It’s almost the end of the year, which for me means that our next European retreat is that much closer. April in Umbria means ten uninterrupted days of writing in community, and the opportunity not to be able to make any excuses not to go to yoga class. Since the yoga studio is literally next door to my bedroom and sleep comes easily and deeply, I can’t use distance, business or weariness as a justification to dodge a morning of restorative and nourishing yoga.
James Dewar discovered yoga on a Radical Restoration Retreat in Costa Rica, and after a second series in Italy this year, he wrote a wonderful piece about how it both surprised him and helped him with his writing.
I’ve reprinted it here from its publication in International Lifestyle Magazine.
A Man and His Yoga
by James Dewar
I knew nothing about yoga before I went on my first Radical Restoration retreat.
I spend hours in the chair as a freelance writer typing, backspacing, researching, writing, and then rewriting. Half the time I play the role of the contributing editor; the other half of the time I eke out the subsistence living of a struggling writer.
I didn’t spend much time thinking about the relationship between physical health and mental acuity. I had been waving the Bohemian flag for a long time. It fluttered from my pencil holder with a little photo of Ernest Hemingway scotch taped to it. The ache in my right shoulder and the pain in my lower back had always been there. Part of the price tag, I thought.
But this is the age of no smoking, moderate drinking, safe driving and smart choices. Those who love me suggested that I should visit the tropics like my idol had done, but do something good for myself. Then along came the Radical Restoration Writing and Yoga Retreat.
As a man, I was skeptical about going, and frankly, if my partner Sue had not been the writing instructor, I would never have given it a try. So I flew down to Costa Rica a few years ago with her and the other instructors.
On the flight down I had been coaxed into agreeing to participate in the yoga class. But I awoke well ahead of the first class in a state of fight or flight. What if paparazzi took pictures and I ended up all over the front cover of Embarrassing Yoga Poses? The other men on the retreat seemed to be unfazed, so I bit the bullet and wandered up the jungle path, the strange fabric of a yoga mat curled under my arm.
The soothing voice and gentle restorative yoga practice led by Esana Lofty changed not only my body, but how I feel about myself. The gentle stretching and inward perspective took a few days to take effect, but the results were beyond any state of well-being that I had experienced as a middle-aged adult. The aches and pains disappeared. The weak left knee that kept me from going on long walks strengthened. For the first time in years I went on an excursion without my knee brace. Now I don’t need it at all.
Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t about finding religion. It was about taking care of myself and loving myself just the way I am – so refreshing.
I wrote four short stories and sixteen poems on that trip. In the intervening years I have reproduced similar volumes of quality writing each trip. And the annual restorative yoga practice relaxes my body and soul and sets my imagination ablaze. I’m particularly pleased with the new material that I produced in Italy last year.
So I’m thrilled we’re going back to Le Torracce in 2015. I look forward to sharing myself again in the stimulating symbiosis between writing and yoga.