My (first) Yoga Retreat

When you’re surrounded by lush rainforest, and the gentle hum of cicadas replaces the buzz of your busy everyday life, it’s pretty hard not to relax.

Add to that you don’t have to even think about what to eat, much less cook anything, because a chef is preparing three nourishing meals for you each day.

Nourishing meals. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

And then there’s the yoga – the restorative classes and workshops your hosts Kara and Merryl will lead you through in the mornings, in the day time and at night.

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Yoga at dawn. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

This is My Yoga Retreat – a chance to escape the daily grind, get back to basics and take some time out for yourself with like-minded people.

1. Prepare to be nurtured

Thoughtful touches. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

I first experienced My Yoga Retreat at a time when I was busy trying to juggle work and life, strung out from overthinking and – like many people – simply in need of a rest.

Gymea Eco Retreat – tucked away in a quiet nook of Uki near Wollumbin (Mt Warning) in northern New South Wales – was just the place to do that.

The location was tranquil, but I arrived feeling far from serene and needing all the help I could get to simply slow down.

Lush rainforest surrounds. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

Words cannot express just how nurtured I felt on retreat.

Sometimes when you won’t be gentle with yourself you need to at least accept the warmth of people around you, and that’s exactly what happened.

Great company. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

Kara and Merryl went to every effort to make their guests feel welcome, relaxed and free to just let go of everything for a few days.

There were little notes on the doors, clear timetables, opportunities to give feedback and even a jar of uplifting ‘thoughts for the day’ in the dining room.

2.   Expect to simplify

Getting back to nature. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

For starters, expect that you won’t need to bring much ‘stuff’ with you on retreat.

Take it from a first-timer who lugged an over-packed cabin bag plus a shoulder bag of ‘just in case’ items up to her room.

You simply do not need to bring many material possessions with you.

Yoga facing Wollumbin (Mt Warning). Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

Instead, expect to simplify.

Expect enriching yoga classes up to three times a day.

Expect the opportunity to take a relaxing dip in the pool or reconnect with nature on a gentle bush walk.

The magnesium pool at Gymea Eco Retreat. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

Expect the time and space to slowly enjoy a cuppa in peace and quiet, or maybe with new friends you make on retreat.

Expect to eat well, sleep well and get back to the basics of looking after your well-being.

In short, leave all the ‘just in case’ items at home. Bring your yoga gear, a swimsuit, some walking shoes and a journal to write down your thoughts.

3. Gain useful insights

Time to reflect. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

What I took home with me from My Yoga Retreat was a deepened sense of valuing quietness and stillness.

It wasn’t an entirely silent retreat but there was the option to have times of silence.

Beads for each guest. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

We each received a set of wooden beads which we could wear around our neck to signal to the others if we were having quiet time – and some people chose to do just that.

Whether you chose to be in silence or not, the generally slower and more gentle pace of the retreat served as a reminder that we don’t always need the busyness in our lives.

Sure, we can’t always be on retreat, life gets busy and tough times are inevitable.

But what My Yoga Retreat reinforced to me is that there is value in rest and there is wisdom in making the time to slow down, particularly during the busy times.

For more information or to book a retreat, visit

Cover image by Liana McCluskey