Eat, pray, retreat

Making time for ourselves.

Making time for ourselves.

QIGONG: Morning movement practice outside the yoga shala to warm up body and mind before the first yoga session of the day. Picture by Kim Parkinson
A white bougainvillia in full bloom at the swimming pool at the middle villa. Picture by Kim Parkinson
INCREDIBLE SPREAD: The first meal of the day prepared by our chef Tanja and her team features a delicious combination of vegetarian and vegan offerings including special tonics prepared daily. Picture supplied
Special tonics which were prepared daily. Picture supplied

Kim Parkinson realises a long-held dream to go on a yoga retreat in an exotic location. The Bali retreat she chose was everything she had expected and more . . . but finding the right teacher was key.

I had always wanted to go on a yoga retreat and finally made the time to do it last June. It was everything I expected and more — finding the right teacher was key.

Katy Carter who lives in Mangawhai, New Zealand is a senior yoga teacher who leads retreats in New Zealand and abroad.

Every year she hosts a group in Bali and this year we headed to Jeda Villas in Pemuteran, North West Bali. It is off the beaten track and gives you a sense of Bali before the best-selling novel and film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ increased tourism numbers to what they are today.

A small fishing village, it has some of the best diving on the Indonesian island. There is an eco project called Bio Rock happening here where coral is being grown on metal structures in Pemuteran Bay. This will eventually replace some of the dying coral reefs.

Pemuteran is special because it is still reminiscent of the ‘old’ Bali.

I was last in Bali in 1989 when I set off on my OE, backpacking with a girlfriend throughout South East Asia. It had been our first stop and we had loved it. Coming back 30 years later to go on retreat, I was overwhelmed by the changes and development in Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud particularly.

The three-hour drive from our pickup point in Seminyak was not for the faint hearted. Our air conditioned mini-van competed with the hundreds of scooters, trucks and cars on the two-lane road north, the main truck route to the island of Java, and we passed the scene of one serious accident on the way.

When we arrived, we entered a garden oasis with Pemuteran mountain looming large and majestic in the background. Three large villas designed and built by the Dutch owners accommodated the 12 of us on retreat.

One villa was where we had our meals, and each had its own large swimming pool.

At the bottom of the property is the yoga shala (room) with floor-to-ceiling doors that opened out onto the exquisite, landscaped and carefully-tended garden.

It was a scene of tranquility — except for the baby pigs, dogs and other animals running around outside which distracted us and caused an eruption of giggles from time to time.

There was plenty of laughter on retreat and a healthy dose of tears and honest emotional outpourings too — all part of coming together with a group of like-minded strangers who would form a close bond over the seven days.

Another funny moment was when the neighbours started playing the most outrageously bad karaoke disco loudly while Katy was leading a meditation. It killed our zen!

A warm breeze and 30 degree temperatures meant we only practised yoga in the early mornings and from 4pm in the afternoons so there was plenty of free time to relax, have a massage or go on one of the excursions — diving and a visit to the local temples.

Eat

The food was a big part of the experience as we ate specially prepared vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food all week prepared by consultant chef Tanja (papayagirlbali on Instagram). The food complemented the yoga and was not only nourishing but allowed us to detox with plenty of juices and tonics. Fresh green coconut water, full of electrolytes, was always available and there was coffee and outstanding desserts so there was no sense of dieting or missing out on anything — the carob cheese cake was my personal favourite.

Pray

The staff at the retreat were a gorgeous bunch of locals who we got to know as they prepared the stunning food and took us on the back of their scooters to the Pura Melting temple for a ceremony that marked the third solar month in the Hindu calendar. Rather than feeling like token tourists, we joined them and other locals in prayer and it felt authentic.

We had learned a little about their religion at the blessing ceremony held on the first day.

Dressed in the traditional Hindu costume of a white lace top, sarong and specially tied sash, we were welcomed by a priest to the retreat and to Bali. We offered flowers to the gods and were blessed with holy water in an elaborate ritual that involved the priest chanting and ringing the ghanta (bell). The sound of the bell is considered auspicious and welcomes divinity and dispels evil.

We were also asked on the first day during a group meditation what each of us hoped to get out of the retreat using a single word. The answers varied and included peace, nourishment, rest, care, heal, nurture, happiness and joy.

One of the things that resounded strongly with me in Katy’s teachings was the need for us, as humans, to be seen. As the week progressed this was something that became a theme as we went through our own transformations. Leaving the following Sunday I felt a sense of peace, calm and joy which I carried with me back home to a stormy Gisborne.

Katy has a gift for using words and imagery, poetry and music to transport you during her yoga sessions and that is what sets her apart for me personally.

Retreat

The theme for the retreat was Kula — or community of the heart.

“The idea was that as we came together for seven days to retreat, we all arrive as we are, with whatever we have going on in our lives, our bodies and minds,” says yoga teacher Katy Carter.

“We progressively explored the sense of being, becoming and belonging. We arrived as individuals, but quickly became involved as a group.”

A typical day would begin with a silent meditation followed by an hour of Qi Gong in the garden to warm up the body and mind. This was followed by a juice and a coffee break before we began the main yoga practice of the day which would last for 90 minutes and build up an appetite for brunch — a combination of breakfast foods including fresh fruits, granola with cooked and savoury lunch-time offerings as well. Without a doubt this became a highlight of the day.

After brunch we had free time until we reconvened at around 4pm for group work including meditation and yoga and some partner work and journaling. This would take us through to dinner which was served at about 6.30pm. Most nights there was an opportunity for some yoga nidra or yogic sleep as it is commonly known. This is an immensely powerful meditation technique which would set us up for an excellent night’s sleep — many dozing off on our mats before we even left the shala.

Silence was often part of this so that afterwards we would stay silent until the next morning’s practice. I was on retreat with my sister and we would often forget the silence rule as soon as we returned to our room and end up in fits of (quiet) laughter as a result.

For Katy, the yoga begins when we leave the mat, and go out to encounter the world around us.

“How we treat ourselves on the mat is usually a reflection of how we are in the world. Which raises the question — as you move, as you practise, as you receive the teachings . . . how do you want to be?”

So the yoga, and meditation and movement (Qi Gong) were carefully devised to progressively and cumulatively draw us into the experiences, to support us as we arrived, and to unfurl us from day to day, adding or subtracting as the energy of the group shifted and changed, she said.

“Sharing the meal times, sharing rooms, sharing intimate space in the yoga room, is all part of that process of seeing each other as we are, and seeing our own reactions and projections play out.

“I offer a steady structure and set the bar high so that we consider how our behaviour impacts on everyone around us.

“That helps us get past the outer layers, our assumptions, and helps us enter a layer deeper into seeing the human beings before us. We find that we are after all, connected not separate.”

There were many other highlights on the seven-day retreat especially the day trip to Menjangan Island which is part of the Bali Barat National Park. We spent our time snorkelling in the marine reserve and returned to Jeda Villas feeling physically spent and hungry.

Another personal highlight was a quick trek up Pemuteran mountain to see the sunset led by one of our party who I nicknamed Sherpa Sim. She set quite a pace and it was absolutely worth it as we took in the panorama and watched the sun go down behind the volcanoes on neighbouring Java.

Our 21st century lives are so busy and going on retreat is a luxury I felt very privileged to take part in. I can see why people make it happen on a regular basis. And if a retreat is not possible due to life’s everyday demands, taking time out to be silent, to reflect, breathe and stretch is available for everyone. Making that time for ourselves means we have more to give in our lives — of that I am certain. Even if it’s a walk on the beach and some home meditation — it all helps.

Something tells me this will be the first of a lifetime more of retreats for me. It’s a shame it took me this long to get started.

Oh, and I had better start saving . . .

Kim Parkinson realises a long-held dream to go on a yoga retreat in an exotic location. The Bali retreat she chose was everything she had expected and more . . . but finding the right teacher was key.

I had always wanted to go on a yoga retreat and finally made the time to do it last June. It was everything I expected and more — finding the right teacher was key.

Katy Carter who lives in Mangawhai, New Zealand is a senior yoga teacher who leads retreats in New Zealand and abroad.

Every year she hosts a group in Bali and this year we headed to Jeda Villas in Pemuteran, North West Bali. It is off the beaten track and gives you a sense of Bali before the best-selling novel and film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ increased tourism numbers to what they are today.

A small fishing village, it has some of the best diving on the Indonesian island. There is an eco project called Bio Rock happening here where coral is being grown on metal structures in Pemuteran Bay. This will eventually replace some of the dying coral reefs.

Pemuteran is special because it is still reminiscent of the ‘old’ Bali.

I was last in Bali in 1989 when I set off on my OE, backpacking with a girlfriend throughout South East Asia. It had been our first stop and we had loved it. Coming back 30 years later to go on retreat, I was overwhelmed by the changes and development in Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud particularly.

The three-hour drive from our pickup point in Seminyak was not for the faint hearted. Our air conditioned mini-van competed with the hundreds of scooters, trucks and cars on the two-lane road north, the main truck route to the island of Java, and we passed the scene of one serious accident on the way.

When we arrived, we entered a garden oasis with Pemuteran mountain looming large and majestic in the background. Three large villas designed and built by the Dutch owners accommodated the 12 of us on retreat.

One villa was where we had our meals, and each had its own large swimming pool.

At the bottom of the property is the yoga shala (room) with floor-to-ceiling doors that opened out onto the exquisite, landscaped and carefully-tended garden.

It was a scene of tranquility — except for the baby pigs, dogs and other animals running around outside which distracted us and caused an eruption of giggles from time to time.

There was plenty of laughter on retreat and a healthy dose of tears and honest emotional outpourings too — all part of coming together with a group of like-minded strangers who would form a close bond over the seven days.

Another funny moment was when the neighbours started playing the most outrageously bad karaoke disco loudly while Katy was leading a meditation. It killed our zen!

A warm breeze and 30 degree temperatures meant we only practised yoga in the early mornings and from 4pm in the afternoons so there was plenty of free time to relax, have a massage or go on one of the excursions — diving and a visit to the local temples.

Eat

The food was a big part of the experience as we ate specially prepared vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food all week prepared by consultant chef Tanja (papayagirlbali on Instagram). The food complemented the yoga and was not only nourishing but allowed us to detox with plenty of juices and tonics. Fresh green coconut water, full of electrolytes, was always available and there was coffee and outstanding desserts so there was no sense of dieting or missing out on anything — the carob cheese cake was my personal favourite.

Pray

The staff at the retreat were a gorgeous bunch of locals who we got to know as they prepared the stunning food and took us on the back of their scooters to the Pura Melting temple for a ceremony that marked the third solar month in the Hindu calendar. Rather than feeling like token tourists, we joined them and other locals in prayer and it felt authentic.

We had learned a little about their religion at the blessing ceremony held on the first day.

Dressed in the traditional Hindu costume of a white lace top, sarong and specially tied sash, we were welcomed by a priest to the retreat and to Bali. We offered flowers to the gods and were blessed with holy water in an elaborate ritual that involved the priest chanting and ringing the ghanta (bell). The sound of the bell is considered auspicious and welcomes divinity and dispels evil.

We were also asked on the first day during a group meditation what each of us hoped to get out of the retreat using a single word. The answers varied and included peace, nourishment, rest, care, heal, nurture, happiness and joy.

One of the things that resounded strongly with me in Katy’s teachings was the need for us, as humans, to be seen. As the week progressed this was something that became a theme as we went through our own transformations. Leaving the following Sunday I felt a sense of peace, calm and joy which I carried with me back home to a stormy Gisborne.

Katy has a gift for using words and imagery, poetry and music to transport you during her yoga sessions and that is what sets her apart for me personally.

Retreat

The theme for the retreat was Kula — or community of the heart.

“The idea was that as we came together for seven days to retreat, we all arrive as we are, with whatever we have going on in our lives, our bodies and minds,” says yoga teacher Katy Carter.

“We progressively explored the sense of being, becoming and belonging. We arrived as individuals, but quickly became involved as a group.”

A typical day would begin with a silent meditation followed by an hour of Qi Gong in the garden to warm up the body and mind. This was followed by a juice and a coffee break before we began the main yoga practice of the day which would last for 90 minutes and build up an appetite for brunch — a combination of breakfast foods including fresh fruits, granola with cooked and savoury lunch-time offerings as well. Without a doubt this became a highlight of the day.

After brunch we had free time until we reconvened at around 4pm for group work including meditation and yoga and some partner work and journaling. This would take us through to dinner which was served at about 6.30pm. Most nights there was an opportunity for some yoga nidra or yogic sleep as it is commonly known. This is an immensely powerful meditation technique which would set us up for an excellent night’s sleep — many dozing off on our mats before we even left the shala.

Silence was often part of this so that afterwards we would stay silent until the next morning’s practice. I was on retreat with my sister and we would often forget the silence rule as soon as we returned to our room and end up in fits of (quiet) laughter as a result.

For Katy, the yoga begins when we leave the mat, and go out to encounter the world around us.

“How we treat ourselves on the mat is usually a reflection of how we are in the world. Which raises the question — as you move, as you practise, as you receive the teachings . . . how do you want to be?”

So the yoga, and meditation and movement (Qi Gong) were carefully devised to progressively and cumulatively draw us into the experiences, to support us as we arrived, and to unfurl us from day to day, adding or subtracting as the energy of the group shifted and changed, she said.

“Sharing the meal times, sharing rooms, sharing intimate space in the yoga room, is all part of that process of seeing each other as we are, and seeing our own reactions and projections play out.

“I offer a steady structure and set the bar high so that we consider how our behaviour impacts on everyone around us.

“That helps us get past the outer layers, our assumptions, and helps us enter a layer deeper into seeing the human beings before us. We find that we are after all, connected not separate.”

There were many other highlights on the seven-day retreat especially the day trip to Menjangan Island which is part of the Bali Barat National Park. We spent our time snorkelling in the marine reserve and returned to Jeda Villas feeling physically spent and hungry.

Another personal highlight was a quick trek up Pemuteran mountain to see the sunset led by one of our party who I nicknamed Sherpa Sim. She set quite a pace and it was absolutely worth it as we took in the panorama and watched the sun go down behind the volcanoes on neighbouring Java.

Our 21st century lives are so busy and going on retreat is a luxury I felt very privileged to take part in. I can see why people make it happen on a regular basis. And if a retreat is not possible due to life’s everyday demands, taking time out to be silent, to reflect, breathe and stretch is available for everyone. Making that time for ourselves means we have more to give in our lives — of that I am certain. Even if it’s a walk on the beach and some home meditation — it all helps.

Something tells me this will be the first of a lifetime more of retreats for me. It’s a shame it took me this long to get started.

Oh, and I had better start saving . . .

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