DIARY OF A RETREAT VIRGIN

DIARY OF A RETREAT VIRGIN

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Day zero – Friday 'Zen at 615mph' Today I embark on a journey. Sure, a pretty meaty flight of about nine hours in total (I always round down things that I like) but it's the potential journey beyond that I'm most curious about.

A few weeks ago, I signed up to a yoga retreat. Not something I ever saw myself doing. Though, now I'm here, all I can think of is how I can get to the next one, and generally build some of *this* into my life, next year, next week – every day. Just asked about the next retreats the guys have planned and already begun building my 2015 diary around them! I adore flying so the flight to Sri Lanka's no biggie - time in the air is time well spent in my eyes. 600miles per hour whilst being utterly relaxed is a delicious contradiction. And I have to fess up (and probably stand alone on this point) but I have a secret fondness for crappy airplane meals. Not much is wrong with the world when you team something with a Bloody Mary.

Having worked my tits off for other people for ten years so far, always living or commuting into central London, I'm one of those people guilty of not ever really doing anything good for my mind or body. I reward myself with alcohol or a box set marathon. This week I set myself the challenge to change that. *************************************************************************

"I love the sound of the waves. When you arrive, they cleanse.

As you leave, they replenish. During the week, they keep the momentum going"

Karla, after three days of The Sea as company

Day one – Saturday 'Pavement goats' I land at Colombo about 4:30pm local time and wander through customs with a lot less tension than usual – is it too early to be claiming I feel different?! (I've picked up a litre of bourbon during the short transfer at Dubai, so not so scarily different just yet). On that note, Karla thoughtfully messaged us all the duty-free entry limits so I'm relaxed on two fronts: a) I don't have to hand over any recent purchases, and b) - rather relievedly - I know there's going to be a balanced vibe and haven't accidentally signed up for a week surrounded by militant detoxers. Perfect start. Our charming driver is waiting patiently at the airport and I see another three names with mine on his printed sign - luckily we've all arrived within the same hour so there's not much waiting to be done and we jump into our air conditioned minibus and hit the road, chattering excitedly and playing animal bingo out of the window (in case you were wondering, three pavement goats beats one road cow). Traffic is 'entertaining' but safe, and there's loads to absorb as we travel through vibrant urban areas to deep, luscious tropical countryside, peppered with pop-up shops and tuk-tuks at the roadside. We arrive nearing 7:30pm, two and a bit hours of driving later, not that it felt as long, and we are warmly welcomed by the others, and handed a dreamy chilled mango smoothie, our bags whisked upstairs by the staff - for some reason I hadn't even considered the fact there'd be staff. Being me and being Northern, this might take a touch of getting used to! Evening meal is stunning – plate after gorgeous plate of local delicacies, built around coconuts, limes, fresh fish and prawns, fruit juices. Gurgle… Can't believe I was sat at my desk just over a day ago. Surreal.

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Day Two - Sunday ‘Let the earth support every part of you' Day begins with an invigorating yoga session on the grass with Natasha. Looking up at the palm trees, waves crashing, delicate breeze. Bliss, already and we haven’t started! Having done a handful of classes over the years (with varying degrees of success on my part), I find Tash's soothing but crisp voice is utterly made for this… She guides us through a 1-hour-30 class that gently builds, folds in a few new moves for me, and leaves me thinking it was just the right amount of challenge for the first session. Optional lavender oil is cupped near my inhaling breath…. and I don't know if it’s normal or more Natasha’s use of “The ground is here for you; relax into it fully and the earth will support every part of you" that triggered something, but I suddenly feel overwhelmed and emotional as we begin the final savasana of the session. (Afterwards Tash tells me this was possibly related to the hip-opener moves we had performed. Man, there is so much to learn about my own body).

The temperature is just starting to build and really give it some as we wrap up, and — still kitted up — I say my thankyou's and gather my things into a pile, then walk the short distance clean into the waves – stepping and stepping until the bubbling surf is chest height. The current here is lively and it's not hard to let yourself be swept up, thrown and twirled sideways. Left and right there are maybe three other people on this entire stretch of beach so only the sky can hear and see me giggling like a fool as I let the surf do just that - spinning me around and over a good few times until I realise breakfast is probably starting. I am literally going to end every morning session this same way.

This afternoon was a relaxing restorative yoga sessions. Very little moving, which I thought could be a challenege, but I could definitely get used to this.

I feel so energised I honestly think that if I could I do this every morning I'd live to be 200.

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