Getting Connected On A Yoga Retreat
by Yogi Aaron
Having just come back from leading a retreat and spending five wondrous days with 21 men, I am reminded yet again of the profound effect that taking the time from our daily lives to go on a retreat can have on us and the continuous ripple effects that take place.
As one student put it in a previous Retreat:
“I was so inspired by the courageousness, openness, and vulnerability of all the people at the retreat, and it gave me such graceful permission to get in touch with myself, to feel my feelings, and to express what I was experiencing.”
The busyness of our lives is so all encompassing that it becomes more and more challenging to navigate our true self to what is really important. Bryan Kest says, repeatedly in his yoga classes, “What a wonderful thing it is to unroll our yoga mats and to be able to block out the distractions of the outside world, and then be able to turn our minds inward and focus on our breath.”
A yoga retreat is that and more.
I am reminded continuously of the proverbial tiger who is always chasing its tail, but never seems to catch it. He is forever chasing something that he will never catch, is unaware of the time investment and is happy when he gets close, but miserable when he is far away. Basically, the cat is ignorant.
In the system of yoga we call this Avidya, which translates as “without knowledge” or “to not have knowledge of.”
The essence of the teaching lies in the idea that we do not have knowledge of our true essence and that yoga sadhana (spiritual practice) gives us that knowledge. The main problem mostly lies in the idea that we don’t know what we don’t know. In the words of my teacher, the best that we can hope for in our yoga practice is to lessen what we don’t know.
There is a beautiful parallel that Steven Covey draws in his teaching titled, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. He talks about the person who stumbles across a man sawing down a tree and asks, “How long have you been sawing down that tree?” The man sawing replies by saying, “For hours and it seems like I am not getting anywhere.” The man then simply asks, “Have you tried to sharpen your saw?” The man sawing replied, “Can’t you see that I am too busy dumb dumb?”
How do we know that we are too busy until we stop? Furthermore, how do we know what our minds are capable of accomplishing, until we begin to create a place for that to happen? The great teachers have always compelled us to test our mind’s limitations and to stretch ourselves to what is possible.
Being surrounded by people who are on a similar path is not only supportive, but can exponentiate not only the outer, but more importantly, the inner transformation process. As a collective support group (known also as a Sanga or Kula) we can move forward more quickly together.
As one student commented, “The group of men built an emotionally intimate community very quickly. It was a wonderful and blessed brotherhood. It was a special kindred spirit connection, “the dear love of comrades,” as Walt Whitman called.”
You know the sense of peace and clarity you have after a yoga practice? Imagine sustaining that effortlessly for a longer period of time. Then imagine how much of an impact that can have on your life. A yoga retreat can be like the little pebble thrown into a pond. The splash is not that big, but the ripple effect lasts a long time.
“3 months later, the effects of the retreat are still impacting my life on a daily basis.”
Give yourself space to get connected with yourself and to get connected with each other. And then stay connected in your practice.