The last time I wrote about Esalen, I mentioned that the yoga workshop takes up six hours of each day. When I tell people this, they usually balk. “Six hours of yoga? How can you do that?” It’s really not as difficult as it sounds. The six hours is broken into three sessions, each of which is distinctly different from the next. The first session is Pranayama, which is light stretching combined with a meditative breathing practice. This is the session I find most challenging simply because meditation (and being still with my breath) has never been my strong suit. I’ve always found that my mind is at its quietest when I’m engaged in vigorous activity. The second yoga session is the longest and also the most vigorous (thus, the one I like best). The third session is restorative and focuses on a floor practice with props and adjustments.
Between each session is a luxurious routine of eating freshly made organic food, much of which comes from the gardens right here on the property (or, at the very least, is locally sourced). After each meal, I have a soak in the rejuvenating hot spring baths that are perched along the edge of a rocky cliff with the ocean crashing below. My favorite soak of the day is right after dinner. The sun has already set and as you look upon the ocean, the horizon is the color of a ripe mango. Ever so slowly, as the light fades, the stars come out one-by-one until finally, the sky above is awash with shimmering crystals of light. In this remote spot–lit only by the moon and the dim lights that emanate from the property–the Milky Way is clear and vibrant. It’s an amazing feeling to be right in the middle–to have the ocean crashing below you and a blanket of stars above–and me sandwiched in between, cradled in the hot waters.
Then it starts all over again, three times a day. Bath. Yoga. Eat. Repeat. As you can see, it’s not so hard. I almost feel badly explaining it, as though I should have a sense of guilt for pampering myself this way. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned in my relatively short life, it’s that balance in all things is the key to happiness–or, at the very least, the key to my happiness. I constantly struggle to pay attention and maintain that balance; in fact, my travel schedule is partly a result of me attempting to balance out a life that has been full of work–my attempt at balancing what I must do with what I want to do. And the yoga? For me, it balances out everything else. Sometimes I feel there is very little in my life that is truly relaxing. I’m a personality type that constantly pushes myself forward, and even when I travel, I tend to choose destinations that are far from relaxing (though they have their moments). Yoga forces me to look inward, to pay attention to my body, to be mindful of my environment and my relation to it. It has played a larger role at shaping my life than spirituality or religion ever could.