Why the Body? How Yoga and Physicality are like a Mini Retreat
I'd love to go on a one week retreat somewhere calm, beautiful, wild, and recharging.
But when full charge ahead in career and life, on a dopamine marathon, making that one week space can be difficult. As I talked to several high powered professionals this week, it became clear how sometimes we simply need to reconnect to ourselves on a more profound level. Somehow find a retreat state of being.
After a gorgeous hot yoga class, I wondered, can a physical practice or yoga class be a
"Mini Retreat" ?
"Husk" to "Juicy"
You know that feeling. It's Friday, the end of the work week. You may feel dull, blah, low energy even though you know you can do that class, get on your bike, go for that run, or whatever your physical practice is at the end of the day.
Sometimes we feel a bit worn down by our work. Maybe we have all the things: the house, the spouse, the car, the bank statements. But something feels . . . disconnected.
Or maybe we are striving towards something magnificent and have spent the week in dopamine surge, but Friday rolls around and the mind is spinning, there's a need for some way to calm down.
We feel a bit like a "husk". Something with the insides missing.
How do we go from here, to feeling "juicy"? Full of vibrancy, energy, glowing with self awareness and spark. A little sass! A little kick to our humour, our vibe.
The Mini Retreat
You may daydream at the end of the work week: fond memories of your cabin times, or your place in Hawaii, or a gorgeous yoga retreat where you laughed and laughed, got super calm in meditation, sweated out the work worries in power poses.
You recall that feeling post-retreat. Juicy. Recharged. Renewed.
How do you get that now?
As driven people working hard, whether in the workplace or a householder, there comes a time when you need a Pause. Without the Pause, key reactions to your day to day get tucked under the carpet and these build like a million dust bunnies. Too many of these build until you feel a weird kind of tiredness, a disconnection, a restless, an unpleasant state of being.
This is where the Retreat Craving comes in.
But you can take some mini-retreats. Today. And again tomorrow. Just for two hours of your precious time, for each mini retreat. By taking the time to connect to your body, reflect on your thoughts, your dreams, you can find a treat for your self in the mind to body alignment that yoga or other physical practices bring.
The Body's Power
We hold memories in our minds, and in our bodies. The science on the body storage of memories is still mild in strength. But certainly, you know that when that old injury site gets a massage, you feel something. In my profession, we see clients that sometimes can't move an arm or a leg, or walk, or have little seizure-like episodes that aren't real seizures. These strange incidences are called "Somatoform Disorders", where somato refers to the soma, the body.
When people heal from these somatoform disorders, there is an underlying emotional intelligence that the body was speaking to. An emotion, tucked away, stored like a "dust bunny" in the behaviour or weak body part, that needed to be acknowledged to clarify the form, release the disorder, and restore the body and mind to full integrated function.
On a smaller level, your body will hold onto that weird exchange you had at your board meeting. Or the guilt you felt coming home late from the office. Or the time your stressed co-worker yelled at you. Or the sadness you felt in a client as they relayed their story.
So how do you release this? Air out the dust bunnies ?
Yoga is a cleanse on many levels.
You come to the class. You sit down. Still. No smart phone. No computer. Just you, your body, your mind, and some other people committed to the same focus.
As your teacher guides you through the class, you face your state. Moment to moment. Feeling to feeling. Thought to thought. Vibration to vibration; our bodies are tiny tiny vibrating molecules, the physics of the body shows that different thoughts and feelings shift the way these electromagnetic aspects vibrate, which creates your "vibe", your "energy".
As you really feel into your body, twist and turn and wring out the fascia as you stretch this way and that, find the energy to power the muscles, past the walls or veils of minor fatigue that are left over from work, you may find memories of left over less-than-desirable feelings become more prominent.
See them. Let them be there. Examine them like multi-layered little curiousities. Maybe see them through the lens of kindness, or compassion.
As you do this, you start to integrate. You start to prevent burnout. You start to become a human being again, with human being responses to your day to day life.
Feel the clarity, the honesty. As you do this, you become "juicy". The jewels of your true nature, your authentic self, your genuine honest person, and your beautiful beautiful Beautiful energy, will shine brilliant.
Your Inner Wilderness
So, yoga can be like a retreat to your own inner wilderness.
If you think about it, when you close your eyes, there is nothing to be seen. But the mind becomes rich with imagination.
This imagination is what populates your dreams. It is your magic, and you can choose to explore this inner landscape as you wish.
Sometimes you might use your imagination to run through less positive things - to worry, to be anxious, to relive frustrations; try to shift this. Find instead the layers of self, notice both the parts of you that relive negative events or project anxiety into the future. Also notice those moments where you hope, you dream, you feel the richness of the present moment right now.
You have immense wealth in your imagination.
You are a tiny wilderness of cells, and a tiny wilderness of the beautiful, profound, magical, and transformative landscape of your psyche. The dark areas and the bright areas. The feelings you avoid and the feelings you crave.
Going Deeper: Inner Gold
If you are curious to deepen into the layers of your imagination and psyche, try one of my guided mindfulness audios, Yoga Nidra, or a guided Yoga Nidra Mindscape, or a sound workshop with Mike Nichols Yoga, or a mindfulness psychotherapy session through Illumine Health.
It is in these profound moments of self to self facing, called "svadhyaya" in ancient yoga texts, or self-awareness in psychotherapy, feeling deeply your physical and inner landscape, that you return to your core self, your purest energy, the you that you seek when you soul-search.
You deserve to feel this, and the multi-layered riches of life that expands when you contact this centre within.
The honesty of this exploration is deepened when embodied. It has fascinated me endlessly that those that have a profound physical practice also transform more quickly in therapy sessions. I love this phenomenon, and it makes me ever curious as to the magic of the mind body, or body mind, practices that renew, restore, rejuvenate, and lift us into more blissful states of existence.
Wishing you the best, always,
Dr. M. ~
PS ~ for an actual one week long retreat, in a luxury and fully supported setting, where you are ushered into a practice of calm mixed with intense athletics in the outdoors, check out our Tofino Retreats.