What I Learned From my First Yoga Retreat and Adventure
OMG – I just had the best adventure that I never thought I’d have. Since coming to yoga six years ago, I have always wanted to go on a “yoga retreat” but never thought I would get the chance. Then suddenly, due to a random Facebook post, the stars aligned and I found myself going on an adventure of lifetime.
Have you ever left for an adventure, all by yourself, not knowing a soul at the other end? That is what I had just gotten myself into – and it was one of the most exhilarating things I have experienced in a long while.
Here’s the story
Sometime last year I was perusing adventure websites, wondering if I had the time and money to take off on an excursion. I have always loved sailing so I started focusing on that topic. Suddenly I found myself reading about a sailing trip that was combined with yoga. Eureka! Two of my favorite activities in one place. And wouldn’t you know it, that place was the Bahamas. (!!!!!)
Soon I was corresponding by email with the owners of a 70 foot, 2-masted sailing vessel named the “Ciganka” (Serbia-Croatian for ‘gypsy’). The owners, Linda and husband “Capt. Thomas”, have lived on a boat for over 30 years (www.SailingAdventures.org). They run numerous charters a year out of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas. They have taken scouts, families, groups with disabilities and many others on one-week charter voyages all around the islands. And for the past 5 years, They have reserved a couple of their early season voyages specifically for yogis. This was getting better and better with each email I received!
Before I chanced finding out that all of this was too-good-to-be-true, my deposit was in the mail and the adventure was on my calendar. Now I had to wait over five months for this awesome event to start. During that time, I learned there would be up to eight other yogis on board from different areas around the country. I knew none of them so this was making this adventure even more intriguing. I love meeting new people. Our days would include morning yoga, learning to crew the vessel, snorkeling, sailing around the Abacos Island, Bahamas during the day and then ending the night with an “eye/ sleep meditation”. Could this get any better? I don’t think so.
Day of departure
Finally, the day of departure came. An early morning trip to my local airport eventually got me to a layover in Atlanta – where I happened to run into three of the other booked passengers on this adventure. One of those passengers happened to be the yoga instructor for the trip (Ann-Marie’s Yoga+ out of Emerald Isle NC www.annmariesyoga.massageplanet.com ). After a quick flight to Marsh Harbour, we found ourselves on a small dinghy being transported to our sailing vessel.
Due to the possibility of getting hit w/ the edge of a storm, the decision was made by the Captain to stay in the harbor for the night. Sailing would have to wait until the next day. Instead, we had a “meet and greet” in the middle of a rain storm. No yoga that day; but, Ann-Marie did end the day with a relaxing eye meditation to ease everyone to sleep.
From this point on, the adventure went as planned. Each morning we awoke to the sun and the ocean breeze. After sipping our morning brews on deck, we would take a short dinghy ride to a nearby island, spread our mats on an abandoned pier and immerse ourselves in a yoga practice like none I had ever experienced. Each day, we were surrounded by the flora and fauna of the Bahamas. Green Turtles would pop their head out of the water and watch us as we did sun salutations. One day, we even practiced beneath an Osprey nest! It was abandoned, but still, we did yoga under an Osprey nest! The location must have been inspiring to the gathered yogis. Poses of Crow and Head Stand, that were unachievable prior to this adventure, became possible on this day.
After morning yoga, we would become a “crew” and help sail our beautiful vessel to a new anchorage. A few lessons from Capt. Thomas had turned us into a functioning crew, and we all knew the difference between “sheets” and “halyards”; “port” and “starboard”; and “coming about” and “jibing”. With the wind whistling through our hair and the sounds of waves lapping below us we let the worries of our real lives melt away. At the daily anchorage, there was always snorkeling. Diving down to the reefs or floating on the edge of Mangrove forests, sting rays, turtles, star fish, and corals of all colors were there for us to experience while “living in the moment”.
The late afternoons were reserved for other experiences too. There were tours of some of the historic harbors, a bit of shopping in the small towns dotting the islands, and times to “get out of your box”. One such afternoon found us on a nearby beach practicing “Acro-Yoga”. Just to let you know – I had NEVER done anything close to Acro-“anything”! Once again, the location seemed to influence our success. Matched up in pairs, we suddenly were performing poses with names such as “Bird”, Flying Bird”, “Therapeutic Bound Angle” and “Table Top Star”.
This adventure also included other times of note– some that didn’t involve yoga or sailing. Such as spending an evening on the deck, looking at the stars and having in-depth discussions about mental healing, acceptance, Astrology, zodiac signs, spirituality, science, and while we were at it… “solving the world’s problems”. Or there was the time of spontaneous dancing on the deck to Imagine Dragon’s “Thunder”. I found these to be as healthy for my well-being as anything else.
All too soon, my adventure came to an end. After farewells and promises to keep in touch, we were all traveling back to our normal lives and homes. As I sat on the plane bound for Ohio, I started listing things that this experience brought back to the forefront of my mind. Reading and rereading them, I could not help but smile. Each item is something I knew, but unfortunately for my own mental well-being, did not think of enough. It is a list of reminders of how I should live.
In no particular order, here is the list that I created:
- Meeting new people makes me happy
- I have patience to take things as is – live in the moment
- The ocean is relaxing
- Being “off the grid” is not as hard as you think
- Being “off the grid” is awesome
- Yogis are a special breed
- Drawing in my journal – even my ineptness at drawing – is good for my soul
- Dolphin, turtles, Sting rays, and Rainbows make the yoga experience even better
- Heavy rains are not a detriment, the pause they cause is relaxing
- I love experiencing the teachings of a yoga instructor I have never had
- Swimming in the ocean reminds you how small you are
- I have the ability to do new things, I just need the confidence to try
- Practice the pause
- Look for, capture, and enjoy precious moments of freedom
- Dancing is good for the soul
- Yoga, sailing, and snorkeling in paradise – is OM at its finest
So that’s the story of my first yoga retreat and adventure. I think it may be hard to top it when I get the chance to take my next one. But I will try. And I will try to look at my list more often. It will be good for my soul.
Do you have a list? Let me know what’s on it.
Michael ~ Namaste my friends
Important Postscript to this essay:
When I write about my Yoga experiences, I do it to share the lessons I have learned along my late-to-yoga path. My hope is that the readers of my ramblings learn something from my experiences and also that they may share some of their own yogic education with me. And that is usually how it works – a little bit of back and forth learning. Usually my thoughts flow easily from mind to print. But not this time. This essay has been one of the most difficult I have undertaken. That’s because of a nagging feeling of “guilt” that kept popping up. Upon typing each line, I felt like I was saying “Ha, Ha, I just got to do this but you didn’t”. Please, please don’t take it that way. What I hope is that everyone gets to take a similar journey in their lifetime that gives them as much peace, pleasure and joy. And by the way, the reason there was peace, pleasure and joy is because of the yogis I encountered. It would not have been the same without them.