It is ridiculous really, for weeks I have been fretting about the annual yoga and well being retreat on Herm, and while I know that worrying achieves little (aside from exhausting you), that was all I seemed to be doing. Totally unnecessary of course, for the weekend was amazing, albeit that I am completely biased!
This year we had record numbers, with ladies joining us from the UK and a couple from Jersey, so the arrival of the fog on Thursday, the day before the retreat, was really not welcomed. It was a manic day, packing all that we may need for the weekend and I m just fortunate - and ever so thankful - that my Mum has been in control of everything!
It was an early start on Friday morning as Ewan, Elijah, Mum and I took the 8.15am boat to Herm with our two carloads of stuff, oh my gosh, and in the fog too, which didn't look like it would lift. We were met in Herm by Sion and his team and were delighted to find the hotel all ready for us, bright and clean, and nice and warm too.
It is funny because each year there is a problem with travel, this year the Trident was having to leave earlier on the Sunday, that was fine, it was full moon after all, but I hadn't allowed myself to consider that it would be foggy. And it certainly seemed foggy most of the day in Herm as we set up the yoga room ad delivered crystals and flowers to the guest's rooms and made the place look as lovely as possible before their arrival at 4.20pm.
So I was quite amazed therefore that everyone, except one lady from Guernsey, who was stuck in Gatwick, managed to make it to Herm. Even more so that the Jersey couple made it for they had missed the 4pm Travel Trident departure time by a couple of minutes and amazingly (if you know anything about the Herm boat you will know this is really very amazing) the boat turned back to Guernsey and went to pick them up - thank you Travel Trident!
We met everyone off the boat before they headed off to their rooms to take their stuff and prepare for the first yoga class in the wonderful conservatory of the White House hotel with its fabulous views of the East coast of Guernsey - well usually it has views, of course it was too foggy that first night. And to be honest I am not sure anyone would have appreciated a sunset that evening, the first class is always rather focused and serious as everyone settles into the weekend.
It was busy in the yoga room as the ladies who were offering treatments on the Saturday had come a day earlier and were joining the yoga. Vicki was kindly helping me with adjusting, which was fantastic because not everyone is familiar with my style of teaching. Everyone was up for it this year, very few injuries and great focus, and of course the option to do as much or as little as they liked. For me that is really important, that everyone takes responsibility for their experience of the weekend by doing/being whatever feels right for them.
After a relaxing Yoga Nidra, the vegetarian evening meal was taken in the Mermaid, yummy food and great company. It was an early bed time for many of us though, there is something about the peace and quite of Herm that encourages sleep - unless you are 17 weeks old and teething. Oh yes, it was not a restful night for me and there was no risk of us missing the 7am swim, with our 5.30am start!
This year there were record numbers for the morning swim in the sea down at the harbour, a whole 8 of us turned up, Elijah was sleeping by this point in his carry cot and oblivious to the laughter and shrieks as we dipped our bodies in the freezing cold sea, what a wonderful way to be begin the morning and set us up for the action packed (for me at least) day ahead.
Tea and fruit was available in the lounge with the log fire burning from 7.30am, with the pranayama and meditation session beginning at 8am with views this time, albeit that our eyes were closed and awareness within. This session as followed by the yoga asana class, a flowing one to help liberate the heart and energise for the day ahead. Another great practice, a little more relaxed and jovial now as everyone settled into their practice.
A wonderful brunch followed the class, cooked vegetarian breakfast, porridge, fruit and tasty award winning muesli from Primrose's Kitchen on offer, yum, yum, yum! And then it was time for people to do as they pleased, some had treatments - Reiki with me, holistic massage with Hayley Le Marquand or hot stone reflexology with Christine Shepherd - or a walk 'n' talk session with Michelle Johansen, others joined the run with J-P Macé - a record number this year, and others chilled out by the fire or went walking.
Lunch was at 1.30pm and by then the sun was shining so that many people sat outside eating their soup or salad in the courtyard of the Mermaid. I feel incredibly blessed that we were treated to such delightful weather as it really does make such a difference to people's experience of the retreat, a weekend on Herm with sunshine is a dream.
After lunch there were more treatments and the opportunity to join a walk at 2.30pm led by Leslie Bailey who is a Herm resident walking guide who has an incredible knowledge of the history of Herm as well as nature and foraging. We are very grateful that she was able to lead the walk for us this year, which was well supported by the attendees.
We met again at 4.45pm for chanting, where we sat together with the afternoon sun streaming into the yoga room, chanting AUM, such a lovely sound, especially when we just went for it at the end, thank you everyone for joining me on this, I absolutely love chanting and don't get much of an opportunity to chant with others over here. There is so much power in chanting, you only have to think of the Vedas, the oldest known yogic texts, to appreciate the magnificence of this practice.
From chanting we moved to our evening practice, a gentle one beginning with pranayama and followed by lots of slow and soft movement, internalising awareness and yet at the same time appreciating the beautiful, so beautiful sunset taking place in front of where we practiced - we were indeed most blessed. The session finished with a Yoga Nidra, to rest and restore before a final chant if Om and off for more food in the Mermaid.
It was a really lovely evening meal, thank you so much to the chef and staff in the Mermaid for their efforts in producing tasty and nourishing vegetarian food, lots of brown rice and a chickpea and broccoli curry or gluten-free enchilada and a yummy roasted vegetable and seed dish, plus salad and fresh rye bread. Desert followed with chocolate brownies with icecream and berry crumble with custard, or fresh fruit salad, we were indeed most spoilt!!!
It was another early evening for me and an even earlier morning with Elijah waking at 5.15am, but how wonderful to wake simply to the sound of the sea only metres from our room and the birds, nature, wonderful, and even a sunrise in the distance. I don't believe you can put a price on this kind of experience.
Due to the full moon and resulting extreme tides, the boat back to Guernsey had to leave at 10am, earlier than planned, so the morning class began at 7.30am, with some more pranayama and silent meditation before moving straight into a very active and flowing class, everyone was up for it, so the energy was running high, it is so much fun to teach like this, and also to witness students moving out of their comfort zone and into new territory and equally holding back where necessary so that one way or another they are honouring the wisdom of their bodies.
And then that was that, another filling brunch in the Mermaid and we all trekked to Rosaire steps for the boat back home. Some of the ladies were fortunate to see a seal, which just ended the trip perfectly for them. The sun was still shining as the boat arrived in Guernsey, and it felt sad to me that I was saying goodbye to people so quickly, such a wonderful group of people and such an uplifting weekend, thank you so much to all of you who attended and supported so that we all shone brightly by the end. Om shanti.
Needless to say we already have the retreat booked on Herm next year although that was the last thing on my mind yesterday afternoon as the tiredness caught up with me and I cuddled and played with Elijah having seen so little of him the day before. He enjoyed his first retreat though and special time with Daddy and Gumpy, next year he gets to go on his first foreign retreat, as Beinspired runs a first retreat in Morocco, exciting times ahead!
With much gratitude.