• Jackie King

My first yoga retreat and why I chose this for a holiday -Happy Yoga Travels

I am someone that many may recognise in themselves. There is a commonality that links us all, and that is the phrase 'I'm too busy'. However, this is often the answer when someone suggests that you do something for yourself rather than for your job, your friends or your loved ones. It is a symptom of the world we live in and seems to consume most if not all of us. There is always a tug either at the back of your head with that thing you never get round to or  

people physically pulling you in different directions.

My 'busy' is my job, and for various reasons this had become increasingly all consuming last year to the point where I was unable to control my stress and anxieties around it. Working until 10 or 11pm at night to get through things that just needed done and returning the following morning to an equally stressful day. Cancelling plans after work, becoming irritable when loved ones contacted me as this was just another comms to answer, I was spending no time looking after my own health. 

By the end of summer last year I had racked up so many holidays and so much overtime that I was forced to take a holiday. Strange to think of this as another chore but that was what it seemed at the time. I was single, in my early 30's and didn't want to go and sit at a beach by myself or navigate a city alone. I wanted to relax and switch off, not have to think.

Yoga has always been something I know has heaps of benefits for my health both physically and mentally. Over the years I have been to various classes and workshops, trying out different styles. And I have a very basic knowledge of some moves, but I have never been consistent at attending a class or practising at home. So when a colleague mentioned a yoga retreat I thought that I wouldn't be 'yogi' enough for it, that I wouldn't have the 'right' clothes and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up. This was the exact opposite of my experience.

After googling yoga retreats I chose to go with Lucia Yoga. The reason I chose this retreat was largely because of the setting, in the mountains in Andalusia. The mountain range, Sierra de Grazalema overlooks a stunning lake and features lodge side pools. Even in October with the best of the weather past everything was so beautiful. 

I arrived 2 days later than everyone else, which made it more economical for me having booked it so last minute. The organiser Antonio could not have been more helpful and accommodating to meet my needs when booking, he is one of the nicest and funniest hosts you could ever imagine. I arrived later in the evening when everyone was in the dinner room. This was quite daunting but they all greeted me with a cheer. I felt no awkwardness and just fitted in, it was so lovely. There were people of all ages, from the UK, Canada, US, Switzerland, Denmark and more. I was really pleased to see I was joining such a diverse and welcoming group.

The next day I woke up for 7am yoga followed by meditation. It lasted until 9.30am after which breakfast was served. Even though I had no experience of meditation I found it thoroughly nourishing, as I did with all the following meditation classes. I completely switched my brain back to a gear that I recognised. After breakfast we had a chakra workshop, yoga and meditation, lunch and then after another break we went into Yin yoga to round off the day. Each day followed the same pattern with different types of yoga and meditation, and culminated in an epic vegan 3 course meal. All the food was epic and vegan actually. Being plant based myself I could not have been any happier with it. Chef Carlos even had the meat eaters switching to a veggie diet when they returned home!

One of the most beautiful things about the retreat was that everyone went at their own pace, everyone had a lovely focus in the room and respected one another, and in down times there was always someone to chat to and connect with. There was no pressure to attend every class, you could do as much or as little as you wanted. I never felt I wasn't 'yogi' enough, I just felt like myself the entire time, which was exactly what I wanted.

It was during one of the down times in between meals and classes that I met Jackie. I enjoyed the Yin class that she facilitated the most. Her energy and spirit was different to the other teachers. Jackie is by nature bubbly, and excitable, has a real lust for life and when she teaches all these bundles of energy are channelled into her practice. I found that she was so in tune to what I needed. When we spoke I opened up about how I was not coping in my job, about my anxieties, being constantly in fight or flight mode and she recommended I attend the Nidra yoga class she was teaching that afternoon. I honestly felt cleansed and stronger after the class. When she asked me how it was I didn't even need to say anything, she just gave me a knowing look.

At the end of the retreat I had taken back energy that I had lost. I knew I was returning to a stressful situation, and would usually become anxious on the journey home, but this time I felt calm and ready. And needless to say, things have improved. My work have made some changes, and though still busy I am more aware of what I need to do to de-stress and have learned to roll with things more and have faith that they will work out.

Final thoughts.... You don't have to be a 'yogi' to go on a yoga retreat. There is no such thing. You just have to be yourself and be open to the experience.

Written by guest blogger Paula Morgan for jkyogaflow

Join Jackie on one of her next retreats in the UK or abroad join her @lucia yoga

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