How a 5 day yoga retreat changed my life
What REALLY happens on a yoga retreat? Can a 5 day yoga and breath work retreat MAKE A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE in my life?
These were the questions I was asking myself before attending my first week long health and wellness retreat, led by Lucy Hamel at Ebbio, an 800 year-old farmhouse in Tuscany. The experience was well above my expectations and I learned more about myself and life that I could have ever imagined.
I thought my experience of a yoga retreat was worth sharing with you as I am getting many questions from my friends and relatives. Below is my attempt to relate this life changing experience in the form of a Q&A and a video which I hope will give you an insider’s view of what really happens on a yoga retreat 🙂
How was the yoga retreat?
For me personally this yoga retreat felt intense and liberating. These are the first two words that come to mind.
- Why intense ?
Because, under the guidance of our teacher, Lucy Hamel, I dug deep into my conscious and subconscious to uncover treasures: thoughts, feelings and beliefs of the past. These patterns were developed years ago, to protect me or guide me in particular situations, and they were like gold then. Today however, my environment has changed, I have grown and learnt from the past, so these old patterns may no longer serve me as well. They may impair my ability to know clearly who I am, my behaviour, and opinions.
The retreat felt like a week long introspection during which my heart slowly came forward one step at the time. It is a very personal and emotional work that one needs to want to go through. The guidance I received from Lucy Hamel and Brenda, her assistant, together with the group’s powerful support made the process easy and natural.
- Why liberating ?
The retreat was liberating as I was able, through guided work, to open my heart, see clearly who I am and no longer define myself through old patterns. It was liberating to feel more connected to myself, and start acting in a way that is more aligned with my heart.
What did you do ON THE yoga RETREAT ?
- We started the day at 7.45AM with a 1,5 hour yoga practice followed by a hearty breakfast. We were free until lunch to go for a walk, sleep, play games, attend activities such as wine tasting, read or socialise around the fire place, etc. A beautiful Italian home cooked lunch was served at 1PM. We were once again free for 2-3 hours until rebirthing breath work or yoga. The practice alternated each day. At about 7PM we all met for another wonderful healthy home cooked meal. I am hoping to get hold of the recipes to share them with you on the blog alongside other healthy recipes.
- I found yoga and rebirthing breath work to be wonderful practices to become aware of areas of tensions and imbalances in your body and mind. Lucy also led the yoga class in a way that helped us open up physically and emotionally.
- During yoga, Lucy used specific exercises to help us strengthen weaker areas, regain balance and open our hearts
- Rebirthing breath work, is a very different experience for every one and every single time. During the retreat, I was able to feel life in my body. I felt warmth and energy moving throughout my body as well as physical releases, of my upper back and neck for example. The deep breathing brought to my attention deep fears that were preventing me from enjoying life to the fullest. I also felt an overwhelming feeling of love. For my family, my friends and myself! There are many other things that happen during rebirthing breath work, which I won’t list here as the post would go on and on, but if you are curious about it, please ask me and I’d be happy to share more at any time.
Who else was there ?
- Canadians, Greeks, an American, a British and myself (French/Greek). From the ages of 26 to late 60’s. All sorts of backgrounds and stories and various level of English language understanding. But it worked!
- I met incredible people. Incredibly normal people. People, like you and me, going through normal ups and downs of life. I found that was very grounding for me. It made me realise that experiencing emotions is what life is about. No one can and should get away from that. How else would you learn and experience life to the fullest if not through emotions? We can learn, however, to appreciate every single one of them, in order to make our journey smoother and lighter.
- We are all human, we all think too much, but we can learn to quiet our thinking through yoga, breathing and discussions. We all have strange behaviours and reactions sometimes that make other people uncomfortable and that’s ok. They’re only temporary. In the retreat we learn to recognise those behaviours, reactions and thoughts, to understand and appreciate them as they are.
- During the yoga retreat I had not one teacher, but 8 or more. Every encounter was a learning. I spent time documenting on my notebook all of these valuable insights people were ready to share. People opened their hearts and shared the light. That created a safe environment where truly beautiful relationships could flourish. Each relationships helped me advance in life, be less judgemental of myself and others, and more compassionate. I learnt through their experience. I saw myself in every one of them. What was incredible was how each one of them had a life experience that I could directly relate to, and by talking to them I could see where I get stuck and how I can move forward. In them, I saw myself 10 years ago and 10 or 20 years ahead!
HOW DID THIS yoga RETREAT CHANGE MY LIFE ?
- First, I realised that life is an endless process. A bit like an endless ocean with waves, windy days, stormy days, rainy days and sunny days. I think this metaphor is coming to my mind because my dad is currently sailing across the Atlantic ! Anyways, the challenges encountered are unavoidable. It’s just how nature works, we have no control over that I can guarantee. Yet, every single challenge you meet, is an opportunity to learn and get better at navigating through it. If you take that learning approach, the next time a challenge comes around, you will hardly notice it. You will overcome it peacefully, fully aware and with pride and enjoyment.
- I also learnt that even the learning part is a process. Take for instance, learning a language – I wonder why this example comes to my mind right now :-). I won’t be able to suddenly start speaking and understanding German or Greek or Chinese, the very first time I visit the country ! I will need time, practice, studying etc. It may take me years to master the language. Well, I found out that it is the same with emotions and life experiences. You don’t master life’s challenges and your emotions the first time round, not even the second time you encounter them. You learn slowly, through patience and faith. The good news is that it becomes easier every time!
- Finally, what the retreat has taught me, is that you have the choice to either resist or accept and learn. I would highly recommend the second options, as 1) It’s a lot more enjoyable 2) I strongly believe that 99,9% of our disease are born from consistent resistance to life challenges. So in doubt I would rather accept and learn !
To sum up, I made wonderful friends at the retreat, who thought me that my life, all of my emotions and thoughts are like everybody else’s: HUMAN. And that is OK.
Should I ATTEND a yoga retreat?
- This is a very personal decision. It must be something that you want for your life at this very moment. You need to have time and space for it and be prepared to do some work.
- If you’re thinking about attending a yoga retreat but still have doubts about whether this is the right thing for you, Lucy or myself would be happy to answer your questions and review your personal objectives. Please email me your request on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Post: 3 things to consider when choosing a yoga retreat.
How do I feel after the retreat?
- Life feels easier now. I feel empowered through the tools I have acquired at the yoga retreat.
- I feel supported thanks to the wonderful people I met, who I know are here for me when I need it, in particular Lucy.
- I feel lighter and have greater clarity. I feel I know myself better as my heart is opening up. I am also able to consciously choose whether to pursue old and irrelevant thoughts, feelings and beliefs or not. I learned to appreciate what events took place in my life and I understand the lessons they taught me.
- The above is my personal experience of a yoga retreat, this may be different for everyone. For me it certainly was the highlight of the year and I feel it has created long lasting positive changes to my life.
- If you haven’t already, click below to view the video of Lucy Hamel’s Once Upon a Time Retreat in Tuscany
Have you attended a life changing yoga retreat or health and wellness retreat before? Were you in Europe? in Asia? I would love to hear about your retreat experience in the comment box below.