yoga retreat

How To Create A Retreat Space At Home

Getting to do yoga or meditate at home can be challenging.

You may not have much time at home - and maybe your kids/dogs/cats view the unrolling of the yoga mat as an invitation to clamber all over it, and you. Believe me, I completely relate:

It can be very frustrating. But with a bit of ingenuity, you can squeeze in some 'you-time' and even create a retreat space for yourself.  

How to create a retreat space at home

Having a special little space set aside can be like having a practice buddy, just quietly reminding you to take time out for yourself, do a few yoga poses, sit and meditate for five minutes.

Here's my space. It's just a corner of my not-very-big lounge room. 

Peaceful yoga altar - creating a home yoga retreat

I use a few elements to make this a space I want to practice yoga in. Given that I am 100% likely to have my practice interrupted, the feeling of retreat needs to come from something other than actual peace and quiet! 

Four elements of a great home yoga retreat:

  • An anchor for the space. In this space, it's the Buddha statue. You could also use artwork that makes you feel inspired or peaceful, like these from Sweet Peony Press:
sweet peony press namaste print
sweet peony press let it go print
  • Candles. I love candles, especially ones made from natural materials with pretty, light scents. Lighting a candle at the start of your practice can be a ritual that helps you get into a calm state before you've even done any yoga.
  • Intention cards. There is a yogic tradition of setting an intention for your practice - it's called making a sankalpa. For example, making sankalpa to be accepting. How smart, when your you-time might get interrupted! Getting angry about the interruptions won't help, but accepting them? Well, you are halfway to calm already. 
  • Special keepsakes. These help to remind you of good times and loved ones. Life can be tough, and sometimes we need tangible reminders that it's not always so. Here, I have a set of mala beads I got at a beautiful retreat centre in South Africa, and a heart made from semi-precious stone. I also often add in gifts small children have given me. Right now, there's a little stuffed hippo on my Buddha's lap! You could also add photos of loved ones, keepsakes from special places…the options are endless.
special things to put on your yoga altar

Even if you don't get to use your little retreat space very often, it's so nice to take a deep breath when you walk past it, and remind yourself that your little oasis of calm is always there for you! 

RELATED:

mmYoga Superheroes: We're not so serious about yoga.

I've never done well with the 'serene' image of yoga. Serene isn't something that comes naturally to me; I do yoga to become more like that. Naturally, I am in equal parts anxious and silly. The happier I am, the sillier I get.

Which is not a bad thing, in my (cough) humble opinion. In same opinion, I think the yoga world has a slight tendency to take itself too seriously.

It's not necessary.

You can be plenty spiritual and still be happy/silly/have fun.

In fact, I'd be suspicious of someone who claims to be spiritual, but lacks a sense of humour. If you've ever seen the Dalai Lama speak (and nobody's going to argue about his spiritual cred) you will know that he's got a great sense of humour.

If you find someone taking themselves too seriously - or trying to get you to - you may need to call on a mmYoga Superhero to save the day...

Captain Sneaky (street name Karen Chow) 

captain sneaky.jpg

Superpowers: Sneakily getting you to work much harder than you expected by being cute and giggly. Helping people feel great again by means of Yoga. Dressing like a hipster & not being mocked for it.

Karen says:

Yoga is about finding balance, right?  So if we're serious 50% of the time, the other 50% should be not so serious. I like to teach that way too. Anatomy and alignment cues, I'm dead serious. All the lame jokes and terrible metaphors I use, not so serious. 

 

Ms. Awesome (street name Suzy Taylor)

Ms awesome.jpg

Superpowers: Reminding people how awesome they already are by means of Science. Helping people be more awesome by means of Yoga. Wearing knee socks and getting away with it.

Suzy says:

Once, I farted while teaching a class. OMG! Embarrassing?  I chose to laugh and say ‘well, sometimes that happens when we twist’, and just carry on with the class. From that moment on, I stopped trying to be such a serious yoga teacher. Yoga is a break from the hard grind of our daily lives; it's not about being rigid, or perfect or doing exactly the same thing as the person on the mat next to you. It’s about stepping out of what you think might be expected of you, and just doing what feels right for you right now (hopefully that won't usually be farting!)

Together they are: mm…Yoga Superheroes: the Retreat Crusaders.

mmyogasuperheroes.jpg

You will have so much fun with them on our Bali Yoga Retreat in November - it's still early bird pricing till Aug 31, and there are still a few rooms left - hop to it!

These two are definitely up to something...

These two are definitely up to something...

 

PS We'd love if you post your #mmyogsuperheroes pics on instagram. Not just Karen and Suzy, but other team members and students - join us? You are a super-hero too!

How I Learnt the Hard Way About Over-Packing For a Retreat

Yoga retreats are simple holidays: you really don't need much in the way of clothing. Some yoga gear (the RIGHT type, I'll get to that in a moment), a swimsuit or two, and a couple of floaty dresses. Plus some sandals.

Swimsuit and skirt from Kelsey Genna - see her full range  here .

Swimsuit and skirt from Kelsey Genna - see her full range here.

It's even easier for blokes: some shorts, some yoga gear, a t-shirt or two and maybe a collared shirt for night times.

I'm a light packer - I travel everywhere with carry-on sized luggage. And yet, the first time I went on retreat to Bali, I STILL managed to overpack. How, you ask?

Well, I thought I needed a bunch of stuff that I really didn't:

  • Shoes. It's too hot and humid in Bali for closed shoes to be a good idea. You probably don't need more than a pair of Havainas. But, since they play havoc with your foot mechanics, a pair of sandals that attaches properly around your ankle. Just the one pair. Not the three pairs of shoes I thought I needed. Do you know how much more shopping I could've done if I didn't have those shoes in my case?
  • Full-length nylon yoga pants. Oh, so much too hot. Full-lenth is okay, but go for cotton, or you will cook yourself. Or, shorts. If you can't face shorty shorts (and who can, past a certain age) try these cute bike shorts, still long enough for modesty.
Yoga pants to wear on a retreat. Full details for all garments  here

Yoga pants to wear on a retreat. Full details for all garments here

  • Multiple changes of outfit. If you are going to be spending your days doing yoga, lounging around a pool, and getting massages (with a bit of touristing thrown in), you really don't need 12 dresses and 5 pairs of non-yoga pants. I promise! 
  • Jeans. See above: full-length pants + tropical humidity = par-boiled yogi.

You know the worst of it? Because of the over-packing, I ended up with no space to stash any shopping. And Ubud is known for its shopping. What? Did I mention my shopping regret already? Oops...

Don't do like I did: be smart & take these suggestions from Yoga Journal:

Ps: Only two weeks left of early-bird pricing for this year's retreat, so book soon! Also, Retreat. Yoga. Love. 

Why a yoga retreat can make all the difference

I went on a yoga retreat a few years back (one that I wasn't running, I mean).

I really needed to go. I'd had a rough year and I was feeling frayed around the edges. I didn't know what I was looking for, really, except that it would be nice to be somewhere warm at the end of the Winter, and it would be nice having someone else take care of meals and of how the day would be structured. I was so tired by that point, even cooking meals sounded too hard.

The retreat had a pretty loose structure: yoga in the morning, breakfast, maybe an outing or some hanging around the pool, lunch, a massage or a nap, then yoga in the evening.

Yes, I could have done all these things by myself, but what a difference it made being in a beautiful tropical place with a bunch of like-minded people who I could hang out with when I felt like it.

Plus doing that much yoga - it seems to change things. 

Obviously there's the exercise component (most of us don't move enough in our day to day lives, and that stresses our bodies). But there was also the mind stuff - the way, after a few days, I stopped endlessly ruminating, stopped grinding my teeth, settled into a calmer place in myself.

It was like no other holiday I'd ever had. I learned so much about yoga on that retreat.

And so much about how to manage myself.

That's what made me decide to RUN a retreat. And it turns out, those retreats often make the same difference for other people. Here's what an attendee of the 2011 retreat had to say about her experience:

A yoga retreat is a really good way to unwind, deeply unwind. It's a GREAT way to get deeper into your yoga practice because there's time to ask questions and workshop things.

It's also a nice way to spend a holiday with friends or family - there's enough structure that you won't be driving each other mad all day, enough looseness that you can go off and do your own activities as well. Once family will be joining us for a third time this year! 

For me, going on that retreat all those years ago was a turning point: after six months of Extreme Stress, grinding my teeth to chips (I kid you not, don't ask how much I spent on dental bills that year) and of failing health, I felt like a different person when I got home. It lasted for months afterwards, too.

I think the top-up I got at that retreat might have been the impetus to do a bunch of difficult things I needed to do in my personal life. I just somehow felt I would be OK, which I hadn't felt before. 

Now, if I could only find a way to bottle that retreat zen for the times of the year when I get stressed out!

Oh, and if you want to know more about our retreat this year - clickety click.

Enter the $1000 Squat Challenge here!

Would YOU do squat for $1000? The third annual mm...Yoga! retreat is coming up in Bali in November and one lucky person can win $1000 towards it.

This is how: the person, in Melbourne or elsewhere, who squats the longest with good form, wins the $1000. Easy right? Well, not that hard, anyway, given it's been all squats all the time at mm...Yoga! this year. This is an excellent guide for getting you squat ready. Pop over & read it.

Here's what we are looking for (and maybe you will actually do better, since I have that sticky outy lower back thing going on):

squat challenge

Rules:

  • You may enter in person, at any mm...Yoga! class. Your teacher will assess your form and time you - you get one go and can only make your attempt if you've entered here.
  • You may enter via video, by filming yourself and placing a clock on your mat so we can see the passage of time.
  • You have until June 30 to make your attempt. You must enter your details in the form below to qualify.
  • You must be in good health and your entry must not compromise your wellness. If we find out it has, you will be disqualified. Also, you will be in pain. Which is silly.
  • You may use the entire $1000 towards funding your own retreat payment, or you may split your winnings with a friend. Prize is not transferable - it will be used to discount the cost of your mm...Yoga! retreat. If you can't take up your prize, it will be allocated to the person who came second.

 

Update: This competition is now closed, thanks to everyone who entered it. Veronica Michich won by squatting, with good form, for just over ten minutes. Ten minutes!