Experiment 2: Survive and Thrive

On January 5 I left for Koh Phangan in Thailand. The reason for my journey was to attend a two week yoga and meditation retreat run by Pure Flow Yoga. There were a couple of reasons for choosing this as an experiment. The first reason is that I have never done yoga before. I had dabbled in meditation but I would argue my practice was sporadic. In terms of the yoga I did one session in Rishikesh when I was backpacking 20 years ago but rather than focus on breathing and asanas I focused on what I would eat at the end of the session. I am a runner and the motivation to stretch is hard enough as it is let alone attending a 90 minute yoga class. So doing 3 hours of yoga a day plus 90 minutes of workshops each day over 10 days was always going to be a stretch (pun intended!). Completing 90 minutes of meditation a day across 2 sessions was also going to challenge me.

Why would it be a challenge? 2 weeks in a beautiful environment, how could that be a challenge. When I booked the retreat I had the option of doing 1 week or 2 weeks. I chose the two week option. I knew I could survive one week but two weeks was always going to be a stretch. What if I didn’t enjoy it? What if I wasn’t getting the benefit out of it. What if the people were a bit too spiritual? (I have never been spiritual nor religious for that matter) What if I looked incompetent? What if they said they catered for beginners but didn’t? I knew I could manage one week but 2 weeks was always going to stretch me.

After the first yoga session on Day 1 I struggled. It was a flow that I struggled to keep up with and I must have looked at my watch 5 – 6 times. For the life of me I couldn’t see how Down Dog was resting pose. Finally when we hit the last resting pose (Shavasana) all I could think about was that I had completed 5% of the two week program. I was envious of those who had chosen the one week retreat.

Over the rest of the week I continued to struggle but could start to see the benefits. I survived the first week. I kept showing up.

I should say that the people I met on the retreat were simply wonderful and a big part of why I survived week 1. I felt part of a beautiful community of people who were kind and supportive not just of me but of everyone.

During all of my experiments I want to embody what I talk about with my clients. In this case applying a growth mindset to the 2 weeks. In adopting a growth mindset I knew that I would feel clunky, that I needed to show up and provide effort and progress was going to take time.

In week 2 the magic happened and I started to thrive. I enjoyed the sessions more, I was able to get my breathing under control, I could see my progress and I was able to stay in poses for much longer. I noticed that I looked at my watch less if at all. I even started to enjoy Down Dog as a resting pose.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have to use all the pillow and blocks to help me with many poses. A lifetime of inflexibility and sitting at a desk will do that. But I was super proud of where I got to. So much so that I have completed a 15 minute home yoga practice every day since I left the retreat. I have also joined a local yoga studio.


So what did I learn from my experiment?

  • Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you. Find givers not takers. This was a big one for me. I work with groups but being a part of a group that was so inclusive and kind brought out the best in me. It made me realise that I want to spend more time with people who are kind and thoughtful and to embody more of that myself.
  • Keep showing up. Making progress on change that matters is hard work but showing up is half the battle. It would have been easy for me to skip a session or two and it wouldn’t have mattered but ultimately it mattered to me. I didn’t miss a session, I showed up and I felt good about that.
  • When you are making change you will feel clunky and a little incompetent. It’s natural to feel that way. Adopt a growth mindset and focus on purposeful practice. The key to growth is learning and application. We all start somewhere and who knows, I might even do the splits one day…one day…
  • The simple notion of gratitude and intention. I loved these concepts. I had seen both before but never gave them much attention. This time I could see the importance of both. Thinking about what I am grateful for is a concept I will continue to embody. Thinking about my intention for the day helps me focus on what’s important and to stay present, mindful and still in a life that can be incredibly busy. I journal every day and this has formed part of my writing.

For those who are interested in a yoga and meditation retreat meeting wonderful people with awesome teachers then I highly recommend Pure Flow Yoga. Contact them at www.pureflow.yoga

You never know you might see me there again!

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