The mission of Suryalila is to be an enduring sanctuary where all who work here fully support each other’s freedom, growth, creativity and highest potential. To all who come here we offer an experience of profound beauty, wholesomeness wellbeing, human warmth, respect and care. This is expressed by our authenticity, wholehearted dedication, and careful attention to providing an environment where individual guests and group leaders feel nurtured and supported. We are guided by integrity, openness, kindness, happiness and love.
The Suryalila Team
meet the team
Vidya Jacqueline Heisel Director & Founding Partner
Vidya Jacqueline Heisel, E-RYT 500, SYT, is the Director of Suryalila Retreat Centre and the Director of Frog Lotus Yoga International Yoga Teacher Training Programmes.
Vidya grew up in England, and lived in India, Bali and the USA, before arriving in southern Spain in 2011. Yoga has been Vidya's life-long passion. She started studying, practicing and teaching yoga in 1975 and since then has taught yoga extensively worldwide. After founding Frog Lotus Yoga Studio in Massachusetts in 2002, Vidya created a comprehensive Yoga Teacher Training programme, which she has taught at retreat centres around the world.
Vidya currently runs most of her Yoga Teacher Training Programmes, retreats and holidays at Suryalila, where she resides. Vidya’s other interests include nutrition, gourmet vegetarian cooking and interior design, all of which she joyfully expresses at Suryalila. Vidya was one of the founding partners of Suryalila. She oversees the running of Suryalila and upholds and manifests the vision.
By Vidya Heisel,
Co-Founder & Director of Suryalila Retreat Centre
Suryalila, like most big projects, began with a dream and a vision.
I have had a lifelong devotion to Yoga and Eastern Philosophy and have been studying, practicing and teaching yoga for 40 years now. My soul-searching led me to living long-term in two different spiritual communities.
In 2002, I opened Frog Lotus Yoga, a beautiful Yoga studio in Western Massachusetts, and I started teaching Yoga Teacher Training Intensives there. After 6 years of successfully growing my Yoga studio and running the Yoga Teacher Training Programs, both at the studio and in Yoga Retreat Centres around the world, I decided to pass the studio on to a colleague and focus solely on the Yoga Teacher Training Retreats. I have traveled and taught extensively at different Yoga Retreat Centres globally for many years.
Before moving to Spain, I taught mostly in exotic locations in Asia and Central America, and I also taught once a year in Europe (I am English by birth, although I lived a lot of my adult life in the USA). Over the years I taught at a number of different Yoga Retreat Centres in Portugal, Italy and Spain. I searched extensively for the best Yoga Retreat Centre in Europe. I had a clear vision of what the perfect Yoga Retreat Centre for me would be like, but was unable to find it exactly.
My dream included organic gourmet vegetarian food, excellent and friendly customer service, beautiful and peaceful surroundings, a spacious and magnificent Yoga Hall and lovely accommodation for all budgets. After searching for this elusive Yoga Retreat Centre in Europe for a number of years, I suddenly knew I had to create it myself.
After a visit to a friend living in Andalucia, I was very attracted to the exceptional beauty of southern Spain. My dream crystallized and I shared it with my good friends Peter Simmons and Harry Dijkshoorn, both of whom were interested in getting involved in the project. Together we found the property and created Suryalila Yoga Retreat Centre. We all fell in love with a renovated old olive farm in the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema, which Peter originally discovered on the internet. Immediately it felt like the perfect place to manifest our vision. The sense of spaciousness and beautiful views of rolling hills and lakes were awe-inspiring. The already beautifully renovated buildings were a perfect fit. La Fabrica became Suryalila, and seemed to be tailored seamlessly to fit my dream.
We had a dream of creating a small harmonious community to run the business and boldly set out to create the best Yoga Retreat Centre in Europe. It is an on-going work in progress! After three years of hard work getting Suryalila off the ground, Peter has moved on to other things and I am now the Director. For the first seven years Harry was centre manager but has now moved back to Holland with his wife Mirella, so that their daughter Leela can attend an alternative school there. Our old friend Mario is now in charge of guest services.
We have attracted a wonderful staff, who are all part of the Suryalila family, including Tanea, my right hand assistant, Erin, our lovely office manager; my personal assistant Lidiya who also teaches yoga, does marketing & product development, our amazing international team of chefs, Gemma, Caroline, Kali and Tamzin; Encarni and her team of cleaning staff; Manuel and Xapa who take care of the property, Somesh who heads up building projects and a revolving team of selfless volunteers who help keep the centre working smoothly.
We strive to create a seamless experience for the guests, to make everyone feel welcomed and valued. We also carefully tend to our own relationships and the sense of harmony between us; appreciating each other for all the hard work that we do. My goal is that we become an exemplary business that brings out the best in each of us. We come together every day to read our mission statement out loud, to remind ourselves of our highest goals for the Yoga Retreat Centre.
One of our greatest achievements has been the creation of the magnificent Om Dome on the property. I had been dreaming of creating a state of the art Yoga Hall for bigger groups and expanding our accommodation to hold 60 people, and after three years of being open, this is was accomplished. I dare to say that Suryaila has the biggest and most beautiful Yoga Hall in Europe.
I continue to dream of perfection and I know in my heart that Suryalila will continue to blossom and become the best Yoga Retreat Centre I can imagine.
With love and light, Vidya.