Recently, a friend of mine called me up for a much needed catch up. The topic of her up and coming international yoga retreat in the Cotswolds came up as the event was quickly approaching. She spoke of this event when we were back in Bali doing our 300 hour teacher training together. Through her stories it was obvious how much effort she put into executing this retreat. The one unanticipated outcome was that the people who were supposed to originally assist her in making it a smooth event had to pull out last minute .
I then asked myself if I was able to go and assist her as this provided me with a great excuse to visit a dear friend. Turns out the flight prices were in my favour which was surprising as this was a last minute decision. Before I knew it, I hopped on a plane to England to meet up with this soul friend at her first international retreat.
The theme behind this retreat was “wellness.” Pretty simple in theory but in practice its making sure to take the time for you. Pretty challenging, eh? Lets be real, most of us have a hard time hitting the pause button to sleep at the end of the day, let alone dedicating an entire week to healing yourself. Come on guys, we have to get better at this so that we can hit the internal reset button so to speak. These wellness retreats are wonderful for this reason.
The aim of this reset is to refresh all levels of the self; the physical, mental and spiritual components of our self. The beauty of such a retreat is that one can intentionally separate from the monotony of everyday life and immerse yourself in a space that encourages growth and restoration.
Another theme that was present but more difficult to see on the surface was Śauca. This is a Sanskrit word that means purity, cleanliness or clearness. One of the eight limbs of yoga that comes from the Yoga Sutras is Niyama (inner observance) and Śauca is one way to enhance inner strength, increase clarity and discipline.
Cleanliness leads to purity of the mind. If you can empty the junk drawers of the mind and keep a clean space mentally, you will increase your ability to perceive, receive and think at full capacity - experiencing the world in the way it was intended to be.
Śauca refers to the purity of mind which can be achieved through the practice of yoga. This encompasses daily asana (movement), pranayama (control of the vital force energy within) and meditation (directed focus). During this retreat this was weaved in from the moment we woke up to the end of the day. My friend did a great job of work-shopping the concepts that would be threaded through the rest of the week. Everything acted as a building block building ontop of one another. Each thing taught could be expanded on an asana practice or could function as a stand alone practice depending on the situation.
For example, we taught specific breathing techniques that are great to do after asana and before meditation. Although this same breathing technique is also great to do before bed if you find you are wound up and too stimulated. The aim was to provide tools that if utilized could be done anywhere, anytime, depending on the situation.
Purity of mind came from the breath work that was taught and implemented. Purity of the body came in many forms; learning to integrate breath with movement; whether this was done through morning asana or accomplished through hiking the countryside of England to sitting in a field with with sheep during a meditation workshop.
Another very important manipulation of Sauca was by being mindful of the food we were making and eating. We made wholesome plant based meals to help reset the digestive system and the nadis (energy channels) within. The beauty of this retreat was that people took the time to “love” on themselves. This is a newer concept in our Western world that is often neglected but incredibly empowering and valuable.
Resetting the internal hardware and software of our mind and body got me to think of how important these retreats are. They allow you to completely focus on you in ways that may not be in your norm. This includes the structure of daily practice, enjoying the healthy meals provided, being present in the daily excursions and adventures and placing you in a setting with other like minded people.
The goal of such a retreat is to teach in a way that when the clients leave and integrate back into their lives back home that they can implement the tools taught. This is so that they too carry on living their life in such a way that keeps the mind clean and purified.