What To Expect On A 3-Day Yoga Retreat

Billabong Retreat, Sydney. I arrived with high expectations of improving my yoga skills, and maybe even learning my pincha. In reality, it was everything I didn’t expect – and everything I didn’t know I’d been needing.

1: Meditation That Isn’t Boring

Each retreat has a theme – we chose “meditation”. Our teacher, Kirsty, taught us yoga, meditation workshops, and guided meditations. She taught us one very simple idea that has altered the way I see meditation (and my patience with it).

It was this: meditation isn’t, as we were all taught to believe, the silence – the state of perfect emptiness where your thoughts are at bay. No! Meditation occurs when you notice a thought, and as an observer, allow it to move on – like watching clouds pass a window or bubbles move to the surface of a liquid, and pop. You become a witness to your thoughts, rather than being your thoughts (and being controlled by them).

That knowledge makes it much easier to enjoy meditation – suddenly you’re catching thoughts in a gleeful way, rather than with frustration at your busy mind (who has an empty mind anyway?!)

My Three Favourite Meditations

  1. Food Meditation: Of course I’d love this one. Our chef, Tash, had us close our eyes and take a few meditative breaths. She asked us to visualise the first whole food, straight from the earth, that comes to mind. She told us to imagine it, it’s colour and texture, as vividly as we could. Then we took a few more breaths and opened our eyes. The food you imagined, she said, is your body craving the nutrients it needs most. She encouraged us to research the food we’d seen and what it contained – you don’t necessarily need to eat that food, but something with similar nutritional content! Mine was beetroot – high in iron, which makes perfect sense as something I need more of.
  2. Thought Labeling: Thought labeling is something I’ve continued, post-retreat. It’s perfect for busy or restless minds. You simply meditate with a pen and paper, and every time a thought arises, you write down a word to label that thought, and carry on meditating. Each write-down enables you to move on from that thought, and clear your mind a little more.
  3. Visualisation: This was beyond my expectations. Back against the wall in the yoga studio, I sat with my eyes jammed shut and tears streaming- not in a pretty singe-tear-down-the-cheek kind of way, but pouring down my face so much so, that they somehow managed to cling to the bottom of my chin and form a kind of inverse puddle. It was hideous, no doubt, but actually kind of glorious. We’d been asked to visualise 3 things – first, a happy memory. Second, the time you were most proud. And third, the time when you’ve felt most loved. My memories were all family-centric (that served as a wake-up call in itself), with vivid memories of some of the most intense times in my Dad’s sickness. It was a very emotional session for many of us.

2: Really. Good. Food.

Our chefs were unbelievable. The kitchen was endlessly emitting the gorgeous scents of herbs and spices and fresh whole foods, and at mealtimes, an eager crowd would form around the kitchen in hungry anticipation. Our meals were cooked without recipes – our chefs followed their intuition instead, shopping at local markets for seasonal produce. From buckwheat porridge to aromatic vegetarian curries and freshly baked sourdough – the food was truly a highlight and has changed the way I’ve cooked ever since.

3: Friendship and Reality Checks

The thing about a wellness retreat is, many of the people who attend are there to heal – in one way or another. I shared long hugs with a mother and her 17-year-old daughter between stories of cancer, survival, heartbreak, and strength. I listened to travel tales and began to grasp the amount of strain everyday life can inflict. I saw vulnerability in fierce businesswomen and admired 50-year friendships. The retreat was a melting pot of ages, experiences, reasons for coming, and personalities – which is a beautiful space to learn about empathy and life. I watched strong women grow before my eyes here (myself included) – it was an inspiring collection of ladies if ever I’ve seen one, and those lessons will stay with me beyond the billabong.

Billabong Retreat is nestled in North-West Sydney with an offering of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and healthy retreats. It prioritises environmental responsibility and even has some beautiful treehouse cabins.

This post is proudly sponsored by Billabong Retreat, however, all of the opinions expressed are my own.