"This retreat helped me let go of perfect poses and embrace the needs of my body."
~ Your Yoga, Your Way retreat participant
I'd planned to arrive at the AirBnB rental before sunset, but it had taken me longer than expected to find a place where I could print copies of the program manual that I'd spent hours creating in the preceding weeks. Close to midnight, I finished sweeping the living room and stacked bolsters, blocks, and blankets in the corner next to the window. I smiled at the two-yard piece of cloth that covered the wall-mounted television, surprised that I was still finding new purposes for the soft, stretchy bolt of material that my mother had given me the year before she passed away. It was such a simple gift, but one that brought her presence into the room each time I used it. I was tired from moving furniture, but I felt happy and relaxed. Setting up the space for our yoga retreat had helped take the edge off my nervousness and excitement.
On Friday morning, I took off my Facilities Manager hat and put on my Chef's toque. Since this was the pilot of my Your Yoga, Your Way retreat, I'd be filling several staff roles throughout the weekend. Inspired by an outline that I'd created during my travels last Fall, I'd invited some of the women who practice yoga with me online and a few personal friends to join me here in Joshua Tree for a weekend retreat. Four beautiful souls had accepted my invitation. They would be arriving in the afternoon, and I still had to go buy groceries and pick up some flowers for our altar.
Throughout the afternoon, the women arrived and settled in. We enjoyed a nice dinner (cooked by yours truly!) and then gathered for a short Yin Yoga practice. It was the perfect way to ground ourselves after all of the travel and busy-ness that had brought us together. We closed with a sharing circle - an opportunity for each person to share their intentions for their personal yoga practice. After that, a couple of the women went to bed and a few of us stayed up to visit and sip red wine.
What? Drinking wine at a yoga retreat? Why not? The theme of the weekend was about creating a practice that nourished each of us and fit into our life - our real life, not the life or the yoga practice that reflected the values or aspirations of others. There was magic in the air. I could feel it.
The next couple of days passed quickly. We talked about the importance of centering at the beginning of practice and tried techniques which varied from simple breath awareness to forms of movement meditation. We discussed different styles of yoga and practiced asanas (postures) and vinyasas (combinations of postures) and restorative yoga. Each person there was unique and had different goals, so we reviewed many of the physical and energetic benefits of the asanas and learned how to put them together to create a personalized practice for those who wanted to take a 5-minute break in the workday or others who liked to spend an hour on their yoga mat a few times each week.
We laughed a lot. A few of us cried a little. When we weren't practicing yoga or talking about it, there was time for each person to nap or crochet or walk in the desert or sit in the hot tub. I even managed to find a half hour to soak in the jacuzzi, enjoying the view of flowers in the garden, the starkness of the desert, and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Although it was a short break, I remember noticing how full my heart felt. What a blessing to have the time and resources to deepen my own practice and support others in doing the same.
By Sunday afternoon, I was alone in the house in the desert. The coffee table and couches were moved back into place. A coyote watched me take the trash out to the dumpster on the dirt road that stretched alongside the property. I called my husband and then made a meal for myself with the leftover food. I thought about soaking in the hot tub, but the city girl in me was afraid of the coyotes that had been roaming around the yards at night, so I sat in meditation and offered a prayer of gratitude. Deep gratitude. The kind that nourishes every cell in my body.
Over the next few days, I received the feedback I'd requested from the woman who joined me for this first offering of my retreat. It was so sweet to read their reflections. I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you...
"Only after doing this I realized how much this was a much needed journey I needed to take for myself."
"It gave me end to end steps for creating my custom yoga practice incorporating my favorite parts of yoga."
"I was empowered to pay attention to my breathing, muscles, and mind instead of trying to match the movement of an instructor or other people in the room."
"This yoga retreat was very rejuvenating for me, both mentally and spiritually."
So, will I be offering the Your Yoga, Your Way retreat again? Yes!
When? I don't know!
This year is just beginning and I'm feeling inspired. To practice yoga. To teach yoga. To write my memoir. To write some fiction. To travel with my husband. To love with all my heart. To listen deeply. To live my purpose as it reveals itself to me.
Thank you to all of those who have practiced with me, read my sporadic blog posts, or just reached out to check in and see how I'm doing. I love you. I'm grateful for you. And I hope you'll stay tuned to see what happens next. I look forward to continuing to share the journey!