In 3 days time I fly to Sri Lanka for my first ever yoga retreat (something I have started to rename “yoga prison”). As I stare at my empty bag and a massive pile of yoga clothes I am starting to wonder how this happened.
In August 2018 my husband (my fiancé at the time) decided to start a 30 day hot yoga challenge with his friend, nothing unusual here and I thought the novelty would wear off once the challenge was complete. Whilst this had no direct impact on me during the week as I work away from home, my weekends for the month of August became all about getting sweaty. Yoga was new to me and I had to try to look like it was normal and natural for sweat to run up my nose in a downward dog or to realise for the first time in my life that my shins had the ability to pour with sweat whilst I was in rag doll!
The fact that my wedding was just 3 months away gave me a good excuse to not quit, when I decided to get married on a beach I forgot my beach body packed it’s bags and left me in my 30’s.
Fast forward 6 months and I am a member of two different yoga studios in two different counties, I have a ridiculous amount of yoga wear, even though I only wear the same two outfits and I send photos and videos of me doing headstands to anyone that will appreciate it and some people who probably don’t.
I remember being flexible when I was young but I wasn’t interested in being flexible then, well not in the gym anyway. I’m now in my forties and find myself desperately trying to keep up with people half my age, wondering why my arms hurt when all I’m doing is lifting them up and hoping I’m not going to trump whilst my entire body is straining in some crazy pose that would not look out of place in a game of twister. Now I think I only do it because I’m too stubborn to quit.
We’ve been planning the travel arrangements for a while now but I hadn’t thought about exactly what my daytime routine would be. The detailed itinerary was sent last month and that’s when fear struck and I stopped calling it a retreat and calling it yoga prison.
The days will be filled with yoga sessions and workshops, nutritious and healthy vegetarian breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Meditation, yoga Nidra (the art of being asleep but not asleep and definitely not snoring). There are visits to temples, tea plantations and elephant sanctuaries and even a movie night! Sounds perfect, apart from the one thing that jumped out of the itinerary more then anything else, they even put it in capital letters, FREE TIME. For one and a half hours in the morning and some afternoons too, they give you FREE TIME.
No one had ever mentioned this element of a retreat before and I never thought it would be an issue, but that’s because no one has ever given me that much time to myself before. Don’t get me wrong, I have wasted a lot of time in my life but I have usually filled my time with exciting activities, catching up on work, cooking, DIY or if all else fails, drinking cocktails and eating food with like minded people. How do you go and find yourself when you don’t feel lost!
I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer, check out the internet, I won’t be the first person to face this troublesome issue, will I? My searches were pretty fruitless, turns out that people don’t ask this question, you go on a retreat to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of our normal lives. People aren’t looking for ways to fill free time, they embrace it! I did however find lots of ways to amuse children during rainy days on holidays, ideal information for a childless woman in her forties who has no intention of setting up a children’s holiday retreat!
I then contacted one of the ladies running the retreat, she will be able to help, she will be used to helping yogis fill their days and stop them going mad. I sent an email with suggestions like painting, sewing, colouring in, and any other random things I thought yogis would do in their spare time. This is when I discovered that yogis are actually quite normal and they just chill out, catch up on reading, go paddle boarding, jogging, site seeing and even just relax by the pool. Who knew!
It’s now one hour later then when I started and I haven’t packed a thing! I do however know that I’m not going to yoga prison (won’t stop me calling it that as that now makes me smile) but I’m going to a fantastic country I’ve never been to, I’ll spend a week exploring my practices (I’m sure this is just a get out clause if your not as bendy as the other people in class) and try to perfect my headstands ready to annoy my friends with my social media posts and a slightly skinnier version of me.