Okay, full disclosure: I am leading a yoga retreat in Arizona this September. Do I want people to come? Of course. Does this color my belief that attending a retreat at some point in one’s life is essential? No it does not.

Allow me to elaborate…

For years I longed to go on a retreat, even before I started teaching and was practicing yoga only sporadically. The idea of spending several days in a far-off place with like-minded individuals indulging in yoga, sleeping without interruption, and eating nutritious food that I didn’t have to prepare myself seemed like a dream come true. For a decade this notion of attending a retreat was just that — a dream. With three young children, no nanny, and a husband who works long hours I simply could not envision how to make it happen.

That is, until I allowed myself to try.

Last year an opportunity to go to Costa Rica with a teacher I knew presented itself. One day before class, a few students were discussing the retreat when one woman asked me if I was going. Instead of saying no, which at the time was the truth, I replied “maybe.” It was a knee-jerk response that surprised me. I hadn’t entertained the notion of going until that day.

I went home and thought “can I do this? Can I actually go to Costa Rica by myself?” I wasn’t sure if it was doable but I was certain about one thing:  I wanted to go. I discussed it with my husband and to his credit, Jay didn’t balk. So we made a plan.

We enlisted troops in the form of my parents and two baby-sitters. My husband arranged his calendar so that he could work from home twice while I was away. A friend agreed to take my oldest son to his indoor soccer practice so that Jay didn’t have to drag our 5-year-old twins out late. Finally, a dog walker would tend to our two pups on the days that Jay went into the office.

It wasn’t easy (especially on Jay) but we made it work, and I’m so thankful.

When you dedicate yourself to your practice, unplug, and try something new, amazing things happen. Before I went to Costa Rica I knew I needed a break. I did not realize that I was in a full-blown rut, made worse by the fact that it was January and freezing. Getting away allowed me to do something that isn’t always popular, especially for moms. I focused on my needs for an entire week.

I did not focus on my kids, my spouse, or my dogs, the school parents association, my job, or my friends. I won’t lie, at first it felt a bit strange. Then it was wonderful — a massive release! When I returned home (to 23″ of fresh snow, I might add), I felt energized and renewed.

When you’re on a retreat things are just… simple. Obviously — it’s vacation! Except that unlike most vacations — which often include researching family-friendly excursions, picking clothes off of hotel room floors, and applying sunblock to small, retaliating children — on a yoga retreat, it’s just you. This equals less planning, neater floors, and the absence of sun block skirmishes.

It also means more sleep as well as time to practice, read, and lounge by a pool. And definitely more sleep, which bears repeating.

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds great and all, but I could NEVER make it work.

Or could you…?


Click here to read about Julie’s yoga retreat “Arizona to Zen: Tools to Live a Life You Love”

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