If you haven’t seen my previous two posts and were a Healing Beauty reader many moons a go, you might have wondered where I’d gone. Well, if you’re interested in the emotional backstory, that’s here. Long story short though, my life has been full of changes over the past few years, with last year being particularly difficult. By the end of it I felt really low and needed to get away. Well, I didn’t know what I needed actually, but when I found out about Chaya Yoga Retreats New Beginnings retreat in Goa, I felt like that was the answer. Despite the very short notice I’d have to give to work and the fact I didn’t know anyone going, I felt in my gut that this was exactly what I needed. In fact it felt like it was the only thing that would get me out of the funk I was in. I just had to go. And I’m so thankful I followed my intuition, because it really was life changing.
Chaya Yoga Retreats was set up in 2012 by three friends – Lucy, Annabel and Daisy. You can check out their lovely website here. While they do many retreats in the UK and abroad (India, Bali, Spain…), this one was extra special as they were joined by life design coach, Selina Barker (have a look at her blog here too – a very inspiring read!)
The New Beginnings retreat was run by Lucy, Annabel (the yoga teacher) and Selina, and the focus, as you might’ve guessed from the name, was about starting the new year with a fresh and rejuvenated perspective, in mind and body. Just what I needed.
The programme was simple but perfectly planned. We started each day around 7.45am with fresh coconuts (one of nature’s loveliest gifts in my opinion) and fresh mint tea. Then from 8-10am we had our first meditation and yoga practice. We then had a short group session with Selina, who set us up with a ‘task’ to think about during the day, followed by a delicious brunch. Then free time until 4pm – usually spent on Ashwem beach soaking up the rays, buying sarongs from the locals, reading, chatting and getting to know each other. We had another yoga practice each afternoon from 4.30-6pm, followed by a longer group session with Selina, where we went into more depth about the ‘theme’ of the day, then a scrumptious dinner, home cooked by our own chefs who helped run the beautiful eco villa complex, Kaju Varu – the most idyllic and peaceful setting for the retreat.
Both the yoga and life coaching each day were planned around one of the seven chakras (energy centres) of the body, moving up from the base to the crown. Not having much knowledge of chakras before I went (or any of the yogic principles and teachings to be honest) I came to find this approach both fascinating and beautifully appropriate.
With day one being about your root chakra – representing your basic human needs, health and groundedness – our morning task was simple: just relax and enjoy the surroundings. Selina encouraged us to ‘feel the sand between our toes as we walked along the beach’ and try to just ‘be’ and connect with the earth. Annabel, during our morning practice, set this up perfectly, taking us through postures and breathing techniques all related to the Muladhara (base chakra). She taught us how to try and channel the energy to that area, through colour visualisations (this one being red) and chanting (Lam), and explained its meaning and energetic associations.
Being the first day and having travelled for nearly 24 hours the day before, I wasn’t expecting to really understand or connect yet with the ‘spiritual’ side of things. I was just taking each moment as it came, with an open mind. When lying down after the first yoga practice in Shavasana, however, I was suddenly brought to tears. It was a shock and I couldn’t work out why, but the girls had told us to expect to feel some powerful emotions from the practice, and retreat in general. While I lay there, profound thoughts started coming into my mind – about my childhood and early beginnings – all of which I could see related to my sense of groundedness – and although I felt sad, it was also extremely cathartic. (And this was just the beginning!)
Day two was centred around the Svadhisthana chakra, associated with sexuality and pleasure. We talked about life’s simple pleasures in our afternoon session, which was really rewarding. It sounds so basic, but to remind yourself how wonderful the smell of freshly cut grass is, or the feeling of the sun on your face, laughing with your friends, or a stranger smiling at you for no reason…is a humbling thing. I think we all understood what Selina meant when she said you cannot even begin to start thinking about big life changes – career moves being the most obvious (and one of the main reasons people were on the retreat) – without first looking after your most basic needs and being able to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.
As we progressed up the chakras we were encouraged to think about how we wanted to feel in 2014, what experiences we would like to have and what kind of people we wanted in our lives. Selina’s approach to the ‘life coaching’ was holistic and nurturing – there was no pressure to find answers. The retreat (and life), we came to realise, was a journey – an exploration of our own desires and needs and passions. There was no right answer, and she wasn’t going to give it to us! She was there to guide using challenge us to think differently, to feel differently…
And we really did go on a journey. Every person who came to the retreat had a goal in mind when they set off, and I guarantee that they left with a very different outcome than they’d expected. Those who wanted quick answers and solutions learnt to slow down, to get more in touch with their intuition and desires. Those who thought they were ok and knew what they wanted for the future found themselves confronting things from the past they had long suppressed. And those with no expectations really, other than to rebalance and revive (myself included), stumbled upon some very unexpected feelings and fostered new ideas for the future.
What was so special is that we shared in all of this together – supporting each other, despite being complete strangers, from day one. It’s for this that I am most grateful to Annabel, Lucy and Selina – for creating a nurturing, safe, and loving environment in which each of us could unravel, and then build ourselves up again. From the minute I arrived I felt like part of a family – and that is not an easily accomplishable feat. These girls are very special.
There is so much more I could write about my personal experiences of the retreat, as each day was in itself a journey that taught me many new things about myself, and about life. But I will save that for another post. Most importantly though, I came away from it feeling ready to face life again and feeling like I was getting back to myself again – which in ten days, is quite remarkable.
For this, and for many other reasons (not to mention Annabel’s exceptional yoga teaching), I really cannot recommend going on a retreat with the Chaya girls highly enough. Whatever your reason – even if just to unwind and take a break – you will thank yourself! The next retreat is coming up soon, again in Goa. The details are all here…
Now I’ll just leave you with a few more pictures, courtesy of Lucy… Just paradise.