So I finally signed up for yoga classes at a studio down the street, Life in Motion, a few weeks ago. And I’m so glad I did! This is not the yoga I did in college. First off, they start by chanting, “oooommmmm” at the beginning of every class. The first time I was kind of like, “What the f? Um, sure ok.” But really, it’s cool! The vibrations from 20 or more people chanting is a very unique experience.
The classes themselves are challenging, even the “basic” ones. But I LOVE it. After every hour and a half session I feel so stretchy, bendy, and totally in shape. And peaceful, of course. It’s also a great place to meet locals.
So when an instructor named Amanda announced there were some spaces left in her yoga retreat, I jumped at the chance. Nevermind I had only been taking classes for a few weeks. Amanda emailed me back and told me no worries, I would have a great time.
It was a windy, frigid New York night when I arrived at the Beacon train station. I waited with another retreat attendee, Diane, for our ride to come. I was thinking that the retreat would be held at some hippy-dippy rustic, buddhist temple-ish lodge with minimal heating. You can imagine my surprise when we drove through the stone gates (the place is aptly called Stone Gate) and around the driveway in front of a gorgeous old mansion.
The couple that owns it is in the process of renovating this old gem, and meanwhile rents it out to people like us for weekends or weddings. (They have a website here.) It has three stories of intricate crown molding, chandeliers, and creaky, curving, wooden staircases, and more than enough room for fifteen people to sleep comfortably.
Dages, (pronounced day-jes) was our cook. She specializes in vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Although there were only a couple vegetarians on the trip, she still provided the participants with delicious meals concocted of bizarre yet insanely nutritious ingredients: squash, turnips, bok choy, napa cabbage, seitan and tempeh for a meat-like deliciousness, and kale and brussel sprouts from Stone Gate farm next door. Most of the ingredients were locally sourced, in-season veggies from the Park Slope food Co-Op. We were all disappointed to learn that it’s a members-only store.
In the mornings we woke around nine, and would wander down for a freshly made smoothie with berries and almond milk, platters of melon and pomegranate seeds, and hot tea. Then we would converge in what looks like it might have been a formal living room, with a bay window that bathes the floor in morning sunshine. When we were on our backs or doing backbends, it was a pleasure to gaze up at the plaster fruits and leaves that ornamented the ceiling .
Almost two hours of yoga followed, with us trying to balance upside down, or just pouring sweat as we smoothly rotated through challenging positions with the help of Amanda and Ariel. An hour in the spicy scent of Dages’ cooking would waft down the hall and into our room. It was waiting for us in the dining room when we were done meditating.
With our extra time, we would stroll in the artfully crumbling back garden – reminiscent of old European gardens – with it’s symmetry, fountain, roses, and cracked balustrades. At night, after a second yoga session, we relaxed with wine from the adorable little wine shop in town, and nibbled on organic chocolates while we lingered over the dining room table, discussing chakras and homeopathic medicine. (Effective? Crazy? Who knows…)
We even took a trip next door to see the source of our food. Stone Gate Farm is what used to be Stone Gate’s outhouses. Now it belongs to a photographer and his family, who raise chickens for the eggs, and grow enough food to share in the local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
So was the weekend worth it? Absolutely. I met some pretty cool people. (Ok, some yoga people can be a little bit bizarre. But for the most part, very cool.) And I got to relax in a beautiful setting.
I know one thing. I had been trying to break my personal running speed of five miles at 8:10 per mile. On Monday morning I ran five miles in 40 minutes and 10 seconds. Thats 8:02 per mile. Was it the food? The yoga? Both? Who cares?