Connect
To Top

Meet Jessie Levine of Take It Off Yoga Retreats in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessie Levine.

Jessie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a yoga teacher and have been for about 5 years now. About two years ago, I was asked to do a nude photoshoot in nature. This is not something I ever thought I wanted to do, but the photographer was so passionate about showing women (real, non-model women) that they too are beautiful, and I was intrigued. He thought it was so crazy that women, generally speaking, hold themselves to such ludicrous standards, and that they doubt their beauty and power because of that. At the time, I just thought it might be fun, so I agreed, and then the night before, I was confronting all these worries like, “who am I to do something like this? I’m not pretty enough or important enough,” and “what are people going to think? Am I allowed to do this?” and “am I doing this for the wrong reasons? Am I trying to get attention? Do I really want this, or am I just doing it because someone else suggested it?” (along with the obvious, “am I safe in the woods with this random photographer?” hah!). In processing this, I realized: these are the same questions I confront in my life, every day. Every time I go to speak up for myself, every time I make a decision on what to do with my time or I set a boundary in a relationship. Every time I make a big step in my career, and every time I meet someone new. I question myself. Everywhere. I doubt myself, everywhere. My fears and insecurities pop up left and right. (Whether I let them take charge or not.)

So, I did the photoshoot, and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I had never felt more free (and let me remind you – this is not something I thought I wanted to do. I am not like the “free spirit” hippie you think of when you think of yogi. I’m not a music festival- goer, weed smoker kind of gal. So this, was new, and surprisingly good). Not to mention, that evening I looked at my photos, and found myself in tears of gratitude and love. I had never seen myself like that. Just. Me. And it was stunning. No editing. No fancy clothes and makeup. Just. Me. Stunning. Me? Stunning? Yep.

A few months later, an idea for a yoga retreat that combined these photoshoot experiences with self-growth seminars and yoga, just kind of fell from the sky. The ball quickly got rolling and we were set for our first trip less than 2 months later.

Now, a year and a half later, the intention has shifted a bit: the yoga retreats are all about self-growth. Self-growth, in this case, meaning this is an opportunity to look at where you are versus where you want to be. This is an opportunity to look at where you feel stuck or stressed. This is an opportunity to look at the things that hold you back from being AS amazing as you could be or want to be – and unravel them. To literally “take off” those layers of fear, insecurity, worry, trauma, etc. Taking off your clothes (optional) for a photo shoot is not only symbolic of this, but it is an opportunity to practice this. To practice seeing the fears, the questions, the doubts come up – and figure out how to confront them. What does it take? Who do you want to be? Those are the questions we ask, and we unravel to get to the bottom of it.

Doing a nude photo shoot is a big deal for a woman (or for anyone!). And, this is not a boudoir shoot (although nothing against that), in that, it’s not ABOUT being sexy or pretty. It’s not even about the photos themselves. It’s about what it takes to stand in front of the camera, with nothing to hide behind. It’s about being you. Fully you. And acknowledging that just like the rocks beside you, THAT is incredible.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Yes and no. On one hand, since we began, I have been so certain of my mission with this. Yoga retreats were not in my goals previously, but because this is so meaningful to me, it has always been easy to keep it going. I believe in showing up for my fellow women and helping them see their power.

However, there have been struggles. Beyond logistical struggles like flat tires, broken air conditioners mid-summer, schedule changes, and weather conditions, the biggest thing that I struggle with is this: we are doing something really powerful here. And, that means, our activities are daring. (I mean – nude photoshoot for one!) They ask a lot of the participants. And, I don’t mean physically or even the nude part, what I mean is emotional. They ask the participants to really dig into their feelings, their deepest insecurities; and what’s more, is they ask the participant to put their ego aside (ego as in, the part of you that needs to look good or be perceived a certain way to yourself or others), and let go of some deep-rooted attachments.

Because of this, there have been moments of rebellion. For instance, people have made fun of what we are doing and tried to get others to make fun of it too. People have gotten offended by the exercise and tried to fight against me about it. People have questioned the activities and decided to step out and not participate.

Now, mostly – it’s not like that. Mostly it’s inquisitive, open, and vulnerable women, discussing their lives, and overcoming some pretty big obstacles! Letting go of painful pasts, and moving on to powerful futures. But sometimes, yes, we butt heads. Sometimes, we feel the pushback that comes with pushing people to be their best selves – ego, fear, defensiveness, avoidance, etc. So, my struggle is continued to make this process as accessible and loving as possible, while still holding my participants high, and encouraging them to step up.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Take It Off Yoga Retreats story. Tell us more about the business.
Take It Off is a yoga retreat business. As of now, we are all women, we host yoga retreats locally in California 4 times a year (about every 3 months). We specialize in self-love and self-growth. The unique thing about us is that the yoga retreat includes a nude photoshoot, where the participant goes out in nature with the photographer. The photoshoot, in addition to the self-development talks and the yoga sessions, aids in creating a transformative experience.

As a company, I am most proud of the fact that, what we are doing is kind of taboo, or controversial even, and yet, we stick to it because a lot of what we are “unraveling” during the retreat comes from society, family, and culture telling us what is and what is not ok/good/pretty/desirable. A lot of what we have to work on, especially as women, is letting go of the expectation put on us by society (or friends or family), and the need to please others to feel worthy. So, in doing something that is not totally acceptable in society, we get the opportunity to confront these issues, as a company and individually. We get to ask ourselves, “if my parents disapproved, what does that mean about me?” or, “if my friends make fun of me, or get mad at me, does that dictate how I behave?”. We get to look at what it is we really want, who we really are and test that up against real life. Against a real situation.

In doing this, we are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t really look at it as luck, but I do look at everything as our teacher. So for instance, when the idea for the business fell into our laps, I took that as a very clear sign telling me to pursue this concept. And, when challenges arose, I took it as a clear opportunity to test myself and make sure I was certain of what I was doing. I continue to look at challenges as a teacher, in that each time, they force me to ask the question – am I doing the best I can? Is this program the best it could be? And if the answer is yes, these challenges are just hiccups. We blow right past them. But if the answer is no, that’s my own personal coach saying “step up!”. And so, I do.

I don’t think I’ve caught a big break or had anything truly terrible happen. I think I am just a normal human, stepping into it every day, hoping to make my business better, myself better, and therefore empower others in the most efficient way possible.

Pricing:

  • Retreats cost anywhere from $500-900.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Allie Costello, Nicki Nicole Niemet

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in