranging from topics like how foods can impact mental health to using DNA sequencing for self-empowerment.

Headlining the weekend this year is Roger Gabriel, Master Educator at The Chopra Center, delivering his keynote speech entitled “Release the Karmic Secret.” Gabriel is closely connected to Deepak Chopra and has assisted Chopra with numerous programs. He has taught thousands of people around the world the power of self-transformation through meditation. Regardless of philosophy and/or faith, Gabriel’s keynote will offer insights and observations about the different types of karma and how it affects life. He will offer training tools for effective meditation and mindfulness. This keynote speech is included for all Wellness Weekend attendees, or the speech and preceding cocktail hour can be purchased à la carte.

It wouldn’t be Wellness Weekend without some movement. Attendees are welcome to take a break from the seminars and enjoy a hike through the forest surrounding Granlibakken Tahoe with a shinrin-yoku outdoor meditation led by Ashley Aarti Cooper. There is the opportunity to work on balance and mindfulness with a rejuvenating ki gong practice with Rolf Godon. Each day of Wellness Weekend starts with sunrise yoga, perfect for welcoming and setting intentions for the day ahead. The weekend closes on Sunday with a drum circle. Attendees will partake in this ancient practice that has been proven to have beneficial effects on the mind and body.

Wellness Weekend

The Local Artisan Marketplace on Saturday is a great chance to shop for locally made jewelry, crafts, and goods. Various local wellness services also will be represented; shoppers can enjoy a quick massage after a day of wellness, or experience an aromatherapy demonstration.

Cocktail hours and meals are available on site. Attendees can sample locally made brews and wines as well as non-alcoholic cocktails. Granlibakken’s award-winning executive chef will prepare a variety of meals, featuring organic, vegan, and locally sourced options.

Continuing education credits are available to health professionals at Wellness Weekend.*

Lodging is available at a special weekend package rate of $116 per night for double-occupancy or $179 per night for single-occupancy, not including tax and service charges.Lodging Lake Tahoe

Granlibakken, a premier venue for health and wellness events, offers an exceptional setting for this inspirational retreat. Reservations for Wellness Weekend, to be held November 11 & 12, 2017, can be made online here using Group ID: LTWW17 and Password: LTWW17.

*Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number 1198 for 6.0 contact hours


About Granlibakken Tahoe

Granlibakken Tahoe is a family-owned and operated resort located in a peaceful 74 acre forested valley just steps from the shores of Lake Tahoe. With a variety of accommodations onsite, from standard bedrooms to three-bedroom townhouses, Granlibakken comfortably accommodates groups, conferences, and weddings. The resort’s 24,500 square feet of flexible year-round meeting space can host groups of 4 to 400 with ease. Hot buffet breakfast is included in all stays, as well as resort-wide high-speed wireless Internet access, parking, and access to onsite amenities. Granlibakken’s unique location and mountain hospitality provides the perfect place to reconnect and unplug. For more information, please visit: