The very first Diversity Yoga retreat took place at the lovely and welcoming Shanticentre, in the heart of Italy’s Abruzzo region.
I have been to Shanticentre a number of times, so I knew what to expect. What I was less prepared for was the amazing synergy amongst a group of 8 totally different people, the friendship, generosity of spirit and wonderful laughter that would accompany some serious yoga and a general sense of well-being that is still continuing now, 2 weeks after returning back to wet and windy Surrey.
My plan to deliver a strong Hatha flow practice in the morning seemed to be a good one. By 8am the sun was up and temperatures soaring, the beautiful Shanticentre yoga studio gave welcome relief, with a few extra fans and wide open windows for extra air movement. I was delighted in how well my yogis responded to my challenges, at every class showing more balance, strength, focus, flexibility and determination, delivered with honesty, loving-kindness and authenticity. Every day had a theme based on the Yamas of Patanjali, with a practice to suit. This would include a different peak pose every day – Camatkarasana (Wild thing), Ustrasana (Camel) and Arda Chandrasan (Half Moon) all featured, to support the essence of the Yamas:
- Ahimsa – Non-violence
- Satya – Truthfulness
- Asteya – Non-grasping
- Brahmacharya – Continence / Balance
- Aparigraha – Non-coveting
The afternoons were spent on the yoga terrace with stunning views over rolling hills, complete with church steeples and ringing bells in the distance. At the end of each practice it looked like a teen sleepover site!
We used lots of blocks, blankets, pillows and cushions to support the restorative Yin yoga that took everyone into slow, deep postures held for at least 5 minutes.
I did my best to distract their minds from the deep stretches with a few lessons in mindfulness. It worked! I could see the impact of the slow myofascial release in the morning sessions, with shoulders and hips opening to allow deeper and stronger postures.
Even just a shoulder staying on the mat was a serious breakthrough – And we had a few of those during the week!
My favorite session was the 1,5 hour Yoga Nidra practice. I love the calm, peaceful atmosphere of total relaxation, talking my students through the body scans, counting series and visualisations. I was delighted with one particular report of a good night’s sleep after the session, which was sorely needed. There is no better confirmation of rest than a bright, shining morning smile!
Unfortunately, beach day was rained off unexpectedly. We did partner yoga in the studio instead. Everyone seemed to enjoy working with each other. It is always interesting to see how partnerships form, legs get stretched and amazing postures achieved when yoga students work with each other! It’s a great way to learn more about one’s own practice through helping someone else.
As always, Shanticentre’s wonderful food kept us well-fed. The beautiful local Montepulciano wine went down a treat, as did simply lazing on the terrace in the sunshine. Likewise, the pool, jacuzzi, sauna, hammocks, outside shower and Moroccan lounge all saw lots of laughter, serious discussion, supportive conversation and the odd yoga selfie.
This was a holiday of confirmation, affirmation and empowerment.The feedback for me, as a teacher, was so generous and honest. I was quite humbled by receiving a lovely card with wonderful messages which continued into my lesson book, and receiving unexpected gifts which left me feeling quite at a loss for words. I was honoured to spend a week with 8 lovely people, offering them my teachings and also learning a lot from them as we went along through the week.
The next Diversity Yoga retreat will take place from 13th to 19th June 2016. I can’t wait!
Some of the feedback:
- “The pace, the pitch, the postures are just perfect! My lungs feel properly open now, thank you”
- “This week has surpassed any needs or wishes of mine. I feel enlightened, I’ve slept 🙂 and feel free in my body again”
- “The support and love is palpable – I feel completely rebooted!”
- “I’m fixed. I’m stronger. I;m so happy! This week has exceeded any expectations I had”
- “How thrilling it’s been to be a part of this week!”
- “Sincere thanks to the most conscientious and elegant yoga teacher I know”
From the bottom of my heart:
Thank you all so much for making my first retreat so memorable.
You guys rock! Namaste – From Cathy