Since discovering and falling in love with Yoga from my first class and 6 weeks later going to that beautiful retreat with my dear friend Helen in Sri Lanka(http://www.ulpotha.com/) about which I spoke in my post ‘Awakening to the Wisdom of my body’, Yoga Retreats have been a permanent fixture in my life, indeed they are my ‘go to’ holiday! Many people have asked why I would want to get up at 6am everyday on my holidays, but holidays are, I think everyone will agree, about rest, relaxation, and re-charging your batteries. For me, I have found no better way to do that than to go to somewhere in the middle of nature, get up early, practice yoga with the larks, eat delicious well balanced and nutritious vegetarian meals, take walks in nature, enjoy some peace and alone time to read, meet interesting people from all over the world and all walks of life, lay off the alcohol, have massages and end the day with a restorative yin practice before going early to bed. These are the holidays from which I return feeling like I have indeed had a holiday, rather than so exhausted I need a holiday to re-cooperate from my holiday. They nourish the soul, replenish your energy and make you feel like you are giving yourself a great big daily hug…because?……well, you’re worth it:)
Yoga holidays are for me a wonderful way to reconnect with my practice that sometimes I lose in the grind of daily life, and perhaps more importantly in so doing to reconnect with myself. To take time for me, to look after myself so that I am fit to look after and care for others. Everything starts with self love. When I get up early when the world is still quiet, and take some time to sit in peace and meditate I feel an inner quiet and peace that it is not always easy to connect to once the world wakes, and the cacophony of life is in full swing, telephones ringing, radio blaring, U-Bahn screeching, all the usual hustle and bustle of daily life. To then have the time to gradually start to move my body and engage with my practice, without being ‘on the clock’ no where to be but right there on the mat, connecting to my breath, and enjoying the stretches until my whole body is purring in appreciation, gratitude and contentment. My heart, mind and soul follows the example my body sets becoming lighter, uplifted, stronger, more at peace with every breath and generally feeling more integrated and whole within myself and connected to the greater whole that is nature, life, and living – the Source of all!
You can of course achieve this at home, but it is harder to find the time, and easier to get caught up with other things and neglect yourself. A yoga retreat is a perfect way to reset and to remind yourself of why you do yoga, of just how good you can feel in body mind and soul from a regular practice. I have always found a return of my enthusiasm and lust for life after a yoga retreat, even if when arriving I was feeling really dull, lethargic and uninspired. That’s not to say that you need to have practiced yoga before, or have a regular practice to enjoy and experience the benefits of a yoga Retreat. As I said, I went on my first retreat after only practicing yoga a couple of times a week for 6 weeks. I would encourage everyone to try it at least once and see what you think, whether or not you have ever done a single yoga pose before or you are a seasoned practitioner. These retreats are time for you, to rest, eat well and reconnect to yourself and they are usually pitched (unless particularly stated otherwise), for beginners. They will of course include more challenging poses and give more challenging variations of poses for those to whom these variations are available so that you are challenged no matter what your level.
I turned 40 in April this year. I had always thought that to celebrate my 40th year I wanted to do something significant. To climb a mountain perhaps and sit at the top of the world, looking out at the rugged beauty and vastness below and contemplate all that brought me to that point in my life and all that I wanted to bring forth into the next 40 years. I wanted to do something to mark the occasion. I then got pregnant again and I was expecting to be heavily pregnant by my birthday so climbing a mountain was not an option. As it turned out, I miscarried before the Christmas so I was no longer pregnant by my birthday but I was not well in body mind or soul. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and a weak immune system in the March, and I was still grieving my miscarriage. I was also feeling a deep pull to Ireland. I haven’t lived in Ireland for over 20 years, I go back regularly to see family but I never felt it really pulling at me. Perhaps it had something to do with now being a mother and wanting to ensure my daughter felt a connection to her roots and so I felt the urge to strengthen mine, or because I was not well and was feeling I was losing myself a little and Ireland was my foundation, who knows but it was a constant growing yearning to return there, to connect. I was even having the feelings in my dreams, I knew I had to answer this urge, to let my instinct and intuition guide me, and I also knew that a weekend back at my parents house seeing family was not going to do the trick. That is always wonderful but I needed alone time, peace, time for me, time to reflect.
So I decided to look for Yoga Retreats in Ireland. As I had discovered yoga whilst living in Hong Kong, all the retreats I had been on to date had been in Asia, South East Asia, in Thailand and the Philippines or the Sub-Continent in India, Nepal and Sri-Lanka. I had not yet been to a retreat in Europe and I guess warm weather and sunshine was something I also associated with the retreats as part of the recipe for success. I wondered if I would feel the same awe, reverence and inner peace and uplifted spirit in wet and rainy Ireland. I came across a Spring detox Yoga and Ayurveda retreat being held in the beautiful Retreat Centre on the West Coast of Ireland at the breath-taking and awe inspiring Cliffs of Moher in County Clare (http://www.cliffsofmoherretreat.com/). A spectacularly beautiful part of the world. This seemed perfect, I had had to defer the last module of my Ayurveda Course which was being held in March because I was too ill to travel and partake and I was feeling disconnected from it all somehow and like the goals I had set for myself were becoming insurmountable. I was tired, ill, over-whelmed and being swallowed up by my own anxiety with regards to my health and my ability to recover and pursue my dreams. Returning to Ireland was important, when this retreat was being held over my birthday weekend and covering Ayurveda it seemed it was meant to be. Like I was being led there. So that was it, I booked myself in and looked forward to doing on my mat all the reflection and contemplation I had always imagined I would do at the top of a mountain for my 40th.
The retreat was led by Doug of Satmya Ayurveda in Killaloe in County Clare (http://www.satmya.ie/retreats/) and his sister Julie and was just the tonic I needed. If you can manage to get to any of their retreats I highly recommend it. Also if you are passing through Killaloe, drop in for a consultation with Doug. I had one during the retreat weekend and after following his Ayurvedic suggestions for just a month I was already feeling a seismic improvement in my health and energy levels. As it happened, (miraculously you might say for that part of the world and time of year), we had glorious sunshine for the whole weekend, however I realised how ridiculous it had been for me to have wondered whether I would feel the same peace and vitality without the sunshine, it is of course the practice and the time for you that brings both.
The weekend fell on a full moon and cast so much light on so many things with which I had been struggling. Indeed it was immediately after this retreat that I decided to start my blog. Wolfgang, or my Wolf as I call him, commented when I got back that I was unusually quiet, I guess I was still processing things that had come up during the weekend trying to grasp the messages that were struggling to get through and then one morning I woke with a clear thought that I had to start a blog. Something I had never before contemplated. As I was too ill to continue with my studies at the time and was not sure when I would be well enough to take the last module, it seemed like a way of staying in touch and connected to everything that I was learning and to share my journey. I had no real clear vision of what I wanted to achieve with it or why I was doing it, just a very clear knowledge that I should do it, that I needed to do it. So I decided to go with my instincts, with what my gut was telling me. Which I usually find easier to tune into after a yoga retreat. Remarkably from writing the first post I started to feel a weight lift. Like I had found a way to still stay connected to my studies and could now just stop fretting about the course, that it was going nowhere and would still be there for me when I was well enough to continue. That I was still moving forward albeit on the scenic route rather than the path I had set out upon and imagined would take me to my destination. This blog has been and continues to be a healing journey for me and I thank all of you who read and follow and are interested in travelling along the path with me.
I had thought that my week long yoga retreat holidays would have to be a thing of the past for a few years after my daughter was born. This birthday retreat was only a weekend and was my first retreat since Cuisle arrived to rock my world but I felt, as is always the case after a yoga retreat, so much more connected to myself that I was curious whether this might be available for families. Yoga is and continues to be such a gift in my life which I really want to pass to my daughter. To help teach her to be confident in herself, and tune into and listen to her inner voice, to feel connected to herself and the earth, grounded but with the ability to let her spirit soar. To learn the art of meditation which brings calm, peace and contentment but also focus, discipline and concentration and to know that she can achieve anything she puts her mind to. An ability to find the calm within even when there is chaos all around. As you will remember if you read my post ‘just a little yoga baby -the Yang!’ my daughter loves to jump on the mat with me in the mornings and show off her yoga prowess. This is something I want to foster and nurture in her as she already shows such an interest.
Through the fantastic website and resource ‘Book Yoga Retreats’ – https://www.bookyogaretreats.com/all/c/family-yoga I discovered many places are now offering yoga retreats for families. Some, like the surf yoga retreats or ski yoga retreats are specifically designed for older children but more and more centres are now catering for families and I think as the demand continues to grow so the supply will too.
I booked my little family, My Wolf, Cuisle and I, into a Family Retreat at Il Convento in the Sierra de las Nieves mountains in Spain above Malaga http://www.spainyogaretreats.com/, from which we have not long returned. This was my first Family Yoga Retreat experience and it was absolutely fantastic. To ‘un-plug’ from the virtual cyber world that is so pervasive in almost every aspect of daily lives these days, and have time just to ‘BE’ with your family, surrounded by raw natural beauty was really refreshing. Our daughter had a ball, there were lots of other kids for her to play with and all kinds of activities were arranged to entertain the children, crafts, treasure hunts, exploring. The parents started every morning with Yoga whilst the kids were looked after and entertained. The whole retreat was set up with Families in mind. We went on fabulous breath taking walks, spent a day by a river, wadding in the water, exploring the wildlife and enjoying the sunshine and My Wolf and I both saw huge developments in our daughter over the course of the week. She was fully engaged in the kids yoga in the evening, and thrived in the whole environment, her confidence growing by the day. It was a huge success, so much so that I am already researching our next Family Yoga Holiday.
I have had some intense experiences on Yoga Retreats, like that about which I spoke in my post ‘Awakening to the Wisdom of my body’ . Each Retreat is different and brings up different things in me but each and every one of them have opened me up to more and helped me to rebalance and reconnect to myself. Some of the things that have come up during these Yoga Retreats have been difficult but at the same time enlightening and freeing and have helped me immeasurably. Blockages that I knew were there but could not understand revealed themselves. Have you ever felt blocked, like you can’t really move forward, like something was holding you back but not been able to grasp what it was to do anything about it? Just feeling paralysed? This is the real power of yoga for me, the wisdom held in your body that you can unlock through the movement and the connection to yourself, to your breath, to your true authentic self. Sometimes even when something comes up, as in my experience in Sri Lanka, it is not even clear exactly what has been released, of what you have let go, but it doesn’t matter, what is important is that you have let go and you can move on. You do not need to go on Retreat to experience this through Yoga but when you are on Retreat the experience can be more intense and powerful because you are there with no other responsibilities other than to yourself. To explore and discover and open up to You. How often do you get that in daily life?
If you have ever thought about going on Retreat or trying a Yoga Retreat my advice is DO IT. If you never thought about it before perhaps this post will give you food for thought. As I said, a wonderful resource when looking is http://www.bookyogaretreats.com.
That’s it from me for today.
Until next time beautiful souls.