Bank holiday weekend is usually the time for self-discovery, relaxation, adventure … but let’s just say that this year things haven’t gone exactly to plan (we won’t bring up the ‘C’ word). Nevertheless, though our back gardens have become our Sri Lankan paradise and our living rooms have become our beach getaway thanks to the sensorial aids of our candles and Spotify playlists, we still believe in the creating the bank holiday retreat we had planned for.
Throughout the next few days, we have partnered with Owner of Wild & Free Adventures, Amanda Bunton, who will give us her tips on how to create your very own ‘At Home Retreat’. To kick things off, we’re starting with yoga & balance. Though this may seem a ‘basic ideas’ to some, as Amanda explains below (and through the Wild & Free Adventure retreats), there so much more that goes into it.
A quick intro for those who may not be familiar with Wild & Free Adventures. Born from two people’s passion for surfing, yoga and travelling, Wild & Free Adventures focuses on the balance and freedom each one offers mind, body and soul. Their aim is simple, to create a relaxed and fun environment in some of the best surf and yoga holiday destinations in the world. Their retreats focus on small groups in unique locations to create the perfect luxury escape to switch off and unwind … with a sense of adventure!
How have you been doing during self-isolation personally?
Wow, where do I start?! It has certainly been a challenging and unusual time both on a personal level and from a business perspective. However, there have been both positives and negatives throughout this experience.
With regard to the positives, I have had the opportunity to spend more time with my partner exploring our local area and beautiful countryside, cooking and enjoying the garden. I have had the time to really focus on myself and enjoy my own yoga and mindfulness sessions. It has been a fantastic time to read, learn and develop all that I love.
The negative experience for me has been around the lack of social interaction. I am a yoga teacher and I run surf and yoga retreats, so a lot of what I do involves spending time with people on our retreats or in my yoga classes. I am also a very sociable person, so I have missed sharing this wonderful sunshine and beautiful spring with friends and family.
I have been very grateful to be able to continue working as a teacher and running my yoga classes online, however it is not quite the same as in person and I miss my students and that interaction.
We know all about the general benefits of yoga, but why do you think it’s as important as ever to practice it?
We are spending so much of our time seated, whether that’s in a car, at a desk or table (to eat meals).
A lot of what we do in our daily lives involves us rounding forward in the upper body, where our shoulders draw forward and become tense and tight. In our lower body our hips become tight due to long periods of sitting and our hip flexors become short and weak. I work with a lot of students with tightness in this area.
Yoga is a great way to ‘open up’ the body in general, to lengthen and release areas of the body that become stiff and tight through repetitive positions. Movement is like ‘medicine for the body’ … if we don’t move the body, we create blockages in the body that can lead to injuries, and long term it can lead to illness and chronic disease. Yoga keeps not just the body healthy, but the mind as well by connecting our breath and body through practice.
Tell us a little bit more about the yoga poses you would recommend
I have created a series of yoga poses to work through the whole body, incorporating both the upper and lower body. Designed to give an overall stretch and ‘open up’ the front of your body and at the same time strengthen the back.
By strengthening the back body, which becomes weak over time as we round in our daily activities, we are creating more balance in our body, encouraging and supporting a more healthy posture. These poses together give a good all round healthy movement to the body and spine and leave you feeling energised and open.
So these poses are:
1. Puppy Dog Pose – This is a great one to start with as it gives a good all over stretch and opens up key areas to start a practice and create mobility. This pose stretches the spine, shoulders, upper back, arms and abdominal muscles. As a slight inversion, with the heart just higher than the head, this pose can foster a sense of calmness in the body, relieving stress and anxiety. Releases tension in your upper arms, shoulders and neck. This can also be done over a bolster or some folded cushions if you are particularly tight in the upper body. This will help create height and therefore the pose will not create such a strong bend in the upper back.
2. Eagle Arms – This pose is great to build stronger arms, legs, knees and ankles. This pose helps open shoulder joints, by creating space between the shoulder blades. It also provides increased circulation to all joints, improving digestion, balance and focus. This can also be done with the back of the palms facing each other (instead of twisting the palm round to face each other)
3. Gentle Back Bend (preparing for Camel pose) – This pose helps lower stress and anxiety. It improves posture, flexibility in the spine and enhances mobility. It also stretches out the abdominal muscles as well, increasing oxygen levels and opening the body to diaphragmatic breathing. It can help alleviate back and neck pain. If you draw the elbows behind towards each other you also create a lovely stretch across the chest and collarbones. It is important to keep your core switched on to protect the lower back (and avoid over arching), and draw your hips forward and engage the glutes.
4. Thread the Needle – this pose stretches and opens the backs of shoulders, chest, arms, upper back, and neck. It releases the tension that is commonly held in the upper back and between the shoulder blades. This pose also provides a mild twist to the spine, which further reduces tension. There are also soothing benefits in this pose as you place the cheek onto the mat and activate the parasympathetic nervous system and breath for a few breaths to allow the body to soften and open.
5. Low Lunge (with arms lifted) – this pose strengthens and stretches your legs, knees and ankles, stimulates your abdominal organs, energises your body and can help with lower back pain. Low Lunge Pose also works to stretch the hip flexors, thus improving your posture. Again, it is important here (as with all back bends) to keep the core engaged and support the lower back. This pose gives a very satisfying stretch into the thighs and you’ll feel lovely and open in the lower body after this pose.
6. Extended Locust Pose (with arms forward) – this pose helps strengthen the muscles of the spine, buttocks and backs of the arms and legs. It stretches the shoulders, chest, belly and thighs. It improves posture and stimulates abdominal organs. It is a great back body strengthener and preparation pose for Bow Pose. It can also help relieve stress.
What are some of the benefits you find your customers have had following your wellness retreats? Can these also be true even at home?
My favourite part of the retreat is when you see the change in our guests when they shift to becoming wrapped up in their surroundings, embracing everything ‘Wild & Free’ and seeing how focused and aware they are of the ‘present moment’.
Whether that’s finding a connection with the ocean and surfing or finding their flow and peace within the yoga practice, these benefits are evident on our retreats and beyond. Our retreat guests often feedback that they have really enjoyed just slowing down and spending time on themselves and yes, this can also be created in the comfort of your own home … you just have to give yourself the gift of time.
Stay tuned for Part 2 …
*Amanda runs regular classes, so head over to their social media page or their website to see the regular weekly classes (which you can join as drop in or take a Yoga Warrior Challenge and sign up for a monthly unlined package and attend all three she had on offer plus freebies throughout the month and discounts on monthly sessions