A yoga retreat has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, but there are so many out there to choose from, where do you start?
Will the accommodation be nice? Will the food be tasty? And of course most importantly: what will the classes be like and will I like the teacher. This endless list of unanswered questions has always held me back from taking the plunge, so when I found out that one of my favourite yoga teachers teaches at weekend retreats in Sussex I knew I had to find out more…
I attend Anna Brook’s Dynamic Yoga Class on a Monday evening at Unity Studio in Brighton, I love the way she teaches and rarely miss a class. It’s a strong, sweaty practice with a strong focus on the breath and Anna weaves yogic philosophy into each class, every week following a different theme.
The retreats she teaches at are run by Sally Parkes Yoga and they run retreats at a number of different venues across Sussex, each with a slightly different theme and programme.
I opted for the Tilton House retreat – the venue itself is a beautiful Georgian house, which is nestled in the South Downs with gorgeous views. The house has a unique history as it was once home to the Economist John Maynard Keynes and his ballerina wife Lydia Lopokova who were part of the famous ‘Bloomsbury Set’ (an influential group of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists, including Virginia Woolf).
The classes were a combination of energising dynamic yoga in the mornings, with gentle hatha yoga classes at lunch and dinnertime and Yoga Nidra and meditation in the evenings! For a 2 night retreat, we managed to cram in an impressive 7 classes, so if you’re looking for a retreat where you can practice as much yoga as possible (which I was) you would not be disappointed. You can attend however many or few of the classes as you like, there’s no judgement or obligation to attend, but I did them all and looked forward to each and every one of them. The classes struck a good balance of challenging, fun and gentle so it wasn’t too strenuous to take part in all the classes – after all, it’s a retreat not a boot camp and the aim is to leave feeling rejuvenated, which we certainly did.
The classes were suitable for all levels and even those with injuries, Anna is an experienced teacher and can adapt each posture to suit the individual’s needs.
The mediation and yoga Nidra classes were held in the evenings and were gloriously relaxing – the perfect way to send you off into a deep night’s sleep. All of the classes take place in a Yurt in the grounds, which was a beautifully serene place to practice and it was delicately decorated with fairly lights and candles to really create a calming atmosphere.
Despite the abundance of classes, we still had the perfect amount of free-time for exploring the grounds and taking walks in the local area (which is beautiful, and the famous Charleston house is a mere 10 minutes on foot). We even had a session in the log cabin sauna in the grounds between classes, which was a divine way to soothe achey muscles and intensify the deep sense of relaxation we were slipping into.
Holistic Treatments were available on the Saturday and I treated myself to a Thai Yoga Massage with the lovely Holistic Therapist Victoria Auton (who is also a Hatha yoga teacher at Unity Studio). I like a lot of pressure in my massages which often sacrifices the soothing, relaxing part but Victoria gave a very intense, high pressure massage that was also intensely relaxing and I spent the rest of the day in a floaty, dream-like state. I took her card and will be booking another treatment from her very soon!
Wow, the food. I’m a girl that loves my grub, so this is one of the most important factors of any fully-catered holiday for me. The food was described as ‘Vegetarian and cooked fresh from the kitchen, using as much from Tilton House’s vegetable gardens as possible. All food is nutritionally balanced and well thought out to provide you with enough vital vitamins, minerals and energy to keep you tip-top throughout your stay with us.’
This all sounded great, but I mean, how delicious can vegetarian nutritionally-balanced meals be? I packed lots of snacks as I was sure the food would be tasty but if it’s healthy and there’s no meat, it surely couldn’t keep me full for long. I was wrong. Each meal was a veritable feast, beautifully presented and portion-sizes generous enough that we almost didn’t have room for the gloriously decadent (and again somehow healthy!) puddings that were served after each sitting.
There were 14 of us in total at the retreat and everyone was lovely and welcoming, there was more than enough space in the house and grounds to not be in eachothers pockets and to relax on your own with a good book but we also had some great chats with the other guests over a herbal tea and at the dinner table! Anna was also a wonderful host and made everyone feel comfortable and welcome – she took the time to chat to everyone individually and is a true yogi sprit with a lovely calming presence that she made everyone feel at ease!
So if you’ve been thinking about booking a yoga retreat but something’s holding you back, hurry up and take the plunge, you won’t regret it! And if you want a rejuvenating, relaxing experience in beautiful surroundings with great food and lovely teachers then I’d highly recommend checking out sallyparkesyoga.com, I paid £337 for one of the loveliest weekends I’ve had this year and it was worth every penny. I’m already planning my next retreat!
Sally Parkes – http://sallyparkesyoga.com/
Unity Studio – http://www.being-in-unity.com/
Anna Brook Yoga – http://www.annabrookyoga.com/
Victoria Auton – http://mindfulnesshathayoga.com/bio-victoria-auton/