Letting in the Light:
My Journey to Self-Love on a Yoga Retreat
*** GUEST POST ***
I have returned to my paradise. This paradise is located exactly at 9.6914° N, 100.0740° E, and it goes by the name of Haad Yuan beach at Koh Phangan. This magical corner of the world with white sandy beaches, lush jungles and gorgeous rocks is where I started my spiritual journey a bit more than a year ago, and now I have been blessed to return.
A year ago I was still healing from an ended relationship, struggling with loving myself enough to be happy and peaceful and to live the life I always imagined for myself. I was lost with my studies, not knowing if it was what I wanted to do, and lost with all the expectations I set for myself to execute a so-called perfect life. Somewhere deep in me, I knew that the one thing I most desperately needed was to love myself unconditionally, without expectations. I was sure that most of the other issues would resolve themselves, if I only had this love towards myself and my life.
Now, all that was missing was a way to achieve that love. Six months before setting my foot on the sand of Koh Phangan, I had subscribed to an Ashtanga Yoga course in my hometown Helsinki, and quite enjoyed it. Ashtanga was competitive enough for my ambitious mind, and so it felt like a good option to look for an opportunity to do some yoga during my two-week holiday from work. I googled yoga Thailand, booked my retreat and bought my tickets, and was on my way to my first-ever yoga retreat on my first-ever trip alone.
So, to me this island is a paradise, it was a year ago and it still is. It truly is Yin and Yang with its party scene and spirituality beautifully mixed together, but what is even more magical about this island is that it just seems to make people more receiving, open to encounter their emotions and their own vulnerability. Maybe this emotional clarity stems from the fact that the island is made of quartz crystal, but I could feel how, since day one sitting on a rock watching the gorgeous ocean, something that I had been holding back started opening in me. All those feelings, pretending to be so strong and capable, it almost felt like my walls started to fall down, and I was receiving what would come. And it was exactly the right thing to do.
And as it was the right thing for me to encounter my own vulnerability, this universe has an incredible way of sending like-minded people on each other’s paths. At Pure Flow Yoga I would enjoy the company of people from different cultures, backgrounds and age groups on a very similar journey towards better self-understanding, love and balance. The environment really invites you to open up, because you feel like you are safe and these people are there to share your journey for a week or two.
In the beginning of the retreat I tried to soothe my ambitious and competitive mind by executing my practice the best way possible. I wanted to be able to do every single asana every single time, but very soon I realized that it is not possible. Sometimes my body was just so tired, that I let myself lie in the child’s pose and just breathe. At first I felt angry at myself, “why can’t I do all these poses, what is wrong with me?” I kept on thinking I’m not strong enough, not good enough, not worthy enough. And I think it was the third day, when I burst into tears, that I realized this was the circle that I had to break to get closer to self-love and acceptance.
So I surrendered. The resistance had taken so much energy, blaming myself for not being good enough in sports, in school, in a relationship, in life, and I couldn’t help but to surrender. I let myself go, giving my best effort, telling myself it is enough, that I am worthy and loveable and enough. Just doing my best, and sometimes it is more, sometimes less. Sometimes we are strong and could do a thousand Vinyasas or fight the battles in our life and sometimes we just feel like crawling into a comfortable nest and laying in the child’s pose or let our life take its course by itself. And it is all okay.
As the week progressed I realized that I felt comfortable enough to surrender to self-acceptance as well. This is my body, perfect as it is, my temper and personality, grateful for them being what they are. Slowly I could be more kind towards myself, I could observe myself, see what attachments I hold in my life, and still tell myself it is okay to hold them. I would just observe, and acknowledge that these attachments too will change, like everything else in my life.
It is not like one week of meditation and yoga will fix all your problems or challenges, or change your personality and offer you peace of mind. But if you have ever had that lights-on moment in your life, you know that moment, when suddenly you see something very clearly, like you have a solution or explanation right in front of you, and you wonder how you couldn’t see it before, taking a week to focus on yourself can be quite close to that. Almost as if someone were to operate the dimming lights or there would be a rising sun peeking through your curtains to shed a little bit of light for you to see more clearly. And then it is up to you to take that journey and to open the curtains completely and let the light in.
Sofia is a young woman on a quest to unconditional love and acceptance through yoga and meditation. She is a student, young professional and above all a curious human being, who loves seeing other cultures, meeting new people and understanding what sets their heart on fire. Besides helping others to fulfill their potential, Sofia loves writing, reading, going out with friends and family, animals, laughing, nature and her morning coffee. You can follow Sofia’s adventures on her travel blog and Instagam @sofiasmap.Sofia Pohls