Last weekend saw us host our first ever weekend retreat at St Marks Stays near Sedburgh in Cumbria. I have known for a long time that I would like to host retreats, and I had been planning this weekend for approximately a year!
You'll know that the week prior was a wet one, with a lot of flooding around and our guests battled valiantly through the puddles (understatement!) on the roads to journey to us. By half past six, everyone was out of the rain and shown to one of the beautiful twin rooms, each with en suite, and complete with goody bag. Being dark outside, some of our guests had to wait until the morning to see the views from the rooms - but it was worth the wait! It is hard to capture the location on camera as the beautiful gardens run down to a stream that then rise straight to the fells.
Friday night was kept fairly chilled; I appreciate the long journey and long working week many had gone through and rest and relaxation was the order of the evening. We met together as a group at about 7pm, with each guest receiving a retreat booklet to guide them through the weekend, full of recipes, information, the schedule and some journalling pages. I encourage everyone to pick to and choose from the sessions on offer (attendance is not compulsory!!) in order to create the perfect weekend tailored to them. We then dined for the first time together in the beautiful dining room. I designed the food this weekend (because I knew the weather forecast!) to be nutritious, warm and comforting!
Following dinner, we all gathered for restorative yoga. This is an amazing experience if you have never done it before; we hold poses for up to ten minutes, fully supported with props that allowed you to deeply relax into the pose. Bolsters and blankets become our best friends! We completed this with a meditation for deep sleep. I took it as a complement the many yawns we had and early nights as everyone took themselves off to bed afterwards!
Saturday dawned still wet but much brighter. We began the day with a short meditation session in which we focused on setting intentions for the day and creating and embodying how we wanted to show up. We then moved into our yoga practice; a invigorating flow which focused on moving with our breaths and building a sun salutation. I may have introduced a fair few active squats into the practice also to get those thighs burning!
Breakfast met our guests after our yoga practice; a choice of lovely breakfast things! The coffee machine proved a popular choice also! There was nothing nicer for me than grabbing my early morning cup of coffee, setting up the beautiful studio for our guests and leading them through yoga in the morning. It was the nicest way to start the day.
We reconvened late morning in the dining room (the best views!) for a nutrition workshop. There is a lot of confusing information out there about our food, so the aim of the workshop was to simplify nutrition and discuss some information that allowed us to make more informed and better choices for our health and well being. We talked through some of the issues and questions surrounding carbohydrates, fats and protein, the pros and cons of calorie counting, how to put together a plate of food, evaluating the scientific claims of research (intermittent fasting was a hot topic for discussion!) as well as habit building and changing behaviours. It was great to share experiences and each guest left with a little resource pack to guide them through goal setting and making changes going forward.
Thank you so much for a fabulous weekend! I feel so restored and nurtured. I left with so many positive thoughts and ideas moving forwards.
Now for the crazy part! I'd always said to Damian and Joanne, the owners of St Marks Stays, that we were going to hit the gardens for our fitness boot camp no matter the weather but I'm not sure they fully believed us! But pretty much the whole group turned out to get a sweat on, soggy bottoms and to do some fun and challenging partner exercises and games. We finished with a few races. Anyone else tried wheelbarrow racing since they reached adulthood?! There were even a few hailstones, but lots of giggles and fresh faces when we made our way in to get warm and dry. Hot showers and time to get cosy all round before we all rejoined as a group for lunch.
Peter outdid himself here! A fresh loaf of sourdough awaited us, a full 24 hours in the making. We had this with warming soup and salads. Perfect for after our active morning!
On Saturday afternoon our guests had some free time to chill out. Some chose to go out walking and had a fantastic, blustery time, walking their way to Cautley Spout. They returned high on the fresh air and fantastic views! Others opted to get a beauty treatment; a facial or massage. And then snuggles by the open fire, with blankets and cups of tea. It was another of my favourite moments of the weekend, sitting in the living room with our guests, wrapped up and cosy!
Saturday night dinner was also a highlight; fully chilled and relaxed from the days activities, and with the group gelling really well together, we enjoyed a Mediterranean feast. The dessert received rave reviews (and a few recipe requests) - salted caramel slice. We finished our day with relaxing restorative yoga, focusing more on the hips to release pent up emotions and a head massage during savasana to prepare us for sleep.
Sunday morning dawned with the best weather yet and we began the day the same as Saturday - with meditation and an invigorating yoga practice. This time we did a mandala flow, where we flowed in a constant circle. This type of flow symbolizes that life is never-ending and we are all connected. A final boot camp session (rain but no hail this time!) got us running around the house and not taking ourselves too seriously whilst enjoying the views. It really got our appetites up for our final meal together.
Late morning it was time for brunch; savoury and sweet, hot and cold, you could create your meal. I love a brunch! Anything goes! We finished with a group photo (finally, some blue skies!), and some final cuddles with Bracken, Damian and Joanne's adorable spaniel puppy. A massive thank you to our guests for making the weekend so lovely, I LOVED having everyone of you.
Interested in joining us on our next retreat? There's still a couple of spots open on our September retreat! You can sign up as a couple, as friends or do just come on your own, as many of our guests did this time. You will be so looked after!
The retreat was wonderfully organised with perfectly timed activities and delicious nutritious meals. Caroline's yoga teaching is both calming yet empowering and I took enormous amounts of strength from her guidance. The classes flowed wonderfully and challenged us appropriately. I've never enjoyed yoga or fitness as much as I do with her.