My First Yoga Retreat, (by a HIIT instructor)

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At 20 I have just been to my first yoga retreat in Byron Bay, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more.

I had never done a lot of yoga in the past. As a HIIT instructor, I’ve always preferred fast-paced, high-intensity workouts, so the decision to book a five-day yoga retreat in Byron Bay was a bit of a curveball.

That being said, my first yoga retreat was thoroughly enjoyable and with it I gained lots of nuggets of wisdom to take back with me into the hustle and bustle of my daily life in Sydney. 

Here’s all you need to know about this particular retreat – from a beginner who experienced it all firsthand.

What

The weeklong yoga retreat is an all-inclusive experience which took place at the Byron Bay Yoga Centre. Byron Yoga Centre was established in 1988 by John Ogilvie and is one of the longest-running yoga schools in Australia.

Where

Byron Yoga Centre is now at home at Byron Yoga Retreat Centre, 50 Skinners Shoot Road, Byron Bay. The centre is situated just outside of town on its own little commune. Allotments of sunflowers and Australian bush surround the centre creating a secluded environment, perfect for relaxing and unwinding.

Accommodation

Accommodation is simple and comfortable with the focus on enjoying the lush green surrounds. As such, while on the retreat I stayed in a simple two-bedroom cabin. The bathrooms are shared between all the guests and are co-ed, featuring compost toilets. However, there are single occupancy rooms and some rooms do have ensuite bathrooms if that is preferable.

While the room and facilities indeed embody the bare necessity mindset of yoga, while on the retreat very little time is actually spent in the bedroom so the lack of luxury didn’t bother me at all. However, if you are looking for a luxe week away this may not meet the bar. 

The site has a solar-heated swimming pool and organic gardens that provide much of the food that we ate on the retreat.

girl in sunflower garden
Allotments of sunflowers and Australian bush surround the centre creating a secluded environment, perfect for relaxing and unwinding.

Food

The food was all vegetarian, with daily vegan options also available. I am personally not vegetarian, and my gut is highly sensitive to lentils and legumes, so I was a bit worried about the food going into the retreat.

I will say that beans and lentils made a daily appearance on the menu, however, I was able to work around my intolerance in such a way that I would only consume them for one meal (usually dinner) and would avoid them at breakfast and lunch.

Despite my personal issues with some of the lentils, every single meal that was served throughout the week was absolutely delicious. As mentioned above, much of the produce in the meals are grown on-site, and the food itself is made using ayurvedic principles.

After each meal, which is generally eaten at a shared table with your fellow retreat guests the everyone washes and puts away their own plates and cutlery.

It should also be mentioned that there is a café on site which does barista-made coffee, which was very tasty. On the third day of my retreat the water got turned off temporarily on the commune so they were unable to make coffee and my fellow ‘yogis’ nearly rioted – it turns out a daily caffeine fix is what keeps everyone so Zen.

Yoga and other activities

As someone who had never done a lot of yoga prior to the retreat, I was a bit nervous to go from 0-100. However, because the demographic of people on the retreat was so varied (ranging in age from 20-60) the yoga itself was very basic and catered to all levels.

We had three yoga classes per day; one at 6.45 in the morning, which was typically more dynamic, one at 10.30 am which varied in intensity and a yin or restorative class before dinner. After dinner, there was also often another restorative class or a meditation workshop which was designed to foster deep relaxation before bed.

While I usually prefer the more dynamic and fast-paced exercises, I found myself particularly enjoying the yin and restorative yoga that we were exposed to.

This involved deep stretching and holding particular poses such as the child’s pose for up to 10 minutes. Perhaps it was because my body appreciated and needed the rest and the chance to slow down or maybe I just resonated more with that style of yoga. Either way, they were my favourite classes of the day.

In between food and yoga, there were other activities such as garden tours, cooking classes, yogic theory and massage/ beauty therapy. Within the five-day retreat, I received two massages on site which were included in the total price of the retreat. 

girl doing a headstand on the beach
In between food and yoga, there were other activities such as garden tours, cooking classes, yogic theory and massage and beauty therapy.

Cost and availability

The retreats run all year, pretty much every week and vary in length from 8 days to 3 days depending on what duration is desired. I did the 5 day retreat which was the perfect length for me.

As such, costs vary from AUD$760 (Early bird price from AUD$660) for the 3-day retreat to AUD$3,145 (Early bird price from AUD$2,950)

For more information on the Byron Bay Yoga Centre Retreats visit their website here.

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Tara Mckenzie

CONTRIBUTOR

Like many of Bondi Beauty's readers, Tara has two main passions; health and beauty. As a group fitness instructor you'll either find her dripping in sweat during a HIIT class or with a full face of bronze makeup. If you meet Tara in person be prepared to act excited as she tells you all about your star sign and why you should start carrying a rose quartz around in your purse.

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