You may or may not know that I took myself on a yoga retreat with one of my favourite Yogi’s, Steffy Ashurst-White and Chaya Retreats in beautiful Sri Lanka just this last week.
I have a goal of hosting retreats in the future and so I had to experience for myself. No surprises, it did not disappoint!
To some, going on a retreat may seem a bit selfish and like a huge expense. But this is what I can tell you based on my experience and why going on a retreat is anything but selfish! In fact, they can be transformational. You can let go of all decision making for a period of time and give yourself space to experience deep self care and reflection.
There are numerous definition of the word retreat. My favourite interwebs search was "The process of changing or undergoing change in one's thinking or in a position".
These are the benefits I experienced:
It was a great way to intentionally reset the mind & body.
You have space to do nothing at all. (This doesn't have to be a luxury!)
It was positive for my health & well-being (It supported my Central Nervous System - taking me out of the Sympathetic Nervous System).
I meet amazing like-minded people & hear incredible stories, and even get more Facebook & Insta friends. Woo Hoo!
It challenged me to step outside of your comfort zone; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
I completely switched off from distractions and used the time to reflect on what is a priority to me and how I want to live my life.
It was a little scary at first, but the thought and anticipation of travelling on my own was a waste of energy really. The reality of travelling solo overseas for a little while was smooth and easy. It was a good challenge for me, I have always travelled with my husband.
Even though I love going away with the ball and chain (aka Geoffrey – not really a ball and chain at all), it was nice to do something purely just for me. For a long time I have been in the service of others and often, particularly in my teaching career, and to the detriment of my own health and wellness. Hello Autoimmune disease!
I tend to be a people pleaser at times, and so it was nice to only have to think about what I wanted to do and not factor in another persons desires, tendencies or habits. No offence my love.
I took my laptop thinking that I would be inspired to do work, but I was actually inspired to do nothing! Yep nothing. When I wasn’t yoga-ing or eating, I was sat pool side reading, swimming or chatting with my fellow retreaters. This isn’t my usual travel style, I thought of myself as more of an out and about type. But I allowed myself the time that I was obviously craving, just to do nothing.
It was freeing to allow myself the space to go slow. I even opted out of a cycling tour, which I would have normally jumped at. I let go of all perception of pressure to have to do something ‘productive’ and needing to document all of it on my social media. (Because if it isn’t on social media it didn’t happen right!)
Wifi was limited (blessing in disguise), the sun was kissing my skin, I allowed the rain to fall on we without worry, sounds of nature and Sri Lankan culture were all around, I had my journal, pencils and good books. This allowed me to be in each moment and just flow. Something that at times as a teacher had been a struggle in the past, you ALWAYS had something to do or be doing.
I know you may be thinking, that it is all well and good for you, you're lucky and in a privileged position to do such a thing. And that may be partly true. I am grateful and privileged to have my health and the finances to have this experience. But, it is still a choice. I could have and for a very long time, didn’t even allow myself to consider it as an option to go on a retreat. I felt guilty for even contemplating it. But let's uncover where that guilt comes from and who it actually belongs to.
I, like everyone else, can use any of 178 of excuses not to make the time and financial investment such as this. That's easy. What can be the most challenging part for most of us, is actually choosing yourself. We live in a patriarchal society that glorifies women burning themselves out, in whatever their relationship, family, career, social, cultural and economic circumstance/status. I'm done with that. It made me sick!
Every choice has a consequence. I chose to do this because I choose to do the things that fill my life with joy. I could have decided not to go and have held kids yoga events and workshops to make money instead. But, I decided that this was important enough for me to do, and that we were ok with me not making any money in January. Yep, not a cent!
What I asked myself was, "If not now, then when??"
I guess the over arching theme really is, the way you show up for yourself communicates to people and more importantly yourself, that you either value yourself/your health or not. The way you look after yourself is a choice. Perhaps you don’t need to go on an overseas retreat like I did or a retreat at all.
Your version of a retreat can look completely different to mine. And that is the beauty of it, find what suits you and serves you best. That is after all what the habit of self care and self-responsibility is all about. Perhaps you can start with factoring in and prioritising self care habits where you are right now.
What did I come away with? An epic experience full of all the things I love: yoga, food, travel, relaxation, and a whole lot of personal growth and professional development. The value this has added to my life is only something that I can measure.
Biggest love, peace out xxx