When yoga practice is combined with travel, the effects of both experiences are enhanced. Travel becomes more enjoyable with yoga, as it supports good physical feeling, sound sleep and better digestion. Practicing yoga in a new environment, especially an exotic one, offers opportunities to celebrate and connect with other people, places and cultures from a yogic perspective.
A yoga retreat invites participants to relax into a space and time set apart from everything that is routine and familiar. When people are totally immersed in their own cultural patterns, they can lose sight of the interconnectedness of all beings, whereas being on a retreat in an unfamiliar cultural setting allows one to absorb the new environment in subtle ways. Witnessing the natural flow of other cultures, embracing differences and remaining open to the mystery of life moves one toward a more mature perspective.
The sense of oneness that is often referred to in the yogic texts can come about quite naturally on a retreat. Many students list yoga retreats as among the most profound experiences of their lives, saying that the time away allows them to deepen their experience of life and return to their own responsibilities rejuvenated and with new perspectives. “I retreated to advance,” one yoga student remarked after returning from such an experience.
The ancient Persian poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmi framed the concept another way when he wrote these lines:
A feeling of fullness comes
but it usually takes some bread
to bring it.
Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.
Billie Jo Joy is a yoga teacher and co-founder (with Annie Hoffman) of Art and Soul studio, located at 91 Hampshire St. in Cambridge. She leads yoga retreats in Italy, Mexico and Colombia, and on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, Wisconsin. The next yoga retreat will be held this fall in Sabina, Italy, from October 8 to 15. For more information, call 617-395-4227 or visit ArtSoulYoga.com.