When you think of a pilates and yoga retreat, you might think you’re going to find a particular type of person there, but just like there are different types of yoga and different ways of practicing pilates, there are all sorts of people who go on retreat.
For the past few years, the Bodyfit and Wellsprings community have combined to do an annual retreat in Bali and last year, I made the decision to join them. I will admit that I was hesitant - to take a week to myself meant I was fighting the guilt of leaving family and spending money that could go elsewhere simply on "finding myself" - whatever that meant!
As an avid Instagram stalker, I was of the understanding that retreats were for tiny, skinny, young, pretty women with a choice of bikinis that boggled the mind. But I talked to Lana and I talked with people who had been to the previous retreat, and what I found was that these retreats are for anyone just wanting to find that connection to their time and bodies that the stress of life has taken away. Which makes sense - the Bodyfit community isn't a bunch of people looking to be better than each other, it's an uplifting and supportive bunch of great humans who come together to feel better.
I chatted to my family about it, and asked what they would do if I weren't there for a week - really, how would they cope! But in the end, it was my husband who said that it's not selfish to spend time on yourself, it's really self preservation.
So with that in mind, I put down my deposit and started checking flights. Being that it was only me flying, I didn't need to make sure I got there on a direct flight, so I found flights via KL for under $500 return. Having been to KL airport previously, I also knew that it was a pretty good place for a stopover - great food, plenty of space to walk around and it'd be a good break on my journey. Plus - 14 hours just to do what I wanted to do, watch what I wanted to watch and read a slew of trashy novels? Not the worst way to spend a travel day!
In the weeks leading up to departure as I paid my final amount of money and organised drop offs at the airport and packed all the yoga gear I owned (I took a backpack only, I'm not an Instagram retreater!) I wondered what was in store for me when I got there and more importantly - who else would be there? Would I connect with everyone?
My flight was long, but relaxing and when I got to Bali, I was met by the driver who drove us to the retreat village. That first night, as I'd gotten in late, I slept hard and long in my villa, missing the early morning chanting but meeting everyone for amazing breakfast - loads of fruit, yogurt and plenty of juice and coffee! I met our retreat cohort of women and joined them in the yoga class after breakfast.
Over the week, I got to know everyone so well, and we followed a daily routine of getting up with the sun, chanting and meditating in our own yoga studio, a yoga or pilates class and a lesson on understanding our bodies and minds, followed by lunch where I would head out to get a couple of hours worth of massage, then back for classes and yoga / pilates, chanting as the sun went down, then a group dinner before falling in to bed.
During the breaks we did have, we shared our stories and figured out who knew who and how we all connected. A few of the women worked together, some had known each other on previous retreats, a couple I recognised from the studio, but mostly, we connected because we were all spending time trying to connect to ourselves more. Not one person who I met had an alternate agenda and I was surprised by how much they all seemed like.... me?
Each day, I facetimed with the family, and the routine was going along as planned - my daughter was getting to school on time, the network to support it all worked as intended and as the days went by, I took deeper breaths and started really listening to what my body and mind were doing.
I'm not a spiritual person in any way, so my epiphanies weren't on a religious scale, but I finally figured out what the connection was between movement and breath, something I hadn't been able to truly appreciate except in a physiological sense from years of classes. I felt the breeze on my skin and my mind was able to step back and appreciate what I had done - I was moving forward in something not with an end goal in mind, but for the sheer joy of moving something forward.
The week came to an end exactly when it needed to - I missed my family and I'd made a clear leap forward in my practice and in myself. I packed my backpack, I took another walk around the grounds, marvelled at the flowers and we had a final breakfast together as a group. It was exactly what I needed without knowing what it was that I needed beforehand.
And with a deep breath and an iPad full of trashy novels, I took the journey home again.
In the year since Bali, I've slowed down - not a lot, but enough to let some things go. I've kept up a home practice and I've started connecting to others just a little more than I used to. I'm not sure what awaits me this year, but I've booked my flights (I'm going via KL again - the time to myself is so luxurious!) and gotten my yoga clothes together!!