What does it mean to retreat?

by | Nov 30, 2022

Why do we call it a yoga retreat?

Retreat means – an act of moving back or withdrawing.

If we think about the word retreat outside of a military context we might associate it with a yoga retreat. But have you ever stopped to think why we call it a yoga retreat and not a yoga workshop?

What do we mean when we use the term retreat?

For a lot of people, retreat might be seen as a defeat, failure, to be beaten by the challenge we’re facing.

However, in reality, retreating is choosing to pull back or withdraw from a challenge.

If someone was training for a marathon and they had an injury that meant they couldn’t complete the challenge, would they be withdrawing from the race or defeated?

How we see things makes a huge difference to how we feel about things.

The runner in the example above who withdraws from the race knows that they need to rest and recuperate. They take the opportunity to heal and recover and are likely to be able to attempt the challenge again, better equipped. The alternative runner who pushes through the pain, could exasperate their injury which may result in them not being able to run in the future, even for pleasure.

Yoga Retreat or Workshop?

A yoga retreat is all about taking time out to rest, replenish and recharge.

Where as a yoga workshop gives you space and time to deepen your experience of yoga, to explore certain postures or techniques in more depth.  Workshop are often about challenging yourself and exploring the edges of your understanding and experience of yoga.

Both are valid but it’s great to know the difference and to choose what might be best for you at this moment in time.  Often our mind pushes us to do more where as our body might be desperate to rest.

Which is your tendency?

Do you take time to choose to withdraw from daily challenges or are you more likely to push through until your body says no? Our body takes away the choice we become ill or injured, we’re stopped in our tracks, we can’t work through it, and the only option is rest.

In our society it is more likely that you will push through, culturally in the West retreat is seen as a sign of weakness and frowned upon.

There are so many pressures in life to push on, to keep doing, keep busy. We push through the signals that our body is sending us to take time out. We don’t make time to rest and recuperate, to recharge and resource ourselves, if we did we might be able to face the daily challenges of life afresh.

When was the last time you retreated? Have you admitted to yourself that you can’t or don’t want to keep pushing forward into more and more challenging situations?

I’ve been inspired to write this blog post after reading feedback from a participant of last Sunday’s self-care retreat day. It’s also influenced by watching three episodes of the SAS Rogues drama on BBC, where their moto is We Do Not Stand Down.

We are incredibly fortunate, most of us are unlike to be in a front-line battle but the daily pressures we put on ourselves can make it feel like we are.

We are fortunate to have a choice as to when we rest. But there are strong forces in place that make us feel like we don’t actually have this choice because we don’t have time to rest.  We live in a society that has lost the ability to prioritise time to rest and recharge, we are running on empty, we’re exhausted.

Perhaps, you might like to think about a way you can protect some time this week to make the choice to rest. You might choose to walk somewhere slowly, like my last blog article suggested. You might take time to enjoy reading a book with a cup of tea or sit on the sofa to watch a film, without falling asleep!

If you’re not familiar with taking time out, it is probably easiest to do an activity to help you rest.

If you do take time out to relax regularly, you might like to try a minute or so of not doing anything. Looking out the window, tracing a shape with your finger or feeling the texture of fabric between your hands.  Take time out, and let go of doing something or being a certain way. Rest in the present moment by tuning into your senses.

If you like this idea you can make it a daily practice of one minute a day, you can do it in any environment you feel relaxed in. Look around, listen and touch, pay attention and notice things that instinctively make your body relax.

Yoga class chatting

As Jan’s feedback after the retreat day partly inspired the topic of this blog, you might like to read what she wrote.

“I feel like my body booked this retreat for me as my mind was thinking of a thousand reasons not to do it:- it’s a whole day, I’ll get bored, I can’t afford it.

But I came and it was like a gift to myself, a gift I really needed.

I gave myself space to connect with myself, and my body and deepening my awareness of embodied yoga practice. I learnt to be kinder to myself as I am to others and have compassion for my body when it hurts rather than get angry with it and shut out what it’s saying. Beth is a marvellous teacher, instinctive, knowledgeable, and warm. I learnt a lot and the day flew by.”

When was the last time you listened to your body?

If you did listen, would it ask you to withdraw from the challenges you face, even if it’s only for a brief moment?

Would your body thank you for it?

I’m curious to know how you feel about the value of a tactical retreat, to refresh your supplies and resources. It doesn’t need to be a whole day, there are simple ways we can withdraw every day, without adding more pressure to our lives.

You might like to explore finding ways to withdraw, to be in a pressure-free zone and listen to what your body needs.

Often with awareness, we can make simple shifts in how we feel when we’re doing simple chores. When you’re cleaning the house, can you see it as an act of self-care? Cleaning can be a great way of settling our nervous system as we create an environment that we can enjoy, rather than being in battle with the dirt and mess.

You might like to start by trying one of the simple suggestions above or may prefer to tuning in to sensing what might feel right for you. Changing how you think about daily activities, can help us to feel replenished and can lead to big shifts in how you feel.

Stay connected.
Beth x

p.s to find our when the next retreat day is visit the self-care retreat page 

Yoga retreat tea break

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