Folly Beach Yoga Retreat

The first week of October was a very special week for me. This was my first solo vacation, since kids. Yes, I make weekend trips for races a handful of times each year, but those don’t count. While those weekends are full of fun, they are nonstop, drive, fly, run, drive, run, fly, drive. It’s exhausting. I usually have to start the trip by driving the girls four hours so my mom can watch them. It is the only way I can logistically figure it all out on my mission to run all fifty states. It works and the girls are able to have time with their grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins so it’s a win overall. Yes, we are on the road a lot during the year going to all kinds of fun events/festivals/races, but this week was different. This week was ALL about me. If I wanted to sleep in, I could. If I wanted to lay on the beach all day long, sure why not?! The world (or greater Folly Beach, SC area) was my oyster and I could do what I pleased. I didn’t actually do any of those things, but I could have!

I wasn’t alone on this trip either. There were nine of us staying in the house for a week long yoga retreat. Some of the group I knew beforehand, others I met when I arrived. We came from a variety of places/backgrounds which always makes group settings more entertaining. We woke up in the morning with the sun and enjoyed some morning meditation. I must admit that I failed at this miserably. The bugs were obnoxious and it was impossible to focus on meditating with tiny little bugs biting any exposed skin on my body. By the end of the week, I was watching the sun rise as I stood in the water or walked along in the waves. It wasn’t textbook meditation, but it was pretty spectacular. After sunrise meditation, we met in the house for a morning yoga practice with our amazing teacher, Erin. Her name has passed in my circles of friends over the years, and it was nice to finally get to know her and learn from her. Our focus during the week was the Eight Limbs of Yoga. If you are interested, you can read more about that here. What I love about the first “limbs,” the Yamas and Niyama is that they are broken down to manageable characteristics and rules when practicing. Focus on one and build from there. Like so many things, it’s at least a lifelong process.  

After morning yoga, we were let loose for the day. The beach was just a hop across the road, so the first thing many of us did that first morning was head to the ocean with our boards. The seas were calm, the weather was incredible, and dolphins were sighted. I rented a beach cruiser bicycle for the week, so after morning paddles and runs, I would cruise the island and check out the scenery and restaurants. Folly Beach has a number of great spots for food and drink. I was in no mood to cook for myself all week (I was on vacation!) so I tried out a variety of these little eateries and didn’t come across one I did not like. Taco Boy, has delicious tacos. I had the grilled fish, kimchi beef and tempura avocado… oh my mouth is watering just thinking about them. Rita’s also had yummy fish and shrimp tacos. The Wich Doctor has great sandwiches (I tried the Hanoi Hogie), but I was envious of others when I saw the Pad Thai. It looked great. Jack of Cups is this total dive bar, super tiny with delicious tapas and a great beer selection. Finally, Bert’s Market is a little gem on the island with organic and natural foods, decent beer and wine selection, delicious made to order food and incredible dessert. Their chocolate cake, a massive piece that runs about nine dollars is well worth it, in my humble chocolate lovers opinion. Bert’s also has friendly, honest employees. I accidentally dropped some cash in the store and when I came back about twenty minutes later and asked about it, the clerk handed it over. I was not expecting that and was beyond impressed. If I were really on it, I would have amazing staged pictures of all the food I enjoyed over the week… yeah, I was on vacation, remember? After our days of recreation and leisure, we met up again at the house for an evening yoga practice and then dinner, usually as a group, taking turns each night to prepare a meal.  

One of the highlights of my week was learning how to ocean surf on a SUP, Friday morning. I have had this fear of the ocean for pretty much most of my life. I am afraid that JAWS will attack me in the warm east coast waters. I am afraid of jellyfish stings and all the other little things that I can’t see swimming around/under me. I also have a difficult time with the whole no life jacket lifestyle of ocean people. I feel extremely vulnerable out there in the ocean without some form of flotation, other than my board. Of course, Jaws would just bite right through my inflatable, right? I have always been a freshwater girl and have had years of excuses as to why the ocean is just not for me, but this week I decided I would get out there and learn. A few of us rented boards from Charleston SUP Safari and were given a few pointers from owner and instructor, Jon Ory. The waves were small, which was great for me. I was super timid at first, imagining myself eating it in shallow surf and then getting slammed in the face with the board. Luckily, that didn’t happen and slowly but surely I became less scared of what might happen to me and started to really enjoy the process. Ocean surfing is different from river surfing in a number of ways and each has it benefits and drawbacks. River surfing has a standing wave from which you all take turns. Good, surfable ocean waves come sporadically and everyone has to wait for their own wave, especially if you are not competent in moving across and out of the way of others. Falling off your board in the ocean usually means you are getting pushed into the beach, so other than trying not to get beat up by coral and flying boards and paddles you just hop back on and paddle out to wait for the next wave. On the river, when you fall of your board, you usually get washed downstream, so it’s more of a race to get back on your board and paddle into the closest eddy to make your way back up to the hole. Those are just a couple that stick out in my mind.  Three hours on the water did not leave me an ocean pro, but it fueled a desire to head south for some warmer ocean surfing this winter… and I might have to invest in an ocean board.

On our last full day at Folly Beach, my friend Chris and I decided to drive up to Mount Pleasant to compete in the Golden Nugget SUP race, put on by Half Moon Outfitters. We both participated in the 10K race, which consisted of two laps, out Shem Creek, into the Harbor and back. The harbor was windy and super choppy. It was impossible to paddle on both sides so the whole way out I had to paddle out on my left side because of the wind and chop, and then switch to my right side for the paddle back. I have not trained for that length of duration on one side and I could feel the burn! I was humbled watching some of the racers out there and realized how much more practice I need in open water environments. Regardless of my performance, it was a beautiful day with fun people and was finished off with a delicious lunch and sightseeing in downtown Charleston.

I left Folly Beach early Sunday morning, feeling sore, physically exhausted, but mentally refreshed. I enjoyed a whole week of getting to know a great group of people, from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. I had great food, nice runs, amazing paddles, and yoga bliss to boot. I am definitely looking forward to making this trip a yearly tradition.