THE YOGA KITCHEN RETREAT: REVIEWED
Have you ever been on a fitness retreat before? Well before I went to Catalonia, I hadn't. In all honesty, I didn't even really know what a retreat was. My immediate assumptions were two things:
1. You would be drawn into some sort of #fitspo cult for seven days and be me to eat raw kale for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
2. You'd be dragged out of bed at 5am every morning to complete 3 hour training session (otherwise you wouldn't receive your raw kale)
How wrong I was.
I'd go as far to say my retreat in Catalonia was one of the most incredible, and important, weeks of my life. (With raw kale being only one small element in my diet.)
My housemates/friends/colleagues/family know I could talk for hours about my experience at The Yoga Kitchen Retreat but for time efficiency's sake, I've condensed it into this blog post just for you.
1. WHERE WE STAYED
As soon as I stepped off the plane in Barcelona and the heat hit my face, I felt like I'd left London and all of its baggage far behind me. I met the other girls at the airport and we hired a couple of cars so we could start our road trip to the villa (I think it was best for everyone that I stayed firmly in the back seat of the car).
The Villa was buried in the Pyrenees Mountains, surrounded by vast, tumbling countryside. You know when you were younger and went on holiday with your parents and your Dad would always stop the car halfway through journeys to admire the view? Well I don't know if I'm turning into Father Mountain or it's just the beauty of Catalonia but I literally wanted us to stop and start the car the entire journey there. It was beautiful.
The Villa itself was just as I expected - completely luxurious with a rustic, homely vibe. It felt like home the moment we walked in (the sweet potato muffins on arrival certainly helped too.) I've never stayed anywhere with an infinity pool so I was a giddy child when I saw it over looking the mountains (so highly Instagram-able.) There was also an indoor pool which was affectionately named 'The Grotto' which was the perfect little spot the get some shade and read a book.
Although the pools, the bedrooms and all of the little hideaways were stunning, my favourite spot was the dining area. And no - not just because I love food (!), but because this was were we would all sit together every morning for breakfast and every evening for dinner.
I should probably mention now that every single person who I met on the retreat is now a good friend of mine. When we sat at the dinner table, I was blown away by the incredible stories of the other guests (of course, Kim's delicious food was equally amazing!)
By the end of the week, I realised that a big part of why my experience at the retreat was so incredible was because I was surrounded by positive, wonderful people. (Sorry for the cheese but it's so necessary.)
2. WHAT WE ATE
As you know, I'm preeetty much eat anything. I track my food most days but within that, I am super flexible. I eat cake, I eat veggies, I drink wine and I drink protein shakes. I must admit though, sometimes I do neglect my micronutrients in favour of eating something yummy like a donut.
In fact before I left for Catalonia, I was in the midst of a very bad relationship with caffeine, buying an energy drink every single day (sometimes having two, one after the other, just to feel a buzz for my workouts.)
On the retreat, my diet was very different. Kim cooked all of our meals from her cook book The Yoga Kitchen and we basically ate our way through it (stuff dreams are made of.)
I can honestly say, I didn't miss meat once. The book is completely vegetarian and I'd say its a huge testament to Kim's cooking that I didn't even think about chicken. Not. Even. Once.
Incase you haven't managed to have a look at the book yet itself, it is structured into seven sections - one for each Chakra. (And don't worry, I didn't know what a Chakra was either! Your Chakras are the seven centres of spiritual energy within your body - the teachings stem from some indian religions and is commonly used in yoga practice)
Every day we focused on a different Chakra, and ate accordingly. The ultimate mind/body experience.
Everything that Kim served was made with a variety of fresh, locally sourced ingredients - my body loving life. I sometime struggle with digestion issues and have done so pretty much all of my life - but by the end of the week, I had zero bloating and felt completely energised.
(And I haven't touched an energy drink since.)
3. HOW WE TRAINED
Training and exercise is a huge part of my life - it's my hobby, it's my job and it's the reason I have this blog. I love weightlifting and train four times a week most weeks. I feel really lucky to have discovered a type of exercise which I can fall in love with, but this can also be isolating as I get stuck in my ways.
When it comes to variation in my training, I know that I don't really enjoy classes and hate any form of running. Before the retreat, yoga is something I had probably only done 3 times at various events. I am fairly flexible considering I don't really do much mobility work so I was excited to see what I could achieve by flipping my routine upside down and swapping my weights for the yoga mat.
The wonderful Kathryn Fielding (www.instagram.com/kathryn_fielding) was our teacher for the week taking us through two sessions every day. Our morning sessions were by the pool, scheduled after meditation and before our breakfast banquets. Forgive me for my poor terminology but this session was more of a 'flow' practice. It was pretty challenging through-out but Kathryn's magic adjustments really made me push myself and ensure I was moving in the correct way. By the end of it, both my body and my mind were completely relaxed.
The evening sessions were 'Yin Yoga', a much slower paced style where we held poses for about 5 minutes each. We did these sessions in the downstairs 'den' - a beautiful, candle-lit, tiled room which just had one window for the light to pour through. It was so beautiful.
I would say Yin was probably my favourite practice between the two. I really shocked myself at the positions I ended up in through deep breathing, persistence... and Kathryn's hands pressing down on me (that part was love/hate!) She saw our potential though, and always made sure we were reaching it.
As soon as I got back to London, the first thing I did was book in for a class with her. I didn't even want to risk the withdrawals.
4. ONE MONTH ON
So it's been a month since I got back from The Yoga Kitchen Retreat and I can honestly say it's changed my life. I know that sounds like I'm exaggerating but let me explain.
Before I came away, I was in a stressful headspace. I was constantly on the go, with my phone always in my hand, Whatsapp messages constantly requiring my attention. Because of my marketing job at SIX3NINE as well as my Instagram, I spend a lot of time online. I've now seen the value and positive impact of taking time to take out in my surroundings.
And just being 'offline'.
I'm also much more 'balanced' with my balanced approach to food. I've stopped neglecting my micros and haven't touched a protein bar since the retreat - this is something I'd snack on daily. Instead I now go for some Fage yoghurt with a dash of honey which is still as high in protein.
However please note there's nothing wrong with protein bars in my eyes and I haven't 'cut them out', I just find they were making me feel quite bloated!
In case you were wondering, my love affair with yoga is still on-going. I've made time to go to a few different classes since the retreat and use the movements Kathryn taught me in my warm-ups before I lift. It turns out weightlifting and yoga are a matched in heaven.
I just want to say a big thank you to Kimberly, her fiancé Tom, Kathryn and Georgie (@georgieday - Kims' wing woman in the kitchen/constant ray of sunshine) for inviting me on this experience. It was incredible.
To learn more about Kim's retreats, you can find all the details here: www.kimberly-parsons.com/yogaretreats/
To discover the wonderful ways of The Yoga Kitchen cookbook, you can get your own copy here:
(You MUST try the Kale Granola. It's game changing.)
And to just socially stalk Kim like I do, you can do so here:
If you have any questions about my experience, the cookbook or aaaaanything please just email me and I'd be more than happy to help you - firstname.lastname@example.org x