“Alaska. Yoga. Retreat.”
Inian welcomes guest writer Wendy Cypert, participant in our 2016 Alaska Yoga Retreat.
Somewhere in California behind a desk…
It began with a day dream, a respite from the relentless emails, phone calls and customer demands that crowd so many of our day to day lives. I longed for quiet and for solitude, maybe a retreat in someplace beautiful…? In the rectangular blue search bar I wistfully typed…ALASKA. YOGA. RETREAT (probably not the most common search terms ever put together). I scrolled through the results, clicking here and there randomly, several pages in I landed on a blog post describing a 2015 inaugural retreat at the Hobbit Hole… or maybe it was called Inian Islands Institute? Intrigued, and feeling adventurous, I followed the trail and not long after sent an email off to inquire about future retreat possibilities. A few messages later and a phone call with Jessica Lindmark, Yoga Instructor, and I was hooked on the idea. We would do some hiking, practice some yoga, run around in a kayak… It sounded like the perfect antidote to my technology and traffic laden life. I had even managed to convince a friend to join me on the journey.
“Are you kidding me?” We were incredulous. The wildflowers known as fire-weed were resplendent, the locals were friendly, the food was amazing and the local wildlife was in attendance. We were one day in and overwhelmed in the best of ways, Southeast Alaska had rolled out quite a welcome mat.
Inian Islands Institute / The Hobbit Hole
We stood on the deck of the boat that would take us on the one hour trip out to the islands. A cold drizzle hung over us but we were reluctant to move inside to the warm cabin. As we became acquainted with our fellow travelers, Zach Brown from the institute pointed out various forms of sea life that we passed. This was just a glimpse in to what we would experience in the coming week. Upon arrival we chatted over a delicious pot of soup and fresh baked bread. We got to know each other better and talked about what our week would roughly look like and what had brought us to this place. We agreed to meet each morning and spend some time in “noble silence,” some time for contemplating and exploring our surroundings without distraction. The first morning I wandered down to the dock alone and was greeted by a sea filled with jellyfish. I was ready to explode — the only time I had ever seen anything so amazing was through the glass walls of our local aquarium. I had to tell everyone! But wait….I had agreed to remain in silence until breakfast. I sat down and watched the hypnotic movements of the moon jellies and some that resembled butterflies weave their way among them. In these quiet moments I had my first true connection to the place I had already began to fall in love with.
Yoga meets Science
Naturally you would expect yoga to be a part of a yoga retreat right? Would you expect it to be in a wood fire heated room overlooking amazing gardens, the temperate rain forest and the icy waters of a cove?…Yeah me neither! Our group consisted of experienced long time yogis, people who had casually practiced before, and even a first timer. Jessica graciously led us through mediation, breath work and asana. Her open heart and sincere love of her vocation created a safe space for each person to explore their practice. A hearty breakfast would follow and then it was off to adventuring. Daily we explored the island beaches, forests and surrounding waters. This was a brand new kind of exploring. Something I had yet to experience in my 50+ years on the planet. The mornings spent in silence followed by yoga had primed our senses to absorb the environment. What may have otherwise been casual chatter on a friendly hike became passionate interest in the surroundings. Zach cheerfully fielded our questions, explaining the landmarks, wildlife and landscape that made up this unique place. We were hungry for the information, like little kids on our first field trip. By the way those sea butterflies aren’t jelly fish at all. They are a gastropod related to the sea snail!
A buzzword I had heard bandied about in corporate and political circles, something I had never paid particular attention to. Oh sure I cared about it in the abstract but it was just that, abstract. In south east Alaska I met the people who lived there and they told me of the dramatic environmental changes they had seen in just a few years, They shared with me their unique way of life and I was humbled by the magnitude of it all. I walked the land and was introduced to the sea I never knew even though I grew up on the beaches of Southern California. I felt the connection, no the interconnection, to the people, the place and the promises we need to keep. I had planned a trip to escape it all for a few days but instead came a way with an understanding and commitment, not to escape, but to join.