A friend and I were planning a weekend away together. We wanted to try something a bit different that would leave us feeling revitalised and healthy and so we decided on a yoga retreat.
After a few recommendations and much research, we chose The Country Refresh Ashtanga Yoga Retreat in Kent. Our host, Sky, welcomed us into her beautiful home to experience “her private, unique and holistic experience where simplicity is key”. We were looking forward to the chance to turn off our phone, to adopt a vegan diet which is easy on the digestive system, experience simple living with shared rooms, and sleep on floor beds within vibrant Indian silk tents.
Sky would be providing us with a yoga space for sharing, learning, breathing and reconnecting to our bodies, a time to find stillness and quiet, to just be.
We arrived at 9am on Saturday morning and were welcomed into Sky’s home. We met the other retreaters and were offered a green juice and fruit. We then proceeded to partake in two hours and forty five minutes of Ashtanga yoga. If you know your yoga, you will know this was pretty hardcore. Perhaps we should have looked up the meaning of Ashtanga?
Sky was a very patient and inspiring teacher, she pushed us to our physical limits but it was great. We finished off with Shivassana, my favourite part, where your body gets to relax and your whole practice comes together.
At the end of the class, she left us to rest and chat to the other retreaters whilst she prepared lunch. Sky served the most delicious vegan lunch; beetroot falafel, quinoa and tomato salad, and pitta bread with a butterbean dip.
We then had free time so my friend and I went for a walk in the Kent countryside, and ended up at Kelly Holmes’s café. We enjoyed a hot drink and a chat and then meandered back to the house, where we grabbed some magazines and a comfy place to sit and relax. I promptly fell asleep and woke just in time for the second yoga session of the day which started at 5pm. This was much more my type of yoga, Vinyasa Flow yoga. It is gentler on the body and is the practice with which I am most familiar. I really enjoyed this session despite suffering with a pounding head every time I did a downward dog. Shivassana ended with the yoga teacher using a Koshi chime which makes the most beautiful sound.
After this session we were rewarded with a homemade vegan chocolate pot. Just what the doctor ordered! Sky’s daughter arrived and we ended up having a fascinating chat with her about food as she is studying nutrition.
An hour or so later, Sky served our delicious vegan dinner; a bean chilli with carrot and suede mash, served with tortilla chips and guacamole.
After dinner, we watched a youtube video by a man called Mooji, who Sky finds really inspirational. He basically asks you to imagine coming into a room, but before doing so, to leave everything at the door; your desires, your memories, your worries, your ideas, your passions, your judgements, your fears, everything.
Check it out here.
Use it as a visualisation exercise that helps you strip back all the nonsense that you carry around. I would encourage any busy mums out there to spend 15 minutes to listen to his words to reconnect with yourself. I found it really helped me lighten my mental load and re-connect with myself without all the thoughts.
We then experienced a Gong Bath. This involved Sky playing a series of gongs whilst we lay on the floor with our eyes closed. It is meant to be super relaxing and many of the retreaters fell asleep during it. In all honestly, it wasn’t for me. The noise was too much for me and I just wanted to go to bed. I was exhausted by the end of the first day.
I woke up on the Sunday morning aching all over. This is to be excepted and so Sky provided us with a pineapple and turmeric drink to ease our aching muscles.
We then started our Shiny Sunday Ashtanga yoga session with other class members who I would say are pretty advanced. They made most of us retreaters feel pretty bad about out level of flexibility but I suppose they acted as inspiration. Keep going and soon you will be able to do that backbend you did as a kid! This was an hour and a half session of Ashtanga and I really struggled with the session length and doing all the vinyasas between each posture, which is basically an uncurling of the body. My body was just too exhausted.
At 10.30am we finished, and were rewarded with a delicious breakfast of overnight oats with berries, kiwi and granola.
And that drew the weekend to a close. We bid our fellow retreaters goodbye and rather cleverly set off for a much needed massage!
By the time I got home later that Sunday afternoon, I was ready for bed. But the next day I felt awesome, I was full of energy and brimming with the desire to treat my body better. I cut out sugar for the following week, reduced my carb intake and did yoga every day. Ok not two hours every day, but yoga every day nonetheless!
A yoga retreat might not be everyone but I certainly enjoyed it. The moral of my story is be sure to check the type of yoga as 6 hours of Ashtanga over 2 days is hardcore. Maybe a spa weekend is more my thing!