The Morning After: Assessment of a Yoga Retreat

Here are some initial thoughts about my weekend experience. I found that I was somewhere between a Yoga I and Yoga II, with enough strength to do some power moves (Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose), but not enough balance and flexibility to do the more artful poses (Virabhadrasana III or Warrior III Pose ) — which, by the way, require power as well. I am still too clumsy and “heavy” to do the leaps between poses that are part of the Yoga II routine at TranquilSpace and Ashtanga practice. My strengths, compared to the rest of the group, were in pranayama and meditation back up with a daily practice. Since I was the only male participant, I brought a “unique” perspective and presence to the sessions.

We had four yoga sessions, one Friday evening, twice on Saturday, and once on Sunday. Teresa and I did some hiking in our free time, exploring the paths around Yogaville. We were in the Lotus Conference Center, which was really a nice setting with a great view overlooking the James River valley in western Virginia.

  • Aching body — but not the total body type, but I can tell where I have to concentrate on strengthening. Fatigue still lingers on, even after a good night’s sleep. I can now tell that my daily practice is strong on stretching, but has not done enough strengthening. Of course, my three-month fight with lower back pain, made me shy away from intense conditioning. I had had a full month of weekly sessions at TranquilSpace, I could have done a lot better.
  • No breakthrough experience — I envisioned myself undergoing some kind of transformation (hips opening like a book, balancing on one leg like a stork), but none really came.
  • But breaking down boundaries — although I did not transform myself, I did extend my awareness of my body (both good and bad)
  • Subtle changes: Smoother breathing — I notice that my lungs seemed even more open than before (again), especially when walking to work. Given my extended practice of pranayama, that surprised me. It’s easier to get into mountain pose (Tadasana)with ears over shoulders over hips over ankles, It just feels like a more natural position.
  • Group encouragement — It’s great to share my experience with others and be stimulated by our mutual respect of yoga. It’s easy to get trapped in an individualist approach. Our individual struggles toward mastery get put into context and made more human and humane.
  • Perseverance — No “boot camp” approach is going to suddenly turn me into a yogi. There are too many little, quiet lessons to be learned along the way to being able to do Handstand. Once again, I understand what it means to have a daily practice.
  • Who’s your guru (daddy)? The yogic tradition tends to call for the central role of a master teacher, but each individual has to groom their own internal instructor who helps find and extend the edge.

I don’t necessarily need a full retreat to get an equivalent feel (fatigue, challenges). Anything like an extended session (more than 90 minutes) would pack at lot of punch, without the commitment of time and money needed for a retreat. I should look for weekend workshops or seminars. TranquilSpace has lots of them.

I want to get these ideas set before they lose their freshness. Others are still percolating around my head and heart.