Yoga Retreats -- Go Slow to Go Fast
Ten years ago, when I went on my first yoga retreat at Kripalu yoga center in the Berkshires, I felt like I had stepped into a different world where people ate kale and brown rice, chanted and did meditation. “What is tempeh?” my boyfriend whispered in the cafeteria line at the retreat center. Despite overstretched muscles from yoga we were not used to and the need to sneak into town the second morning to get a coffee fix, the experience of relaxation and clarity I had by the end of the weekend inspired me to take home the healthy practices I had learned.
In the years since, I gradually incorporated many aspects of that retreat setting into my daily life: eating healthy food, committing to a regular practice of yoga and meditation, learning with a community of other yoga students, and taking time for self-care. In making these changes, I found the hardest part was maintaining the work/life balance necessary to support this lifestyle. My own habits, and the demanding results-focused culture of the business world I worked in, were often at odds with the spiritual principles of yoga that I knew would bring me greater peace.
Retreat experiences, where I could slow down and be with a community of people living by these deeper truths, were often key turning points in providing me with the insights and motivation to make changes in my lifestyle. When I was working so hard with my nose to the grindstone I had no perspective. I cherished my hour and a half yoga class and the sense of relaxation and spaciousness I had at the end of class. Retreats were a way to stay in that space for extended periods. I dropped all the “should do’s” and ideas of who I had to be and could be with my experience moment-by-moment. In this space, where I learned yoga philosophy and could explore it in practice, I found the wider perspective I needed to be able to change unproductive patterns.
In our retreats, workshops, and individual conversations, we gift each other with a non-judgmental open space where we can tell our stories, figure things out as we go, and know we will be received and appreciated. Hearing others’ stories, as well as articulating and making sense of my own, makes these ancient yoga teachings come alive to me. Not as some pure ideal but rather as truth that we each embody in our own way within our beautiful messy unpredictable lives. I’m glad we’re in this soup together.