What I learned from a week of yoga

bali yoga pic

Spending a week on a yoga retreat was something I always liked the idea of

I loved the idea of waking up in the sunshine and feeling all zen

Ok for me that’s easier said than done. As a conditioned over-achiever, Relaxing isn’t something that comes naturally to me. It’s something I’ve had to learn

When I saw my friend Anna Marsh advertising for her yoga retreat in Bali I thought this would be the perfect opportunity.  I get to explore a new country, work at my yoga practice and spend some time with a good friend

Anna and I have known each other from the start of my fitness career. We worked together as personal trainers in a gym. We could regularly be found in the locker room crying over the long hours we worked for very little money!
Since those days we’ve both come along way establishing our own businesses
With an online business, a house by the beach and a life of travel, Anna is someone who I’ve found to be totally inspirational in creating her ideal life

Needless to say I was excited about spending a week with her and a group of other inspirational women

The yoga
Once everyone arrives we are told the schedule for the week
Yoga sessions will be in the morning at 7am. My brain immediately starts to object.  ‘I thought I came here to relax, why does it have to be so early, I want to sleep’ ….are just some of the thoughts that come into my mind
‘How long are the sessions?’ I ask. About an hour and a half our yoga teacher, Ché answers  On the last day we’ll work up to 2 hours

I have to say the thought of 2 hours of yoga horrifies me

The first few days I find it hard to ‘still’ my mind
Towards the end of the first few sessions my internal dialogue is questioning ‘how much longer is this going to take’ we must be almost done’…especially when I can smell breakfast
After yoga we are supposed to stay in silence and write reflections in our journals
I guess this is effective in the fact that I would normally be too lazy to write instead preferring to talk to people
Breakfast is also in silence. The objective to make us more mindful of our eating. Not sure this works for me. I demolish my food at usual pace then head back to my room for a further kip

I talk a lot about how everything is a skill if you practice, you can become skilled in just about everything.  After a few days my mind has started to adapt to the morning yoga sessions. It wanders and complains less. I’ve found I’ve started to enjoy the structure and focus. We have a day off midway and I actually find myself missing it

By the final day I breeze through the 2 hour yoga session. Although I have stuck to the basic moves and yet to be braver enough to try more advanced positions like crow and head stands, I def feel that my mobility has improved

So what have I learned?

Everything is a skill 
Training your mind is exactly like training your body. Wether it’s relaxing, being more mindful or retaining information, you can train yourself to be better at pretty much anything
What helps is setting aside time to practice
Whether it’s 5 mins or an hour. Pick a time that suits you and stick to it. Do it everyday to create a habit

Environment
Your surrounding environment is extremely important. Your environment affects how you feel
Going on a retreat is like a fast track approach. The environment is set up to create feelings of safety and relaxation allowing us to access the human brain

Mindfulness
Being more mindful and simply taking note of how I’m feeling at any one time allows me to pick up on patterns and avoid negativity. If I’m feeling particularly irritable or anxious I can stop and ask myself what’s making me feel that way? I can then change the course to avoid moving into full blown threat

The Power of Setting Intentions
One of the things that really helped me on the week was bringing everything back to my intention
On day one we set out intentions for the week in a meditation where we were given pretty bracelets. My intention was simply to relax and give myself space to just be
Coming back to this really helped me. It helped me decide not to get involved in every trip available. Before I would decide I ‘should’ do everything and end up stressing myself out by taking on too much
This is a great practice to add to your morning routine. Start by journaling how you want to feel at the beginning of the day and then think about what’s your recipe to create those feelings?

After leaving the retreat I was not quite ready to continue my practice without the structure of a class and instructor.  It may take me a while to get to that kind of self discipline.  I’m happy to say that I did make it to our Sunday yoga class at 12 Rounds on my return.

Oh and lots of comments from members that I should go away more often, the zen must suit me!