Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yoga Retreat (Part 2 Of My Vacation)

Last week I wrote about the road trip part of my solo summer vacation. This week's post is about how I ended the trip: at a yoga retreat! It was my first one, and I was a little nervous. I arrived on my own, but it was a very friendly and social group and I met quite a few awesome people.
Medicine Wheel at the front entrance.
The retreat was held in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just outside the coastal town of Soquel. As I turned out of town and into the forest, I knew I was headed to a special place. Land of the Medicine Buddha is a peaceful place tucked into the hillside among ancient, tall sequoia redwoods. I can see why the Buddhist monks picked it!
Anyone for the "enchanted forest"?
Exploring the Enchanted Forest during a break from yoga.
The retreat was put together by two fantastic yoga teachers from San Francisco: Debbie Steingesser and Tim Floreen. I think I was the only one at the retreat who does not attend their classes, but I felt welcomed by both of them and the other retreaters. And I loved the way Debbie and Tim taught their classes! I was a bit nervous when I looked at our schedule and saw that each yoga class was two hours long, but I really enjoyed the relaxed pace. The longer classes allowed us the time to really sink into and enjoy each pose or movement, instead of having to rush though everything. We also did some partner work, which was a bit awkward at times but allowed all of us to accomplish things we didn't know we could do. For example, I got into headstand (twice!) and wheel for the first time ever! I wish I had pictures so I could see what I looked like, but I'll have to settle for my memory of the feeling. And hopefully, with more practice, I'll be able to do those poses again!
The group: Strike a pose!
Medicine wheel at the entrance.
Walking the "8 Verses Pilgrimage Trail"
Giant Buddha inside the temple.
Amazing hand painted artwork on the temple building.

Enjoying lunch on the last day with new friends.
The retreat was a wonderful end to my vacation. Being able to deepen my yoga practice enabled me to recommit to doing yoga regularly. I've been practicing yoga for a few years, but I go through phases of being really into it and then letting it slide, then getting back into it again. However, I really notice that my body, mind and spirit feel more relaxed and at ease when I am practicing yoga a few times each week. And the effects linger after class too. That tight shoulder or racing mind is soothed for a while by the meditation of practicing yoga. And while I can't make it to Tim or Debbie's classes on a regular basis (though I hope to visit!), I've found a couple of studios near my home that offer wonderful teachers and classes.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the vegetarian meals served at the retreat. My body felt so good eating the delicious veggies and whole grains, and as a health coach, I enjoyed talking about nutrition with people who were surprised at how satisfied they could feel after a meal without meat.

After our last yoga class on Sunday, we had a final lunch and said our goodbyes. Upon leaving, I continued driving up Highway 1 from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay, where I turned inland and headed home. This final leg of the drive allowed me a gentle way to reconnect to being back home and returning to my daily (non-vacation) life. I took my time, and enjoyed stopping at vista points and farm stands along the way. 

Now that I am back in the swing of things, I can reflect on how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to take this vacation. And when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I know that a yoga class or the ocean is only a short drive away!

I love this stretch of highway!
My bounty from roadside farm stands and stores.
LOVE this! The beach is such a healing, relaxing place for me.

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