Skip to content
Healthy Living Retreat for Women

May 20–23, 2021

Due to Stanford University guidelines regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, we have cancelled all spring programs scheduled for 2020. The health and safety of our staff and guests is of the utmost importance to us and remains our top priority while making program decisions. We appreciate your patience and understanding during these difficult times. We hope you will be able to join us for next year’s program, currently scheduled for May 20 - 23, 2021.


The Good Gut

Presented by Erica Sonnenburg, PhD

The past decade of research has revealed a profound link between the bacteria that inhabit our gut, our microbiome, and our health. Diet has emerged as one of the most powerful levers available to shape the composition and functionality of the gut microbiome. Our research is currently focused on understanding basic principles that govern diet-gut microbiome dynamics, and how interactions between nutrients and microbes within the gut can cascade into physiological changes to human biology. We use the study of traditional populations around the globe along with dietary intervention clinical trials in order to understand how to improve diet in a way that maximizes health, prevents disease, and lessens the burden of existing diseases.

Ownership and Engagement for a Life of Courage and Contentment

Presented by Sonoo Thadaney Israni, MBA

How often do stress, conflict and decision making rattle you? Sonoo will share how to use decision and conflict coaching skills and tools that strengthen your roots and find purpose and joy for a life of courage and contentment. Making healthier choices and decisions come from the clarity of your values for strong thoughtful, meaningful journeys. Anchored in Authentic Courage for Constructive Change.

CourAGEous Aging: Cultivating Vitality in the Midlife + Years

Presented by Carole Pertofsky, M.Ed.

Explore the latest research that addresses myths, realities and self-limiting attitudes about aging. Learn skills to spark vitality, fulfillment, joy and self-care so that your body, mind, and spirit flourish at this remarkable life stage.

Wake Up to the Power of Sleep

Presented by Karen Schwarzbach

Join Certified Sleep Consultant Karen Schwarzbach for this engaging and informative presentation. Understand the science of sleep and learn simple tips and tricks to improve your own sleep and that of those in your organization. With insomnia reaching epidemic proportion, according to the Centers for Disease Control, now more than ever it’s critical to understand the role restorative rest plays in one’s overall health and well-being. The Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine identifies Sleep the third Pillar of Health along with Nutrition and Exercise. Find out how daily activities, habits, behaviors, and environment can improve or impede the restful sleep adults need, along with the far-reaching physical and mental health risks associated with prolonged sleep deprivation.

Learning objectives include understanding common barriers to restorative sleep, simple solutions to improve sleep, health conditions and medications that contribute to loss of sleep, and long range impact of prolonged sleep deprivation. You will learn about tools and resources that can be used personally as well as disseminated throughout an organization to improve sleep.


Workshops are offered twice concurrently, so participants choose two of the five to attend.

Mindfulness + Self-Compassion for Health and Wellbeing

Presented by Renee Burgard, LCSW

This experiential workshop offers practices - and ways of understanding them - for feeling physically released, mentally and emotionally at peace, enlivened, connected, and resilient. You’ll learn brief mindful body scan, yoga and walking/sitting meditations + self-compassion and loving/kindness practices, and a bit of the history and research behind them. These practices help in cultivating the allowing awareness of mindfulness; ways to transform difficulties; a deepening the sense of connection, belonging, and wellbeing; and greater kindness for ourselves and others.

Posture for Strength, Relaxation, and Well-Being

Presented by Esther Gokhale

Having arrived on the planet without a user’s manual for our bodies, we depend on our culture to help us develop healthy movement and posture habits. In modern times, however, this cultural support has been eroded. Join posture expert Esther Gokhale (GO-clay), L.Ac., for an exploration of how you can use ancient wisdom on posture to positively impact your emotional health. With Esther’s guidance, you’ll learn how to use physical posture cues to engender helpful emotional states including strength, confidence, relaxation, adaptability, and more. During this workshop, you will study how to improve your particular posture, how common posture cues like “chin up, chest out” and “sit up straight” undermine rather than support your body’s structural integrity; and how to restore a natural, healthy, and confident body and mind. This workshop is suitable for people willing to invest intellectual and physical effort toward improving their way of being in the world!"

The Tale is Told of You: Framing Your Memoir

Presented by Lynn Stegner

The most important early decisions a writer must make when setting out to compose a memoir is identifying the defining moments of a life and then framing them within the limited confines of a book. Unlike the sprawling landscape of autobiography, memoirs must have narrow boundaries, like My Two Years in the Peace Corps, or Negotiating Depression or A Short Happy Marriage to the Sultan of Swing. In this workshop we will consider and conceive various framing mechanisms, then write a few opening sentences for presentation and reactions through roundtable discussion.

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: A Layperson View on the Hope, Hype, Promise, Peril

Presented by Sonoo Thadaney Israni, MBA

Sonoo Thadaney-Israni has co-chaired the National Academy of Medicine's (NAM) Working Group focused on Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare since 2018. This workshop is based on the Special NAM Publication titled: AI in Healthcare: The Hope, The Hype, The Promise, The Peril. Sonoo will present an executive summary on the ethical issues that would matter to a lay audience and help demystify AI in healthcare.

Maintaining Caregiving Relationships while Chronic Health Conditions: Challenges and Strategies

Presented by Dr. Ranak Trivedi

Most of us will provide care to a loved one, or receive care from a loved one during our lifetimes. This can happen gradually as health deteriorates, or suddenly. The relationship between the caregiver and care recipient can suffer as they navigate the challenges of managing chronic or serious conditions. In this workshop, you will learn why it is important to focus on the relationship even as health changes, and techniques to nurture the relationship even as you nurture your own self.

Fitness testing and departure workshop

Fitness and body composition screening

A health and fitness coach will lead you through this one-on-one testing in a supportive, encouraging environment. At the end, you will review results with your fitness coach and create a plan to make behavior changes to meet your goals. If you have prior assessment results, you will have the chance to compare current and past results.

Personal Action Plan for a Healthy Lifestyle

Presented by Joyce Hanna, ’56, MA ’58, MS

This forty- five minute session is an opportunity for you to focus on what you want to take away from the weekend and incorporate into your life. You will ask yourself, “What’s new?” “What do I need to let go of” “What could I be like next year?” “What will I celebrate?” “What might stop me; what might help me move?” We will briefly explore how to make changes and create new habits. Research on behavior change is now a hot topic in scientific journals, books, and news articles. This interest in the science of habits has given us some information we can all use. Some experts in the field estimate that habits make up 40% of our daily routine and thus have an enormous impact on our well-being.

We can get better at regulating impulses. We can learn to distract ourselves from temptations. We can procrastinate less. Once we get into that forward moving groove, our brain gets practice in helping us focus on our goals. There is growing evidence that you can train your brain for better self-control. It’s empowering to know that change can happen, and we all have the freedom to remake our habits.

One of the most important things you could take home from this weekend is ways to nourish yourself, giving yourself what you need to manage and recover from stress. Nothing drains our good intentions faster than stress. Stress encourages us to focus on immediate, short-term goals and outcomes, whereas long term thinking requires us to keep the big picture in mind. Knowing how to take care of yourself helps you put your best self forward to do the things you want to do and be the person you want to be.

Movement classes

Hula Movement Class

Presented by Dominique Del Chiaro

Hula is an integrated dance of poetry, rhythm and movement that uses the dancer's body for storytelling. Hula helps trim the waistline, strengthen the back and improve strength, flexibility and balance. Join us in this flowing, low-impact form of dance that is easy to learn and enjoy from the first step. Please bring water, a skirt or sarong, and your Aloha spirit!


Presented by Jennifer Robinson

Jennifer's Pilates class focuses on the basics and how to get the most out of each exercise in the safest way possible. Beginners and advanced participants are sure to get a great workout. Appropriate for any skill level.

Sunrise Vinyasa Yoga

Presented by Jennifer Robinson

Begin your morning with Vinyasa, a style of yoga where asanas (postures) are linked with breath, creating beautiful movement and flow from one posture to the next. The postures promote alignment, flexibility, strength and endurance. An active breath meditation will complete the class.

Tai Chi

Presented by Katie Sutherland, MA ’96

Join us for a relaxing introduction to the healing art of tai chi. In this hour, you will be introduced to, and practice, a set of continuous, slow movements using the principle of shifting one’s weight while keeping the body stable and the breath smooth and even. This graceful practice begins with intention (in the mind) and is expressed in the gentle, relaxing movements of the body. Dress comfortably and come ready for a refreshing “workout” of the mind and body.

Early Wednesday arrival

A Magic Toolbox for Energizing, Balancing, and Nourishing Your Nervous System

Presented by Emily Winter, MPH, E-RYT, SEP

Start your retreat off on the right foot with this two-hour experience in embodiment, self-regulation, and self-care. Weaving the ancient teachings of yoga with cutting edge neuroscience, Emily offers a rich and interactive experience that will leave you feeling nourished, refreshed, and filled with vitality for the weekend ahead. This presentation incorporates storytelling, embodiment practices, and more, to gently guide you into a deeper and more joyful connection with your body and mind.

2020 Presenters
Joyce Hanna
Joyce Hanna

Joyce Hanna, ’56, MA ’58, MS, is director of the Healthy Living Retreat. She is a health promotion and behavior change specialist, exercise physiologist, and nutritionist. Joyce is the former associate director of the Health Improvement Program (HIP) at the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC). She has graduate degrees in education, exercise physiology and nutrition, and presents seminars focusing on behavior change, healthy aging, exercise physiology, nutrition and weight management. Joyce is the founder and director of Stanford Living Strong Living Well, a strength and exercise program for cancer patients and survivors. More than 4,000 cancer survivors have come through the program. She has recently served on the board of Bay Area Cancer Connections, was past president of Lifelong Fitness Alliance, and a consultant on The Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness. Joyce was a nationally ranked marathon runner and enjoys mountain hiking, reading, and spending time with her husband, six grandchildren, and friends.

Renée Burgard
Renée Burgard

Renée Burgard, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist, and owner of The Center for Mindfulness & Health in Los Altos, CA. She is a leading Bay Area Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction/MBSR and Mindful Self-Compassion/MSC educator, developer, teacher trainer, consultant, and writer. She founded and has taught MBSR- and MSC-related programs at Google, Inc.; Apple, Inc.; Stanford University; the Palo Alto Medical Foundation; and other schools, corporations and nonprofits, locally and abroad, for 18 years.

Renée earned her B.A. in Psychology at Stanford University, and master’s degrees in Health & Medical Sciences/HMS and Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. While at UCB, she had the great chance to spend a year learning neuroanatomy and neurophysiology with Professor Marion Diamond, one of the founders of modern neuroscience. She trained in yoga and meditation in the US and in India, and has been a dedicated practitioner for many years. Since 2001, she has trained extensively with Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR; MSC founders Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer; Dan Siegel, MD, founder of Interpersonal Neurobiology, and many others. She was ordained in 2007 by Mindfulness/Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh as a lay member of the Plum Village Tradition; and she founded and facilitates the Flowering Tree Sangha, a small meditation community in the PV tradition, in Los Altos.

Renée has enjoyed working as a professional journalistic photographer, locally and abroad, in the past. She loves creating illustrated practice guides for her mindfulness students, and takes joy in music, literature, the visual arts, being in nature, and spending time with her friends and family. She is thrilled to be returning to Sierra Camp!

Dominique Del Chiaro
Dominique Del Chiaro

Dominique Del Chiaro, M.Ed. is the Healthy Living Programs Senior Manager, Stanford Health Improvement Program. In addition to managing the health education programs at HIP, Dominique teaches stress and resiliency, meditation and contemplative classes and she is a transpersonal life coach, dance, yoga, and hula instructor. Dominique is devoted to offering quality health education classes based in current research that address the growing needs of the community. Her vision is to create a culture of wellness where people feel empowered, supported and inspired to thrive. In her personal time, she enjoys dance, yoga, meditation, hiking and gardening. This is Dominique’s 3rd year coming to Sierra Camp and she is thrilled to be part of the wellness team.

Esther Gokhale
Esther Gokhale

Esther Gokhale (GO-clay) is the creator of the Gokhale Method. Her mission (and that of the 50+ teachers around the world) is to provide posture and movement re-education to help people eradicate unnecessary pain and live their best lives. Gokhale has been a speaker/teacher at corporations and organizations such as Google, Varian Medical Systems, and Kaiser Permanente, and conferences including TEDx (Stanford) and Ancestral Health Symposium. Her method has been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, which dubbed her "The Posture Guru of Silicon Valley.”

Carole Pertofsky
Carole Pertofsky

Carole Pertofsky, M.Ed., is Director Emerita of Stanford Health Promotion Services. She teaches positive psychology courses at Stanford University, Silicon Valley leading companies, and is a national speaker, consultant, and seminar leader. Carole is a trained Mindful Self Compassion leader, breast cancer advocate, and offers a robust coaching practice for women in transition.

Jennifer Robinson
Jennifer Robinson

Jennifer Robinson, PhD, is the Program Manager for Christopher Gardner’s Nutrition Studies Group and the Administrative Director for the Community Health and Prevention Research Master’s Program, both reside within the Stanford Prevention Research Center. She received her PhD in Nutrition from UCDavis and has been working in the field of health and wellness for over 20 years. She is a certified Pilates & yoga instructor and has been teaching for almost the same amount of time. In her personal time, you will find her in a yoga class, hiking, or spending time with her young daughter and husband.

Karen Schwarzbach
Karen Schwarzbach

Karen Schwarzbach is a Certified Sleep Consultant. For over 15 years she has provided sleep solutions and education to families worldwide as well as to numerous prestigious US companies including Facebook, Ebay, Square, Workday, GoPro, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Sandia National Laboratories, WayPoint Homes, City and County of San Francisco, and more. Her engaging presentation "Wake Up to the Power of Sleep" addresses common sleep challenges facing our epidemically sleep deprived society, along with simple solutions for improving restorative rest.

In addition to her sleep consultancy, Karen is a Workforce Health Consultant for one of the largest US health care providers. She works closely with a number of our nation's most influential companies supporting their employee Health and Well-being efforts.

Erica Sonnenburg
Erica Sonnenburg

Erica Sonnenburg received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego in 2000. She is currently a senior research scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology where she studies how diet impacts the human intestinal microbiota and immune system. She has published her groundbreaking scientific findings in prestigious journals such as Cell, Science, and, Nature and is the co-author of the book The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health. When she is not working in the lab, she enjoys cooking high-fiber meals for her family and fermenting everything from beer to kefir to kimchee.

Lynn Stegner
Lynn Stegner

Lynn Stegner is a writer, editor, and instructor. Her books include the novels, Undertow and Fata Morgana, both nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and Because a Fire Was in My Head – Faulkner Award for Best Novel, a 2007 Literary Ventures Selection, Book Sense Pick, and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her novella triptych, Pipers at the Gates of Dawn, was awarded a Faulkner Society’s Gold Medal. Fellowships from the NEA and the Western States Arts Council as well as a Fulbright scholarship have recognized the literary distinction of her work. The anthology, West of 98: Living and Writing the New American West, which she co-edited and introduced, was published in September of 2011. Over the last decade she has involved herself in conservation, speaking and writing frequently on the subject, and collaborating with both US and international conservation biologists. In addition to the writing workshops she teaches for Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program, she is also a developmental editor with clients around the world. In 2016 her story collection, For All the Obvious Reasons, was published, and currently she is finishing up a new novel.

Katie Sutherland
Katie Sutherland

Katie Sutherland earned her MA in Health Psychology Education from Stanford University and then worked for almost a decade at the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC) conducting research with a focus on mind-body health. During that time Katie began practicing and teaching tai chi. More recently she has worked with the Healthy Living Program for HIP and is currently with Apple’s Wellness Outreach team. Katie is passionate about teaching what she practices and is excited to back at Sierra camp for her 9th year.

Sonoo Thadaney-Israni

Sonoo Thadaney-Israni, MBA, is executive director, Presence (a Center at Stanford Medicine) & The Program in Bedside Medicine, Stanford University. She holds an MBA; and a BA (Psychology) + Minors (Sociology, Education).

Sonoo also co-chairs the National Academy of Medicine’s AI in Healthcare Working Group + co-shepherds their Technology across the Lifecourse Group. She has co-hosted conferences at Stanford University: Human & Artificial Intelligence for Diagnostics; AI in Medicine: Inclusion & Equity; AI in Healthcare: The Hope, The Hype, The Promise, The Peril (pre-launching NAM publication, she co-led). She serves on the AAMC Restorative Justice for Academic Medicine Committee, teaching curricula to address diversity in healthcare.25+ years in Silicon Valley, now a Stanford intrapreneur for 10+ years - launching centers and programs: MSc. in Community Health and Prevention Research, Stanford WSDM (Women and Sex Differences in Medicine) Center, Diversity-First Gen Office, Restorative Justice Pilot etc. She teaches coursework in Leveraging Conflict for Constructive Change, Leadership Skills and Mediation. She co-chairs the Commission on Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention (San Mateo County).

Dr. Ranak Trivedi
Dr. Ranak Trivedi

Dr. Ranak Trivedi is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University and an investigator at the Center for Innovation to Implementation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. She received her PhD in clinical psychology with health psychology concentration from Duke University. Her research focuses on engaging groups that have been historically been marginalized, especially patients with mental health conditions and framily members, that is, family members or friends who provide informal care to patients. Her studies have provided insights into how framilies and chronically and seriously patients collaborate around their mutual health, understanding the impact of their interpersonal relationship on chronic illness self-management, and the individual, dyadic, and systems-level barriers that they encounter. She has developed two technology-enabled dyadic self-management programs to address the stress management needs of both patients and their framily. She has been PI or co-I on several VA and NIH funded projects, including the recently funded Elizabeth Dole National Center of Excellence for Veterans and Caregiver Research, a 4-site, virtual center of excellence to understand and address the unmet needs of caregivers of seriously ill Veterans. She directs and co-directs 4 postdoctoral and post-residency fellowships focusing on health services research, medical informatics, and the science of informal caregiving. Dr. Trivedi's envisions health care system that are not only patient centered, but framily centered, wherein family members and friends are engaged and empowered in navigating the healthcare system on the patient’s behalf while receiving the supports and services receive that they need.

Emily Winter
Emily Winter

Emily Winter, MPH, E-RYT, SEP, is an embodiment specialist, yoga teacher, educator, and public health consultant. She offers Somatic Experiencing trauma resolution at Elevate Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Somatic Experiencing is a body-oriented method to resolve trauma and restore balance to the nervous system. Emily offers leadership trainings in trauma-informed yoga, self-regulation, and self-care. She has trained local firefighters and first responders in this capacity for two years. In 2013, Emily co-founded and served for five years as Co-Executive Director of Firefly Yoga International, one of the nation’s premier non-profits offering trauma-informed yoga programs and teacher trainings. Emily has practiced and taught yoga and meditation for a decade. Learn more at

2020 Details and Rates

The Healthy Living Retreat for Women is affiliated with the Stanford Health Improvement Program and the Stanford Alumni Association (SAA). While applications are accepted from all interested parties, Stanford alumnae receive priority, and all applications are ranked by postmark. If you are sharing a lodging unit with non-alumnae family members and friends, one alumna in a lodging unit gives the entire group priority reservation status. SAA members receive a $100 discount.

SAA member rate*


Non-member rate


*If you would like to become a member, please visit the membership page.
Please note that rates do not include taxes on lodging and meals.

The retreat package (5/14 - 5/17/20) includes the following:

  • Three nights' lodging in a private bedroom with shared bath

  • Healthy meals from our chef's inspired and delicious repertoire

  • On-site recreation

  • Lectures and workshops

  • Daily movement and relaxation sessions

  • Body composition screening and fitness testing

  • Program binder with lecture and workshop materials

  • Specially designed Healthy Living Retreat gift

If you wish to arrive early on Wednesday, May 13, please add $241 to the rates listed above. This optional pre-retreat fee covers lodging, three meals, the Thursday morning workshop and access to recreational facilities. This is an opportunity to acclimate and enjoy Sierra Camp before the regular program begins.


  • Simple, comfortable housing in Sierra Camp's lakefront cabins and lodge

  • Private bedroom with shared bath

  • Provided linens, towels and daily housekeeping

  • Request-based cabin assignments: attend with your favorite women by submitting a request, or leave your preference blank to have a cabin mate assigned

Getting here

Attendees can access Stanford Sierra Conference Center by car or by shuttle. Planning on driving? Get directions. Taking the shuttle instead? Get shuttle information.


Reservations require a $100 nonrefundable deposit with your reservation form. Only check payment is accepted, and checks should be made payable to "SAA Sierra Programs, LLC." Balance is due by April 10.


Payments will be refunded, less $100, only if written notice of cancellation is received before April 24; no refunds for cancellations will be made after April 24. The cancellation policy also applies to Wednesday reservations.


For reservation questions, contact us at (530) 542-5600 or For program questions, contact Morgan Marshall at