I’m sat writing this post on the last day of a weeklong yoga retreat in the Sabina mountains in Italy. Normally one to choose more active holidays, such as mountain trekking or surfing, I decided when booking this trip that what I needed was relaxation and recovery rather than to challenge myself physically.

I have very limited experience of yoga and prior to this week, the last class I took was about seven years ago. Despite this I’ve always felt sure it was a practice that could help me find both physical and spiritual balance in my life.

The ancient hilltop village of Casperia surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and forest-covered mountains with its cobbled streets and stunning views makes this the perfect setting to learn the practices of yoga and meditation. I arrived here after three hot and hectic days in Rome, which followed three very busy months in England and the sight of it made my whole body sigh with relief.

After a long and hot metro, train and bus journey from Rome, it was lovely to finally sit on my bed in a stone floored, white walled room in a basic but quaint village house and read through the welcome pack. The itinerary for the week was filled with numerous optional activities and as I read through it, I could feel the temptation to book myself onto all of them starting to take hold. 

After an initial burst of activity and plans made to do a number of the activities and excursions, something about the daily yoga practice and peaceful surroundings brought me to my senses and I stopped. To my surprise I started saying no to the group dinner and drinks invitations and with some ease managed to resist the temptation to sign myself up for many of the organised activities.

I’ve realised that doing less is actually quite difficult for me. My natural inclination is to be productive and to cram as much as I can into every 24-hour period. To stop and do nothing has been somewhat of a revelation and daily yoga practice for six days has been life changing. I feel that this week I’ve learnt to be still in a way that I could only imagine before.

Nothing summarises my learning better than the words of my yoga teacher. As we lay on our mats on an outdoor yoga platform amidst trees and wildlife, she said the following words, which I think I’ll remember for the rest of my days.

Right now there is nothing that you need you to do, no where that you need to go and nobody that you need to be. Simply invite the stillness in.

In that moment I realised that I’d never before given myself permission to just be.

My only goal today, tomorrow and the next day is to remember what I’ve learnt here and to take it with me in my future and the only plan in my mind is to make time each day to stop for at least five minutes and invite the stillness in.

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