What is it like to take a weekend out of your daily life to go on a retreat with Kate Potter? We asked Namaste YoginiHeather Gregoryto share her experience at the recent Wakefield retreat with the community. Her story is one of excitement and transformation that we feel truly illustrates the spirit of Namaste Yoga. We hope that it resonates with you if you’ve been on a retreat, or inspires you to think about the possibility in the future.
Ask a 30+ something, mother of two, former dairy farm worker who has turned her freelance home business into a full-time venture if she would like to participate in a Namaste Yoga weekend retreat with Kate Potter and what do you think you will hear?
Until it sinks in.
Be grateful you are not in the same room when all of that excitement starts bubbling out!
A resident of the United States, I had not been out of the country in 17 years. A married woman, I had not been on a trip on my own since college. A mother of two, I can count on one hand the number of times I have spent the night away from my children in the last decade. A member of a very rural community where yoga is relatively unheard of (and considered amusing/kinky/somewhat strange), I have studied yoga, written about yoga, practiced every day for years, led a group... and never taken a class.
I took my first yoga class with KATE POTTER. Kate Potter!
Not only that, but a weekend, almost 60 hours actually, on my own. No cooking, no housework, no finding other people's lost possessions (why is it that I am supposed to have all of these items logged into some sort of internal GPS location system anyway? Do I look like Siri???) No barely settling into a comfy chair and hearing "Mom, can you get me a.../ kill my sibling/ hug me while I... OOOOWWWWW!!! Stop That! MooooooM!!! I'm telling...." you get the idea. I was unbelievably excited!
I was a little scared too.
What if I got lost? What if my car broke down? What if?
What if I had an amazing, life changing experience?
I had an Amazing, Life Changing Experience!
Just driving there was awesome. The time, the space, the open road, can you see me smiling still? Arriving in Wakefield with no breakdowns and only a couple of wrong turns was a relief and a confidence boost to be sure! The town felt small, cozy and safe, yet very different! I walked into a general store and all of the labels were in French, the same with a Tim Horton’s - this was a little moment of panic! But I enjoyed deciphering the signs (I do know a scant bit of French) and feeling a bit more like an observer in this microcosm of life than an active participant.
Thebed and breakfast I stayed atwas beautiful and by the time I left, I could correctly pronounce the name. The hostess was incredibly thoughtful. Since I left for my first yoga session before she served breakfast, she would pack me a brown bag breakfast with my name, a smiley face and shiny foil Les Trois Erables sticker to seal the bag. She knew I was staying for a yoga retreat, and even put a yoga mat in my room. Her kindness and cheery, relaxed disposition was a treasured gift to me.
Our first session with Kate began at 6:30 that evening. Eager yoginis began filtering into La Grange a half hour early. Many came with friends and the feeling of camaraderie was equal parts warming and a little isolating at first. I almost wished I'd had a friend along as well, but strongly believed I needed to make this journey solo. There were women reading inspirational quotes to one another and taking the time to fully absorb the words. Isn't that delicious? To sit and savor these positive words, to let them resonate in your ears, head and heart... like taking the time to digest a fantastic meal instead of jumping up immediately to clean up the dishes.
The first session was practiced in near darkness. We tuned into the ujjayi breath almost immediately. It amazed me how this room, full of strangers, quickly began to feel like one living being; united by breath and movement. The physical tension from seven hours of driving slipped further from my body with every swan lift and bow. My mind quieted so much faster than it does at home, the breath came so easy! By the time we got to meditation, I was imagining feathers floating in an easy dance with my breath. I can't remember the last time I was so relaxed and at peace. I returned to Les Trois Erables, ready for sleep... and yet, I had to share!! I wound myself right up again and (after turning on the computer - don't do that!!) found it hard to fall asleep.
The first session of Saturday morning was a gentle practice and meditation. Kate taught a meditation, with left hand over the heart and right hand raised, to breathe in the pain of another, and then breathe out peace and healing. She had us do this for someone we loved, someone who'd hurt us, someone we'd hurt, and then for ourselves. I cried. This may be one of the most life changing things Kate taught me that weekend. I have done that meditation a few times at home (not always easy to find moments to meditate here, but definitely I have learned how beneficial it is to make the time) since returning from the retreat. It is a gift to realize the power and peace to be had in this, the revelations you find in this mediation. Kate also taught us protective mudras that I am now incorporating into my practice. It resounds in me still, what it was to take care of myself and my heart in this manner. It's not something I do often. Ok, maybe it's not something I have ever truly done. I think I am doing great to eat healthfully, get in a 22-minute Namaste Yoga practice and wear clothes made for women instead of my husband's cast-offs!
The benefit of travelling on my own was revealed when I had lunch with two wonderful women whom I had never met before. From different walks of life, all three of us, and yet, we share so many similarities. They were kind, intelligent, insightful, beautiful ladies! I like to think I made a lot of friends that weekend. If nothing else, I was certainly inspired by the ideas and stories they shared. The pool of knowledge and experience in that room was more valuable than if the walls of La Grange had been forged from pure gold and decorated with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. It was an honor to receive their thoughts and ideas, many of which I am working to incorporate into my home life.
After lunch, our session was aboutAyurveda.The Five Elementsis an awesome DVD, and Kate does a great job of helping you gain a deeper understanding of how to make these practices really work for you at home. We learned a brand-new sequence for autumn (you'll have to attend a retreat or have Kate teach you that one in person …for now!) and did some mental work around evaluating our strengths and weaknesses, which helps to identify your dosha. Kate encouraged us to use Ayurveda to "keep your own ship clean." By taking responsibility for who you are and what you need, you can gain control over your weaknesses, and maybe even turn them into strengths.
A very empowering thought!
In what seemed a blink, it was Sunday. We went through three sequences from the original Namaste Yoga series. My Downward Facing Dog needed help, but until this retreat I had NO idea that was the case! My heels easily sink to the floor; I love this stretch, what is there to mess up? I learned how to lift from my tailbone more, my head was not correctly placed between my arms, and I wasn't pushing enough weight into my feet.
The last session was aboutKate's New Pathways Yoga. In it, she explained the mind-over-matter, brain re-patterning science she is melding with her yoga teachings to help her students break bad habits and overcome chronic pain and depression. There is much to discover in this arena, and Kate herself is still growing and learning in this process. It was obvious that this has helped Kate reinvent her life and grow stronger than she has ever been.
Then, it was over.
When it was time to leave, I cried.
On the first four hours of the drive, I cried intermittently. Cried with joy, with revelation, with openness, with delight. I cried as if some massive chamber, full of thought and emotion, had been unlocked and the contents were spilling forth like water that had been trapped behind a solid wall of concrete.
Halfway home, I spent the night with my sister. Probably the only person in my home state who could fully share and comprehend my euphoria! It was 7PM when we were first reunited, and 2AM before I settled down enough to sleep.
The next day I was home, and tossed right back into life! My kids arrived a half an hour after me. Their hugs were joyous. The mountain of paperwork on my desk had grown taller, the schedule was as crazy as ever; but my babies... none of this impeded the sight of my babies. All that they are and all that they are becoming, what could be more important than that? Nothing.
What may be equally important and exciting, is all that I am and all that I am becoming.