Chapter 8 - 20 years of sharing my love of yoga with you
"I'll just do one" I remember saying - such was my naivety of what the future of retreats looked like for Selah Yoga. "Just one to Bali - I've been there, I feel comfortable there, I have the contacts, it's a good place to start, I'll see if there's any interest".
Wow how things developed from there.
One retreat turned into annual week long yoga holiday experiences, weekend options were offered, day retreats and more and more women came along, introducing their friends to yoga and sharing their love of these adventures near and far.
I think that for me the value of stepping out of "reality" shall we say, has been a vital part of surviving in what can be a very demanding and intense world at times. Retreats enable us to reset, think, feel, explore and relax away from what are our normal routines and in a space where you don't need to do ANYTHING!
When my children were little and demands were different I would go to weekend retreats returning only to feel "was it really worth it". Coming home the workload was still there, the continued balancing of everyones' needs, the challenges remained, the mental load high and in all honesty there were a few occasions where I sat at the top of my driveway steeling myself to have the strength to keep on being the kind of mother that was needed for them. And this even after a great few days away. But these weekends were so important - not only to my growth as a yoga teacher but for the connections, the conversations, the experiences that were shared with others. Retreats are not just about the yoga, they are especially about the group and being around a sisterhood that often have incredible life stories to share. There is so much wisdom and knowledge within every group and conversations founded on fun, laughter and the unspoken commitment to letting everyone have as much space to be involved or not as suits them.
I remember our first retreat to Bali offered us an amazing lesson in the humility of a people who have so little. We stayed in a beautiful villa in Ubud with a family who looked after our every need, they taught us how to make daily prayer offerings, took us to a an cleansing spiritual ceremony at an ancient temple and they treated us with so much respect and such kindness it was deeply humbling. Returning home to a society that can boast the spoils of life in abundance was challenging and led to much self-reflection and greater sense of gratefulness.
Mission Beach - south of Cairns, was another remarkable experience as our tropical retreat space looked out over the ocean. We spent time above and below the water exploring the depths of marine life snorkelling and kayaking that can only be appreciated when enjoyed in a place such as this with knowledgeable people around us pointing out the amazing environment that surrounded us. Our reef trip was a definite highlight that took us into the shallow reef waters that the larger boats can't get to and let us explore the reef and all its majesty.
Fiji was next and this trip to the small island of Savusavu came at a time when many of us we were in the middle of the drought surrounded by dust and overwhelmed with the task ahead of getting through it. It was immeasurably healing to be in such lush place, encircled by the richness of greens and so many colours surrounding us. We were able to connect with the local people at a church service listening to their amazing voices in song, we visited a school and pre-school taking with us donated items for them to enjoy, played with the children with bubble wands, we sat with families while they/we sang, danced and shared a meal, and spent time under waterfalls and wandered the local village. The flooding rains were an intrinsic part of this experience and allowed us to see the disruption that cyclones and natural disasters can cause in small isolated parts of the world with so little infrastructure to deal with them. I'm not sure any of us will ever forget the flight off the island in a small 14 seater plane in the pouring rain - it really was quite something!
Daylesford in Victoria offered a very different energy when we visited amidst the covid pandemic. Another fabulous group of women came together but to a place that was much more something we were all familiar with. There was a lovely hotel, fabulous food, shopping, galleries, high teas, trips to day spas, Ballarat for lunch and the surprise inclusion of visiting while the Begonia Flower Festival was a great bonus to our day as we wandered and enjoyed the gardens and magnificent flowers on display.
Then came Uki at the base of Mount Warning near Murwillumbah ...... a place that had been on my radar for many years but has now become a very special place to go, so much so that we will return there for the third time in March 2023 with another group. This is a a retreat that is very much about being still, not rushing around doing things, but just immersing in a richly healing space. I'm not sure if it's the rich magnesium pool, the healing hands of the therapists, the nourishing food prepared with such love by Laura Swan, or just being in a very healing, quiet place that serves to encourage guests to feel so safe and protected in this bowl of nature that you can completely unwind. It's an opportunity to really sink into the body, mind and soul into this time of reconnection - truly soothing and restoring.
As a yoga teacher I have been incredibly blessed by each and every retreat I have facilitated but it's not been without challenges. We've had last minute changes to schedules, one venue who informed me three weeks out that the planned and advertised yoga space hadn't been built, flooding rains, some nervous guests who had never left Australia, some who don't like flying, some who have never snorkeled or kayaked before, others have had a baby possum creep into their room at night through an open window. We've had later arrivals at destinations making finding rooms and managing hilly terrain difficult and I'm sure plenty of other things from our shared memory banks I could add here. But one thing that has always happened is that everyone supports, everyone helps, everyone understands and our yoga values are constantly being practiced. You have trusted me, you have come along to each retreat with open minds and hearts, and the anticipation of trying new things and doing so with the encouragement of people around you.
I have learnt so much about what it is that you, my students enjoy and find nourishing. I design retreats to connect with those things that "fill your cup" so that you return home with a deepened love and knowledge of your yoga practice but hopefully the themes that we are working with bring you to a deeper sense of self. I'm a truly honoured to bring each and every group together whether for a day or a week - they are all immensely special experiences and I look forward to bringing many more offerings to you into the future.
In just a couple of weeks we will be heading to Norfolk Island on our next adventure and I can't wait to see what this will bring us in such a beautiful place steeped in such deep Australian history. No doubt there will be photos to share, memories created, lots of laughter and yoga classes in another beautiful destination. Each retreat is a journey toward greater knowing and understanding of our inward journey - thank you for trusting me to be part of it.
Here's cheers to the next grand adventure........ and many more to come.