“Awaken your feminine power and your vital life force energy!” says Jeanie Manchester, my yoga teacher and friend for 30 years. I unfurled my mat like a life raft and jumped on. What else could save me in an unpredictable world? Focusing on the breath and moving my body in gentle asana at the same time took my mind off of other things, like dying an untimely death. The world had shut down. It brought a sense of panic, the kind that poises your paddles to hunker down and take on an oncoming whitewater wave. You’ve got this, I said to myself, become the captain of your own ship. My yoga practice became an anchor of positive awareness keeping me in proper alignment, not only with my inner core but with staying sane. It would be so easy to collapse, but I didn’t sign up for that. I wanted to be a mystic warrior in sacred flow.
“The mat is a mirror,” says Manchester. “When you come to the mat it reflects whatever is going on inside of you. What is your truth? Yoga is samadhi. Dive deep into your heart.” Daily practice offers an opportunity to loosen whatever is taking place in your mind. It creates space and breath to “fill your cup with vibratory essence.” I had found a companion on the path.
Manchester invited me to come on her annual trip to Haramara, a jungle retreat overlooking the Pacific on the west coast of Mexico. It promised close-to-home adventure and a chance to “revive and renew.” Open air cabanas with hand-loomed bedding, lanterns for light and views of the ocean offered the perfect invitation to rest and “let the fires of wisdom purify.” It was off-grid quiet. I could hear my softest thoughts.
My body was feeling good after a year of consistent yoga. I felt strong. Getting up before dawn to meet in the upper Shala meant hiking up a steep pathway, an exhilarating way to wake up in the mornings. A swim in the saltwater pool after practice was rewarded with a fresh coconut full of hydrating water and sultry pulp. Life was starting to make sense again. The shakti was rising.
Restorative yoga came in the afternoon along with a guided ancestry meditation from the host’s sister, Susan Manchester, a modern-day medicine woman who had just returned from Africa where she studied with an 111-year-old diviner. We not only tuned into our bodies and minds; we dove into our family tree, honoring all who came before us by telling our family stories with radical vulnerability. We were residing on sacred Huichol land, which felt supportive and alive. No stone unturned.
Leaving the country was an antidote to COVID-19 fatigue. Listening to the crashing waves of the ocean was a tonic. Our senses bathed in beauty, thawing after a long cold winter. With nature, yoga and inquiry, we transformed. What a relief to leave fear and contraction behind and walk barefoot on the earth, surrounded by stunning vistas and birdsong. I came back to myself as if I had been transported to a distant, yet familiar world, called home.
Om shanti, shanti, shanti …
Photos by Peggy Markel.