For the past few years I have been practicing yoga inconsistently – a class here and there, and then admittedly, several months of nothing. I didn’t really return to it with any serious determination until this past February when my dad was at home in hospice care. Those days before his passing were long – filled with lovely memories, of course – but each hour ticked by slowly as we sat at his bedside preparing for his final moments. After a few days I started to go stir-crazy. Eventually my sister and I began to allow ourselves an hour or so each day to leave the house and try to feel some normalcy. Usually we went to a yoga class. And how lovely it was, not to think about anything but the present for those 90 minutes. It was glorious. One of the many benefits to be reaped from this practice.
But yoga all day, everyday? Now that’s a different story.
My days in Santorini begin at 6AM. That’s when my two roommates and I wake up, pull ourselves out of bed, and still blurry-eyed make our way to the group shala for 6:45AM meditation. I’ve never really meditated before and I am finding this practice extremely challenging. While our meditation sessions are only 30 minutes, staying still and silent for this time is a difficult task. I find my head cluttered with random thoughts and observations on every subject and constantly have to redirect my attention to my breathing. No doubt this is a practice that takes considerable time to master.
Up next is a two-hour yoga class. For the past week it has been Ashtanga yoga, a lineage of asana (yoga postures) that I am only a little familiar with. The sequence is the same every day, full of those poses that make for amazing photos but the ones you rarely find in a beginner’s vinyasa class. Tomorrow we will run through the entire primary series of Ashtanga postures, but we will do so in Mysore style, which basically means you do the sequence yourself, without the instruction of a teacher. We will all be moving in different ways and finishing at different times, so it will be important not to get caught up in paying attention to what the person next to me is doing, which brings me to my next thought… It is INCREDIBLE to watch these women move. Every one of the women here demonstrates such unique strength in her practice. Some are incredibly flexible, some are physically powerful, and others move with such effortless grace, I can’t help but feel overcome with appreciation for the capability of the human body. It’s truly beautiful.
Breakfast is at 9:30 (usually a giant bowl of creamy, delicious Greek yogurt), maybe a dip in the pool, then back to the shala for 2.5 hours of asana breakdown. This is when we go through each of the poses individually, learning its Sanskrit name and practicing teaching it to others. As the days go on, we’ll be doing more and more teaching -first to small groups, then to the whole group.
After lunch we head to philosophy class where we are learning the yoga sutras, the chakras, and all of the mind and energy theories behind yoga. Then my favorite part of the day: restorative yoga. An hour of peace and quiet under the shala, releasing muscle tension and relaxing through some very gentle asana. Anatomy class is our final part of the day, after which I am more than ready for a nap. The days are very full, but I am doing my best to balance all this yoga with some time for writing, reading, and a little sunbathing.
I am truly inspired by much of what I have been reading and learning about here. So many of the questions I’ve wondered about and asked throughout the mental journey I’ve been on for the past two years are the same questions we all ask and wonder about. Although I am missing my family like crazy, it is so therapeutic to have this time to really think about these questions deeply and to gain the perspective of some very courageous and adventurous women.