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Sacred Garden Wellness Takes Root

Combining Philanthropy and Fitness, New Santa Barbara Initiative Kicks Off July 14

By Caitlin Scialla, published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 9, 2024

When Laura Caulfield-Lewis traveled to Lake Atitlán in 2000 she never could have envisioned the enduring impact that the trip would have on her. It was easy to be swept away by all of the natural beauty of Guatemala: the majestic volcanoes, lush green hills, crystal-clear blue waters, and picturesque villages. However, at the same time, it was impossible to ignore the devastating poverty also embedded in the scene.

Laura was struck by the hardship endured by the indigenous people, specifically the fact that many communities lacked an effective water filtration system. While in Guatemala for a yoga retreat, Laura became involved with a local nonprofit and assisted in raising money that was used to purchase water filters and other crucial supplies.

Her visit to Guatemala became more than just a yoga trip, but a unique experience that fused spirituality and service. The dual nature of her time in Lake Atitlán demonstrated to her that the healing arts both cultivate inner peace and can be applied externally to spark positive change in the world. The impact of the healing arts goes beyond the individual.

Lake Atitlán planted the seed, inspiring Laura to take similar trips to such places as Bali and Costa Rica where she not only practiced yoga and breathing meditation, but engaged in volunteer work as well.

And so unsurprisingly the idea to create her own organization – one that nurtures a holistic wellness experience centering on body, mind, and charitable work – has been incubating for years. Drawing on her expertise as a certified yoga and Pilates instructor, and expanding on what she has learned abroad and through working with local NGOs, Laura has launched Sacred Garden Wellness.

Sacred Garden Wellness aims to combine the healing arts and volunteer opportunities. The goal is not only to foster balance, physical strength, and mindfulness through classes and retreats that incorporate yoga, Pilates, meditation, and breathwork, but also to inspire participants to outwardly apply what they’ve learned on the mat, using it to do good in the world.

Community classes will be starting on Sunday July 14 as part of a kickoff initiative entitled “Six Sundays of Summer: Yoga + Pilates (Yogalates) for Good.” This event intends to set the tone and mission of Sacred Garden Wellness by hosting outdoor Yogalates classes open to all, with Laura herself as the instructor. The Yogalates classes will be held each Sunday for six consecutive Sundays, from July 14 until August 18, at La Mesa Park (295 Meigs Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93109) from 3-4:30 p.m. 

Laura explained that Yogalates blends yoga and Pilates. The result is a unique type of exercise that harnesses the physical and mental benefits of both. Because Yogalates also incorporates breathwork and meditation, the benefits of practicing are manifold. Yogalates not only improves physical strength and stamina, but hugely decreases stress levels as well. Moreover Yogalates’s emphasis on the alignment of body, mind, and spirit contributes to a wholistic, grounding experience that allows those who practice to feel more present with themselves and those around them. 

The price of each class is an open donation, with the suggested amount of $20. At the end of the six weeks 100 percent of the total proceeds will be donated, split evenly amongst the four selected nonprofits: Dignity Moves, Freedom 4 Youth, Sierra Club, Wilderness Youth Project, and Grapevine Giving Foundation.

Dignity Moves has partnered with Santa Barbara County to provide interim housing for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness, a project that was spearheaded in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and as a response to the aggravated housing crisis.

Freedom 4 Youth focuses on mentoring, empowering, and otherwise supporting young people who have been impacted by overcriminalization, addressing the short-term and long-term needs of those both inside and transitioning from local detention facilities.

Sierra Club is dedicated to protecting the environment and advancing eco-consciousness and sustainability efforts. The Santa Barbara-Ventura chapter tackles issues specific to the area and organizes events, such as cleanups and hikes, that get people outdoors and connected with nature.

Wilderness Youth Project offers nature-based programs to local children, looking to encourage human connection with the natural world. These experiences outdoors have a myriad number of benefits for kids, honing their self-confidence, care and respect for nature, and love for learning, amongst other amazing skills.

Grapevine Giving Foundation revolves around the concept of collective giving, promoting the idea that philanthropic initiatives are more powerful when people work together to make a lasting difference.

When asked why she has selected these specific nonprofits, Laura acknowledged that, because she is interested in a multitude of causes, it was difficult for her to choose only a handful to support. However she clarified that, while these organizations center on homelessness, recidivism, environmental protection, and connection with nature respectively, she considers these causes to be synergistic, intertwined even.

Freedom 4 Youth, for example, has a huge emphasis on getting kids outside and connecting them with nature, similar to Wilderness Youth Project and Sierra Club. And, in an effort to teach about healthy food and eating habits, Freedom 4 Youth has even started a food truck business. Their first client is Dignity Moves.

There are so many links between grassroots projects and, as Laura explained, kind deeds have a massive ripple effect. This sentiment of collaboration and coming together to implement widespread change is reflected in how Santa Barbara’s wellness community has already banded together to support Sacred Garden Wellness and the Six Sundays of Summer initiative. Club Pilates and Yoga Soup are also involved.

Visit to learn more about Sacred Garden Wellness.

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