Alignment is absolutely necessary to achieve a deeper sense of balance. It sounded like heaven, an alignment-based yoga and macrobiotic retreat on Sanibel Island. Eat. Stretch. Beach. Sleep. Repeat. I couldn’t wait to get away, and just anticipating it brought about a broader sense of harmony within. But this escape was less about withdrawal into oneself and more about building community and awareness.
Like the pull of the sun and moon on the tides, Karin Stephan’s yoga and macrobiotic beach retreat powerfully brings both sides of the body into alignment with two daily yoga practices and two macrobiotic meals presented according to the principle of balance known as yin and yang. Macrobiotic means long life and this eco-friendly approach to eating involves locally grown fresh vegetables, fruits in season, whole grains, beans, soy and sea vegetables. Soup is a staple at every meal, as is bancha or barley tea.
At the welcome dinner, I sat with two twenty-year veterans of this unique Sanibel experience. I didn’t need to ask them why they kept coming back. Their faces, bodies, and spirits belied their true ages (they were both twenty years older than I would have guessed). As others joined our table, it felt more and more like a reunion. Most everyone was back for a second, third, or fourth year, and I innately understood that this was something I would practice at home; practice for life.
Stephan bases her work on intuition, observation, and thirty years of teaching experience.‚ She studied with B.K.S. Iyengar, whose form of yoga emphasizes proper alignment and uses straps, blocks, blankets, and walls to assist the student in doing the postures correctly. She believes that yoga is self-knowledge.
In each class, Stephan helps students find their optimal alignment within each pose. As she later said, Paying attention to small details alters how the entire body moves.
The same is true for altering one’s diet and healing energies. Ultimately, it is the little details that prevail, choosing fresh foods over convenience, tea over wine. As part of the retreat, Stephan encourages all participants to experience Vernonique Rignault’s ginger compress, an ancient Japanese healing modality that stimulates blood flow and helps the body release stagnant energy, and to attend a private consultation with Diane Avoli, a macrobiotic teacher and cooking instructor. Both were trained at the Kushi Institute, and both cater to your individual health needs while reinforcing and extending the benefits of the retreat.
But it was over late-night macrobiotic dinners, eaten with chopsticks, when others shared their experiences and their recipes, that I learned how to bring yoga and macrobiotics into my everyday life.‚ I had not just attended a retreat; I’d joined a community of fellow travelers.