When I first decided to visit The Pearl Laguna wellness retreat in California, my expectations were to learn basic yoga and meditation. Little did I know this retreat would offer so much more as I was about to embark on a journey focused on discovering the importance of ‘me’ time. Amidst trying to juggle my roles as MD, partner, friend and most importantly mum, I can say that setting aside total ‘me’ time is often a foreign concept that tends to sit at the bottom of my to-do list!
Run as a group experience, I was lucky enough to have made some beautiful friendships from all walks of life. The group was given a TOTAL mind and body cleanse with zero refined sugar, coffee, processed foods or alcohol. Just pure organic vegetarian dishes in controlled portion sizes, designed specifically for optimal digestion and health. We learnt about the healing properties of foods and herbs and were given some great recipes to take home. Katresha, co-founder of Pearl Laguna and wellness expert, also introduced us to her signature ‘healing broth’ and kefir, a delicious probiotic drink that tastes like a yoghurt smoothie.
Each day was spent rising at 6.30am with morning power yoga followed by breakfast and a challenging three hour canyon hike. After returning back to lunch we were treated to fresh juice, a daily therapeutic massage and relaxing afternoon yoga. Sounds like a rigorous schedule but we soon fell into the daily routine and laughed as we all looked forward to afternoon ‘broth time’!
Thanks so much to my friend Megan for introducing me to this experience. I have learnt so much at the Pearl Laguna, much of which will stay with me forever.
My seven ‘Pearls’ of wisdom
1. Let it go through meditation
Katresha uses the mantra ‘Let it go’. During the meditation sessions I noticed a gradual improvement each day at stilling the constant ‘noise and chatter’ in my head. I used this opportunity to focus on my breathing, allowing me to let go of any negative thoughts weighing down my energy levels. Learning to breathe deep down into your diaphragm rather than the upper chest can significantly reduce anxiety and day-to-day stress.
Not everyone meditates in the same way, so it is important to spend some time experimenting to find the best form for you. What I found to work well for myself was to imagine breathing in the colour green and envision it flowing through my body. I associate the colour green with feelings of calmness and serenity, which helped keep me still during meditation. I do have trouble keeping my body still so active meditation also worked for me. During our long hikes I would take the time to self-reflect.
2. 80/20 rule
We were taught that being obsessive over food or exercise is not only inconvenient, but unhealthy for the mind. This is where the 80/20 rule applies. For 80% of the time instil a clean, sugar free and unprocessed diet combined with the benefits of practising mindfulness and exercise. Allow yourself the freedom to relax, guilt-free, for the remaining 20% of the time. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail (or two) on a Friday night with friends. It’s all about balance.
3. Bring the pose to you and not yourself to the pose
Geo, our yoga master, stressed that all bodies are different. We’d all like to improve our flexibility and core strength, but it’s vital to take the gradual steps necessary to achieve the correct posture. I learnt that to avoid injury, we must adjust the pose to our own physiology. This advice sure took the pressure off my doing a headstand on day one!
4. Nothing changes if nothing changes
After a fortnight focused on total body cleansing, fitness, yoga and meditation I feel ready to take on the task of translating these lessons into my everyday lifestyle. I intend to find a yoga studio and teacher that suits my needs and to set aside time each day for quiet reflection. It’s too easy to get caught up with the excuses, “there’s not enough time in the day” or “I’ll start tomorrow”. When you change your mindset to make a commitment to your wellbeing, you will find you have more energy and renewed focus throughout the day to attend to the other aspects of your life.
5. The importance of ‘me’ time
This retreat was quite literally the first time I have focused one hundred percent on ‘me’. Holidays are often spent enjoying the company of family and friends which often means daily compromises and accommodating to the needs of others. Women in particular tend to always put the needs of other over themselves so it was challenging for many of us to allow ourselves to be nurtured. As Martha, our hiking guide often said, “Remember to use your oxygen mask first and then you can help others.”
6. Tai Chi and the healing power of ‘Qi’
We were introduced to basic Tai Chi moves which are excellent for balancing the energy flow in the body. Qi (pronounced ‘chi’) is fundamental element of traditional Chinese medicine and is based on the energy that flows through our bodies. There are various pathways called meridians which when blocked by poor diet, stress and a negative environment, can significantly impact wellness.
7. People power
The energy of people plays a powerful role in the cleansing process. The staff and fellow guests I met and the friendships that developed was the real highlight for me. Spending time with people in such an intimate environment made me feel so uplifted. I now fully understand that positive energy really does directly impact our thoughts and wellness. It’s unrealistic to be like a Buddhist monk all the time, but we should strive to practice mindfulness and positivity. Be aware of your own energy and the energy of those you surround yourself with. Your company should make you a better person.
Whether it be kick-starting a new healthy lifestyle, weight loss, fitness or mindfulness each of us left The Pearl Laguna a better person. For the time I spent at The Pearl, the results I achieved and for the wonderful relationships that have developed I will be forever thankful. And yes… I have even booked a return visit!