Yes, this is an actual yoga room and the view is not a mural. I chose to kick off my year of well-being and self discovery in New Zealand at the extraordinary Aro Ha Retreat Resort. I found out about it from a friend on Facebook who is the actual creator of this carefully curated fitness experience. His name is Damian and he is a beautiful, authentic soul. So, thank you Facebook community. I have wanted to attend this retreat for about 2 years. The pure, clean beauty of New Zealand was the perfect canvas for me to start my journey with and knowing someone in such a far away place was comforting. Now, that all being said, I missed the fine print on what exactly would occur at this experience. To be more clear, I think I missed all the print and was looking at the pretty pictures. 

Within 1.5 hours of landing from my international flight, I was standing with my new mates (1 single woman, one young mother, two mature women, one young couple and 8 pumped up Australian men ready to prove their masculinity and ability to concur anything nature could throw at them) in the bowels of one of the most exquisite interior/exterior expressions I have ever seen. Damian was saying something about how we would enjoy a light snack, then go on a hike, followed by a yoga class, a beautiful vegan dinner, then bed. I wasn’t sure I could walk across the room let alone hike, but hey, how bad could a hike be?

Fuck.  On pure will power I bound up 9.2 miles (yes the .2 miles is important – I want all of the credit I can get) of the most heart-pumping inclines I had ever experienced. Sheer will got me up the sheer wall. That and nature’s beautiful picture book of views. I was somewhere between following the dust of the Australian gladiators and the 2 women that where 15 years my senior, and buffered by a powerhouse mom and another single woman that was an avid hiker that later turned out to be my suite mate. I am so thankful for the two older (than me) women as I am quite sure I would have been hospitalized trying not to be the last of the rest of the herd. I have no idea how long the hike took us. I blacked out after mile 2 and became a machine of inner dialogue that went like:

“I think I can, I think I can, I don’t know how to get back to the resort or I would flee, what would the Australians think, I think they would be disturbed by anything less than all in and I have to pee and there is no way I have enough water for this and, high on a hill with a lonely goat herd, yodelaheo- still have to pee – my heart, is this a heart attack- geez just stop for a minute-hell no if I stop I will never get this thing going again – and yoga later oh good, I think this is the last and now down hill – SHIT left turn and up another mountain – Australians are now coming back down from their summit letting me know it isn’t far, just like another 30 mins to top – I hate them right now – however, the high five did give me a boost to make it to the top – okay here – beautiful and I don’t care – head feels light and I am sure everyone is concerned about how red my face is. I lost my sunglasses on the trail. How hard do you have to hike to lose sunglasses – I think it was when we had to scale a fence – now it is downhill.. – wow- our bodies are an amazing tool. There is no way I should have survived this – and yoga too? I think I should have read more about what this was). 

I survived the hike. Changed into yoga clothes and walked into the most beautiful yoga room in the world and would experience the second part of the retreat that was a bit over my competency level. But, I am me, so I rallied and as any yogi will tell you. “Yoga is not a competition. It is your practice to do what you can do for your body.” I did my yoga and loved it. Dinner was a world-class Vegan experience that was amplified by body’s complete exhaustion and celebration of the miracles that had transpired since my arrival to this stellar country.