I’ve been pondering back and forth on what to base my first blog post on and for someone who often takes a good 5 minutes to decide what yoga leggings to wear for the day, saying its been a tough task doesn’t quite do it justice. But I feel it was no coincidence that I went on my first yoga retreat this weekend and short of big flashing lights above the studio saying ‘BLOG ABOUT ME!’, I felt it was an obvious choice.
Yoga retreats are so widely available these days. From week long immersions in paradise on earth where you can drift on a lilo along to breakfast, to long weekends in the possibly the windiest/rainiest location in the UK where wellies would be a good addition to the suitcase. As a yoga retreat virgin myself, I wanted to share my experience with you guys to give you an insight as to what these retreats have to offer.
‘The Weekend Zen’ was run by Ché Dyer & Holly Hood at a beautiful farmhouse location on the South Coast of the UK called Gayles Retreat which I have taken upon myself to rename GUSTY GAYLES! The weekend blew me away. Literally. I booked myself on with the idea of spending 3 days practicing yoga (read: my idea idea of heaven) and so when I broke a rib 2 weeks prior, and breathing became a task in itself, I was very tempted to cancel. A yoga retreat where I’m unable to practice yoga? Whats the point? Alas! I didn’t cancel, and irrelevantly to the point I’m about to make, I was actually able to practice most of the asana’s in the classes. BUT, the point I’m making is there is SO much more to these retreats than simply spending time in the studio.
Being a self taught yogi, and one who rarely attends classes, my practice is a lonely one. My yogi friends live on the other side of the world (hi guys!!) so actually talking about yoga is usually something that only ever happens online. It was so heart warming to talk tips, tactics and goals with other like-minded people, to practice next to those who you then chat with over dinner, comparing your likes and dislikes, your successes and your failures. For a self-titled, socially awkward lone-ranger, to think that my favourite part of this weekend was being able to meet so many nice people and to get to know them is quite some statement. I think a lot is to be said for an environment where everyone is a stranger but with a common ground. Anxieties about ‘fitting in’ and ‘making friends’ isn’t apparent as you’re all in the same boat. So go ahead and cast that worry aside if you’re considering a retreat.
Now stay with me here, but may I just talk meditation for a moment. I’m sure many people will roll their eyes right here, and I used to be one of them! But I wanna start by saying don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. And sitting in silence for 30 seconds, feeling nothing and giving up does not constitute as ‘trying’ 😏 Holly & Ché are both huge advocates of meditation, honoring it to huge shifts in their ability to lead a happy and balanced life; to choose calm when you could choose anger, to be able to make conscious decisions in everything you do, avoiding the potential for disaster at knee-jerk reactions. And as I was listening to all they had to say on the topic, I felt a sense of ‘I want that!’. We spent time working on meditation before or after each class and I learnt about some great meditation aid apps which I’ll be sure to try out. And if the next time I smudge my freshly painted nails which I spent FOREVER perfecting and I don’t lose my shit, I’ll know I’ve got it sussed.
Alongside the obvious physical yoga practice you’d expect on a yoga retreat, my weekend was spent doing yoga based activities and eating lots of delicious food. As you may expect, the menu was entirely vegetarian, and not only was the chef pretty talented in the kitchen, he also turned out to be a pretty talented musician too! We got our own little private gig one evening so I’d totally recommend you check out Oliver Robinson if you’re looking for some new smooth tunes to put on your IG videos!
Anyway, activities! The beautifully creative Ché had us make our own mala beads which, aside from making me feel 10 years old again and get all excited about what colours to choose, has been an awesome tool for my practice. She taught us that the purpose of the beads is to aid meditation; linking the beads to breath and mantras, and now as it sits around my neck and dangles in front of my face as I practice, I see it, and it reminds me to breathe. Even if meditation turns out not to be my cup of tea, these beads have proved their worth in improving my practice. And if nothing else they’re super pretty!
And lastly, the remaining part of the weekend was filled with some interesting talks on the more spiritual aspects of yoga. As someone who came into yoga down a purely physical pathway, the spiritual elements are those I’ve turned a blind eye to. We covered chakras, Ayurveda and pranayama to name a few and if I’m honest, these concepts are still so new to me that I’ve not made my mind up about them yet. I’ve sat trying to construct this paragraph for AGES trying to figure out what my viewpoint is here, and what I’ve concluded is, I’ve yet to draw a conclusion. It all makes a lot of sense to me, and I encourage you to learn about these concepts before casting them aside into the ‘mumbo-jumbo’ pile like many do. But the very fact this weekend has got me pondering my thoughts on spirituality is enough for me. Its made me curious and I’m doing some more reading of my own, to make my own informed decisions and opinions. I feel like this aspect of the weekend really got me thinking about what is good for my body and my soul, and I honestly feel better prepared to make the right decisions for myself and in general, be a better version of me.
Overall, the retreat did exactly what it said on the tin. It left me feeling totally Zen. I drove back to London on a little cloud; the appalling driving skills of Londoners didn’t boil my blood like usual, I gave way to SO many other drivers that I probably deserve a medal and I didn’t flip my lid when I got home to a messy house which I’d left so beautifully clean on my departure. So, what has turned out to be a long story, short, if you like yoga, and you like feeling happy, treat yourself to a retreat ♥