Our First Yoga Retreat in the Beautiful Dubrovnik, Croatia
It was a week of bliss. It was a week of tears, release, healing, love, and sisterhood. Nineteen women came together in an old pre-war house turned hotel, to celebrate the simple act of being women, under the Mediterranean sun and Adriatic sea.
It was my first ever yoga retreat that I would be co-hosting, in a country of my birth, with my mom, in a community of amazing women - whom I know and don't. It was a tall order, sister! But I knew that being in this company would take me to a new level of experience in my yoga teaching. But I certainly didn't do it just for yoga! No. I simply couldn't come up with a reason why not to lead the retreat. This is what I told Kendell, my goddess of a co-host, when she suggested we go to Croatia. I kept thinking - why not? And when no answer came to the alternative, I knew it was time to go.
We stayed in an old aristocratic house, right across the street from the city harbor, where you could hear the loud boat horns early in the morning as they headed out to sea. There are many old aristocratic homes in Dubrovnik - with their old stone walls and rich histories. Many of them are now hotels, inviting guests in to their rich antiquity. Our week-long stay here, at Hotel Kazbek, was a breathtaking setting for enjoying the summer vibes and each other's company.
I could go on and on about what we did and what we saw in Old Town and throughout Dubrovnik, but this post is more about what happened between those touristic moments. The real retreat. It was in the small talk with a couple of women, where you begin to realize that you have more in common with perfect strangers than you ever realized. It was in the simple moments of surrender on the beach or by the ice cream bar in the city, where you get to glimpse a small speck of vulnerability in each other, and where you begin to confide secrets, dreams, longings, and triggers, as if this person will hold your space like a little bit of holy water in their palms. And they will. And they do.
It's in my favorite moment - seeing my mom walk up to the pews in a small island church, and kneel down to pray. And I wrote -
Mom. Praying. In an old island church, where the holy water is in tupperware and Spirit is everywhere.
It was in the wild and euphoric dancing on the boat, as we're taken out onto the sea and its many surrounding islands, where you forget where you are, and you dance the day away with women who are just now coming into their bodies, and celebrating each and every movement. It was truly humbling to see shyness fall by the wayside, and this confident "I just don't care who sees" mentality come through. Yes, girl! More of that! It was in the late night talks about the Universe and our divine place in it that made every day here ever so magical, because it made you believe that you were seeped in the pixie dust of the stars (and you are).
And it was the sea. It's where I recharged my batteries; thought about my grandpa diving down deep to the bottom to collect sea shells with mom, when she was younger. The water is so clear, but yet so dark and blue and green and inviting and cleansing. It's where my mom felt at home, and it's where I felt at home watching her find herself again. The sea became the undercurrent of our activities, and the undercurrent of our emotions, as they bubbled up and rose, and then crashed into sweet surrender, like waves on the rocks.
Teaching yoga and meditation on a retreat is one thing. It's one thing that I adore doing, because you never know who will show up and teach you. I was blessed to have been able to share a writing workshop during our time together, and I focused on the practice of journaling. Honestly, I didn't think anyone would come. Writing is such a black-and-white thing: you either like it or you don't. I wanted to reach out to the women who had an aversion to writing, and see what about it made it such a practice of frustration. It was truly for my own education, as well. But the group who did show up, showed up hard! And it was beautiful to witness them write in their journals, fight with their words, meet with their emotions, and then share that openly with the group. It was the first time that I saw the act of writing - something I do in such isolation with myself - and witness it unfold before me in community, exposed and stripped down to its bare bones. That's the kind of writing that lights me up. The kind that can be shared and dipped into, until it creates a ripple for everyone else to grab a hold of.
As the week dwindled down to the very last day, I wrote this:
I love this view.
I fucking love the laundry people put out of their windows.
I love the broken English and the way my tongue trips over my own language.
I love the way receiving a poured glass of water from the waiter feels like a blessing I deserve and receive without guilt.
I love the way people brush up against each other, and how the sweat couples in beads on my chest.
And I love how a “ćao” brings me back to my people, my home, my roots, my start.
Before I left for this trip, I had a Reiki session with a magical teacher, who told me that I needed to go back. Go back. Thinking it was my favorite bench in a park close to my home, I went there to sit and meditate. But no. After I took the above picture and jotted down the lines of feelings I had at the moment, I realized that home was there. Croatia. That alley. That hotel. That patch of pebbles next to the water. That church where I prayed alongside my mom. That closing circle of women, where I came into my own, unapologetically, and where I made connections that will enrich me for a lifetime.
That was what I needed to go back to. As if I never left.