Opening up to Change: A Yoga Retreat Crucible
I was on a yoga retreat the other weekend. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But it was not only my first, but ended up being quite profound for me partly because of a rough start. So I decided to make this one of my occasional personal and yoga related posts. Admittedly, it has taken me a while to pull this out of me. In fact, every time I thought it was time to birth this post, it crawled back up my metaphorical uterus (I used to be in a doctoral program in Women’s history so a metaphorical uterus was very handy.)
A lot of people focus on retreats (spiritual, yoga and otherwise) as valuable because they can get away from those distractions that they feel impede them from deepening their practice. But I find there is another aspect which can be just as important. Where you lose those normal routines, habits, familiarity and security of your daily life and it tends to shake at some of emotional structures that may need to work on or have been ignored. In other words, suddenly being in a different place with different routines, structures, rules, etc. can bring a little emotional earthquake and who knows what arises out of that rubble. And that definitely was my experience.
Plus it takes me a while to adjust to things before I feel comfortable enough to be present. Be it a couple of hours in the morning, a couple of days in a new place or a couple of meetings with new people – some part of me needs to be quiet and observe to feel safe and secure before connecting out. New place, new people, new things but you’re only there a short time so you really don’t have that luxury in these circumstances. This also totally shows up in my yoga practice where it takes me a few times to even remotely get something slightly new. 😉
Then there was the yoga practice itself which I approached with trepidation. I had never gone on a retreat before, could I do it? That was 10 hours of yoga in just a couple of days, that’s a whole lot yoga. Some of the sessions were three hours long, could I do that? For me, it represented some hard work, but thanks to the teachers it was not scary at all and it was the best part. If fact, it is where the magic began!
A yoga practice can be a powerful microcosm of your life and how you are in it. Because of that a yoga practice can be a bit of crucible for re-shaping your life and a good yoga retreat even more so.
Essentially you have a vessel where with intense focused energy you can break down separate parts or broken pieces and meld them together to something new and stronger. Or another way to put it is that the old structures and blockages are stressed until they no longer hold allowing new ones to form.
In Ayurvedic terms I’m predominately Vata with Pitta as my secondary. Not so much Kapha. But I like thinking of such things as what your strengths and tendencies are. So for me, I’m very connected to my brain, my mind is a special skill, well developed, etc. – big honking surprise there. And I have some connections and strengths in the emotional/spiritual realm. But groundedness and connection to my body – embarrassing not so at times.
How much so? Well, I often joke that in my yoga practice I’ve started dialog with parts of my body that I’ve never dealt with before – I really didn’t know they were there. Sadly, not always a joke – and on more than one occasion my teacher would ask how an asana felt, etc. only to be greeted with a very blank stare. 🙂
So during the retreat all the little tricks my mind uses to maintain control via routines, habits, knowing the land of the land, etc. just weren’t there. Nor were the emotional crutches and barriers working so well. So my stuff came up in spades. And combining that with the deep growth in yoga practice created an opportunity to build my connection to my body, ground myself and grow, that I wouldn’t normally have, in a powerful new way.
I didn’t realize this was happening at first during the retreat but I definitely started noticing the shifts in the weeks afterward. Even now I’m kind of amazed at some of the changes in my practice, approach to practice and in my life and my approach to it as well. Really amazed.
Does that mean the work is done? I’m fixed, better, amazing, etc.?
Sorry I was laughing aloud at the notion. I’m far from amazing with lots and lots of work still to do. Working on yourself is a continuing journey and process. You’re never there. If you’re doing it right you can play in a wonderland of adventurous change, exploration and learning. It is where frustrations, breakdowns and setbacks abound but also where the excitement is found. Frankly, if anyone thinks, or acts like, they are “there” – that’s funny at best and sometimes a bit sad, IMO. “There” is stagnation at best. No matter how it may seem at the time.
What I did do was get shaken up and change, get a glimpse of new possibilities. And the profound realization of the notion that yes I can do it.
But that’s all my insane .02
Which is all a long way of saying: I went on a yoga retreat, stuff came up and with the help of my teachers I deepened my practice and myself – and even had fun doing it!
And that is just made of awesome.