Health & Wellness, Reflections on Spirituality

The Space Between: My Yoga Retreat Experience

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a local yoga community’s spring retreat at Rising Fawn Gardens. The focus word of the event was innervate – to stimulate to action. I started the first yoga practice of the morning and found myself deeply emotional and in tears. This was not my first experience of deep emotions during yoga. Last year I attended one of my therapist’s restorative yoga classes and was profoundly impacted by the acts of human touch, cocooning, and nurturing that took place. I am not a touchy-feely person, so consider yourself someone I trust if I give you more than a one-handed hug!

I had to take a break from the yoga and descended to a safe room where I laid on an infrared blanket and drank a deeply spiced tea. What I realized as I began to ponder why my emotions were so gut wrenching is that 1) I have equated human touch and invitations to trust with mostly sexual trauma, and 2) I was raised in a religion that equated yoga with evil, and it has placed me in a defensive posture. However, what I am discovering is that while I don’t subscribe to the historical roots of yoga, I do see benefits within its 8-fold path to better health and wellness no matter what religion you do or do not affiliate yourself with.

After spending some time alone praying and thinking through these things, I returned to the group and participated in the next event which was a group hike where we were encouraged to consider “the space between” – the space between winter and spring, spring and summer – and as each person set out on the path, one by one, the person behind allowed the person in front of a space of approximately 20 feet before following. We were encouraged to pay attention to the feel of the ground under us, the new blooms popping up, and anything else that caught our eye or gave us reason to pause. We were also encouraged to consider the dead debris we encountered and to consider what dead debris in our lives could be used as “mulch” to bring new things to a richer, better experience?

I walked through much debris – fallen trees and branches mostly – and I noticed that the stronger, larger trees were holding up the smaller ones that had fallen. Despite the mostly naked branches, there were patches of deep green moss here and there and the gentle sound of a river just steps away.

At one point I panicked because I couldn’t see a clear path ahead and everyone was out of sight. I tried one path and realized it wasn’t the right one. A fellow sojourner tried the same path and we both encouraged each other to get back on the path intended for our walk.

All of a sudden, I came upon a large clearing. Green grass. Blue skies. Beehives. People milling about feeling the ground underneath, looking up, contemplating. As I turned to walk back, it struck me that the walk was much easier because I had traversed this way before. I also noticed new growth that I had not seen during my trek in. The growth was there all along – even amongst all the debris – but I had been focused on trying to just make my way through uncharted territory to notice.

At times, sojourners had stopped to rest and meditate along the river. No one approached them or told them to get up and make it to the clearing. They simply let them be and let them rest and let them do whatever they needed to do to settle their own hearts and minds and bodies. What an incredible visual to just allow people to be where they are without expectations or judgment.

Upon returning to the house, the facilitators had prepared a beautiful, earthy meal for us. A salad comprised of spicy greens, pickled ginger, and various seeds. Fresh rosemary crackers and a slow cooked jalapeno dressing and cilantro dressing added a delicious surprise to each bite. There were also two soups, a portobello leek and a tomato lentil. Fresh cream and asiago cheese served as accompaniments. Three selections of deep, rich teas made from herbs and spices offered different healing options to the body. The communal ritual of eating deeply healing and satisfying food while soaking in the sunshine amongst a tribe of people who value health and wellness and connection touched me in yet another profound way.

The day ended with a restorative yoga practice (which I’m happy to report that I actually finished without deep emotional exhaustion), and everyone sitting in a circle to share their greatest takeaways of the day. A sweet dark chocolate treat awaited us as we left to return home.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a funny story. My various tribes joke that I can’t go anywhere with running into someone I know. I truly thought I had registered for an event where I wouldn’t know a soul except the facilitators. A woman walked up to me at the end of the day and said, “I thought I recognized you. I worked for you 12 years ago.” Sure enough, she had. We will be catching up in the days ahead.

In closing, I do not know about my fellow sojourners’ faith, religion, or lack thereof, but for this day I was able to connect with them on a journey of humanity walking on the very clay that I believe we were created from. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tells us that God reached down into the clay and formed the first human into His own image and then breathed into him the breath of life, which made the human a living soul. I found it interesting and deeply humbling that I was able to connect with this tribe at just the basic human level of my existence, in the quiet, surrounded by the very earth we come from, without the need to be anything other than #fullypresent.

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