I’ve just returned from a week’s yoga retreat and learnt a lot about myself and my practice. Here’s my top five lessons that I’d love to share with you (it's a bit of a long one, so grab a herbal tea and find a comfy spot! ;-)
Don’t let EGO take over your practice
“If you build a house on sh*tty foundations, it’ll fall over”
Yin and Yang: Find your balance
Nutrition: Change just one thing at a time
1. Don’t let EGO take over your practice
Trying to look good in a pose means we often compromise the integrity of it. I'm often victim of pushing too hard too soon in a (somewhat futile) bid to look like the yogis on Instagram. Sometimes we even "compete" with others next to us on the mat, meaning we loose the openness of a pose, or cause injury by not listening to our bodies.
Specifically the instructor pointed out that I need to work on lifting my fallen arches to avoid future knee pain. This means lifting my heels off the mat downward facing dog - the opposite I’m always striving for to make it look “perfect”! I’m still working on this one, but letting go of both ego and perfectionism will ultimately help improve my practice and the health of my body.
2. “If you build a house on sh*tty foundations, it’ll fall over” (quoted by Peter - instructor and all round guru)
In close relation to the above, sometimes it’s essential to strip back your practice to it’s roots and let your body guide you. Starting from the ground up, check you’re lifting your aches, plant your toes firmly into the mat (not clawing), and lightly engaging (not locking) your knees and quads. Take your time to be firm in your roots and don’t rush into a pose.
In the same tone, respect the vital role sleep and nutrition play. Even the best of cars can’t run if the fuel tank is empty… a week of epic sleep made a huge difference to my performance on the mat.
3. Find your balance
As someone who mainly practices fast-paced, energising yoga and sports (known in yoga as more masculine / sun “Yang” practices), learning about a Yin yoga was an eye-opener!
Yin is a more stationary practice where poses are held for 10 mins at time. They require surrender and acceptance, and enhance our more contemplative and receptive qualities and help us find balance.
I definitely was missing a bit of yin in my life, and now fully converted will be bringing some Yin workshops to you soon!
4. Nutrition: Change just one thing at a time
After seven days of a macrobiotic, raw, vegan diet (albeit not entirely by choice - it was what the retreat offered), and while very tasty, I promptly succumbed to a McDonalds as soon as I hit the airport! (a rarity - but at that moment in time the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted….).
If you’re making changes to your nutrition, don’t get overwhelmed making loads of changes all at once. Start with one change a week (and make sure you get your protein intake ;-)
5. Jumping in: The pool may be frigging freezing but if you don’t jump in you’ll never get the chance to enjoy the swim
When I took the plunge, my screams could be heard in the next village I reckon, but I soon acclimatised to enjoy a swim with beautiful views across the green valley. The message here is not to let a short term challenge of fear hold you back from something you might enjoy!