I recently went to Costa Rica for a yoga retreat. It had long been on my wish list, but when I saw that a friend from my university days would be co-hosting this particular retreat, I knew I needed to go. Fortunately another friend decided to join me and I was also approved to provide a lecture on Traditional Chinese Medicine nutrition.
Five years ago I went on my first yoga retreat. It was a short one to Uclulet, before I had done more than just a few yoga classes at my gym. In fact, the reason I decided to do that retreat was because I took hip hop fitness classes from the teacher and thought he was fun, and because I wanted to try surfing, which was also part of the retreat.
As it turned out, I wasn’t much a fan of surfing (at least cold water surfing), but I loved the yoga, and it started me on a brand new path. Because of that retreat I tried a 40 day yoga challenge. After that I quit my gym and joined a yoga studio instead. At the beginning, it was all about the physical practice for me. Yoga made me feel stronger. But even then I knew that there was something more to it. One of my friends asked me “how” yoga had changed me, not “if” it had. I thought that was an interesting way of phrasing the question. But he was right. It had started to change me in subtle ways.
Back to 2016, I was curious to see what this yoga retreat would bring. The name of this retreat was “Discover/Rediscover,” so we were asked in advance to think of a question we’d like to answer for ourselves. I was mostly just excited to reconnect with friends, give surfing another shot, and enjoy a daily yoga practice (I only get 3-4 days a week of yoga at home). But I did think of one question I hoped to resolve over the retreat.
One thing I love about yoga, about retreats, about taking time for oneself, is that you will always learn something, though it may not necessarily be what you want or expect.
I didn’t get the answer to my question, but two things impacted me. First, a couple of days before I left for this trip, I injured my left arm/shoulder and ended up with thoracic nerve outlet syndrome (numbness, tingling, and pain). That meant that my physical yoga practice had to be modified. I had to let go of practicing the postures I could normally do. I had to work on letting go of ego. And I had to be more compassionate toward myself than I was used to.
My second learning manifested while I was in Costa Rica. I mentioned here that I was excited to reconnect with friends at this retreat. And I did. But also, during the week I was away, I received an email from my TCM association, asking if I would like to go to Ottawa to help create TCM exam questions. Though it would challenge my schedule, I recognized it as a chance to meet up with some of my other university friends. The main reason I went became an opportunity for more of the very same!
I was very fortunate to be able to go to this yoga retreat, and I recognize that not everyone will have the ability. But I do believe that you can create your own mini version.
What does a retreat provide?
- Time to relax
- A space that is quiet and/or in nature
- Connection with like-minded others
- Focus on healing and/or intention
There’s no reason we can’t create these parameters without going on a week-long retreat—though of course it’s nice if we can.
Can you give yourself the gift of just 5-30 minutes a day to invest in yourself? How about 30 minutes just once a week? Or pick an hour or two or more once a month? Is there a place in you can close out the usual thoughts of “things-to-do” and “I must be”? Do you know others who you can share your experiences with? You don’t have to sit in silence or do yoga with them, but it helps to have someone you can share with afterward. And, do you have something you’d like to shift in your life? An intention that is meaningful to you?
Did you know that acupuncture can give you the opportunity to have your own retreat? A space to heal and relax, the mind softens its grip on control as acupuncture releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) and loosens tight muscles. Next time you come in for some acupuncture, ask me for your own acupuncture retreat.