About a year and a half after I started to come out the other side, a friend and I went on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. It was her idea and while I wasn’t much of a yogi at the time, as anyone who knows me knows, I never turn down an excuse to go somewhere new on vacation. It was both of our first times in a retreat setting, so our first reaction was how bare bones our rooms were – on frills and no TV! We were ready to hightail it out of there and find a fancy spot on the beach. But luckily, we stuck it out and I am so glad we did.
We did yoga twice a day, ate healthy meals, did amazing body treatments and met a great group of people – some who I still talk to today. And that is where I was first introduced to Ayurveda. I have always been interested in diet and health and have tried pretty much every diet out there – or at least know about it. The dining hall area had information about Ayurveda and tips for Ayurvedic eating. I remember one saying that cantaloupe in particular should be eaten alone and thinking to myself at the time how random that was. (Ayurveda does not recommend mixing fruit with other foods as it impairs digestion.) I didn’t follow it at the time but just took it in.
I also did this amazing body treatment when I was there because it guaranteed it would clear toxins out of your body. And at the time, coming off my depression and working in a highly toxic work environment, it was what I needed – toxins be gone. In retrospect, I am fairly confident the treatment I got was shirodara, which is an Ayurvedic body treatment that drips warm oil on your forehead and down your temples, creating a meditative state that pacifies your Vata – a practice that is now one of my favorite things in life. You then get an amazing full body massage with the oil and are slathered in it from head to toe. What I remember from that experience was my hair DRIPPING with oil and the therapist telling me I had to keep it in to ensure the toxins came out. And I was game – no way was I messing with those toxins not being released. I remember going to dinner that night an oily, hot mess, but determined to do whatever I needed to get those toxins out. And knowing my porous, thick hair, that oil probably didn’t come out for months.
During our last day of the trip in our afternoon yoga class, I had a life-changing experience. The morning yoga was always more physical and the afternoon more experiential. That afternoon I tried meditation for the first time. I was scared as at that point in my life I never sat still and was petrified of being in my own head. But I survived. Then the teacher put us in a circle, probably made us hold hands, and amongst other things (I can’t remember it all) she started chanting “Aham Prema” which translates to “I am Love.” And like I said, I don’t remember the class exactly but all I know is by the end of it I was bawling, crying like a baby – In public! In front of my friend! In front of strangers! In Costa Rica! This was monumental as I was a woman who never cried EVER unless it was a TV show or movie that had nothing to do with my life. So it was mind-blowing to me – how could this circle of people and chanting bring me to tears? What the hell was I even crying about? I had no idea, but I knew I had to find out. So I went home vowing that I would continue exploring these practices and first on my list was meditation.
*Photo credit to amazing eye of my dear friend Kathleen