Friday, July 12, 2019

Retreat in Crete

Circle on the Sand
A Yoga Retreat

I have just returned from a yoga retreat in Crete. I went with my daughter, K, and it was absolutely fabulous.

I loved Crete, which I have never visited before -- the beautiful rugged island, the generous people, the turquoise water, and the delicious food. I loved the retreat, which included daily yoga practice in the morning, brunch, excursions to beaches and historical sites, daily meditation, and dinners featuring excellent local food.

Nura (our yogi) and Theo (a psychotherapist from Greece) were our fearless leaders, instructors, and tour guides. The seven participants travelled from Canada and Switzerland to take part, and they were a warm, wonderful, fun bunch of people to spend a week with. And, best of all, I got to go to Crete with my daughter!

In Crete with my Daughter
Where's The Luggage?

The first thing that happened is that our luggage did not arrive on Crete. Apparently, there was a baggage handling problem at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and 60% of the people on our flight arrived at Heraklion in Crete without their luggage. We were among them.

We arrived at 8:30 in the evening after 24 hours without sleep, to discover that our bags were not on the carousel. Theo and Nura were at the airport to pick us up, but we couldn't leave because we had to stand in a lineup for two hours to file a lost luggage report.

The next day, the luggage did not arrive either, and our yoga retreat group was leaving to drive across Crete to a remote village on the south side of the island to our retreat location. We were wearing jeans, T-shirts, socks, and running shoes from our flight the previous day that were none too fresh. Although we'd each had the foresight to put a couple of spare clothing items in our carry-on backpacks, we did not have hats, sunscreen, sandals, or light summer clothes, and it was hot there! We also didn't have our yoga clothes, yoga mats, toiletries, or bathing suits.

So, we tore around Heraklion to try to buy a few essentials, as the area where we would be staying for a week did not have stores. But it was Sunday, and everything was closed, except for a few tourist stalls. Nevertheless, we managed to find some light clothes, and, amazingly, the last store we looked in also sold bathing suits and underwear.

I had just finished publishing a blog post in which I announced that I was imposing a clothes shopping moratorium on myself. I think the universe was laughing at my good intentions!

The wonderful people at our yoga retreat were so kind, lending us yoga pants, other clothing, sunscreen, and yoga mats. I accepted that I would never see my suitcase again. I was managing to get by just fine with the little I had, and I wondered why I had thought I had needed all that stuff I'd packed in my suitcase.

And then, four days later, our suitcases showed up, having been delivered by taxi from Heraklion. A surfeit of clothing!

A Beautiful Place To Be

We stayed in a family-run inn in a tiny hamlet. It was situated across the street from the Mediterranean Sea.

Our Accommodations
In the photo of the inn above, our room was the middle blue-painted one.

Water Tap in the Stairwell
Inside our Room, and my Feet
 Every morning at 8:00 or 8:30, we did 1 1/2 hours of yoga on the terrace under the bamboo umbrellas. Then our hosts served breakfast at a long table under the umbrellas. Some days, they set up the tables right beside the sea, under the shade of big trees.


Breakfast on the Terrace
The Yoga and Meditation Sessions

I attend a weekly yoga session with Nura Madjzoub (and I also go to a yoga studio in my neighbourhood once a week). Nura takes a holistic approach, which really resonates with me. I am still a beginner, and I find that yoga has added an important dimension to my life. 

Several times a year, Nura offers yoga retreats in international locations. I was thrilled when my daughter and I committed to attend. I have never done anything like this before.
Theo Making a Funny Face

Nura collaborated with Theo Kyriakos to offer the retreat. Theo is presently based in Greece, and he was our cultural guide as well as our meditation instructor.

Nura in Front of the Temple of Apollo








Nura and Theo organized the retreat around the theme of harmony, specifically the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.

They were also great fun to be with, as you can see from this photo of Nura hamming it up in front of the Temple of Apollo, and Theo making a funny face for the camera.

That's Me Doing a Headstand!
After six consecutive days of 1 1/2 hours of yoga, I was a little sore, and very tired. But I loved every minute of it.

Partner Work
After yoga and breakfast each day, we went on an excursion, either to the beach or to a historical location. After fun and frolick in the waves, Theo led us in a guided meditation. We explored our shadow side. I found the meditation experience very powerful. The meditations left me with lots of images and ideas to explore further.

Most evenings, we ate a late dinner at Taverna Kriti, a local family run restaurant, where we sat at a covered patio beside the Mediterranean. The food was fabulous. The last night, George made us a longtime family recipe: goat with wild artichokes, simmered all day in an egg yolk and lemon sauce. He raised the goats. He picked the artichokes himself up in the mountains. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of it.

I leave you with one final image that says it all: eating watermelon in the sea.

Watermelon in the Sea

18 comments:

  1. This sounds like an amazing experience! I've read or heard about many retreats but none that sounded as enticing as this one. The small group would certainly be a draw for me.

    Not having my luggage arrive would be a panic for me. Isn't it simply amazing how adaptive we can be when circumstances dictate it ... but standing in line for 2 hours to file a lost luggage claim while sleep deprived would be brutal! So glad it all worked out!

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    1. btw - headstand! Awesome!! I've NEVER been able to do a headstand!

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    2. Joanne, it was so great! The luggage ended up just being a minor hiccup. Perhaps there was a lesson in it for me about not being too attached to material things, and learning to accept help from others. (I’m waxing philosophical after a week of yoga and mindfulness.)

      I was pleased to be able to do the headstand. I was able to do them easily as a child/teen, but forgot how as I became older. The hard part for me is getting up into the headstand. (Lack of core strength?) Once I’m up, it’s not hard to hold the position.

      Jude

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  2. Hi Jude! What an awesome experience! I'll bet with all that meditation, yoga, fun daughter time and experience that you are extremely mellow and peaceful. I can't wait to get together with you next week and hear more about your trip. It sounds wonderful and YES to that great headstand. ~Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy. I am not by nature a mellow person — think A-type, driven, and overly busy. That is why yoga and meditation are such an important component in my life now. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been frustrated with previous attempts to meditate. My mind didn’t empty and nothing happened. (The A-type’s lament: Nothing’s happening, I’m wasting time, and where’s my list!). Theo’s guided visualizations were different and worked well for me, maybe because they gave my mind something to do, and I tend to be quite imaginative.)

      I’m looking forward to meeting you 8n person next week.

      Jude

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  3. Hi Jude - What a fabulous experience that you've shared with your daughter. It has all the necessary elements of a great time (wellness, good company, good food, Mediterranean sun, land, and sea) that outweighed the bumpy start by the delayed luggage. Awesome headstand.

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    1. Natalie, yes, going to Crete with my daughter was definitely the best part of all. You’ve listed all the all the components that made this trip so great. And the excellent teaching by Nura and Theo took the experience way beyond a typical vacation.

      Jude

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  4. Crete is the only part of Greece I have been to, though my visit was much more conventional than yours! The only time our luggage has failed to turn up was on our Silver Wedding trip - great - though John’s has gone missing on business travel a few times. I’m surprised at Schipol, it’s usually Heathrow that messes up.

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    1. Hi Anabel. I’ve never been to any part of Greece before, and I’ve had a burning desire to go there ever since we studied Ancient Greece and Rome in grade seven Social Studies. But I didn’t know what to expect. Our North American media presents a quite distorted view of the rest of the world, focusing on violence and economic troubles. Crete seemed safe and prosperous (unemployment is not a problem there), and so steeped in history.

      I seem to lose my luggage quite regularly, but usually it arrives the next morning.

      Jude

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  5. Hi Jude, The words yoga and retreat made me salivate. I am still a yoga beginner and your post has made me think it is now time to branch out more and explore different types of yoga. Funny point on the clothing moratorium. Idyllic and intriguing on the meditations. Great photos. Like you said, the best part of all of it was the time with your daughter. I look forward to hearing
    more:)

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    1. Erica, I have been wanting to try a yoga retreat for a few years now, ever since I first began an introductory yoga course three years ago. But I was thinking of something a bit closer to home, like maybe Banff or the Gulf Islands. When I found out about Nura’s plans to offer a retreat in Crete, it seemed just too amazing to pass up.

      I have attended one other retreat: https://gideonsockpuppet.blogspot.com/2016/09/women-rejuvenation-retreat.html

      That one was to celebrate my 60th birthday, and it also included some yoga and meditation.

      I look forward to meeting you soon.

      Jude

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  6. Hi, Jude - What an awesome retreat! I can't wait to hear more about it in person.
    BTW - I am also VERY impressed with the headstand.
    See you soon!

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    1. Donna, I know, a headstand. I surprised myself.

      Jude

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  7. This entire post made me smile, Jude! What a wonderful experience and exactly what you needed, by the looks and the sounds of it. Such a beautiful area for a retreat, and the sound of the waves and presence of the bluest of oceans must have instilled peace as well. You having to buy clothes was ironic indeed, after your last post :-) Yet, you handled being without luggage for four days splendidly. I would have been pretty pissed. All around a massive learning experience, for the mind and the body. And, you shared it with your daughter. Perfect!

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    1. Hi Liesbet. One thing I didn’t really write about in this post was how amazing Crete itself was. Such a beautiful island. And it’s so rugged! Did you know that it is essentially self-sustaining in terms of agriculture? That is, most of the food eaten on the island is produced locally. But, I was not impressed with the wine. The raki and ouzo, on the other hand, were excellent.

      Jude

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  8. Wow it looks and sounds amazing. And especially no doubt that you got to do it with your daughter. I was surprised how small the group was, but am sure that was part of the beauty of it. That last night's meal sounds delicious. Especially the artichoke.

    Love your lodgings ~ especially the basin. Overall charming.

    Peta

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    1. Hi Peta. It was a very special experience, now wrapped up and tucked away in my memory like a sparkling gem. Because Theo was a local, he knew all the places to go away from the tourist crowds, including wild secluded beaches. It was a really small group of very congenial people: two leaders and seven guests. The cut-off for the maximum number of participants was 12.

      Jude

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