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Escaping to Esalen

I normally don’t feel the need to journal during ‘staycations’ (for me, a “staycation” is any vacation within the continental U.S.), but the moment I arrived at the Esalen Institute for a week-long yoga workshop, my mind immediately went into journaling mode. This is the mode where I begin processing everything as though I’m writing and my brain begins to dictate until I have no choice but to write down my thoughts or allow the words to evaporate into an ether of unrealized linguistic potential.

For those unfamiliar with the Esalen Institute (as I was before I came here), it is a non-profit organization located in Big Sur, California and situated on 27 coastal acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was founded in the early 1960s as a place committed to exploring the “human potential movement.” It has had many famous students and teachers, such as Aldous Huxley, Buckminster Fuller, Abraham Maslow, and B.F. Skinner. I don’t know much about the human potential movement, but I do know yoga, and I’m here to practice with an instructor that came highly recommended by a friend in hopes of reaching my own potential as a yoga practitioner. During this week, I will enjoy 6 hours of yoga a day (yes, I said SIX HOURS…I’m in yoga heaven), healthy food (much of which is organically grown right on the grounds) and the rejuvenating mineral baths. Or, to be more specific, the rejuvenating, clothing-optional mineral baths (more on this soon).

The six hours of yoga are separated into three 2-hour sessions. The first two hours are devoted to Pranayama yoga, which focuses on breathing and meditation. This is the part of yoga that I have the most trouble with. Despite repeated efforts, stilling my mind is something I simply cannot do on cue. This morning, my Pranayama practice went a little like this:

“I wonder what was in that salad dressing last night.” “I like the way the nuts were toasted before tossing them in the salad.” “Did I remember to turn on my Out of Office message?” “No, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.” “Wow, my feet are really cold.” “The next time I go back to the bunks, I need to remember to grab some socks.” “I wonder how many scoops of coffee I should put in my small French press…six? Eight?” “I could sure use some coffee right now.” “Was that a snore I just heard?” “Yep.” “Well, at least it isn’t as loud as the freight train in the bunk across from me.”

I’m a little ADD when it comes to Pranayama. I guess that makes me an undisciplined yogi. But at least I keep trying.

About colleen f

Colleen is a globe trotting, sight seeing, day tripping, frequent flying traveler with a penchant for voluntourism.



  1. Pingback: Returning to Esalen « tales of wander - October 16, 2012

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