Workshops and Yoga

What is it about workshops and yoga? Every yoga-centric magazine you open contains pages upon pages of ads for yoga workshops and retreats enticing you to practice with X guru in Y exotic location, attend a quick weekend “detox,” expand your horizons at a R & R retreat, and so on.  Each one sounds better than the last, so how do you choose among them … or are you even ready?

Whether you’re a regular workshop attendee or just wondering whether attending one is right for you, there are several key questions to ask yourself:

Why do you think you want to attend a workshop? Is it just to be able to say you went (“I went to California and practiced Standing Bow on the Pacific Coast”)?  If so, maybe you should just take a trip. Do you want to deepen your yoga practice?  To better understand the alignment and goals of the postures you practice regularly?  To meet like-minded yogis and do some intense practicing?   Perhaps you’re looking for ways to take your practice off the mat — going beyond the physical asana practice and expanding your definition of “yoga” by building your life/mind practice as well.  These are all excellent reasons to attend a workshop, be it for 3 days or 3 hours.

Which workshop is right for you? There is a workshop for anything you could imagine: physical practice, mental concentration, nutrition, music, and even dancing. But what will give you the most value? Do you want to attend a workshop that touches on many topics, or is a more focused weekend for you?

Reflect on your goals for your own practice.  Put aside what the Joneses are doing and ask yourself what you want to learn or better understand – what could your next level look like?  Do you feel comfortable with the physical Fire postures but want to learn more about mindful breathing?  Or maybe you’re feeling distracted in class and always finding yourself jumping ahead — not being present in your practice?  Signing up for a still mind practices workshop will benefit not only your asanas but the rest of your life.

How will you get the most out of your workshop? Before the workshop, clear your calendar for the duration of the workshop. You have chosen to dedicate this time to furthering and deepening your practice. Perhaps you ask your spouse to shuttle the kids to their soccer games and piano lessons.  Give yourself room to truly embrace the experience.  Journal about what you want to learn, then open yourself to the workshop. Coming in “Learner” mindset will allow you to embrace new feelings and experiences you hadn’t expected.

While you’re at your workshop, focus on yourself and what you’re learning.  For some of us, this may mean taking steps to remove distractions like no cell phones (!) during breaks or no checking in on Facebook.  You have paid both money and time to deepen your practice.  Be present.  Take time at the end of each day or throughout the day to journal about what you are feeling.

What happens after the workshop? Depending on how long you were at your workshop, you may feel a little jolted coming back to reality.  (The longer and more intense the workshop, the harder the reentry into the day-to-day grind may be.)  Take time to reflect on what you learned and what you’re wanting to learn next.  Reflecting on the notes and journaling you did while in the workshop will help re-ground you.  Also, if you collected contact information from your fellow workshop students and teachers, stay in touch with them.  Perhaps you even met someone who could be your accountability partner for daily still mind practices or food journaling.  Continue your growth and self-education.  You learned lots at your workshop — don’t just drop it and return to the same old same old.

Expensive excursions to Costa Rica do not guarantee great results – it’s the content combined with your own efforts that matter. Start by checking out experiences at your own studio, or something local, that will complement your existing practice. (For the past few weeks, Sunstone Yoga has been offering special classes for its Signature members.  These classes are a great preview of the kind of experience you would get at some of our  Continuing Education workshops.)

And if you’re not quite ready to do the “workshop thing” yet, consider taking the time to simply talk to your teachers after class. Ask them to recommend some next steps for your practice – be that a workshop or just a tweak in the yogaroom.  They can provide guidance attuned to your goals and practice.

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