March has been a pretty hectic month: I’m in the process of moving house, setting up a business whilst still juggling my regular yoga classes and PA work. So a 3-night escape to East Sussex countryside couldn’t have come sooner! Nourishment for the mind, body…and belly!
Offering uninterrupted views of the South Downs, the remote retreat is situated on a charming little farm between Tunbridge Wells, Mayfield and Burwash. It’s a working farm so I was welcomed with that wonderful fresh, farmyard smell and a friendly dog named Barley (who likes to play fetch with blades of grass incidentally!) The rooms are incredibly cosy, spaced across a converted barn split into 3 cottages. Disconnected from the daily demands of the everyday I quickly found myself switching off and settling into the slow- but stimulating- retreat schedule. I’m sure there are many reasons to retreat but mine was quite simple: to return to the moment, to live in the now and to feel a sense of enough. Today’s world constantly encourages us to crave more, to be better and to compare, contrast and compete with everyone around us, which is an exhausting and disenchanting way of existing day-to-day. I don’t just want to live my life; I want to love my life. To use Ed Sheeran’s words “I'm all for people following their dreams, just remember life is more than fitting in your jeans.” Time to press pause on the busy narrative and return to life’s little luxuries, like the smell of fresh coffee, the warmth of winter sunshine and uninterrupted indulgence in a good book (which is much easier to do when you have no signal and limited WIFI!)
Each morning began with a cup of hot lemon and ginger before a silent walk through woodland. Instead of leaping straight into my typical 12-hour monologue I was able to process my thoughts and consciously communicate. It sounds rather old-fashioned but I’ve always admired people who properly take the time to think before they speak. It’s an incredibly resourceful way of communicating and a very simple way of incorporating mindfulness into the everyday. And something I seldom practice, so silence really was golden!
I usually practice yoga in the morning but I often find myself doing rather than being, clock watching and making mental to-do lists for the day ahead. The short, silent walk really helped to declutter my mind and by the time I sat down on my mat I felt refreshed, focused and ready to be in the moment, with whatever arose. Our wonderful yoga teacher Wenche, immediately set me at ease when she defined an advanced yogi as someone in sync with mind and body. It’s not about floating into hand stands or kicking over into scorpion pose; it’s about listening to your body and knowing when to stop. Operating in the moment and not pre-empting how postures should look or feel. This took the practice out of the competitive arena of ‘Cirque du Soleil' style flow classes and back to its roots. Back to yoga as an intelligence.
People in the Western World typically come to yoga for the physical practice but they soon start to feel the alchemy of yoga and its ability to heal. We particularly notice this when we come away on retreat because we have the space to digest the constant demands of our everyday lives. If we eat a heavy meal we need space to properly digest and process the food. The same applies to life, we need space and time to digest and process it fully. However life sometimes throws us the equivalent of eating 3 back-to-back Christmas dinners, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and disconnected. When we retreat we have the room to reflect on our lives, choices and relationships in order to fully understand where we are and what we are feeling. To use Wenche’s words, yoga is the compass back to the self. When we operate from this place joy and purpose flow into all areas of life and spread to those around you.
Wenche practices Rasa vinyasa, a style that concentrates on connecting to the natural rhythms and the fluid movements in the body. We are never still, even when we are holding a strong warrior 2 posture, as the human body is made up of over 70% water. When we connect to this constant current we become conscious of our true essence: our desires, passions and the things that drive us in life. In Sanskrit, rasa literally means "sap, essence or taste” and it refers to the juice of life. Rasa vinyasa moves away from the rules and regulations of more rigid yoga practices by encouraging a playful attitude. Described as the art of movement alchemy, it is a style of yoga that cultivates curiosity, creativity and liberates the inner child. The latter being the key ingredient to Wenche’s practice. She is very serious about her yoga…but she’s also very serious about having fun quoting the Buddha before our first class- “you want to enlighten? Then lighten up!” Practicing with a playful attitude enabled me to explore my perceived limitations whilst remaining present to the ebbs and flows of my internal current. It’s an opportunity to meander through the inner landscape, slow dance with the breath and sense the subtle, wave like movements flowing through the body.
This space is what I really needed from a yoga retreat. So many classes in the city play to what I am good at: being busy! Fast flowing practices pacing through postures without a moment to think…let alone feel! Yet here, the yoga was at the heart of the whole weekend- on and off the mat. Wholesome meals prepared by Chef Charlotte were an equally important part of the retreat. Carefully sourced and selected ingredients complimented the physical schedule and encouraged mindfulness at mealtimes. It wasn’t hard to meditate over meals because the food was absolutely delicious (and there was even dessert in the evenings!) A healthy, hearty variety of vegetarian curries, salads, soups and stews tailored to everyone’s dietary requirements.
Yet in spite of the beautiful surroundings, exhilarating schedule and fabulous food it was the people that really helped to bring me back to myself. Tutors and students alike, we were all after the same peace. And even though yoga is a personal journey, it is incredibly inspiring to be around people who strive to make love and kindness their daily practice.
Thank you everyone for a truly transformational weekend. I am returning to London feeling much more balanced and a little bit braver. Life is like one long tight rope walk and sometimes we're going to fall! Yet these falls aren’t failures, they are opportunities to develop and grow.
Never stop learning because life never stops teaching!
Adventure Yogi craft exhilarating and relaxing yoga holidays in the UK and abroad. From wellbeing in Somerset to surfing in Cornwall, hiking in the French Alps to sailing in Greece. Combining yoga and adventure to bring you some…active relaxation!
For upcoming retreat dates please visit Adventure Yogi's website: