I still remember the early mornings with meditation and yoga practice, delicious breakfast at Karakas, evenings playing the guitar, day escapes to Komiza in Croatia. How did you feel when you came back home and had to readjust to your usual daily routine? Did you experience any change? Has anything shifted within you, affecting your life?
The main intention of any yoga teacher is to be a guiding sparkle. I feel blessed to have received the same sparkle, through the knowledge and practical philosophy of yoga, which has turned my life into an adventurous inner and outer journey.
I vividly remember my first retreat. I was only 17. Things were different back then, in the 80’s. On a global (market) level, yoga was still a marginal activity, a loner’s practice; but those who practiced it were 100% devoted and dedicated to it.
My yoga teacher actually suggested that I should stay alone for a week on an island called Unije to the northwest of the Croatian Adriatic, far at the open sea – you can even see Italy on a clear day. Before the Second World War, there were villages on the island, people living there and growing food. But later on, most of the population moved away, mainly to the USA. Even today, the island is not that known, as it is very small – one of 1,000 islands in the Croatian Adriatic Sea.
Unije means “Union.” Interesting enough, at that time the boat with supplies would come once every other week. There were no cars and there were very few, if any, people living there during the winter. My yoga teacher at that time, who used to spend many months there, recommended me to come and be there alone, as a solo retreat. How little I knew then about the strong and long-lasting effects of such an experience. I had read a few books on yoga and I was fascinated by yogis and yoginis living in caves. At the age of 17, I was already fully convinced that yoga is my path and nothing could hold me back. I knew I would do whatever was needed to become an enlightened yogini. I wanted to be alone for a week, with the consent of my parents, of course, who trusted me enough that I could actually do that.
It was such a strong experience for a 17 years old teenager. Finding food (luckily there were lots of fruit trees and wild vegetables growing there), being alone throughout the day, using most of the day, disciplined as I was, to practice yoga and meditation. After only two days, wonderful experiences started to occur. I felt my hair was the same as the wheat fields surrounding me, my limbs were like branches of trees, my face was as the blue open sky. I remember being naked most of the day (nope, no one around), I felt freedom never experienced before.
I remember running through the green fields, screaming of joy and blissful happiness. My instincts were sharp, my sense of smell so strong. I recall the smell of asparagus and plums. I remember nights full of falling stars, where the sky was like a cosmic mother’s womb surrounding me and kissing my forehead, entering my being with the gentlest voice calling me home. I remember the fear one night during a thunderstorm when thunders felt like scary demons dancing and laughing, showing me a different side to existence and the universe.
Coming back home, to Zagreb, I had realized that I have changed. I noticed an amazingly refreshing feeling living inside of me, I felt stronger, happier, enthusiastic and optimistic. I felt different. This unique retreat experience lasted only for a week, but it still lives inside me. It is here, now, within. As vivid and real today as when experienced. It is a resource to tap into, whenever I feel blue or need immense strength.
After that experience, I knew, and I promised myself, that one day I would live close to the Adriatic Islands, the source of rejuvenation and elixir of mystic experiences. Zagreb seemed so far away from my dreamland... But life took me much further to the north, so I traveled the world, lived for many years in Norway and other countries. I thought I will never return home, to Zagreb, and the probability to live by the Adriatic coast was close to zero. I was closest to living my dream when I moved to Barcelona, Spain, and I thought that is it...
But you see, our initial dreams work their way eventually. One strong intention never loses its initial power. It is only a question of time before the right moment arises and the intention from the past suddenly takes real shape. Though my mind was shaped by academic studies and scientific approach, my deeper self laughed and ran naked in the green fields of Unije, and that part of me still believed in the mystery of life.
It took over 20 years, but I live on the Croatian Adriatic coast today. Life circumstances, we call it. A journey, a coincidence, and of course, love are the magic ingredients needed for any quantum leap of faith.
I teach at yoga retreats on Croatian Islands, sharing the benefits of yoga but also allowing enough silence, space and respect for retreat participants to discover their own inner journey and dive into the intimacy of their own being, finding layers of themselves, in the safe and beautiful environment.
Life is a beautiful gift, and yoga retreats are like a lake of remembrance; once you bathe in it, you remember your deepest wishes and the power of intention for your life you are able to create. In the age of multitasking and continuous outward-attention stimuli, a retreat is a ritual of remembrance that collectively keeps the spirit alive and awake.
My wish is for everyone to come across a good retreat that does not compromise and feed the mind with what is ordinary and already known. Instead, the retreat should throw you into the arms of your inner being and whisper the loving song of your deepest purpose.
You too can experience a life-changing yoga retreat in over 250 destinations worldwide, guaranteed to give you a deeper sense and remind you of your higher purpose. Find out more about Lea and her work on her website, Samvid Yoga.