It’s such an amazing feeling the day after a yoga retreat. Happy exhaustion. And I just keep thinking, wow, what a yoga retreat this mid November weekend was – all the way out in the middle of nowhere in countryside Norfolk.
Here’s how it went…
Friday 16th November, 12pm: I arrive at Fishley which is a beautiful house in Norfolk countryside, near to Acle and close to the River Thurne. Everything about Fishley has been lovingly restored and it really is the prefect setting for unwinding, forgetting your responsibilities and practicing yoga for the weekend. The very first thing I always do is set out all the mats in a colour co-ordinated way so that I can start to visualise the bodies that will be on the mats and how I think it’ll be best to begin the first session.
Once set up, I sit and drink tea, burn a little incense to clear the space, and then I stare out the window for a long time which is one of my new favourite hobbies. All ready for guests to start ringing the door bell, and the afternoon is about getting everyone settled into their rooms and asking them questions so I can get to know them better for the sessions.
Friday 5pm First Yoga Class: By this time everyone is here (only just!) and this first session is traditionally a slow flow session which is my favourite style of class to both teach and practice. What made this years’ session unique is that I themed the session specifically on shoulder and upper back releasing. Most participants hadn’t needed to travel far as the venue is only 45 minutes to an hour away from Norwich, but some had come from Suffolk, Cambridge and Bristol. In addition to car driving and sitting on trains, work that involves computers and sitting at desks mean that by Friday the upper back and shoulders of most human beings are in need of attention. Lots of lunging flows with side body stretches weaved through and then we used yoga straps to help ease into external rotations of the shoulders. One of the last poses was Prone-Twisted Scorpion and to my surprise, despite my idea that it unfortunately resembles roadkill (sorry for the visual!) everyone seems to totally love this pose. I know why too – it’s so effective at stretching the chest and helping to realign the shoulder blades. At the end of the class Christy said that she felt that there was this sense of shared energy throughout the room, which I thought was absolutely perfectly put and something that I think we have all felt at some point in a group yoga class.
7pm Meet + Greet: After the class everyone went for showers (Fishle
y has beautiful bathrooms) and then we met in the front room for an introductory meet and greet. Usually this involves me revealing a couple of embarrassing facts about myself (I always do that when I am nervous) this year included how I am the proud owner of Geri Halliwell’s Yoga DVD and this was one of the first things I knew about yoga! But honestly, the best part is then when I hand it over to all the interesting guests and they share what they love about yoga, how it makes them feel and what affect it has had on their lives. Soooo inspiring and so much of it resonated: it’s like someone else describing a similar feeling that you have but in their own words. One of my longest attending students described it eloquently saying that yoga gave this feeling of ‘energisation’ which we all agreed should become an actual proper word because we all certainly agreed to know exactly what it meant. I suggested it would also translate perfectly as ‘prana’, which is what it is known in yoga as life force energy. It can be said, that from this conversation it is clear that Yoga really does make people feel good. We went on longer than expected so Henry brought in the Vietnamese spring roles made with rice paper which were super fresh and delicious.
8pm Dinner: A totally vegan Green Thai Curry + chocolate brownie + coconut ice cream. Have to say 8pm was a little later than we planned as our conversation went on for much longer than expected, but was worth the wait!
Saturday 7.15am Misty sunrises: Given the week before had been overcast I don’t think any of us expected to see such an absolutely breathtaking sunrise on Saturday morning. There was mist covering the fields and support act to the sun was every possible warm hue that was ever created all there for us in the sky. Here is a few photos that guests took that morning:
7.45am Core Class: Mindful that it was the first class of the day, and that not everyone is a morning person (can you believe!) we started in Savasana and listened to the kind of yoga music that sounds breezy, woody and chilled out all at once. Those kinds of sounds that are familiar but exotic if you know what I mean? Mornings really are the best time to do core work (I think!) not least because you have no food in your belly. The night before we had discussed the differences and similarities between yoga and pliates and I personally love pilates but I think I was secretly determined to make sure everyone felt that Yoga had something to offer in terms of core work.We started with supine (lying down core work) and then onto seated positions such as Navasana (boat) and variations and then finished with the infinite possibilities that plank offers. The class was like a double shot of espresso! Everyone was certainly awake after that! And from the feedback I am pretty sure that everyone was convinced yoga does the core thing too 😉 The class was treated to a nice expansive bridge pose to stretch out the abdominals + some lying twists also to finish. Then this is what we opened our eyes to: soft Autumn leaves and sun shining through the window of the conservatory…
9am Breakfast: The first meal of the day was Henry’s famous baked porridge accompanied by toasted bread from our favourite Norwich baker, Bread Source.
10am Walk: After Breakfast we put on our wellies and went for a blustery autumn walk up past the church and then along the River Thurne: watched people sailing, met some dogs.
11.30am Vinyasa Flow Yoga: I had warned everyone the night before that this was the hardest class in terms of physicality (!) so I thought I better stay true to my word and get on it! What happened was exactly that, lots of sun salutations and warrior poses, when I looked at the time it had flown past but I could see that this class had been pretty challenging for everyone all around. Gotta love how students climb that mountain altogether and get on with it even when it’s a sweaty experience. I like to think of it as a celebration of being alive! I opened the door at one point and the breeze was like it came straight from heaven and I’m pretty sure November breeze never felt so good. And that was one verrrrryyyy long Savasana that the students earned at the end of this class. In fact I think it took us 10 minutes over time, but in Savasana who is counting the minutes anyway?!
1.30pm Lunch: Well earned! Henry’s salad selection which he has gotten down to a fine art having catered for dozens of retreats over the past few years. Finished with warming chai tea, many people headed off to bed for a day nap afterwards.
4 – 5.30pm Candlelit Yin: We started with the legs up the wall which I always think is one of the best ways to begin the process of slowing down. This kind of class is all about slowing down and being still. And this is always the most diverse class visually – we begin seeing everything in full colour before the sun has started setting. The majority of the class is spent as silhouettes and and then by the end we are in complete darkness aside from a few tea light candles speckled around. It’s like a whole day in a single session. A few people hadn’t tried yin before so some of the more intense postures I cut short at around 4 minutes instead of the traditional 5 minute mark. But that’s fair enough because though it appears to be quiet and gentle from the outside, there is actually quite alot going on in the subtlety of a yin posture. It’s the kind of class that makes you stay very close to the breath, as a support and as a form of meditation. We listened to gentle piano music as a second form of support too.
Saturday night dinner was baked salmon and green beans (fancy that – a weekend with the Salmon’s and they serve you Salmon 😉 I won’t go through every single minute of Sunday but I will tell you that the sunrise was almost as beautiful and the first class was all about inversions (going upside down). And though the second class was vinyasa, I made sure it was significantly gentler than the Saturday session because I felt it suited everyone better. The feeling of Sunday called for a slower rhythm in every way.
In summary, it was a weekend of unforgettable November sunrises, yoga of all types + tempos, lots of deep, nourishing breaths spent with friends new + old. And if you are reading this because you were one of the beautiful souls who came along for the weekend, thank you for your presence, your smiles and most of all your unwavering commitment to turning up and practicing. I see you, I appreciate you and am in support of you!
Henry and I are always a bit sad to see these weekends end. On the day after the retreat I received an email from the lovely Claire:
Dear Sally and Henry
I just wanted to send a heart felt thank you to you both for a truly unforgettable weekend.
It surpassed all my expectations from the beautiful setting and accommodation to the delicious, nourishing food and amazing yoga practice! So many thoughtful touches, and the company – what a wonderful group of people to spend time with – intelligent, interesting and inspiring!
We’ll will be doing it all again in Spring – 26th April 2019 (what a great way to recover from the indulgence of Easter!) There’s some general info on the retreat page, or send me an email if you’d like more details such as full brochure, a schedule of all the classes and prices. I offer payment plans so you can break the cost down over the months in the lead up. You really don’t need to be a pro at yoga to come along. In fact of the guests that came along with her husband this weekend did her first downward facing dog at the first retreat that I ever taught, and this was her fifth retreat!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post.