This fall, Bread for the City held its annual yoga retreat. The retreat takes a small group of clients and patients to volunteer yoga instructor Debbie Sheetz’s mountain home near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia for a day of indoor and outdoor relaxation, healthy activity, and yoga. This fall’s retreat built upon this great tradition and the memorable trips of the past as a new group embarked on the fall adventure. Here’s a recap of the day:
Spirits were cheery in the morning as we left Washington amidst sunny skies and a brisk forecast en route to Debbie’s mountainside home — the perfect spot for a serene retreat and a getaway from the chaos of DC. As we made our way on the winding, scenic country drive, the old John Denver tune “Take Me Home, Country Roads” rang constantly in my head. Shenandoah Mountains, here we come!
“Yoga doesn’t stop on the mat. We can bring yoga into our lives by seeking out quiet places, engaging in activities that connect us to our bodies and our minds,” says Debbie, our instructor and host. “A group activity outside of the class can be very yogic in nature.”
Since starting at BFC just over a month ago, I get the feeling that Monday morning blues don’t really exist for our staff (as it’s such a great place to be). But especially when the schedule for Monday reads YOGA RETREAT in bold, the blues have been replaced with bright orange, red and yellow — the rustic, vibrant hues of an autumn adventure. I can think of no better way to spend a Monday than hiking, boating, and a little bit of yoga-ing in a place at peace with nature and with so many new faces.
The weekly yoga class has been a part of a series of client and patient engagement activities focused on health and wellness. Getting out of the city is often difficult for many of our clients, and the retreat is a great way to promote a sense of community while exploring new places together. This year’s retreat included folks from both our Northwest and Southeast Centers.
As we meandered through the slopes of the scenic Virginia byways, I wondered what would be in store for the day. Some of our clients had been on past retreats and were describing the spirit of the place, but it was when I entered the grounds and felt the crisp mountain air that I realized the serenity of the site.
The day’s activities began with venturing out onto the lake in kayaks and canoes. Boating got our bodies energized as we paddled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Luckily, no one fell in. (We joked that we would save “aqua-yoga” for the summertime.) Afterwards, we gathered for a nice campfire (complete with smores) and then embarked on an early evening hike to the mountain peak for a breathtaking view of the countryside.
As dusk turned to dark we settled in for some yoga and deep breathing, nestled inside the cozy home. Scattered across the floor on our yoga mats, we all took this time to unwind and to reflect. As our instructor guided us through the exercises — calling for a “wave of relaxation” to pulse through our bodies — some rice and vegetables simmered on the stove, the scent of a scrumptious meal awaiting us after a long day. We ended the retreat with a Thanksgiving style meal at a table surrounded by new acquaintances and delicious vegetarian food. The drive back was peaceful, accented only by a few snores.
Ultimately, Debbie says, yoga has the capacity to connect people, in whatever form we experience it. “From all walks of mind, we are the same, we share the desire for more peace in our lives, for more peaceful bodies,” she says.
Participants were eager to for future retreats. Long-time yoga participant Maxine Davis loves both the retreat and the weekly classes. Her energetic smile is a friendly face every Thursday as we settle in for an hour-long session in the clinic waiting room. “It’s a beautiful time,” she says.
Participants were extremely thankful for Debbie’s investment in Bread as not only an instructor but as a mentor, peer and inspiration to our clients. Debbie hopes to continue the tradition. “It’s wonderful to be in such a supportive organization that can make special things like this happen,” she says.
This is the third retreat that Debbie has held for Bread, and her hospitality does not go unnoticed. Maxine says, “I am very grateful that she opens her home; all we have to do is get there!” Another client notes simply, “She is a beautiful soul.”
We are gracious at Bread to have such wonderful patients, clients, and volunteers who make these kinds of events a possibility. A special thank you goes out to our wonderful yoga instructor for her hospitality and her spirit to inspire us all to just take a moment and relax.
Stay tuned! We hope to do a spring retreat! In the meantime, join us for weekly yoga sessions, Thursdays noon-1 pm in the Northwest Center’s Medical Clinic waiting area. All are welcome, regardless of skill level or experience. As our yoga instructor always says, “Anyone can come! You can even do yoga from a chair!”