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What a yoga retreat teaches you about life (and yourself)

5 secrets I learnt from the yogis that no one tells you

I was brought up on a farm in a traditional community in Yorkshire, UK. Physical and mental health were rarely an issue, least of all discussed. I’ve always enjoyed excellent wellbeing, so after years of high pressure work in London as a PR Director, I was surprised when, in my thirties, I began to suffer migraines. In a quest to rid myself of this new, ‘London-made’ affliction, I set out to research natural medicine and came across Ayurveda and yoga as potential cures. The next step of my journey saw me setting off with a friend to Spain for a raw food, no caffeine, no alcohol, no meat (you get the picture), yoga retreat for a week.                  1.Meditation and mantras really work. Once we got over the chanting in Sanskrit, the ancient language of the yogis, we began to feel a surge of energy from the room. You might compare it to a group of people in a choir, or at a rock concert. It felt almost spiritual and dare I say it, cleansing. I now use mantras and positive affirmations regularly to help set intentions and create my ideal day. It really works!
2.Having your own yoga practice can heal almost anything.
The retreat included two 1.5 hour sessions of yoga per day. At the time this felt a lot, but we were encouraged to create our own practice that we could do at home – very much listening to our own bodies intuitively and what they might need at the time. My beloved dad died not too long after the retreat and I can honestly say that this personal practice helped me to stay sane in the tidal wave of emotions that come with grief and shock.
3.Caffeine free is worth a shot.
A caffeine detox is something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone at first. A band of headache wraps tightly around your head like a vice and doesn’t let go for two days. However, when it does lift, life feels good and your head feels light and free. I hadn’t felt this lifted for quite some time. I still have caffeine but often have breaks from it and try to have more herbal teas and hot lemon water which suit me (and my migraines) best.
4.Good digestion is a game changer.
Since the retreat, I’ve become almost evangelical about digestion (just ask my long suffering family and friends). Research now proves the link between gut and brain health, and the big man Hippocrates himself said ‘all good health begins in the gut’. I can’t believe it’s taken us so long to catch up with this knowledge. This is also something Ayurveda takes really seriously, with its seasonal cleanses and healthy food recommendations a plenty. I also learnt about mind/body types, or doshas (I’m a Pitta / Vata) and learnt which foods and activities suit each type. You can find out your dosha here.
5.Raw food isn’t for everyone.
As a farmer’s daughter, I’d never contemplated being vegetarian, so a week of vegan raw food was a real shock to the system. The food was delicious and plentiful, so we never felt hungry. I’ve since adopted an almost plant based diet, although cooked and warm foods tend to suit my digestion better than 100% raw. I’d recommend this way of living for health benefits galore!
Did all this knowledge and cleansing cure my migraines? No, but I’m much wiser about what my body and mind can deal with. I now know how to slow things down when I need to. I’ve also found an excellent neurologist and naturopath who have helped with the correct medication and knowledge of food intolerances, which has had a real impact.
I feel much better equipped to know when my mind or body (or both) go out of balance. The retreat has given me a priceless set of practical tools to create balance when I need it.
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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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