A retreat sounds so idyllic but finding the time to set aside to just indulge in a bit of ‘me’ time, and the right kind of retreat can be taxing. If you are stuck for where to start, then why not check out www.retreat.com – it is a good a place as any to find what you are looking for.
When I thought about the word retreat and what it meant to me I knew I wanted to “get away from it all” and go to somewhere where no-one knew me and I could find peace and quiet. Although the idea of going abroad to a hot country was so appealing I was concerned about my level of yoga experience and whether I would find somewhere too trendy and therefore I would feel out of place.
So, I settled for a retreat in the Gower Peninsula in Wales. My decision to choose Wales is two-fold. I love Wales, absolutely love it. The people and the scenery. God was truly inspired when he created it.
The Retreat was actually set on a farm with two horses, two goats, a dog and two cats. I love animals so for me I was in heaven.
This particular retreat – Ayurveda – was set on the farm and is owned by an ex-Cambridge graduate and his American wife. Both of whom trained in Ayurveda treatments and nutrition and yoga.
When I first arrived, I had to admit, I was a bit nervous and wondered how I would get through the week. No cheeky G&Ts, no caffeine, no sugar, routine, no noise. Eeek! But as I settled myself into my room I thought long and hard about what I wanted to get from the week and I knew immediately. I wanted quietness, I wanted good food, no alcohol, calm, inner and outer peace and to cease my constant monkey-chatter brain that plagues me my entire life.
Within a day I was embracing all the retreat could offer. One day I wandered through the forest and came to a clearing with a wooden bench. I sat and swung on the bench as I watched a buzzard zip through the trees and as I sat I played my hypnosis MP3 Crystal Tower and closed my eyes. The feeling was heavenly. I felt connected to the earth and the trees and the sheer beauty of nature.
I have never been very flexible and yoga for me conjures up torturous movements that I find uncomfortable to perform. However, Kundalini yoga is all about the breathing with a few poses which can be mastered with practice. There is one movement – the Purification breathes – where you sit and breathe from each nostril alternatively – it is very powerful and effective. For the first time in my life no more monkey chatter brain. Your brain is clear and all you are concentrating on is your breathing. It is also relatively straightforward to do with some chanting but even that got easier.
Did you know that when you breathe in you are receiving and when you breathe out you are giving? Therefore, those of us who talk ten to the dozen and hardly breathe are giving all the time. What that means is that you use all your energy leaving nothing else for yourself. Keeping your energy high (i.e. breathing deeply every day) keeps you calm and centered and allows you to deal with the stresses of the day.
I have been a keen follower of a vegetarian diet and have not really taken the vegetarian way of life as something to consider. Each to their own and everything in moderation and actually I still feel that way. But during the retreat, I followed a vegan lifestyle and I loved it. I did not miss meat – meat was replaced with quinoa or buckwheat and of course vegetables were my true friends. I love vegetables and I love herbs so having herbie dahls and soups with the most amazing salads was a real treat.
I also loved the routine. Breakfast at 9 am. Two-hour break before treatment – Polarity or massage – lunch at 1pm. Rest in the afternoon (or walking whatever you fancied) followed by Yoga at 6.15pm and then dinner at 7.15 pm. By 9pm I would find myself in bed, rested and ready to turn off the light. Something again, that I can never do at home.
My advice on going on a Retreat? Choose it carefully – a UK retreat is not always as cost-effective or weather-enjoyable as an overseas one. What do you want to take from the retreat? Exercise, weight loss, peace, calm, sunshine, yoga, meditation. Write a list of your requirements and choose the place that fits with your idea of what a retreat is.
Based on my experience I would always do an overseas retreat in future (I do love the sunshine) but every other element – the food, the routine, the yoga were spot on and just what the doctor ordered.
Even as I write this, two weeks later, with an ill husband, I feel calm and content and at peace with the world and my life.