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How a yoga retreat changed my life

by Joana Veiga Ferreira

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At the end of 2016, I found myself in a pretty low state. My relationship of 7 years had fallen apart, I was living on my own for the first time, and I had a job that was so stressful it completely took over my life. 9-5 was non-existent in my world, I worked long hours, tight deadlines, stressful situations and always felt like I needed more time, more help, more information, more staff.

It isn’t in my nature to complain or to open up to people about how I’m feeling, and being very ambitious I also didn’t want to bring my personal life into my work for fear of being seen as ‘weak’. So I never told anyone what I was going through or even asked for time off. I just kept going, kept pushing myself even harder.

At the same time, the hard work seemed to be paying off. I got a big promotion, I got constant positive feedback and from an external point of view, things seemed to be going well. But I knew I was pushing myself too hard, and I needed to slow down.

And that’s where the yoga retreat came in. I had recently taken an interest in yoga and had started practicing regularly. What was once just an ‘easy type of exercise’ had become a lifestyle and I had started to understand how yoga can make you feel. But could I really go on a yoga retreat and just do yoga full time for a week? The idea seemed a bit extreme and going on my own was daunting.

I researched BookYogaRetreats.com and found the perfect retreat in the Austrian Alps. What could be better than waking up in the morning, surrounded by snowy mountains and have nothing to do that day other than practice yoga and meditate? I booked it almost immediately.

yoga retreat in the alps

Daily group hiking.

It turns out the other 7 guests were also traveling on their own and also new to the world of yoga retreats – I had nothing to worry about! The week in the Alps was life-altering in ways I hadn’t even considered when booking. I thought I was going there to get better at yoga, but it turned into a kind of week-long therapy session that changed my outlook on life and on myself.

Both the yoga instructor and the Ayurveda specialist had previous high powered careers that they had given up in order to follow their passions. And a couple of the other guests were in the process of doing the same. It suddenly dawned on me that being good at your job doesn’t mean it’s the right job for you. Getting promoted doesn’t mean it’s the right job for you. I had other options in life and I could take control of my work-life balance. Sounds obvious now when I say it, but at the time it took me by surprise.

joana hiking in the alps

Just after a daily 2-hour hike in the mountains.

The retreat kick-started a new way of thinking for me. I spent a week surrounded by wonderful people, waking up to a morning yoga class followed by an ayurvedic breakfast and a 2-hour hike in the mountains.

After lunch, there was time to rest and recover before an afternoon Ayurveda workshop and a slow evening yoga session.

Dinners were spent chatting at the table and getting to know each other, and by the time my head hit the pillow in the evenings I was fast asleep – instead of my usual insomniac nights spent making lists in my head and worrying about everything there is to worry about. I made friends for life and learned more about myself than I expected to. Oh, and did I mention there is an outdoor hot tub? Imagine relaxing in a hot tub while staring at the snowy mountains… pure bliss!

outdoor hot tub in snow

The outdoor hot tub.

The change that was sparked during my retreat didn’t fade after coming back, but it began a year-long journey. 2017 was a year of reflection, planning, and looking inward to figure out what I wanted to do next.

I kept up my yoga practice and took up hot yoga too which, for me, has been the best type of yoga so far. I made new friends and met people who had gone through similar experiences and who gave me the strength to let go of the fear of change and to follow my passions, even when you have no guarantee of what’ll happen next.

By the end of the year, I took the plunge; I gave up the full-time, high paying job! Not only that, but I decided to take a whole 2 months off for myself before embarking on a new career. And the new career is me being self-employed and working on my own terms, in my own time, and not being constrained to the pressures of a corporate environment. 

women doing yoga in mountains

What lies ahead? I have no idea! But I know myself better than I did a year ago, and I know I’ll work just as hard as I always have, only this time with a lot more positivity and a lot less stress.

I love what I do and I know I’m good at it, the rest will come in time. If yoga has taught me anything it’s that we need to slow down. As my yoga instructor always says ‘force meets force’ but if you focus on your breath and move slowly, you will get where you need to be.

So for anyone who is going through a tough period in their lives, or going through a time of change and turmoil and stress, I say give yourself the gift of a yoga retreat. Find the right one for you, and don’t be afraid.

You don’t need to be an advanced yogi to enjoy what yoga has to offer, and knowing that you have nothing to do that day other than just be is the best medicine of all!

Looking for a restart of your own? A yoga retreat in nature is just what you need for a new beginning. 

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