If you’ve considered it, but never been on a yoga retreat before, all I can say is DO IT. I had the pleasure of attending a women’s yoga retreat last month, lead by two of my favorite teachers, Athena and Octavia. It was held at the Oz Farm, which is about 3 hours north of San Francisco, near the coast by Point Arena. There is just so much to say about a retreat like this, it’s hard not to write a novel.
We arrived Thursday afternoon to the farm, and were given a few hours to find our cabin, settle our belongings into the space, and then head to the barn for our first class, held in the late afternoon. After sitting in a car for three hours, my body was screaming to stretch and move and do yoga. Many of the women at this retreat already knew each other, either from having attended the retreat last year, or from attending classes with the two hosting teachers. The classes are held in a converted barn that has beautiful skylights, tons of windows, and a beautifully refinished hardwood floor. It’s pretty chilly in the mornings, but there is a wood burning stove in the back that helps warm the place up in the wee hours, when we’re doing pranayama.
After our first class, which was centered around twists, we all gathered in the main house for dinner. Our chef, Miles, was hired for the weekend to cook our meals, all of which are eaten together in the main house, are vegetarian, and are mostly made from fresh ingredients from the farm whenever possible. Let’s just say we all LOVE Miles. His meals are simple, but full of flavor and really hit the spot after a day full of yoga.
The next two days’ schedule goes like this: 7:30am Pranayama class, 8:30am breakfast, 10:30am asana practice, 12:30pm lunch, 1pm – 4pm free time to explore the farm, or read or take a dip in the nearby river, 4:30pm asana practice, and 6pm dinner. The evenings are mostly free, but one evening we have a group gathering to talk about a theme that the teachers have decided upon. This year we were given hand outs upon our arrival that explored one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sutra 30 of book 1 describes the antarayas, or the nine obstacles, that distract a yoga practitioner from the path of yoga. We went over the obstacles and students were encouraged to speak about their feelings regarding the ones they identified with, how they might face them, either in their practice, or in every day life. Of course, many of us could identify with all of them! By talking about these obstacles with other women and hearing their feelings about their struggles and setbacks in life and in their practice, I realized how connected we really are to one another. Not just because we do yoga, but because we are human. Because each and every one of us faces these things on a daily basis, as we run from one thing to the next in our hectic lives. At the end of the evening I felt so grateful that I could be here in the company of such beautiful and gifted women and share a part of myself.
The weekend went by in a flash, as we all knew it would, and before long we were facing our last class together before lunch, and the long drive back to the city. Not only was it a great chance to unwind from my busy life, it was a chance to reconnect with myself and spend some time doing whatever it was I wanted to do. I didn’t have to feel guilty that I was practicing yoga when I should be doing x,y, or z, I didn’t have to think about the needs of my husband or friends or phonecalls that I should make. I got to walk through the farm grounds, ooh and ahhh at baby chicks in a pen, smell the grasses and vegetables as they warmed under the sun, splash my feet in the stream behind my cabin, check out bee hives, and have conversations with my new friends over lovely meals outdoors in the sun. What’s not to love about a retreat?!
For anyone interested, you can check out Oz Farm here.