Going into my first yoga retreat, I didn’t quite know what to expect.
Being far from a self-described ‘yogi’, I wasn’t sure how my once-a-week Vinyasa Flow sessions would hold up to a twice daily full fledge immersion into yoga practise. I won’t lie, I did half expect some ashram style community with everyone barefoot and braless, while the other half of me pictured a room full of seasoned yogis all balancing in crow pose or hanging out upside down in handstands with ease. Despite my reluctance, I decided to go in with an open mind. I also made a pact with myself to go all-in, no half assing or shying away from anything that took me outside of my comfort zone. Part of this meant no iPhone, not even checking messages nor Instagram (yes, they had wifi), and staying totally screen-free for the duration of the retreat. Instead, what I discovered was a truly incredible experience, that left me a changed woman for the better (as cliché as that may sound), to which I am still feeling the benefits from, months later.
Day 1 entailed a ton of travelling beginning before dawn. I embarked on my travels departing from Malta, which entailed almost every method of transportation imaginable. From taxis to public buses, multiple train rides, and a three-hour flight later, I arrived in the English countryside of Norfolk in the late afternoon. Immediately I set about a solo walk around the beautiful property of West Lexham, the home to our yoga retreat over the course of the next four days. Inhaling the crisp spring air and scent of dewed grass (now a novelty for me), while surrounded by daffodil fields, I instantly felt more relaxed.
The retreat itself consisted of a similar daily schedule. The mornings were ‘silent’, and either began with a group walk or meditation. The morning yoga sessions were more energetic and upbeat, followed by a filling breakfast. Much to my reluctance, all the food served was vegetarian. Prior to the retreat, I could literally count the number of vegetarian meals I had on my own two hands! Nevertheless, it did the trick.
The afternoons were largely left to our own accord, and we were free to do as we please, before another evening restorative yoga sesh. One day I enjoyed a massage and a long walk to explore the nearby Castle Acre ruins. The next day, a group of us drove up to Holkam Beach (the Queen’s favourite), and the largest I have ever seen, all lined with colourful adorable beach huts.
The facilities of the retreat were picture perfect. A once-working farm property, dotted with historical buildings throughout, have all since been converted into beautiful contemporary spaces, while still maintaining its charming character. The retreat itself far exceeded my expectations. With over 40 participants, they still managed to make it feel like an intimate affair. Our twice daily yoga sessions were conducted in the self-described “Barn” (first image below). Our teacher was an absolute magician, focusing much more on the spiritual side then the Vinyasas themselves. At first I was disappointed with the somewhat unchallenging physical aspect of the practise, but gradually came to appreciate the approach. Somehow, I came out of the long weekend feeling like a much more better version of myself. I felt this inner peace and calmness within me that is hard to describe, but a feeling that has stayed with me in the months following. Although that is slowly starting to dissipate, a friendship was made there that I hope carries on beyond. We’re already thinking of our next retreat! This may have been my first yoga retreat, but it certainly won’t be my last.
One happy yogi!