Sunday, October 5, 2008

Gentle smiles and sweet sunsets

April 08
In another life I was a bona fide gym rat. Aerobics, weight training, step class…also I was a personal trainer and a kickboxing instructor. So round about mid-winter I was fried and usually needed a week or two of beach vegging and absolutely no contact with anything remotely to do with a gym.

But now that I’m a full-time yogi, I don’t have the same feelings. Not to say that I don’t need a break from my usual routine—after all it’s been proven that it’s healthy to take a breather—but I still want and need to practice everyday and even more importantly, I don’t want to stop teaching.

Then last year, my friend Jane Fryer offered me a wonderful opportunity. She asked me, along with my dear friend Bruce, to come and teach on one of her exotic and popular Inward Bound yoga retreats. Having never been on a destination retreat, I didn’t know what to expect but as soon as we arrived at Round Hill on the island of Jamaica, I knew I was in for a very unique experience. I can’t even begin to describe the natural beauty of the country – the clear Caribbean water, the lush plant life, and the friendly faces of the Jamaican people all came together to welcome us with warm smiles.

Our work-weary group was small but ready to be refreshed by the island breezes and restored by daily practice. At the end of our first day together I had already forgotten about how cold it had been back home and for the first time in many months I couldn’t see any need to check email—certainly nothing could be that important.

I looked forward to both teaching and taking class every day. I felt such a deep connection to nature as we practiced together under a fragrant tree canopy. Small lizards darted around our mats and occasionally up an arm or a leg, and at the end of each late afternoon practice we were silently and spectacularly saluted by a luxurious tropical sunset.

Up until that time I had always practiced indoors, with the honking of a busy city clamoring outside the windows. Of course the practice had always helped me find my inner paradise, but there was something about actually being in nature – feeling the breezes, smelling the ocean, watching other forms of life thriving – that helped al of us to see a much bigger picture and experience a bigger connection. We could see for ourselves how we fit into the natural landscape of the universe, and even to understand how the ancient yogis might have been inspired to create these artful shapes we call asana.

In the end I realized that it wasn’t so much about "getting away" as it was about getting reconnected. And even though it was hard to go back to studio practice, in my heart I’m always under the tree canopy in Jamaica, learning my asana from the gentle smiles and sweet sunsets that will forever be in my heart.

Give yourself a break…and enjoy!

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