People often ask me why yoga is so important to me. It is difficult to explain. The best answer I have is that changing the position of my body changes my emotions. If I’m stressed out, I can fall to my knees and collapse into child’s pose to recover. If I’m feeling hopeless, I can lift my arms up toward the sky and stretch through both sides of my body into upward salute to regain my enthusiasm. If I feel uncertain, I can stand on one leg and plant the sole of my opposite foot against my outer calf, sliding prayer hands up to the sky to feel a gentle, graceful power. It’s so much more than this, but this is a start. Changing the position of my body changes my emotions. I might feel strong, joyful, prayerful or grateful. I might learn patience. I feel a shift.
I attended my first yoga retreat in 2015. I hardly had any money but scraped a few dollars together to take the trip to Jekyll Island, GA with one of my friends. It was my first retreat of any kind. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I loved it. Being in a community of like-minded learners was just what I needed.
Since then, I’ve attended a (partly silent) meditation retreat, a juice-fasting retreat in a mansion, a writer’s retreat in Costa Rica and an online wellness retreat in a tiny corner of my bedroom. Each experience was unforgettable. I’ve also hosted many of my own Black Vegan Life™ retreats. There’s nothing like a change of scenery. The same way I’ve discovered that changing the position of my body changes my emotions, I’ve also noticed changing the physical location of my body can have similar effects. I feel one way in Central Park, another on Stone Mountain and another on Miami Beach.
When we retreat, we mindfully move our bodies out of our normal routine and environment. We join in community with a purpose. It’s vacation with intention.
Is it possible to stay home and grow?
Can we change our emotions without moving our bodies?
However, there’s incredible value in a shift in perspective.
There’s an old parable about a group of blind men who stand next to an elephant, not knowing what it is. The first man touches the trunk and says the animal is long and spineless like a snake. The second man touches the tusk and says it is hard to the touch like a turtle. The third touches its side and says it’s massive like a rhinoceros.
To see the whole of anything, whether it’s ourselves or something else, we need to change our perspective. It’s up to us to choose how to do that.
I had a session today with a holistic scientist. He said the brain doesn’t feel pain. When we get a headache, it’s really a scalp-ache. The actual tissue of the brain is so busy processing what’s going on in other parts of the body, it doesn’t have much awareness of self. What a metaphor for life. We’re often so busy with worldly concerns like money, reputation, criticism and entertainment, we have very little understanding of who we are. We don’t think it matters, so we don’t make time to find out.
Who are you?
What feels good to you?
What improves your mood?
What characteristics do you want to develop?
What are you curious about?
What is your greatest potential?
I hope you make some time to retreat. You can take a physical journey, enjoy a day retreat in your town or city, sign-up for an online retreat, or simply set aside a day for yourself at home. If you need to, tell your partner or your kids not to bother you. Plan in advance and create a schedule of things you want to do, but never seem to have time for: journaling, yoga, meditation, a bubble bath, cooking healthy plant-based meals, and consuming spiritual, inspiring or educational books or movies. Take a break from social media and television. Yes, you can retreat for free. It might be your best or only option.
You will never regret the time you spend caring for your emotional and physical health.
I wish you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!
P.S. The photo is me and my canine assistant, Cooper, on our water-fast retreat. I’m sure this will go on my list of unforgettable experiences. If you’re interested in exploring a yoga program, visit my current yoga school at www.myvinyasapractice.com If you want more information on upcoming workshops and retreats click the link below and make sure to sign up for my mailing list. I can’t wait to retreat with you! xoxo