A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in the charming town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, to participate in my first ever yoga retreat – which also just so happened to be my very first yoga experience. I was a Yoga Newbie. With very little time to prepare (or stress) I packed up my bags and enjoyed a magnificently beautiful drive to Cape Cod. If you’ve never been in the fall, you should go.
That afternoon I walked into the ballroom off the lobby, our makeshift yoga studio for the weekend. I knew no one and admittedly I was a little nervous. I worried about my lack of experience and I worried about not looking the part – was I tall enough, thin enough, pretty enough? As I looked around the room I saw every body shape imaginable – tall, short, small, large and everything in between. I relaxed and put my own insecurities aside. These women, each and every one of them, were strong and graceful. My worries soon melted away as our yoga instructor, Mary Ellen Goodsir of Yoga Moves, came right on over and introduced herself to me. She couldn’t have been more kind or more reassuring. I was not alone – there would be all levels this weekend, as there are on all her retreats. Mary Ellen prefers to call them Yoga Vacations though, “They’re not meant to be boot-camps. They are meant to be vacations,” she explained. Mary Ellen has been hosting these trips for over 5 years now. I knew I liked her the minute she encouraged us to enjoy our wine and food. After all, wasn’t the point of this weekend about relaxation?
Our weekend would end up being a bit of a yoga sampler as we practiced numerous techniques all designed to target different aspects of our minds and bodies. As we took our places on the floor and began with a slow flow vinyasa, where our movements were synchronized with our breathing. This was designed to get our bodies moving slowly after our long car rides. From there we moved on to a form called Nidra, also called Yogi Sleep or Guided Meditation which is aimed to help relax the body and mind – even for those who don’t typically relax. This was my first experience with any sort of meditation – guided or unguided. I worried terribly that I won’t be able to relax, but much to my amazement I hovered around in a state that was somewhere between conscious and unconscious. I had never experienced anything like it. I had managed, somehow, to become relaxed in a way I never have before. It was truly one of the most remarkable feelings ever. I went back to my room to get ready for dinner with an inner calm I don’t think I have ever felt before.
I was almost as nervous walking into dinner as I was walking into the yoga class earlier. We enjoyed our own private dining room where we were 10 ranging from our mid-30s to early 60s – our backgrounds all as diverse as our ages. There was one unifying factor, everyone’s love of yoga. Over wine and great food we exchanged stories and started to get to know one another.
I’ve always believed that great food makes for great bonds. There’s something special about sitting at a table and eating wonderful food and sharing the experience with others. The meals we ate blew me away. They were truly outstanding. I often write about food and review restaurants and so I feel as though I should give you a sample of our delectable meal.
We started off with warm gluten-free bread and Vermont Creamery Butter which was followed by Chili Grilled Sweet Shrimp with Organic Fall Greens, oven Dried Tomatoes and a Sherry vinaigrette. The presentation was exquisite and the salad tasted as good as it looked. Our second course consisted of a Shallot Rubbed Free Range Chicken with local root vegetables, wild rice, a baby kale saute and Natural jus. Despite the fact I was so incredibly full I made room for the Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Each and every dish was beautifully presented and tasted as wonderful as it looked!
The following morning we took our places on the floor and we practiced some Yin Yang yoga. We held long poses designed to help open up all our connective tissue, the fascia, to relieve tension and stress. These stretches and poses were intense. From the Yin Yang we moved on to Flow Poses to create heat in the body which helps to burn calories and energy. Once heated we headed over to breakfast to plan our day ahead. We enjoyed our breakfasts together at a large table in main dining room with sweeping views of the ocean beyond. A large buffet was set and we selected from eggs, sausages, bacon, (so crispy!) hash browns, French Toast, assorted breads and pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal and an omelet bar. Breakfast food is my favorite and the offerings didn’t disappointed and fueled us up for the day ahead.
We were given a free afternoon to do whatever we pleased and we all took advantage of the beauty of the area. Some took off to explore the area by bicycle (which were rented at the hotel), while others took off to board the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. I enjoyed venturing through the charming towns of Falmouth and Woods Hole with Mary Ellen and a couple of the other women in our group.
We returned to meet for a 4:00 for meditation walk on the beach followed by another yoga session in the studio where Mary Ellen led us all in a Fall Detox Flow where we practiced a few breathing techniques used to reset the mind and oxygenate the body. From there we went on to twist, back bend and stretch our quads. We opened up our rib cages and stretched our backs to counteract all the damage we do to ourselves as we hunch over, over desks, screens and phones. From there we went into a modified inversion pose (legs up against a wall). Try this before bed for a few minutes and see how differently you’ll feel afterwards. Our Saturday evening session ended with a loving kindness meditation – a Buddhist practice for kindness and forgiveness.
Another wonderful afternoon yoga session was followed by another wonderful evening of great food, fine wine and loads of laughter. Dinner the second night was as wonderful as the first night’s. With our wine we snacked on Gluten Free Garlic bread that was followed by the most beautiful, wonderful Sugar Pumpkin Bisque I have ever seen or tasted! Local goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds perfectly embellished and flavored the soup. We then enjoyed a wonderful East Coast Salmon with Lemon Scented Basmati, Charred Asparagus and an Autumn Corn and Leek Ragout. Dessert was slightly lighter this night with a scoop of Cape Cranberry Sorbet, fresh berries and a Mint Coulis.
Sunday would be our final day together and we practiced some flow and restorative moves to help aid with relaxation which is so important. It’s essential to our bodies and our minds, for when we are truly relaxed our minds have a much greater ability to respond and —-
I left feeling energized and relaxed and grateful for this opportunity that had come my way that had opened my eyes to something new. I left feeling incredibly calm and relaxed, and yet I had that energetic feeling that accompanies a great accomplishment. I had fallen in love with this way of life and I wanted to shout it from the rooftops and I want everyone to try it out. And to all of you out there who may say it’s too hard or it’s too easy, or it’s not my thing, or I can’t relax… ever… I’ll say to you try it. Try it just once. Or try several different classes. Because while we might say what’s right for one might not be right for someone else, I will say that in this case that’s not true. There is a yoga for everybody… for every body!
The Sea Crest Hotel, Falmouth, Cape Cod
The Sea Crest Hotel has the most magnificent location right on the beach. The large resort offers a main hotel and several large out buildings that include a recently renovated indoor pool, rec and exercise rooms. The outdoor pool, restaurant and bar areas had just closed up for the winter. I stayed in one of the out buildings with a partial and beautiful view of the beach just outside. A couple of other conferences and a wedding took place the same weekend and the hotel was bustling with activity while we were there proving that the hotel remains a popular destination long after the summer season has bid adieu. The beach was lovely, and despite the chilly weather, I took a couple of walks along the water’s edge admiring the captivating landscape. I enjoyed my stay there and I’ve already recommended it to a couple of my friends. My one bit of advice, other than bringing your appetite, is if you do plan on visiting during the colder months, is to stay in the main building so that you don’t need to go outside to get your meals or to go to the lobby area. It does get cold and breezy on the Cape in wintertime! For more information on The Sea Crest Beach Hotel visit their website.
Yoga Vacations with Yoga Moves
Mary Ellen Goodsir owns Yoga Moves in Wakefield, Massachusetts. She has been practicing yoga for over 15 years, and offering has been offering her Yoga Vacations since 2008. The Cape was her 9th trip. The vacations are open to all, and for those interested in her upcoming trips to Tulum, Mexico, Machu Picchu and Peru please visit her website for more information.