Six Questions I Had On My First Yoga Retreat

Stressed out from some epic deadlines and ready to jump off the gym-work-eat-repeat hamster wheel, I decided to head to Billabong Retreat for a long weekend. Despite doing yoga on the regs, this was my first retreat so I had no idea what the whole vibe would be. I had many, many questions, which I can now answer with yogi authority.

Will I die without my iPhone?
Billabong Retreat is about 45 minutes out of the Sydney CBD, but feels miles away for anywhere. Think: thick bushland and, yes, an actual billabong. I had serious doubts about the ability of my Nissan Micra to navigate the dusty roads (spoiler alert: it survived).

Billabong encourages their guests to go on a digital detox while at the retreat. And, it’s pretty much enforced anyway, as the phone reception is one bar at best. Read: there ain’t no uploading your asanas to Instagram in real time. I arrived at the retreat stressed out about approx. 243 unread work emails, unanswered texts and mountains of personal admin. I already try to keep my phone time to an absolute minimum at night, but I struggled to fully let go until day three. This made me seriously question how strictly I was enforcing my phone ban at home.

Perfecting my Warrior Pose

How long will it take for me to be super zen?
This one surprised me. Arriving around lunch on Friday, I hit up the first arvo yoga class. The yoga pavilion at the retreat is so breathtakingly beautiful – there’s floor to ceiling windows that peek out onto the tree tops. That helped my shoulders drop a little. And yet, all I could think about was: did I leave my hair straightener on, did I check that story going to print, did I call my mum… 

In our first evening meditation we focused on breathing techniques. Turns out, I’ve been taking big breaths in and barely breathing out. Code for: basically poisoning myself. One more thing to worry about. And yet, even with breathing techniques covered – my mind raced through the whole second day. I was impatient, keen to bash out the classes and find my zen already. I stressed through my yoga workshop, massage and infrared sauna. When I shed a tear in the afternoon savasana, I figured I should probably just surrender to the whole process and feel the sh*t out of it. It worked. By night two, I could breathe (properly) again.

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Will I get really bored of all the yoga?
I’ve got a short attention span and I didn’t all. If anything, initially I wanted more yoga from my yoga retreat – there were about two classes a day on my program. One before breakfast and one in the arvo. Plus, there were workshops on my program to give us some insight into yoga philosophy.

I’m a hot vinyasa yoga kind of girl so I’m used to really powering through my sessions. At Billabong, it’s more of a slow, restorative yoga, which threw me at first. In hindsight, I really needed that style of yoga to truly wind down. And I realised that cramming in back-to-back sessions and activities isn’t the point. You need the time between classes to just stare at the treetops and chill out.

Rainbow lunch goodness

Will I be starving?
This was a serious concern. I love food. Would I be surviving off a lentil broth for days? What if I ended up hangry and snapping at my fellow zen yogis? Thankfully, this was not an issue. The chefs at Billabong are miracle workers, turning beautiful local produce into hearty vego meals. I ate more there than I would at home. Oh, and they even have coffee if you need it. Hey – those yoga classes are early.

Will everyone be pro yogis?
I was envisioning groups of limber women, swathed in luxe activewear, effortlessly kicking up into handstands and then me, who somewhat resembles a baby giraffe learning to walk. Look, I wasn’t entirely wrong. But I wasn’t totally right, either. There was a mix of age groups, experience levels and a few men in the mix too. I bunked in with one of my best mates in a delightful treetop cabin and found our nightly debriefs really helpful. But there were heaps of people flying solo, too.

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Treetop cabins

How much can you really achieve in three days?
Surprisingly, a lot. While it might not change your whole life, it will act as a ‘circuit breaker’ of sorts. It’s kind of like going on a cleanse – it breaks some bad habits and makes some new ones. Zen: unlocked.

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