At this time of year I’m sure I can’t be the only one running out of steam. Every year I say I’m going to have my Christmas shopping done by October but of course it’s just over a week away from December and I haven’t bought a single thing. It’s made me realise how busy life is and how little time we just take to stop and be. So when Michelle at AdventureYogi invited me along to their Happiness Retreat a few weeks ago, I knew it would be just the thing I needed to take stock and recharge ahead of an inevitably busy period.
AdventureYogi started 10 years ago, after Michelle had spent her upbringing in Venezuela and Kenya with her parents and then pursued her passion for travel in the French Alps and Japan snowboarding and living on the beach in Sardinia. Her love of healthy lifestyle, spirituality, yoga and meditation were with her since school and it seemed like the next logical step in her career to marry all of these loves into her future working life. AdventureYogi was born with SnowYogi being the first adventure in Chamonix and BeachYogi in Sardinia – the UK retreats followed. For Michelle, seeing the transformation that individuals go through on a weekend or week holiday was a reason to continue on this path. 10 years on and AdventureYogi now offer 50 retreats a year throughout the UK and abroad – maintaining the adventure side of the business with the adventure sports and activities, but now the adventure side is also seen as adventure of the spirit – how far are you willing to go to find your true inner contentment?
Now I should say here that I’m by no means a yogi, which to be honest has always held me back from booking this kind of retreat in the past. Whilst I love the meditative side of yoga, I quite literally do not bend. This means I always think I’m the worst person in the class, so not only was I pleased to find a retreat that focused on mindfulness and happiness with elements of yoga, but I was also delighted at how accessible and enjoyable the yoga classes then were, thanks to Louise, our wonderful teacher. AdventureYogi’s Happiness Retreat has been created to help us with mindfulness and the BIG question; what really makes us happy.
The retreat took place at the beautiful Poundon House in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside, yet it was so easy to access via train from London Marylebone. The notion of Happiness flowed from the moment we set foot in our home for the weekend, as we were so warmly welcomed by life coach and yoga teacher Louise Gillespie-Smith, who was always on hand to help us connect with our inner smiles. Louise has been a coach and NLP practitioner for 8 years helping people to create a life they love. She finds the embodied practice of yoga helps to calm the mind and deeply connect with what is true in your heart, and that essence absolutely shone through so authentically all weekend. The combination of yoga, silent country walks, healthy satisfying food which was so lovingly prepared and explained, journaling exercises and a happiness workshop – especially with such a nice group of women – meant you could visibly see everyone feeling uplifted and inspired over the course of the weekend.
Our schedule for the weekend looked something like this, and what was great was that it allowed for lots of space and free time to relax, unwind and reflect, which as a mum and someone running my own business, felt like the ultimate luxury..
8am: silent walk
8:30-10:30am: Morning yoga and meditation class
10.30am: Brunch of porridge, eggs and other interesting wholesome healthy treats
11:30-1pm: Massages and free time to read, explore and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
1pm-3pm: Saturday Happiness Workshop
3pm: Healthy afternoon lunch
3:30-5:30pm: More treatments to pamper yourself or free time
5:30-7:30pm: Evening yoga and meditation class
7:30pm: Delicious vegetarian feast
One of my favourite parts of the weekend was Saturday’s Happiness Workshop where we spent time consciously thinking about what happiness means to us, and making feeling and vision boards to focus on those things. I’ve had my board up at home since I got back, and I’ve surprised myself by how much I keep going back to it to keep my head in a good place amidst all of the distractions at this time of year. On the Saturday evening, we all shared our boards around the fire, and it was such a lovely opportunity to connect with the other women and be in the moment of good company and simple pleasures. If you’d like to give it a try, just grab some magazines and flick through to find images or words that you connect with and that make you happy. Use those and photographs or clippings from home and stick them all on an A3 piece of paper in a way that makes you smile, then keep it somewhere you can look upon it often.
If a weekend of TIME sounds like something that’s speaking to you – and when you know mama, you know – then I would highly recommend this as an opportunity to make time for YOU. The lovely people at AdventureYogi are also offering a discount to anyone who quotes YESMUMAY16 when making a booking. Their next Happiness Retreat is running in East Sussex from March 3rd-5th, but there are lots of other adventures on offer if you check out their main site at adventureyogi.com or speak to Michelle and her super friendly and helpful team by dropping them a line here. You can also follow them on Instagram at @adventureyogi and Louise at @louiseatcreate for extra inspiration.