Clear your mind: start the New Year with a mini-retreat
Staycation mini-retreats that focus on the mind as well as the body are the new detox. Supreme Spy finds out if they cut the mindful mustard.
I am not a believer in ‘New Year, New You’. January and February are cold, dark months when you should focus on being kind to yourself. Taking time out for a retreat after the festive season is a great way to start the New Year. The more compassion you show yourself, the more likely you are to achieve your goals for the year ahead.
Jetting off for a wellness retreat is the ultimate self-care indulgence. But who has that kind of money or time? Three days and two nights is much more digestible, especially if it’s here in the UK.
Feeling stressed but too busy to take time off, I jumped at the chance to review a yoga retreat at Chilston Park Hotel, part of the Handpicked Hotel collection, in Lenham, Kent. I wanted to feel more physically and emotionally balanced -- and to catch up on sleep.
To truly get away from it all, I challenged myself to no emails or TV for the duration. I couldn’t quite bring myself to give up Instagram… I am a millennial, after all.
Not far from the M25, down winding country roads through quintessential country villages, we reached the charming Chilston Park Hotel. The grade 1 listed Manor house sits in 22 acres of parkland on a lake. I felt miles away from the city and ready to hibernate.
We received a warm welcome and snuck off for a cheeky burger in the restaurant – the retreat has avegan menu - before we joined our fellow retreaters.
The retreater’s rooms, yoga room and dining area were all in the converted stables. I had to duck to miss the beams as I headed upstairs, but my spacious room had a tall ceiling, a large bed draped in white linen and a flicking, crackling fire on the TV. There was also chocolate, hot chocolate and herbal teas. I felt instantly at home.
In the lounge, General Manager Catherine and retreat host Jennie introduced themselves and explained the retreat’s itinerary, which was reassuringly relaxed. Dinner was soup followed by a buffet of vegan savoury and sweet treats.
After dinner, was a gentle class, Yoga for Sleep. The focus was on breathing, stretching to aid digestion after dinner and general relaxation. I slept incredibly well that night for the first time in ages.
Day Two: Yoga and Meditation
Getting up for meditation at 6.30am was painful, but worth it. We were taken on a visual journey through meadows, beaches and natural landscapes. I usually struggle with visualisation as my mind is thinking of other things, but at that time in the morning it was much easier to concentrate on Jennie’s voice. It was an incredibly positive and peaceful way to start the day.
Breakfast was Chickpea pancakes with tomato salsa, and granola with fruit and cinnamon muffins.
Next, we had an invigorating yoga session focusing on shoulders and hips. Hannah, the yogi, had a contemporary take on yoga which I found refreshing. She focussed the classes on modern day life, how we use our bodies and what we need. We rarely use the full movement of our joints, she told us. Breathing was included and holding the poses but it wasn’t serious. Two hours flew by.
Post tea break, I took a stroll around the grounds and enjoyed the serenity of the countryside and watching the wildlife on the pond. I promised myself to make more of these mindful moments in everyday life.
After soup, lentil curry and salad for lunch, we had a holistic afternoon with Sally-Ann. She took us through several breathing techniques to balance and clear each chakra. This was followed by Yoga Nidra ‘corpse pose’ and more meditation.
It’s surprising how exhausting yoga and relaxing can be! After dinner and a catch up with my fellow retreater, I opted for an early night of blissful sleep.
Day Three: Sound Bath
The unexpected highlight of the retreat was a sound bath. I knew nothing about them, so went with an open mind.
Sound baths are healing musical performances played with Himalayan singing bowls, crystal bowls, gongs, biosonic tuning forks and can include chanting too. Martin, our sound master, set up his instruments in the middle of the room and placed yoga matts with cushions and pillows in a circle.
Before we lay down, Martin explained that getting in the correct position is vital. Make sure your shoulders are flat on the floor, he told us, chest open so you can breathe deeply, lower back pressing into the floor -- and don’t cross your arms or legs.
My body was completely relaxed when the sound bath began. I felt various vibrations near my ears, while the sounds of many different instruments enveloped my mind and body creating an amazing sense of calm. The hour flew by, and at the end, I felt as light and bubbly as I do after a glass of wine. It was the perfect way to end the retreat, with such a wonderfully warm, natural high.
Two Day Retreats in 2018:
1st January 2018 - New Beginnings
15th January 2018 - Restoring You
2nd February 2018 - Introduction to Yoga and Mindfulness
9th February 2018 - Couples Mindfulness
27th February 2018 - Introduction to Mindfulness & Tai Chi
11th March 2018 - Mother & Daughter Retreat
30th March - Easter Special Four Day retreat
6th April - Step into Spring
Prices start from £375 per person double/twin occupancy and £450 per person single occupancy. Find out more.