About ALIVE Retreats

ALIVE Retreats Philosophy

We believe that the body is a whole, integrated system; having a balanced gut and calm mind allow for these systems to function with optimal efficiency. We use ancient wisdom teachings and modern neuroscience combined with live, restorative, anti-inflammatory foods to support a balanced body, mind, and spirit.

Our inner wisdom, basic goodness, and inherent genius is what we are here to cultivate, support, and celebrate. When we take the time to be in a retreat setting, we give ourselves the opportunity to shed old reactive patterns and shift our way of being.


ALIVE Retreats recognizes you as powerful, sovereign and whole! You are not broken and you don't need fixing. 

Awareness, loving kindness, live foods, healing practices, and supportive community are the ways we heal and restore our deepest health and well-being.

ALIVE Retreats Values

We're all on our own path, growing and learning, experiencing our own process. The values below represent the foundation on which ALIVE Retreats is built.

These are inquiries into the dynamic nature of being human.

We lovingly encourage you to inquire what these words mean to you. 



...align your body, brain, nervous system, heart and spirit to make desired changes.

...align with your higher self.


...listen to the innate wisdom of your body, mind, heart and spirit.

...develop deep listening to all parts of yourself.


...invite curiosity, kindness and connection to uncover your full capacity to thrive.

...invite support from your guides, teachers, mentors, community, your higher power.



...value your personal care everyday.

...value being kind to yourself and everyone around you.

...value every part of your whole self.


...experience the healing benefits of restoring your body, mind and spirit with whole foods.

...experience pure awareness of your body, mind and spirit connection.

Karla Downing, CMT, RN
Founder of ALIVE Retreats

Karla has been a holistic health care practitioner and bodyworker/massage therapist for over 40 years. As well as being a Registered Nurse, she is a certified Integrative Restoration/iRest/Yoga Nidra Teacher and Certified Cannabis Consultant. Creating gut health by making medicine out of delicious, live, fermented foods is one of her joys.

In her practice of massage therapy she has offered pregnancy massage and birth doula services. She loves being a Grandma(LaLaMa) and while stepping into this grandma role in her family she is feeling called to be a Grandma in her community as well.


Studying, practicing and teaching meditation is a large part of her life. She has had many fortunate opportunities to study with great masters from the Tibetan Buddhist and other traditions. She has the understanding that the mind and body are both important to keep free of congestion. Her passion is to help people connect with kindness: to themselves, to their health, to their innate wisdom, and to each other.

Karla founded ALIVE Retreats out of her life-long journey of self discovery, realization, and healing. 

Rik Halsted, LAc
Acupuncturist, Meditation Facilitator, QiGong Teacher

Rik has been a practicing a acupuncturist for over 30 years. Rik studied, trained and worked as an acupuncturist in Taiwan and Japan before moving to the Bay Area and earning a Masters degree in Chinese medicine. He treats people for a wide range of disorders including gut and digestive challenges, which he considers to be at the core of a healthy, vibrant physical body.

Rik has been practicing meditation for more than 40 years. He began his meditation practice with Chogyam Trunga Rimpoche and has since studied with accomplished meditation masters worldwide. He also served as a translator for his teacher Master Sheng Yen around the world. Rik has previously taught meditation in Taiwan, Japan, NYC, and the Bay Area. 

Rik studied Tai Chi and Qi Gong extensively in Taiwan with Master Liu and continued his studies in the U.S. He has taught these disciplines internationally for several decades.

Karla's Story
Karla Downing, Founder of ALIVE Retreats

When I was 16 years old I realized I was gifted with the ability to read and heal others’ bodies with my hands, and help people connect with their own bodies. Since then I’ve had a meaningful 40-year career as a bodyworker and holistic health practitioner in the Bay Area. I raised two bright, compassionate sons, and my relationship to my husband continues to deepen in love and joy everyday. I feel immense gratitude for my life, AND it has not been an easy journey.


During my early years of practice I knew how to read others’ needs, but I didn’t know how to care for myself. I lacked self-worth, and spent a lot of time and energy doubting and mistrusting myself, and trying to feel better by “fixing” others. Many people in my life, including my husband Rik, reflected back to me my inner brilliance and I just couldn’t take it in. Having my two sons inspired me to start my journey of self-reflection. I wanted to be the best mother I could be. I began to sort through the dramas and traumas of my life, and sought to grow and improve myself personally and professionally by attending countless workshops and trainings. I even went to nursing school to try and prove that I was smart, good-enough, and worthy.

“Karla Downing is an amazingly intuitive healer, she is masterful at facilitating
people toward their own innate healing potential. Because she walks the walk,
she is imminently trustworthy.”  — Dr. Lauren Tolk


When I met my husband Rik, I began to practice meditation. This union, as well as meeting my teacher Lama Palden at Sukhasiddhi Foundation several years later, were big turning points in my life. Both Rik and Lama Palden saw in me the highest version of myself, and Lama Palden was able to teach me how to see this. Through my devotion to my meditation practice and commitment to learning and growing from wonderful teachers and friends, I have learned to love, appreciate and respect myself.


About 6 years ago I had a wake up call. I found out that I had Hashimoto's autoimmune disease. I realized that for years I held the belief that merely knowing about all the health practices would heal me, I actually had to put into practice these tools I had learned to become healthy. I have relearned to walk my talk and to make use of all the tools I have gathered through the years. In my search to turn my physical health around I knew that gut health was where I needed to start. I found out about the Gut Thrive in 5 program and was inspired to focus on my gut health. I then learned about Dr. Jack Tips, and did a gut rebuild with Jack in 2015. I started growing sprouts again and making fermented foods. My sugar cravings disappeared and I was back on the right track.


In the summer of 2015 I attended the Body, Mind Restoration Retreat in Ithaca, NY based on the philosophy of Dr. Ann Wigmore (I had studied and practiced her philosophy in my 20s). Being there, I felt I had returned home. My heart sang YES. I returned to Northern California believing that there needs to be more sanctuaries like Body Mind Restoration in our world. ALIVE Retreats was asking to be born and I felt called to help bring it into being. My collective years of training and personal health journey, as well as helping others discover their ability to connect with themselves and their own innate ability to heal, was being called into action. I returned home and started gathering a group of amazing healers and practitioners. It has been magical to watch all the interconnections that have brought us to this point.

It was at Body Mind Restoration that we were inspired to support new parents. Our son, Kalin, his wife Jennifer and their new baby TaiTashi came to Body Mind when Tai was only 3 months old. It was so healing for them to get to have time together as a family and as a couple. With the support of clean, high density nutritious food, beautiful nature and grandma they integrated their birth experience and created intentions of what kind of family they wanted to create. After years of doing pregancy massage and being a doula I realized how post pardum care has been so neglected. The seed had been planted to create more ways to support families after their babies arrive.


Do I have a perfect life with perfect health? No, but I do have tools, support and guidance. I have a surfboard that I can ride through the big and small waves of life with more capacity and ease. I want that for all people - to navigate life with less suffering and more joy.


My heart's desire in sharing my story is to inspire you to gently peel away the layers of beliefs and old habitual behavior patterns that keep you from being your whole, amazing, miraculous self so that you and everyone around you can experience your fullest potential.


What is being offered at ALIVE Retreats is a comprehensive collection of healing resources and tools that have been helpful to me. I am living proof that they are not only useful but transformative. All of the people who have been involved with ALIVE Retreats believe in this project, and the need for places in the world where people can come to shed what’s no longer serving them and uncover their inner brilliance. ALIVE Retreats is our gift to you.

Take the next step to reboot your health and well-being today!

For More Info or to Register Call or email at 415-722-1258 or info@aliveretreats.com