• Lauren Baptiste

I Went to a Yoga Retreat to Practice Mindfulness | Acheloa Wellness

Updated: Feb 7

I recently spent 6 days in Bocas del Toro, Panama...


...I stumbled into a surfer’s paradise, but decided to pave a unique path to “vacation happiness.” Since relaxation was my main goal, my focus was on participating in activities that made me feel lighter and happier. That’s when I found Bocas Yoga.


As I continue to advance my yoga practice, I figured a week of dedication would be exactly what I needed. To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had never practiced at this particular studio nor practiced a yoga mixture inspired by Anusara Yoga and Sridaiva Yoga, but I was open to the change.

From the moment I first arrived, I was welcomed with open arms to Laura Kay’s yoga sanctuary. The space was warm, peaceful, and incredibly inviting. Her teachings, as introduced to me and other students at my first class, followed three main yoga principals: Attitude, Alignment and Action.

Attitude

This first principal honors a good attitude. As Woody Allen once said, “eighty percent of success is showing up.” I think this was easily achieved as long as you respect the space and your neighbors, and enter with an open heart and mind. Check.


Alignment

Laura Kay is an alignment junkie (when she reads this, she’ll know it’s a compliment). When she described her passion for anatomy and body alignment, I knew I was in a good place. Many times in NYC among 50 other students, I am concerned that form isn’t a priority of the instructor. When introduced to new poses alongside poor alignment, one can be lead to future back or joint pain. From the get-go, I knew this wouldn’t be a problem at Bocas Yoga.


Her classes encourage the use of blankets, blocks, and straps. After nearly a week of yoga, proper form was one of my biggest takeaways. I now have a much better understanding of how to achieve proper alignment. This alone is a huge gift.


Action

Now that I brought a good attitude and have the right foundation set, it’s time to play. Yoga isn’t about being too serious, although good form is imperative. Yoga teaches us to embrace strength and softness, simultaneously. It’s a delicate balance to achieve, but quite powerful once accomplished.


Throughout the class, Laura Kay chanted positive affirmations which not only helped recognize awareness, but built confidence among the students. Each class was always themed around what was important to the participating students at that very moment. Below were some of her favorite lines that stuck with me.


Play your edge – Every day at yoga is a different experience. Some days, you may feel tighter than others, but the those days when you’re loose, limber, and focused, you have to go for it. Regardless of how you feel on any given day, it’s important to “play your edge.” Never assume you’re in the same place as yesterday. Think of today as a new day and see how you can surprise yourself.


Pause and feel – During class, it’s easy to go through the motions, but take time to feel what’s going on. Between poses, Laura Kay often says “pause and feel.” That awareness helps you further appreciate what you’ve accomplished and helps you understand your boundaries.


Shine your light – Your internal feelings are connected with your body’s gestures, and every pose is an opportunity for you to express your inner self on the outside. As Laura Kay says, which was especially appropriate during New Year’s in Bocas del Toro, “light your own fireworks.”


With each passing day, I felt more at home and more in tune with my practice. In six short days, I noticed tangible improvements in my flexibility, patience, and strength. It was quite remarkable as I’ve never been able to do a wheel pose or thoroughly practice my handstand before attending. As I arrive back to the Big Apple, I bring a fresh perspective, a greater confidence, and a Bocas Yoga t-shirt.



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