Some Lessons from my first Solo Yoga Retreat

Sooo…here’s the honestly card – I initially thought I was going to write one, lovely post about how amazing my yoga retreat was, how idyllic the location, how relaxing the experience  – giving you guys all the facts on how to book and plan your own retreat too,  and be done with it.

But…for some reason, I couldn’t get to that, without clearing my mind of all the emotional lessons that came up for me this weekend, first.

So here is this post.

I went into this weekend – the booking, the deposit, the build up – thinking this was going to be the holiday I’d been waiting all year for. Solo time to get back into my body, refocus my goals, re-energize myself, get some sleep and come back feeling clear-headed and ready for life!
I even set my intention for the weekend in our first yoga session as: An open and peaceful mind.

And in many ways it was that. But, it was also so much more!
And I was NOT ready.

So here are the big realisations that came to me over these 3 days, that honestly, I thought I’d already leant and internalized, but my mind and body clearly wanted to make certain I didn’t forget them!
Warning: It’s about to get a little deep.

Whatever the journey – in yoga or in life – being kind to yourself is key.

There is no “ultimate state of being” – Not in life and certainly not in Yoga. It’s a process & a build up of progress over years of choosing to be committed to your practice on the mat. And a process that is never linear, kind of like life – some days your time on the mat is just easier than others.

Wow – I almost sound like an expert there. I assure you, I am not!
But this is what I discovered…

I arrived on a Friday evening after sitting in traffic for an hour and half, and expected to be completely exhausted for our first session at 6pm.
The session focussed a lot on digestion & being present in our bodies a head of supper and surprisingly, I felt quite energised and alert after – a sense of presentness that I hadn’t recognised in myself in a while. I didn’t expect to feel so “light” and clear-headed.
Fast forward, to the following evenings session, after I’d spent the morning on a long mountain walk and the afternoon in the steam room & sauna…One would think all this relaxation would’ve had me in better shape than the night before, right?
My hamstrings & hips were tight. I felt winded and over-exerted. And had to take a few breaks during the session.
I was so frustrated with myself, so confused as to why now, after a day of so much relaxation, the session wasn’t easier?

And there was the lesson…
No matter how much frustration I threw at my body, it wasn’t going to suddenly get more flexible. I had to respect where I was at in that session. And it continued into the next morning session too.
And so I had to continue to be patient.

Growing on a journey – whatever it is; fitness, food, relationships, work, life – is very rarely a linear path. Some days, weeks and months will be effortless and feel totally comfortable and doable. But there will inevitably be challenges and barriers that might limit our effectiveness and our ability to continue at the same pace or rate. Reminding us to slow-down a bit, re-route, re-think or maybe even completely re-evaluate our next steps to accommodate this challenge.
And that’s ok.

My journey is just that, mine.

There were 4 others on the retreat with me (excluding the 2 instructors)  who have been practicing the yogi lifestyle (to varying degrees) for some time.
And many of them had fully embraced the lifestyle off the mat too – going fully organic and vegan in everything from food to beauty products and clothing choices.

Sitting around in a small group like this, over meals & chatting about these things made me hyper aware of how very different my lifestyle and motivations where to my fellow retreatees (is this even a word?!).
And my initial reaction was born out of insecurity – I felt a bit out of place and reluctant to share as much as everyone else. I felt like I would be judged for not being as “serious” as everyone else. And that somehow, because I wasn’t as “serious”  that made me less deserving to be on the retreat (yes, totally, illogical right?)

And I fought with these thoughts for the better part of the weekend until, in Sunday mornings session, mid-forward bend – stiff hammies and all – I opened my eyes to came out of my pose for a small break, and spotted one of the other guys in the pose, with his knees fully bent, also unable to straighten his hamstrings.
Up until that point, I’d convinced myself everyone was miles ahead of me, but there was this guy… struggling just as much, maybe a bit more than I was, with his hammies.
And I thought – Duh, Rox! Everyone’s journey is their own…including yours.

So I forgave myself and continued to take it easy on my legs for the rest of the session.

It starts with awareness and acknowledgement.

And once you have this – you have everything! Well, if you’re willing to do the work.

So, I’m a big believer in the statement: we can’t change what we can’t see. So unless we’re fully aware of a behaviour, it’s difficult for us to change it
And, equally we cannot change (or appreciate for that matter) something we don’t acknowledge.

Ahead of the retreat, I decided to forego a few dirty lifestyle habits to help me fully embrace the experience. So, on the way there, I decided not to stop to get smokes.
I know right, how 2000’s of me to still be a smoker?! And, yes, I am glaringly aware of all the dangers. Thank you for the concern, lol.

The lesson for this blog post tho…
It was only really in the absence of the habit, that I was able to fully acknowledge the “importance” I place on it. And make the space for everything it was “helping” me avoid.

The core of what I “use” smoking for is one of 3 things:

  1. A little get out of jail free card when I need to disengage from too much stimulation, i.e. As a “break” from my desk at the office, or at the supper table talking to people I just met.
  2. A procrastination technique for “transition” periods, i.e. Before getting to work, or as the last thing before getting ready for bed, as a distraction, the list goes on…
  3. A way to socialize, especially with a glass of wine or three, with my girlfriends.

So without this distraction, I was able to actually engage.
Enjoy the lovely dinner conversations with my fellow retreatees – and even acknowledge and allow myself to feel the awkwardness of it, with no excuse available to me, to run away.
I woke up earlier than usual every morning, feeling fresh. Enjoyed my coffee while listening to the birds and breathing in actual fresh air…then went straight to the shower – no procrastinating, no distractions.

And being able to bring that same awareness to the mat in each session and to the meditations was…mindblowing.
Being more aware of where my practice was lacking and where my body needs more love, time, patience and focus.
And then of course, aaalll the things in life I was numbing, avoiding, procrastinating about, being brought to my awareness & being forced – Forced! – to acknowledge them. Because there was no crutch.

Now, by NO means is this the end of this for me. Just because these things have surfaced doesn’t mean I’m magically “cured” of them. This is work!
I know these lessons will keep coming up for me over and over, until I have fully internalized and consolidated them.

And that’s ok, because if we’re not here to learn this shit, then what are we here for anyway?

P.S. Check out more details on the Retreat here


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