We had the good fortune of connecting with Preston Slaughter and Kelsey Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Preston Slaughter and Kelsey Brown, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Two of our values at Awaken Retreats are community and reciprocity. On our retreats, we become family. From intention-setting circles, to group dinners and clearing our own plates, everyone becomes part of the experience. Being part of a community has positive effects on mental health and emotional wellbeing. As human beings, we desire a true sense of belonging and social connection. Through group activities like yoga, ecstatic dance, hiking and even cold plunges, we expose our most authentic selves, creating a space where healing and inspiration thrive. Everyone belongs in the Awaken community.
Through community connection, we receive. An essential element of many indigenous cultures is the reciprocal relationship between humanity and nature. This means that when we take gifts given to us by nature, we should reciprocate the gift in the form of gratitude or giving back. A percentage of all tickets sold are donated to a local organization to give back to the resources we use. We practice ‘leave no trace’ principles, and do our best to take only what we need and nothing more. We believe that the industry of yoga, especially retreats, has been glamorized. Our goal is to remind people that connection with nature is enough to revitalize and awaken spirit within. Together, we walk away from the distractions of technology and learned desires to engage with the living, breathing Earth in backcountry Colorado. We see ourselves and the Earth as our greatest gifts and only want to give back in return.
Our mission at Awaken Retreats is to use the practices of meditation, yoga, movement, and rewilding to strip our ‘identities’ and come back to the collective. When we live in harmony with the Earth, we experience a deeper relationship with the Self. When we take people out into nature, our hope is that they can realize their wholeness and how it is connected to the unity of all things.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Our friendship rekindled in the mountains of Colorado. We had attended college together at the University of Miami for one year and had fallen out of touch. When we reconnected, we bonded over yoga and hiking. We developed new levels of trust in one another after we supported each other while hiking Mt. Elbert. It was thereafter we realized our adventurous souls were truly aligned in terms of our pace, desire to explore and have fun along the way. Being in nature brought us back to our true selves, the same ones who had connected all those years back.
Since then, we have backpacked together, done countless hiking and camping trips and road tripped across country twice. As yoga instructors in Denver, we felt a desire to connect our two passions. We also realized this was a niche in the retreat industry that was untapped.
Our first retreat went off without a hitch – and we had 28 people! However, we quickly realized we wanted to create smaller, more intimate experiences, and backcountry land was the perfect backdrop. We have learned 1) That to emphasize the health and wellbeing of others, we must first be in control of our own wellbeing, 2) Our friendship comes before our business, which means weekly checkins and FaceTime meditations before meetings and 3) Everything will not always go as planned, especially with Mother Nature involved.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A day in Denver… Morning coffee at Awake Denver.
Yoga class at The River Yoga.
Highlands or Pearl St farmer’s market.
Lunch, shopping and meetings at Nurture.
A stroll around Sloan’s Lake to take in the gorgeous sunset and the mountains.
Beer at Zuni St Brewery.
Evening picnic in a local park like Jefferson Park or Cheesman Park.
Other days might include live music at Red Rocks or Jazz in City Park or an urban hike on S Platt Trail.
We wouldn’t let a friend come to town without taking them on at least a day trip into the mountains! For hiking and camping, we love Chicago Lakes, Guanella Pass, sunrise trail runs at North Table, or Lake Chasm for the first half of Long’s Peak 14er.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Our chef and certified nutritional therapist, Tori Kornhaas of The Everyday Yum, who Kelsey met in a corporate position years back, has been with us every step of the way. With an understanding of yoga, nutrition and the corporate world, she keeps us aligned and nourished.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
So many female yoga instructors and educators in the Denver community.
And of course the OG Awaken community! We see you Sasha Kovalchick, sound healer and Awaken fam who has been on every retreat!
Preston Slaughter Photography