In a new article for GoNomad.com, three women share their experiences on Yoga-themed retreats and tours which have taken them to locations like Guatemala, Bali, and India to practice their yoga. Patricia Lee Lewis, who runs writing workshops at Patchwork Farm in western Massachusetts, shares why she decided to start leading international retreats which combine her creative writing with yoga sessions in sacred spaces around the world.
Enjoy the excerpt below!
“The best writing is rooted in the physical world, through the senses. Yoga helps us relax and go deeply into our own physical self,” explains Lewis, who… organizes several international yoga and writing retreats annually.
The first trip of the new year will be to Villa Sumaya, at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala in February, 2009, then to St. Non’s Monastic Retreat Centre in St. David’s, Wales during August. Each retreat runs for eight days, seven nights, and welcomes participants of all yoga and writing experience levels, from beginner to professional.
Lewis has been running these international retreats since 1997, including destinations in Mexico, Costa Rica, Scotland, and Ireland in addition to Guatemala and Wales, and feels that yoga benefits one’s writing immensely:
“We are enabled through the movement to bypass the thinking critic in our mind and delve into memories, images, dreams, and feelings which are often buried in the tissues of our bodies.”
When choosing a destination Lewis looks for sacred sites around the world, places where the natural world and the human spirit intertwine, which are usually on the water and are always breathtakingly beautiful.
In these spaces, says Lewis, “We are transported into a fresh world that calls us to be more than ordinarily aware of our surroundings.”
During the retreats yoga is practiced in the morning and some afternoons for two to three hours daily, with writing in structured groups for four hours a day, but all activities are optional, leaving plenty of time for independent adventure or leisure.
Though the organization and planning of an international retreat is somewhat daunting, Patricia says the fruits of her labor are well worth the effort. The change in people is palpable; participants arrive exhausted anxious, but says Lewis:
“By the end of the week, almost all are radiant — and why not? They have given these gifts to themselves: time, beauty, strangeness, rest, movement, and the creative expression of what has often been hidden for decades. They have stretched into their own true selves, a place almost forgotten only a week before.”
Participants have ranged in age from 17 to 84, with most being in their 40’s and 50’s, and about 75% are women. Patricia finds her international students “willing to take risks in their writing and to trust the process we use,” which results in “strong, vivid writing.”
There is a great sense of support and community at the retreats, which she says often results in lasting friendships, further supporting the writing and traveling life.
As for the future, Lewis is planning a return to Ireland next year, and hopes to find an appropriate location for retreats in the Caribbean, perhaps Puerto Rico. “A big dream is to take writers to New Zealand for a kayaking & writing retreat. Yoga would be a big part of keeping us fit and grounded!”