Aaaah…yoga retreat

It’s funny – most of us are so busy, so rushed, so stressed most of the time, that it’s almost become our natural state. We don’t realise how tense and wound up we are until there’s some kind of shift that allows us, finally, to relax.

So it was for me as I drove towards Healesville for my yoga teacher trainee retreat in September. It wasn’t until the houses, snuggled cheek-to-jowl, gave way to paddocks, vineyards and lush, verdant hills that I was able to let out the breath I hadn’t even known I was holding. My shoulders dropped a few millimetres and I was, at last, able to leave the grind of the ‘burbs and my worklife behind.

The retreat took place at Maitripa, tucked away along a long and winding road through Healesville’s glorious bushland. Stepping out of the car was like stepping into another world. Everything was so quiet, so still. The only other time I’ve felt the same thing is first thing in the morning, before the rest of the world awakens.

Over the course of the weekend, we enjoyed no less than five, two-hour asana sessions, one meditation session, a discussion of the Yamas and Niyamas, a beautiful hike through the surrounding bush and a rather raucous, though good-natured, trivia night. Not to mention delicious, wholesome, vegetarian food and plenty of time to just “be”.

Our first classes of the day started at 6am, which although I had expected, was a bit nervous about. I’ve never practiced that early, and never on a completely empty stomach. The verdict? I loved it. The stillness and quiet was so much deeper, my mind more focused as it had not the time to start ticking over with distractions. And, tell me, what can be more beautiful than watching the sky lighten with sunrise whilst practicing sun salutations?

I was a little surprised that there weren’t more people who went but, at the same time, the thirteen of us that did go seemed to develop a much closer bond. It was seriously one the best things I’ve done in a long time, and it’s made me look at my practice with new eyes. How might I deepen it, and what are some small ways in which I might be able to take my practice off the mat.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realised there had been no TV, no radio, no internet. And I didn’t miss it. Admittedly, it didn’t take long for me to embrace them once again, but hopefully now it’s engaged with a bit more mindfully.

On the first day of the retreat, we were asked why we were there. Initially, I’d booked in simply because I’d never been on a retreat before, and I thought it was a great opportunity to do so, the slight scariness of going so deep into my practice tempered by the fact that I knew both the students and the teachers well, and knew that support and safety would be there every step of the way. Later, when I was just barely holding it together following a traumatic month at work, the retreat became my drishti; knowing that soon, I would be able to take abreak, recalibrate, reclaim my inner strength, and be able to return to the world, face whatever came next, with equanimity.

If you’ve never been on a yoga retreat, I can highly recommend it! This may have been my first, but it will certainly not be my last.

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