Yoga Journal

Restorative Retreat

When you were growing up, I bet you had a special place of refuge you could go to for comfort. I had a favorite swing in my backyard that I would settle into when I felt the need for solitude. There, I found sanctuary in the fluid act of swaying back and forth, the cool breeze on my face as I floated through the air—up and down, back and forth.

When we take up the practice of yoga, becoming deliberately self-reflective, it eventually becomes apparent that taking refuge—from busyness and stress—is not about running away, but rather it is about deciding what you want to move toward. Refuge is not dependent upon a location at all. Rather, it is actually an intention we can choose. What do I mean? We can always opt to focus on that part of ourselves that is not made of thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations. We can choose to focus on that space behind our thoughts—on the silence from which we observe ourselves and the world and the space that we keep forgetting to notice.

When you stepped on the mat in the first days of your yoga practice, you were likely still associating refuge with a specific place: the mat or the meditation cushion. Many practitioners believe that the sense of stillness they feel from their yoga is something that must come from what they have done rather than from who they are.

But Patanjali writes in his most famous Yoga Sutra (1:2): “Yoga is a state in which the agitations of the mind are resolved.” This means that through yoga, we

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