I feel indulgent. Ice-cream-for-breakfast indulgent. Make that ice-cream-and-Champagne-for-breakfast indulgent.
I am on my way to a yoga retreat in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in a quaint Georgia town called Dahlonega. My husband and two toddlers are back home in Atlanta, an hour south of here. When I left, our kitchen floor was sticky and a pile of mail sat neglected on my desk. Guilt pressed its boot into my heart as I waved goodbye. I told myself it was important to do something for myself, by myself. But guilt’s unrelenting heel kept pushing down.
And now I’m pulling into Dahlonega Spa Resort, an inn-turned–yoga compound, complete with clusters of cabins and a 1,200-square-foot yoga studio. It’s almost five, the hour of my first ninety-minute yoga class. My weekend agenda includes three more. Back home, I’m thrilled if I can squeeze in an hour-long yoga class once a week. Four ninety-minute ones? Who do I think I am?
Apparently, I’m someone who can still indulge. As we begin our first yoga class, the sixteen other women adopt serious yogi faces as they bend into downward dogs and reach up to form triangles. Me? I’m smirking like a cat with a mouthful of canary. A quiet yoga studio with floors that aren’t sticky and zero mail? A chance to stretch, to breathe, to sweat? The guilt is gone, baby. It takes every ounce of my resolve to keep my smirk from spreading into a toothy grin.
And that’s before I walk into my one-room cabin. Just for me. It’s nothing fancy, just a comfortable king-sized bed, a small kitchen, a clean bathroom. A thermostat I can adjust without entering into negotiations with my husband. I retrieve the bottle of Malbec I’ve packed, pour a glass, and let the grin come.
Later, I walk to the main inn and join the other retreat-goers for a dinner of grilled chicken topped with mango and sauteed vegetables. I don’t know anyone, but it doesn’t matter. All walks of life are represented: Some women are fresh out of college; others are empty nesters. A few came here together for a getaway with girlfriends; others arrived alone. The instructors leading the retreat are from an Atlanta studio I’ve never tried—Balance Yoga—but they welcome me like we’re longtime friends.
When I return to my cabin after dinner, I imagine I’ll sleep like I used to in my twenties, when my house was quiet, my days were mine to define, and taking a yoga class required zero compromise. But I don’t. Instead, I lie in bed and think of my husband and children’s faces. They are smiling at me, happy for me. And I miss them.
The next morning, after a breakfast of gluten-free pancakes and a vigorous yoga class, I grab a picnic lunch from the main inn and set off with some of the other women to hike to Dukes Creek Falls. It’s a bright day, the air cool and wet. I walk and talk with my new friends, who, like me, are still in yoga clothes. I’m not sure about them, but that’s all I packed.
We hear the waterfall before we see it, a stunning 200-foot cascade. A family with two young children asks us to take a picture of them on the viewing platform. I stare at those kids, almost the same ages as mine, and a pathetic smile forms on my face. I’m sure the parents are scared of me.
We return to the resort for another yoga class, and by now I can feel the effects of the first two. Muscles I can’t even name are sore. My mind, on the other hand, is just hitting its stride. It usually takes an entire class for my brain to quit reminding me how long my to-do list is, how I don’t really have time to be doing yoga. But this afternoon, it’s calm and fluid. I let the candles, the soft instruction, the rhythm of the poses and my breath take me deep inside.
After a dinner of grilled vegetable lasagna, we gather outside for drinks and a bonfire. One more yoga class in the morning and we’ll head home. I watch the sparks flutter into the night and think about indulgence. A weekend retreat by myself. New friends. Yoga. All of it is a luxury—a blessing, really. And it has made me remember something: Having someone to fight over the thermostat with and living with kids who spill apple juice on the floor—those are blessings too.
Dahlonega Spa Resort, 706-865-7678