Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Above: Our Live Be Yoga Tour ambassadors with Stephen Bethel of Bethel Farm.
In the past three weeks, our tour has led us through multiple bustling cities, but last week we got to rejuvenate ourselves at Bethel Farm in Hillsborough, N.H. Stephen Bethel founded this yoga retreat center and farm-to-table sanctuary many years ago, when he and his family decided to share their beautiful property, knowledge of organic farming, and passion for yoga with people from far and wide. For 35 years, this place has been his family’s homestead, where he teaches primarily Jivamukti yoga, practices meditation, and heals others through organic foods. Over the years, yogis and gardeners from the community have slowly built onto the existing landscape, leaving behind a tangible energy that is easily felt. Stephen has spent his life creating, and a vital part of this has been nourishing his body and mind through organic farming.
“For me, yoga is about integration and becoming whole,” he told us. “Food is one of the most essential activities of our life. It begins in the womb and pretty much lasts until our last breath. Making that a part of the full evolution of the individual on the physical level is a way to relate back to the Earth. We are part of that life cycle that comes from the Earth and sustains us.”
Eventually, sharing this perspective with others became Stephen’s priority. An array of friends and family helped Stephen build the farm, and we were privileged to meet Christine Fletcher, Bethel Farm’s wonderful chef. Her vision for each meal changes day to day based on what is readily available in the greenhouses and gardens. The meal she prepared was not only beautiful, but clearly crafted with intention and care. We all sat down at the wooden table located in the main retreat building, and peered into a big pot of steaming chili. Mouths watering, we awed at a perfectly baked spicy cornbread, a bowl of a sorrel and garlic spread, and a bright pile of fresh greens. When asked for the recipes for these dishes, Christine replied, “I don’t use recipes or write them down. I simply invent the dishes on the spot.” I found this nearly unbelievable based on the delicate taste of each entree, but I was even more impressed by her inventive spirit.
Stephen’s daughter, Audrey Bethel, mentioned that each guest at the farm always leaves something special behind. Whether it’s a rock climbing wall, a hidden cabin settled a distance away from the gardens, or a personally built sauna, each guest can add to the property in any way they choose. It is truly a living, breathing land of artwork.
There is a feeling at the farm of being in a different time and place, one without cell phones, computers, rushing traffic, or overcrowded streets. The yoga teacher training programs, the organic farming apprenticeship programs, and the immediate immersion into the Bethel family will inevitably reconnect each guest to who they are meant to be.