What an incredible weekend we have just enjoyed on Herm on the Beinspired Autumnal Yoga & Wellbeing retreat.
Truly we have been blessed with the most incredibly mild, calm and bright November weather, which showed Herm at its very best. Not only was the sun shining all weekend confusing the fauna and flora, which believe Spring has arrived again but we were also fortunate to enjoy a bright moon waning from full on Thursday, quite a joy to witness it rising as I was walking with the girls from the Yoga hall to the restaurant in flip flops after our evening session and then seeing it setting in the morning, on our way back to the Yoga hall for our morning session with Guernsey in the background.
On Friday Mum (my incredible assistant!) and I travelled over on the first Trident boat of the day at 8.15am with the Herm teacher and a father and son going fishing on the Island for the the weekend. We were laden with bags of props and blankets and food and all the other paraphernalia that a retreat on Herm involves.
It was wonderful to be there so early on a Friday out of season, clear skies and the Island so quiet of visitors. Linda, the Mermaid hotel manager, was incredibly welcoming and helped us as we set up for the weekend. Needless to say it was quite a joy to walk into the conservatory of the White House Hotel and know that would be our Yoga space for the whole weekend, with those wonderful views of Guernsey in the background and Jethou off to the side. There are very few other places in the world I would rather teach, and indeed practice, Yoga.
After setting up and making sure the heating was on - although it has to be said that this has been the warmest retreat we have ever held, in fact I actually had to turn the radiators off on Sunday, it got that warm - Mum and I headed off for a much needed walk through and around the Island. How amazing to have it to ourselves, and the time to enjoy the scenery - the view of Sark on one side and Guernsey and Jethou on the other, let alone the opportunity for a bit of cow gazing and an opportunity to collect 3 whole bags of pine combs...a joy of mine, I love to collect pine combs!!
By the time the Trident arrived from Guernsey at 4.20pm, the light was decreasing and I was more than ready to get on with some introductions and teaching! What a delight to see all those people coming off the boat, so many familiar faces from classes back home and previous retreats, and also a few new faces who had google-searched Yoga retreats on Guernsey and decided to come and embrace the unknown in Herm for the weekend with Beinspired - thank you hugely to everyone.
After dropping bags off at rooms we met in the front lounge of the White House Hotel for cups of tea in front of the roaring fire, courtesy of my Mum's fire-making skills and of course the collected pinecombs! From there into the warm and cedar-smelling Yoga hall with the lights of Guernsey shining in the background and the candles burning on the window ledges, for our introductions before our first Yoga asana class began.
With a focus on trying to bring balance to the chakras (the 7 main energy centres of the body) throughout the weekend, the first evening class centered (quite literally!) on our root and sacral chakras with lots of grounding and hip opening postures, and finishing with a nourishing and indeed embodying Yoga Nidra. Yum.
This year, with my Mum on the case, the vegetarian food prepared by the Mermaid was great. Anyone coming on the retreat and hoping to eat less than normal would have struggled, the Mermaid staff did themselves proud this year. Throughout the weekend the food was nourishing and healthy as we were accommodating a variety of dietary requirements, including those lactose, glucose, dairy and wheat intolerant.
That first night the choice was vegetarian cottage pie with a sweet potato mash topping or a chickpea, tomato and onion curry with brown rice plus 3 different types of salads, a large bowl of home-made coleslaw and a choice of breads including gluten free. And for those with a sweet tooth, homemade chocolate brownies and fruits salad for desert. Yum!!!
An early bedtime was taken by many, 9.30pm seemed to be the average light's off time, Herm has that habit you see, of calming you down from the fast paced lives we tend to live very quickly. I guess it is the general energy of the place and the fact you have to walk everywhere and there is no rush about anything, it is just a very restorative and peaceful experience, well worth a trip for anyone who needs to simply calm down and come back to earth a little. Not having televisions in the rooms helps too, it kind of encourages you to let go.
Saturday morning and Mum was up before dawn making a fire in the hotel in preparation for those wanting a cup of tea and some fruit or biscuits in front of the fire before the early morning class. Christine and Hayley, my wonderful earth angel friends as well as being the retreats reflexologist and massage therapists respectively, met me at the harbour for an early morning swim under the moonlight. Unbelievable with this weather and relatively warm seas!!
Joining together in the Yoga hall with the moon setting in the sky, we started the morning with some pranayama and silent meditation before an asana class focusing on the navel and heart centres so lots of core strengthening work, twisting, hip flexor opening, heart opening and backbending poses. The energy was high and we finished off with a relaxation to set everyone up for an active, or indeed inactive day ahead.
The class was followed by breakfast in the Mermaid, your choice of eggs, vegan porridge, muesli, juices, teas and coffees and morning banter. Thereafter - and actually like the whole weekend there were no rules so everyone could do as much or as little as they liked - there was the option to do your own thing, enjoy a reflexology, massage or Reiki session, join my Mum for one of her led walks, or simply chill in your room with a book or the opportunity for a warming bath.
Herm was indeed at its best and while I spent the time offering Reiki treatments and enjoying the opportunity to practice on my own in that wonderful Yoga space with the sun setting in the distance, I know everyone made the most of the opportunity to get some fresh air and truly connect with nature. And actually this is the joy of these weekends on Herm. While I don't doubt the healing benefits of the asana, pranayama, meditation and Yoga Nidra sessions, the true joy is the fact you have this wonderful opportunity to embrace the grounding, tranquil and healing energy of Herm Island.
The evening class was gentle in approach. Moving slowly from one asana to the next with complete awareness on the breath, resting often so the body could integrate the effects, we ended with a lovely nourishing Yoga Nidra, which is an incredibly healing and restorative practice of its own. From there, with the moon rising behind the trees on the top of the Island we walked to the Mermaid for another wonderful meal of vegan pumpkin risotto, courgette lasagna and an array of salads and bread and an opportunity for wine for those who fancied it, followed by a fruit crumble, custard and fruit salad.
That evening was another relatively early night for most of us. Mum and I were staying in harbour cottage near the harbour itself and the others were in various other cottages near to us. As I lay in bed that night I was very aware of not only the gentle sound of the lapping sea but also the rather noisy birds that become active after 10pm. And then in the morning waking and hearing the sea and the birds again. There is nothing quite like it, to be that aware of the flow of nature again.
On Sunday Mum was up before dawn again to light the fire before joining me, JP, Debbie and Christine for another early morning swim at 6.55am under the setting moon off the harbour in Herm. It was great fun, thank you to Debbie and JP for joining us - quite a feat considering they have been swimming in the warm Egyptian seas recently!! There is nothing quite like a morning swim to set one up for the day ahead and a shame to waste the opportunity - high morning tides, bright moons, mild temperatures, laughter with friends, you can't beat it!
Setting up for Yoga that morning I couldn't help thinking how blessed I felt in that moment. Again the moon, always the moon, setting in the distance, Ben Lienbach filling the air with his calming and awe-creating sounds, the incense burning and the chatter of the attendees drinking tea in front of the fire, the high tide visible through the windows...when those moments arrive, it is a wonderful feeling.
So onwards and another morning pranayama and meditation session with some Kriya Yoga to move awareness, from the body to the environment with the sound of the sea lapping the shore in the background. Thereafter we embraced a full chakra balancing asana practice with clear views of Guernsey in the background before ending with a chakra balancing meditation.
It was a joy to witness people's practice over the weekend. There were some who attended every class and others who honoured their bodies and took a much needed time out. Well done to Michelle who hobbled off the boat with a leg injury on Friday and also to Lise who came with a kidney issue, and of course Jessica who is 33weeks pregnant and found the relaxation challenging simply because the baby would start to kick too much!!
Throughout the weekend I shared a number of quotes with those present at the end of the classes, and this I would like to share as it is truly a beautiful poem to end the retreat:-
"The choice for Love"
What does the voice of fear
whisper to you?
Fear speaks to you
in logic and reason.
It assumes the language
of love itself.
Fear tells you,
"I want to make you safe".
"You are safe"
"Give me symbols.
Give me frozen images.
Give me something
I can rely on".
Loving truth says
"Only give me
fear would walk you
on a narrow path
promising to take you
where you want to go.
"Open your arms
and fly with me"
Every moment of your life
you are offered the opportunity
to choose -
love or fear,
to tread the earth
or to soar to the heavens.(Emmanuel's Book II)
After the class, Mum and I rushed around packing up the hall with lots of help from everyone else, collecting all the bags together at the roundabout for the Herm guys to collect. Thereafter we all congregated together in the Mermaid one more time for a final egg and laughter-fuelled breakfast before heading to Rosaire steps for the boat back home, the sun still - incredibly - shining overhead.
Call it what you like, but the Divine, that something that is both within and around each and every one of us was ever present this weekend, pervading every moment, and it would have been a challenge to ignore its very existence - we were all such a reflection of that essence. Indeed the stars were shining brightly overhead. And now here we were, with smiles on our faces, sitting in the fresh air on the top deck of the Mermaid being rocked gently by the sea all the way back to Guernsey.
Thank you especially to my Mum for all her wonderful organising and support, to Christine and Hayley for their energy work, but also to all the 19 attendees who helped to make this weekend so special. It was after all what it was - and what it was, was whatever we wanted it to be and for me it was incredibly uplifting, inspiring, grounding, calming and centering. Thank you again, with gratitude.
Om Namah Shivaya.