written by NANCY GORDON
photography courtesy of SEWALL HOUSE

A trip to Shin Falls.
Annual writing workshop.
Mattawmkeag Lake.
Relaxing yoga.
Soaking tub.
Porch sitting.
Sewall House.

In the tiny hamlet of Island Falls, Maine, located in the southernmost part of the northernmost county called Aroostook, resides Sewall House—a small, personalized yoga retreat. The retreat is named for the original owner, William Sewall, the great-grandfather of the current owner and yoga instructor Donna Sewall Davidge, who purchased the home in 1997 with the hopes of helping others on their life journey.

Sewall House and Donna Davidge offer three unique things:

  1. The pristine, unpopulated beauty of the northern Maine wilderness.
  2. The National Historic Registry home.
  3. Wellness ... And as a fascinating side note, the healing of a young college student named Theodore Roosevelt, who had been sickly all his life with asthma. Roosevelt also gained health from the natural environs—Island Falls features two beautiful large lakes and is surrounded by a winding river—as well as his lifelong friendship with his Maine guide William Sewall.

Built in 1865, the home became a yoga retreat in 1997, the year Davidge purchased it on a wing and prayer with few resources beyond her vision and a passion for yoga, breathing, nature and her family history (chronicled in her memoir of 2019).

As yoga has grown in mainstream popularity since Sewall House was started, so too has the number of global retreats risen.

However, people somehow find Sewall House. The appeal of Maine, a smaller retreat and the welcoming attitude of the staff all contribute to people visiting. Over the years the retreat has grown its own family of sorts, from volunteer staff to returning guests to guests who visit just once and get what they needed at that point in their lives.

In the early 1900s William Sewall told his youngest daughter, Nancy, that the house was built on honor. “To this day,” says Donna, “his message guides us.”

Donna has been a full-time yoga instructor in New York City since 1985 (as well as holding a master’s degree in nutrition) long before it became “trendy.” She currently maintains a teaching practice in NY during some of the winter months. The Maine retreat is currently open Memorial Day through Columbus Day, with stays as long or short as guests wish. A five-day stay is suggested to reap the benefits of a retreat. The retreat includes yoga lifestyle, which means alcohol- and recreational-drug-free, healthy vegetarian food with both vegan and dairy options and two daily yoga classes with optional morning meditation.

Each guest (or pair of guests) has their own private bedroom. There is a yoga studio, sauna, jacuzzi and massage service available as well. Each season a few workshops are offered. One of the most popular is the writing and yoga retreat.

Atypical day at Sewall House includes yoga/meditation and three easy healthy meals with plenty of time to kayak, swim, explore local hikes and parks such as Baxter State Park and the more recent Katahdin Woods and Waters. The area was recently noted in the New York Times as an undiscovered destination with some of the darkest skies in the United States, making it amazing for stargazing. There are also several Amish communities nearby, a plus for fresh produce, baked goods and crafts.

“All yoga levels are welcome. If your travel partner is not into yoga, there is a nearby golf course, horseback riding, porch sitting, or lying in the hammock!”

. . .

Bangor is the closest airport and buses come as close as Sherman, 10 miles away. (They can pick you up for a fee, or you can rent a car in Bangor.)

For more information visit the website, as well as Trip Advisor and Google Reviews.

Call (646) 316-5151 for more information or with questions. You can book easily online.

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