NYE Yoga, Cleanse & Restore Retreat

Byron Bay 27 Dec 2016 to 4 Jan 2017

with Jessie Chapman (& friends) from Radiance Retreats

The picture above, is my favourite view .. and memory .. of the retreat I attended this year to celebrate and welcome in 2017.

The retreat was held at the beautiful Sangsurya Retreat Centre, which is just outside of the busyness of Byron Bay, and is a space dedicated to just retreats.  So the energy of the whole property is one of reverence, calmness, solitude and peace. You can’t just visit or book a room, you must be booked into a retreat .. and I was lucky enough to have an extra day at both ends of this retreat so I could continue to soak up the goodness (and peaceful vibes) in relative refuge from the world and other people.

Everywhere .. palm trees, blue sky, hot Summer days, rustling canopies, ocean breezes, geckos on the path and the scent of frangipani.  There are also beautiful surprises at every corner .. flowers cascading down walls, buddha statues in the garden, intricate stone pathways, mosaic walls in the bathroom, cool open pavilions for reading and resting, Tibetan artwork and Balinese sculptures adorning walls, ceremonial gongs and water baths filled with frangipani, wind chimes, forest and a lake filled with lotus flowers.

I arrived a day early, so I had the sublime pleasure of having the space and the pool to myself for an afternoon.  On our first day together I also had a massage booked .. everyone had a massage (part of the retreat program) on the first day and there was a team of three therapists available throughout the week for other healing modalities including Reiki, Lomilomi massage, naturopathic consultations, facials and reflexology.

The Yoga Shala sat amongst the lush gardens, with huge windows and openings that allowed nature and the cool breezes to join our practice.  Incense floating down the path to announce the start of class.

I loved greeting the little Jizo statues each dawn as I made my way to yoga .. these stone statues are often seen in Japanese gardens and temples, or found standing on country roadsides.  Jizo was a Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) of Buddhism, said to have stood between the world of reality and the world of the dead, entrusted to help those on their way to the netherworld. He is the protector of women, children, and travellers.

We did a lot of yoga .. from early morning (6.30-9am) to greet the day, to before lunch restoration or core strength classes, to afternoon restorative or yoga dance, and to finish the day blissful yoga nidra and guided meditation.  There is freedom however to choose what you wish to do, and gentle encouragement to try it all!

I loved the yoga dance class with Lee Purdie .. free movement and great music, which included much laughter and smiles as we learnt a complete sequence and then ‘performed’ for each other. Lee has studied, taught and performed different forms of Dance throughout her life and has been a practitioner of Yoga for over 12 years. YogaDance is a ‘refreshing fusion of yoga-inspired movement expressed in a creative and fluid way’. So much fun.

I also enjoyed (and learnt so much more) about restorative yoga .. releasing tension from the body using props and slower movements, powerfully reprogramming body and mind to deeply relax.  At times I am sure I fell asleep, in the middle of the afternoon, in just a few minutes of supportive rest.  Restorative yoga is deeply restful, supports our adrenal function and (hell yes) rests our nervous system.

Jessie has been running yoga retreats for more than 14 years .. I did my first retreat with her in 2004 .. and is so calming, confident, and wise!  Her retreats are always fully booked and sought after.

I am filled with gratitude and thanks to Jessie and her amazingly  team (there were three yoga teachers providing gentle guidance and adjustment in each class) .. always on hand with helpful tips, alternative poses (I will not be doing headstands anytime soon), the silent appearance of bolsters and blankets for additional support, and (oh yes) the gentle head and shoulder massages that would further encouraged the ‘letting go’ while in shavasana.  Profound.

Tallows Beach from the Ridge Trail : New Years Eve 6am

Byron Bay is a beachside town located in the far-northeastern corner of the state of New South Wales, Australia; and it is the easternmost point of mainland Australia.

This land is considered powerful, sacred and supercharged. The local Arakwai Aboriginal people, named the area Cavvanbah, meaning meeting place and it was traditionally a place of healing and fertility. Most evenings you will find travellers and wanderers drawn to the ocean beach for drumming and dancing; it has always been a place for ceremony, circles, rituals and dreaming.  There is apparently a belt of obsidian crystal underfoot and it is considered a ‘vortex’ (similar to Sedona, Arizona, where I attended a retreat early 2016) for supporting your soul’s purpose.

This is a most perfect spot to watch the sun rise and welcome a New Year.

We decided to hike the lighthouse trail on the morning of the 31st December, to avoid the crowds that were going to overwhelm the space on NYE .. and we had the pleasure of an almost silent ascent followed by plenty of space on the beach to do our yoga and meditation.  The ocean vistas were breathtaking and the power of meditation so close to the ocean with the rising dawn .. will be a forever memory.

My retreat group: on this occasion (certainly not always) there were 20 women, from predominantly Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra (and some travellers or professionals here for work but originally from the USA, Canada and Europe), some yogis and some complete beginners, three mother/daughter groups, ages spanning 20’s to 70’s, professionals, students and mum’s.  I made new friends, had delicious conversations, shared experiences and laughed (a lot .. usually about my coffee addiction and what craziness I felt without my daily cup).

Sunrise New Years Day 2017

On NYE we gathered to celebrate after dinner with a group meditation and intention practice in the shala. Jessie asked us to each bring something from nature that represented not only our 2016, and also our intentions or hopes for 2017. Each item was presented to the circle, a candle lite and our intention shared.

Here is a sample of what I did on the NYE Retreat, this is how I celebrated Sunday 1st January 2017 .. a new year!

I had to bring home the book!

5.30am .. Sunrise Meditation on the deck overlooking the forest to the ocean
6.30am-9am .. Yoga in the shala
9am .. cleansing juice and breakfast
10am .. free time (which I spent reading by the pool)
12-1.30pm .. Nutrition & Healthy Lifestyle talk with naturopath Haydie
1.30pm .. delicious buffet lunch
2.30pm .. guided seated meditation
4.30-6.30pm .. afternoon restorative yoga
7pm .. light n’ healthy dinner
8.15pm .. meditation and yoga nidra

I need a whole new post to explore our delicious meals that were lovingly prepared by Caspar and Anthea.  Of course I had to bring Anthea’s book home with me to share the love (see her website below for details).  The retreat was also an opportunity to ‘purify and cleanse’ and all meals used fresh local and organic ingredients with no meat, processed foods, sugar, dairy, eggs, wheat, oily foods or alcohol.  There was plenty of help with specific food requirements .. besides my longing for coffee (and I never got the withdrawal headache I was expecting) I had absolutely no other ‘bad’ food longings.  I was never hungry and my craving for sweets evaporated. Interesting.

Final note: there is nothing more nourishing, insightful and restorative than having spaciousness and time.  I think we are all generally deprived of this sense of peace and freedom, and so readily rewarded when we make the time to wander and ponder .. to think and nap and walk and breathe .. to have no deadlines, no demands on our attention, no-one to manage (including family and loved ones) and horizons empty of responsibility and ‘to-do’ .. instead, opportunities to sleep, learn, engage, understand, explore, expand and challenge ourselves.  This is what comes with most retreats programs, carefully selected activities with plenty of non-scheduled time to find our way.  Whether it is yoga or meditation or writing or hiking, a retreat should also offer us a doorway to explore nothing-ness, so we can unwind the knots, step away from internal and external entertainment and meet boredom for a while (such an underrated experience) – which then promotes expansion, creativity and awareness.

One of my intentions this year is to find other NYE retreats  for 2018 and beyond

Radiance Retreats
Byron Bay
Anthea Adore, Organic Passion Catering
Lee Purdie, YogaDance
Sangsurya Resort

And finally, here is a taste of the sounds that I invited into my meditation practice while on retreat; I have called this the Palm Tree Meditation ..