Yoga Retreats & Holidays

Michelle Bartolo, Gozo Retreats

I’m a self-confessed lover of the seasons, but not in equal measure.  I have nothing against winter and I’m lucky enough not to be affected by a lack of morning and evening light.

That all said, the air of optimism and increase in energy around me at this time of year is infectious.

Spring has definitely sprung!   I’m loving being able to go for early morning walks, watch the sunrise over the estuary where I live and, on beautiful clear evenings, enjoy sunsets that we would normally expect on some exotic summer holiday!

Topsham, Goat Walk, sunsetTopsham, Goat Walk, flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing beats a walk in nature to dust off any vestiges of winter blues and I highly recommend going for a paddle if you live near water for instant grounding.  I promise you, not only your feet, but your whole body will thank you for it as you invite any stagnant prana/chi to leave achy joints and muscles, not to mention the shift in your mental state, helping us to view the world through a more positive lens.

All this talk of prana (our vital life force) and nature has me thinking ahead to yoga retreats and summer meditations on the beach.

A dear yoga teacher friend has invited me to co-host a gorgeous wild eco retreat in Southern France with her this summer and I’m already looking at various retreat centres in my favourite part of Spain, Andalucía, to take students for 2018 retreats (more on this in a later post). 

You don’t have to be an experienced yogi to enjoy your first yoga holiday.  My husband often tells friends of his first ever foreign yoga adventure in which he thought he was just accompanying me to keep me happy. His intention was in fact to drink nice coffee and read lots of books while I indulged my passion.  However, he was gently persuaded by our gorgeous yoga teacher, Michelle Bartolo of MichelleBartoloYoga.com, to give it a go.  To cut a long story short, by day three, 5 one and half hour sessions later, he was totally hooked.  He said he felt inches taller (this is a guy who is already 6’ 4”) and that he hadn’t slept so well in years!

The benefits of yoga have been widely written about, but if you’ve never been on a yoga holiday or retreat, I urge you to take the plunge – the effects will be exponential and equal to at least 6 months of going to a regular weekly class. 

Go with a friend or partner or if you decide to go on your own, you won’t be the only one.  I have tried all three ways and enjoyed each experience for different reasons.

A few things to look out for when choosing the right place for you:

  • A yoga holiday tends to be just that; you have yoga in the mornings and evenings and are often left to please yourself during the day with the option of organised outings or workshops.
  • A yoga retreat quite often means more participation in the preparation of food, clearing up etc. 
  • Check out the style of yoga by looking at the biographies of the host teachers involved.  If you’re used to a gentle hatha flow type of class, then you may not find that a week of dynamic Ashtanga meets your needs. 
  • There are themed holidays too, such as combining yoga with a sport you’re passionate about, specialist cookery classes or mindfulness and meditation workshops. 

There’s a huge amount of variety and of course wonderful destinations to choose from.  It’s definitely worth investing in the research before taking the plunge.  Finally, I would also check out the accommodation:  Are you happy to share with a stranger of the same sex (the cheaper option of course) or do you definitely want your own space?

There’s something for everyone out there and, in my experience, the teachers are very keen to ensure you have the best experience possible so don’t be shy about contacting them and asking for clarification.  If it’s luxury you’re after, then a campsite in the forest ain’t going to cut it after all!

With love and wellbeing wishes,

Chrissie Tarbitt - Integrated Wellbeing

Post-Ride, Cool-Down Yoga Stretches

Chrissie Tarbitt, Cyclist's Lunge

It’s all too easy come off our bikes at the end of a ride and tend to other needs; grabbing something to eat or drink, or jumping into the shower.

Of course these are an important part of our recovery, but a few minutes spent on post-ride stretches can pay huge dividends with injury prevention and increasing our flexibility (warm muscles respond so much more kindly to being stretched than cold ones!).

So here are my top 4 stretches as part of your post-ride cool-down.

1. Back and shoulder release

I love this one as you also get a gentle hamstring stretch into the bargain (not unlike a downward dog pose in a yoga class).

DSC00999

  • Steady yourself on the bar, hands approximately shoulder-width apart
  • Walk the feet back until you come into a 90 degree angle with the ground
  • If this feels too tight on the back of the legs, soften the knees
  • Keep the spine long and extended and your gaze to the ground avoiding undue tension in the neck
  • A gentle tuck of the tailbone towards the ground will prevent undue tension in the lower back
  • The key is to take a few slow deep breaths and enjoy this stretch along the sides of the body, and through the shoulders
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds, then walk the feet towards your bike and stand up slowly

 2. Glutes stretch

This is one of my favourite stretches in my yoga classes. It’s a preparation for the “eagle pose” and is fabulous for releasing tension in the glutes. Again we get to use the bar of the bike.

DSC01006

  • Hold onto the bar approximately shoulder-width apart
  • Bend the standing leg and sit back as if going to sit on a chair
  • Lift the other leg off the floor, turn out the hip and place the leg (just above the ankle) on the standing leg
  • Again use the breath to help you relax and keep the oxygen flowing to the muscles
  • Try not to slump into the stretch by keeping the spine long and looking forward
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds on each side

As the eternal optimist, I’m offering these next two on the basis that it won’t be pouring with rain when you come off your bike through the summer season, so you can take socks and shoes off (although they do work with shoes on too!). It’s so good to be able to stretch out the feet after a long ride.

3. Front of the lower leg stretch

  • Chrissie Tarbitt, Integrated WellbeingHold onto the bar approximately shoulder-width apart
  • Really feel the standing foot connect with the ground so all the little muscles in the foot are fired up and ready to give you stability up through the ankle and the knee into the hip
  • Take the other foot back, keeping the spine long and avoiding any arching of the lower back
  • Gently place the toes on the ground (hopefully there is some grass nearby) and soften that leg very slightly to enjoy a gentle stretch through the front of the foot and shin
  • Take a few deep breaths and hold for at least 30 seconds on each side

4. Stretch out those tired digits!

Integrated Wellbeing, Chrissie Tarbitt,

  • Hold onto the bar, again approximately shoulder-width apart
  • Start with a firm foundation, a long spine and gazing forward
  • Rock back very gently onto the heels and lift the toes out in front of you
  • Raise the heels off the ground slowly and inhale

 

  • Slowly lower the heels to the ground on an exhale
  • Repeat at least 3 times

Check back soon for more sport-specific yoga, or sign up for my Integrated Wellbeing newsletter so you won’t miss a thing!  And please share your own favourite warm-down stretches in the Comments below.

With love and wellbeing wishes,

Chrissie Tarbitt - Integrated Wellbeing

 

A Great Relaxation Technique

chrissie tarbitt, integrated wellbeing, body matters

I love this simple breathing technique called Anuloma Viloma or alternate nostril breathing. It’s been used by yoga practitioners for millennia.

Simply by practising a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing for a few minutes each day, you can calm your nervous system, boost your thinking and improve sleep. It’s also great preparation for any meditation practice.

I’ve uploaded a short “how to” video to the Chrissie TV section of the site to help get you started.

Traditionally done in a comfortable cross-legged position, you can just as effectively sit on an upright chair (dining room or kitchen chair rather than a squidgy sofa) with feet firmly on the ground.

DSC00974ADSC00981A

 

 

 

 

 

 

It really is such a portable relaxation technique and, okay, you might feel a bit odd doing it at your desk at work but, you never know, others might be intrigued and want to join in!  If I’m in need of some time out, I take myself to my bedroom or hotel room (in the past when I’ve been away on business, my hotel room has provided a great sanctuary in between meetings, even if only for 5 minutes) and a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing gets me back on track.

Why?

Ancient yogis discovered that by isolating the breath this way on the left and right sides, we can reset the balance in our autonomic nervous system i.e. between our rest and digest and fight or flight sides of the brain.

Just try it – what have you got to lose?

I promise you, once you have the hang of it, you’ll want keep it handy in your stress-busting toolkit.  Use the video at Chrissie TV to guide you through the first few sessions.

Give it a go now and let me know how you get on!

With love and wellbeing wishes,

Chrissie Tarbitt - Integrated Wellbeing