I’ve always wanted to participate in a yoga retreat. I’ve looked at the Kripalu magazine over the years to see what kinds of things were offered, but nothing really came calling to me. I’d always put it aside and think, “some other time.”
This year, I had an opportunity to participate in a retreat called Enlighten Asheville. The host, Rachel Sheffield, was starting her dream business and I decided that this would be my first experience. The price was right, the itinerary was really compelling, and I really needed a few days to myself.
The short story is that for my very first yoga retreat, it will be hard to top this experience. But you’re not reading this for the short story.
My expectations for this retreat experience were thus:
- Get away for a few days
- Enjoy some peace and solitude
- Meet a few new people
- Participate in some yoga classes
- Take a great hike
- Soak in the hot tub for a bit.
Let’s just say, the event was all that and more.
When I arrived at the Dillsboro Inn, this was the view that captivated me.
Sitting in the rocking chair, watching the Tuckasegee River flow was a highlight for me. The setting is visually spectacular, captivates all of the senses, and helps you to experience your brain and body in a new space. It almost beckons you to interact with it in some way.
When I arrived, I decided to start sketching.
Our host Rachel, sporting a beautiful belly bump. She really knows how to facilitate a beautiful experience.
Rachel understood our need to connect with ourselves and with other like-minded souls. She was an attentive and caring host whose passion was to provide an experience that was deeply satisfying. She was the definition of an “Earth Mother”: steady, calm, strong, and a supportive guide that appreciated where we were in our life journey. She provided the backdrop for gentle challenge and gave us the space to achieve our next level of engagement.
Whenever I could, I sat quietly in the rocking chair on the patio and wrote in the journal Rachel provided as a welcome gift. There was something about the peace of the rushing river that sparked my creative juices.
I will say that this retreat experience was perfect for people who want to detach for a moment from their regular routine, breathe some different air, and experience themselves in the openness of the natural world. It is also best for people with some level of fitness, because the movement activities were both physically and mentally challenging. You have to be ready to look at yourself in the mirror and bring your best effort. There is an unstated goal of occasionally being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Although, that may have been stated once or twice.
Our first full day, after yoga and breakfast, included a gorgeous hike on a local trail. I couldn’t tell you where it was other than in the mountains, but it was worth the long, winding trek to get there. Going down was challenging (thankful for the massive walking stick I found). Going up, let’s just say I was sucking some wind and my thighs needed the post-hike massage I got. My Garmin watch was working overtime, for sure.
Throughout the experience, there was an understanding that we could pick and choose what we wanted to be a part of. If HIIT Pilates was not your thing, you could walk into town or sit by the river and meditate. We were free to engage in everything or find our space to breathe and explore. There was no judgment or pressure to do anything we weren’t prepared to do, but we were encouraged and cheered on when we stepped out of your comfort zone. Case in point:
I drummed up the courage to do my first cold-water plunge. Made my heart race, and I had to face some anxiety, but ultimately I did go back for more. I was very thankful for the hot tub.
Included in the experience were sessions in breath work, yoga and Pilates-style fitness, stone wrapping, a sound bath experience, a 90-minute massage, a challenging hike to a beautiful waterfall, and nighttime singalongs by the fire. Breakfast and dinner were artfully crafted by chef Andrew (Rachel’s lovely and talented husband who, once upon a time, cheffed at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans); each gourmet meal was deliciously satisfying. To be honest, I never even thought about lunch, even though I could have easily walked into town to grab something at one of the local restaurants. Full disclosure: on two occasions, lunch was chocolate from the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. Sorry, not sorry.
The accommodations at the rustic Dillsboro Inn were comfortable, clean and a short walk into town. It was an exercise in minimalism, but I got a great night sleep in a comfortable bed and had a beautiful view of the river from our room’s balcony. The innkeeper, TJ, provided snacks in the room, which had a full kitchen to prepare whatever we wanted if we chose to bring provisions.
All in all, the Enlighten Asheville retreat exceeded all of my expectations. My goal was to have an active, yet relaxing mini-vacation where I could detach a bit from my hectic reality and practice some much-needed self-care. From the moment I arrived to the time I had to leave, I was able to immerse myself in many activities that helped me achieve that goal.
Whether you are an seasoned yogi, or want to experience your first yoga retreat, Enlighten Asheville is something special that you might want to consider. I will certainly be returning next year for round two.
To learn more about Rachel and the wellness services she provides, visit her website Enlighten Asheville.
One thought on “My first yoga retreat”
Looks like you had a good time.