by Howard VanEs
When our lives get out of balance we experience stress. The stress may come from work, relationships, health challenges, legal challenges, the environment or any combination of factors. Stress in of itself is not so bad, but when experienced regularly over time, disease states arise: irritability, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, feelings of helplessness, and indigestion. Left unchecked, chronic stress leads to depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic anxiety, a compromised immunes system, etc.
A time-honored way of bringing balance into your life is with a retreat. A retreat can help you regain balance and live healthier in a number of important ways. First, when you participate in a retreat you remove yourself from the regular of stressors of daily life and by doing so create an opportunity for your system to naturally come back into balance. Sometimes we have lived so long with stress that we have forgotten what it feels like to feel really good!
A retreat offers the possibility to feel good again. And having this time away, you can gain a fresh perspective of what is causing the stress and consider what you might do to bring about a healthier lifestyle.
When you combine retreat time with a natural healing modality you create an opportunity to renew and revitalize your entire system – body, mind and spirit, at very deep levels. You also have the opportunity to learn something new or deepen into your practice. And through this experience you may become inspired to practice regularly at home which will further bring balance and health into your life.
Of course, the ideal retreat includes delicious and nurturing meals, like-minded people, time to play, and a sacred environment where the healing power of nature can support you: magnificent views, beautiful weather, the energy of the land.. It is for this reason that retreats are often taken in the mountains, forests, by the ocean, or on tropical islands.
Being in a beautiful natural environment also has another powerful effect: you are reminded of the grandeur and beauty in the world, and that in some way you are connected to this, regardless of what is happening in your life. We are reminded that there is something larger than ourselves, which leads to a mindset that is more open – open to fresh possibilities and the creative spirit.
New environments also set the stage for fresh stimuli; input which can trigger new ideas and ways of thinking. This can come from a conversation with a stranger, reading a magazine, exploring the local environment, learning about the local culture or customs or simply trying a new restaurant. A retreat offers the opportunity to break “out of the box” – out of our habitual ways of thinking – which in turn fosters new perspectives and creativity.
While regaining balance, reducing stress, and renewal are often strong motivations for attending a retreat, there are many other reasons people do this, which include quiet time for themselves, time to sort out some aspect of their lives, to learn a new skill or deepen into a specific modality, to do something nice for themselves or simply to have a vacation.
Before you go on a retreat – take time to think about why you are going and what you want from that experience. Just as an individual’s reasons for going on a retreat vary, so do the many types of retreats offered. Retreats can range in time from a weekend, to week, to a month or longer. Some programs work with the individual to create their own personalized retreat while others are very structured and ask the participant to be involved with many activities. Retreats can also be more like vacations.
Whatever your reasons may be to go on a retreat, whether it is to reduce stress, regain balance, deepen your spirituality, have a great vacation or a combination of things, a retreat can be the perfect way to rebalance your life, renew your spirit and live a happier, healthier life.
About the Author: Howard VanEs, M.A. has been studying and practicing yoga for over thirteen years and is a certified yoga teacher teaching in the East Bay area of San Francisco. He is author of “Beginning Yoga: A Practice Manual”, co-creator of the audio CD “Shavasana/Deep Relaxation”. His website is www.letsdoyoga.com.