I had dreamt of going on a yoga retreat for years. I remember endlessly researching different destinations, styles of teaching, even checking the weather forecast to see when the best time of year to travel would be and setting up alerts on Skyscanner. Something always held me back from booking my first retreat. I now realise it was fear.
One of my dearest friends booked her first Chaya Yoga Retreat in Spain and I remember her asking if I wanted to join her. I said no, using work, finances and my nutrition course as solid barricades. Then there was the suggestion of Bali 2017 and Goa 2018, both of which I found equally watertight excuses for. I did start to wonder at this point that there must be something pretty special if my friend was going back to Chaya again and again.
I remember it so clearly; a blue sky, Sunday afternoon on 15 April 2018, celebrating surviving (not thriving) my 1 year anniversary in London. I met my gorgeous friend Lettie for a walk along the Thames Path after my favourite yoga class; my yoga teacher had wisely told me to ‘be careful with my open heart today’. As we wandered next to the water reflecting on a rollercoaster year, the Universe plonked its challenge right in front of me; coming face to face with the very person I had hoped I didn’t have to see that day. The Universe thought otherwise – what you give out you receive, good thoughts and bad!
Needless to say, my heart poured open onto the Thames Path and Lettie was there to talk/hug/cry it out as I blamed myself for pretty much everything I was feeling in that moment. This was followed by some much needed tough love; “WHEN are you going to do something for YOU? What about your yoga teacher training that you want to do, or at the very least go on a retreat?”
Within 24 hours I had booked my flights to Bali and a spot with Lucy Hill and Steffy White on their ‘Be the Magic’ retreat in October 2018. The countdown began.
Fast forward six months, I had the longest break from work ahead of me in five years at KF. Leaving my work phone and laptop in London was possibly the best yet most simple decision I’ve made in my career to date – I would urge anybody to do the same. Running on adrenaline for a prolonged period of time, feeling completely and utterly exhausted by the negative internal chatter, the constant fight or flight mode; I knew I needed a complete break.
After 20 hours of travelling, I arrived in Ubud: my home for the next 10 days. Blue Karma Resort is set amongst the rice paddies and jungle sounds on the outskirts of Ubud. I had arrived in HEAVEN! One of Lucy’s (the founder of Chaya Yoga Retreats) intentions is to hire an exclusive retreat venue, allowing you to relax into a safe haven where magic can unfold. I was surprised at how quickly I began to unwind; all was well, I was ready for change.
No two days were the same at Blue Karma but there was always a light structure for consistency and to honour mind/body/soul day in, day out:
8am – 10am: A flowing, dynamic practice led by Steffy. Some days we flew, some days we ground down, every day we opened our hearts and I fell in love with yoga all over again. Each practice had its own magical theme where we dedicated our practice to someone/a manifestation/a shift/whatever we felt in that moment.
10am: BRUNCH! (Fresh fruit, granola, homemade cashew milk, cooked options, toast with RAW VEGAN NUTELLA! etc. etc.)
11am – 5pm: Free time/Treatments/Day Trips/Workshops. A free shuttle service ferried us to and from Ubud town where I would often/always end up in a jewellery shop or a raw vegan café drinking green juice and eating coconut ice cream (#balance).
5.30pm – 7pm: A delicious yin practice with Steffy. I found joy in finding stillness, something I had always resisted due to a lifelong fear of not being able to restart my engine if I stopped. The jungle around us was our orchestra as I fell deeper in love with my softening edges.
7.00pm – 9pm: Dinner. Four courses of plant based nourishment; a menu beautifully designed by Lucy and prepared by local Balinese chefs.
I could almost certainly write a novel about what unfolded on my first yoga retreat (Possibly a saturated market: #eatpraylove) but after a lot of streamlining, here are my highlights:
1. Bali – There is something enchanting about this island. The people, the energy, the LOVE that surrounds you daily. Whether you consider yourself spiritual or not, you will feel something here, guaranteed.
2. Teaching/Treatments/Workshops – The opportunity to indulge in your own self care, to allow yourself to experience something which, let’s face it, a lot of us don’t often treat ourselves to at home. Daisy Ellison is a breathwork/massage/healing GODDESS who taught me how to literally breathe new life into my body. The Cacao Ceremony was also amazing; dancing, chanting, cacao drinking and manifesting the life which I deserve. As for the yoga, Steffy White is a beam of light, her teaching is inspired and her classes make you feel like a fucking amazing human (sorry for swearing Mummy). Steffy is also an absolute HOOT – a pocket rocket bursting with love and energy.
3. New Friends – This one pulls on my heart strings in a big way. To the 22 inspiring females who gave me the encouragement and love I needed to accept myself as I am, to launch Totoly Nourished and to hold such a magical space for each other where we could be open, vulnerable and evolve: THANK YOU. You are friends for life, women I admire and I thank my lucky stars that I got to share this experience with you.
4. The Love Bubble – Our closing ceremony was extraordinary. I struggle to put this one into words without tearing up; all I can say is Steffy created something which I’m sure the girls will join me in saying was an experience we will never ever forget.
5. Letting Go – Another potential/popular book title here but this experience allowed me to release fear, to release expectations and to release people who I didn’t need to hold onto anymore. Whether it’s exhaustion, heartbreak, bad habits or feeling a bit unsure about something (or all of the above!!), a yoga retreat will help you to shift, manifest and fully accept yourself. Your TRUE self.
Lucy Hill, you are the definition of a soul sister. You have created a life for yourself and for others which is pure LOVE. Your retreat was beyond my wildest dreams and I am forever grateful for your magic. I can’t wait to see you again soon!
If you’ve made it this far – CONGRATULATIONS!
I left Bali feeling happier, healthier and realigned with my true values. On my return to work, colleagues, clients, friends often used the words, “you look like a different person”.
I don’t feel like a different person. If anything, I feel more connected to my true self than I have done in my whole life. I am moving towards the life which I deserve.
“You will see it when you believe it”.
Thank you for staying to the end and please leave your comments/questions down below.
Lucy Hill – http://www.chayayogaretreats.com/
Daisy Ellison – http://breathbodybalance.co.uk/
Steffy White – https://steffywhiteyoga.com/
Love and light,