I am back in Cardiff after hosting a weekend Ayur-Yoga Retreat in Carmarthenshire, South Wales mid October. The retreat was my first collaboration with the wonderful and talented chef Joki Mihovilcevic-Darcy of Little Green Vegan Catering. Together, we've hosted 12 beautiful women who came from many different parts of the country!
The retreat offered an opportunity to rest, relax and reset whilst learning about Ayurveda and trying out delicious food prepared in accordance with this amazing science that embraces nature, inside and outside of us. In addition, guests got to use a wood-fired sauna, jacuzzi and plunge pool to drop even further into the space of wellbeing and self-care.
We kicked-off the first evening with herbal teas and delicious gluten-free almond cookies lovingly prepared by Joki, whilst sharing our experiences of the day and getting to know each other. A gentle Vata pacifying yoga, breathing and meditation practice followed to help us ground after a long trip to the retreat location and drop into the space of becoming present. This was followed by a delicious dinner and further settling before gathering at the yoga studio once again for a Sharing Circle and a Kirtan - a heart opening mantra practice. During the sharing circle we focussed on developing authenticity, such an important quality on the path to healing and self-growth, and we set intentions for the weekend. We retired at 9:30pm, in line with the circadian rhythm, the very backbone of Ayurvedic dinacharya aka daily routine.
Guests rose at 6AM each morning, before the sunrise, to honour the natural energies of the day, and every morning began with the Ayurvedic hot water treatment and an anti-ageing self-massage for the face, followed by a yoga practice + breathing and meditation. Then it was time for breakfast! Joki prepared a warming, nurturing and nutritious spiced porridge for us paired with chia and fruit compote and other delicious little things. Porridge, with oats or other grains, is one of the best breakfast meals for the Autumn and Winter season. It's like a hug in a bowl!
Each morning after breakfast presented an opportunity for the guests to learn more about Ayurveda and how it can be applied to everyday life through a series of workshops. The Saturday workshop was focused on the 5 Elements Theory and learning the basic principles of Ayurveda. Guests found out their unique constitution and the effects it has on our health and psyche. A Forest Bathing experience at the magical Gelli Aur forest was our activity for the rest of the morning. Forest Bathing is a very powerful mindfulness practice that helps us establish a deeper connection to nature and ourselves.
We were back at the Retreat Centre just in time for lunch - the most delicious selection of hot dishes prepared using fresh, organic ingredients with seasonal spices like ginger, cinnamon and cloves. The retreat dishes were purposely designed to be sattvic - calming and healing for the mind as well as the body. We did not use onions, garlic, chili or nightshade vegetables due to their dulling, or over-stimulating, effects on the mind and inflammation causing propensities for the gut. After the main meal we enjoyed a delicious gluten-free cake! All desserts were prepared using natural sweeteners such as jaggery or maple syrup, and gluten-free flours.
Afternoon was the time to relax - read, enjoy sauna or jacuzzi and rest. We gathered together again at 5pm for an Osho inspired Kundalini Meditation, which involved bio-energetic work and Ecstatic Dance. By 6:30pm we were ready for our Silent Supper, a mindful eating practice. Mindful eating is promoted in both Ayurveda and Yoga as it is good for digestion and therefore the overall health of the body. The food was light and, again, delicious! The evening progressed to 'chai and chill' as we gathered together by the log fire in the living room, before the Yoga Nidra practice with the singing bowl and an early night at 9:30pm.
The Sunday morning, our last day at the retreat, started with the hot water treatment, face massage and yoga. After another delicious breakfast prepared with love by Joki, we re-grouped for another Ayurveda Workshop, this time a more practical one, as we delved into the Autumn and Winter diet and daily routine for each body type. This was followed by the Nataraj Dancing Meditation and free time to use spa facilities or simply rest and take in the surroundings.
Our lunch was again super delicious! As we gathered outside in the sunshine for a final sharing circle, we held hands and expressed our gratitude for the opportunities that we are presented with every day, nature, beautiful surroundings and for each other!
It was the most magical weekend and I want to thank each and every one of the guests for coming along and making it so special! We had the best group! Also, a huge thank you to Joki for preparing the most amazing food for us so skillfully and lovingly and Steffi Andrews, a very talented photographer, for capturing some of the most special moments that we have shared!Our next Wellbeing Ayur-Yoga Retreat is scheduled for January/February. To be the first to hear about it, make sure you are signed up to my newsletter here.