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The yoga holiday from hell

Many of you are on summer vacation now, while those of us staying in town are enjoying the quiet streets of Brussels in summer. I’m moving this month so I won’t be traveling, and since much of my attention is focused on the comings and going of my kids and the contents of my home, I decided to share a holiday story from my book. It helps to remind me that it’s not always a bad thing to just stay at home.

When our daughter was three and our son almost one year old, we decided to go on a yoga holiday. It would be the first holiday in years where we weren’t visiting family or attending weddings abroad with no downtime.

We had been through a lot since our son was born. After a truly wonderful water birth, it turned out I had a uterine fibroid that led to an intervention that went horribly wrong when the doctor cut into an artery, so I had to undergo a lifesaving operation when he was seven weeks old. My body took a long time to recover, partly due to having already been so weakened by weeks of bleeding after he was born, then massive blood loss during the operation, and partly because for months I wasn’t sleeping more than two or three hours at a time. Our son woke several times a night until he was nearly two. Our daughter would wake up each day at dawn, raring to go, just as our son went down for the last time.

Exhausted and demoralized, I wanted to do something pleasant for myself. My goal was to relax and enjoy my body again, and perhaps get back into the regular practice I had been used to. We decided to go to the Practice Place in Crete, where we could start the day with Ashtanga yoga like we did in the good old days, then relax and dabble in massage until a light practice was offered in the late afternoon. One of us was to look after the kids while the other did a session. Plus, it was a friend of mine leading the Thai massage sessions, which were a perfect complement to the yoga. With great vegetarian food, sea, sand and sunshine, it was going to be fantastic.

Three weeks before our departure date, my husband broke his collarbone and suffered a concussion in a cycling accident. You might think this would be enough to stop us from heading off to Crete, but that would be underestimating how truly desperate we were for a holiday, and how attached I was to getting back to āsana practice.

Our journey to Crete involved a train ride to Amsterdam airport to reach our flight to Heraklion. As luck would have it, what was normally a direct train between Brussels and Amsterdam turned into a three-part journey, as the Dutch were replacing hundreds of kilometers of tracks all over the Netherlands that year.

Baby, toddler, suitcases, stroller, and travel cot needed to be loaded and unloaded seemingly endlessly by four arms, two of which were under doctors’ orders not to lift anything heavy. The baby was the easy part, because he was carried in a sling, but shifting the rest depended on the goodwill of other passengers. At the first changeover, we simply needed to cross the same platform to board the next train, but the second changeover required walking down stairs and back up to another platform – all of us, with all of our gear, and all within less than ten minutes.

We had been warned of this horror by my Dutch mother-in-law, so she kindly offered to meet us at the station where she would help us transfer all our gear. It was the shortest and strangest visit with grandma we ever had, made possible because Holland is so small, although she traveled 45 minutes each way for the transaction.

All of this time, my partner and I were swatting away thoughts of abandoning the holiday altogether, but we persisted. We just knew it was going to be great once we got there.

To spare you the painful details, I will summarize it thus: two solid weeks in scorching heat without sleeping at night because of our fretful son, and unable to nap because of our bored daughter (did I mention she had stopped napping by that age?); I never saw the beach, except from a distance, and the daily Mysore routine was achieved exactly twice. My Thai Massage friend had also brought his baby, born the same week as ours, and he didn’t sleep either. In fact, nobody really slept, including the twenty-something Londoners who thought they signed up for a fab yoga holiday. I think babies and children are no longer allowed there to this day (you’re welcome). 

That anti-holiday bludgeoned me into finally, truly realizing that parenting was my yoga practice at this stage of my life, and that my previous conceptions of what could be called yoga had been far too narrow. Hadn’t I heard this when I had my first child? Of course! But some students require immense suffering to relinquish attachments, and I am clearly one of them.

Much love and bright summer light,
Susan

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