I have been home for more than a week, and I still haven’t come down from the blissfully high feeling I was left with at the end of SKIASANA. In keeping with tradition, I’m recapping the ski and yoga retreat with a top ten list of all the reasons why I can’t wipe the smile off my face.
The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music and Om! When we first got to Vermont, it had rained for the last few days so there wasn’t much snow on the ground, the sky was gray, and it was not at all the winter wonderland I had dreamed of. That first night of the retreat, as we sat in the hot tub with a light drizzle falling on us, the rain magically turned to snow, and from that point forward the magic of Stowe Mountain came alive. I can’t tell you how many times I was overcome with the spontaneous and joyful desire to burst out singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” Not many people know this, but my namesake is none other than Maria Von Trapp, who inspired my parents back in the day to change my name from Frances to Maria when my mom was eight months pregnant at the movie theatre watching the movie The Sound of Music.
While practicing yoga, our views from the yoga room at Stowe Mountain Ranch included watching the changing colors of the sky as the sun rose over the mountains, the beautiful falling snow, and the horses grazing outside the barn. But the hills are not hills in Stowe, Vermont; they are mountains. And these mountains are not only alive with the sound of music but are teeming with beauty!
Fresh Air The air in the mountains of Vermont just felt cleaner and crisper, and when hiking or skiing, the cool air in my lungs felt downright therapeutic. I came to Vermont with a bit of congestion from a cold and left with my chest perfectly clear, and I’m thinking it was the physical activity and invigorating crisp mountain air filling my lungs that did the trick!
Double Dipping Yoga & Meditation When you go on a yoga retreat, not only do you get to do yoga every day, but you get to do it twice a day! The mornings were reserved for a brisker practice that focused on opening the shoulders and wrists, calves, knees, thighs, and hips – all the essential body parts that were going to get a work out, whether from knitting, hiking, or skiing. The evening candlelight yoga sessions were restorative with deep, long stretches to aid in releasing the body parts used in the day’s knitasana/skiasana activities and to let the joints and connective tissues open up with the help of bolsters, blocks, and blankets.
Each session included time to meditate. During the course of the weekend, we learned about the importance of nurturing ourselves, the gift of the precious present, finding bliss by letting go of that which you don’t have, and how to open our hearts and listen to the universe. There was lots of time to quiet the mind, grow deeper into practice, reflect, journal, and ultimately find renewal.
Tess We love you Tess – oh yes, we do! Tess, an incredible chef, baker, and nurturer, was truly the rock star of the weekend. Tess doesn’t go to the store to buy bread and desserts; he lovingly makes them from the best ingredients. He went way beyond providing three square meals a day with his healthy, delicious, and creative creations, and he even shared his talents by teaching a few lucky participants how to bake bread one afternoon. Here is one of a few food reports from the retreat posted to Facebook . . .
. . . lunch was sweet potato chili and tuna melt made with crème cheese on homemade bread, snack of a homemade granola brittle. Dinner was penne with spinach, heirloom tomatoes and chestnuts, a shrimp angel hair with a super light creamy sauce, balsamic glazed veggies and French silk pie for dessert.
Can you say YUM!
There was a lot of laughter around this dinner table each night!
Bryon, Tyrone and Vernon There was only one retreat participant who wasn’t from Ohio, but we welcomed him with open arms. And Bryon – I mean Tyrone – wait, I mean Vernon – quickly won all of our hearts. Little did we know that Vernon was secretly watching our every move throughout the weekend, capturing all our idiosyncrasies and personality traits so he could cleverly create the coveted Skiasana awards that he presented to us on the last evening of the retreat. Awards included “Most likely to join a nudist colony,” “Most Unknotted Yogini (that one went to Dee),” “Most Enthusiastic (awarded to Amy),” and “Most likely to make a career change as a result of attending the retreat (awarded to Barb).” I was named “Most Inspirational.” My cheeks hurt from laughing so hard around the dinner table that night, and with his keen observances and witty delivery, Vernon did an excellent job of recapping all the funny moments of the weekend. Now I have an award I would like to give Vernon whom I truly believe will be: “Most Likely to Live Happily Ever After!”
Knitasana I am still kicking myself that I never found the time over the weekend to learn how to knit, but for those who did, Dee Eisner was there to offer the expert guidance and patience required. I did learn that it is extremely hard to talk and knit, so I might have a challenge on my hands when I do try it!
For those of you who want to learn a bit more about the fine art of knitting and meditation, Dee recommends these two books, Mindful Knitting by Tara Jon Manning, and The Knitting Sutra, Craft as a Spiritual Practice by Susan Gordon Lydonneed. And, Dee, I will be calling soon to set up a private knitasana session!
Full Moon Intentions & Purging We were blessed to be on Stowe Mountain on the night of a gorgeous full moon and used the opportunity to bust out a few moon salutations and set full moon intentions, and on the last night of the retreat, we built a fire for the purpose of a purging ceremony. We wrote down on pieces of paper the habit, relationship, or thing in our life we wanted to let go of, and as we threw the paper into the fire, we exclaimed, “Be gone!” It felt good – no, make that really good – and I for one can say that I have been enjoying a newfound peace as a result of purging a few fears that I have been holding on to for way too long. Be gone, fears!
Laughter Yoga Well, I didn’t intend to teach a session of laughter yoga, but the evening I handed out the Yoga Tune-Up® Therapy Balls for our restorative yoga session, let’s just say we couldn’t hold back the laughs. I didn’t realize that showing yogis how to release trigger points with the help of therapy balls would induce such squeals of delight. To quote Vernon, “I gained a lot of flexibility on the last yoga retreat I attended, but I never dreamed I’d be able to get my balls in between my shoulder blades on this one.”
Swag If you came to Skiasana, you left with some pretty cool swag, like a NamaSTAY Yoga Towel, a pair of Yoga Tune-Up® Therapy Balls, and a handmade journal made of recycled paper. I want to give a big shout-out and hug to Cherie Greenwald of NamaSTAY Yoga Towels for sponsoring the retreat. These patented yoga towels have a unique feature of sleeves that wrap around the ends of yoga mats to provide slip-free protection while practicing yoga. The plush towels also added an extra layer of luxurious comfort during our evening restorative yoga sessions and meditation.
Husbandasana I know this might be hard for some of you to believe, but up until the time we went on the retreat, my husband had never been to one of my yoga classes. I told him that if he wanted to join me on the retreat to ski, he couldn’t come unless he came to all the yoga. I wasn’t sure if he actually would, but I’m happy to report that he showed up on the mat and attended every yoga session without any complaints and without me having to coax him. I don’t know if he’ll continue with his practice, but I’ll never forget how joyful and verklempt I felt when I saw him come up so strong and balanced into ardha chandrasana pose for the first time. Thanks, Vince, for making one of my dreams come true.
I can never stop at 10! So here’s one more….
Community One of my favorite things about yoga retreats is the community that is formed among a group of people who come to the retreat as strangers and leave as friends. It is something I always hope will happen, but you never know if the group is going to gel. Well this group gelled instantly, and the sense of community rocked!
I’m going to hold on to my Vermont Mountain high as long as I can, and I’m already dreaming about where the next SKIASANA yoga retreat will be held! Sending huge hugs and lots of gratitude to Tari, Dee, Amy, Jinny, Kathy, Jim, Barb, Vernon, and Vince for joining me on the retreat, for letting me guide them for a weekend in yoga and meditation, and for sharing their light and laughter with me! Also huge hugs to Jen and the staff at The Travel Yogi for the expert customer service and care in making this retreat a reality. I am truly blessed to get to do what I love!
Wanna see a few more pictures from SKIASANA? Check out my photo album on Facebook (and while you are there, please Like the page) and this awesome Flipagram created by my good friends at The Travel Yogi. Stop by The Travel Yogi site for lots of great yoga and travel adventure retreats and if you think you might like to experience a yoga retreat with me, please check out my upcoming Beach Yoga Bliss II yoga retreat in Aruba from April 22-27, 2014. You can make your reservations now through The Travel Yogi.