The Importance of Retreats

 

Have you been curious about retreats – what they’re like, how you’d benefit? Why not just go on a vacation instead? While vacations can certainly be inspiring and rejuvenating, retreats can be an important time for self-care, for realigning with the vision for your life or for evaluating what is really important for you. They can be especially important if you are on a healing journey, whether that is physical or emotional/mental. It is time away to get much needed rest, regain strength, and to listen to messages your body may be sending you. A retreat can create a state of internal peace and spaciousness, which in turn can allow for insight, a perspective shift or even a significant transformation.

Yoga and meditation retreats can be especially supportive in the healing process. They offer the opportunity to experience a more sustained shift into the quiet, calm state that these two ancient practices can generate. Facilitators often go deeper into practices that you might only taste in a typical yoga or meditation class such as yoga nidra (the yoga of sleep) or extended meditations.

In retreat mode, the nervous system has the opportunity to slow down, to shift into the parasympathetic end of its pendulum, which is the part that says, “Everything is okay, we can relax, no need to stress out.” The immune system likes this and can operate more efficiently in this state. Retreat mode is also an opportunity to see how patterns of anxiety thinking may be affecting the body. And even if discomfort is present, perhaps you’ll come to a place where you simply allow it to be present and listen to what the body has to say. If that sounds impossible, you may actually be primed for a retreat.

If you are unsure if a retreat is the right thing for you, you can give yourself a taste of retreating even just for one hour. Do something to feed your soul – walk in the woods, take a hot bath, do some journaling. Doing one or all of these things could give you an idea of the potential a retreat could bring to your life. It’s best to do these alone, or at least tell those around you that you will be in silence so that you can listen deeply to your own inner drives, your inner world.

Retreats are an opportunity to see what is really going on under the surface of your busy-ness; to allow mental chatter to slow down so that you can feel what’s connected to that chatter, even if it is uncomfortable. Often, when we look at our situations straight on, they are not as scary as our minds build them up to be.

Maybe this healing journey you’re on is not so scary, but simply an opportunity to make the lifestyle changes you’ve been telling yourself you’ll make someday. So then a retreat is just a much-needed break from your routine, an opportunity to make those changes or learn some new methods for self-care.

In any case, a retreat offers many benefits, the best of which might be creating breathing space to just be. It could be the best vacation of your life!

Come to my day-long retreat, Awaken the Healer Within
Saturday, October 29th, 2016
10:00am – 3:00pm (registration at 9:30am with tea and coffee)
Houston Room in the Parish House
at The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
8000 St. Martins Lane, Philadelphia PA 19118

The Benefits of a Regular Practice

So it’s great that you’ve been going to class once or twice a week and you love how you feel afterward. You like the changes that have been happening, but now you’d like to have that after-yoga feeling more often. So how do you establish a regular home practice? Here are some tips:

Decide how much time you can allot and how many times a week to practice. Keep it short and achievable!

Decide on your content. Again, keep it achievable. Many times in class I’ve suggested that you find your “gateway pose.” This is a pose or movement that you love to do – it feels really good and you want to do it. So start with that (unless a warm up is needed to get to that!). Many people like cat/cow.

That’s it – give it a try! Even a short home practice can set you up for the day, establishing a pleasant mood and creating a small buffer between you and the chaos of the world.

Here are a few of the benefits of a home practice:

  • increased flexibility
  • improved posture
  • fuller, deeper breath
  • improved sleep patterns
  • relief from anxiety
  • ability to see change/growth

What is exciting is that with this steady practice you will be able to notice changes. My students have come to class saying things like, “my feet are more flexible,” “I’m having fewer migraines,” “my back pain is gone,” “I’m standing up straighter without effort,” “that breathing technique is helping me fall asleep!”

As for me, my morning practice has developed over the course of about ten years and it definitely has waxed and waned. I’ve come now to see this waxing and waning as natural and organic so I don’t get discouraged when it seems to drop off. I do my best to keep something of the practice going – a few hip stretches or a couple of my favorite standing poses, maybe a few minutes of meditation and breathing  – and know that I will move back into my full practice as soon as I am able.