Ten Takeaways From My First Yoga Retreat

By Dagmar Spremberg on 04 March 2024


A guest post written by Emily Bradbury

  1. What a gift to just be. I’m so rarely just being in life. I’m always doing. All the “shoulds” and the “have to’s” fill my days, my weeks, my years. My work, my children, my health, my parents, my home. Sometimes it feels like an endless to-do list. This week, I could just BE. Do yoga when I felt like yoga. Sleep when I was tired. Surf when I was energetic. Swim when I was hot. Write when I felt creative. Sit and watch the sunrise when I felt quiet.
  1. Yoga, meditation, and breathing work. I’m analytical. I like to read, to learn. I believe all the experts who tell me that meditation and yoga are a path to a happier, calmer life. But it often falls to the bottom of a long list of priorities and seems like an optional add-on. It’s not. It’s the center and the key to releasing myself from my incessantly looping mind. Dagmar said this week that we have an average of 90,000 thoughts a day. 80 percent of those are negative. And those are the ones we play on repeat. Breath, meditation, and movement are the antidote.
  1. Reconnecting to intuition. It’s always been hard for me to change, especially if big decision-making is involved. Safety and security outweigh the risk of acting on that little voice that says it’s time for something new. And that little voice is so easy to ignore amidst all the noise of the world. But a week alone, with encouragement to not only listen to that little spark but to fan its flames, to bring it to life with courage and excitement, creates the space to tap back into intuition. And when you can see your own North star, making changes toward that direction feels possible. 
  1. You do not have to be a yogi to do yoga. I’ve done some yoga. I’m comfortable on the mat and know what the teacher is talking about when she says, Let’s all meet in downward dog. But I consider myself more a “person with extremely tight hamstrings” than a yogi. Some women there were yoga teachers, others had literally never done yoga at all. It didn’t matter one bit. Under the skillful guidance of our teacher, Dagmar, every single person fully experienced the benefits…whether they spent the entire class in savasana or attempted their first tripod headstand. 
  1. The beauty of strangers. I was curious who else would be on a yoga retreat and if they would feel like “my people.” On the second day, a woman told the group that the reason she was having such a hard time with her recently empty nest was because her son had been depressed and suicidal during Covid. She had slept on his floor for weeks, sick with worry. I felt so deeply for her. Tears were streaming down my face. And then we all got up and went to lunch. How incredible and freeing to share so honestly, to listen with empathy, but not to hold responsibility for each other. 
  1. Margaritas are fun. I didn’t really come with any specific intention around food, other than to enjoy the fresh tropical fruit, organic salads, and local fish. I didn’t even realize until I got here that everything was gluten and dairy free. I few other women were doing a “clean week,” with no alcohol and I thought, why not? But then we went to beach for sunset and the restaurant had a spicy passionfruit margarita on the menu. I had two. So did most everyone else (except those drinking sangria). We laughed and got to know each other differently. It was fun. And fun is just as important to health as salad.
  1. Movement is freeing. When Dagmar said we were going to start the workshop with a little dancing, my brain yelled…skip that! But I went, closed my eyes, and did my best to just move with the music (in the middle of the day, among complete strangers, btw) and it was so freeing! My brain yelled something new about halfway through…No more being small. Time to take up space and have some fun! 
  1. When in doubt, look to nature. I’ve been nerding out with a friend from home on all the “new” science around red light therapy, which basically mimics the first light of morning sun. I woke up my first morning at sunrise and rushed out to soak it all up. Guess who beat me to it? The hotel’s resident cat, Onyx, who stayed for about 20 minutes until the sun got too intense and then sauntered off to find the shade. Nature knows the answers science is just beginning to unlock.
  1. Do the thing that scares challenges you. I’m terrified of jumping off high rocks into water. After hearing about a couple in their 70s who jumped from the top of the 12-foot waterfall in Montezuma I was like, okay girl, let’s do this. I decided to hike up to the waterfall from town, which was much more challenging than I remembered. And I got a little lost. At one point, I was literally holding onto a rope that looked quite old and unreliable while lowering myself down a rocky ledge. In my bathing suit. In the jungle. By myself. I didn’t even look over the top of the waterfall when I finally got there. I felt challenged…I don’t need to feel scared. Maybe I’ll jump another time. Maybe not.
  1. It’s nice to be (almost) 50. The women at the retreat ranged from age 31 to 69. I’m 49. Fifty feels like a milestone, like I’m about to turn the page on a new chapter. Spending time with women both younger and older than me who were willing to share their experiences, their fears, and what they’ve learned about life was fascinating and inspiring. Couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary can jump off the waterfall. Women close to 70 can be salsa dancers. Women in their thirties can be soulful and wise. Women at 49 (me) can book the nicest room at the hotel just for themselves. 

Perhaps one of my favorite quotes of the week came from a woman in her sixties sitting by the pool. Are you going to the workshop? I asked her. No, she said, I’m 61. I’ve done the work. I’m going to read.”


>> Inspired to go on a retreat? Please visit my retreat pages for upcoming retreats in Costa Rica or Mallorca. Leave your email in the newsletter box or click here to receive your FREE 3 part Jungle Yoga Video series and be the first to find out about upcoming events and yoga retreats.

By Dagmar Spremberg on March 4, 2024 / /

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