Once upon a time, in a distant far off galaxy known as the time before I became a mother, I used to occasionally save up and attend personal retreats—studying yoga intensely, taking a juice fast, diving into a meditation practice, or simply spending a weekend away relaxing with a good book, a vegetarian meal, and a killer massage.
There’s so much to love about being on retreat. The sense of personal freedom that comes with turning inward; the precious quiet; the delicious vegetarian food.
Nowadays, when I find myself craving a yoga retreat, and then realizing that, for right now, a weekend or week away isn’t quite manageable, I try to find small ways to recreate some of that retreat magic at home.
Here are seven ideas for even the busiest of enlightened parents:
Try a new yoga teacher. Or even a new style of yoga—Jivamukti? Iyengar? Bikram? Maybe a Pranayama class? Working with a new-to-you teacher, as one often does on retreat, can be a wonderful way to expand your practice.
Take a new kind of class. Try a yoga-complimentary movement class—Pilates? African Dance? The Alexander Technique? Shaking things up and trying something all together new can be great for your body, and for your spirit. (My local dance class reminds me of the great lunchtime dance classes at Kripalu.) Think of it as cross-training for the soul.
Walk in the woods. At many retreat centers, a perfect day begins with a walk in the woods. Whether you live in the country or in a big city, there’s bound to be some sort of nature, whether a hiking trail or an urban park, near you. Take a lunch break by tree and see what a difference twenty minutes in nature can make.
Try out a new, healthy recipe. Veggie Chili, anyone? Or take your family out for a meal at your favorite vegetarian restaurant.
Meditate. For too many of us, myself included, mediation is something that we practice on retreat religiously, but that quickly falls off our at home to do list. Even five early morning or late night minutes can help you touch that peaceful yoga retreat feeling. Have more time? Sink into a 45 minute sitting.
Read. And it doesn’t have to be a yoga book. But I notice that I always get tons of reading done while on retreat, and that I often am attracted to yoga memoirs and yoga related titles while delving into my own practice. When else would you take time in the middle of the afternoon to open up a good yoga book, right? Finding that time — whether in the evening before bed, on a Sunday afternoon while your child is with your significant other, on the train to work, or during a baby’s nap, can be deeply restoring and relaxing. I’m about to start reading a yoga memoir I hear great things about—Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi by Brian Leaf. (Check out the book review in the current issue of Yoga Journal.)
Sleep. After you put your child or children to sleep, give yourself an early night, too. (There are no televisions on retreat.) Nothing is as luxurious as nine or ten hours—or more!—of sleep.
The best part of bringing a retreat home? You can deepen your practice, without missing even one dinner/bath/bedtime.
Jessica Berger Gross is the author of enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle Pointer (Skyhorse), out in paperback this month. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband and four-year-old son. “Like” her author page on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter. Visit her at www.jessicabergergross.com.