It’s taken me almost a full week to be able to even think about putting words down on a page about the amazing and transformative experience I had during our september YTT weekend and retreat. On the way home, thoughts were jumbled in my head and emotions were jumbled in my heart.
Before diving into the weekend, at least one paragraph needs to be dedicated to our hosts at the Centre de Vie Ripon, and the beautiful land they lovingly take care of. The house and facilities are comfortable and warm, the land is beautifully and naturally maintained, the food is delicious and lovingly prepared with local ingredients, and the people are kind and generous. It honestly felt like paradise.
The weekend was unlike the other YTT weekends because there wasn’t the hustle to get back to real life at the end of each day. Instead, we meandered, talked, laughed and connected with each other. This single weekend will change how the next weekends will unfold, I’m sure of it. Now there is a deeper bond between each of us and a deeper understanding of each other’s journeys.
We started off the weekend with an opening circle where we set intentions for the weekend – what we are grateful for, what we want for the weekend, and what we want to let go of. Letting go and self-acceptance were the main themes in our discussion that first night and hearing 20 amazing women talk about having the same struggles with fear and guilt was humbling. How is it that these amazing women I’m getting to know, who are successful, accomplished and happy, all struggle with the same issues? This intention setting activity was, as always in this group, done in warmth and compassion and set the tone for the entire weekend.
Saturday morning was Mysore practice, which is a self-paced and personal flow through the Ashtanga primary series. The opening meditation was done by one of our mentors, Veronique, on the topic of santosha. Santosha is one of the niyamas, which are a series of duties or observances, written by Patanjali. Santosha, essentially is contentment: “completely content with, or satisfied with, accepting and comfortable”. It is about seeing what you have, not what is missing or what you think is missing. And in these times, with instagram, facebook etc… it is HARD! Véronique led us to think about santosha in her powerful opening meditation. Santosha is not necessarily about ‘loving’ where you are, but it’s about acknowledging it, accepting it and being content in that moment. It doesn’t mean you want to be in that moment forever or that everything about your life is perfect in that moment. It is however about being in THAT moment, present, content, not thinking about the past or dreaming about the future. Santosha is also about tuning out that negative voice in your head, pointing out what is wrong, what is missing.. It’s about hearing the stories that run in your head and about letting them go. Not letting them define you or dictate what comes next. It’s about doing your best and accepting the results of your efforts. Again, it’s not easy, and the physical practice of yoga and meditation, are ways to live santosha.
We spent a few hours discussing the yoga sutras, specifically on themes around letting go, worthiness, strength, patience and forgiveness. We spent quite a bit of time going back and forth about these theories on the practice of yoga. In the end, the overarching theme we are ALL learning and beginning to really realize, is that asana practice, the physical practice of yoga, is literally the tip of the iceberg. It is a physical tool, used to quiet the mind with the aim of getting to all the good stuff. The strength, the worthiness, the capacity to let go of that which is not serving you. These discussions took place in an outdoor space called Le Paradis, with suspended beds and hammocks. It was chilly and we huddled together and laughed and drank tea. I have a snapshot of this place in head forever, I will return in times of need, in my head, where I can still hear laughter and feel my friends huddled against me.
We rounded out the day with delicious food, a barefoot, completely silent meditative walk in the forest (2.7 km), a tapas experience (hot sauna, not the spanish food) and a bonfire. We shared ghost stories, that were not really scary, we laughed, we got to know each other a little more. It was the perfect day.
Sunday was Ashtanga practice at the crack of dawn, followed by more delicious foods and an art session, where we got to express our thoughts looking back on the weekend. Words that came up: yoga, strength, beauty, sisterhood, humor, community.
The other amazing thing we got to observe, as yoga students, was the transformation, in real time, of our humble yoga guides.. The mentors. They were shining all weekend. Each came up with their own activity around our theme and each led their activity with confidence and grace. As someone who met each of these wonderful women just a few months ago, I can say without hesitation that there is a noticeable shift in their energy. Each felt like they were more comfortable with themselves, authentic. This type of change, this is why I joined the YTT. It is magic happening before our very eyes and it is so inspiring.
Despite all the words I’ve written above, I still don’t feel that I can really (really) put on paper what this weekend did for me. I feel a sense of sisterhood with these women, I feel safe, I feel heard, I feel unjudged and connected. Not just to these wonderful people, but connected in a deeper sense. Connected to my inner self, connected to this brahman that flows between us all.
That is the part that is hard to explain. You’ll just have to take my word for it.. Or join the next YTT!
Top 5 (it was very very difficult to narrow this down to 5)
- Laughter, so much of it… and farts
- Jumping in the freezing cold pond after chanting in the hot sauna
- The feeling of cold moss on my bare feet during our silent walk
- Friendship, connections being made in real time
- The feeling inside my heart when the weekend came to a close – not sadness that it was over, but instead, a welling up of overflowing emotions that will help guide me forward
Nadine is the 2018 winner of Energie EnCorps YTT #WhyIamWorthIt Scholarship,who will be blogging on her Yoga Teacher Training experience over the course of the year. Follow her journey. Celebrate with her in her a-ha moments, relate to her struggles and learn how the philosophy of yoga can be brought into your own life. Thank you so much to Nadine for letting us all into your mind this year. Learn more about the Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training and Mentorship programs at Energie Encorps West Island, an internationally recognized Yoga Alliance School, click here: https://bit.ly/2ASHwg5 Interested? Follow Nadine Dumas on instagram!