I'm lying on the floor of a cabin in the mountains. Stretched out on my back, palms facing upward, feet hip distance apart and toes splaying outward.. just as the teacher had instructed.
I try to focus on her voice "Inspira… Expira… Relajase." But instead, I find myself translating every word to English. Thinking about the drive I had just made with two strangers. Wondering what I'll do this weekend. What we'll eat for breakfast. And what I'll post on my blog.
I had recently arrived at my first yoga retreat somewhere in the mountains of Avila, Spain, but I'm not completely sure where. It was just a weekend long and all in Spanish.
I drove up with two other participants and sat in the backseat while trying to grasp bits of their conversation. We arrived at the house in the dark and greeted the other six yogis and Teresa, the instructor, with dos besos. We had a nice vegetarian meal, drank some tea during sobremesa and we're now in our first session of Yoga Nidra.
Now, I've completed Savasana (relaxation pose) at the end of hundreds of yoga classes, but this is something different. I'm not stretching or sweating or balancing... So how is this yoga?
I listen more to Teresa's distant voice and follow her cues.
"Notice your right palm…thumb…index finger...middle finger...ring finger...pinky. Let your whole hand relax. Feel your wrist…forearm…elbow...upper arm...shoulder. Relax," she says in soft-spoken Spanish.
Eventually, I give in to the voice and let all traces of the day fade away. With my eyes closed and body still, we may have lain their for 30 minutes or 4 hours. All I know is that after we were told it was time to get up and move to our beds, I had a fantastic night's sleep.
Saturday morning began with a session of Hatha yoga followed by a delicious breakfast - fruit, bread, homemade marmalade, tomatoes, juice and tea.
We travelled out to a water reservoir for some hiking and outdoor meditation. Meditation is not something I practice regularly, but it is nice to get outside and focus on the rushing water or the trees without thinking.
Lunch was a delicious spread with tortilla epañola under the warm winter sun. We enjoyed another relaxing sunset hike filled with good conversations before our 2nd hatha session of the day.
Before I knew it, we were back to Yoga Nidra for the second night. By this point, I was given a little more background and understood that Yoga Nidra is a form of deep, conscious relaxation. While you are not meant to sleep, your body and mind should reach a state of subtle euphoria.
I had another deep sleep that night and awoke Sunday excited for the morning yoga session and even more excited for the breakfast to follow.
Sunday was filled with more hiking and beautiful views of snowcapped mountains. We had a little yoga playtime outside before some partner meditation. Like I said before, mediation is not something I'm extremely comfortable with, so meditation with a partner makes it even more difficult. I recognize that I'm not a very touchy-feely, affectionate person. (When I first started yoga, I cringed when I saw the teacher coming to adjust me. And I would tense up during the savasana massage. Now, I basically beg them to assist me and help reach the pose I may not be capable of on my own.) So meditating while embracing someone else or staring into their eyes was just a little awkward for me.
After various group meditation exercises, we went back to the cabin for our last meal together before heading home to Madrid. We talked about that afternoon's meditation and what we need to work on personally. Whether it be giving, receiving, comforting someone or feeling comfortable yourself, you should accept who/how you are, but also recognize how you can improve. While I hated the partner meditation at the time, this conversation afterwards definitely made it worth it and will be something I'll reflect on for awhile.
The whole weekend actually followed this same theme within yoga, meditation and life (and my Spanish abilities!): accept who you are and where you are, but be open to change and improvement. Overall, the retreat just re-awakened my love of yoga and reminded me that I deserve to treat my mind and body to special experiences like this one.
For more info on Yogamente and Teresa's yoga retreats, visit their website and Facebook page.
AND, to finish off a great yoga weekend, I checked my email after returning to Madrid and discovered I won free classes at my yoga studio back home! I had submitted a photo of me and a friend doing tree pose on the beach of Ecuador for their "Yoga on the Go" contest... and it won!
I also later submitted a picture in dancer pose at Templo de Debod in Madrid which is now featured on their Facebook page. If you're in the Northern Virginia area, visit them for a free class or check in for more contests!