Tips for your first yoga retreat: 10 lessons I learnt

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It’s been a BUSY last few months! In fact, a CRAZY busy last few months leading up to the launch of my Yoga Guides (more on that to come!). June was packed filled with finalising Yoga Guides, Arm Balance workshops, graphic work, wedding guestbooks and a retreat to Tuscany with Anna Marsh of Anna Marsh Nutrition.

I’m so back-logged with things to do (3 miles long) and awesome things to post and share of what we’ve been up to (hint: wedding dress adventures) , but thought I would get this up before August ran away with me too!

Given that the retreat was a little while ago now, it’s given me a good bit of time to reflect on it all – so I’d love to share 10 random things I learnt from my first international retreat.

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Firstly I just wanted to jump right in there and say how very grateful I am to Anna for inviting me to teach on her Ladies that Lift retreat.  There is actually a huge amount of trust that goes into hosting an international retreat – (trust that the venue is not going to be a giant scam, trust that people will sign up and join, trust that people will all just get along, trust that things will go smoothly, and then trust that things will work the way they should – even when they don’t go smoothly) so thank you to Anna for trusting me to guide the yoga for you. I felt very privileged to be able to teach such an amazing group of women!

Anna Marsh is like a very wise ol’ Marsh Owl. (Although I’d say definitely slightly blonder, a bit more blue-eyed and not so conducive to being awake passed 10pm 😛 but the wisdom – man, it’s all there!) She has really cultivated such an amazing community of women through her ladies that lift program –
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I learnt so much on this retreat: from Anna and from the ladies on the retreat and I’m so grateful to have been part of it.

On the first day, we wrote down all our fears about the retreat, alongside anything positive that could be used to reframe it. Every day after practice there was time offered for journaling and reflective time of gratitude.

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There are a lot more funny stories that I want to share from this retreat – and they will come soon but for now I just wanted to share 10 (random) things I learnt from this retreat

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1. It is possible to drink more water
I am not great at drinking water, but somehow this retreat made me drink a WHOLE heap more water. Perhaps it was the increased heat (HOORAY, SUMMER AT LAST!!) or maybe it was the fact that I was seeing every other woman with a giant water bottle getting in their litres. It did motivate me to drink a whole bunch more H20. I’ve now tried to subliminally message myself at home by leaving water bottles lying all over the house. Husband thinks this is a *wonderful* thing.

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2. Metabolic Flexibility is WAY important
I did mention beforehand that Anna is like a wise ol’ Marsh owl. Most evenings we had a workshop of some kind led by her (and her brains). The first evening was on Metabolic Flexibility and I just hung out on the floor, hanging off every word Anna had to say – trying to soak everything in like an absorbent sponge-bob.
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Without going into too much detail the bottom line is: eat your greens. And then eat your reds, browns, purples, yellows and whites too. Don’t put on a jersey the second you get cold, let your body sweat a little before you blast the fan. Vary your meal times, try a fast once in a while.  Change up your exercise habits: sprints, slow, intense, fast, weights, cardio, trick the body. Keep your routine fluid, keep the body flexible. (For a more science (aka “legit”) version, I would recommend Anna’s facebook page)
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3. There is always something to be learned.

If I’m honest, I was rather nervous coming into this retreat. Apart from the fact that many of the women on the retreat have been working closely with Anna for some time now – I was slightly nervous that I had never met any of them before, never practiced yoga with any of them before, had never seen any of their bodies in movement before. It was also quite challenging for me (especially in the first few days) between trying to teach in a way that I thought Anna wanted/expected me to teach versus the way in which I would naturally teach. I learnt a lot about myself in that process.

Of course there are always things to be learned: science things, metabolic flexibility, biorhythms and mitochondria, etc – of course we can always learn about those things. But the learning I am referring to is something much deeper. The things we learn about ourselves. The deeper learning. The self knowledge that comes from viewing situations as opportunities for growth, development and constant self improvement. The learning that takes place when we are truly connected to others. Because when we are connected to others the way in which they step into challenges can inspire and light that fire in us too. We learn from others and we learn through others.

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4. Community is Everything

Find your tribe. And then support the shit out of each-other. Anna has created an amazing tribe of women through her program.

And that’s all I have to say about that.
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5. Gelato is Better in Italy

When the nutritionist says it’s cool to eat gelato in Italy – you eat the Gelato in Italy.
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(double scoop of delicious, if you please)

Speaking of food –

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Did somebody say gluten-free, flourless, pear and almond chocolate tart? Holy Cannoli, food on retreat was amazing!

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7. If you are not sure of the directions, do not walk there in flip flops in 1000 degree heat.
We walked to the “corner store”. Which we thought was around the “corner”.  We walked. And then we walked. And then we walked. And then we walked. And then we walked some more. We realised we might die in the wilderness of Tuscany with only one bottle of water for the whole gang and no cell phone reception to call the rescue choppers. I got blisters EVERYWHERE (which matched quite nicely with my mosquito bites, if I’m truly honest). But we DID saw a dead snake en route, so that made it all worthwhile.

Guess ya had to be there. Lol 😉

Note: we were on the longest walk in the world to find some semblance of cell phone signal… unrelated:

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8. Virtual unplugging is good for the soul

After realising how far the nearest reception-joint was, I quickly came to the conclusion that virtual unplugging is actually rather good for the soul.

But, jokes aside – having a week completely removed from technology, social media, notifications, messages and alerts is SO good for the soul. I spent more than a week without checking instagram, without posting to social media, without sending a single email. And you know what? The moon didn’t fall out the sky, the sun still came up, the world went on, and probably really no-one even missed me at all. (Except maybe Warren, haha). SO refreshing to take a break from technology. And very scary how quickly you can get sucked back in.

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9. You can plan as much as you like, but at the end of the day you’ve gotta be open to change.

I spent a long time in the lead up to the retreat going over class plans and things I wanted to teach in the classes and how I thought I would run them. But then I arrived and met everyone, watched everyone move as best I could and then had to make adjustments and changes to what I thought I would teach and the classes I had planned along the way. Yes, plan and prepare, but I also think it’s very important to leave yourself open to adapt to what comes. This is not limited to teaching yoga classes, but being open to  new situations, and life in general when things that don’t work out quite the way you thought they would.

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10 Always, ALWAYS keep pushing out that bubble of fear

Doing something for the first time is always scary. Hosting an international retreat. Teaching on an international yoga retreat. Signing up and attending an international yoga retreat. We’ve all heard the saying “every day do something that scares you”. And whilst I believe that is true – when it comes to something like the physical yoga practice I think it’s always good to work within safe boundaries. BUT, it’s important to keep expanding those safe boundaries. Work to the limit of those safe boundaries as if it’s a giant bubble that you are continuously pushing out, blowing out, expanding – making space for yourself to grow.

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Mornings filled with yoga, days filled with lounging by the pool in the Tuscan Sunshine, hikes, trips to the markets, good conversations, evenings filled with delicious food & wine, learning, sharing and laughing with an incredible group of women. I’m so thankful to all of you for being so open to me!

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Thank you so much for having me on your retreat Anna!
It was such an incredible experience of learning, love and growth.
You are truly a rockstar Marsh Owl.

xo xo

ps – most of these pics are mine and some are a mix from everyone who was on retreat – they’ve all been put into single dropbox folder so I’m not sure who took what to be able to credit individually – but I’m sending you some kudos for snapping them!

1 Comment

  1. Rhianne on August 4, 2016 at 9:35 am

    I love this list!! And hearing about this retreat, it sounds so awesome! And I think you’d be surprised by how many people missed you – I missed you. You’re a ray of sunshine on most of my days 🙂 saying that, totally take the breaks from social media, I love going home to Norfolk because the signal is so poor and its a forced internet break ha.

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