Retreats: What’s it all about?

Why Retreat?

Retreats and the notion of ‘retreating’ have gained huge popularity in recent years. Having shaken off their somewhat limiting image of monastic accommodation, frugal meals and silent spiritual seeking, retreats are now a way of engaging in a focussed and curated break where you can immerse yourself in any number of activities from writing to cooking, crafting to surfing and of course, yoga, in amazing locations all over the world.  

As we seek out ways that our holidays can reflect our multi-hyphen lifestyles, for many, the idea of going on a regular holiday with a stack of paperbacks or fully loaded kindle simply doesn’t fulfil the holiday brief any longer.  

So, what’s retreating all about and why might you want to try it?

Simply put, this modern life we lead is exhausting!  Technology may have increased the speed at which we are able to do things, but since our brains simply aren’t designed to cope with this level of input for prolonged periods, we are much more likely to experience the physical and mental symptoms of stress and anxiety.

The rise of the retreat can be tracked alongside the shift in the world of work. The kind of work lives that are common now; freelancing, side hustles and the general merging of our work personas into our everyday lives, means that our precious holiday time must do more than just give us a tan and some blurry memories. We’re increasingly looking deepen and broaden our personal experiences, so mindful activities in a beautiful setting are a great way to achieve that.

A retreat is the perfect antidote to our packed lives as it offers a fast track to relaxation but also provides loads of other benefits too.

Let Go

Everything is taken care of for you on retreat, with a timetable of curated activity to immerse yourself in, food prepared and provided, and excursions planned on your behalf. there are no decisions to make allowing you to let go of responsibility and relinquish control. This is a major factor in helping you reach a state of relaxation and move deeper into that state as your retreat progresses.

Connect In

Spending time in a defended space without the daily distractions of work and home provides a perfect opportunity to connect both to yourself and to the natural world. Retreats are often based in glorious natural surroundings and isolation, this combined with the time and space to be more reflective, allows you to become more expansive and be more present with your inner self.

Reset & Reflect

A shift away from the normal routine is useful in getting some distance from our less helpful habits. A retreat offers the chance to get off the treadmill of the mind’s constant planning and deliberating, so you’re more likely to find yourself reading a book whilst swinging in a hammock than falling down the old scroll-hole of social media whilst on retreat. Resetting your priorities is easier whilst you’re away from the hubbub of daily life and you get to put new habits into practice without distraction drawing you back to your old ways.


A defining element of a retreat is engaging in a specific activity, which of course for us at Wholehearted Retreats, is Yoga. And whilst the aim of yoga is never to ‘get good’ at it, having a few days of dedicated practice will deepen your experience in a way that is profoundly ifferent to taking a weekly class or a once in a while workshop. That goes for any activity you do on retreat, be it surfing, cooking, writing, whatever-immersing yourself fully in your chosen pursuit without distractions can allow you to get to a place where things are just flowing, and you can be fully absorbed in enjoying the moment.

Let It Happen

One of the favourite sayings of our teacher in India is, ‘Whatever is happening-Let it happen.’

You may be surprised at what comes up for you whilst you are on retreat, especially if you are undertaking a mindful practice like yoga. Emotions, memories and things we have buried often come to the surface when we take time away from the normal structures that hold us together. And sometimes they are the things we least expect. Be prepared, but without expectation, for shifts to happen that allow you release the things that no longer serve you. As retreat hosts, we see one of our key responsibilities as holding a safe space for our guests to offload the things they no longer need to carry around. We often see shifts that are related to energy. Some guests become inexplicably tired and just want to nap, others are filled with vigour and want to go for long runs, but we’re never surprised when people report that they are sleeping more deeply or dreaming more vividly.

And for the Hosts?

For us, the notion of hosting retreats crept up slowly and became the logical conclusion to the different ways we wanted to be show up in the world like living more sustainably by growing our own food, being close to nature and most importantly putting yoga at the heart of our lives.

In 2016, with our UK houseboat home sold and a small woodland cottage in deepest rural France to our name, we set about creating Wholehearted Retreats. We welcome retreat guests to stay with us in summertime on a Homestay basis, accommodating 4 people on a shared room basis. A Wholehearted Retreat is an intimate affair, with small group numbers allowing us to focus on helping our guests have the best experience we can provide. Retreats have yoga & meditation twice daily, homegrown & homemade meals and lots of time to relax and enjoy being in the heart of nature. With zero light pollution, the stars are amazing and come night time its impossible not to feel part of the great swirling universe as you observe the galaxy overhead.

Hosting retreats is of course hard work but being able to share the amazing location of our home and having the opportunity to help people connect with their inner selves through yoga is an enormous privilege.

If you fancy trying a retreat for yourself, you can check out our 2019 Retreats page. For other brilliant retreats all over the world head to Queen of Retreats for a curated collection of tried and tested breaks. We’d love to hear about your experience of retreats in the comments below.






Lucy Howell