Having returned to Ireland six months ago I can safely say I'm still in the honeymoon phase. Not only am I in the honeymoon phase I'm also having a long distance relationship with my home country due to my endless jaunts to London to wrap my shizz up there.
So when yoga teacher Kitty Maguire announced her Wicklow mountain retreat I twiddled my little tourist thumbs with glee and signed up straight away. I've always had a fondness for the mountains. Magical things happen there. I've happy memories of Wicklow from my childhood - my Dad's twin sister, a knitwear designer, lives there with my silversmith uncle and my illustrator and set designer cousins. I remember all sorts of creative hi-jinks like glitter bombs(literally bombs that exploded with glitter), tobogans, aerial slides, Clara Lara, tadpoles, knacker cat not to mention my work experience helping her sew up cardigans. Ahhh magic.
Kitsue retreats is a collab between Kitty Maguire and Susie Murray both with their own vibes and complimentary styles of teaching. The accommodation offered rooms, dorms or camping. Since moving home I've been trying to detox from the concrete greys of London, the earthier I can get, the better so I signed up for the camping option. I like the idea of waking up on a forest's ferny floor with drops of rain beating my wakeup call. The good news is Argos have deadly tents for €23 and even deadlier blow up mattresses, sleeping bags attached for €40. The bad news is that I am 5' 10" so there was a fair amount of head and foot pokeage either end of the bed. I still slept soundly though so this wasn't a major issue. Cruisy.
I was shooting Friday arvo so I managed to bag a lift down Friday eve. We set off into the mountains hitting the road in spots, zipping through the traffic. We drove and drove and then drove some more. And soon it started feeling very off grid, no phone signal, no Google maps, a Friday night treasure hunt get us to the retreat pot of gold. Eventually we arrived at a craggy stone lodge part Irish stone house mixed with wooden scandi ski lodge. I love that feeling when you get out of the car after a long drive. Stretch the legs, soak up the silence and suck in the fresh dewy evening air. Nothing says holiday as much as that - well maybe stepping off a Ryanair flight after 4 glasses of wine when it's 28 degrees at night. I know which feeling I'd rather have(these days anyway).
At the back of the house was a feathery green field edging the pine forest and this would be where we set up camp, just 6 of use to keep each other company. I chose my patch under the shade of a tree to prevent any torrential downfall from collapsing my tiny little tent. Dinner was served in a big farmhouse style kitchen on two massive wooden tables and it was divine, a kind of pecan curry and rice. There we met Adriana who chefs at Portobello's Little Bird and would look our bellies for the weekend. The retreat opened with a Yin Yoga session to draw a line under the week and easing us into our revival and restoration. I'm pretty new to Yin Yoga and it's wonderful. It's really great for people who say they're "no good at meditating". With Yin you hold poses for extended periods of time - we were holding up to ten breaths - and the effort required to do this keeps you very much in the moment. It's also a bit mental. As anyone who's read my blog knows I've been recovering from a pretty traumatic bereavement and every time I do Yin I cry for like a half hour. But they're good tears and I feel like it's washing stuff away(the stuff that we all need to let go of). Yin works on a deeper level with your connective tissue to release stress and encourage inner peace. We closed the eve well rested and I retreated to the stillness of my tent to sleep under the stars.
The following two days presented a schedule of classes and workshops throughout the day that included walking meditation, Vinyasa flow, more Yin as well as plenty of time to just chill and do what we wanted. I was definitely feeling the chill and do what I wanted vibe so I did a lot of that. There was no pressure to do anything other than just be. Also on the agenda were deep tissue massages and reflexology. I'd never had reflexology before so I went with that option in what I call the angels room - another lovely cosy room with wood, beautiful scents and cosy blankies. The house was floored with wood throughout which added to the earthiness of the location. There's something really comforting about the feeling of real wood under your bare feet.
The highlight for me was the fire pit. When I was small I used to love The Famous Five - I was a big nerd, a massive nerd - and there's something about camp fires that makes me feel like I'm on some mad adventure. To be honest I was on a mad adventure with a load of amazing people and there we Sat on the Saturday night singing and laughing and BBQ'ing and drumming into the wee hours. Magic.
I've been journeying through the world of wellness figuring out what's right for me and what's not. We're all different and drawn to equally varied experiences. I find some of the wellness world a bit pious and at times sanctimonious. It can all get a bit serious. This just doesn't work for me. I like my yoga peeps cheeky and real with a glint in their eyes. I was watching something about the Dali Lama the other week - as you do, in between episodes of The Kardashians and Narcos - and he's a buzzer. We're not designed to be saints. Humour is important, life can be serious and laughing is good :) Kitsue have nailed it in this respect. The general vibe was laid back, friendly, funny, welcoming and inclusive. Ideal for beginners and regulars alike, it was just a lovely getaway. The next one is planned for October. I might even bring me MA, maybe you could bring your DA.