Friday, April 4, 2014

Yoga and Meditation Retreat

Two things I very rarely do voluntarily are difficult exercise, and spending time away from my husband. Last month, I did both, and I felt great about it! (Don't get me wrong though; I still missed him, and my couch.)

When some folks at our church announced they were hosting a Yoga and Meditation Retreat, my first thought was, "That's great for other people." My second thought was, "Actually, I would probably benefit a lot from this." My third was, "Quick! Sign up now before you talk yourself out of it!" So I did.

Photo (and subject) courtesy of organizer Lauren

The thing is, I've never really done yoga or meditation before. I wasn't too worried about the meditation, but the yoga was another story. I bought a mat and found a free video guide online. It turns out my new living room is pretty much perfect for yoga in front of the TV. Just move the coffee table aside, and you're ready to go! (A side bonus of this practice is I'm motivated to clean the floors regularly.) The end result: I certainly didn't become a yogi in the time between sign-up and retreat, but I wasn't totally lost either.

The retreat was held at Raccoon Creek State Park over a weekend. (I went tent camping there last summer.) The facilities were much nicer than I expected, and we had the place to ourselves.

Our lovely little cabin

We started out Friday evening with yoga and introductions. Then we went to our cabins with instructions to stop talking to each other as soon as possible, and keep silent until lunch on Saturday. This idea freaked a lot of people out, but it was like heaven on earth to me! It freed me from social pressures so I could really concentrate on what we were learning. I was sad when lunch ended and everyone started talking again. I actually went back to the cabin to be alone and try to stretch it out a bit. That's one thing which really impressed me about the way the retreat was run: They made it very clear that you could skip out on anything if participation was not in the best interests of your self-care.

(Apologies: I cannot recall this instructor's name)
(Photo stolen from Lauren's Facebook)

One of the things that surprised me about this retreat was the large amount of focus placed on meditation toward mindfulness. I was geared up for the yoga beforehand, but it turned out to be just a tool for mindfulness itself. I knew a little about the practice going in, but not as much as I thought I did. Brandi worked with us on basic principles and gave us a great hand-out. (It may be a helpful introduction if the idea is new to you.) She also put us through an intense yoga session to practice mindfulness in discomfort. Neil coached us in mindful walking and eating, and hosted a fascinating presentation about emotional mindfulness.

Brandi teaching
(Photo stolen from Lauren's Facebook)

The experience was peaceful and it was also a lot of work. The weekend blew by quickly. In the month or so since then, I've had a hard time incorporating what I learned in my daily life. We were warned that would be the case. Still, I can see some benefits which have stuck with me through the last month. I have been more calm and focused. I've had an easier time becoming calm and focused when I'm not. And for the first time in forever, I'm hearing music in the back of my mind again. (Those of you who know me well will know that's a big deal.)

Thank you, friends and strangers who organized this retreat! And thank you friends, strangers, and new friends who participated along with me. I hope this can become a regular recurring event. (...and I hope next time I can talk Shane into joining me!)

(Photo stolen from Lauren's Facebook)

P.S. My new background image is courtesy of the Graphics Fairy.