January 14, 2022
As I write this blog it is the start of a new year and traditionally a time for reflection of what haspassed but also anticipation and planning of what is to come. During 2020/2021 we have navigated(and still are to a degree) a challenging two years filled with global uncertainty, multiple lockdownsand huge lifestyle changes which have placed us under substantial physical and mental stress andcaused many of us to develop unhealthy lifestyle habits.If whilst looking into the year ahead you find yourself wishing for rest/relaxation, the opportunity tofind clarity from within, time away from day-to-day stressors and to step back from constantexternal stimuli (not just Netflix!), a chance to feel physically and mentally better and deepen youryoga practice then a Yoga Retreat could be the answer.As an attendee of multiple yoga retreats, a yoga practitioner of over 25 years, a yoga teacher of 18years and with a UK yoga retreat planned for September 2022 this is what I have learnt from myexperience of retreats.
1. The opportunity to destress from the busyness and challenges of everyday life.We spend so much of our lives organising other people, ourselves, being busy andproductive and living for too long in a state of “fight or flight” or survival mode andultimately feeling exhausted.The practice of yoga (including breathing techniques and mindfulness) not only offersmultiple health benefits and the chance to calm an overactive sympathetic nervous systembut ultimately the opportunity for us to step back, to pause, to create space withing ourbodies and minds and perhaps feel a little lighter for it. The techniques and practices welearn on the retreat can be used again and again as tools to help us calmly navigate our dailylives.
2. Disconnect from technologyI appreciate the irony of this statement as you may well be reading this on your phone,tablet, or computer but we all know how tiring it can be to feel constantly “connected”, tofeel like we are always available and on call. Disconnecting from technology allows us bothto regain time and part of our lives lost to “tech”, connect more deeply to ourselves andothers at the retreat and take a break from electromagnetic radiation. If, however you arealarmed at the prospect of not being able to access social media or your laptop for a fewdays then you might like to confirm whether the retreat centre has Wi-Fi although most, ifnot all, have good old-fashioned telephones! My advice would be to enjoy and relish thefreedom that tech free time allows.
3. DetoxA controversial term because ultimately our bodies internal organs and physiology alreadydoes a great job detoxing us. Detoxing means “the process of removing toxins and toxicity”and if our body already does that then why is this relevant to a retreat?Disconnecting from technology (see above) could be regarded as a technology detox.There is also some evidence that our physical yoga practice and movement of the body intospecific postures can decompress our internal organs, improve blood flow, digestive systemsand assist in elimination. Irrespective of whether there is sufficient science to back this up itsgenerally acknowledged that twists and many other yoga poses increase our energy,enhance our mood, and improve overall wellbeing. As Cybele Tomlinson said,“Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the mostfull and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted – inbody, mind, and heart – and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As theseblockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at onewith ourselves. Our lives begin to flow – or we begin to flow more in our lives.”Finally, of course there is the opportunity to eat lots of delicious, wholesome, and healthyfood and drink plenty of water. So perhaps a physical detox is possible.
4. Time to yourself and for reflection.How wonderful to have the time to reflect upon our lives, the actions, and decisionswe have taken or those we are considering taking. Time away from the noise of oureveryday lives creates space to enable us to reflect upon whether decisions made orto be taken are in our best interests. This can be quite a deep and emotionalexperience and it can be helpful to take a journal to express thoughts and gaingreater clarity.Time to ourselves means that we can finally pick up the book we have beendesperate to read but has been gathering dust on the shelf, or even enjoying thecreativity of daydreaming and being with our thoughts without interruption.
5. Connecting with natureRetreats tend to be in secluded beautiful locations with the benefits of nature ontheir doorsteps to heal and rejuvenate us. Much of our daily lives are spent indoors,often sitting at desks which not only has physical downsides (tight shoulders,painful lower back, tight hip flexors) but also mental (contributing to stress anddepression). Time spent in nature (long walks inbetween the retreat yoga classes)can help us feel more grounded, creative, and confident.In the world of yoga therapy, the kosha model is used as a lens or tool throughwhich to view the whole person and diagnose them holistically. There are fivesheaths or layers moving inward from the outermost layer – the physical body, tothe innermost layer – the bliss body. Whilst exploring the inner most layers and howto connect to them we acknowledge the benefits of time spent in nature, not onlyits reassuring and mood enhancing qualities but its ability to connect us tosomething bigger, the world around us and the universe. As John Burroughs said, “Igo to nature to be soothed and healed and have my senses put in order”.
6. Deepen your yoga practiceThis is an important benefit, after all you are on a yoga retreat with the addedbenefit of multiple yoga classes, styles, and experienced yoga teachers.Whether a beginner or intermediate practitioner you have the chance to learn newasanas or techniques for progressing a pose, learning specific breathing practices,mindfulness techniques. Ultimately yoga is truly available for everyone regardless ofage or experience and retreats provided a great opportunity for yoga teachers totake the time to be creative, to break down specific postures or sequences andprovide modifications/adjustments. Retreats may be themed enabling the chance toexplore a different element of yoga to one you are already familiar with.Specific time away from your daily routine whilst immersing yourself in yoga andnature may allow you to breathe slower and deeper and calm that overactivenervous system.
7. Meeting new people/making new friendshipsWhether attending with friends, partner or by yourself you are in an environmentwhich attracts like-minded people, wellness, and kindness (the Yama- Ahimsa,meaning non harming is something we practice both on and off the mat) andultimately its reassuring to know that you all have at least one thing in common –the willingness to practice yoga!
I’ve attended many retreats (some at Oxon Hoath to which I refer to below),sometimes with friends and other times by myself and all have been a wonderfullypositive experience.
Attending a retreat solo doesn’t need to feel daunting orunnerving because its quickly apparent that the connections we can make onretreats are often very meaningful and genuine. I personally have relished the timeto deepen my yoga practice and spend time with others when I wanted but alsotaking the opportunity to enjoy the luxury of alone time when needed.
Finally, if the above fails to convince you of the benefits of yoga retreats perhapsthe results of research might be of interest. Naidoo et al (2018) in a study of 2592people on “the health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review”, foundthat the participants attending reported numerous post retreat physical and mentalhealth benefits. Cohen et all (2017) in an observational study of health andwellbeing after a weeklong retreat asked, “Do wellness tourists get well?” foundthat substantial improvements in health and wellbeing were maintained for sixweeks.
Oxonhoath Retreat | September 2022If you are feeling inspired to book into a yoga retreat, I am delighted to say that I am co-hosting a UK based yoga retreat at Oxon Hoath in Kent in September 2022. A wonderfulweekend of yoga, meditation and breathwork to see in the new Autumn season.Oxon Hoath is a magnificent Grade 2 Manor House built in 1532 and surrounded by 73acres of enchanted peaceful garden and woodlands. There are 26 bedrooms ranging fromthe Grand Master suite to smaller rooms which were once servants’ quarters. Most haveensuite facilities and those without have a bathroom close by. You can view pictures on thewebsite www.oxonhoath.co.uk
You will have the opportunity to attend seven classes accommodating everyone from beginners to advancedpractitioners incorporating various styles of asana, meditation and breathwork. Nutritiousmeals are included throughout.Details of availability and prices can be found on my website www.lornafisheryoga.co.uk oryou can contact me direct. Although all rooms are lovely, and many retain their originalfeatures there is only a limited number of superior rooms available which are offered on afirst come first served basis.
Main Image: Natalie Grainger at Unsplash
April 11, 2022
Despite our best efforts, stress is often a normal part of our everyday life. While it is something that most of us have simply learned to tolerate, it's impact on our physical and mental wellbeing is often far greater than we realise.
This guide offers 10 Tips to help move you from stress to de-stress and maintain a healthier, more balanced life that is better for you and those around you.
February 21, 2022
So many of us have been brought up to believe that we need to take care of everyone else first and foremost and that our own needs come last. This is seen as a virtue and praised as being 'kind', 'right' and 'self-less'.
However, as we have seen many times over, ignoring or putting our needs last on our list inevitably leads to burnout, ill health and often a lot of resentment.
January 21, 2022
Self-care is any activity that we intentionally do in order to take care of ourselves! Simple as the really. Our health and wellbeing is made up of our mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual needs.