Tender Times (or Why NOT to go on a Yoga Retreat)

It’s been just a week since I returned from leading a yoga retreat (followed by a few vacation days) in Guatemala.

I have so many stories (and I want to know YOUR retreat stories! Please share in the comments!).

This year, somehow even more than last, was full of sunshine, sadhana (yoga practice), fresh tortillas, delicious fruit, new friends, and sometimes scary boat rides across Lake Atilan and other intensities. The 16 of us transformed through simply unplugging, but also an epic 7 hour cacao ceremony with my favorite chocolate shaman (deserving of its own blog post!). 

posing in our adorable headbands

temporary and real tattoos, many of which are from my favorite temp tattoo people: Conscious Ink

 

Retreating is simultaneously balm for your soul, and can bring you face to face with things you’d otherwise avoid. This might include “straightforward” things like new yoga poses, sharing rooms or bathrooms, different digestive patterns, or — if you are anything like me — the fact that the bed is not your normal bed.

A retreat might also force you to face old patterns within group dynamics that you thought you’d left behind at high school graduation. A retreat in a foreign country might involve inoculation with bacteria previously unknown to your gut microbiome, the start of a violent multi-day war between your digestive tract and anything that gets near it. Or staring into the void left by the absence of alcohol.
 
Growth is not comfortable.
Stagnation is worse. 

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Which is all to say that what you see on social media from yoga retreats is a small slice of what goes on. The vistas from the internal realm may not be as pretty. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
So, why should you join me (or any other yoga teacher) for a 3 day retreat over Memorial Day weekend (or any yoga retreat ever)? It’s *way* more comfortable to stay at home and go to your favorite yoga class in person or online! Because pre-scheduling 3+ delicious (or difficult) daily hours on the mat and in meditation away from your ordinary life is medicine you may not even know you need. And whether or not it looks “pretty” from the inside, I can promise you it will be interesting. 

In my early 20s, I had a few month-long stints living at the Kripalu Center for Yoga, a former ashram that (at the time) still served no caffeine, meat, or dessert (to my memory), and required silence at breakfast. Every day I took a 1.5 hour 6am yoga class, went to my volunteer assignment to work, then took a two hour class starting at 4pm. Meals were prepped, requiring no thought. One day a week was spent in silence. Each day or week we studied a yama or niyama. My cellular make-up shifted. And i had the privilege to participate in this lifestyle a few times over a three year period.

Most yogis these days, yoga teachers included, have not had the structure of their days create this container of support. Retreats come mighty close. And I deeply recommend them. 

I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the challenges that YOU faced on retreat? What shifts resulted from practicing outside of your everyday life? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. My Memorial Day Weekend retreat is already more than half sold-out (and it’s barely March), so if you are not scared away, don’t hesitate for long! Early bird pricing is in effect for just 2 more days.