Last April I signed myself up for Amy Brambles first ever weekend yoga retreat at Potash Barns in Suffolk. I love my yoga and some might say that I even stalk Amy on a weekly basis. As well as strong sessions, restorative or any other kind of Sunday workshop she might conjure up; if it’s on offer I’m usually front row. But a weekend away….. That’s a different story!
I’ve never left my lot before, it’s not what I do, I don’t go on spa breaks or shopping trips or hen dos with the girls. I stay at home, I take care of people. I wash clothes and dishes and small children constantly. I buy food and cook food and feed family constantly. I counsel, keep the peace and answer to the calls of Mum constantly. I fit in haircuts (another of my many previous lives) and sometimes I cook and style hair at the same time! And now I sell Yoga Leggs too, CONSTANTLY!
The early part of the week leading up to my planned escape, I found myself slightly off key, this was me feeling unsettled by the unknown. I declared that I did not wish to go away to my peaceful haven only to return to piles of dirty clothing and mess. I had visions of the Zen draining from me quicker than you can chant AUM! (Well that’s what I was telling myself). I was probably apprehensive about missing my family, sharing a room with somebody that was not my other half, sharing a bathroom!!! I was also heading into unfamiliar territory. The world of vegetarianism! Confession time…… I like meat. But it seems I was not alone; fears of snoring, sleeplessness and too many lentils (leading to other nightly noises) were apparently high up on the list of things my fellow yogis were also fretting about! By Thursday something shifted, I didn’t feel the need to spring clean, stock the fridge, clear the ironing pile or leave my lovely husband an idiot proof list of step by step instructions on how to survive a weekend without me. With three yoga bags full of kit and Yoga Leggs of course (oh and a bottle of prosecco and a bag of kettle crisps, just in case) I was ready.
A friend offered to drive (lucky as I have neither a car nor any sense of direction). Before we reached our destination we may have rendezvoused with some yoga buddies on route to our yoga sanctuary, we may have stopped off at a country pub; we may have stuffed our faces with lasagne (the meat version) and chilli! We may even have had a slightly alcoholic beverage (shocking I know!) The pub landlady literally laughed out loud when we confessed our purpose for being in the Suffolk countryside. A little like drug addicts getting one last fix before a lock down in rehab. We made a pact not to tell, what went on in The Queen Victoria stayed in The Queen Victoria.
We arrived at the barns and claimed our beds. (Which were heavenly) Potash Barns offers beautiful accommodation. Homely, spotlessly clean, tasteful decor. A family run establishment; your every need is tended to with a smile. Nestled amidst nature, ponies, chickens (we had the most amazing eggs for breakfast) and goats roaming freely in the surrounding fields. It is quite idyllic. They even have their very own rooster for getting you out of the bed and onto the mat!
At four pm it was yoga time……. The theme for the weekend “letting go of perfection” (well I did leave my hairdryer at home so the hair was going to suffer for sure!) Amy always offers more than just a posture practice; she showers us with yogic treats. We were encouraged to leave an offering at the altar, I chose my fluorescent pink light up Buddha (I love pink and Buddha says a lot of things that make a lot of sense). Each individual offering was very personal and meaningful. We shared readings and poems. Heartfelt words from Nan were in the good company of the likes of Rumi. The sentiments shared amongst us were touching and emotional and funny.
The more you practice yoga the more in tune you become internally, I was in unfamiliar surroundings and my balance was paying the price. Amy threw a totally new sequence at us (HELP!!!)I don’t like new! Lord Shiva, it just didn’t work for me! Arms and legs in different directions, flowing in and out (it wasn’t pretty) my inability to coordinate limbs and flow gracefully- let’s just say went well with the class theme of letting go of perfection. Still I later learned how my awkwardness caused a ripple of contentment and delight amongst the back row. (Not very yogic Gill!) The same cannot be said for Darcey Bussell to my left (yes you Sam) nobody wants to stand next to the ballerina!!!(JOKE)
Dinner was next and you guessed it, we were served lasagne (the veggie version) that will teach us to behave like naughty school girls. The food for the whole stay was amazing.Delicious, nutritious, home-grown, home cooked never ending veggie treats. I’m converted! Claire and her wonderful family were like food ninjas appearing with endless supplies of mouth watering goodness. (Not a lentil in sight)Besides it was the double dose of chickpeas that was to become our mortal enemy, not the lentil! I was not the only one to bring crisps and the small food mountain of just in case goodies were not even thought of let alone touched. I cannot say the same for our wine cellar (sorry Miss).
My roommate was a beautiful soul, (that talks as much as I do) with love in her name as well as her heart, practicing yoga for many moons. Full of compassion and wisdom and good humour as were many of the ladies that joined us, we really were in excellent company. When Amy remarked just how well we were all getting along I did warn her to NEVER do a retreat lasting longer than 72 hours. On Big Brother day three is when the madness sets in and people turn on each other like rabid dogs! (I think she made a note to self). You can never be too careful.
On Saturday evening Amy invited a special guest to join and entertain us. We joked was it a yogi stripper? Thankfully it was not. Amy gifted us with our own real life storyteller (who knew they even existed). We did wonder how they entertained themselves in Suffolk. We gathered around the log fire and Tilly the tale spinner performed and entranced us with a magical tale that she had expertly crafted. I’m still not completely convinced we didn’t imagine her. (It was the night that we cracked open the prosecco!)
The Yoga studio ticked all of the boxes for size, warmth, location and views and as expected the yoga was perfect too (once my arms and legs stated to behave). I did begin to question if we were there for the yoga, maybe it was for the eating! A carefully planned mix of posture practice, breath work, chanting and meditation with restorative thrown into maximise relaxation. In between yoga and mealtimes we were encouraged to walk, read, journal, colour, sleep, bathe or simply do nothing. How refreshing. With terrible mobile reception and broadband that you had to search for the need to check phones and communicate with the outside world seemed unnecessary and liberating.
To be asked to do nothing except make yourself a priority, to nourish your body, to still your mind, to recharge and restock and replenish every part of yourself is incredibly nurturing. It felt a little like living in a parallel universe. Focused and extremely mindful. There really wasn’t time to properly miss anyone or anything. Time flew. Only on the journey home did I feel like I had been gone a while.
The definition of the word retreat has a few meanings…… A place where you can be alone, get away from it all. A change of opinion about something or a process of moving away from something (possibly hazardous). Amy Brambles Yoga Retreat enabled you to be away from all that you love, and still remain happy in your own skin, free from everyday distractions that steal our precious time. To change our views on how indispensable we may or may not think we are, to enable us to step away from the drains of the daily grind that may not be entirely hazardous, but none the less take their toll. Allowing us to retreat and surrender into just being; (not so easy for most). What a perfectly refreshing treat for the mind body and soul.
Reflections on perfection….Which occurred to me whilst colouring in rather badly…. That there is no humour in perfection, the wrong turns, the wobbles, the phones ringing during savasana, we laugh. When discussing what nourishes us, Laughter nourishes us. The A* student can either satisfy or disappoint (how incredibly difficult that must be, the PRESSURE!) they can rarely surprise. We live in awe of the perfect ten; we gape at it and ooh and aah. But to reach beyond our expectations, to strive and improve, that brings wonder and joy to our lives. It brings satisfaction. Perfection is futile anyway as no two people see through the same eyes. It’s all just perception. Likes and dislikes are as diverse as our personalities. Our mind plays her warped little games with us, dictating her opinion of the right and wrong way. Lucky for me I don’t need to be perfect .I like being me. Getting it wrong makes us grow, makes us human.
I was welcomed home to cries of Mummy and arms flung around me. Then informed how successfully my brood coped in my absence. (They didn’t starve and the house was clean!) My heart was happy but the ego ever so slightly wounded. Great you won’t mind me booking for next year then. My Yoga Retreat bliss bubble lasted a whole 24 hours after returning home. (I really must stop combining cooking and hairdressing!)
To summarise the perfect get away in one word…. RUBBISH…. There is no way I’m telling everyone how amazing it was! (Find your own retreat)