How to Have Your Own Private Yoga Retreat

               

Thanks to MFML, I have just had a week long private yoga retreat and it was truly transformative in many ways.

I was on holiday in The Lake District with my lovely family and, knowing that I would be unable to do many of the activities they were doing, decided to turn my time alone into a personal yoga retreat.

It was a hugely joyful experience which nourished me both physically and mentally and I recommend it to everyone.

I was pretty sure that even with my low energy levels,  the great range of classes on MFML, would enable me to create yoga days that I could manage. Meditation, Yoga Nidra and breathing classes would provide the rests I need throughout the day.

I structured my days with a simple beginners class (adapted as necessary) or a yin yoga class which I followed by a yoga nidra practice and some meditation.

Then a simple mindfully eaten lunch in the fresh air in the garden, a rest and digest read or just quiet sit enjoying the birds and clouds. This would be a great time for journalling about the whole experience and I wish I had done this.

In the afternoon I enjoyed a breathing practice and a final Yin Yoga practice.

I chose to explore Yin/Restorative Yoga knowing that the classes would be slow and mindful and have breathing spaces between poses to resettle my body and fully feel its responses.

I also stayed with teachers with whom I was already familiar: Clive Fogelman, Norman Blair and Andrea Kwiatkowski.

I revisited Clive’s Mindful Movement Class, one of my early favourites from MFML. I love his calm encouragement to play with poses and movements in an exploratory way.

This gives me the confidence to listen properly to my body and find the most nourishing ways for it to move in that moment without pushing it too far, or being scared of pushing it too far.

For me, this class was also a reminder for me how far I’ve already come since previously I had only done a third of this class at a time, and here I was comfortably enjoying the whole 56 minutes!

I also revisited another favourite: Norman Blair’s Yin Yoga as is. This is such a great class for learning many ways to adapt poses using props and getting the confidence to decide for oneself how to make poses possible and nourishing for the body, finding that “balance between challenge and comfort”.

All three teachers encourage this ‘in the moment’  attitude of enquiry which relies on real connection with the body, rather than basing decisions on head based assumptions about what the body can/ could do another day/ should be able to do.

This is SO important for me with my condition and is really opening me to a new and more trusting relationship with my body. When things are too hard for my body at any moment, I am beginning to move away from the all or nothing approach and instead ask Norman’s question “How can I make this easier for me?”

The luxury of whole days devoted to yoga practice also allowed me to do some of the longer classes. I enjoyed both Norman’s hour of To relax: posture possibilities and Clive’s Yoga for Self Care class.

This was an hour and a half of nurturing – perfect yoga for a holiday or for creating a mini holiday in anyone’s week! The extra time in both of these classes opens up the possibility of reaching deeper levels of connection with body and breath and is a reminder of how important it is to build a space into our lives for longer practices. 

I like the way Clive’s recent blog post encourages us to take this practice of self-care into our daily life in lots of ways.

Some practices brought up tricky emotions and I guess this was inevitable and healthy considering the fact that I was missing out on hill and lake activities which I would have loved to have been sharing with the family. But the beauty of the retreat week meant that I had time and space to revisit these classes and emotions patiently.

Norman’s Calming and Centring class surprised me, when at first I found even holding the Child’s Pose ridiculously ‘stressful’: my body responded with agitation, gasping and sighing. Two weeks on and this practice now feels hugely comforting.

My body feels looked after and trusting – especially with the addition of a sandbag.

I would never have persisted and got to this point without Norman’s wise advice about being open to however my body is in the moment.

This is now my ‘go to’ practice for honestly connecting with how my body is and finding the courage to be in it as it is.

Andrea’s Calm Abiding Yin class also brought up emotions. In this class she guides us through letting go of emotions that aren’t serving us.

I learned further through this practice how holding and relaxing into postures helps me both to develop my intuition and with letting go, something new and quite scary to me!

Mindfulness and meditation classes help this process too I’m sure. I signed up to Toby’s  mindfulness challenge – at first the five minute’s a day one and then the longer five day course.

It was brilliant – really effective short practices to build into daily life to support focus and relaxation, feel difficult emotions and to be still.

Everyone in the world should do this series of classes! The world would be a happier and safer place!

I did a couple of Alexander’s meditation classes which were also amazing. They took me to a different place space which felt profound and awe-inspiring – perhaps my equivalent of being at the top of a mountain?

My final day finished with Andrea’s Resolving to be Still Class. This is another wonderful Yin Yoga practice and a great one for learning more about Yin Yoga as Andrea explains some of its ideas through the experiences during the class, and guides us to see how to take these into our everyday lives. 

The fact that she structures the class to move through three phases of stillness: the first linked to the body during which she encourages us to think about our body in the same way as elements of a mountain; the second connected to the breath and the image of a calm lake; and the third connected to the mind like a clear blue sky, seemed to me the perfect ending for my Lake District holiday and my Yoga retreat.

I would so recommend this kind of experience to anyone who, like me, has not been on a yoga retreat. The experience of whole days immersed in yoga rather than one or two daily practices was completely new and amazing.

It was like BEING yoga not DOING yoga! I am so glad to have already booked onto the MFML retreat in January. If this was good, how awesome will that be?

 

Join us in January for our Movement for Modern Life Movers Retreat, a chance to soak up the teachings from our lovely, Advanced Jivamukti teacher, Andrea Kwiatkowski.

 

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