Most of our plans for 2020 went out the window thanks to the virus that shouldn’t be named. And of all the things that had to go, for me, it was holidays abroad that I missed the most. I had planned to take a group of my Yoga students on a long weekend to the stunning Fontalble in the Dordogne region and we were all bitterly disappointed when our plans had to be put on hold. But as soon as restrictions are lifted I’ll be rebooking our flights and I know my students are chomping at the bit as much as I am.
Holidays are a great way to recharge your batteries, to take time out from the day to day grind. But Yoga retreats offer an even greater opportunity to press the reset button as you get to focus on your own self-care and nourish yourself from the inside out. And where better to do that than in the beautiful surroundings of Fontalbe? Whilst I’m grateful for my local parks, I have seen quite a lot of them since last March and I can’t wait to truly reconnect with nature on Fontalbe’s private island, surrounded by rivers, forests and beautiful countryside. Just the prospect of being able to enjoy such a spectacular change of scenery again lifts my spirits.
I have always believed that you should start your day as you mean to go on and so we will be practising Yoga outside every morning, weather permitting, before brunch to set us up for the day – don’t worry, there will be tea or coffee first! We might practice Yoga by the heated pool or even by the Dordogne river, and perhaps even have a dip afterwards. Morning classes will consist of an energising flow to get the body moving and blood pumping, followed by meditation to bring more stillness and calm to the mind.
Then having worked up an appetite, we can get stuck into all the delicious food on offer. All the retreats are fully catered by Trois Mets Vins who cook mouth-watering food with locally sourced produce. To me Yoga is all about balance, not depriving yourself of life’s pleasures. I firmly believe that a little bit of what you love is good for the soul. As we will be in the middle of wine country, I’m sure many in my group will take advantage of that, although perhaps not at breakfast! We are planning a trip to a local biodynamic vineyard where there will be an opportunity to taste organic, biodynamic wines accompanied by matching food. When drunk in moderation, wine, particularly of the organic and biodynamic kind, has numerous health benefits including helping to reduce stress, so we can all enjoy a guilt-free glass, or whisper it, maybe more.
Between brunch and our evening Yoga class, there will be plenty of time to explore the local area, have a swim, relax with a good book by the pool or just have a nap. The second class of the day will be more gentle and slower, with the aim of relaxing and restoring both body and mind. During your stay, we will practice both Yin and Restorative Yoga in the studio overlooking the pool which is aimed at bringing the body into a state of rest and digest – the opposite mode to the one we operate in when under prolonged bouts of stress. I expect to hear a few rumbling tummies as my students are able to truly relax and so can digest any food in their system, setting them up perfectly for another delicious meal in the evening.
Retreats are what you make of them. Don’t fancy doing a class one morning? No problem, have a lie-in, I’m not going be yelling at you like a sergeant major! But even if it normally takes you a while to get going in the morning, you might find that you feel so good after the class that you actually look forward to it. Again, if you just want to take it easy during the day and not venture far, that’s totally up to you. Drink wine or not – again the choice is up to you, there’s no judgement. We are all unique and what makes one of us feel good might not be the same for someone else. This is the ethos I bring to all my Yoga classes too, there is no one size fits all, your practice needs to work for you, there shouldn’t be any sense of forcing your body into poses.
I’ve taught several retreats around the world over the years, in India, Sicily and Thailand and there is always a great energy with people who maybe didn’t even know each other beforehand developing close bonds. People are always sorry when the retreats come to an end. This year after all the disappointments and deprivations, I know that the experience will be all the sweeter and I might have my work cut out getting my group on the return flight home.
Indira Das-Gupta has over 14 years experience of teaching Yoga. She founded the North London Yoga Studio which is now sadly closed but continues to teach online. If you would be interested in joining her retreat or taking part in her classes, refer to her website: www.yogawithindira.com