Untangle the Tangle
Before motherhood I had a regular yoga and meditation practise, which was freeing and grounding in equal measure. Needless to say, life was less stressful back then, the days more balanced.
The great thing about mindfulness and yoga is that you can work elements of it into your hectic schedule, even as a tired new parent. However, over these last two difficult years, I’ve developed a mental block towards my practise.
A few months ago I realised I needed to inject some structure and external support to rejuvenate things. A regular class, a guiding hand, a course or a retreat, or heck, why not all of the above!
In January I decided that I wanted to go back to basics and rewind, or as Liberty Wellbeing’s Founder, Jenny, says: “untangle the tangle”. I was hopeful that a pivotal turning point would be during a weekend-long retreat at Chilston Park in Kent.
Review of Chilston Park Kent
My Expectations & Preconceptions
The retreats I’ve been on before are usually modest affairs: no frills, single beds made with blankets, often dormitory-style, and mealtimes are about rustic vegetarian food. This is often a deliberate move so that you look beyond sensory pleasures and distractions and focus on the job at hand.
I knew this retreat was going to be a little different. Set within a 4-star hotel in the heart of Kent countryside, forget retreat, I was in for a bit of a treat. I recognised that I’d probably be very familiar with what was being taught but I didn’t have any other preconceptions. Here’s what happened…
Chilston Park Wellness Retreats
This series of wellness retreats are the brainchild of Chilton Park Hotel who have collaborated with wellness retreat experts, Liberty Wellbeing. These retreats have been devised to tackle the modern day burnout epidemic by offering a combination of wellness activities to suit different groups and needs.
There are around two retreats every month and each one is different. Some are designed for couples, others for mother and daughter getaways, and with most geared up to individuals simply looking to explore meditation, yoga or tai chi.
Chilston Park Hotel
Just over an hour from London, Victoria, and tucked away down a long driveway, the hotel is set within a beautiful 17th century Grade I listed manor house, surrounded by 22 acres of stunning land, which overlooks a lake with swans.
Accommodation is stately county hotel – all wooden oak floors, antiques and ornate staircases. Perfect if throwing yourself into the sparse side of yoga doesn’t appeal just yet. Rest assured, the yoga, meditation and tai chi is taken seriously.
The Retreat: In a Nutshell
Introduction to Yoga and Mindfulness
Although I’m no stranger to yoga or mindfulness, I actually took part in a retreat that is geared up for beginners. That didn’t matter because it was pitched perfectly and I was able to take lots of new, as well as old, learnings home with me.
A typical retreat schedule will include a mixture of yoga and mindfulness meditation sessions over one full day and two half days.
Everything is optional, giving you the chance to participate at your own pace and head back to your cozy room should you feel like curling up with a book and hot chocolate.
There is also time to enjoy relaxing around the stunning communal areas, long walks and tucking into the delicious vegetarian food.
The moment I and a dozen other tired and slightly stressed, mainly Greater London folk, step into Liberty Wellbeing’s welcome – who are friendly, calm and the picture of health – it was easy to settle in quickly.
We were met by a selection of welcome teas and homemade (vegan and gluten-free) carrot cake, which were nothing but fluffy and moist. We devoured these treats while we added colour to intricate lotus shaped outlines with the pens provided.
We were given the itinerary for the weekend, a jam-packed schedule of yoga, mindfulness and tai chi. Yet it was made very clear that all of the sessions and classes were optional and that we should simply go at our own pace.
With a pretty pitched ceiling and mezzanine level en-suite, my room felt like a beautiful and cosy place to retreat.
Complimentary still and sparkling water, organic Clipper teas and hot chocolate, shortbread biscuits were left in our room and toiletries in the bathroom.
Not that there was much time for extra yoga but I also loved this little thoughtful ‘extra’ found in each room – a leaflet promoting the hotel’s Yoga or Gym in a Bag:
Yoga in a bag or gym in a bag
“Work-out from the comfort of your own room. Available 24 hours a day. Dial ‘0’ to borrow a yoga bag: DVD (astanga or Hatha), yoga mat and yoga blocks or gym in a bag: Instruction cards for 3 levels up to advanced user, exercise mat, selection of resistance tubes and selection of toning balls.”
Friday 2nd February:
16:00 Arrival and Welcome
19:30 Restorative Yoga Class
21:30 Reading, further practice, bed
Saturday 3rd February:
06:30 Guided Mindfulness Meditation
09:30 Tai chi
10:45 Tea break
11:00 Mindfulness for Everyday Life
15:45 Tea break
16:15 Tai Chi
Sunday 4th February:
06:30 Guided Mindfulness Meditation
09:30 Tai chi Qi Gong
10:30 Tea Break
11:00 Yoga to take home
14:00 Retreat close
The welcome was homely, the atmosphere relaxed and the programme is simple: yoga, meditation, tai chi, nourishing food and making connections.
We also went on a lovely group walk through the grounds and even on a drizzly February afternoon, the fresh air and outdoor exercise did me the world of good. I concluded that I don’t get out enough in winter!
We tried three different speeds of yoga…
Hatha yoga is suitable for everyone – it’s a broad approach and there are no dynamic moves or experience necessary.
Yoga for Sleep: This session helped us gently unwind from the week, leaving behind the journey to arrive at the hotel and allow a sense of tranquillity to descend.
Wring in the New: The next day we woke up our sluggish bodies with some enlivening twists. This class focused on poses that massaged the abdominal organs as well as some spinal work to find length and flexibility. I felt energised and ready for the day after the session.
Yin Yoga: This is one of my favourite forms of yoga! It’s a great way to strengthen your muscles and extend your ligaments and joints. Yin yoga is a wonderful wind-down for a busy mind as your body embraces poses in longer periods, supported by props to find quiet meditation and release.
Mindfulness is a simple technique of paying attention in a non-judgemental way that allows us to let go of unhelpful thinking patterns.
By practising the skill of sitting or walking, with stillness in the heart, helps us to lead a simple, contented life.
The class helped to switch off and calm the mind with simple ideas such as paying attention to the breath and the body. No experience needed.
Originating in Sun and Yang style which is suitable for all and participants are encouraged to go at their own pace.
Guided through a step by step process leanring moves that link together and incorporate breathing exercises.
There is lots of repetition and breaking down of movements in this style of tai chi which means it’s great for beginners.
The food was fantastic. Healthy vegetarian meals designed to nourish. Within our group we had a wide range of varying special diets and the hotel catered to all our tastes.
Mindful Colouring in
This is everywhere at the moment. Even Wagamamas restaurants have recently partnered with Mind Charity to bring complimentary pens and templates to diners while they wait for their food. At the Chilston retreat, during each of the several tea breaks, we were given exotic floral outlines to colour in or encouraged to make a zentangle – a lovely way to be mindfully creative.
Final Thoughts – from my Heart Chakra
I left feeling very relaxed, extremely well-looked after and happy to have made some new friends. There were a mixture of souls that took part including other women that had come alone.
It was lovely to make new friends, to chat to in the breaks and in between classes. I enjoyed the luxury of nipping back to my room to read a magazine, lie in bed, have a cup of tea or catch up on a book before then heading to a class, whilst still managing to fit in some socialising by having a relaxed natter at mealtimes.
All of the staff from the hotel and from Liberty Wellbeing were super-friendly, calm and pitched the classes perfectly. I left feeling nourished on every level. This is an inspirational and affordable yoga retreat, led by wise and lovely instructors, some of the best I’ve encountered.
Included in the price are three vegetarian meals a day, refreshments, accommodation and all classes. It’s £275 for double occupancy or £350 for single occupancy.
Next retreats include:
11th March 2018 – Mother & Daughter Retreat
6th April – Step into Spring
For more info go to the Chilston Park website or call 01622 859803.
Sandway, Lenham, ME17 2BE, Kent United Kingdom
Pictured with the lovely Helen Gilbert from Relax Ya Self to Health Blog. (She’s a little legend, do check out her Top 10 Vuelio Wellbeing blog!)
NB: This was a collaborative post whereby a review on Roots and Toots was exchanged for a complimentary place at the yoga and mindfulness retreat at Chilston Park in Kent.