I thought I’d best start off my posts all about my yoga retreat with a focus on the main part itself: the yoga! Considering that’s what most people will be booking a yoga retreat for, I thought that might be the best idea!
It’s only been a year since I started taking yoga seriously but it feels both like I’ve only just started and that I’ve been doing it forever. For a bit of background, I first experienced yoga at school where I took it as a sports option instead of all the standard team sports we were encouraged to do – hockey, netball, lacrosse, rounders – none of those were for me! I did these sessions for a couple of years, but from what I know about yoga now, we didn’t really take it all that seriously. I could name most of the main poses and show you what they looked like, but I know I wasn’t doing some of them correctly and we did mess around quite a bit (we were at school!).
Last year I started doing yoga videos at work when they put in our new gym with my then-colleague, Laura. I didn’t take long before we got addicted to yoga so started doing private classes fortnightly with a lady locally at Jojoba Yoga – I love her classes and would highly recommend her.
And it didn’t take much longer before I was starting to google “yoga retreats” – I loved doing yoga so much that the idea of multiple classes per day where people would take it just as seriously as me really appealed. Fortunately Raithwaite Estate got in touch just in the right time to offer me the most amazing opportunity to come to their retreat – I was so ecstatic at the prospect that I dropped tickets to see Beauty & the Beast on stage by a local theatre group to go! (Don’t worry, I rebooked for the night before ;D). I would have happily cancelled every plan under the sun to attend it though!
The retreat incorporated plenty of yoga with Victoria from Tree Living Yoga: two lots of sunrise yoga (7am till 8.30am); Stand Up Paddleboard yoga on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; two sessions afternoon yoga (90 minutes again) and bedtime yoga nidra meditation.
I know some people worry that a yoga retreat might not be for them if they haven’t done yoga before, are beginners, or are not necessarily “young” and fit. I definitely did! We had a pretty big range of experience between the people in our group. Out of the 10 of us, there were a couple of ladies who had never done yoga before, and we dived straight in (literally for some of us!) with SUP yoga on the lake as the first session after arriving and greeting one another! There were 3 who already go to Victoria’s yoga classes nearby so knew her well and her teaching style. One of these was an amazing 70 year old lady called Jean who, no kidding, was the fittest and more flexible among us – she was in splits on the final day with barely an eyelid batted! The rest of us were somewhere in the middle with anything from a few years’ experience of yoga with weekly classes to just occasional classes over the year and more. The majority of the group was also over 40 which I found really interesting – I was expecting most people to be from a younger age group for some reason! We were all of a fairly good level of fitness which is somewhat necessary to be able to keep up with the amount classes we had, but as long as you’re able to do small amounts of exercise comfortably, you should be able to manage a yoga retreat.
Victoria made sure that modifications were made for any injuries (we had a lady with a previous knee injury who had also had pneumonia earlier in the year so was rebuilding her strength, and another who had tweaked her back a couple of days before) as well as for different levels of experience. She quickly assessed each of us and would make sure to suggest where we could stop at each pose or where we might be able to push ourselves further.
We started our first proper yoga session (after the SUP one, more on that another day!) with some partner yoga which was a fantastic way to break the ice a bit. Most people came in pairs, and I was matched up with the lovely Sue for these fun poses – to be honest, I can’t really name what they were! There was a tree pose in there, a Warrior 3, then we did various pushing up from the ground and balance-y things. It ended in a lot of giggles which really got us warmed up and getting to know each other a bit better before we got more serious.
I massively enjoyed Victoria’s teaching style overall. She was very easy to understand and had that magical way of teaching yoga where she would be able to talk you through a pose or sequence without you needing to watch her constantly, instead you mostly just needed small glances upwards to check you had the right leg, for example. She is hands-on in her yoga approach which is different to the two teachers I’ve mainly had before – my regular yoga teacher doesn’t use hands-on, and I guess at school they wouldn’t have been allowed to! I actually found that I much preferred the hands-on approach – I didn’t find myself being manipulated in poses, but I did find that just a small touch on my back would make me realise that I was tensing my shoulders or rounding my spine, and so remind me to straighten up, push my solar plexus forward and so on.
There were a couple of poses that Victoria spotted I had the potential to go further in – Shoulder Stand to Plough pose and Upward Bow/Wheel pose. Both of these I have experimented with but I still need more work. During our first try at Shoulder Stand to Plough pose, Victoria jumped in to show me how to get my neck flatter and straighter to the ground as my toes weren’t far away from reaching over my head to the ground. During the second session, she helped me get into it by supporting my legs while I got my neck flat then I could lower into it. In the third session, using the tips she’d given – I managed it myself!! I’m sure every yogi knows the feeling of finally getting something on your own – it’s exhilarating!
Wheel pose is one that I can usually push up to if I’m feeling well warmed up and strong – that’s not every day! During one session, I pushed up by myself then Victoria supported under my shoulders to show me where I needed more lift and adjustment. In the next session, I was about to duck out of it and do Bridge instead but Victoria encouraged me to have a go. I got up and felt like I was doing a pretty awesome job while she hovered her hands under my shoulders. Usually I can only stay up for a breath then I lower back down, but as I began to lower down, she supported me more so that I pushed back up again and I stayed there for a good 3-4 breaths – I couldn’t believe it! That was 2 pretty tricky and intense poses I’d hugely improved on in just 3 days!
That’s not even to mention the small improvements I made in simple things like Pigeon and Downward Facing Dog and the new Sun Salutation sequences I learned, plus the SUP Yoga (but that’s for another post!).
There are a couple of things I’ve always had trouble with in yoga, and these all centre around my arm strength. Chaturanga is one thing I have huge amounts of frustration with because I just can’t get it. I’ve spoken to 2 other yoga teachers about it, a personal trainer, Googled it to no end…but still no luck. I decided to ask Victoria her thoughts and she grabbed me at the end of a session to give me some tips including using blocks and straps. I’m now working on those tips so fingers crossed I’ll start to see improvements and figure it out soon!
I said this in my last post, but I can’t recommend doing a yoga retreat highly enough, and this one in particular. It was like yoga in luxury! The teaching was absolutely brilliant and I’m now figuring out whether I can manage to get to a class of Victoria’s every once in a while despite her being about 50 miles away!
If you’re looking for a yoga retreat, Raithwaite Estate have another one which features all the yoga I’ve mentioned above with Victoria plus SUP Yoga, meals, accommodation and access to the spa facilities in September – check it out here. I’d LOVE to do this one but sadly can’t make it – but just wait, because I’ll hopefully be booking another (and it would HAVE to be with Victoria!) again soon!
PS: I have lots more yoga pictures on the SUP boards – they’re soon to come! I’ll also probably have more soon from the other ladies in the group so I may have to post even more to show some of those too!
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