The Magic of Retreat
It was 2006 when I went on my first ever yoga retreat. I travelled from my home in Tokyo to the magical island of Bali where I spent ten days of yoga, meditation and inspiration with Louisa Sear and an incredible bunch of people I’d never met before.
I came away with a healthy sun-kissed glow, a new success with handstands against the wall, an exciting headstand-to-viparita-dandasana transition, and an incredible sense of clarity about what needed to change in my life. It was a turning point in my life.
The retreat was overflowing with time spent immersed in practice, pranayama, meditation, simple living, age old teachings, quiet reflection and the company of big-hearted humans. The combination spun a magic that helped me to see things with crystal clarity and straight from my heart, not from my head.
Practising each day with the same group and the same teacher gives you a unique insight into your time on the mat. It also, of course, takes you deep into the asana, encouraging you to push your edges as your courage and confidence grows.
There were so many firsts in my asana practice on that trip, and among them there were a few great leaps that stand out in my mind. I even have picture of a couple, thanks to a lovely girl called Judy who took a lot of photos.
- I was finally able to get my feet on the wall in a handstand and stay there without immediately popping back down. (that’s me in the picture at the top of the page, on the pink mat in the middle)
- I discovered viparita-dandasana, and how to get into it from a headstand. I couldn’t believe I could do this! (pictured just above)
- In Japan my main teacher was from an Ashtanga lineage, so this was also the first time I’d stayed in any pose for more than 5 breaths. I’llnever forget how hard it was to stay still in downward facing dog – I was the biggest fidgeter ever.
- Away from the rush of a city schedule it was also my first experience of seated meditation lasting longer than 10 minutes at a time. We sat for 30 minutes each morning… eeek! My back was screaming, my mind whirring, and I swore there were ants crawling all over me, although no matter how ofter I opened my eyes to swipe them away, they were never there.
“Respond to every call that excites your spirit”
Over 10 years later, I still hear some of Louisa’s teaching cues from that retreat in my own practice at home. They settled in so deep that I sometimes hear myself say them when I teach.
Each retreat I’ve been on since that very first one has brought me completely unique experiences, learnings and insights. Each one has given me new space to deepen my practice, and although not always the chance to seek out new lands or learn crazy new poses, more often than not, the chance to see with new eyes.
Over a decade down the line I now run regular retreats of my own, so that I might offer this same magic to my students. It is always my hope that they’ll take with them some beautiful memories, and discoveries in their practice that will last them a lifetime.