Hurrah for another successful yoga/pilates/meditation retreat in the beautiful Halliburton area. This weekend would not have been possible without two major ingredients: first, Jean with her welcoming hospitality and opening her beautiful house to us; and second, the fantastic cooking and meals provided by all the ladies. I was truly spoiled, thank you all so much!
It was glorious to return to the Halliburton’s driving through the winding landscape. The scenic route took us twisting and turning through rocks, towering forests of moss covered birch trees, and open spaces filled with beautiful lakes. And the air! Oh, that Halliburton clean, crisp air filling my lungs and body up with such oxygen and delight… really makes Toronto air hard to swallow.
After a summer hiatus from our weekly Friday afternoon yoga classes, it was so lovely to reconnect with all the gals (although Inge was missed). I was giddy with excitement and so looked forward to our classes, meals, book club, and other discussions with each other.
Although the sun was absent for the weekend, the pitter-patter of rain and the blaze of the fire made for a perfect and cozy retreat. Some of the gang went on walks armed with bells to fend off potential bears that seemed to be making many public appearances this summer. Other brave souls went for dips in the refreshing lake. Me, I remained nestled in the warmth of the cottage/house happy to sit in a rocking chair on the veranda under a under a blanket reading, chatting, or simply enjoying the view of the lake through the forest. I did finally venture out on the last day and enjoyed a leisurely stroll with Yvonne.
As for the yoga boot camp part… no, it wasn’t really, but I was proud of everybody who participated to whatever degree they wanted to or felt able. Special kudos to Sally who participated in all 5 classes – and 3 in one day on the Saturday! Congrats Sally! I single out Sally only because of what could be perceived as physical limitations and barriers did not limit Sally’s participation or spirit at all.
I encouraged people to participate at their own pace, as the classes were not mandatory. People at the retreat were at different levels, and sometimes a retreat is time when we actually stop for the first time in who knows how long, breath, unwind, and the body just needs to rest. Is there anything more luxurious than curling up for an afternoon nap? Or, curling up with a good book? I think with busy schedules and working lives, we don’t get to indulge often enough in such pleasures.
But, I digress. We all practiced yoga, pranayama (breathing), and meditation daily, and had one pilates class Saturday afternoon for core strength. I was so proud of everyone! Focus, attention, and commitment were all high. As challenges presented themselves along the way to individuals, everybody rose to the occasion. The third class of the day is not easy, particularly when the body and mind are not used to it. By Sunday morning, I have to say (myself included), it was a bit of a struggle. Energy was low, and that was ok, it was just more of a push to get through it. I felt very stiff and tight, which is not uncommon on “day 3”. So, the morning practice for me did not feel great. However, when we come up against ourselves and persevere and push past boundaries, it is a great triumph, especially when it would be easier to give up or give into “it doesn’t feel good”, or “I’m not into it”. However, we push ourselves and surpass our limitations, and always make it through. All is well. All will be well. With the help of breathing, grounding, and centering, we can always handle what comes our way. Sometimes we need to allow space and silence to help listen to the guidance we need. It is always there; we just often can’t hear it. As my dear friend Sharon told me: “God never gives us more than we can handle”. Whether you believe in God or a Higher Being, or not (a topic of lively discussion over the weekend), finding the physical and mental space through yoga, meditation, and/or pilates, any or all of these practices can help us find the answers within.
Along the way, I practice gratitude as taught to me by my mother, who has taught me everything that has made me who I am today. How blessed I am to enjoy sharing my time on the mat with my fellow Yoginis. How lucky I am to be treated to the amazing home-cooked meals. How inspiring it is to be surrounded by beautiful, intelligent women and engage in so many wonderful, colourful conversations. So, a toast to all you ladies! Until next year, for our Third Annual Retreat, continue to breathe and feel your feet on the ground. Make it a habit, even if it is just once a day, to extend your exhale. A long, slow, smooth sigh of gratitude, and in those seconds as you exhale, feel a sense of calm and well-being.