Written by Aleyssa G.
Yoga was just another name for poses I couldn't accomplish due to my lack of flexibility. I had no interest in performing handstands, one-foot balances, or raising my feet to my ears; I believed I'd never be able to do those things. Like Pilates or High-Intensity Training, Yoga was just another type of exercise. However, yoga isn't only an exercise that burns calories, but even better, it's rooted in spirituality. . Yoga has gained popularity in recent years. Unfortunately, this mind-body exercise has become a "fashion" in specific locations, diluting its sacred meaning. The Beyond Yoga Retreat invited us to learn all aspects of Yoga, including its spiritual meaning and the beauty of the practice.
WHEN AN IMPULSIVE TRIP PAYS OFF
First-time Yoga Retreat jitters, yikes! The retreat I attended was Beyond Yoga Retreat (BYR), located in beautiful nature-filled Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I booked through BookRetreats.com, and the process was pretty easy. BYR guests received thorough emails with travel information about what to pack, how to schedule laundry, and spa services, including the complimentary massage we were rewarded for booking the trip.
The retreat host coordinated airport transportation well, getting guests to and from the villas. I was anxious as the plane touched down, and I couldn't wait to see what I was getting myself into. I was relieved to meet other girls at the airport with whom I initiated a conversation, helping me feel more at ease. Arriving at the retreat was like pulling up to a hidden rainforest filled with intense natural greenery and crisp air, and we were welcomed by down-to-earth hosts to greet us at check-in. Impressive villas became our week-long home, some with garden views and others with ocean panoramas from the rooftop. Each villa had a private pool and common area that could be used by all guests who shared a villa. In addition, the grounds featured a big swimming pool for all guests to swim in and become one with the leafy forest and exotic wildlife.
On Saturday at 3 pm, we checked in and attended the opening ceremony. Sunday, we settled further into our temporary homes with our new family. The first yoga class of the retreat began at 7:00 am CST, which is 5 am in California. I'm glad I made it to my 7:45 am CST class because the time difference made me doubt my existence there just a tiny bit. Michelle, our first Yoga Instructor, greeted us with a warm smile. Michelle was a terrific introduction to our week-long yoga retreat for those who had never tried it, as she set a beautiful tone for the rest of the week with her graceful teachings. Michelle taught us yoga delicately, teaching us to appreciate our bodies. She introduced new insights as she guided us through practice. For example, instead of "challenge," Micelle and the other instructors often used the word "invitation," encouraging us to listen to our bodies and not go beyond our limits.
After doing Yoga twice a day and being active, the spa was a great bonus. The retreat's massages, facials, and spa treatments were excellent. Friendly service throughout the stay made it memorable.
In addition, the culinary team delivered delicious meals every time along with consistent kind service. BYR provided us with three-course plant-based meals every day throughout the week. While I assumed that
going vegan cold turkey (yes, pun intended) during the retreat would be challenging, I was mistaken. The food was delicious, from the Tofu Sandwich that greeted us on arrival through the last breakfast we shared before leaving. Since then, I've been vegan after returning home two months ago.
I still recollect each teacher's name and their positive impact. Jerry's kindhearted energy, Paola's vibrant
free spirit, Sara's calming aura teaching us her knowledge of the elements of nature, Alicia's serene and pure spirit, Maria's fascinating insight about the limbs of Yoga, Tristan's fun charisma, attentive teaching, Ashley's radiant smile while teaching Kundalini, and Michelle's nurturing maternal energy. Superb trainers. Fantastic trainers. Heather, the host, was very enthusiastic, loving, and supportive. Carly, the queen behind the coordinator, made it effortless to communicate regarding the trip.
YOGA: A PRACTICE FOR ALL
I didn't understand Yoga or meditation's spirituality, so I fixated on my lack of experience before the getaway. As I began to comprehend, I soon realized that Yoga is not about what you can't do or "..an expression of who you are," Yoga Guru Sadhguru explains in his YouTube video What Is Yoga?. Instead, Sadhguru depicts Yoga as a way of "...determining as to what you want to be." Sadhguru's definition of Yoga has inspired me in many aspects of my life, not only Yoga.
When I face challenging yoga poses, I recognize it's simply guiding me towards a personal transformation, applying this concept to all parts of my life. It doesn't matter what you're looking for or need; there is something for EVERYONE at a Yoga retreat (or at least the one I went to). There is a lesson in everything; we have to listen.
THE DISCOMFORT THAT LED TO TRANSFORMATION
All around, my time at the retreat was like no other. I maintained my intention to be uncomfortable and do challenging or scary things. It was hard leaving home from family, even for just a week, but doing it gave me the confidence I needed. I faced challenges while at the retreat and was able to manage them instead of running home. Me trying a handstand? I couldn’t do it, but I tried even though it was uncomfortable. Sound baths? I had no idea what they were, and on my first try, I didn’t like it and felt distressed by the variety of sounds; I also forgot to put on bug spray that day, so getting eaten alive didn’t make the sound bath any easier. However, the next day, I decided to try it again, although indecisive.
Because I followed through with my weekly intention to embrace change, I underwent one of the most spiritual experiences ever. I’m uncertain that this experience can ever be re-told in a way that justifies it. The next sound bath began with just a few of us girls and myself running barefoot in the warm thunderstorm rain, something I had never tried or wanted to do. As the sound bath got underway, the storm that night became more robust, the thunder became louder, the rainfall intensified, and the lightning could be seen flashing with my eyes closed. Where I would usually be afraid of a massive storm, I recall Instructor Michelle leading the sound bath, repeating the word “Shanti,” a Sanskrit term that means peace. Peace is exactly what began to permeate my body, with an unfamiliar feeling, that scared me while at the same time, I didn't want to leave this new state of consciousness because it just felt RIGHT. The nature, the energy, and the initial discomfort all led to me receiving the gift of an out-of-body experience I never knew existed. As we ended with a song, unavoidable tears began to flow, and the girls surrounded me as tears fell from their eyes. That night was the moment I’d been waiting for, and at that moment, I decided to start dancing with discomfort instead of throwing soda in its face and walking away. We can’t avoid life discomforts, so we benefit from communing with it and open our hearts to the lesson it wants to deliver.
WOULD I RECOMMEND OTHERS TO GO
Welp, I have another trip planned for the same retreat in October 2022, after just attending in July. I hope that answers the question. BUT ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Of course, I would recommend Beyond Yoga Retreat to others, hoping it'll be as life-changing for them as it was for me.