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.
“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.
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
Eat, Shop and Read Taro Cards Together
Hike to Oia (looks like oy-a, sounds like ee-ya)
Bond Over Avoiding Burro Dung
Watch Sunsets Together
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.