Why every woman should do the Women’s Wellness Retreat
Sometimes, less is more when it comes to finding health and happiness. Here’s an article from Steph, one of the women who attended our April Women’s Wellness Retreat in Glenorchy. She shares the incredible impact that taking three days away can have on a busy life.
Late last year I committed to attending The Breath Effect’s 3-day Women’s Wellness Retreat. Enticed by the lure of 3 days of breathing, yoga and Pilates in the beautiful lakeside township of Glenorchy I could think of few reasons why I shouldn’t treat myself. So I made the booking without much thought.
But as the retreat loomed closer, I began to stew over my decision. I began to fret over taking time off work. I began to worry about leaving the kids, the cost involved and, incredibly, whether I had the right wardrobe. A niggling voice in my head tried to tell me that three days looking after only myself was extravagant, and I should probably cancel my booking.
Thankfully, I didn’t.
Despite the logistical challenges, I managed to extract myself from everyday life, and get myself to Glenorchy for my first ever retreat. Turns out, ignoring that niggling voice in my head was the best thing I could have done for myself.
From little things big things grow
So, this is the story of a mini transformation. How a busy, frazzled, working mum (with a few extra life challenges thrown in) gave herself a 3-day break from the everyday. How she ditched to-do lists and demands and replaced them with clear headspace and connection. And how, with the guidance of two wonderful teachers, she found that finding calm leaves you more energy than ever.
From Little Thing Big Things Grow
Stepping into calm
As I walk into Camp Glenorchy’s Homestead Building to meet the 15 other women attending the retreat, I am greeted by the facilitators of the event, Emma Ferris from The Breath Effect and Sarsha Hope from Sarsha Hope Yoga. In this beautiful space with these wonderful women as our guides, I am instantly put at ease. I am already sure that deciding to attend this retreat was a genius idea.
And, there is so much more to come. Before the retreat is over on Sunday lunchtime, we will practice yoga, Pilates, mindfulness, journaling, hiking, Chillaxing (oh yes, it’s a thing and it’s life-changing), sharing stories, dancing, big hugs, raw food, coaching and… so…. much….more.
Camp Glenorchy is a truly outstanding place to uncoil. It is a lovingly curated campground with an aesthetic and artistry that radiates the very essence of the South Island. Camp Glenorchy consists of a large Homestead Building where we meet and eat alongside a handful of impressive eco cabins. It all appears effortless but this property is actually a very carefully and flawlessly executed project. Within the beautiful recycled timber walls of The Greenstone Room, we nestle into a safe and nurturing space that allows us to make the most of this time to open, breathe and find calm.
The retreat officially kicks off with Emma and Sarsha welcoming us and setting the tone for the days ahead. Sarsha speaks of the importance of women gathering together. As if forecasting what will unfold in the days ahead, Sarsha speaks of the strength and support that women offer each other, a vital lifeline that we so often miss in our daily lives where we instead focus on propping up partners, children, colleagues at the expense of our own energy reserves.
Finding The Calm Zone
After a walk down to the edge of Lake Wakatipu, we spend the rest of the afternoon focusing on breathing, connecting and finding calm. Emma Ferris takes the lead and guides us through a breathing relaxation exercise that helps us out of the stress zone and into the calm zone.
Emma is a physiotherapist, breathing coach, acupuncturist, entrepreneur and absolute trailblazer. In her latest role as Wellness Architect and founder of The Breath Effect, Emma has become an advocate for calm. Emma shares bucket loads of wisdom over the weekend and we all wish we could bottle her knowledge and enthusiasm for healthy living.
Emma’s first breathing session is a delicious taste of what’s to come over the retreat, but also a rather stark reminder of how stress plays havoc on our breathing pattern. Emma guides us through a Chillax. If you thought you were pretty good at relaxing, you ain’t seen nothing like what “Chillaxing” can do for you.
As the breath slows down and we settle into this space which will be our home for the next three nights, I am starting to shed a few layers of busyness. Allowing relaxation in and enjoying the clear headspace that follows.
Day 2 starts at 7.30am with a Yoga Flow class with Sarsha. Over the weekend, this wonderfully wise woman sprinkles us with her insights. She is both powerful and gentle, and brings great depth to our retreat experience. Sarsha’s yoga session starts us off slowly, then gently moves us into a stronger flow to fire up the body and mind and get us into a powerful headspace for the day ahead.
Breakfast is served after yoga. Like every meal we will receive during the retreat, it is a stunning feast. Fresh, nourishing, mostly raw and made with love. It’s hard to know what to be more grateful for, the incredibly delicious and fortifying food or the fact that the dishes miraculously disappear when we’re done. It may seem like a small thing, but as any working woman knows not having to deal with clearing up is as good as week in Fiji.
After breakfast, we have another session with Emma. She shares her personal story which has seen her transition from physio to breathing coach and online entrepreneur following some major life challenges. Emma explains to us the mechanics of breathing and how it impacts so many aspects of wellbeing. We learn about the bad breathing muscles, like the neck, shoulder and upper chest that are often overused when we’re stressed, in pain, or not getting enough exercise. When we forget to belly breathe and use the bad breathing muscles instead, we throw our body out of balance. And we pay for it. We can all relate to what Emma says and we realise that as women we are often guilty of sacrificing our physical and mental health for the busy life. Emma’s message is clear, Calm Down.
And this is the crux of the retreat. We are reminding our body what it feels like to be calm. Throughout the retreat many emotions come up. As if the relaxation techniques of Emma and the movement techniques of Sarsha allow us to let our guard down and let go. We are given space to nurture ourselves. And it feels good.
It’s raining heavily outside and a scheduled walk has been changed to an optional activity. For many, the chance to opt out of the walk is a good excuse to rest. To take some time to journal, nap or appreciate the setting. It might look like we’re not doing much, but we are doing so much as we do “nothing”.
On Day 3 the rain has cleared. The rainy conditions of the previous day had felt emotionally heavy for many of us. But today is a brighter day and everyone wakes with a spring in their step. Today things feel lighter, full of laughs.
During the Pilates and breathing session with Emma, many of the women have their “ah-hah” moment as they begin to finally breathe from the diaphragm. This allows them to start working with the right breathing muscles and experience the incredible difference it makes. Whether it’s from stress, injury or pain, Emma has the knowledge to help us get the right muscles working and get things back in balance.
Then it’s more Chillaxing. I may be starting to get addicted to Chillaxing. It’s only when you allow your body to relax so deeply that you realise how much you are holding onto. it should be compulsory to do this at least once a day. Maybe three times a day.
The retreat continues on with many ah-hahs and magic moments including a great session on goals, dreams and intentions. Outside in the glorious Glenorchy sunshine, Sarsha guides us through a thought-provoking discussion on how we move through times of doubt, lack of self-confidence or clarity. We are invited to dream big and record what our heart desires.
Finding Freedom (on the dancefloor)
Saturday night and it’s time to remind ourselves of one of life’s most important lessons. Don’t take yourself too seriously! It’s ecstatic dance in the Humboldt room. Some feel apprehensive about dancing. Some have done it before and can’t wait. Some have no idea what’s about to happen to them. Ecstatic dance begins with a gentle led movement then transforms into any movement you like led by the music. Whatever feels good for your body and your heart. Those who felt they wouldn’t know how to dance, didn’t need worry. Those who felt self-conscious, tired, unsure, didn’t need to worry. Sarsha’s gift is her ability to gently nudge, prompt, nurture us to get up and move. It feels natural when we are at ease. Like the retreat itself, it begins off hard but as we move into it and we are honest and true to ourselves it becomes joyous.
What a beautiful thing we have done for ourselves. To step away (just for a short time) from that big job we all do each day. We think we are doing fine. But the truth is we often aren’t. We carry grief and guilt and anger and fear and stress. But we can release this when we have the space and the support to do it.
Going into the retreat my mind was full of to-do lists, worries, chatter and disconnection. After three days, I left feeling open. Happy, calm, relaxed, free, grateful and alive. I have just heard that there is another retreat with Emma and Sarsha in September. And you can bet I will be letting every women who deserve an experience like this know about it. And that is every woman I know.
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