Retreat, relax, revive

Yoga instructor Emma Lawrence of the Yoga Tree on how discovering yoga changed her life and revitalised her spirit

Six years ago I went on my first yoga retreat. I had two young children and was mentally exhausted with the newfound responsibility of nurturing and nourishing two human beings - not to mention being physically fatigued from having two hard-going pregnancies later in life (geriatric according to the NHS).

As a can do, will do sort of person, I had ‘can do’d’ a little too much and had herniated two discs within a year of each other. I needed some time away from it all to re-evaluate what I needed to do - however, I didn’t know I needed to do this, until I had done it.

My good friend sent me a photo of an advert for the retreat with a cheeky little message - ‘fancy it?’. Within an hour we had very cheap flights booked and were going on our first yoga retreat, having never really done much yoga. What possessed us, I will never know. Three months later, off we went. Neither of us had left our children for that long (Sunday – Friday) and we both left ridiculous lists including silly amounts of detail for those (our families) looking after our children.

Those few days changed my life for the better. It changed my marriage for the better. It changed our family life. For the better. I left knowing I needed to have much more yoga in my life, and I wanted to share the benefits that yoga can bring to both the mind and body. Most of all I knew that I probably wasn’t the only person who needed to escape occasionally, even if only for one hour, once a week. Today, that is still my goal.

In March this year I ran another retreat. The ages ranged from late twenties to early seventies. Two pregnant mamas. A coeliac vegan and someone with more allergies than I have space to write. (It was, it would be fair to say, a mixed bag.)

But whatever their differences, the participants all had one thing in common: exhaustion. Exhaustion that had manifested in illness. Exhaustion which culminated in daily anxiety and then the good old-fashioned I could just sleep anywhere exhaustion.

The setting was important. It had to be tranquil, beautiful with space to wander off and enjoy the views and contemplate. Despite it being cold and wonderfully snowy, it was a wonderful environment and we kept warm with a roaring fire.

Everyone arrived on Friday afternoon, settled in to their rooms and met for the first of their freshly prepared organic nourishing meals. The next two days were filled with seasonal yoga, deep relaxation, an essential oils workshop where they created oils blends that suited their current needs, two wonderful talks on nutrition and gut health/stress from Linda at The Fig Tree, Yin Yoga, a healing gong evening and the option to have massages, reflexology and private consultations with Linda.

Just as important as the timetable was the food. Food they didn’t have to choose, didn’t have to buy, didn’t have to cook and didn’t have to clean up afterwards. If they even offered to move a chair or clear a plate they were informed that the consequence would be they couldn’t come again. Eventually they succumbed to being nurtured. It was a long weekend of eating (lots), de-stressing, learning how to replace old negative habits and forming new friendships.

They came, relaxed, retreated and went home revived, with a new perspective on life.

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