Just Say Yes: 5 Lessons Gained from My First Yoga Retreat. ~ Michelle White

Via elephant journal
on May 21, 2013
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ubud bali yoga

There’s nothing like the first time.

I have always wanted to go on a yoga retreat and had been eyeing an opportunity with Gigi Yogini in Bali for awhile. The actual planning occurred pretty hastily during an especially demanding period in my life.

I was asked, “You have to travel halfway around the world to relax?”

Yes—at that point, I did. And it exceeded every expectation.

1. Investing in ourselves is well worth it.

I debated: Bali is a long way to travel from Los Angeles for just a week, I had never been to Asia, the flight would be the longest I’d ever taken and I didn’t have any extra time off work for further exploration. But a quick trip was better than none, and I was looking forward to a dedicated week of daily yoga, eating healthy and relaxation.

The conscious work of going within, even for a mere seven days, helped me to reaffirm who I am, what is important to me and who I want to be.

2. Committing, both to making the retreat happen and maximizing the practice while there, offered the opportunity for powerful transformation.

Although I’ve practiced yoga for nearly 10 years, I’ve had this inane tendency to forget how much I like it and get overwhelmed as a busy corporate professional.

While I aspire to practice three to four times a week, I usually attend just one class during a “good” week.

Although the combined tasks of dedicating the money, prioritizing my time, budgeting, booking and declaring myself unavailable for a week seemed daunting and insurmountable, I wanted to ‘see a way’ and thought of Nike’s advice: ‘Just do it.’

Knowing that seeing all of Bali in one short week was asking to do too much, I stuck to my yoga mission.

I attended every 6:30 a.m. meditation (have I mentioned what a morning person I’m not?), every 7-8:30 a.m. yoga class, and every 90-minute afternoon workshop.

While attendance among the other students varied somewhat, I felt strong in upholding this commitment to myself.

With the words of St. Francis of Assisi in mind, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible,” I believe that committing to yourself—even starting small—truly builds muscle to achieve new possibilities.

As we were based in Ubud, the center of the island, this meant my only view of the Indian Ocean came from the plane, but my mission was accomplished. (And I’ll be back—Bali was incredible.)

3. Making the most of special opportunities means making continuous effort to be present.

We all occasionally struggled to decompress and be in the moment within our lush green jungle surroundings. At some point I realized, if we are not fully present, it really doesn’t matter where we are.

We may disengage under fluorescent office lighting dreaming of more meaningful work, but we may also unwittingly disengage in more nurturing environments, and all these moments are ours, making up our lives every day.

I have spent too many moments with one foot in the past and one in the future, and you know what they say that stance bestows upon the present?

For this precious time I’d carved for myself in Bali, I did not want to waste any of it not being present.

It took some restorative breaths and some remembering—as mentioned above, sometimes I forget important things—but it was well worth the effort. Just by trying to be present and show up for it all, I set things in motion within myself even beyond the work I was consciously doing—a blissful practice incorporating meditation, mantras, yoga, chakra work, reflection, and goal-setting over the course of the week.

I attended the retreat seeking increased clarity and direction at this point in my life, and while I felt more ‘me’ in Bali but still fuzzy on the path, answers began coming to me a few days after I got back home.

Funny how that works.

4. Experiencing new heights of bliss makes it possible to reach them again and to continue to stretch the limits.

Just the new memory of a gorgeous place to revisit mentally in meditation is an indelible personal gift. My newest ‘happy place’ is laying supine and sweaty in savasana in the open-air practice space of Soulshine Bali, with a divine afternoon breeze rippling over me, listening to the cries of countless jungle creatures and of rice farmers shooing birds from their crops.

Full with bliss. Full-on bliss!

As M. Scott Peck, M.D. writes in The Road Less Traveled, “One extends one’s limits only by exceeding them, and exceeding limits requires effort.”

The work I have done to reach this bliss brought me to new heights, and by pushing my previous limits, I know I can reach and exceed them again.

5. Trying new things makes us feel alive.

Along the lines of ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,’ Gigi encouraged us to try new approaches on the mat, stepping out of our comfort zones yet still maintaining safe, proper alignment.

In her workshop at the Bali Spirit Festival, she encouraged eye contact, smiles, and two huge circles of sweaty people supporting each other in tree pose, trusting enough to lean backwards. Not what many of us are used to, but definitely life-affirming.

This ‘trying something new’ builds strength to do the same off the mat, empowering us to express ourselves and to overcome obstacles.

I am in gratitude for life and all of its lessons, particularly those gained via the delicious investment of this yoga retreat.


Michelle WhiteMichelle White is a writer, editor and creative collaborator who delights in discovering just how big and how small the world can be. She has found her down dog on five continents and counting. Selected writings may be viewed at here



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43 Responses to “Just Say Yes: 5 Lessons Gained from My First Yoga Retreat. ~ Michelle White”

  1. ES says:

    I’m packing my suitcase tonight! Your writing is transcendent, uplifting, and life-affirming. Lesson #4’s vivid account instantly transported me to the jungle. I swear I could hear the monkeys chattering behind me on my bookshelf.

  2. Patti says:

    Miss White has, Like Johnny Appleseed, dropped seeds of hope for us all. May your garden grow!

  3. Uncle Grumpy says:

    Important lessons here, and not just about the practice of yoga. Thank you!

  4. Kristen says:

    Beautiful and inspiring piece…

  5. Ileana says:

    What an inspiring piece! Through your words, I am gently reminded to get back to my yoga practice. It’s so easy to forget how much you love something when you don’t make it a priority in your life. Yoga is a gift you give yourself!

  6. Maryanne says:

    Thank you Michelle White, for sharing your very inspiring, lovely and provocative journey into 'bliss in Bali'. You write with the flowing grace of a summer breeze. Your heartfelt thoughts and vivid expressions reveal a highly evolved person; a state of being we hopefully strive to attain in spite of the gale force winds on the often stormy sea of life that sometimes set us back. Beautifully written, and I look forward to more articles of your adventures from your sensitive and unique perspective! 🙂

  7. Gina D. Z. says:

    Very well written, Michelle. So vivid are the few images you helped illustrate in my mind's eye. Would love to try yoga sometime; you make it sound so tempting.

  8. Shahar Alon says:

    wow.. great stuff!

  9. Tariq says:

    Awesome Michelle!

  10. Aly DICKO says:

    One day maybe you can do the same Yoga on the dune of Timbuktu,

  11. Greg says:

    Michelle, I am amazed that you could find clarity and direction in a week. That was a special experience, one to the treasured and repeated. The way you describe the experience it reminds me of Maslow's Hierarchary of Needs and his concept of the Peak Experience. Your time in Bali seems to qualify as a peak experience, and as many people go through life without having such an experience; you are truly blessed. .

  12. Michelle White says:

    Thanks ES!! I'm glad I was able to transport you. I'd be glad to tell you more about the monkeys 🙂

  13. Michelle White says:

    Thanks Patti! I hope to inspire others to 'just do it' as well – investing in ourselves gives us more to share with each other 🙂

  14. Michelle White says:

    Thank you for your support!!

  15. Michelle White says:

    Thanks Kristen!

  16. Michelle White says:

    Exactly!! Thank you for your support 🙂

  17. Michelle White says:

    The state of being is a work in progress 🙂 Thanks for your support!

  18. Michelle White says:

    Thanks so much Gina! I think everyone should try yoga at least once 🙂 would be happy to answer any questions you might have!

  19. Michelle White says:

    Thanks Alon!!

  20. Michelle White says:

    Thanks, appreciate it Tariq!

  21. Michelle White says:

    Thanks Aly! It might be challenging in the sand 🙂 but the setting would be beautiful!

  22. Michelle White says:

    Thank you for your insightful words Greg. I would love to repeat it – the experience also made me want to go on retreat annually, even if just for a long weekend. And writing and sharing this first experience helps me keep it alive!

  23. Gina ruzicka says:

    What an amazing article! Perfectly exquisite with your words. So happy that it exceeded your expectations!

  24. Maryanne says:

    You are too modest, Michelle. Your special grace makes it obvious you are more than half-way there. :-))

  25. Anita says:

    I very much enjoyed reading your article Michelle! You write so beautifully, and leave the reader thirsty and intrigued for more! You are such an intelligent young woman, interesting and wonderful. :-)) I'm glad your Bali experience was so memorable for you!!

  26. Shauna Opos says:

    Trying new things makes us feel alive!!! So amazing and uplifting! I can't wait to hear more and seems like the experience has truly made you grow! You help the reader feel as though they are on this retreat with you, I hope you continue to write more about your adventures and keep opening up our minds:)

  27. Maya Abu-Mansour says:

    This piece is inspiring and awakening! Thank you Michelle for sharing your gracefully detailed journey in Bali! I felt as though I could understand your experience and graceful sensations. Such a great reminder to step outside our calculated world and step back into ourselves! I look forward to your future writings!

  28. Michelle White says:

    Thank you very much!

  29. Michelle White says:

    Thanks so much Anita 🙂

  30. Michelle White says:

    That is the goal 🙂 Thank you for being a model of amazing and uplifting yourself!!

  31. Mrs. Klose says:

    I am inspired. I will remember this article when I catch myself saying "This isn't a good time…". Thank you for sharing your experience!

  32. Michelle White says:

    You put that beautifully Maya! 'step outside our calculated world and step back into ourselves'… amen :)) Thank you for your support!

  33. Michelle White says:

    There's no time like the present 🙂 Thank YOU Mrs. Klose!!

  34. Joe Hill says:

    I really learned alot from your article, Michelle !!

  35. Melissa says:

    Thank you for sharing .. wish there were accessible yoga retreats but at this time I have not found any .. I teach recuperative yoga.

  36. Wendy Hyde says:

    Very insightful article about Yoga, and so much more. The importance of investing in ourselves, and being present…so true. This experience sounded wonderful!!!!!! awwww yoga retreat take me awayyy 🙂

  37. Michelle White says:

    Thanks Joe! 🙂

  38. Michelle White says:

    Thanks Melissa! Hmm…keep looking, you might be surprised at the variety out there! I booked mine via the Travel Yogi but I was amazed with a quick Google search how many options there were every month of the year. I understand restrictions on location and budget, but hopefully with some leisurely looking you'll arrive at the perfect option 🙂 Or you could always start small and organize your own!

  39. Michelle White says:

    Thanks Wendy!! So excited for your upcoming retreat in Sedona and eager to hear what you'll get out of it! 🙂 Thanks for all your support!

  40. Teri says:

    Michelle, you write so beautifully, and I very much enjoyed your fascinating article! I too would love to take a yoga retreat to somewhere exotic one day, as I incorporate the practice of yoga nearly daily in my life. I'm happy to hear it was such a wonderful experience for you and love how you quoted the Nike slogan . . "Just Do It." ! You are such a special gal. Thank you for sharing !

  41. Michelle White says:

    Thanks so much Teri! Awesome that you're a fellow yogini!

  42. Very insightful and a great read. Congrats!

  43. Michelle White says:

    Thanks so much Eric! Thanks for being a force of inspiration 🙂 I will check out Wandermelon.com to see what [where] you've been up to lately!