I have just had the most incredible day of pampering, nurturing, indulgence and relaxing. Last weekend I headed north out of town for a retreat at the stunning Lil Acres in Woodend. It's only a 1.5 hour drive from my place but it feels like a whole other world. There are trees everywhere and the sound of bird song and insect life soothes city ears more attuned to the hum of traffic. I was greeted by Liana Quach of Body Barre Yoga on arrival and she took me to the gorgeous deck you can see in the photos. I could spend all day there just drinking in the view of Mt Macedon. And drinking the green juice she specially made for me from the juice bar. I don't eat fruit so Liana whipped up a cucumber, celery and ginger juice for me. Yummmm.
After everyone had arrived we headed on down past the veggie patch and the chook pen to the studio. This gorgeous light filled room has the most beautiful view of trees and sky. Being surrounded by trees and light is so calming. Liana is a wonderful teacher and manages to bring together many different elements in a cohesive way to nurture mind, body and soul. The day began with Liana giving us each a beautiful peony flower and then reading a gorgeous poem about peonies. I know - poetry and nature right from the start! But wait, it gets better. We each then set our intention for the day with Liana guiding us to be aware and pay attention to energy during the day. She then lit a bundle of white sage and smoked each of us in turn. This part of the day had tingles going up my spine to my crown.
Our first session was pilates and I loved all the exercises and feeling my body lengthen and stretch. I've spent far too much time hunched over craft or a keyboard. The session ended with a beautiful meditation during which Liana came around with peppermint and orange essential oils on her palms. She rubbed her palms together as we sat and meditated and the scents washed over me in a wave. It was wonderful to have my senses engaged while meditating. Especially smell - our oldest sense. We then headed back up to the deck to drink in the view and eat morning tea.
The second session for the day was beautiful flowing yoga. The tree pose was my favourite, especially when Liana told us to grow roots into the earth from our foot planted on the floor. The session ended with yoga nidra or sleep yoga. I'd never heard of it before but it's now my favourite kind of yoga. During nidra yoga you enter the space between awake and asleep and it is so rejuvenating and healing. I was pretty sleep deprived going into Saturday but after the yoga nidra felt like I had caught up on sleep. Which was lucky as I had a delicious home cooked lunch waiting for me on the deck!
Liana and her partner Namdo served the most incredible food. It came straight from the farm to our plates and tasted amazing. I swear I could taste the sun and the love and all the fresh air. They did a beautiful job of catering for all my dietary requirements and altered each dish so I could eat it. I'm so used to going places and having to interrogate the wait staff about the ingredients in each dish and then feeling very awkward for being so fussy. It was so wonderful to know all my dietary requirements were catered for and I could eat whatever was put before me.
For morning tea we ate chia seed puddings topped with coconut cream and mango puree with a goji berry garnish or a nut butter and buckwheat garnish for me. The crunchy buckwheat kernels combined with the creamy coconut was an awesome explosion of texture in my mouth.
Before lunch we snacked on house cured olives (mmmm, my favourite. Sooooo good!), home made salami, cheese and seed crackers. The lunch was filo pastries stuffed with home grown spinach and haloumi for the vegetarians or roast lamb for the carnivores. Each plate came with veggies from the garden including fennel, leek, garlic scrapes and whole broadbeans. If that wasn't enough there were also two green salads. Dessert was a blueberry galette with clotted cream or for me, more olives. Mmmmm.
The servings were generous but I still managed to fit it all in. How could I not? The food was just too good! Every detail for the day was carefully thought out and the exercise planned so we could eat and not feel too full to do pilates or yoga.
After lunch we met the farm animals and then took a walk into the bush. Lil Acres is set on 15 acres and surrounding the house and farm there are beautiful, tall gum trees. We didn't get to meet the black wallaby who lives among the trees but I did see cockatoos and parrots as well as hearing kookaburras. As part of our walk we practiced fox walking and owl eyes both of which I had learnt with Mel Turnbull of Firekeepers.
My favourite part was when Liana had each of us do a mudra of giving and receiving while we breathed out carbon dioxide to a tree and then breathed in oxygen from the same tree. It was amazing to connect with a tree and my breath in this way. I now feel this really deep connection to the trees on her property and an immense sense of gratitude and wonder. I can't wait to try it out on the trees in my neighbourhood.
We ended the day as we began, in the studio. A final meditation, receiving our flowers and then saying our goodbyes. It was the most wonderful day and exactly what I needed. Liana is a phenomenal teacher and any time she holds a retreat, I'm there!