People often ask me how I became inspired to create restorative yoga retreats and it all comes back to the first time I experienced the deep and lasting benefits of a fully immersive retreat. My first yoga retreat was a long time coming - and looking back I wonder why I waited so long? I guess my story is a familiar one. We tend to put ourselves last in our busy lives until something comes along that forces us to reconsider.
I had always wanted to attend a yoga retreat ever since I first started practising yoga in 2001. I would see retreats advertised, but somehow there was always a reason - an excuse - for not going. I was too busy… I had other commitments that could not wait… I could not afford it… and so on.
Then in 2014 I developed a rare illness that put me in hospital for 3 weeks while the doctors figured out what was wrong with me. The illness turned out to be an auto-immune disorder that affects all the tissues of the body, where the body sees itself as the enemy and attacks its own organs. Luckily doctors saved my life with chemotherapy and other medication, but it took a huge toll on my body and emotions. It forced me to take a very good look at my lifestyle and health as a whole. I would need to build myself up again and create a more nurturing way of being. At the time it was something of a wake-up call. I knew I had to make some changes to the way I looked after myself. And I began to put self-care nearer the top of my ‘to do’ list.
I stopped teaching for 6 months and focused on my health. There was no room for any more excuses. I began a daily meditation practice and gradually incorporated a very gentle, restorative yoga practice. This is the slow, nourishing style of yoga that I enjoy practising and teaching to this day.
It was two years after my illness, and still in my recovery, that I heard about a yoga retreat in Bali. I was invited to join another yoga teacher and herbalist to be involved in hosting the exotic wellness retreat for two weeks. I would be teaching yoga, as well as taking part in the self-care practices myself. This time I did not hesitate! It was just what I needed.
A trip to Bali
Travelling to an unfamiliar part of the world – to exotic Ubud, Bali – quickly took me outside of my comfort zone. But once I got there, I soon relaxed into what would be a life-changing experience. The physical rewards were almost instantaneous. Suddenly the focus of life changed. It was all about nurturing the body and soul. There were no distractions and time opened out easily in front of me.
Rest was paramount and I had plenty of time to sleep. Each day there would be yoga, of course, practised in an outdoor shelter called a shala surrounded by nature, birdsong and rain. There would be walks in the lush rain forest of the Ubud Mountains and swimming in the cold refreshing waters. Other restorative practices included enemas, drinking fresh topical juices and daily massages.
The hosts were very supportive, having visited Bali many times before. For this retreat I would be both teacher and participant - and soon found connection with the other people attending. This is the magic of a well-run retreat. Though everyone is on their own healing journey, there are common threads and interests (yoga for one) and we were able to socialise as much or as little as we needed. The guests were coming to heal on many levels not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. We all had our space - but we could all find connection, too.
Retreating helped me feel more alert, alive and awake, as well as feeling more joy, optimism and happiness in myself. I came away refreshed and with new ideas for how to look after myself. I now hold myself accountable in my daily habits to build health and wellbeing. The experience sparked the dream of organising wellness retreats that others could enjoy. I now offer retreats throughout the year, seeking out beautiful locations that offer peace, tranquillity and repose. My vision is to continue to create these nurturing retreats so that more people can enjoy the benefits.
Can a retreat help you?
If you are thinking about attending your first retreat, my advice is to plunge in and give it a try! Self-care is a skill and like any skill it requires practice. Creating space, scheduling in free time to attend a yoga retreat is valuable on so many levels. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch.
I’m planning more seasonal retreats for 2021, including an autumn retreat in Taupo. Retreat places are limited and tend to be snapped up quickly, so be first to find out when new retreats are arranged by signing up for my newsletter. You can find me on Facebook, too.