Drank your body weight in beer and downed too many mince pies over the festive season? A health retreat and dose of yoga may be the perfect tonic.
Going away for a weekend break is usually the perfect excuse to indulge in two of life’s greatest pleasures: pigging out on naughty food and drinking lots of wine. So, it’s with a little trepidation that I sign up for a weekend retreat, which focuses on detoxification and well-being instead of my usual party theme.
By the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, though, I don’t want to leave my health farm. After hours of yoga and meditation in the peaceful Welsh countryside, I feel as relaxed as I would laying on a beach in Thailand.
A full-body massage may have had something to do with it. When Herbal Ayur Retreats director Sashi Mylvaganam said Linju, a massage therapist from India, “will look after you like you are a rock of gold”, he wasn’t kidding. It was in Linju’s homeland in Kerala, a southern peninsula of India, where Mylvaganam got the idea to set up his company. He had checked into a retreat himself for a month after suffering a heart attack.
“My stress levels were so bad I would wake up in a sweat every morning,” Mylvaganam says. During his stay in Kerala he met Linju and Dr Steephan, a qualified Ayurvedic doctor and yoga teacher. Both now work between their homeland and Mylvaganam’s retreats.
Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old holistic Indian science (‘ayur’ means life, ‘veda’ means knowledge), which originated in Kerala. It is the world’s oldest health system with an emphasis on prevention rather than cure.
Herbal Ayur Retreats aim to combine the three sister sciences of Ayurveda, yoga and meditation in an affordable weekend break, at a place that blends in with the company’s philosophy.
The weekend I attend takes place in Buckland Hall, an elegant country mansion in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. We start by learning the principles of Ayurveda. This involves getting lifestyle and nutrition advice according to our ‘dosha’, which Dr Steephan diagnoses. Doshas are determined by a combination of our genetic make-up and lifestyle. I am Pitta-Vata, which, among a list of things, means I have poor memory, a spiritually perceptive and disciplined mind and should avoid eating tomatoes. It’s complicated, but interesting.
The yoga we practise is Hatha, which includes breathing exercises and special postures. Even for beginners it’s easy to get the hang of, and by the end of the weekend and 10 hours of bending my body, I feel as if I could do the splits. Almost.
The most soothing part of the weekend though, is the meditation. During my three sessions, I manage to drop off to sleep every time. Snoring vibrating the ground indicates that I’m not the only one.
While there is a schedule to follow, it’s completely up to you what activities you participate in. If, like me, you venture off the beaten track to explore the surrounding sheep-filled hills, keep an eye out for the pheasant hunters. You don’t want them ruining your zen vibe now.
Kim Smith travelled to Wales with Herbal Ayur Retreats (012-7650 2609; www.herbalayur-retreats.co.uk). A two-night, full-board retreat at Buckland Hall costs £185. Transport was provided by First Great Western (www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk).
NEED TO KNOW
Getting there: The nearest train station to Buckland Hall – where the yoga retreat is held – is Abergavenny. Take a train from London Paddington station to Newport and get a connecting train to Abergavenney.
Accommodation: Buckland Hall is a grand old mansion, peacefully positioned in the countryside – the perfect setting to enjoy a four-star weekend of yoga and meditation. There are also retreats held at Tekels Park Holistic Centre in Surrey.
Vital info: All meals are vegetarian. If you have any allergies, specify at the time of booking.
see www.herbalayur-retreats.co.uk and www.bucklandhall.co.uk