WILD

Posted on Jun 30, 2016 in HEALTH, LIFE

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I have spent the day uploading photos, reading comments and posts from the women I met last weekend, and just trying to hold onto this feeling of clarity. Similar to how it is difficult to explain to your friends what you experienced in a foreign country, it is difficult to explain what I witnessed at Wild Spirit Yoga Camp.

A part of me wants to simply chronicle the weekend’s activities from start to finish, much like I often do for travel-related posts, but this feels different. This feels transformative.IMG_0724

creek rocks tree pose yoga

During the three days I spent at camp, I doubted myself about a million times. I can’t do that pose. I don’t have anything to share with people. I can’t do acro yoga or inversions. But I pushed myself and fed off of the energy that surrounded me, allowing me to do things I never imagined were possible.

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Photo by Kim Rothenberger

Getting to go on a real camping trip with my sister for the first time made the whole experience even more memorable and special. We giggled and cried into the night, sipping bourbon from the bottle and reading by the light of a lantern. Sharing a tent with her made me fall in love with nature in a new way.

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We attended buti classes, a shakti workshop, inversion and acro yoga workshops, an essential oils class, and beautiful yoga flows and meditations. Plus, we went on hikes, swam in a creek, napped by the water, and sat by a campfire.

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The buti classes were led by Randi Greene, who organized the camp and invited us to a piece of wilderness that happens to belong to her beautiful family. Unbeknownst to any of us, the land we camped on is run by her parents, who were there to help make our weekend wonderful. The hikes were led by Randi’s father, and the seriously delicious meals were all made by her mother and sisters. This created such a comfortable place and feeling of acceptance for everyone. It truly felt like a home away from home.

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Randi’s buti classes were some of the best I’ve ever attended with her. The energy with these women was so fun, and even though we were all exhausted, we had so much fun together. About half of the women had never attended a buti class, so it was fun experiencing their enthusiasm for the classes.

yogis by the creek

The shakti class was a workshop led by Stefanie Painter that helped us all get out of our comfort zone and connect with each other in a different way. Shakti is the divine feminine energy within all of us, and Stefanie’s workshop was designed to help us express that together. We sat in a giant circle together, and were told to run across it and find someone you don’t know as a partner. I partnered up with a beautiful soul, Kim. We were instructed to tell each other our passion, our fear, and our truth, and then paint each other accordingly. This probably sounds a little crazy, but in the moment, it was fun and fascinating. After being painted and connecting, we danced in our giant circle to tribal tunes that empowered us.

Photo by Stefanie Painter

Photo by Randi Greene

Stefanie also led our essential oils workshop where we learned about certain oils and were able to make our own sugar scrub, after sun spray and our own unique blend of oils of our choice. I created a blend of wild orange oil, lavender, and peppermint, which made a lovely calming scent that I plan to wear all the time.

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Morgan DeYoung led two workshops with inversions and acro yoga, which were the two that scared me the most. I can’t hold an inversion yet and the thought of me doing acro yoga was actually hilarious to me. After giving ourselves a little pep talk, Taylor and I decided to just be open-minded. We could give it a try, at least. During the inversion workshop, Morgan taught us some basics and some advanced tips, along with core moves to strengthen up for inversions of all kinds. Surprisingly, the handstand was the easiest for me. I had never even attempted a handstand, because I figured a forearm or headstand would be easier to learn first, since you have a bigger base to balance on for those. However, after trying everything, I found I was able to sort of get into handstand because you can get a little momentum on the way up, requiring more leg flexibility than core strength, which is good for me. I tried so many times, that I unknowingly wore a quarter-sized blister on the palm of my hand that made Downward Dog and any sort of plank a little difficult the rest of the weekend, but I survived. As for the acro workshop, Taylor and I were looking at each other like “What are we doing here?” But after giving it a try and following Morgan’s step-by-step process of each move, we were able to get a couple of them down. It might not look as graceful or perfect, but we got up there. I have the bruises to prove it.

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morgan deyoung the southern yogi yoga camp

Our flow classes and meditations were led by Aubrey Renee, someone I was particularly excited to meet in real life, as I have followed her on Instagram for a long time and just felt like I would vibe with her. I was not let down. Aubrey’s spirit shines forth like no other. (When she sat down next to me at dinner one night, I introduced myself and she said “I know who you are.”) We took a class with her on top of a mountaintop on our first morning there, took an easy flow class on Sunday evening when we needed to stretch out our soreness, and meditated with her on Monday morning before we all had to leave. During her Sunday evening flow class, Aubrey would lead us to the next pose and then read some poetry while we held the relaxing poses. People were crying everywhere as we released tension from our muscles and our hearts. Each time she was leading a class, something new opened up in me.

Photo by Randi Greene

Photo by Randi Greene

mountaintop yoga class

Photo by Randi Greene

Photo by Randi Greene

laughing dancing with aubrey

Each class we took was perfectly timed. When we needed to push ourselves, we did acro. When we needed to shake it out, we did buti. When we needed to recover, we did a flow. These classes opened us up in different ways, and all worked together to give us a well-rounded yogi experience.

When I was telling Kyle about the weekend, going into as much detail as possible about each class, moment and person, I felt myself getting emotional again. In his understanding way, he said “So you’re glad you went?” So glad, I said, crying into my tacos. I started telling him about feeling a lot of things, and even though I hadn’t been able to identify or voice what it was that I was feeling in those moments, as I talked to him, the words came to me.

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“I was able to hear myself for the first time in a long time,” I said, “and I didn’t like what I heard.”

Shit.

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At the closing campfire, I shared that I learned that I need to be a better wife, sister, daughter, friend. I learned that we are all trying to work through the things that make life hard, and that if I take anything away from the weekend it is that we are not alone in this life. Everyone is dealing with something. Our stories may look differently, but much of us is the same. When I shared this at the campfire, it was what came to my mind at the time. I was able to open my mouth and let my heart speak in that moment, and yet, when I returned home to my husband, I was able to dig a little deeper and speak from the part of me that was still holding back a bit.

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Photo by Courtney Gonzalez

Photo by Courtney Gonzalez

final campfire

Clearly, I am better at writing my feelings than speaking them. If I had been asked to write an essay about what I learned at yoga camp, it would have been more eloquent, more real, perhaps. I also like to have more time to process things sometimes. When something is over, I analyze it from every angle. This trip shifted my thinking and my life, and in order to fully appreciate that, I needed some time to analyze it after the fact. That doesn’t make anything that happened during that weekend any less special.

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The women I encountered were beautiful people who filled you up. They were not catty, or negative, or judgmental. They were kind and open. They gave hugs freely. In this world of women fighting each other, it was incredibly refreshing to encounter such a genuine group. I realized that while Randi planned this amazing weekend and brought us all there together, sometimes all it takes is a group of women simply being together for magic to happen.

Photo by Randi Greene

Photo by Randi Greene

Since being back, I have joked that this experience was akin to the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, or Teen Institute Camp. It’s the only way I can help other people relate to what it was like in the woods at Buttermilk Falls. When we arrived back in civilization and stopped for lunch, we got out of the car in a very busy parking lot near a strip mall, and it was seriously like culture shock. I had been in the forest for three days, so the horns, people, flashing lights and fast food was weird for a minute. Where is the creek and tent village?! 

I think I can say that I’ve pretty much readjusted back into my daily routine now, but things are different. My heart is different. What I said around that campfire is true. I want to be better. I want to stop taking my people for granted. I want to start showing them how much I need them and love them. Why is that so hard for me? When I wept and told Kyle I didn’t like what I heard when I finally listened to myself, I meant that, too. I realized I had let so many things in my life take precedent over what really matters, and in the process, I had put my husband and everyone else on the back burner. I realized that I needed to stop trying to change the people around me and change myself. I can’t control those around me. I can only control what I put out into the world, and I need to put out more positivity and love and acceptance and understanding. I need to let go of the things that have hurt me and find the good in them.

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On our last morning at camp, several of us got up at 5 a.m. and trekked to the top of the mountain to see the sun rise. We were bleary-eyed and bundled up in the chilly morning air. By this point, I was sad to leave but also excited to go home, and this was such a moment of clarity. We waited patiently for the sun, remaining pretty quiet and reflecting on the week. Being on the mountain with these women was so special and I am so happy I spent those few quiet moments with these women so early in the morning.

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When I left for this trip, I was just excited for a camping trip with my sister and an opportunity to do some cool yoga classes. I left camp with a more open heart and a lighter load, which has allowed me to be re-inspired, more confident, and have a truer sense of self. The noise of life had muffled my inner voice and my dreams, but now, I can hear clearly. Go, it says. Be brave. Be wild. 
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