Why yoga retreats are the perfect life reset 

Retreats are really where the yoga magic happens, and it’s one of the best ways to understand yoga in the more holistic way it’s meant to be practiced. The whole experience can have a big impact on your mindset and even transform your life.  Here are my top benefits:

Relaxation: Proper relaxation is something you don’t always get from a night’s sleep. We’re living in a busy over-stimulated world and have multiple work and family responsibilities putting stress on the body and mind. If you find relaxation challenging it might be a sign that you need to prioritise it. A retreat is your time to step away and find a deeper state of relaxation. Relaxation is essential for good physical and mental health. 

Simplicity: Retreat life shouldn’t be fancy or extravagant, a real yoga retreat isn’t about luxury. A yogi just lives with the basics they need. Going back to basics is a lesson we all need reminding of once in a while. Simplicity is humbling.

Nature: Take yourself away from the city and reconnect with nature, there is a lot nature can teach us. We can become complacent with our surroundings in the city and sometimes don’t feel connected to others even though we are surrounded by people, nature reminds us we are a part of something bigger. 

Self love: Putting your own self-love and care first allows you to truly care for others, you can’t keep giving from empty.

Routine: The body thrives on routine, it’s grounding for the mind and helps with anxiety. A retreat routine will connect you to the rhythm of nature, waking up before sunrise and eating meals at regular times is important for the metabolism and digestion. 

Discipline: Self-love is discipline. Yoga retreats aren’t for self-indulgence, step back from processed food, meat, alcohol and an unhealthy diet. A retreat will include fresh, nourishing vegetarian meals. 

Detox: Detox your mind and body. Take a digital detox and sign off from social media, you will become aware of how the things you hear and see effect your mind. 

Self-reflection: You will naturally find yourself self-reflecting during the retreat. The yoga philosophy sessions will help you to reflect. Reflection improves self awareness so we can grow, pause for a week and stand back from your life. 

Heal: The time and space we create in the retreat, where you won’t have access to your normal distractions, is space for self-reflection and a chance to heal. You are in a safe supportive environment to work through your emotions. 

Community: You can spend time alone or with a wider group in the retreat. You will have others around you who are experiencing the same thing and you can share your experience with. Being in a retreat removes everyday influences and temptation, you will be surrounded by others working on similar positive goals. 

Learn: Learn about the wider concept of yoga and the yoga lifestyle. Yoga philosophy and meditation are as important as practicing yoga. Learn the tools to bring these benefits to your everyday life. 

Refocus: Now your mind is clear and in a balanced state, refocus yourself on your life goals and dreams. Act from a place of clarity and a level head. 

Finding my happy place

The last few years of travelling and constant change of scenery, jobs and people around me has made me think a lot about happiness and what it takes to feel fulfilled in life. There certainly isn’t a specific place or demographic you can pinpoint this to and it proves happiness can be found in all walks of life. 

Travelling opens your eyes to different cultures and witnessing the spectrum of happiness, sadness, depression and addiction that exists everywhere. The more you move and live in different places, it becomes clearer that it’s not your surroundings that make you happy but your outlook on them.

There are people with few material things living a basic simple lifestyle who are happy, and there are others with families, high achieving careers and an abundance of wealth who aren’t happy or fulfilled. We strive to achieve but can only be fully happy if the outcome doesn’t define us – who are you underneath if it all disappears?

One of my biggest inspirations is Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk that started a peace movement during the Vietnamese war, which seems to be a paradox that someone can find peace at huge time of suffering.

Of course, not having shelter, food and water – the basic essentials to survive, does impact happiness. Beyond this baseline, the three key things that strike me the most are: purpose, love and positivity.

Purpose

It’s common not to know your purpose, and this doesn’t need to be a profound idea or even your ‘life purpose’ but a purpose for today. Whatever your job is, do it with a feeling of lightness and put care and effort into it, all jobs are important. Your job may not be paid, it might even be housework, a hobby, or something creative.

Listen to what you’re drawn to and explore it, we aren’t all born knowing our purpose but a part of life is to figure it out, so try not to become frustrated with this concept. Trust that you’re on the path to uncovering it.

When you know your dream take mindful action towards achieving it, but let go of the outcome of those actions. You can’t control the outcome and it’s not a reflection of your own worth. Take action with love and effort, the more love we give the more we receive through living a fulfilling life. 

Love 

I think most of us are seeking love in some capacity that could lead to a relationship, marriage or creating a family. It’s common to put a big dependency on these things to fulfil us, but ultimately we may not have a choice if we fall in love or can have children – does that mean we can’t ever be happy or fulfilled? 

To feel loved, stop looking for external things or people to love you, start putting love into everything you do and people around you. When someone tries to help you or give you love, let them. Love doesn’t need to just come from a partner or family member, it is all the same love. To give love is to receive it, and to receive love is to give it. 

Positivity

Finding positive thoughts in any given place or time. There may be situations when the only positive is that you’re still breathing, and there you can center your attention. 

Being happy and positive isn’t about avoiding or masking emotion, or thinking you should be happy all the time. It is observing and feeling emotion as it comes up, letting the emotion be there until it is time for it to leave. Continual negative thoughts can escalate and prolong the suffering, notice if your thoughts are feeding your emotions. 

It is only through suffering that we can truly know happiness. There is no life we can live without suffering, we have to transform the suffering through positivity to find happiness. 

Fulfilment is being at peace with your life – accepting your past, where you are on your life path, your health, surroundings, career, friends and relationships. 

The Art of Discomfort

The topic of discomfort has recently been resonating with me. I spent the last few years for the most part feeling calm and content so I have a real benchmark for how my mind feels when it’s peaceful. Discomfort will always arise, it could be from any one or more aspects of our lives; financial stress, work, family, relationships, social pressure, our expectations or holding on to past experiences. Some of our biggest vices are born from the mind trying to deter discomfort in our lives and finding ways to mask or push that feeling away. 

When I was settled in London discomfort was intrinsic to my everyday life; I didn’t fully acknowledge it or know it was an option or choice, it was just always there.

At the time I found a release to take myself away from being in this reality; drinking. My eating disorder already had me living under a punishing regime each week and when the opportunity came to escape from myself it was always in a big way. I wasn’t aware why I liked to drink so much but just that when I had a drink I didn’t want to stop until I couldn’t feel anything else. I wanted to be numb, to let go of this regimental life and lose control.

I was always the girl at the party who couldn’t stand up by the end of the night. I thought I was just having fun, until it wasn’t fun anymore. The older I became the more obvious it was as everyone else learnt to handle their drink. The level of discomfort in my life was a never ending snowball as I had to face people and their judgements about me and my behaviour.

The cracks were showing enough that my manager at work suggested I take a week away and go back home to my family to clear my head. This started a new routine of detoxing sometimes for months at a time. I wanted to take control but as soon as I picked up another drink it didn’t make any difference, my old habits weren’t going anywhere. I felt as though I was in a constant battle and I was losing.

I was seeing a counsellor at one point who repeatedly questioned me about whether I had a problem with alcohol, to which I said I didn’t, I mean I wasn’t an alcoholic so of course I didn’t, so I stopped seeing her. I found myself choosing to be around people who encouraged that behaviour in me so I could hide the depth of the problem from myself.

The London life ended when I got to the tipping point where my level of pain and discomfort outweighed my ability to cope with it any longer.

If I’m honest I never really had the desire to travel but I just couldn’t stay at home, I needed a fresh start and it was absolutely one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Yoga gave me the direction I needed. Living in a yoga retreat forces you to face your thoughts, memories and emotions; you cannot escape from yourself there. Even difficult memories deeply stored away creep up to the surface.

Many people are drawn to yoga retreats to heal, reflect and relax but then realise it’s hard work to live a yogic lifestyle, it’s quiet and there are no distractions so you have to learn to spend time with yourself. Boredom is just the mind trying to grasp on to something; it’s reacting to discomfort in the way it knows how. Notice what you want to do when you feel bored or sad. Where do you find distraction and comfort?

Simplicity is a fundamental aspect of the yoga life, at the basic level we must learn to detach ourselves from our possessions. A yoga retreat should be simple not luxurious, it’s a small lesson in learning to live in what might be discomfort at the beginning but over time it becomes comfortable; you already have everything you will ever need.

Consumer society conditions us to get used to having everything we want when we want it, it’s not often we’re faced with a disciplined routine that we haven’t chosen. A yoga retreat life involves early nights, getting up at the crack of dawn to practice yoga and meditate, and set meal times with simple vegetarian only food. It doesn’t sound difficult but I’ve seen people so challenged by this alone.

Yoga and meditation themselves create physical and mental discomfort, it is only by regularly creating and practicing being in discomfort that we can learn how to notice and manage this feeling. We can train ourselves to accept, be calm and coexist in its presence. Self-obversation can lead us to the source of the discomfort, many times we react without understanding why we’ve acted in a certain way.

Self-discipline is the key that will eventually allow you to live a free life where you aren’t tied to the habits that don’t serve you. If you go back to your old vices, which will happen, it’s a sign you need to keep going deeper into the practice. Your mind has been creating these diversion tactics for a long time so have compassion for yourself, working through them takes time and dedication but it is possible.

If a part of your life is having a significant negative impact on you then do your best to change it but it is not an option to never feel any pain or discomfort. It is unavoidable so we must learn how to control our reaction to it, and not to fear or run away every time it surfaces.

An important part of my healing process was to spend time back at home in between my travels and to face that part of my life. You cannot run from what has happened or ignore the inevitable fact that at some point you will have to confront it or it will confront you.

When discomfort surfaces for me now I turn to yoga, it’s often when I let my practice slide that it finds a way in. I’m working on channeling these lessons on the mat in the most positive way I know how.