A RETREAT TO REMEMBER
Of all the fine weekend getaway destinations in the Western Cape, Swellendam had never quite made it to the top of my list. That is, until I attended a Yoga Kitchen Retreat at the town’s renowned five-star The Hideaway Guest House.
As the third oldest town in South Africa, Swellendam exudes a quaint and timeless charm. A national monument and one of the oldest houses in Swellendam, The Hideaway is a seamless extension of this old-world elegance.
While I was taken by the beautifully appointed rooms, warm hospitality and refreshing attention to detail, it was the garden that really did it for me. Think arches covered in roses upon roses, an orchard of fruit trees, a softly burbling stream and – a personal highlight – a crystal clear eco-pool filled with mountain spring water naturally warmed by the sun.
The setting couldn’t have been more perfect for what was to be my most mindful, gentle and, dare I say, compassionate immersion into the practice of yoga.
I was enchanted by our instructor and retreat facilitator – Marlien Wright – from the moment I laid eyes on her. Her immensely warm and authentic nature is as immediately apparent as her Disney Princess features, and I couldn’t get enough of her.
The author of the informative, accessible and well-balanced lifestyle and recipe book The Yoga Kitchen, Marlien has a wealth of information to share on using yoga and nutrition to reclaim the inherent power of our bodies and minds to self-heal. She believes that “cooking from scratch is a simple, yet profound, task that makes us feel needed and connected to one another.” By the end of the two glorious days of enjoying her hearty wholefood offerings, we could really feel this sentiment at the core of our happy hearts and blissful bellies.
The food was the perfect combination of nourishing and cleansing – something I hadn’t encountered on many retreats before. We were served everything from green smoothies, grain-free granola and detox salads to decadent dhals, comforting curries and raw cashew butter brownies (a real crowd-pleaser).
We learnt from Marlien’s very down-to-earth nutritional workshop that healthy eating needn’t be restrictive or bland, that the fun we have in making and eating our food should never be underestimated, and that we each have a deep inner knowing of what’s really right for our own unique body and soul.
As for the yoga – Francesca Annenberg, a fellow retreatant and the author of the popular vegan blog Francesca Eats Roses - summed it up so well with the idea that we were all there to take a break from anything remotely stress-inducing and simply “find savasana in Swellendam.”
We flowed through gentle yin sequences in the morning, and worked up our dinner appetites with fun vinyasa flows in the evenings. The approach was always gentle, and always unique to each participant’s individual needs. I felt a bit like a yoga hedonist, taking great pleasure in the break from my usual fairly rigorous routine to enjoy the freedom of stretching, strengthening and squeezing my body in ways that it most desired at any given moment.
Needless to say, between the morning and evening yoga sessions overlooking the garden and valley beyond, the generous grain-free breakfast spreads on the poolside porch, and the wholesome superfood suppers, I was rendered surrendered to all the goodness.
Not to mention the hours spent sunbathing and splashing around in the eco-pool, luxuriating in the onsite sauna and jacuzzi, or simply annoying the (rather regal) Hideaway cat in my attempts to get as close as possible to the same beautiful birds he was no doubt envisioning for his own superfood supper.
I couldn’t recommend the experience more highly. With all the dates below to choose from, there’s really no excuse not to go ahead and retreat yourself:
12 – 14 May 2017
26 – 28 May 2017
9 – 11 June 2017
14 – 16 July 2017
11 – 13 August 2017
8 – 10 September 2017
29 September – 1 October 2017
20 – 22 October 2017
10 – 12 November 2017
1 – 3 December 2017
Visit The Yoga Kitchen for further information, inspiration and bookings.
Tip: If you're not lucky enough to be based in the Western Cape, check out some of these other retreats in South Africa.