25 Jan A Day to Thrive
I wake up just a little stiff from the previous day’s long Vinyasa Yoga practice. It’s still dark outside and I fumble to quietly find my water bottle and notebook without waking my roommate. Outside in the dewy California morning, I pause for a moment of gratitude for this week-long respite from the normal day-to-day, and proceed to hunt down some coffee. Ready for another day of thriving!
This week-long yoga retreat in San Luis Obispo, filled with yoga, meditation, communication and self-reflection seems to have flown by, and yet lingered. It’s long because of my role as a teacher and the responsibility I feel for this group, and yet this time has moved so rapidly because there is so much movement, not only in body but my mind as well; it seems I’m ingesting, digesting, and integrating what used to take me months, if not years.
My participation with Real Evolution Yoga (REY) began in 2014 after taking my first REY class – an experience of new sensations and perspectives in a simple physical yoga practice. The REY methodology immediately appealed to my practical, ‘no fluff’ style of teaching yoga. To me, the intention of creating physical alignment to gain cognitive and emotional access seemed so clear and effective.
Only a few months later, I found myself participating in REY’s co-create program, where established yoga teachers can become a part of the Thrive facilitation team by learning how to assisting yogis with varying body types and levels of ability, teaching workshops to the group, as well as receiving valuable, straightforward mentorship with a behind the scenes peek at running an intensive yoga program – an absolute perfect fit for me in this stage of my teaching career!
After breakfast we all muster the energy to walk to the yoga studio. It’s a space where we breathe deeply in times of pure joy and full-hearted belly laughs, alongside true openness and vulnerability. As we find our way to our sticky, rubber homes for the next three hours, there seems to be a tangible sense of anticipation about the day ahead: some choose small talk, some choose solitude, friends catch up, and teachers check-in about the schedule and duties. I had never met any of these people before my arrival to the retreat center, and yet I feel an immediate connection with this group. Each individual has his or her own story. But the common thread here is that something’s gotta give – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – something needs to be looked at, played with, and shifted. Within a few moments, we’re called to our seats to begin.
In the morning practice, we begin to breathe in a controlled, rapid, heat-building sequence. We’re told to be at our own pace, play with challenging ourselves, and try our best to stay in the practice: stay a student. The sequence progresses to a meditation where I’m pleasantly surprised by my ability to be physically still when normally, I could fidget until day’s end.
Lucky for me, the morning is filled with more movement than stillness! We move through classical yoga postures, martial arts inspired balance sequences, mobility patterns and even eyesight training. Needless to say, we get a lot accomplished in a few hours! Being a part of the teaching team, I assist every student to feel both safe and empowered in each posture and exercise. Sometimes assisting is as simple as offering a hand for balance support, other times I’ll offer props like blocks, straps, bolsters and chairs. By the end of the morning session, I leave the studio totally invigorated. Witnessing the strength and courage of everyone’s unique practice reassures my love of yoga for every body.
Diving into the afternoon session requires a touch of perseverance and focus. We gather again in the yoga studio where we sit comfortably in chairs surrounded by people we all now consider friends. Conversations happen organically; the facilitators to the group, within the group, as well as one-on-one with my neighbor. Similar to the morning meditation and yoga practices, the conversations hold a lot of movement, cognitively and emotionally.
Because we put forth so much mental and physical energy during sessions, meals are always well attended! Thrive is always well outfitted in the food department and every diet is met and fulfilled wonderfully. I leave each meal craving a solid nap and belly rub.
At dinner tonight, the movement of this day is the topic of everyone’s conversations. I can no longer hear any musings about the weather or complaints about the boss – the air of the group has wonderfully evolved into an inspired vibration willing to listen, share, and be present with each other.
The tone of the evening sessions varies from day to day; sometimes we settle into a purely restorative, slow, quiet, nourishing yoga practice. Other evening sessions are purposefully conducted to shake you up, interrupt your ‘normal’, and get you clear on why you’ve shown up here.
Plopping into bed, I am reminded why I love this work (if I can even call it that). I’m physically exhausted, mentally on fire, and emotionally inspired. The days that pass, though intense, seem to reveal more and more of me: I catch myself speaking and expressing with much more ease and grace, I make better food decisions because I’m feeling more connected to my body’s needs, and I’m talking to myself in tones of acceptance, patience, and curiosity. When I catch myself in these moments of alignment, I stop to pause internally to be present to the sensation, visuals, context – all of it. I want to bring this sense of peace home with me to draw on when I’m back in my day-to-day. The practices I learn from being both student and leader become new habits and teachings for me to share back home. It’s a week that fully informs my year ahead and I’m always grateful to return for another week to Thrive.