I don’t do yoga so why would I take a yoga vacation on the Yampa River?

I started doing yoga in 2006. At 25, I was beginning to feel the effects of my lifestyle and also my profession. My shoulders were tight and painful, my low back hurt, I was experiencing wrist pain, neck pain, and overall joint pain and stiffness.

You might thinking: maybe you needed more exercise. Were you overweight?

With all due respect, no I did not need more exercise; I needed more rest.

At that point I had already worked as an international river guide on rivers that remain sacred places for me. I had also competed in three varsity sports at the DIII level (four if you count softball), had studied ballet, and enjoyed multiple outdoor adventure sports.

I didn’t need more physical exercise or another sport. I needed body rehab and it came in the form of yoga.

Many people tell me, “I tried yoga once. I’m not flexible enough.” At that point, I like to back them up a step to before they took that one yoga class, and decided after one class, that yoga was something they couldn’t do.

“What does ‘yoga’ mean to you?” I’ll ask.

Answers vary and often they relate to fitness or a form of exercise.

I have a different answer to that and it came from one of my first Yoga Teachers: Ann Pittman. She told our class that asana (the physical practice in the body, mind, spirit trilogy) is an over 4,000 year old tradition that was intended to help the practitioner (one who practices something on an ongoing level and seeking to build their skills along the way) age without pain.

Asana is not about exercising. It is not about bending one’s body into a pretzel on the first day. It’s not even about enlightenment (that’s a different aspect of yoga altogether). No, asana is about living life in a way that decreases the necessary pain of living.

It is not something we can simply do without ever trying it before. It’s like high school or college: an ongoing education, only this one happens in the body.

I have a lot of people say to me, “I would never do one of your yoga retreats because I don’t do yoga.” My answer to that varies and depends on the situation and the person.

Most of us are “doing yoga” everyday. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t have the strength and resiliency to focus on our own tasks and personal success through the maze of chaos and the minefields of life’s real stresses.

Most of us are “doing yoga” more than we realize, we just don’t call it that. We call it “stretching” or “taking a nap to reset.” We call it “going for a walk to clear our mind before a big meeting” or “putting down the phone and making eye contact with our child.”

And sometimes we need to do more. Sometimes the stress of our responsibilities and commitments gets so overwhelming, that we actually need to take a retreat. We actually need to unplug and disconnect and disappear. We need to drop out to drop in.

My river-based yoga retreat this May on the Yampa is not for human pretzels, unless you happen to be one. It’s not for master teachers, unless your practice needs you to step away and be the student in a magical place. And it’s not for beginners, unless you are willing to take a leap and join our group.

All kinds, all levels are welcome. Come as you are. Leave fuller, stronger, more open and courageous than when you arrived.

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