Friday, May 9

Gray Bear Lodge: Rest + Relaxation Retreat | Hohenwald, TN

LOCATION: Gray Bear Lodge | Hohenwald, TN
COST: $275-$425 (includes veg*n food, shared sleeping or you can upgrade to a cabin, yoga, and so much more)
STUDIO: They built a separate studio off in the woods that is possibly THE most beautiful yoga studio I've ever set foot in.
Their popular R and R weekends are based on our basic need to take time for ourselves. They are rooted in simplicity. During this time there isn't a specific program, but rather you'll have time to live and enjoy life exactly as you desire. Their attentive, caring staff will be there to nourish your body. Relaxation, tranquility beautiful evenings, rejuvenating days... all are waiting for you at Gray Bear.

Choose to join, or not to join as you see fit, your schedule is your own.
  • Daily morning Meditation and Yoga class
  • Luxuriate in our wood-fired sauna
  • Hike our trails, enjoy being in nature
  • Soak in the tropical paradise of our WATSU pool and stone hot tub
  • Schedule Massage Therapy, Thai Massage, WATSU or Breema
  • Spend some time journaling or just sitting in silence
  • Choose to sleep in, watch the sunrise, the stars shine and your spirit soar
INSTRUCTOR: Linda Mills was our instructor for the weekend, from Studio Mills in Kingston Springs, TN. Linda's passion of joyful body movement began in her early childhood years. Linda is now a certified yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance. She is thrilled to be able to introduce yoga and other joyful body movement and fitness classes.
CONTACT: Gray Bear Lodge

I'm going to be very honest with you... this weekend was so special, so sacred, so very my own that I'm going to have a hard time doing it justice in the review and... well... I don't want to share it completely. I feel like I'd be smoldering the magic + the mystery of Gray Bear if I gave you all the nitty gritty details. This place holds a special place in my heart, and I plan to visit them regularly. I know Gray Bear isn't all mine from the rest of the world, but in my world, it is. Does that make sense? So, I'm going to focus on our awesome yoga instructor and let you discover Gray Bear, for the most part, on your own.

I had a seven hour drive ahead of me. It was a frantic week of trying to get everything done by Thursday (with some major chaos the morning of my trip). But once I hit the road in gorgeous weather and found some really good radio stations to sing my heart too—all was well with the world.

The second I ever cross the border into Tennessee, I'm quite sure I'm home. I don't know what it is about this state that feels so right—there is no history here, short of driving through it back n forth to Florida or a couple of amazing trips to Nashville as an adult. It doesn't matter, I just feel at ease in the state of TN.

You should know there is no address for Gray Bear. It will not be in your GPS. So what I did was GPS to Hohenwald, then grabbed the directions Diann sent out. It suddenly becomes a little adventure of "take a left at the museum" and "turn right at the fork in the road". Street names, who needs them? As you get closer to Gray Bear, you will feel like you're driving on hiking paths—but it's a road and you keep following it. If you own a tiny sports car, I would recommend borrowing/renting something that can handle an off-road-like adventure. 

Diann and Adam actually greeted me at my car before I even parked. They got me settled in to my cabin and then explained a few things — where to go for dinner, where bathrooms were, etc. What little I got to see before it was dark had already won me over. 

Sacred Circle Opening
The circle of "tell us your name + say <insert instruction here>" is always a bit overwhelming for me. So many faces and names and bits of information I will never remember. But Adam started us off with some quiet centering and meditation. Then we shared a little bit of ourselves, and Diann walked us through a few of the things to expect.

Restorative Class
Linda didn't plan on doing a class on the first night, but when she offered up restorative we all jumped at it. I couldn't think of a better way to shake off the drive and ease into my first evening at GBL. It was a really nice class of gentle twists, reclined heart openers, and quality time focusing on the breath. Bliss.  

Saturday Morning Class
Before class started, I went in early to play with the Iyengar yoga wall. I've been craving some inversions and I thought I'd go in and play. Gathering more information on it now, I see I did my inversion so wrong—but it did the trick for me. I definitely wouldn't recommend doing this alone. Once I was upside down, I realized if something went wrong I was screwed for the next hour. Not smart.  

Linda started us off with what she called a circle dance—it was really great. We all formed a circle, we would inhale as our arms stretched up around us (like the start of a sun salutation)—gathering all the good mojo in the room into your heart, take a few steps towards the center offering your energy to the group, and then step back to start over again. We probably did this 5-7 times? I can't quite remember. It was a lovely way to start connecting with the ladies without even having a conversation with them.

Next she did a Purna A.M. series. This was extra nice for me, because one of my favorite classes at a Yoga Journal Conference was a day-long workshop with Aadil Palkhivala (who is a Purna Yoga instructor). She followed this with some standing poses that worked up a nice sweat, and then we closed with a little bit of the restorative class we did the night before.

Sunday Morning Class
I learned a new series in today's class » The Five Tibetan Rites. It was a series of poses you could repeat up to 21 times during each pose—all the while setting an intention for your day, week, month, whatever called to you. Some of these I could do 21 times, some... not so much, but I really enjoyed this series.

We then did a 2 minute plank challenge. Lol, I lasted 45 seconds, but that was the first time I think I timed myself doing a plank, so I call that a good starting point!

Then we did a ton of partner yoga. I'm usually not a fan of this—which is just a reflection of me being uncomfortable and even more reason I should do it. Today, after this weekend, I was game for anything. We would move from partner to partner, so we got to share time with everyone doing a bunch of different poses. Working with partners is always great because they can add more resistance or help you breathe into a pose deeper (sorry, all I hear now is my friend Rich saying, "Boom. Encouragement. Yes!" and I'm cracking up... Ok, ok, pull it together Poppen).

Sacred Circle Closing
After our last class we held the closing in the yoga space—which was really beautiful. Again, Adam had us center ourselves in a circle. Focusing on our breath. Then, after some quiet time, Bliss (the reiki therapist) suddenly started singing Amazing Grace. I did not see this coming—no one did, I assume—but you should probably know a little something about me. Amazing Grace was my dad's favorite song, he whistled it every Sunday—whether we sang it at church or not. When I was a freshman in high school he actually asked if I would sing it at his funeral some day—to which I had to tell him I wouldn't be able to keep it together. So, when he passed in '98 we got a bagpipe player to play it instead—he loved bagpipes too. When Bliss started singing it this very special Sunday afternoon, I lost it. Tears. Tears. And more tears. I felt like my dad was sitting right next to me in this circle. Hugging me. Enjoying Gray Bear Lodge, right along with me. Wow. 

Other Bits of Gray Bear Goodness
Along with all of this... the food was vegan-friendly (97% vegetarian, minus one meal with fish—always with a vegan option) and SO yummy (they should do a Gray Bear Cookbook), there is wifi—but it's recommended you don't access it (you do need to ask for the password) and cell phones don't really work (you truly get to unplug from the world, or as Diann said, "plug-in to yourself"), the wood-burning sauna with a cold-plunge tub sitting in the spring water was incredible, the wood-burning hot tub they built themselves (they built pretty much everything themselves) was a beautiful way to star-gaze at night, the hammocks everywhere to read/journal/meditate/nap were bliss, the land itself was healing, and most of all... MOST of all, our hosts Diann and Adam were nurturing sages out of a dream the second I met them. They have built a very special oasis in the middle of—what I think is some sort of magical vortex—Hohenwald, TN.

I look forward to going back and enjoying some of the services they offer—Watsu was raved about most, I definitely enjoy Reiki, and who can pass up a massage ever?! This weekend I decided to upgrade to a cabin though + once you add in the gas money of driving seven hours too, I was out of funds for extra pampering. But I knew I'd be back, so I wasn't upset.

Linda, thank you for beautiful yoga everyday. All the people I met and were so lucky to share this weekend with—thank you for the heartfelt memories I will never forget. All the staff at Gray Bear—thank you for taking such good care of us. Diann and Adam—thank you for your generosity, for seeing what the world needs to heal and become stronger, and for creating what I definitely consider a slice of heaven here on earth. Namaste.

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I took so many pictures, I'm just posting the album straight to Facebook—feel free to see a little bit of Gray Bear through my eyes :)

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