Lonnie Poland, founder of Experience Yoga in Milton, Vermont, recently held her fourth annual Relax and Renew Women’s Yoga Retreat at Common Ground Center. The retreat has been so popular that Lonnie has added another weekend this year, coming up on March 14-15, 2015
Lonnie was kind enough to answer some of our questions about her practice and program.
Common Ground Center (CGC): What led you to start practicing yoga, and how long have you been at it?
Lonnie Poland (LP): I was first introduced to yoga through a Milton Recreation community class in 1990. As a Physical Therapist, I was drawn to the physical practice. I enjoyed how great it made my body feel to move in and out of the various postures and the challenge and strengthening benefit in holding them.
I practiced on and off in gym settings and community classes for the next 20 years. In 2009, I began to deepen my practice, and was making many positive life style changes. These changes eventually lead me to leave my job, and begin yoga teacher training. At the time, I had no definitive plan, and didn’t really understand all the benefits and effects of yoga. There is a saying; “If you love your life exactly the way it is, DO NOT do yoga.” It is indeed a transformational practice. I was open and excited to learn and practice; and as I did my offering as a teacher emerged, my path became clear, and I noticed positive changes in my overall health and wellbeing.
CGC: What kind of yoga do you practice & instruct, and why?
LP: I earned my 200-hour Kripalu yoga teacher certification in March 2010 and my 500-hour certification in 2012. Since then, I received training as a mindfulness facilitator, became a Gendai Reiki Master, and am pursuing a certification in Yoga Nidra. In January 2013, I founded EXPERIENCE YOGA, and now offer 10 classes /week along with private sessions, workshops and retreats.Currently, I am taking post-graduate classes toward my certification as a Professional Yoga Therapist and expect to graduate in May 2015.
My teaching and practice reflects and integrates all my training and skills. I emphasize Kripalu Yoga’s focus on compassionate, non-judgmental, self-awareness and combine that with my physical therapy and professional yoga therapy education to assure a safe practice with attention to stability, alignment and breath control. I offer students a meditative experience while safely nurturing, stretching and energizing the body, and bringing all layers of being into balance and harmony.
CGC: How did you select Common Ground Center as a space for your retreats?
LP: I was looking for a location that was local and accessible, yet felt like a vacation. The space needed to be affordable, and have a common room that could accommodate a yoga class. It was also important to me that it be environmentally conscious. There are many beautiful bed & breakfasts in Vermont, but they are generally set up for couples, and don’t have the space required for a group yoga class. I was thrilled to find Common Ground Center. It was everything I was looking for, and more. I am able to host a group of 12 women. We enjoy the common room for classes, meals, and lounging, and the pristine grounds for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-county skiing and even ice-skating. The lodge is really cozy. I reserve 4 rooms on the Southern facing side, and limit the rooms to 3 guests each to assure everyone gets a lower bunk. Each room has its own bathroom and shower (with a showerhead that they all rave about!). After just one over-night retreat, students do report feeling as if they have “been on vacation”. And the staff at CGC has always been supportive, knowledgeable and detail oriented.
CGC: Why did you decide to limit the yoga retreats to women only?
LP: My students inspired me to host my first women’s retreat in 2012. A group of women who enjoyed practicing together in my class, asked me about offering a get-away retreat, and so it began. It has been really wonderful supporting women as they come together to share a transformational weekend away from the challenges and responsibilities of everyday life. Women tend to be caregivers, and this is certainly true of many of my women students. During the retreat, they are supported to focus on being vs. doing, to stay present, and to practice receiving. The retreat is designed to “Relax and Renew”. Along with a sense of calm and refreshing, women leave feeling grounded and affirmed. Students meet other women with many of the same interests and obstacles. The practice of yoga tends to foster community, and a retreat like this creates friendships and deepens relationships.
CGC: What does a typical yoga retreat look like? Do you do yoga 24/7?
LP: During the retreat, I teach a variety of yoga classes including a moderate intensity, a restorative and a gentle. I always offer modifications and assistance to allow students to practice at the level that is most appropriate for them in each session. We practice guided meditation at the end of the morning classes. The restorative yoga class is a highlight of the weekend, and welcomed after an afternoon of recreating on the grounds, and playing in the snow. Restorative yoga is a class that is completely passive. Students are supported by blankets and props and receive the nurturing and healing benefits of the postures. After dinner we gather as a group, and have some type of yoga experience, such as partner yoga, or yoga dance just to have fun and connect. In the evening we relax and visit by the wood stove, sharing snacks and stories. We rise on Sunday morning and practice yoga and meditation, and then have breakfast. The remainder of the retreat is free time until check out in the afternoon. Hmmm…. no, we don’t practice yoga postures, or have yoga classes 24/7. But, postures are just one part of yoga…I would have to say yes, we practice yoga 24/7.
CGC: What would you say to women who are intrigued about a yoga retreat, but not sure it's for them?
LP: If you are intrigued, give it a try. Listen to that inner voice that is nudging you. My philosophy is to say, “yes” to life, and to do things that scare you. It is in those choices that we grow, and we experience all that life has to offer. This is a perfect place to test that out. This is a safe, non-competitive and non-judgmental event. The retreat has been very well received. Coming up in March will be the 6th Women’s Relax & Renew Yoga Retreat at CGC. Students start asking me, “when’s the yoga retreat” as early as October, and during the retreat, they already start referring to plans for next year. It has become so popular that it has become a bi-annual event. You are welcome to call or email me with any questions or concerns.
Experience Yoga will be hosting the next Women’s Relax & Renew Yoga Retreat on March 14 & 15th, 2015 at CGC. The cost is $225. (Includes all yoga classes, vegetarian meals, and room & board). Check-in is from 9-10 on Saturday the 14th and checkout is Sunday at 1:00pm. Please contact Lonnie Poland at 802-373-5319 or email Polandvt@comcast.net with questions or to register. Find Experience Yoga on Facebook.