Who are you? It’s a big question. Are you a wife? A mother? A student? A white collared working woman? Although you may fall into many of these categories, understanding who you really are—separate from what you do—takes time and reflection.
This year has been a turning point in my life. When I turned 35, I had revelation that who I was and who I am going to be are two different things. Since then, I have been exploring my spirituality, revamping my diet, adding exercise to my daily routine and generally thinking about who I am and what I want out of life. That’s hard to do when you’re surrounded by things that define you.
To reconnect with myself, I needed to leave everything behind and venture off on my own. Then came the opportunity to attend a weekend at camp, doing yoga. I didn’t care how much it cost, who I’d owe favours to, or what I had to do to get there. This was something I had to do for me.
Camp Yoga took place earlier this month at Camp Manitou near Parry Sound.
Picture the most beautiful Northern Ontario setting, a slew of rustic summer camp cabins and the Zen feeling of a group of people who love all things Yoga. It was the ultimate adult camp weekend retreat. Energizing, relaxing, fun. Practicing yoga next to Toronto’s most influential instructors in a variety of classes made me come alive. My emotions, spirit, and body were lifted higher than ever.
In a scene that was oddly quiet and unnerving at times, I was forced to go inside and think about everything I place on the back burner in my everyday life. It was time for me to be with me, and it was clear that ignoring your inner self is as bad as not visiting a doctor, working out or eating healthy. It is a necessity.
My adventure was a three-hour ride from my family and everyone I knew. I was attending this camp solo. I was terrified. The entire ride there, I contemplated a U-turn back home. Images of those dreadful dorm days in university came rushing back and all I longed for was a friendly face. To my surprise, when I arrived at Camp Manitou, people were everywhere, the sun was glistening off the water and I felt instantly at peace.
Once settled into my cabin, which totally reminded me of camp as a child, I hit the dining hall. It was buffet style and having Celiac disease, I felt panicky. One of the chefs walked me through the table sharing what I could and couldn’t eat. Then I put on my brave big girl panties, walked over to a stranger’s table and asked to join. I had made my first friend.
Over the course of the next two days, I tried yoga classes I had never heard of in my little hick town outside of Toronto, I met friendly people from all over the world—Australia, Mexico, and the Canary Islands, to name a few!—and I found myself.
Sunset Meditation on the docks led by Heather Coates was my first attempt at group meditation. We started seated and introspective then walked around and confessed to strangers why we were there. I blurted out: . As it turned out, many of the women in my age bracket wer
Sunset Meditation on the docks led by Heather Coates was my first attempt at group meditation. We started seated and introspective then walked around and confessed to strangers why we were there. I blurted out: To find myself and not be defined by motherhood. As it turned out, many of the women in my age bracket were also there alone, going through the same discovery process. The beautiful sun set into a gorgeous sunset and I couldn’t wait to see what tomorrow would bring.
After a frigid night in our cabin, I rolled out of bed at 6 am to start an amazing day of trying new yoga practices, testing my body’s limits and meeting like-minded people who were there to help rather than judge.
The following classes were part of my weekend:
Sunrise Ninja Training by Salmaan Sayeed. Salmaan takes you through unique postures and transitions that occur throughout the Budokon primary series. Think yoga meets ninja training. Each movement flowed into the next, creating a beautiful warrior type dance. It was challenging and beautiful at the same time. Definitely worth the early wake up!
Barre3 by Aimee Ostrander. Balance, strength and flexibility were key aspects tested in the classes. In 60 minutes, you worked every single muscle in your body using the ballet barre, balls and your own body weight. I left this Yoga-meets-Pilates hour feeling shaky and exhausted, yet my spirit soared, proud of the intensity I reached.
Schwarzenegger FLOW by Joanne Karpathiou. To be honest, I didn’t sign up for this one—the name scared me! I had run into town for warmer clothes and this was the only class available when I returned. The name was dead-on. A powerhouse class with slow, deliberated movements made you sweat, quiver and push every one of your muscles to their limit. Along with special voice guest Arnold Schwarzenegger, we giggled and pushed ourselves to get the best workout of the weekend.
Sunset Meditation by J-P Tamblyn. After my amazing first sunset mediation, I was determined to end my intense day with another. J-P’s classes are legendary. Here, we learned how to find ourselves in meditation by staring into a stranger’s eyes. Awkward, yes, but it was so rewarding and we were lulled into peace with the setting sun.
Sunrise Yoga by Catherine Lavallee. Waking up early again was a challenge with the cold temperatures, but my body yearned to learn more. Thankfully, Catherine was in tune with our needs and was aware of the stress our bodies had already gone through. This class helped to stretch and release tight muscles, allowing us to participate in another day of fantastic yoga.
Savasan-what? by Matt Riggs. At this point in my Camp Yoga experience, I was frozen and exhausted. Not having participated in such an intense and prolonged yoga experience before, my strength was waning. My roommates and I grabbed our sleeping bags and participated in a heartwarming yoga/meditation experience with Matt. I loved how he ended the session by singing and playing guitar. Just the right prescription.
Ahimsa Yoga class by J-P Tamblyn-Sabo. After experiencing his meditation class full of love and peace, I was hooked. We began with a group hug and were led through yoga poses that connected each yogi to another in a way that made you feel like you were never alone. It was the perfect way to end my camp experience.
What you seek is seeking you. – Rumi
Jennifer Van Huss is a working mom to two amazing boys and one Princess. You can find her at 1Heart1Family,a blog about raising children, life with celiac disease and helpful product reviews, and on Facebook and Twitter.