Santorini: The Blossoming of a New Tribe

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I came to this retreat by happenstance. Here I was landing in Santorini not knowing a soul and not knowing what to expect. But I said yes to this adventure because I took it as a sign from the universe nudging me along the path to “go with the flow” and it checked off two items from my bucket list; to do a yoga retreat and to go to Greece. So how bad could it be? If it turned out to be a bunch of yoga nazis, I could always sit in child’s pose and look out at the sea.

The view from my room at Rocabella Resort in Santorini
The view from my room at Rocabella Resort in Santorini

“Retreat” is an interesting word. On its own, it has the negative connotation as an act of withdrawing from a dangerous or difficult situation, usually in the context of a battlefield. But when you add “yoga” in front of it, the meaning changes to something more positive; still a withdrawal but with thoughtful intention in search of reflection, meditation and focused practice. As I came to discover this was, indeed, a retreat from the everyday battlefield of life for the 18 yogis who gathered on the patio for our first class and the first step in our collective journey.

Working on our chaturangas!
Working on our chaturangas and cobra pose!

Over the next seven days, this diverse set of folks from around the world would begin to unfold and unwind, setting in motion the creation of what I would come to think of as a new tribe. I watched as connections were made, stories shared, slowly, intimately, over time as trust grew and protective walls fell. In pairs, in groups or one-on-one, the human need to connect was too strong to resist, especially in a setting like this!  While we opened up physically during class, we were also opening up emotionally and the bonds grew tightly as the week progressed. Our local guide and fellow yogi told us this was the first group she had seen that chose to do all the activities outside of class together. So how do you create a new tribe? While there’s no recipe for this, here are my observations for this unique group of yogis!

Sail Around the Island

The view from the sunset dinner cruise around Santorini Island
The view from the sunset dinner cruise around Santorini Island
White beach, Santorini
White beach, Santorini
Red beach, Santorini
Red beach, Santorini
Watching the sun set while sharing stories during out cruise
Watching the sun set while sharing stories during our cruise

Eat, Shop and Read Taro Cards Together

The view from our restaurant in Fira
The view from our restaurant in Fira
Shopping the streets of Oia
Shopping the streets of Oia
My tarot cards encouraged me to be my authentic self
My tarot cards encouraged me to be my authentic self
Dinner in Oia
Dinner in Oia

Hike to Oia (looks like oy-a, sounds like ee-ya)

The view of Oia from Fira
Hiking from Fira to Oia along the volcanic ridge
On our way to Oia
Going the right way to Oia! 9 kilometers to go.
Yogis on the 9 km trail from Fira to Oia
Yogis on the trail from Fira to Oia
Stone offerings with small notes of petition and grace tucked inside
Stone offerings with small notes of petition and grace tucked inside
The yogi tribe stops at the local church for a photo with the caretaker
The yogi tribe stops at the local church for a photo with the caretaker
The hillside of Oia. Note the crowd at the top watching a Parkour tournament!
The hillside of Oia. Note the crowd at the top watching a Parkour tournament!
I had to resist the urge to knock on this beautiful door and see who lives there.
I had to resist the urge to knock on this beautiful door and see who lives there.

Bond Over Avoiding Burro Dung

Burros get right of way in Fira
Burros get right of way in Fira
Dodging burro dung up and down the stairs was a challenge
Dodging burro dung up and down the stairs was a challenge
Burros making the climb up the steps of Oia
Burros making the climb up the steps of Oia

Watch Sunsets Together

Majestic sunsets every night in Santorini
Majestic sunsets every night in Santorini
Did I mention the sunsets?
Sunset from Oia
Our final sunset
Our final sunset

One final, crucial ingredient is an incredible yoga teacher, Joan Hyman who I found through International Yoga. For anyone contemplating a retreat, Joan is truly gifted in her ability to gauge the needs of a class as well as an individual and tailor the experience to help you reach just beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. I treasure the gift of having her teach me for a week and hope to join her again at some point in the future.

In the end, what I experienced and what I witnessed was not a retreat but a moving forward for everyone. In some cases the movement was a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” charge, in others it was an incremental step. Whether it was a move to a new city, a new job, a new view of a relationship, a new appreciation for the Greek culture or a new commitment to their yoga practice, in all cases, it was a move ahead. Personally, I renewed my commitment to my practice, more confident in my ability and reveling in the joy yoga brings me. I learned that taking a risk and being open to new possibilities will reap rewards of friendship, learning and just plain fun.

As our tribe gathered one last time I could feel the strength of our final “ohm” as it floated gently out to sea carrying a deep sense of gratitude. Each of us felt blessed. Each of us had renewed our spirit. Each of us will forever be part of this tribe.

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