Yogi, Bare: My Week At A Mexican Yoga Retreat
Written by Jaillan Yehia
‘You may well cry in class; lots of people do,’ says Wendy, who will be my yoga teacher for the next 6 days at a Mexican Yoga retreat near Cancun.
‘No I bloody well won’t’ I think to myself, ‘I’m English’. Wendy is the dictionary definition of a Californian goddess, all flowing golden locks, sun-kissed skin and positive energy.
Within two days it has happened to my travel companion – and within the week I have exercised my own tear ducts as well as my abs – and so I learn that The Travel Yogi’s Yucatan yoga retreat is adept at refreshing body mind and soul…
‘I cried in the class today’ she whispers conspiratorially to me over breakfast after the morning session – and by the end of the week my friend Alicia who has joined me on the ultimate girls vacation to Mexico, ending with a week-long residential yoga retreat, is listening to me make a similar confession, much to my surprise.
It’s her first retreat, while its been a year since I first found myself converted to the concept of travelling to battle the bulge rather than to simply indulge – which is what most other travellers to the Mayan Riviera come here do.
At the time of discovering The Travel Yogi and choosing their Mexican yoga retreat package to the most well-known part of the Yucatan Peninsula, I’d actually begun to physically ache for some ‘me time’ in the way your left foot aches for a massage while your right foot is being rubbed.
I already knew as I compare options for fitness holidays that on a good yoga retreat I would get not just physical exercise, healthy eating and excursions, but also some mindful introspection and the opportunity to meet new people as well as spend quality time with a friend. And it’s all organised by someone else, so all I have to do is turn up. Bliss.
With the title Healing The Heart, I find myself drawn to this particular retreat as strongly as I’m pulled off the sofa and towards the kettle whenever the adverts come on TV; so very strongly indeed.
It’s got everything I want from a trip including proximity to some of that all important indulgence, meaning we can bookend our virtuous vinyasas with some more traditional Mexican fun of taco eating and swimming with turtles – yoga is all about balance is it not?
The first supper after arrival, when you get to meet the fellow yogis with whom you’ll be sharing yoga mats and hopefully margaritas, turns out to be a shy affair.
Despite being on ‘retreat’ which sounds like something a specific cross-section of society might do, it turns out we are from all walks of life, and are just normal people who are willing to give this a go and have different reasons for doing so. Meaning most of us aren’t over-sharers — so we actually play a name game to break the ice.
Like nursery school kids, we each choose a food that alliterates with our name to help the others remember who is who.
In no time I consider asking my new friend Camille to change her real surname by deed poll to ‘curried chicken’, it has such a good ring to it.
In even less time we have all found our groove in the twice daily classes which I’m surprised to find are almost hard to fit in around all the excursions and time spent exploring the local town and hanging out in the communal kitchen comparing stories like university freshmen.
Finally the day comes when we regress once more to school kid behaviour, and ask teacher if we can have class outside – which here in Mexico means on the beach.
A seaside yoga class sounds like a great idea, until you try it for real. There’s still some wind lingering after a tropical storm which has brought changeable weather for the last few days, and the sand coats our mats, is whipped into our hair, finds its way in wet clumps under our fingernails and crunches beneath our toes as we splay them in this pose or that.
But gradually, moving in unison like a single unit, our limbs begin to follow the orders of Wendy’s gentle calls to action as they carry on the wind to our now-trained ears.
We try new ambitious and eye-popping poses, like headstands, on the fresh sand, shrugging off our fears and self-consciousness in front of passing walkers and beach volleyball players.
A dog runs into the multi-coloured human circle we’ve created, sniffing at us enthusiastically and the group erupts with laughter; we try trust exercises, pushing and pulling one another into and out of pretzel shapes we didn’t know we could make a week ago, anymore than we knew what our food name was.
Then we’re asked to lie back and do a visualisation exercise. It’s something which should be easy to call to mind: yourself looking in a mirror. In your mind’s eye you are told to talk to your reflection, you’re given messages to pass on to yourself about how worthy, how special and how loved you are.
I feel uneasy and my face feels suddenly wet and I remain in the child’s pose just that little bit longer than everyone else as the exercise ends. But when I pull myself onto my feet I’m relaxed and manage to take a group photo before we lose the last lingering light of dusk.
Perhaps some sand got in my eye, maybe the wind irritated my retinas, being British I feel sure this is what happened.
We are given custom blended aromatherapy oils as parting gifts just before we bid farewell to our new friends – and as scent is the closest scent to memory this feels an insightful gift.
I still use my spray bottle as an ongoing opportunity to evoke that ‘me time’, that vulnerability, and just for a moment while waiting for the kettle to boil I can retreat back to being a relaxed kid again.
If you add up the price of private yoga classes, airport transfers, hotel accommodation at Casa Om, breakfast every morning and dinner every night, plus lunch most days on excursions, and trips to everywhere from the cenotes, Mayan village, ruins at Tulum and the beach to swim with turtles, I think you’d struggle to beat the value on offer here – the Mexican yoga retreat costs $1699.
For more information on Mexican yoga retreats and yoga holidays worldwide visit www.thetravelyogi.com
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