This weekend I went on a men’s yoga retreat. It was glorious. I feel like I went on a long vacation yet it only began Friday night and ended Sunday at noon. I should add that the yoga is naked yoga and that the men are gay. I should also add since my friends have asked me this question, yes the yoga is as hard as any yoga class anywhere and there is no group sex. Just yoga, good food, great conversation, and warm friendship.
After the group dinner, we began our first yoga session, which began with a series of exercises to get the weekend going and introduce the group. The man who taught the yoga sessions was a wonderful teacher and facilitator. We began by forming two lines of men facing each other and would look into each man’s eyes for a minute or two before the line would shift and we would look into the next man’s eyes, while our teacher guided us in making a connection to the other men.
By the end we had each looked into the eyes of the other 35 men. After a few other warm-up exercises, we got our yoga mats and begin a 45-minute yoga practice. When we ended the yoga class, with a few other guys, I headed right for the hot tub to work out my sore muscles. I only stayed in the hot tub, which could hold eight men comfortably, for a short time until the tub was full and more men wandered down. I really was so tired at this point, so I gave up my hot tub seat to another man and made my way off to bed.
We began the retreat on Friday evening with a group pot luck dinner. I had planned to go to a supermarket when I got off the highway to buy prepared salads but had not realized how small the town in Western Maryland, once I was off the highway, would be.
There was a small Mennonite family-owned grocery store in the one street town and two gas stations. That was it. The grocery store was the kind of small country grocery store I remember seeing in Vermont as a teenager. They did not have any prepared salads and after wandering the small store decided to have them slice cheese and turkey and make roll-ups. I also brought mustard to dip the roll-ups in and some pre-cut carrots. It turned out to be a great choice since there were no other meats at dinner.
There were two choices of sleeping accommodations for the weekend: the house or the barn. The house was lovely and held about 13 of us. I shared an alcove with another man, David, who had planned to arrive late on Friday evening. He got there about midnight just as I was falling asleep. I welcomed him to our sleeping area, introduced myself, and then went to bed. The next morning as we got up David reminded me that we had met for dinner a year ago arranged by a mutual friend of ours because he had also come out of a marriage and had kids. Very small world.
Saturday was a full day. After breakfast, we had our most strenuous yoga session. It was two and a half hours long and very difficult. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to complete it, but I did and felt very proud of myself. After lunch, the group took one of two hikes: the river trail or the mountain trail. Swimming in cool water at this point sounded lovely and I chose the river hike. We walked down a road and through the woods to a lazy small river, took off our clothes and began to wade upstream. The water was mostly six to twelve inches in depth but we found a deeper spot that we could swim in and enjoyed the cool water flowing past. We then reclaimed our clothes, got dressed and hiked downriver, past a house where people were cooking out, to the road we had come and back to the retreat center. We came back to the center around 4:30 PM for a lighter yoga session and did a lot of stretching and partner work, followed by dinner. After dinner, we had a class in Thai massage followed by group folk dancing to end the evening.
The Thai massage session was lovely. Each man paired up with a partner and we took turns with a guided massage session using Thai massage techniques. The dancing was just ok, and I left early and went to soak my weary bones in the hot tub before heading off to bed.
This morning after breakfast was our last yoga session. It was still strenuous, but not as difficult as the Saturday session, and not quite as long. While my mind screamed this morning that my body was tired, I stuck with it and completed the class. Again I was proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing the class.
While I had signed up for this retreat weekend earlier in the summer, I hadn’t given it much thought. The weekend was short enough that if the retreat wasn’t good, I felt it didn’t matter. I wasn’t prepared for how wonderful the weekend would be. There was something so lovely about the retreat center where the weekend was held, the men who came, and the instruction.
One of the interesting things that I found about the men who attend the weekend was that there were not any very effeminate men. For the most part, the men were masculine and very down to earth. There also wasn’t any nastiness or bitchiness. The conversations and interactions I had with the men throughout the weekend were delightful.
I came home rested, tired, and very happy. My soul was restored this weekend. Just what I needed.