By Jade McSorley for Summersalt Yoga
Sure, I can lay on a beach on my vacation, working persistently on a tan than will probably never appear on my pale-ass British skin, reading some cult fiction I usually convince myself I never have time to read, whilst secretly checking the Daily Mail for a bit of mindless news. And sure, I can taste the local tipple (which is a punchy fruit brandy called Rakija here in Croatia), sample the delicious fresh fish caught that very morning by the fisherman of Vis Island, purchase some local olive oil from local vendors for my family back home and an ankle bracelet I’ll probably never wear out of holiday context. It all sounds delicious and blissful… And it is here on Vis Island, home to Summersalt’s Yoga and SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) retreat.
Yet, I have noticed with travellers that beach life isn’t the only experience we crave for when we choose to leave the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. There seems to be a need for Yoga retreats, in particular, to diffuse the energy imposed by city-living which has resulted in a constant state of angst and adrenaline. We basically need a stronger chill pill that won’t just numb the stress but deal with the source of the problem. And it is at yoga retreats, I feel, that this can be achieved, or at least gave some space and time to really focus in.
After spending some time amongst the Summersalt Yoga family, I couldn’t help pondering what we need in order to make the most of yoga retreats and why it is so much more than just your average vacation. Not only do we want to leave feeling relaxed, but also energised, balanced and healed in some way.
So, as writers do, I focused on the words that come to mind when considering a yoga retreat; what they can offer, and what, as travellers and yogis, we should consider when turning up to our mats no matter where we are in world. From my own personal experience of yoga retreats, and my stay here at Summersalt yoga, I thought I would share some of my own words to contemplate that may help you make the most out of your next retreat.
Turning up and being honest with yourself is probably the first and most challenging thing I found at the start of any yoga retreat: what do I need from this experience? how do I feel? and what would I like to work on? Initially, it is usually the hardest thing to focus on something that could be potentially painful, mental or physical, staring it right in the eyes and thinking, I am ready for you! Bring it on.
As most yoga retreats go, and certainly at Summersalt Yoga, you are surrounded by new people from different countries and walks of life. Sometimes you feel social and sometimes not, and that’s OK. Yoga retreats are about focusing on your energy levels and what you have to offer in that moment. I am generally super quiet at the start but as you spend time with your new social circle, you naturally open up, joining in the conversations and learning more about others, realising people are always offering fresh perspective and new knowledge.
It is so hard to turn off your brain. Well, it is for me and I am hoping I am not the only one. Even in Savasana my mind is swirling with thoughts. Being reflective is cosy and familiar, but can also be detrimental when working through something, so I think it is always great to use a yoga retreat, based within new settings, to reframe past events and establish new foundations to move forward.
Basically, you are going to walk out of a yoga retreat fit and that is always big bonus. I swear, fourth day into SUP’ing (Stand Up Paddleboard with Yoga) I found my water bottle too heavy to lift. At least I knew it was working and I became very excited to see the mini muscles brewing in my sparrow-like limbs. Whilst being fit is definitely a positive, the effect on your mental health is tremendous! Being active in the morning and evening, boosted my energy levels instead of feeling lethargic from a day baking in the sun. Meaning you can go home feeling ready for life, instead of forcing yourself out of holiday mode.
Yes, I know every single yoga teacher goes on about this thing called ‘the breath’. You know, the thing we forget to think about and sometimes don’t do at a healthy pace in our stressful lives. Breath is the key. If your muscles are tight – breathe into the spot and your muscles gradually and magically relax. If your anxieties are rising – breathe and your body and mind calms itself. If you can’t stop thinking – breathe and focus on the breath alone. Yoga retreats can be useful in removing yourself from chaotic surroundings to a new destination more in tune with a slower and steadier pace of breath.
This is the aim really. The feel-good factor. To feel balanced and grounded both physically and mentally is what our bodies and minds are crying out for. Yoga retreats provide the grounds to achieve this though a balance of exercise, meditation, healthy food and relaxation, meaning your body just needs to become in sync with this way of living. As well as a holiday, they become a beneficial necessity for us heightened human beings that just can’t seem to chill the f*** out on our own!
I am a huge fan of sustainability across all fields – fashion, travel, food. But we never really relate it to ourselves and I believe it is so important to figure out how can we sustain this balanced feeling, as well as giving and receiving in a healthy, sustainable way to others and our planet. The ultimate test after living blissfully at a yoga retreat is to remain balanced and considered when we step into the land of Yang. I am not going to lie, it’s definitely going to require more effort than was needed spent at the tranquil setting of Summersalt Yoga, or any other exotic destination. So many times I have left my yoga mat and stepped into the hedonistic atmosphere of crowds, traffic, phones and social media and instantly forgotten that calm feeling I have just established throughout my practice. To sustain, we need to constantly practice and form positive habits in order to rest and digest in any setting. So that lessons learnt in the beauty of a yoga retreat can stick with you wherever you may move forward to next.