New Year’s resolutions are challenging. To even begin, a person has to look within and admit that they need to change something for the better. Attending a meditation and yoga retreat/training is also challenging and not unlike making a New Year’s resolution. The yogi, or potential yogi, is in need of a change for the better and, by signing up, resolving to make that change when it isn’t even the requisite time of year. So to say that it should have been expected that the sort of brave souls that would undertake a Caribbean yoga and meditation retreat in the Dominican Republic DURING New Year’s week would be a wild, brilliant, beautiful bunch should have been expected is by far an understatement.
Oftentimes, improving your yoga practice isn’t just about what happens on the mat. It’s about learning lessons off the mat. The New Year’s yoga and meditation attendees at the Yoga Loft brought lessons. With so many strong personalities, they bonded quickly and, for better or worse, revealed all. As their guide (den mother?), I by turns felt like my heart wanted to burst wide open or just do that face-palm thing. I fell in love with each and every one and hope they got from me a fraction of what I got from them. Here is a little of how it all went down…
First group meals/introductions can be intimidating. But so can just signing up to lay bare your soul on a Caribbean island with a group of strangers. Really, the hard part was done before they even sat down. At this dinner, and any orientation at a retreat, is where we found out that this vacation is not just about physical fitness. These were people that knew they need a shift, both on and off the mat, and were willing to go way outside their comfort zone to find it. (At this point it wasn’t clear how far out they were willing to push themselves or each other). It’s also revealed at these introductions that, in spite of different levels of experience (3 weeks-15 years), it’s a level playing field. Each person’s journey has a unique combination of intention, time on the mat and “work” needed to manifest that intention. It’s a DNA as beautiful and incomparable as the DNA that makes each yogi a unique individual. We learned that one yogi was already so far outside his comfort zone, he was resistant to the whole process. He was unsure of what things like SUP and flying trapeze could possibly have to do with spirituality and personal growth. His yoga experience consisted of having “dated a couple of yoga teachers.” But we had a secret weapon; girls in yoga pants and mojitos. Hey, I’m for anything that gets people to drink the yoga kool-aid, ours just happened to be mojito flavored. I also knew this was the yogi who would have the biggest breakthroughs. I was right. He did. Sometimes I’m pretty good at my job. By mid-week he was literally running into practice if he feared he was late, being a charming unifier of the group and is currently practicing yoga voluntarily post-retreat while staying on at eXtreme Hotel for a couple of weeks.
The first task at hand was letting go of the past and changing their narrative. During practice, lots of core work and inquiry around what holds us back. Then to the trapeze rig to work with the crew from eXtreme Circus where the yogis let go of fear and jumped into possibility, mostly with the greatest of ease. Any resistance or doubt about what we were up to for the week fell away. The yogis ‘”got it.” I was even called a “wizard” after it clicked for one yogini. While flattering, I’m just a sweaty girl on silly pants doing her best and sharing what she’s learned.
The week was not without conflicts. By mid-week some had reached the “I’m taking my toys and I’m leaving” stage. A bit of discord is unavoidable in groups that spend a lot of time together. Coincidentally, it reached its peak on Solar Plexus day. In addition to twists and lateral stretching, the energetic focus was on “How do you want to show up and shine?” With the overall message being, in the end, what matters is not your job, stuff, successes or failures but rather your energetic legacy; how are people left FEELING after being in your presence? This was a very social day. A tour of Taino Farm, a lazy river float and a farm to table lunch. Aside from the tour guide, there was no buffer. This was a favorite day for most, and I don’t want to call our tour guide an instigator but the river float usually involves one bottle of beer, but this crew, true to form had two bottles of rum. These yogis were still technically on vacation and when I said in a previous Facebook post that they worked like they were at a teacher training while also embracing happy hour as if they may never see another, I did not exaggerate. The day could have gone sideways. Turns out these yogis do want to leave people and places better than when they arrived.
New Year’s Day was heart opening day. Showing up for others, finding compassion and allowing oneself to feel vulnerable in an effort to have more joy were the themes. Full disclosure, there was one yogi who presented a challenge for everyone. She didn’t participate in classes and activities, had a general problem with boundaries and was more than a little demanding. What is the one practice she showed up for on time and placed herself front and center? Heart opening. You would have thought I planted her especially for this day. These yogis did not disappoint.
They showed patience and compassion from the start of morning practice through Acro/partner practice with some of the amazing instructors/artists from eXtreme Circus.
Last full day, the yogis simply practiced, making their time on their mats their own. No big theme. Just in creation of their journey. Then surfing. A single person, on a single board in vast, beautiful potential. What else is there? Possibility is what we have.
How do I wrap up a week like this in words? So many big personalities, so many laughs, so much inquiry and physical challenge and so many cocktails. A reluctant meditation teacher who showed up and shined so bright I fell in love with him a little bit more. A yogini who found love and couple more who found their voices and said out loud they wanted to teach. I don’t put it into words. I just ugly cry in front of all of them at the end of our last practice and hopefully send them off with a few nuggets as they continue to be brave and do the good work.
The Yoga Loft scheduled another New Years Yoga and Meditation Retreat! Have a look whether you like the program and book now!