I thought I knew what a health retreat was. I imagined lots of yoga, healthy food, down time and sleep. I’d planned to smuggle in a bag of lollies and enjoy the ‘me time’. Exactly what I needed.
Oh boy, was I wrong! Gwinganna was so SO much more than my perception.
It is a safe space to be rebuilt, to be held, nurtured and to leave feeling empowered.
Each day is a combination of yin and yang activities, nourishing SLOW food, rest time, wellness seminars presented by skilled professionals and of course, spa time. I loved how it was a coming together of individuals from differing backgrounds and of varying ages and fitness levels, all arriving a little burnt out and in need of a retreat, with a common goal of leaving feeling refreshed. The setting is magical with panoramic views everywhere you turn and the heated infinity pool was definitely my favourite spot to soak it all in. On my last day I spent a glorious couple of hours soaking the view in with a grateful heart.
I’ve done my best to capture my time at Gwinganna as I know sometimes going to a health retreat can be something unfamiliar and new, but honestly it is the best thing I have done for my personal wellness and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I wish I had understood the power of a health and wellness retreat when I was struggling with my losses and desperate to conceive again.
I arrived at Gwinganna and met my wellness consultant, who read a form I’d completed which evidently highlighted my elevated stress levels. Which – when you’ve spent 3 1/2 years building a national charity and raising a 6yr and 2yr old – was no great surprise. I can’t remember the last time I did something alone and purely for me. I felt guilty for leaving my children at home and taking this time for myself. I normally find it incredibly difficult to switch off and unwind, but something about Gwinganna made me feel like I truly could.
After my consult and a yummy afternoon tea, made by someone else, not me! I was shown my suite – The Meditation Suite. It was exquisite, overlooking the property billabong and featuring an inviting day bed to retreat on and listen to the sounds of the wildlife. The huge bath with epsom salts was used several times, the simple luxury of taking an undisturbed bath was bliss! In short, I was feeling very spoilt and actually a little teary.
Each day begins with Chi Gong at sunrise overlooking the mountain, breathtaking. Then there’s a gentle or high energy option of a hike or a breathing class. The choices are hard but we were guided by our program manager to choose what we least wanted to do as it’s probably what you need most. I’m definitely a Yang (high energy) person, so I chose Yin which was challenging at first, but as the week progressed in an odd way it actually energised me. I’ll definitely be taking some more Yin based exercise practices at home.
On this day I had an appointment with the resident naturopath for live bloods and iridology. Whilst I’ve seen a naturopath here in Sydney and greatly value their contribution to fertility wellness, I hadn’t seen one in the last two years as I’d been too busy. I knew deep down that long term stress wasn’t good for our bodies. I worked hard before conceiving Johnny to really reduce stress but life is life and slowly slowly it had crept up on me again. My blood cells showed signs of oxidative stress and crystals highlighting inflammation and acidity. Gwinganna was exactly the place to address this and begin to make the changes I needed to. Iridology was fascinating and I can’t recommend it highly enough, my assessment was spot on – ‘Stoic & Sensitive’.
I wasn’t feeling great today. The sugar, caffeine and gluten withdrawals were causing my to ache and my head to pound. I began to question whether this was right for me, and whether I should just check out and head to the gold Coast for a burger and chocolate milkshake with a coffee!!! The amazing Megan our program manager saw I was struggling and gave me some herbal medicine to help and suggested I rested and didn’t take part in the morning activities. I wasn’t sure, I like to ‘do’ and I find doing nothing really challenging but I tried and low and behold, I slept for three hours! I woke up feeling refreshed, still a little head sore but somehow lighter and proud of myself for stopping. I started to move slower and as I walked around the property I could see women starting to float around with smiles on their faces. It was magic.
That afternoon I took part in The Journey, a one on one session with a practitioner. The best way I can describe it is like counselling and meditation combined. It was incredible and if you visit Gwinganna it is a must-do. Sukhi guided my mind back to a memory of my past to release emotional trauma, and surprisingly for me it wasn’t my miscarriages. As I left the beautiful little cottage with the white picket fence and trailing jasmine flowers, I again noticed I felt lighter, like I was leaving something that no longer served me behind.
Today my headache was gone and I enjoyed the morning activities of Chi Gong, Yoga and silent meditative walks overlooking the stunning Talebudgerra Valley. Then I attended that day’s education session on Stress Management. Sharon’s presentation was enlightening! I had a basic understanding of stress and its negative impact, however this session gave us a deeper understanding and practical ways to manage it. I thrive in high energy sessions and love my Yang but I’ve learnt from my time at Gwinganna that in order to sustain this I need some more Yin in my life…some more cool blue zone feeling.
Our bodies are truly able to rest and repair when we are in the Parasympathetic System and a lot of us spend far too much time in the Sympathetic fight or flight mode. I knew that our reproductive system is one that shuts down in times of heightened stress but I never understood other impacts and how to go about changing it. There is nothing more annoying than being told to just stress less and you’ll just fall pregnant. We all know in this community it’s so much more than that. What I found Gwinganna gave was a multi faceted approach of integrative holistic wellness therapies combined with science and medical knowledge which together enhance our overall wellbeing.
I spent a heavenly afternoon in the award winning spa nestled amongst the palm trees and it felt like being in the heart of a rainforest. The Hawaiian massage from Taryn was the best massage I have ever had. I felt like I was floating and left still feeling like I was floating, with other guests commenting on my smile and how relaxed I looked. That evening we had the option to participate in a fire ceremony where we wrote down anything we wanted to leave behind and threw it into the fire – very cathartic. I felt like I was leaving all the old stale energy and negative unhelpful monkey mind thoughts that I no longer needed on the mountain and leaving so much lighter. I was refreshed and renewed, rested and repaired, ready to go home to my babies with a grateful heart for all of the abundance I have in my life.
Since being home I’ve kept up a daily meditation practice, noticing how much I enjoy the peace and stillness I feel this brings me. I’ve maintained the no caffeine and gluten as neither serve me well and whilst it’s hard, I feel better internally for it. I’m totally back on some sugar – I mean, we were told that red wine and dark chocolates are antioxidants in one of the education seminars, so I’ll take that! I will make an annual trip to Gwinganna by giving back to myself, filling my cup up, so I have more to give to others. There is more ease and flow since I’ve been back. Here’s to it continuing!
If you’re feeling stressed, frazzled, disconnected, pulled and anxious with the challenges of life, I highly recommend an investment in yourself with a trip to Gwinganna. It’s life changing. Quite simply it’s magic.