Retreat Goer Shares Experience with The New York Times

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Every year we go on the Pure Vida retreat, we meet amazingly talented individuals from around the globe. 2013 was the year we met rock star editor, Karen Schneider, who shared her Pure Vida Retreat experience with the New York Times. Check it out!

A Warrior Learns a Different Pose

It’s important to understand that my husband, Peter, refuses to take baths. He does shower, yes, but he finds baths unmanly, just like soccer — or any other sport that does not require players to crash into one another like angry apes and beat their chests.

For years he coached our son, Cade, in football, shouting at his boys to “Hit them low, take them down.” He watches soccer only because our daughter, Raye, plays. She has what her coaches call “grit.” This makes Peter proud.

Before every game we remind her about excessive body play.

“Keep your arms in,” Peter warns as I nod approvingly. Then he whispers, “Go kick some butt.” He holds up his palm. She throws a punch, good and hard, thumb out so it doesn’t break, just as he taught her. Then they beat their chests and grunt.

So my expectations were low when, on a cold Minneapolis day last winter, I dialed Peter’s number at his office to make an unusual request.

“Hey,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Nothing. Just working.”

“O.K. I just called to say hi.”

“Hi.”

“Hi,” I said. “So do you feel like going to Costa Rica on a yoga retreat?”

And I held my breath.

I felt as if I had been holding my breath for more than 20 years, since I got my first job in New York and soon after learned that, at 56, my mother had Alzheimer’s disease. I moved back home to help care for her and began telecommuting from Minneapolis.

Next, I met and married Peter. Then came Peter’s alcoholism. And two infants. And my father’s cancer. And tensing up every time the phone rang.

After two decades of illness and death, of car pool lanes and hockey rinks, of figuring out dinner and what to do while my taciturn husband learned how to live without a drink, after giving up running because it hurt my knees and sugar because it made me sick and traveling because it made me insane trying to convince myself I would not die while away, here I was again, holding my breath.

“Do I want to go on a yoga retreat?” he repeated. “Not really. But I’ll go if it’s important to you.”

So we went, neophytes both, because we had become strangers in marriage, because our therapist told us we needed to say “yes” to life more, and because on the cusp of turning 50, I needed to remember how to breathe.

On our first night, our group gathered for a ceremony that involved sitting cross-legged on cushions and holding stones in our hands. Our teachers lit candles and told us to close our eyes.

I peeked at Peter. I was supposed to be envisioning the blue in my body, but instead I was thinking: “Please don’t let them ask us to join hands. Or chant.”

The next day Peter did his first downward dog. There were cats and cows and instructions on breathing: “In through the nose, out through the nose.”

Later we took a group surfing lesson. I was dreading it. I am terrified of sharks and scared of waves. But I wanted to say yes to life, so I found myself lying on a rental board on the beach that scratched my arms with an instructor named Ricardo telling us to “pop up.”

Twenty minutes later, we walked into the water. “Remember to shuffle,” Ricardo told us. “To avoid the stingrays.”

One by one Ricardo brought the others into the ocean — shuffling, shuffling. One by one they popped up, wiped out and disappeared before reappearing and heading back to shore.

Then it was my turn. Ricardo held my board. My heart raced. “Relax your shoulders,” he said. Like everyone else, he told me to breathe. “Trust me,” he said as he let me go. “You’re not going to die out here.”

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Have you gone on the retreat with us? Tell us about your experience and we will share it on our blog!