Gifting yourself a yoga retreat has many pluses; some total immersion without distraction, the opportunity to explore another teacher’s yoga in detail and if you are canny with it, some much-needed R&R by a pool, with some sun.
And, if you are really going for it, those gifts will present in the forms of challenges to your equilibrium, giving you deeper insight into who you are. For as we know, asana is just one small part of yoga’s world and exploring our inner world is an infinitely valuable past-time.
I’ve only been on two yoga retreats now, so I don’t have a huge amount of experience to draw from, but I learned a lot about myself from both. Sometimes, you revisit a lesson you learned ages ago, but sometimes there are those ‘a-ha’ moments which really strike home.
But first, let me tell you a little about the yoga at La Pierre Verte in the South of France, close to the market town of Uzes. Led by Tara Walch, our five day retreat was themed around the elements – earth, wind, fire and water, with two sessions dedicated to balancing those elements, learning how they exist within us and how we can learn from their different qualities.There were also sessions on essential oils, some crafting around creating mandalas with wool and walks in around the local sights of interest.
Our four elements
Our yoga deck
A wool mandala
The blessed swimming pool
La Pierre Verte
Run by Ella and Ed, La Pierre Verte is a delightful retreat from the 21st century where guests can camp or stay in yurts and eat with this family who hail from London, but have made this little paradise their home and business. My friend, Rachel and I stayed in the Mongolian yurt. Behold!
Sky light with a difference
Cosy, beautifully painted and complete with an open air skylight, this roomy yurt turns out to be a pleasure to sleep in. It’s only challenges are shutting our skylight when it rains, which involves throwing a stick over the tent and pulling it down to close over the roof flap to which it is attached (not so easy in the dark). Did I feel safe and secure in our middle of nowhere yurt? Absolutely. Will I ever be converted to the wonders of late night, torchlit trips out to the compost loo? Probably not. I fear my camping days have passed me and I’ve become something of an indoor plumbing princess over the years. And a word to the wise; never leave the top off anything in your yurt. It will be alive with all manner of insect life within hours.
La Pierre food is fabulous. Fresher than fresh, colourful and plentiful, our meals were delicious.
And here is where I learned one uncomfortable lesson. When it comes to food I need grounding and for me balance involves little in the way of pulses and less dairy. Trying to feel ‘solid’ I tried eating more, which did not help matters. But we are here to learn on yoga retreats and learning this was a good thing, how frequently do we get the space to consider our constitution and what suits us? You live and learn.
Five days makes firm friends!
The biggest challenges and surprises
Four hours of yoga a day was an absolute pleasure and in no way the physical or mental challenge I thought it might be. Tara has an Iyengar foundation, so props abound, and Donna Farhi’s teachings are a strong influence. Kindness to the self rules the day.
No, the biggest challenges were surprises to me, the feelings we experience when we let go of the familiar; coffee, wifi and for one day, solid food. Juice fasting for 24 hours was a curious experience and I know the theory of resting the digestive system fasting is meant to promote, but I can’t say I felt any benefits.
Oh, and the mosquitos! Fierce little terrors. I may have spent some time swimming around the pool rescuing insects from the surface, but mosquitos… difficult to see their merits really. Another ahimsa challenge!
The long-term benefits
Am I completely relaxed, calm and zen-like 24-7. Not quite, but there is a noticeable shift in my reaction to challenges. It is possible my partner will snap if he hears me say ‘it is what it is’ one more time, but I have become far less emotionally engaged when conflicts come along. Interesting… I also feel physically very well and my interest in essential oils is awakened again.
La Pierre Verte: http://www.lapierreverte.eu
Tara Walch: http://www.satya-centro.com