Up until this MLK weekend, I'd never been on a yoga retreat. To be honest, I had always been afraid of going on one. The silence, the meatless meals, the sweat-inducing meditation were always downright intimidating.
This New Year however, I decided to invite my curiosity into the driver's seat and soon found myself on an adventure to remember in Guadaloupe.
One of my good friends had it on her radar and it didn't take much to convince me to hop on board - the French Caribbean in the middle of winter? Sign me up. It also happened to be lead by one of the most enlightened yoga teachers I have ever worked with, Karine Plantadit and her partner in crime Mochi Camaya. Sold.
I joined 7 other 'explorers' on an island adventure in the French Caribbean. And it was incredible.
Arriving in the evening of a very convenient (and affordable direct flight from JFK), we all pilled into a small van/bus and took to the winding roads to Petite-Anse, a small, but perfectly positioned establishment that we would call home for the weekend. We acquainted ourselves, enjoyed a delicious meal of ratatouille and spinach pie (Guadaloupe's cuisine is very much inspired by its French connection, but has a refreshing Island flair as well). We then came to our mats for a brief, post-plane practice and meditation. We were asked to pick a word that would set the intention for the weekend. No pressure.
I toggled between 'ridding my brain of unhelpful and frenetic thoughts', 'being open and non-judgmental' and finally settled on a simple concept, to 'listen'. Turns out, a yoga retreat in Guadaloupe is the perfect place to do this.
We started our days on our mats at 6:15 AM and went into a light breakfast by the ocean. We conducted this part of the day in silence and as intimidating as it was initially, when I was in it, it was actually really nice. I found it opened up your senses. It allowed me to listen not to words, but to people's body language - of which I have increasingly been fascinated by. To listen to the island the pushing of the waves, the intermittent, but consistent chirping of birds and critters and the filtering of the breeze through the leaves on the trees.
During the day we galavanted around the island, visiting natural hot springs, a cove, the rain forest and a few beaches. We enjoyed local treats like coconut sorbet and beach side beignets. We were even lucky enough to walk through the Carnaval in St. Anne.
We rounded off our days with a sunset yoga practice and lecture.
Though the retreat was short, it carried great effect for me. It was an opportunity to really open up, to not judge, to meditate, to listen and to feel present. I came back feeling I had created space for me to breathe and to act based on choice, not reaction.
Of course, this was all tested as soon as I returned to NYC and hopped in a cab - but even then I think I fared better than I would have before the weekend started.
I would recommend an adventure in Guadaloupe for anyone. Whether you are going for a yoga retreat, or just a bit of space, Guadaloupe is exquisite and ready for you.