Part of my yearly treat is packing myself off to experience one or two weeks of me-time. Since yoga has become integral to my daily life, finding a retreat that incorporates yoga is always my aim. The retreats I choose are typically tailored towards inner work with meditation, energy in the form of asana practice (postures), and balance with the practice of pranayama (breath work).
My last retreat was in Australia. In the middle of a beautiful rainforest in Queensland, I spent six days with my sister, detaching from the outside world and coming back to myself. It involved getting up early for meditation and enjoying the peace of the waking rainforest, spending a few hours a day doing different styles of yoga practices from hatha flow to restorative yoga, and enjoying light, wholesome and detoxifying food.
The rest of the time was either spent in silence, or being calm and mindful as much as I could. Periods of silence and calm lend themselves to deep introspection and self-inquiry, which always start with certain things surfacing and the mind wanting to chatter. Silence lends itself to allowing the mind to start fading into the background, being mindful of the present moment, so that deep-seated feelings, that are often suppressed in the buzz of daily life, can gently arise and be given space. It can take courage at times to sit and face these feelings, as they can be powerful and accompanied with emotion. However, once revealed, a sense of deep relief, calm and freedom can ensue. And this can’t happen unless mobile phones and laptops are switched off or buried under the bed 🙂
In addition to the planned ritual of meditation and yoga, a retreat can also present many unexpected aspects that enrich the experience. At this last retreat, we frequently met a resident cassowary family – incredibly large and impressive birds, prehistoric-looking and dinosaur-like. Spending time observing these fascinating creatures was very special.
In addition to the silence during the mornings, I experienced a lot of time with myself at night because I was jet-lagged. Although being sleep-deprived isn’t much fun, I got to experience the unforgettable night-time rhythm of the rain forest. I got used to the crickets and night creatures that started up their symphony around 8pm and performed until 2am. I ‘listened’ to the complete silence that descended on the rain forest from 2am until the sun started to rise at around 6:15, with the first bird greeting it with a coo. It was a beautiful and humbling experience.
This night-time ritual was frequently interrupted with frenzied swatting drills by my sister who was sharing a room with me and seemed to attract every mosquito within a half-mile radius. This was another wonderful experience though, as there was much laughter shared between us and it was an opportunity for my sister and me to re-connect – always very precious. New connections were also made with others, as we had the chance to share our retreat experience with a group of like-minded people.
Your Retreat, Your Experience
The most important aspect is that a yoga retreat is what you make of it. You are given the opportunity to commune with nature, disconnect from mobile phones, laptops and social media, and come back to the here and now. You have access to a yoga programme that helps to give your body, mind and soul energy, nurture and balance. You have access to teachers who bring their love and skills to you and hold the space for you so that you are able to experience what you need to, at your own pace, and in the way you need to.
With each retreat I attend, something within me deepens, shifts, and gets me a little closer to myself, to inner peace and to a feeling of connection with the present moment. For my sister, her retreat experiences are always filled with much-needed inner calm and bliss – she simply wishes to detach from everything and her job which keeps her working round the clock. And you will experience whatever you need to, even if it’s just enjoying a yoga practice, a beautiful location, some wholesome food and the chance to meet some new friends.
Whatever happens on a yoga retreat, is yours, simply unique to you.