I just got back from four days in the Swiss Alps on a yoga retreat. That’s a sentence I didn’t think I would ever write because, you know, who does that kind of thing? Who leaves their family (two wounded members*, one absent, the other three kids normal, just a bit annoying) on a Thursday morning to do sun salutations on a mountain?
Me, as it turns out. And what can I tell you about my first yoga retreat? If I were to coach you into what to expect, I would say this:
Yoga Retreats Are Not Parties
They are really, definitely not parties. They aren’t Girls’ Weekends Away with too much prosecco and trips to the village bar where you might flirt with staff/locals and dance on the table and then sleep in half the day. They are more about yoga.
The Food Will Be Quite Healthy
Bacon sandwiches, steaks, mid-afternoon crisps and beer won’t be on the menu. It will be a plant-based diet, with talk of juicing, Deliciously Ella’s recipes and an actual lentil salad. There will be cheese and charcuterie, but not everyone will eat as much of that as you. You will wonder if you are especially greedy, and whether that’s the reason that even though you are roughly ten years younger than everyone else, you are also ten kilograms chunkier.
The Drinks Will Be Herbal, But Not In An Aperol Kind Of Way
You will reacquaint yourself with camomile tea and you will look at cow’s milk with narrowed eyes, trying to remember why it was on the dirty list. A pause in proceedings will not be an acceptable reason to crack open another bottle of Cote Du Rhone because it’ll be herbal tea time. You will get to like it, although not as much as sauvignon blanc.
The Vegetables Will Cause Some Gassy Discomfort
All the lovely salads and avocado and almonds and granola will result in a distended belly and an overwhelming urge to fart long and loud at various times during the day or night, but most often while you are in your yoga class. You will learn to clench internal muscles you didn’t know you had. Try not to laugh when you hear other people’s stomachs making outrageous squeaky violent protestations because it will also happen to you. Time your trips to the loo to when everyone else is out of the apartment, or use the men’s toilets in the Spa & Wellness Centre. Turn the shower on and blow your nose loudly to cover the bowel orchestra.
If You Share A Room, Be Honest About Your Gas
It’s a great leveller.
Let me take you through pictorially.
This is the view of Anzere from Jane’s apartment – a little purpose-built 70’s village with the most excellent mid-century details. It was too much. Insanely lovely:
This is the mountain where we did the first morning’s two hour yoga session inside the restaurant, and after, we ate a very healthy yoga breakfast. Heavy on the muesli and dried fruit, good for the detoxing, bad for the gas:
Here is the indoor/outdoor heated bubbling pool situation. It’s also a great place to deal with your gas:
Post-swim. Pretty much free of gas at that point:
The cows coming down the mountain for the winter in a village festival. Dressed in head gear and cow bells. Probably gassy also:
Raclette. We didn’t eat any of it, but I REALLY WANTED TO:
So. What a bloody fantastic few days I had. I am much better at yoga now and it turns out that I am pretty good at iPhone games where you have to guess the film while everyone shouts at you. I am also the best at drinking the wine and a bit shit at folding yoga blankets.
I Nearly Didn’t Go Though*
A day before I left, Ned did a bit of jumping around the bedroom in a happy, deeply-entrenced-in-some-nutty-game which took him from the office chair, through the air and onto the bed. It all turned to blood-curdling screams though as Otis turned off the light at the wrong moment and Ned didn’t make it onto the bed – instead, he mashed his top teeth into the corner of a hardwood blanket box and he fractured his jaw and opened the upper gum to reveal his pearly, premature, secret little adult teeth. That is a sight you don’t ever want to see – I got a little sweaty around the gills and tried to push through the nausea when he finally agreed to let us see the damage. So he has stitches and a bit of a pale face, and has wafted about with a swollen mouth and pinprick irises for a few days.
BUT I went to Switzerland anyway, because those little teeth would still be exposed and that jaw would still be fractured whether I was here or there, right? And that’s what two parent families are for – the other one does the parenting sometimes while the main one buggers off to the Alpine village of Anzere to improve his or her downward dog. Here is the little duck face on day two:
The other wounded family member is Mark*, who has an unexplained swollen knee. He is hobbling around and suitably cross, and this morning he turned to me and told me that there was a large, brown, poo-like thing under Casper’s bed. It seemed that, owing to the knee situation, I was the one who was supposed to do something about it. I wondered how long the poo-like thing had lain there, and whether everyone had simply waited for me so it would become my problem. I suspect I was spot-on.
It could have made me mad, but having been so recently entrenched in nine hours worth of yoga practice, whereby one of the lessons is to push through unpleasant things until you emerge out the other end, I reached under the bed and wiped furiously with antibacterial wipes. It turned out it was a rotting, hairy peach. A relief, really.