"Now I am going to reveal to you something which is very pure, a totally white throught. It is alwasy in my heart; it blooms at each of my steps...the dance is love, it is only love, if alone, and that is enough...I, then, it is amorously that I dance: to poems, to music but now I would like to no longer dance to anything but the rhythm of my soul." ~ Isadora Duncan
The 2018 Big Rock Yoga Southern Spain Retreat was held in the village of El Gastor in the Cadiz province of Andalucia, Southern Spain. The area is mountainesque and full of wonder with the natural terrain plus the archetecture of centuries old bridges and buildings. I was joined by seven beautiful souls that arrived from their homes of Little Rock, Austin, Madrid, and Frankfurt. It was "perfecto" for a week of yoga, meditation, healthy mediteranean food, exploration, and connection with each other that led us each deeper into our natural rhythm.
I opened the retreat with the above quote from Isadora Duncan. I set my intention to lead each person to deepen their conection to their individual natural rhythm through breath. Breath is simple. Breath is so powerful. Yet, so often individuals lack the focus on their breathing that gives the gifts of a joyful, peaceful soul. In yoga we choose to focus on our breath during movement, meditation, and breath work to allow the "monkey brain" to subside and allow us to dance with love through the rhythm of our soul.
Quite frequently I am asked why I teach with little to no music. Honestly, yoga has evolved greatly as it has grown over the last seventeen years I have practiced. Music did not play as significant a role as it does now in the abundant classes available to students at this time. I was trained as a student and a teacher to lead classes to the rhythm of the breath. I fully believe music is soulful and I play music more frequently than I did in the past, however I believe from personal experiences that the breath alone gives the deepest connection to joy and peace. To dance with your breath is to dance with love. We all have a light within us that shines brighter each time we place our focus within us through the mindful practices of breathing.
Breath draws us closer to the second Yama: truth. The Yamas and Niyamas are the ethical practices yoga teaches through self study and practice. There are five yamas(restraints) and five niyamas(observances) within the practice of traditional yoga. I ask my students to approach them with the seriousness of a child at play while observing their breath in movement on the yoga mat. The yoga mat is a 2'x6' mirror for life. (ok, some mats are larger and smaller...but you get my meaning!) When a student allows themselves to clear the "monkey mind" through concentration on the breath and movement, he/she allows themselves the ability to see the truth in their thoughts and actions. If you are critical of yourself while trying a new yoga pose, you are most likely critical of yourself when you are trying something new in life. The mat becomes a mirror for self reflection in how you handle life's fun and stressors. The mat becomes a training ground to embody nonviolence, nonstealing, nonexcess, nonpossessiveness, purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender through the breathe's access to truth. Grace.
While I set the intention of the week to dance with the breath to discover access to dance with love, the students brought the theme of the week. Grief. Each person, including myself, was experiencing the impact of different types of grief. Within the group we had experiences of the loss of family members, natural evolution into the next phase of life, the loss of close friends, illness, critically ill family/friends, and major moves to new home locations. We focused on the practices of nonviolence and truth to allow the emotions to be felt rather than resisted during our physical practices and group discussions for self awareness. It is in avoiding pain and sadness that we quite often give ourselves a greater depth of pain. Our avoidances can show up in our busyness, humor, critical judgement, and inabilty to be vulnerable with others. Nonviolence and truth through the practice of breath offer a gentleness and compassion that allows one to restore...to dance with love and shine bright.
We discovered together that we could dance with love by focusing on breath in our physical practice and meditations. We discovered together that we could dance with love through conversations and sharing with one another. We discovered that we could dance with love by dropping our doubts and allowing the truth to grow our physical practice. This looked different for each of us throughout the week. There was support, laughter, tears, restoration, and the openness it takes for a transformation to shine brighter.
The feet on the ground translation...We practiced yoga movement twice daily. We meditated daily. We were treated to a "Chakras on the Rocks" and a Kosha workshop by Eric Aulicino. We ate family style vegetarian meals around a table full of laughter. We toured Ronda and attended a flemenco show. We went hiking and relaxed by a scenic pool. We went horseback riding. We toured a twelfth generation olive oil factory. We all went upside down! We all made new relatioships that will continue for many years to come.
Most importantly, we each discovered that who we are lives out beyond our grief. We discovered that we can feel the loss and live in joy at the same time. We can choose to live life to its fullest through the compassion and courage we each have chosen for ourselves. We can choose to move forward in joy and bring that to everyone in our lives. It is our responsibility to share ourselves with others and bring that light to the world, so that others may shine brighter!
Much grattitude to Julie Jackson, Clarissa Jain, Julie Mathis, Melissa Tanner, Ashley Poole, and Kelly Frindell for trusting me on this adventure into Spain and your hearts. And, a very special thank you to Eric Aulicino for supporting the retreat with your wisdom and meditation practices. Antonio Escobar your hospitality was beyond my expectations! I was blessed to connect with each of you and watch each of you connect with each other. I will always remember "Chakras on the Rocks" by Tim the Canadian, how to speak with a spanish fan, Homer Simpson in the sunrise, how to treat bug bites in the mountains, the fun of a selfie stick, tomatoes on toast, and many other fun memories!