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My Perpetual Unfolding: Yoga Weekend

On Labor Day weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to go on a yoga retreat in Yachats Oregon. The retreat was hosted by my good friend Alison Alstrom at the quaint Yachats Inn.

Yoga Retreat Yachats, Oregon

The retreat occurred on Saturday and Sunday and consisted of two guided morning meditations, and two, 2.5-hour yoga practices per day. The yoga sessions each had a single focus, and across the four, Alison selected hip openers, back bends, arm balances, and a spinal twist surrender series.

I talked about this yoga retreat here on the blog last year, but my schedule wasn’t open that weekend. This year, I scooped up a spot as quickly as I could!

Alison teaches an Anusara-inspired style that focuses heavily on correct alignment, and it is a much slower and more subtle style of yoga than the power yoga that I teach and often practice. It was really wonderful to practice at this change of pace in this coastal setting.

Oddly enough, I know Alison from outside of yoga. In my previous life, I worked with her husband at an insurance company. I first met her about 4 years ago at the company Christmas party. We discussed yoga and politics. I eventually found my way to her 3-hour-long Sunday Practice, which was really instrumental in deepening my own yoga practice and directing me to my current path in life.

Why A Yoga Retreat?

The people who attended the yoga retreat gave many reasons for being there. Some of us were there simply because spending Labor Day weekend on the Oregon coast is awesome! All of us were looking to practice our yoga while being led by a fantastic teacher. A couple of people were dragged to it by their significant others.

One mother and daughter, living in California and Seattle, wanted to spend a weekend together, and thought that meeting somewhere in the middle would work for them. They just happened to find a yoga retreat advertised online.

Our group included participants of all levels, from beginners to fellow teachers, all looking to deepen our practice with a weekend of concentrated yoga, away from the distractions of our regular lives.

I guess that is the main reason for going on a yoga retreat: to escape the usual things that might be cluttering your mind and preventing you from exploring other aspects of your person that are important to you.

The Yoga Retreat

First of all, my room at the inn was absolutely amazing! I don’t know how I wound up with such a great room, but it might have had something to do with reserving it over a month in advance. I stayed in the south facing #15. I could step out on the back deck of the room and literally see the ocean. Check out the pic below.

Yachats Inn Room15

Actually, I didn’t even need to step outside. I could lay in bed and see the ocean…

Yachats Room15

I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect weekend to do yoga, reflect on life with a wonderful view of the ocean, explore a little coastal village, and do some hiking too!

Set Your Intention

Sometimes one sets an intention at the beginning of a yoga practice. Setting intention is not quite the same as goal making. Setting intention is a practice that is focused on how you are “being” in the present moment. As Alison put it, setting an intention involves “acceptance of your isness.” Often, our minds are distracted by all of our desires and responsibilities. When we work to focus our attention on the “now,” we can set intentions based on what currently matters most to us and make a commitment to align our worldly actions with our inner values.

Through yoga and meditation, we strive for the ability to act from our intentions. The practice is ongoing, and this is the truer purpose of yoga, rather than just striving for strength and flexibility. You don’t just set your intentions and then forget about them. You try live them every day.

My main intention set for myself during this weekend, aside from experiencing the yoga, was to witness Alison’s teaching style and see what I could take away that would improve my own teaching. Her approach is really narrative, wound full of stories and fables that draw practical, metaphorical connections to our present situations.

In my own classes, I like to draw parallels between the challenges and feelings that happen in class and the difficulties and triumphs that we experience in life. To build upon this I recently ordered the book Myths of the Asanas: The Ancient Origins of Yoga to help expand my yoga-related storytelling abilities. With a little practice and time, I would love to draw more analogies between mythical stories and yoga poses and how we might be feeling in any one of them.

Expanding Your Practice

A good yoga teacher is able to set their students up for success. Maybe this is why I’ve been drawn to this particular yoga retreat among all the possibilities for yoga in the Portland area. With Alison’s guidance, I have always been able to take my own practice a little farther than where it had previously been.

My moment of triumph at this retreat came during the arm balancing portion. I have always taken to arm balances fairly quickly, due in large part to upper body strength. However, there is a lot more involved than having strength. It’s crucial to open up other areas of the body in preparation for more advanced poses.

After opening the hips in Saturday’s early session, and the proper suggestions from Alison that I mentally connected with and understood, I was able to reach my fullest expressions of Eka Pada Koundinyasana I & II. This pose is also called Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I & II, or one-legged arm balance. I’m usually too tight in the hips and hamstrings to extend the forward leg completely straight, but on this day I was triumphant!

Yachats, Oregon

One of the things that I liked best about Yachats, is that unlike many coastal towns, this one does not seem overly touristy. It has a really laid back and casual vibe. Despite the holiday weekend, there did not seem to be people all over the place looking for some form of entertainment. It was not crowded, which is a plus in my book.

It’s a great place to smell the sea in the air, gaze out over the ocean, hear the sound of the surf, and be at peace.

Where to eat in Yachats

While in Yachats, I’m sure that you’ll eventually get hungry. Here are a couple of places that I really enjoyed.

The Drift Inn Historic Pub and Cafe – My favorite place to eat in Yachats is the Drift Inn. This place reminded me of many of the fantastic brew pubs found throughout Portland. They had plenty of craft beers on tap and had live music. The food was excellent, and they had plenty of vegetarian choices. I’m not vegetarian, but lots of yogis are.

The Green Salmon – I admit, when it comes to coffee, sometimes I’m a real snob. It’s just a result of living in Portland and having really great coffee places on practically every corner. Often when I travel, I feel that I have a hard time finding a place that lives up to my high expectations. The Green Salmon was a real treat to discover. Their quality of caffeinated beverage selection is equal to any place I’ve been in Portland, and might even exceed some of them. Plan on eating lunch here as well. You won’t regret it!

Heidi’s Homemade Food & Italian Specialties – I almost never eat pasta. In fact, before eating here in Yachats, I couldn’t even remember the last time that I had done so. Still, sometimes it’s good to splurge a little while you are traveling. I had traditional spaghetti and meatballs, and it was exactly what I had hoped for. Heidi even served us herself. The place is very small, quaint, and friendly.

Cape Perpetua

Before heading back to Portland on Monday, I drove a couple miles south of Yachats to explore Cape Perpetua. There are quite a few nice hikes around here, but after having completed a weekend of intensive yoga, I decided on something easy just to take in the fresh air and enjoy the coast a bit more.

Whispering Spruce Trail

About 800 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the Whispering Spruce Trail is a half mile loop with views from a historic viewing shelter built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This trail provides exceptional views of the Oregon coastline, forest, and of Yachats.

I was lucky enough to have nearly perfect weather for this magnificent view.

Whispering Spruce Trail

Captain Cook Trail

This nice little trail begins near the visitor center and leads past an old CCC camp, and down toward some very lively tide pools. Watch for sneaker waves, and ask about the tide schedule while at the visitor center.

Cape Perpetua Tide Pools

There is an abundance of life to be witnessed down among the volcanic rock. With the sound of the ocean crashing a short distance away, you can peer down and discover sea stars, urchins, and anemones.

Tide Pools at Cape Perpetua

Newport, Oregon

On the way home, I stopped in Newport, Oregon to visit the Rogue Brewery to have lunch and have a beer. Rogue is one of my favorite Oregon craft makers of beer, and I just couldn’t resist.

Of course after having a beer, I wanted and needed to spend an hour or so walking around the historic bayfront, so that I would be OK to finish the drive. Fittingly, I came across a bunch of sea lions who where chanting their ohms, and practicing various yoga poses.

Pit Stop Tillamook

As I continued north up the Oregon coast on my return trip to Portland, I decided to make one more pit stop. Tillamook seemed like as good a spot as any.

Now, if you ever get a chance to stop into the Tillamook Cheese Factory, you will have the opportunity to have the freshest, creamiest, exorbitant selection of ice cream flavors that you might ever come across. This ice cream is so fresh and has never been deep frozen.

I rationalized having this treat with the 10 hours of yoga that I did this weekend. Just don’t tell the people that go to my bootcamp that I indulged in such deliciousness!

Tillamook Ice Cream

I rather enjoyed this yoga retreat that was relatively close to home. It was nice taking a sort of mini vacation without all of the complications that traveling really far from home often entail.

I’m curious about any yoga retreats that you may have been on. Have you been to more exotic locales such as Mexico, India, or Bali? I’d love to hear about your stories in the comments below. Who knows, maybe you’ll plant the seed for my next yoga adventure.

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