PSA: I'm coming to Las Vegas next month and have the opportunity to lead a beginner arm balance workshop. If you want to come, let us know. Details are begin finalized and we'll send out a little email when everything is ironed out. Also, summer retreats are planned for NYC and Utah - would love to have you join!
The last leg of our trip after Greece and Italy was Morocco. I'd never been before, which violates one of my cardinal rules about running a retreat - don't host it in a place with which you're unfamiliar, but originally I had planned to co-host with a massage therapist who had been there before. At the last minute, she wound up not being able to come, which left me on my own. It wasn't my ideal situation but it wound up being okay.
I arrived a day before all the students were to arrive, which is usually the standard when I hold a retreat. I just like to get there ahead of time so that I can go over everything and make sure all is in order with the staff of the venue and the venue itself so things will run smoothly when the students start showing up.
The first order of business, after checking the place out and going over details with the staff, was to figure out some food for me. The people at the venue, a private bed and breakfast just outside Marrakesh, were kind enough to let me use their kitchen so I could stick as closely to the GAPS diet as possible. I hit up the local grocery store and, well, it was not like back home.
I'm part Lebanese, so I was familiar with quite a few of the foods I saw - Leban (kind of like a yogurt), for example, was everywhere. One thing I was surprised to see was brain. They say organ meat is supposed to be so, so good for you but I couldn't bring myself to fry up some brain! There were also wild birds and stray cats in the market. Kind of crazy!
I bought the staples - butter, eggs, meats and veggies and headed back to our venue.
The mornings were cool, but the afternoons were extremely hot. On one hand, we really wanted to explore and see everything but on the other hand, the heat was no joke! The car rides to and from our venue were always interesting, though. We saw herds of sheep in the road, camels, and boys on donkeys.
One of the challenges of planning a retreat at a venue you're not familiar with is figuring out where to hold the actual yoga classes. This venue had quite a few balconies and rooftop options - all of which we utilized.
On our first morning together, it rained, so we made good use of one of the sitting rooms and it wound up working out just fine. These are always things I worry about - but it honestly worked out perfectly, and everyone was so easy going that they didn't mind doing yoga in the sitting room.
During the day, the students took off to explore. I stuck around at the venue to supervise the activities there - we had a massage therapist come, and I needed to be there to arrange lunch plans, and I had a business of blogging workshop to conduct. But in my free time, I hung out by the pool, and practiced yoga when I could.
This particular transition was something I practiced while in Morocco. This is actually only my second or third attempt doing it. The most challenging part is slowly lowering down from crow to the arm balance. From there, I've been practicing going into the chin stand variation, so I knew I had that down pat. When I was in chin stand variation, I was really trying to focus on the entire spine bending, rather than just the low back. You can't really see because my arms are in the way, but it's been a huge focus of mine because I think as soon as my thoracic extension opens up a bit more, I'll be able to tough my toes to my head in scorpion pose. I do sort of wish I had tried to slowly come from chin stand to upward facing dog but I was gassed. It does take a lot of strength to link the three poses together and you can see how hard I'm breathing and how much I'm concentrating (the faces I make!! hahaha!). It's all a huge effort, but already I feel that I can do it with ease on my right side. My left side is so weak - I can't figure out why I'm so much weaker on that side. Think it has to do with my core strength. I'm working on it though.
We were really blessed with the most chill group ever for this retreat. There were seven of us total (from Paris, Singapore, Munich and the UK), and everyone was just so wonderful. We ate our meals by the pool, and shared so many stories and laughs.
For our swag bag, we included:
1. My other bag - My favorite tote for travel! This is such a great quality bag and so cute!
2. Antibacterial wipes from Herban Essentials. I love these for travel (take that, germs!) and they're nice for savasana or at the beginning of a yoga class as well. They smell so good!
3. Inspirational stickers by My Mat My Mantra. These are awesome for your yoga mat, yoga journal, or wherever you need a little dose of inspiration.
4. Organic nut butter by Nuttzo for elevated snacking on the go.
5. Chia shots - These were a big hit at the retreat. They're awesome for travel when you want to add a little extra somethin' something' to your yogurt or drinks.
Our venue looked out over the Atlas Mountains - it was crazy beautiful, and aside from the call to prayer, donkeys, goats and birds, was really quiet. We had yoga morning and evening. In the mornings, we did more power-based vinyasa flows, and in the evening we did more gentle stretching type classes. After a super long day in the sun, the gentle classes were really nice.
While there, I read two books. The first - Luckiest Girl Alive, was one of those edge your seat thriller types that I couldn't put down. It was great for a smart, quick vacation-type read. The second was called Leave Your Mark, and is written by DKNY's PR girl. It's more geared toward landing your dream job and getting ahead in your career and didn't really apply too much to me (because hello, I already have my dream job. No, really. That's so cool to say.) but it was interesting to read tidbits from how she got ahead, and she has some really good twitter tips for anyone who is trying to grow their social media presence on that platform.
On the second to last day of the retreat, I started feeling super, super tired. I don't know if it was all the travel, the (slight) time change between Greece and Italy and then Morocco, or the fact that I wasn't eating nearly often nor as much as I normally do, but I just felt so beat. I did a little heart opening yoga because I find it really energizing and uplifting. This was the first time I tried this transition and I still can't believe I was able to do it. I can see how much upper body strength I've built over the course of the last few months since I started lifting heavier weights in December, and I feel so sturdy and stable when I'm in forearm stand these days. It really makes me feel so good and so proud to have come so far in my practice because even last summer I remember taking photos for forearm stand and being so, so wobbly up there.
I had lofty ambitions packing my jump rope and bands. (PS - This jump rope has been everywhere with me! Here it is in the Czech Republic!) I thought for sure I would get in at least three workouts a week, but I must've been out of my mind because I was exhausted from teaching three hours of yoga per day that there was honestly no energy left for a workout.
Over the course of the three weeks I was gone, I did two actual workouts. It was kind of a bummer to me because I really do feel like I lost a lot of the muscle I had worked so hard to put on, but the good news is that a) it comes back really fast, and b) I know I have absolutely no right to complain because hello, I got to essentially vacation in Greece, Italy and Morocco for "work." Above is a quick workout I did while in Morocco.
After an awesome weekend in Marrakesh, it was time to make our way back to NYC. Took a quick selfie in the morning because the inside of the house was just amazing, and I loved all the beautiful carpets and interior.
A crazy thing happened, though, when I landed in New York. I was pulled aside and interrogated at border patrol. Do you see the above outfit I'm wearing? They sat me down and asked me if I had any military training. Does the above picture look like a girl with military training?! Was it my guns that tipped them off?! Hahaha.
They asked if I had ever fired a gun before. I stupidly said no, and then remembered I have been to a firing range a few times. Let's just say they didn't like that I had changed my answer.
They wanted to know who I talked to while I was traveling around, where I stayed, and whether or not I had been to the Middle East. It was horrible because they were so intimidating in their questioning and even though I had absolutely nothing to hide, I started sweating profusely, my heart was racing and I had turned bright red. I was like, "No, I've never been to the Middle East." And then I remembered I'd gone to Dubai in February and had to change my answer. Again.
"WELL WHICH IS IT?!" they demanded.
Finally, after about thirty minutes, they let me go. I couldn't wait to get home after that!