"Practicing yoga is not about becoming flexible...it's about finding your inner peace."
This was one of the first things, Sara, our Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher, said to us at our yoga retreat on the Canary Islands. I've taken yoga classes in the past and I tend to focus on getting the poses right. I suppose I've been treating it as a sport rather than an experience. I'm super thankful for having Sara as our teacher and for her guidance in helping me reset my attitude toward yoga practices.
practicing along with nature's soundtrack
Morning Sunshine Every morning, we are greeted by the warmth from the rising sun, sound of the waves, and a clear blue sky. My favorite poses are the ones where we would lay on our backs - Instead of staring at a popcorn ceiling at a gym or yoga studio, I'm looking at just pure blue, and the sensation going through my body is incredible. During the whole trip, even though I wake up much earlier than I'm used to, I do not feel tired at all. I feel the complete opposite - Very energized and awake for the rest of the day.
Evening Soundtrack For our evening session back at the Lotus Lodge (the main hub of the retreat), we are greeted by the sound of the giant palm trees swaying in the wind and the changing colors of the sunset sky. When I close my eyes now during my practice at home, I try to re-live these sounds and imagery as they have been such an important part of this experience.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
The kind of yoga we practice is called Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. We learn a sequence of moves while paying close attention to our breathing and our posture (called the "bandha"). What's more important is that we also learn to pay close attention to how our body feels as we move through each pose. I'm definitely not an expert as you can tell from my very novice poses in photos below. Sara's Facebook page is a good resource if you're interested in learning more - Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Fuerteventura.
The "Victorious Breath"
The one thing I will always remember is the "victorious breath" that Sara guides us through. It is a critical component in this yoga practice. The key is to change from our usual chest breathing to breathing with our diaphragm. Chest breathing (chest moving up and down) is often caused by emotional and physical stress and results in shallow breaths that ends up delivering less oxygen to the body. On the other hand, when we breath with our diaphragm, our lungs expand and release waste more efficiently. Our body, as a result, receives more oxygen. I never notice how I breath before Sara pointing out that most people do chest breathing in today's society. It still feels weird to breath without using my chest, but I can feel the difference when I do. If you're interested in reading more about this, here are some resources - Livestrong, BreakingMuscle
Another key thing is to over-emphasize the sound made as air flows through the throat. It takes me a while to understand the power of this small adjustment. Especially during meditation, this heavy throat sound becomes very soothing and helps me stay focus during the session. There are many You Tube videos that demonstrates this technique, here's one with KinoYoga
About the Lotus Lodge
Lotus Lodge is the main hub of this yoga retreat. Most of the guest rooms are located in this main lodge and we do all of our group activities here - eating our meals, practicing in the evening, just hanging out. It is run by AzulFit - A company that specializes in wellbeing trips where participants get to treat themselves to a healthy and relaxing vacations in awesome locations (The Canary Islands-Spain, San Diego-California, Santorini-Greece, and Cornwall-England).
Lotus Lodge is not a big fancy place, but it feels surprisingly cozy and welcoming. We often sit in the living room or outside to read, to chat, and sometimes to nap.
my first taste of vegan meals
The food at the Lodge is something else. Valeria is our all-in-one personal host for the week and her vegan cooking skill is A-MAZING. I don't follow a vegan diet, but Valeria is just that good. She makes every dish so tasty that I often go for seconds. And she makes me enjoy my food that much more because she makes everything with so much passion and so much love.
Her most popular dish that week was her Banana Pancakes (so good it deserves capitalized letters). Notice I have no photos of them - As soon as Valeria set her pancakes down, they were ALL GONE within seconds. No joke.
It's very hard to summarize the 10-day experience in one post and it's even harder to verbalize the sentiments, the emotions I've experienced and the connections I've made on this retreat.
I can leave you with something Sara said to us that has really struck the cord with me - Have compassion for yourself - Short, sweet, but very powerful.
Thanks for letting me share this experience with you!
Have you also had a good experience at a yoga retreat? Do share with me!
FROM THE CANARY ISLANDS SERIES