Yoga is…

Yogais-header

Ok. So I talk about yoga a lot. I can’t help it. When I’m passionate about something, I share the love. And because I do, I’ve been asked a time or two, “what is yoga all about?” Oh, where do I start? Honestly, I rarely give the same answer twice. Just when I think I know what “yoga is”, I have a new experience or discover a new description, definition, quote, etc, which alters, elevates, or deepens my understanding.

Yoga really has to be experienced to be understood. But saying, “you have to try it to know it”, seems to fall short for inquiring minds. So I’ve Googled, flipped through books, reviewed my notes, and asked a handful of teachers to see how they answer this age old question.

My discovery? The explanations are esotheric, practical, intellectual, thought-provoking, feel good, challenging, and philosophical. 

So what will I say the next time I’m asked, “what is yoga all about?”  Only time (and circumstance) will tell.  Today, I answer….yoga is my way to say hey there, how are you, I love you.

I hope you enjoy the growing list I’ve started here, and you’ll consider sharing your favourites with me.

Yoga is a Science

Yoga is a System

Yoga is Union

Yoga is a Way to Connect with the Self

  • A method for increasing awareness of the inner self (Yoga, Mastering the Basics, Sandra Anderson and Rolf Sovik)
  • Connection to the authentic self (Barron Baptiste)
  • Relation; means; union; knowledge; matter; logic; upaya (path) (Yoga Mala, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois)
  • A tremendous opportunity to be honest with yourself. It’s like looking through a magnifying glass at yourself. And when you begin to see yourself as you really are, if you take the time to look, you get to manage your life in a different way (Yoga Is film, Eddie Modestini)
  • The way of establishing the mind in the Self…the means by which the mind is directed toward the Self and prevented from going toward outside objects…the means to the realization of one’s true self (Yoga Mala, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois)

Yoga is a Path

  • a universal path as well as traditional teachings and practices to cultivate and realize our full potential (Shiva Rea)

Yoga is a Journey

  • A journey that culminates in sublime success and happiness (Rod Stryker)

Yoga is a Practice

  • Practices and techniques that are ultimately meant to lead you to an experience in which you recognize both the fullest, most essential part of yourself and the grandeur of the magnificence of the life around you (The Four Desires, Rod Stryker)
  • 99 percent practice and one percent theory (Sri Pattabhi Jois)
  • The backbone of every beginning class is practice – postures combined with breath training and systematic relaxation (Himalayan Institute)

Yoga is a Heightened Way of Being

Yoga is Skillful Living

Yoga is Life

Yoga is the Mastery of the Mind

Yoga is Being Set Free from Pain

 

Retreating in Nova Scotia

Lately I’ve been dreaming of returning to a little cabin I stayed in last November at Windhorse Farm in New Germany, NS. Just saying her name – Sweetwater –  makes me feel relaxed. Sweetwater. Ahhhhhh.

Sweetwater1

It was my first solo retreat, and I fell in love. Alone in nature in my little hobbit hut with just the basic necessities – a small wood stove, hot plate, a jug of fresh water, a bed and a table – was freeing. The simplicity gave me space to breathe and go inward.

I’m a city girl but this weekend retreat awakened a neglected desire to be in nature. Being away from the hustle and bustle and over stimulation the city Sweetwater2creates and emanates was just what the doctor ordered.

The more I practice yoga, the more I crave stillness and silence. Time to connect with the inner teacher. Luckily, there are a number of retreats in Nova Scotia that welcome seekers of all faiths who want a quiet place to practice or those who just need to get away from it all and recharge their batteries.

Sweetwater3

Many of the retreats in Nova Scotia are Shambhala Buddhist centers. Shambhala International, which is based in Halifax, links a worldwide network of Buddhist meditation centers, retreat centers, and monasteries founded by Tibetan Buddhist teacher the Trungpa Rinpoche. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the present spiritual and executive head of the organization.

I’m very much looking forward to my next experience at one of the wonderful retreat centers or forest getaways in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Retreat Options

  1. Windhorse Farm
    New Germany, NS, 1 hr, 18 min from Halifax
    Surrounded by 200 acres of mature, sustainably managed forests, Windhorse Farm is an ideal place to unwind and relax in nature. Solitary and group meditation practice is a fundamental part of Windhorse. The contemplative and meditation practices are drawn from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. Windhorse also offers a wood-fired sauna, The Kami Shrine and 20 kilometres of marked trails. I spent my entire weekend alone exploring the trails, writing, enjoying the sauna and practicing yoga.
  2. Milk Lake Shambhala Retreat
    Middlewood, NS, 1 hr 20 min from Halifax
    Milk Lake is a rural retreat centre nestled in rolling farm country on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Three large cabins offer quiet seclusion for retreat or time alone for meditation and contemplation. Milk Lake is owned by Shambhala International.
  3. Namaste Nova Integrated Wellness Retreat
    Newport, NS, 45 min from Halifax
    A 100 year old farm house converted into a B&B on 135 acres of mixed forest and cleared land, with a 10 acre lake on the back of the property. Miles of hiking trails, animals (two dogs, six cats and four horses), and an option to explore Bodytalka holistic therapy that allows the body’s energy systems to be re-synchronized.
  4. Big Hill Retreat
    Baddeck, NS, 3 hr 51 min from Halifax
    Offers three secluded log cottages set on 200 acres of private land to explore with many kilometers of walking trails. It’s 12 km from the village of Baddeck – the beginning and end of the world famous Cabot Trail. Guests are invited to visit the family’s homestead which includes an active pottery studio (see Big Hill Pottery ) and organic garden where there are often extra vegetables for guests. There’s also a pond available for swimming and fishing.
  5. Buddhayana Forest Retreat
    River John, NS, 1 hr 57 min from Halifax
    During the Summer months Buddhayana Forest Retreat offers free temporary, self directed, intensive meditation retreats, in the Buddhist ascetic forest tradition. Buddhayana is a non sectarian Buddhist retreat center. It offers 16 retreat cabins and a Meditation Hall. Those on retreat gather each morning in the Meditation Hall to practice silent group sitting and walking meditation and then go to their cabins and the surrounding forest for personal solitary practice.
  6. Gampo Abbey
    Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, 5.5 to 6.5 hours from Halifax
    Gampo Abbey is a Western Buddhist monastery in the Shambhala tradition. It offers in-house retreats for a week or two. Under the spiritual direction of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Gampo Abbey is guided by the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and principal teacher Acharya Pema Chödrön. The daily schedule at the Abbey provides a retreat-like environment aimed at providing four hours of meditation practice and service (work) each day. It also offers cabins for solitary retreat for those who are interested in doing a retreat for a week or longer and who have a solid meditation practice. 
  7. Birchdale Lake
    Yarmouth County, NS, 3 hours from Halifax
    Built a century ago, Birchdale Lake offers a remote setting in south west Nova Scotia. Situated on 56 wooded acres, the property surrounds one of four connected lakes. It includes the original log lodge, cabins, a woodworking shop, kitchen, office and two connected octagonal buildings that house the library and chapel built by monks. There are six cabins around the edge of the lake with full baths and wood burning stoves. Three of them have fireplaces. There is no electrical service. Each has gas lamps and a two-burner gas hot plate. The main cooking facilities being located in the kitchens at the lodge and kitchen/office. The Birchdale environment encourages creativity, exploring nature, and Yoga and meditation practice.
  8. Dorje Denma Ling
    Tatamagouche, NS, 1 hr, 50 min from Halifax
    Dorje Denma Ling is Canada’s only Shambhala International residential program centre. It is open year-round for individuals or group who want to spend time in a self-directed, individual meditation retreat. The retreats are open to all levels of practice. Meditation instruction is available for beginners. Tuition is $50 per day which includes accommodations and meals.

What are your favorite retreat spots? Recommendations are always welcome. Please send them my way.

Namaste,  Krista