Running away to Hide In The Sky
Way back in May, Sara Awiesha (one of my very favourite yogi's) mentioned she was planning on running her first retreat. I had a beautiful idillic image of what a retreat would be like but had never plucked up the courage to actually go on one. The fact that it was Sara (someone who can be best described as a human unicorn), followed by the mention of the French Alps meant I was quickly sold. What followed was a few weeks of hilarious energetic conversations with friends and all of a sudden, Sarah, Kate and I had booked flights to Geneva with time to camp either side. I must say at this point that I am a planner, yet against my better judgement I took a back seat this time. Kate and Sarah are both seasoned travellers and lovers of 'going with the flow', something they have somehow stared to filter into me; planning each step was never going to happen. Come August, I fell into the black hole of the Fringe, not really resurfacing till September and just 5 days before we were due to leave. We met up with the best of planning intentions however managed to end dying Sarah's hair, at the bottom of a great bottle of Vino and down one wheel of tasty cheese, and believe it or not, I felt totally fine with it. I adopted the 'it will all work out, no worries' mentality (queue fanfare & confetti cannons).
Our first night in France was a (relaxed) riot. We got the airport taxi to drop at 'any good campsite near Chamonix', and left ourselves in his hands. It turned out to be in the most beautiful setting at the bottom of a mountain. We were surrounded by others camping after a hard day climbing with crampons & helmets, proper glacier climbing gear. There we were turning up in a taxi with a wheely case containing our version of camping equipment butI'd say we redeemed ourselves with the speed and efficiency at which we constructed our tent. Following the strenuous say so far we mustered all our energy in search of the wine and cheese establishment and set up camp for the night with essential fairy lights. I watched a spider poo above my head in the tent and awoke the next morning to find Sarah wearing 1000 layers, including a balaclava. Despite being seasoned campers and squeezing 3 of us into a 2 man tent (don't ask) we all still got pretty cold that night, being totally ill equipped with one sleeping bag and some scarves. Waking up to the sun rising over the glaciers was pretty breathtaking and gave us an idea of the day ahead! That day turned into one of the most beautiful, filled with pastries, hill walking, afternoon cervesas and a lot of laughter before Glen (Sara's boyfriend, business partner & professional chef) rescued us and took us to the chalet in the mountains.
We were greeted by a bouncy and excited Sara and having turned a blind corner, opened up to the most incredible view from the chalet overlooking the valley and Mont Blanc beyond. We met our fellow yogis and I have to say it was the greatest bunch of people, not only for us but also I think for Sara's first retreat. After a wander to explore our surroundings Glen laid on a spread we could nibble at as we got to know each other. Sara had made every detail count from the menu selection to the handmade lavender eye pillows left on our beds. She led us through a relaxed flow followed by a meditation which allowed us to get to know each other better & our reasons for coming. For most people they were in the middle of a transitional period so it was lovely to share that journey with each other as Sara supported & guided us through.
Over the next few days we had a variety of sunrise yoga classes, big hikes up (and down) the mountain, afternoon flows and evening meditations as well as a massage class (toot toot). This was interspersed with beautiful, light food at every turn and some amazing wines, lets just say on the second full day no one made it on time for the morning class!
Each day our adventures around the Alps would uncover little gems, from the bells we followed to find a field of cows grazing the green of the summer ski slopes, to the hidden bar Freddies we stumbled upon at the top of a mountain, there for the ski season but staying open encase the odd walkers like ourselves reached the top. It was a true lesson in forgetting the planning, we wouldn't have ever found these places had we created a route & focus for the day.
Each day we would return from our adventures to a form of afternoon tea Glen had prepared before a session with Sara to stretch out the hillwalkers calves! I hadn't realised how monotonous I had become in my practice of yoga, treating it more as an exercise class, going through the motions and forgetting to focus the mind and intentions, the whole reason I had taken it up initially. Hide in the Sky really gave time to re-engage, focus on what was important for each person and help channel the strength & energy a group of strong women can channel when they're together. Sara's calm and supportive demeanour, giving each person time and space, made it impossible not to remain relaxed and focussed through the retreat, allowing everyone space to mentally challenge themselves whilst still challenging their bodies. Particular love has to go to the Water Flow class which somehow coincided with the only bit of rain we had, one of those spectacular European thunder and lightening storms. She gave such attention and care to each and every movement, ensuring the music matched perfectly. With the addition of the rain battering on the wooden chalet it couldn't have been more perfect.
We spent our final night drinking wine by the open fire pit, exchanging gifts & giving each other henna. It was the perfect end to the amazing few days we had shared. As we parted ways the following morning, and after one last sunrise yoga in the garden led by Kate, I left feeling completely torn. On one hand I was so sad to leave the supportive community we had built & the amount of laughter we had shared, but on the other I was going with a new found sense for adventure, resilience and self belief. I honestly think Sara helped ignite something in all of us without even knowing it and for that I can't thank her enough. Once again with the help of Glen, Kate, Sarah and I headed down to St Gervais for one last night camping (this time better prepared thanks to our hosts). We rocked up at a killer campsite and pitched our tent before heading for a wander and in search of food before the hanger set in! Post cervesa purchase, we found the main river off the mountains and sheltered under tree's as another storm kicked off. We made it back to our tent just in time and spent the night on deck chairs under the tree's with the finest box of vino for the final night of bread & cheese (I think we even included tomatoes & pesto this time).
I can't thank Sara & Glenn enough for the number of amazing experiences they packed into just 4 days, we were taken on a journey and totally spoilt along the way. They are one strong team. If you are contemplating heading off on a retreat, GO! And if you ever get a chance to go with Hide In the Sky, take it. As for my travel buddies, I spent a week with two total goddesses and who have totally opened me up the the possibilities and changed me for the better. Team TentLife.