Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Yoginis Unite at Retreats In Search of Nirvana

Yogini Chicks

Last week, I wrote about my favorite Yogi tea and the principals behind it.  One of the reasons that I am so into it is because I am a self-proclaimed (work in progress) yogi myself.  I love my practice which helps to keep me limber, strengthen my core and calm my mind.

For the past three years, my buddy Rachel and I have attended yoga retreats up the coast and, sadly, this will be the first year we won’t be attending. We both have several obligations that will be taking us out of town right about the same time we usually escape to our Zen paradise.

It started four years ago when Rachel so gallantly accepted my invitation to attend a random yoga retreat. We really weren’t sure what to expect but, that is truly one of the things I love about Rachel, she is always up for anything.

So, once we had made our decision, the first thing we had to figure out was the level of lodging.  The retreat was held at this beautiful (and original) Craftsman home, located only two hours outside of Los Angeles.  The guests could choose to stay in one of the four bedrooms and enclosed porches within the house, or camp outside in a yurt.

I had suggested sharing a yurt – a portable felt-covered, lattice-framed dwelling – for the authenticity of the event; but Rachel advocated for a master bedroom and I am so glad she did.

The brochure for the retreat gave us little information; we knew food would be provided, but we had no idea what that really meant.  Also, besides doing 4 yoga classes and 2 meditation sessions; there was also a pool, Jacuzzi and hiking.  So, with the retreat only a few days away and, not really knowing what to expect, we came up with a game plan. 

First, we decided that, on our way there, we would make a pit stop at Trader Joes to pick up some wine and snacks to have in case the vegetarian fare was lacking. Also, we decided that we wanted to swim, Jacuzzi and hike – so we over packed in order to be prepared for any scenario.  We also brought towels for bathing and one for swimming – because they were not provided – and our own pillows from home.

Once we had my Volvo packed, it looked like we were a family of four going away for a week and not two gals away for less than 48 hours.

As we arrived to our destination, I pulled the car up the circular driveway right to the front door, we were laden down with our rolling suitcases, bags with linens and pillows, and three bags of groceries from Trader Joes.  A young man – who arrived right behind us – had one small rucksack and had just returned from backpacking through Nepal.

We thought it was interesting and tried to embrace the uniqueness of the adventurers with whom we were spending the weekend.  However, I had this sneaking suspicion that everyone was looking at us as if we were Carrie and Samantha from Sex and the City.

We dragged all our bags upstairs and were impressed with our digs. Our master suite had two beds, a craftsman fireplace, wonderful American craftsman windows, an enclosed screen porch, a ginormous private balcony and what we thought was a private bath. [It ended up that the other master suite was a communal room and you know that clown car from the circus…it was like that but with chicks…and all of us sharing one bathroom.  Not pretty.]

Once we got our clothes unpacked, we grabbed our sacks of groceries and went down to the kitchen.  Rachel graciously tried to explain to the vegan chef that we needed a place to store our brie, salami and wine.  But the fridge was filled to the brim and I think we did get one or two bottles of white and cheese in there to be chilled.  Everyone was pleasant but I think the folks running the event were a bit offended because we were doing things a tad differently than everyone else.

But nothing could extinguish our flame of positivity in the harmonious and beautiful setting.  We returned to our boudoir to change into our yoga gear.

After yoga, we cracked our wine.  Actually, I think we had a little bit before the first yoga session to help us relax a bit; But, for the sake of the story, let’s start our wine consumption at the proper time – cocktail hour.

The dinner was amazing and, after having a bit of wine, Rachel and I skipped the meditation that evening and sat on our balcony sampling all the lovely varietals we had brought with us.  It was one of those evenings – sitting out under the stars – we had enough wine to make the conversation flow smoothly and were enjoying each other’s company.

We heard our fellow yogis return from the meditation and thought it seemed a bit quiet, but just assumed everyone had retired early to prepare for our morning yoga session.

The balcony in question.
We stayed up even longer talking into the wee hours of the night.

When Rachel and I awoke, the house was very quiet.  We knew that breakfast was at 8 a.m. and the first yoga class at 10 a.m., but it was eerily silent.  We chit chatted while we got dressed and excited for our first cup of coffee of the day.

As we descended the stairs, it was as though we had been transferred back to the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  All these people were milling around, sitting outside, eating breakfast and getting coffee – all while not uttering a word.  We started speaking in hushed voices, but we were still yapping about the oddity of the situation.  As we were getting our coffee, a fellow yogi looked at us – very annoyed I might add – and pointed to a sign that read, “Please Observe Our Period of Silence from 9pm to 9am.”  We just looked at each other and our eyes bugged out.

We served ourselves breakfast and then retreated outside to eat it.  We chose two chairs as far away from the rest of the mute population as possible and tried hard not to crack up.

It was apparent that everyone surely heard our buzzed banter from the night before as we sat out on the balcony.  

After our morning yoga session, we decided to go sit out by the pool.  It was a bit lacking as far as chairs and comfort level, but we made the best of it and soaked our tired muscles in the hot Jacuzzi. 

Later in the day, a hike was planned.  I had brought my “authentic” hiking boots.  You know the brown boots with the red shoelaces.  Well, it really wasn’t that kind of hike but I could have done without the taunts from the Himalayan trekking peanut gallery.  I mean, don’t they know the philosophy of Buddhism – patience, acceptance and tolerance?

But I did laugh pretty hard when one of the guys who made a comment – wearing flip flops – totally wiped out.  I bet he wished he had my big honking hiking boots on at that point.

Later that night, Rachel and I did participate in the last meditation session of the weekend.  It was mostly a group sing along, which actually brought out the 5th grader in both of us, as we tried not to crack up while singing Hare Krishna songs.

I don’t mean to jest because it was a special weekend for both Rachel and I.  I loved all the yoga we shared and the beautiful and calming environment was soothing to our souls. 

Actually, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we went back the following year. 

This time, we invited our friend Barbara.  It was pretty much the exact same weekend: we stayed in the same room; they cooked the same food; and the classes and meditations were all the same. 

The Yoginis exploring town

After wine tasting!
The good news was that we were aware of the No Speaking Policy in advance, so no faux pas this year.  Also, after lunch on Saturday, we passed on the pool time and chose to hike into town for some wine tasting instead.  After our third or fourth taste, we unfortunately didn’t make it back for the final yoga class of the day. But we did make it to the meditation and the giggles got us again.

We had a blast but decided that – for the third year -- we would actually create our own yoga retreat.  Rachel, Barb and I invited one more girlfriend – another Tracie – and ended up spending the weekend at the Ojai Valley Inn.   We did some yoga, a lot of running, window shopping, nice dinners and we even got some spa and pool time.

It was a blessing that we had made other plans because we didn’t actually receive another invitation to the organized retreat that year.  We aren’t sure if it was intentional or just a coincidence; yet, it made no difference because we had a blast at our customized retreat. 

But now you can understand why I am so disappointed that we will be missing our 4th annual yoga retreat; but, for the next one, I have my sights set on an ashram in the Bahamas.  Now that is Nirvana in Nassau.

Peace out!

1 comment:

  1. hilarious recount! love you guys Stefanie