Yoga Detox Retreat
It was with great anticipation my friend Hannah and I arrived at the Sequoia Retreat Center in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California.
I often write about expectations and how they can dramatically affect the outcome of an experience.
Hannah and I both looked forward to this yoga retreat and anticipated meeting a group of people with a deep love of yoga. The theme was Refresh Your Soul, and we would spend time together doing what we love. In our minds, the detox part was only a side note, with just a little spring cleaning for our digestive systems.
We started off on the wrong foot by arriving one hour late and missed the group orientation. I had thought we were supposed to arrive between 4:00 and 6:00, but really we needed to arrive at 4:00. I probably shouldn’t mention we had stopped to eat sandwiches as our “last real meal” which ended up making us late.
As we walked into the lodge, the group was seated on the floor in a circle. They were just about to go around the circle and introduce themselves, as well as explain the reason they were attending the retreat.
The first few people began speaking and we quickly realized many of them were there primarily for the detox component of the retreat. After hearing all of the introductions, Hannah and I came to the same conclusion: we were the minority of the group who were only there for yoga.
People talked about being in recovery from their addictions; some being alcohol, drugs or ephedrine. A few women were in recovery for eating disorders, and some people were there because of digestive disorders. They were currently being helped by our leader and host Wendy Sebastian, Colon Therapist.
Our first dinner was a delicious salad of spinach, nuts, strawberries, avocado, and quinoa. Our dinners would be vegan and raw meals and our breakfasts and lunches were to be a special detox juice.
Hannah and I were very satisfied with our first meal, as it was filling and delicious.
Introduction to Meditation
Later, back to our group circle, we went. This time, it was to meet for our 30-minute guided meditation.
It was my first time attempting meditation and I was excited to learn something new. Michelle, our instructor talked with us about our breathing technique, had us get comfortable on cushions, and then we began.
My mind was all over the place and I struggled to follow her words and visualize. My feet fell asleep so I needed to move around. By the end, I was still intrigued with guided meditation but felt unsure if it was for me.
The evening events gave Hannah and I plenty to talk about as we discussed the things we had already learned. And, we hadn’t even begun our yoga practice yet. Meditation was a perfect way to end the day and we went quickly to sleep.
Our day began early with a walk through the towering sequoia trees and a cup of coffee.
Next, it was 30 minutes of guided meditation. I was confused about why we should meditate first thing in the morning when we had just slept all night.
She talked us through it again and only one of my feet fell asleep. My mind seemed much more focused and calm. I walked away from the session and felt much better about meditation.
After meditation, we took a break to drink our special juice from Liquidology, a Sacramento based juice company. Our breakfast juice was a blend of beets and fruit to stimulate our digestion. We also enjoyed mandarins and apple slices.
After we went for a quiet walk through the sequoia groves, we returned to the lodge for our yoga class.
Many of the people in our group had never tried yoga.
Ryan and Jamie from our home yoga studio (Yoga Reclaimed) introduced themselves and talked about the day’s yoga practice. First, they led us in Kirtan, which is telling a story by singing. Then we enjoyed an hour and a half Vinyasa (flow) class.
It was an excellent class and incorporated basic postures to accommodate all students of various levels.
After our yoga practice, it was lunchtime. This meant a different kind of juice, green this time. It was flavorful and satisfying and I only ate a few fruit and vegetables which were set out for us.
Later, our group gathered together for a two-hour presentation on digestive health. Our host Wendy led this discussion. She explained the digestive process with a slide show. She explained how certain foods work better together for digestion than others. It was educational and interesting.
At the end we watched a Ted Talk called a Mosaic Life by Nikki Warren. It inspired us and encouraged us to think about why we make the decisions we do in life.
A Full Evening
After a quick break, we came together with our new friends for another 1.5-hour yoga class. This class was restorative, so we held stretches and postures for much longer. The goal is to release toxins while becoming more limber.
It was sweet at the end when Ryan and Jamie sang together and Jamie played the harmonium.
Some people believe restorative yoga is easier than vinyasa, but I found it a challenge to keep my mind focused enough to hold a posture for a long time.
Photo Courtesy: Wendy Sebastian
Later, our group watched a demonstration in the kitchen by Wendy on how to make a special salad she was serving for dinner. She used the hopper attachment to her Kitchen Aid to shred a variety of vegetables, including beets, zucchini, and daikon.
Once everything was shredded it was added to the salad. It was absolutely delicious topped with guacamole and nuts.
We finished the meal with another juice, but I skipped it because it was watermelon based and I am allergic.
Our quiet time at the end of day two was devoted to another guided meditation with Michelle. This time she taught us about chakras. We learned about how the seven chakras have different spiritual elements throughout our bodies.
As she guided us through our meditation, I felt very comfortable and my mind was clear and focused. I solely focused on her voice and thought about the chakras in my body. My feet didn’t fall asleep and I felt comfortable.
I could see the progress I made with my meditation in just two days. Hannah and I really enjoyed the meditation and the visualization.
Before bed, I spent time with my roommates.
Jenny, a fellow yogi from our studio is a Numerologist. Numerology is a belief and study of how numbers in your birthdate and name have a relationship with your life.
Jenny gave me a reading and it was interesting how spot on she was with the similarities in my life.
We were all very tired and slept so well after our busy day.
It was a beautiful morning in the woods. A group of us enjoyed our coffee on the redwood deck of the lodge. We overlooked a valley and mountains. It was a very relaxing, picturesque spot. We exchanged stories about our lives and I felt thankful and lucky that my story wasn’t traumatic and life-changing like some of the women. They showed such strength by being so open to working hard for change in their lives.
Jennifer led us in our final 30-minute meditation of the retreat. It was my best so far. I sat comfortably the entire time while she taught us mantras to improve our focus.
My mantra was “You are strong, you are happy, you are healthy.” It really opened my eyes to meditation in a positive way.
Later, we enjoyed juice, fruit, and nuts and then went into our hour and a half class of yoga.
I noticed some of the women didn’t make it to our final class. It was too strenuous for them and they were having stomach issues from our detox diet.
Hannah and I loved the class and at the end, Jamie led us in a yoga nidra, which was new to me. It was a more meditative state of yoga with meditation. It’s like being in between sleep and wakefulness. We learned some people practice yoga nidra before going to bed at night.
Yoga Detox Retreat
Before we left our yoga detox retreat at the end of the weekend, we drank one more juice and munched on apples.
Hannah and I said our goodbyes and made our way home.
We discussed our transformation from our arrival late on the first day, to feeling calm, healthy and relaxed at the end of the weekend. It was a learning experience and I would love to try another yoga retreat one day. I think a retreat on the beach, with a lot more yoga, would be perfect.