Today I embarked on an awesome new adventure, my first yoga retreat. Hosted by my wonderful Bedtime Yoga instructor, Melissa Krieger, the retreat was a full day of gentle flow, nidra (guided meditation) and restorative yoga, plus a great self care activity and a lovely catered lunch.
The space that hosted us for the day was Roundhouse farm. Just a short drive away from downtown Victoria, the farm gives you a feeling of escape from the hustle and bustle, even though you are still in town. This beautiful and unique property houses a midwifery clinic, poets cottage, working organic farm and a workshop/event centre (in the form of a lovely, spacious yurt) called The Roundhouse. The farm is also home to some very friendly chickens, who I couldn’t help but chat with and snap a few photos, while I was visiting.
The owners of the farm are musicians and a baby grand piano shared the space with us during our yoga practice. Their daughter also operates the midwifery clinic on the property and sometimes families come to the farm to welcome the birth of their children.
The Roundhouse yurt, that hosted our workshop had a great domed ceiling with a circular skylight in its centre. So as I moved through my yoga practice I could look up and watch the clouds. The Roundhouse was a true highlight for me, as I have always wanted to stay in or visit a yurt.
There were 18 women in total at Self Care Sunday. Some of us had never been to one of Melissa’s retreats before while others were long time fans. We fit cozily into the space and began our day with a shared breathing exercise to centre ourselves. To my great surprise the excerise was one that I was familiar with having read about it in Hilary Clinton’s latest memoir What Happened. Every since I began reading her book I had wanted to try this alternative breathing technique and now I was getting the change.
The exercise called alternate-nostril breathing is a technique in which you block one nostril and breath in then block the other and breath out, in order to bring a deeper sense of awareness to your breathe and feel your breathing in one side of your body at at time. This wonderful centring activity really helped me get into my body and find my sense of calm for the days practice.
Next we began our flow yoga class, a nice easy introduction into this style for me. The flow class keeps you moving and taking grounding poses that help you connect with the earth below you and makes you more aware of the strength and power you possess in your body. This class got my heart rate up, my core engaged and my body energized and ready for lunch.
Our lunch break was a luxurious hour and a half, which gave me the time to take in the beauty of the property and snap as many pictures as I could, as well as get to know some of the other participants.
For lunch we each were given a delicious personal pizza, I chose a yummy bbq chicken, a lovely salad, tea and a yummy fruit cake dessert. It was a real treat to enjoy a catered meal in such a serene setting. It made me wish I took more time to fully enjoy my meals and appreciate my surroundings.
After lunch we got cozy on our mats and under our blankets for some yoga nidra. This meditative yoga is like a long shavasana where you do a body scan activity noticing the sensations throughout your body. Through this practice we became aware of each part of our body from our ears to our toes and how we felt in the moment. It was also a wonderful reminder of the focusing power of mindfulness to clear your head of activity.
Feeling relaxed and in that lovely state somewhere between sleep and consciousness, we then headed into our last practice of the day, my favourite -restorative yoga. Restorative, or as I like to call it Bedtime Yoga, takes you to a place of great safety. This practice helped me to feel calm and safe again after my sexual assault. Through restorative practice I have learned to let go and trust again. This practice remains close to my heart as it showed me that I can take control of my circumstance and teach my body that it is safe again and at peace and that I love and cherish it always. Whenever I practice restorative yoga I leave with a sense of calm I forgot was within me, and a feeling of pride for my body and all that it does for me.
We closed the day with a lovely long final shavasana, noting how we felt at the end of the day and being reminded that that feeling is within us always. It is there and we can access it whenever we feel we need it most. I made a mental note to hold onto the memory of this feeling for when I enter periods of stress or anxiety.
One of my favourite parts of the whole day was the closing self care activity. Self care is a high priority in my life and I enjoyed hearing about Melissas self care journey and the journey of those close to her. The self care worksheet we were provided with was a great way to reflect on how self care improves my life and the lives of those I interact with everyday. The person I am when I make self care a priority is the best person I can possibly be. Having a moment to reflect on this and take note of how prioritizing self care in my life makes me feel was special to me; and being prompted to set short and long term self care goals that meet my specific needs was a lovely way to end Self Care Sunday.
My first yoga retreat was a wonderful indulgence and a great way to my week and prepare for whatever the future has in store for me in the week ahead. I hope to be able to incorporate some of the things I learned today into my everyday life and to attend another yoga retreat very soon.