Every retreat that I have led had a unique group dynamic. However, my most recent one felt extremely special, because it was my first all-female retreat. Upon arrival last Thursday, I could tell that everyone was a bit hesitant and nervous. I was a little nervous too. I distinctly remember thinking, “Why are you nervous? This isn’t your first retreat.” However, at the time, I couldn’t figure out why.
As we sat down for our meet and greet at dinner, the energy was a bit reserved and polite. During introductions, I asked everyone to go around the table and tell us how long they have been practicing yoga, what they are looking forward to from the retreat, and finish it off with a signature move to remember their name by. I kicked it off and slowly the energy in the room shifted and we warmed up to each other. Our first dinner was light-hearted, yet conversation remained at surface level.
However, as the days went on we dove deeper and deeper into the work of the yoga practice. Sure, we did asana and movement, but I asked my students and myself some challenging questions not just to practice yoga, but to live it. I posed questions like, “Who do you think you are? What do you believe in that is bigger than you? What challenges your ego and makes you feel like the biggest failure? What are your harmful patterns? What do you love that you like to hold on to? What do you hate that you try to avoid?” After all, this is the work of the yoga practice; self-study (Svadyaya).
During the available free-time I did a little self-studying of my own. I took walks by myself, laid in my hammock and read, meditated, and sat and watched the sunset. Things I realize I don’t do enough of. I reflected on why I was nervous the first day and perhaps why the energy of the other women was a bit nervous as well.
I realized that somewhere inside of me I created a narrative of women judging, competing, and comparing. I can only speak for myself, but I am sure that I am not alone in this. Even if there is no actual threat, I realized that this was a mental pattern that I had formed perhaps from micro-traumas of past experiences.
We all have our work to do and the yoga practice simply shines a light on where it is. Through the practice of yoga and meditation, we can do some self-study to notice our patterns, attachments, expectations, and aversions. We can be aware of all of this without being in it. We can be with things as they come knowing that it is all temporary and that we are not alone in these temporary experiences.
On the last night, we went around the table again. But this time, we weren’t polite or reserved. We were vulnerable, raw, and real. We laughed, cried, embraced, and shared stories. This was the practice working. No walls, preconceived notions, or doubts necessary. Just women supporting other women.
Hi, I'm Lauren and I am here to support people to find freedom in being authentic and the power to carry that out in their lives and community. Writing is one way I like to explore that for myself. Here is my archive of reflections.