The Sequel… Taking a Yoga Retreat at Home
The second half of my week long yoga retreat at home, found opportunity for deepening personal practice, for connecting with my yoga teachers around the world; and for furthering my learning and teaching. Here’s what I was able to lean into:
1. Yoga Teaching. Resumption of my Tuesday 5:30 a.m. class (Elena's back for a visit!). Now that the daylight hours have grown shorter, this class starts under the stars (and sometimes moon) and ends with the rising sun. Am currently watchful for the Orionids which peak around 20th and 21st October!
2. Training Opportunity: Yoga Alliance offered a free webinar for members on ‘The 3 Biggest Mistakes Yoga Teachers Make in Sequencing (and How to Avoid Them)’ presented by yoga teacher trainer Hayley Winter. Hayley kindly shared her new infographic depicting the Yoga Sports Science Methodology / The Science of Teaching Yoga Sequencing Movement. The new course (for yoga teachers) is open for subscription until 26th October 2023 (see link below).
3. Practice of kindness and compassion. This practice from my Svastha Yoga Therapy training explored the bhava/feeling state of self-compassion and kindness. This also served as a reminder that, through yoga we don’t necessarily seek happiness per se, rather freedom from suffering (that’s a massive conversation in itself). A benefit of kindness and compassion practice is the internal shift in feeling state or bhava that we may begin to experience.
5. Community: The ZazYoga community call happened to fall towards the end of the week. The session, led by Ella, explored the intersection between cognitive psychology and the ancient wisdom of yoga philosophy. It looked at how we can cultivate helpful beliefs and learn to navigate the fluctuations of the mind and emotions to find balance, both on and off the mat. There was a lot to explore and reflect on.
6. Pranayama and Kriya Practices: In my daily practice I explored a range of breathing and cleansing techniques, including 'simple' breath awareness, 3 part breath, Nadi Shodana, Kapalabhati / Breath of Fire and Uddiyana Bandha. Kapalabhati and Uddiyana Bandha are both intense practices and are best done on an empty stomach. Kapalabhati massages the abdominal organs while Uddiyana Bandha stretches the respiratory diaphragm. In contrast breath awareness, 3 part breath and Nadi Shodana are more calming practices that help to bring balance and a sense of ease.
7. Rest and Recovery: Towards the end of the week, due to a viral infection, I found myself leaning into more restorative yoga practices which included further Yoga Nidra from Ayla Nova’s podcast. Her new ‘advanced yoga nidra practice for elevating energy levels’ evoked a deep sense of calm and relaxation (despite its title). And was followed by a good 8 hours of deep restorative sleep.
8. Compassion Meditation: During morning meditation (day 8) my thoughts were dominated by the current conflicts in the world. With awareness on these thoughts, I dropped into compassion meditation, starting with family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances… moving further afield to cities and countries, to our world as a whole. Simple phrases entered my mind, as my awareness moved from person to person, from place to place and to the world at large: ‘may you be well, may you be at ease (in your body), may you be free from suffering, may you be at peace’.
And that is it. Of course, there was much more in between, though words can’t fill the page to share the nuance of the practice or the experience. Overall, I found the the week long yoga retreat a helpful pathway for building a consistent daily practice of meditation and pranayama.
I will say that 7 days is quite long for a first time yoga retreat at home, and I feel blessed to have had so many resources and so much inspiration to draw upon. If you are feeling inspired, try creating your own yoga retreat at home once in a while, perhaps starting with a day retreat. And if you do, let me know how you get on.