I recently attended my first yoga retreat at Pause Yoga in Wellington, New Zealand. It was amazing. I couldn’t fault that day, not one little bit. The studio was spectacular, the food was delicious, the other attendees were lovely and friendly and the instructors were just beyond inspirational. The purpose of the day was about spending time looking after ourselves and taking time out of our busy lives just to be present, to be in the moment.
We started the day heading straight into Vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa is a practice that is relatively quick, the poses aren’t held for long but long enough to build strength and balance. Breathing is extremely important in this practice, inhaling and exhaling at the right time dramatically increases your ability to execute each pose and brings you back to focusing on your body and how it feels while you move from downward dog into body plank and up into cobra.
During this session I didn’t think about anything else other than how my body was transitioning from one pose to another for a full two hours. There were no thoughts about work, about life, about anything other than my breathing and my strength. After two hours of Vinyasa and only very short breaks we participated in guided meditation. Kathy, our instructor talked through a guided meditation that focused on our breathing and using the breath as a way to bring us back into focus when our mind wandered off with our thoughts.
After the meditating session I took a minute or two to think about Vinyasa in our everyday life. We spend each day filling our lives with more and more and then we become too busy to take the time, too busy to think about what our minds need, our mind needs just as much attention if not more than we give to physical exercise, to our work and to our relationships. We don’t always have the time to attend a yoga session or a retreat or to head out for a run, but we can take as little as 10 minutes out of our day to focus on our breath, to appreciate the breath and what it can do to relieve stress and anxieties from the chaos of the every day.
The second half of our day was spent on the Yin practice. Yin is about creating space within the body, it applies moderate stress to the connective tissues in the body with the aim of increasing circulation within the joints and improving flexibility. You spend about five minutes in each pose, which doesn’t sound like a long time but when you’re in a stretch e.g. the grasshopper you become extremely uncomfortable and it also creates pain sensations. The poses are mostly for the lower part of the body, the back, hips and hamstrings.
The purpose is to allow the body to sit within the pose and to refrain from listening to your mind telling you, you have to move. Your body can sustain sitting in that pain for a time but our minds tend to tell us it’s too much and so we move to provide relief. The practice helps teach you to be still, to feel the pressure, to feel the pain and allow it to be and do what it needs to. Once you move out of the pose (most painful experience) you lie on your back and you can instantly feel the space you have just created in that part of your body, it is no longer in pain but you can feel that increased mobility instantly.
I loved and loathed this part of the day. I was in so much pain while in the pose but as soon as I moved out of it, I instantly felt the benefit of enduring that pain. This principle can relate to so many aspects of our lives; the difficult things we need to work through, the things we need to endure and letting the pain work its magic in order for us to reap the benefits of peace, space and strength, once it is over.
Our instructor talked to us about how busy our lives are and how we no longer just sit, just sit and not fidget, not allowing ourselves to get bored by going and doing something and that is what the Yin practice helps to encourage. Allow your mind just to be.
Do you take the time to just be? Allow your mind to settle and just be bored sometimes? Try and be selfish and do this as often as possible, focus on your body and your mind and provide them both just as much love and attention that you give to other aspects of your life.
If you are looking for a day of self-reflection, serenity, peace, laughs, pain and strength, find a one day yoga retreat near you, or check out www.pauseyoga.co.nz and reap the benefits of how yoga can help with so much more than just increased flexibility and a little bit of pain.