Why Go on a Yoga Retreat?
The Healthy Practice of Stepping Away from the Everyday
When you walk into a yoga class, it often feels like letting out a sigh you didn’t know you were holding. You arrive with all the cares of your life heavy on your shoulders. You move, you breathe, you lie still. When you get up from Corpse Pose, you’re reborn just a little. You feel lighter and brighter. Whatever was so urgent before seems less pressing now.
The yoga class takes us out of our daily experience and allows us to reset. That’s the feeling we keep coming back for, the one we try to maintain as we move through the world. The class may last an hour and the relief a bit beyond that, but what would it be like to sustain our elevated state? For three days, a week, two weeks? If we could get that same yoga feeling for longer, might we be able to foment real change? That’s the effect of going on a yoga retreat and it begins to explain why retreat travel is so popular.
Sometimes modern life drives at a pretty relentless pace. The pressure to constantly perform, outperform and then outperform again sucks up a lot of bandwidth; it takes more than its share of energy, creativity, and, perhaps most significantly, time. The frantic drive to achieve doesn’t allow for much time to reflect, contemplate, or just be. A brain that is constantly occupied with the next task isn’t free to dream, to appreciate experiences, or to cultivate any kind of perspective on the way we want to live. Time is always in short supply.
Yoga retreats are often described as holding space but they can also hold time. Time to think, to move, to play, or to just exist. Time to be outside of the daily grind long enough to see the bigger picture. Time to release your role at home, your job title, your markers of success. When you separate from everyday norms, you may discover that you’re not defined by them as you thought you were. You may even discover that you don’t have to be defined by anything. That’s the freedom that stepping outside of societal expectations and monotonous routines can bring.
Sometimes you have to separate (physically, temporally, psychologically) in order to reconnect with who you are and what matters to you. Liminality is the transitional state of being between two things. Sometimes you have to create that space for yourself. Even if you come back to the same job, same apartment, same friends, you are irrevocably changed by having been separated.
While in the liminal space, you have the opportunity to make deeper connections. This could mean you leave the city and connect with the Earth in a natural environment. It could mean you leave behind the people who want you to be a certain way and connect to who you really want to be, giving you the chance to rewrite your story. With the clear eyes of distance, you can see which people and practices lift you up and which tear you down. You may form deep connections with the people who are going through this intense experience with you. Together, you may banish isolation and create support systems.
Through movement and meditation, you connect to your body and your spirit. When the time comes to return, you take your new-found connections with you. You may have left feeling alone, overwhelmed, and burnt out. You return feeling connected, refreshed, and with a deeper understanding of your place in the world.
Sometimes you just want to get out of town. To sit on the beach all day making Vitamin D, to move around and release endorphins, and to have someone make you dinner. File that under self-care; it’s completely legit. Especially in the winter, retreating to a sunnier clime fulfils a physiological need and is a natural mood elevator.
Whatever the reason that going to retreat calls to you, it’s a voice worth listening to. The combination of time, separation, and healthy practices nurtures the body and the mind by creating a safe zone where guards are let down and minutes are not meant to be filled. Like a yoga class, a retreat allows you to move, to listen to your inner voice, and to be here now. These are things worth sustaining. Going on a retreat affirms that you are important to you.
Featured image credit: @emmabonnici_kangayoga @jacobs_jonny