When my friend, and now business partner, Sarah, asked me if I wanted to lead a yoga retreat with her on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, I didn’t hesitate to give a loud and enthusiastic “YES! I’m in!” While there was a lot of planning and behind-the-scenes work that went into this week-long retreat with 16 guests, I want to share some of the exciting, incredible experiences and give you a glimpse into what our yoga retreat looked, felt, and tasted like.
The retreat centre is in a little town, about 20 minutes outside of Sorrento. The building itself is an old convent, overlooking the Gulf of Naples. With a winding street leading down to the water, this quiet little town created the perfect backdrop as we settled in for a week of being connected through yoga.
Our retreat used yoga as the common thread to allow us to discover, explore, and renew in a variety of ways. It was important to Sarah and I that our participants were able to choose how involved they wanted to be, in every capacity. There was a daily offering of yoga and meditation, ranging from 30 to 120 minutes. Classes included meditation, Light Flow, Fire Flow, restorative, and myofascial release. The first full day of the retreat looked like this:
There were also excursions so that people could discover and explore the breathtaking scenery of the Amalfi Coast! We took a ride along the coast and spent the afternoon exploring the beach, shops, and pizza in Positano. Another afternoon was spent with a visit to a nearby lemon farm to taste the regional specialty liqueur, limoncello. For those who love to cook, they spent one morning at a cooking class learning authentic Italian recipes and techniques. There was one full-day excursion, in which we took a boat to Capri - explored the island for a bit and then continued with the boat ride around the island - complete with a refreshing jump into sparkling blue water. One of our guests, Rebecca, shared the following: “Christine and Sarah led our group through exciting excursions along the Amalfi Coast and planned activities at the retreat centre that brought the group together in a unique way.”
Some of the people in the group knew someone else but some came without knowing anyone. As we gathered to do yoga together, an inviting space was created to get to know one another better. Being able to explore your own movement, practice, and breath while feeling the breeze and overlooking the water is quite magical. Many of our participants had little yoga experience prior to arriving at the retreat.
Sitting down to meals (delicious meals, at that) that were prepared by Italian women who infused passion for food and culture into every bite, allowed for people to continue to learn more about each other. We lingered over lunch and dinner, sipping red wine, and enjoying the food and the company of one another. Bonds starting to form very early into the retreat, and people were excited to show up for the next class, excursion, or meal, to pick up where they left off.
Another guest, Anne, said this: “Being able to experience a yoga retreat while traveling where I had never been gave me the comfort and structure of yoga classes, while also having the excitement of sharing new experiences with like-minded people.” The final night of the retreat, we gathered, as many of the group had throughout the week, at a local restaurant/bar along the water, just a few minutes walk from the retreat centre. We raised a glass of limoncello to the new friends that were made, the joy of having absorbed ‘la dolce vita’ for a week, and for the individual discoveries and explorations that we each took away from our yoga retreat together.
If this sounds like the experience you have been waiting for, then please, come with us for one of our next adventures! We are heading to Prince Edward County, Ontario and Playa del Carmen, Mexico in February, 2019, and are already working on Costa Rica and Bali for 2020.
We hope to see you on the mat soon; be it one of our local classes or for one of our retreats!
Written by: Christine Noonan
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing process that relies on scent, primarily drawn from plant extracts, to promote health and a sense of well-being. Although this modality has been practiced for thousands of years, the profound effects it continues to demonstrate on our psychological and physical wellness have gained favourable recognition in the medical and scientific communities. So much, that it’s increased popularity has allowed just about anyone to become a self-studied expert and administrator of their own aromatherapy regime. We see this evidence in the increased popularity of aromatherapy body products, home diffusers, personal aromatherapy kits, massage therapy, as well as therapeutic treatments - all in the pursuit of enhanced wellness...and it works!
In aromatherapy, fragrance serves the purpose of generating a sought-after experience. When we feel stressed, we strive to counterbalance that sensation with something soothing; feelings of sluggishness with something invigorating, and feelings of depression with something up-lifting. For example, warming scents like vanilla and cinnamon create a sense of grounding and cosiness. Herbal scents like orange and rosemary are uplifting and energizing, while lavender and chamomile are calming and soothing.
How Does Aromatherapy Factor into Yoga?
Because we have such a powerful connection between our sense of smell and overall body experience, we can harness the ability to use fragrances to mentally and physically achieve a desired outcome. In short, we can train our brain and body to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead, like a ritual of sorts. For example, using a particular scented candle or essential oil at the beginning of our yoga or meditation practice will gradually set the tone, allowing our body to become mentally and physically prepared for the activity that lies ahead. During a restorative class, soothing scents can ease us into a calmer state, while an uplifting scent can continue to fuel our energy during a more active session.
Here at Liberty Life Yoga, we’ve taken this a step further by developing our Aromatherapy Light Flow class to nourish the mind, body, AND spirit. This is a yoga class dedicated to individuals of all fitness levels to gracefully float into the room and onto their mats, flow through gentle Asanas (yoga poses) to blissful music and be immersed with aromatherapy all the way to their final Savasana.
What’s our Aromatherapy of Choice?
My chosen favourites are the Yoga: Transition Mist and the Namaste: Uplifting Mist, both from Saje Natural Wellness. I truly appreciate the quality of their oils and products, knowing that both my participants and I are in good hands when using these oils - not to mention that they also smell incredible! The Yoga Mist provides an uplifting start to our yoga session, containing oils of orange peel, bergamot, cedar and cardamom, allowing our senses to gently awaken, ready to flow through the Asanas. We finish our practice using the Namaste Mist, with scents of lavender, Indian neroli, geranium and rose, promoting a sense of relaxation for our restorative Savasana.
And if you’re wondering about how these oils are applied during our yoga practice, well that’s something better left to be experienced rather than described...you’ll just have to come by and try it for yourself!
Ready to experience Aromatherapy Light Flow for yourself? Join Elizabeth every Sunday, 10:30am at Toy Factory Lofts. View our schedule for complete details.
Written by: Elizabeth Fox
Have you ever considered going on a yoga retreat? A retreat offers an opportunity to dive a bit deeper into your yoga practice, no matter what level you are at. With the common everyday distractions – work, commuting, family obligations, household chores – removed, there is no excuse for not making it to your mat. While you are on a retreat, everything is (or should aim to be) curated to allow you to take time for yourself and for your practice. On some retreats, all meals are provided for you. This means that you don’t even have to think about what to make for lunch or dinner, let alone, shop for the ingredients, prep, or clean up. Retreats can create space for you to self-reflect, explore more about your yoga practice, pamper yourself, meet new friends, discover a new city or country, and much more.
A quick Google search will confirm that there are no shortage of yoga retreats out there. If you’re looking to narrow down the choices and find some that could be a great fit for you, here are a few things to take into account.
1. Location: Where is your retreat happening?
Is it nearby, which requires you to take a car, train, or short flight to get to? While some of these retreats can appear to be a bit more expensive, they are often more affordable to travel to and require less time away from work and family to get to. If your retreat is offered in a place that requires extensive travel, you’ll want to take a look at flight prices for the time of year you will be going and what the flights look like. Your destination might be close to the airport, or you might need another flight or some other mode of transportation to get you there. Read what is included for each retreat, as some offer one-way or roundtrip transfers from local airports, which can help alleviate stress and save on added costs.
Think about where you want to go and why you want to go there. If you’ve always dreamed of exploring the serene hills of Tuscany with a lover, a solo retreat there might not make the most sense. Think that a jungle retreat to escape the hustle and bustle of city living or your family demands will do you good? It might, but make sure you find out the details on if you will be forced to completely disconnect or if there is an option to check your email or make calls to home every few days. It’s good to think about the purpose of your retreat which can help narrow down some viable location options. Once you have your intentions clear, it will help you decide if you’re taking this trip on your own, or if you want to explore the retreat with your partner/family/friends.
Who is going to be leading your yoga and meditation classes?
If it’s a teacher who you have practiced with before, you probably have a good idea of the types of classes they teach, their style, and personality. If your teacher is local, go take a few classes with them. If your retreat is with a teacher you don’t know, or they are not nearby, there are a few things to consider. You might see if they have any online videos so you can get a sense of their teaching style. You can take a look at their website or social pages as this will let you know what kinds of classes they regularly teach, and give you some insights to what they value and want to express in their teachings. If you’re looking for Vinyasa classes and want to work on your sun salutations on your retreat, check and see if your teacher has experience with and a passion for this too. If that is what you’re looking for and you sign up for a retreat with an instructor who specializes in gentle hatha and restorative practices, you may be disappointed. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions! Most teachers want you to get the most out of your retreat experience and will be happy to email, chat, and answer any questions you may have.
3. Yoga Classes/Styles
Most retreats offer one to three classes a day.
You will also want to note what kind of yoga experience is helpful to have for your specific retreat. While many offer classes suitable for all levels of practice, look at the types of practices offered and the length of time they are. If you are newer to yoga and your desired retreat is only offering 90-minute classes, it might be a bit intense. It is a good idea to have a least a few months of yoga under your belt before signing up for a week long retreat. This way you’ll know the poses and the names of them, how they feel in your body, and have the stamina for consecutive days of practice. Again, reach out to the instructor and be honest about where your practice is at and how this will fit into what is being offered.
4. What’s Included
It is important to know what the cost of your retreat includes.
Most retreats do not include flights, so do some research and find out what the costs are to get there. If you’re staying local, ask your organizer if there is an option to catch a ride with someone nearby. Some retreats include all meals, while others include only certain meals. If you’re flying to your destination, check to see if transportation from the airport to the retreat location is included. If you want to catch a volcano sunrise while you are in Hawaii, what will be the extra cost to get there and make this happen on your own? If you’re heading to Mexico and are excited to enjoy some margaritas, you’ll want to know if any alcoholic beverages are included with your retreat package. Read the fine print, and if you’re still not sure, reach out to the organizer/instructor or retreat centre itself.
As a foodie, this one is important to me! Many yoga retreats default to vegetarian menus. There are some that are more specific and offer vegan cuisine. If you’re on a retreat that is focused on cleansing, you might see more juices or plant-based foods. I have been on retreats that serve fish and/or meat as they are local and considered an important part of the culture. An Italy retreat might offer up some local wine, while a beach retreat might have an abundance of coconut water. If you are responsible for some meals on your own, you might want to do a little research on what the local cuisine consists of. Put this into your budget too, as it will add to the overall cost of your getaway. Most places are very accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions, but be sure to double check that they can take care of what you need them too.
While there are some things to consider, choosing a retreat is also a very exciting time to ask yourself some questions and get clear on what you want to get out of this amazing experience. With so many great options out there, your perfect retreat is just waiting for you to say “yes”!
If you’re looking to book soon, check out the following options!
Written by: Christine Noonan
Edited from: Rachel Scott Yoga, Blog
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