When people talk about leaving their daily lives behind and going “on retreat”, we often have ideas of beaches, sunny climates, and sunset yoga practices. Conjuring up ideas of people having a yogic version of a Shirley Valentine, rediscovering themselves [all over again]. Admittedly, this is something I’ve also dreamed of. I’ve scanned through the pages on the net of these picturesque paradises, thinking that this is where it will be, where I will find myself…under the sunset, with X, Y, Z, guru. Yes, that’s what I need. Quieten my external world in order to quieten my inner reality. How wrong could I have been…
If I’m brutally honest I simply cannot afford to take myself off to one of these said retreats. Financially and due to time constraints.
I decided that my place to find inner peace would be a bustling multi-ethnic suburb of North London…Turnplike Lane.
There was no real purpose or intent for this other than the simple fact this is where the “retreat” was being held. A teacher I hold the utmost respect for, Norman Blair, was holding a 5 day Yin Yoga Intensive at his home in Turnpike lane, North London. So off I trotted, notepad in tow, to five days of breathing out, letting go, and going in.
Norman holds these intensives at his beautiful studio at the top of his house; Zolder Studio. There were 12 of us in all, tightly packed into the studio amongst bolsters, sand bags, blankets and mats. I expected from the week to pick up some teaching tips to take to my own yin/restorative classes, but what I discovered was much, much more than this.
What I learned from 5 Days of Going IN with YIN
Peace happens inside, no matter what is happening on the outside.
In one glorious 3 hour yin session, about halfway through, we were joined by some unconventional music for a yoga class. I can only describe it as electro Polish pop, blaring out from what felt like above my head. I later found out that it was actually coming from over the road. You would think that will all those beats and drums, and the occasional lyric of “grind your body down…”, that I would be transported back to my Cyberdog wearing raving days at the Hacienda in Manchester. Thankfully this was not the case. Instead, that music, those lyrics, took me even closer to stillness and space then any world music hum has. I learned how to dull out the outer world and listen to the bliss, LOUD silence of my inner world. Ok..Ok…there were occasional flashbacks of Cyberdog trousers with 6 bright florescent pockets…but they quickly passed.
That social media was ruling my time and life!
As a suggestion from Norman I took off all social media for the time I was there. I feel embarrassed to say this but these 5 days were the longest I have “gone without” social media since my early SM (that’s social media, not sadomascochism) birth with MySpace. It was liberating. I was no longer constantly flicking between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to check my likes and followers every time I had a spare moment. It didn’t just give me more time though, it gave me something much greater than time…it made me more present. Instead of being on SM; I looked out at the passing world on the train, I saw real life happening before my eyes. I noticed the blue skies of the winter mornings. I noticed life and its unfolding. Moment by moment. Plus my neck and back got a break from its normal kyphotic stance.
Bellies rumble…loudly…and it’s a good sign.
During many of the meditation or yoga sessions, during the depths of stillness, things moved and made noises, bellies rumbled..loudly. It was intriguing, how different bellies rumbled with different pitches, volume. Norman later went on to discuss how this was a good sign because it meant that our bodies were switching to a parasympathetic state, rest/digest, tend/befriend. Of course digestion is affected if our bodies are over stimulated, under stress. But when 12 yogis were all sinking deep, switching off and going in, the chorus of our bellies erupted. Giving us a very present reminder that what we were doing was working, right there and then. That what we were doing was calming, soothing and soul nourishing.
Being in Turnpike Lane was more beneficial than being in an exotic far away land when it came to applying the skills I was learning to my daily life.
You see, finding more space is easy away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Naturally there is more space physically as well as in our heart/mind body. Personally, it makes it even harder to apply these skills to my daily living – it is a far greater leap. Having the retreat in London with all is hustle and bustle, commuting back and forth daily allowed me to put all these skills I was learning to immediate use. Stressful situations were thrown my way. Trains were delayed, but instead of thinking what an inconvenience this was and venting unkind thoughts about Southern Rail, I literally thought “oh well” / “never mind”. I connected with my breath and saw the beauty of the situation. Pretty awesome and a big leap from where I was at before.
Most importantly, I learned that in our over-stimulated, over-filled lives, it is more important than ever to take time OUT to go IN.
I learned, or perhaps relearned, how to find space in my overly stimulated life. Where emails, social media, rushing, hurrying, teaching, working ruled. I learned that space, freedom, doesn’t just happen in a shala in Bali. It happens wherever, whenever I want it. I learned that inner peace starts with breath and generally ends with a smile.
Peace starts at home, peace starts with a choice, a decision to stop, breathe and notice. Try it….