Flavia Munn is a London-based health journalist and yoga teacher, and friend of travellivelearn.com. Last year she sought affordable Yoga retreats and found her self on an adventure to Turkey.
If you’ve ever thought of combining international travel with the chance to further your creative or spiritual interests, then read on for Flavia’s best tips and details on why you need to do a yoga retreat in Turkey…
When did you travel?
During May (2015) for seven days.
Affordable Yoga retreats: why Turkey?
Life had been really busy and I knew from past experience that this kind of break away was exactly what I needed to reset and relax.
Most people probably decide on a holiday based on destinations they want to visit, but with yoga retreats I think it’s fair to say many students base the destination decision on what kind of yoga they want to practice and with which teacher.
I booked my trip through Free Spirit Yoga because I had heard many good things about the company. I made my final decision based on the description of the teachers who I carefully cyber-stalked (‘researched’) beforehand.
The teachers were Zoe Martin and Gary Ward, of Yoga Leicester who are inspired by the teachings of the legendary T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V Desikachar.
They also brought their very sweet baby daughter along, who entertained everyone at mealtimes! I liked the description of Gary and Zoe’s yoga on the Free Spirit and their own website, particularly their emphasis on yoga’s therapeutic qualities and working with movement, breath and sound. I thought they looked like kind, friendly people – a warm smile can be a deal-clincher when deciding who to spend a retreat with, particularly when travelling alone. I also liked the idea of having two different but complementary teachers.
Where exactly did you go?
The retreat was based at Grenadine in Dalyan, about an hour or so drive from Dalaman airport (about a four-hour flight from London Stansted).
Grenadine Lodge is situated on the outskirts of the small town of Dalyan and within a conservation area. Photos simply do not do the location justice. It really is peace and paradise on earth! Imagine waking up to the sounds of nature (OK, sometimes the birds were interspersed with a dog barking but not an aggressive one). Then you wander across the dewy lawn to one of the two yoga shalas (or huts) for an hour and a half’s yoga – a more energetic style taught by Gary in the morning – before a traditional sweet and savoury Turkish breakfast, eaten beside the pool which is the focal point of the garden.
Next up is the highly stressful decision of what to do with the rest of the day – a lounge beside the pool ordering fresh salads, ice creams and juices; or a 15 to 20 minute walk into town to the shops and market and where you can catch a river boat to the Iztutu turtle beach. Or you could have a hamman, a traditional Turkish bath, which includes a good scrubbing.
For those who have never been to a yoga retreat before, what’s on the itinerary?
How much yoga you do on a retreat is entirely up to you. Don’t feel you can’t come as you don’t think you’ll be able to do two classes a day (which can mean three or four hours of yoga a day).
The yoga is at both ends of the day – before breakfast and before dinner. Gary’s morning class was energetic while Zoe’s evening one was soulful. They both were on the same theme of that day, based on the chakra system. The body’s seven chakras – or energy centres – is a common and effective theme for retreats.
How you spend the time in between is entirely up to you. There are many options for group trips, be that to a hamman bath or the twelve island boat trip, or a massage or other holistic treatments in the solitude of Grenadine Lodge (all very reasonably priced).
The location was divine and the entire group was friendly and funny. In fact, I spent many times laughing to tears! More seriously, it was an incredibly supportive environment and while Zoe and Gary were also on hand for anyone who needed to talk, the amazing staff at Grenadine would literally sort out anything you desired.
The yoga, of course too. It was a different approach for me and I loved it.
The twelve islands boat trip was stunning. We had a boat to ourselves and we could jump into the sea for a cooling swim, and had delicious barbecued food on board.
One big lesson you came away with from this particular trip?
Suspend your judgement. I was a bit uncertain when I saw most of the group were of quite different ages to me and many knew each other from Leicester, but I put that aside and I was right to do so as they were so much fun and incredibly welcoming, warm people.
How many retreats have you been on?
This was my third yoga retreat. Previously, I’ve booked through Yogatraveller and have been to Morocco and Gozo (Malta) with them. I chose the first trip to Gozo based on their website and emails I’d exchanged with Michael Moroney, who runs the business with his yoga teacher wife Michelle. He was very helpful and put at rest any apprehension about travelling alone.
What tips do you have for people who are interested in seeking creative, yoga and/or meditative experiences around the world?
Do your research and ask questions – this gives you an idea of the kind of people who run the retreat and whether it’s for you or not.
I’ve recently booked two retreat centres in India based solely on Tripadvisor and other review sites, and my email exchanges with the teachers who run them.
As a yoga teacher, why do you think retreats are a good idea?
They give you a chance to try something different. I never go on a retreat with a teacher I already practice at home with – no offence to them but I like to use retreats to try a different teacher and approach.
Retreats give you the time and space to explore your practice, learn and develop in a supportive, relaxed environment. I’d attend a retreat three or four times a year if I could (work and finances permitting).
Top three essential items required for a trip to Turkey?
Mosquito repellent, sun cream and a good camera.
What’s next on the travel bucket-list for Flavia Munn?
At the end of March I’m off to southern India for six weeks. I’m very excited about this! It will include two yoga retreats – one in Goa and another in Kerala. In between these, I’ll be cycling around the region including stopping a couple of days in Mysore, which is the yoga capital of India and the home of ashtanga which was taught by Sri Pattabhis Jois until his death in 2009.
I’ll be writing about my experiences on my websiteflaviamunn.com – do check it out and let me know what you think!
Your advice for a first-timer who is keen to try a yoga retreat but tentative because they feel inexperienced?
Just go for it! You won’t regret it. You will only wish you had done it sooner. I’ve only ever met lovely, friendly people on retreats and had truly amazing life-changing experiences.
Would you recommend this experience in Turkey, and why?
Definitely! The yoga was suitable for all – those with no experience, plenty still for the more experienced and a safe and supportive environment for people looking personal development or healing.
Usually I’d get onto this whole goal setting and personal development year-in-review exercise much earlier, but the last part of 2015 has been fraught with distraction and even a little bit of devastation.
It’s New Year’s Eve, however, and so this morning I pulled from my bag a printed, crumpled sheet that I’ve been carrying around for a few weeks – Suzy Greaves’ annual review questions. Suzy is a life coach and editor of one of my very favourite magazines, Psychologies UK, and she’s full of wisdom. Join her mailing list for more at suzygreaves.com.
Rather than emphasising that we choose one big goal and set to work on ‘achieving it’, Suzy reminds me that reflection on what’s gone by, and intentions for the new year are much more important than setting major milestones that we may or may not reach (that’s not to say we shouldn’t strive for our best). I do think this is a healthier exercise, and it’s one that can be done at any time of the year, not just December/January.
On my personal reflection I realised that although this past year has had some major challenges, it’s come with lots of laughs too. Both Cooper and I had the absolute pleasure of spending time with our parents who visited the UK all the way from Australia – that’s very special, and we enjoyed many times where we laughed uncontrollably over shared stories, jokes and London survival strategies (stay to the right on the escalator!!).
And on the family front, we’ve got an aunty, uncle and cousin in Queensland who we offer eternal gratitude to, for loving and caring for our dog (and fur baby) in his golden years. While the end to that story is too difficult to write about still, I’ve been shown tremendous examples of kindness that the only way to repay is to pay forward, and I will.
We’ve got gorgeous family of all generations; true friends where distance and time do not matter; and an abundance of good things in all directions. Gratitude gratitude gratitude. If you care to consider it…
I had a good think about situations that got me down at work and in life, but then realised some proud moments where I made a move to change these for the better. Through my own practices of goal setting and personal development, I know now that I’m happiest and at my best when I can bring light to those who need it most; when I can be creative and travel and inspire the one person who really wants and needs to hear what I have to say at any given point in time. I’m proud that I have encouraged people to get out of their comfort zones and travel. Some have, or are on the way for a visit soon!
The TBEX gathering was a highlight, not only for its ongoing creative, entrepreneurial and fun energy, but because I reconnected with a person I’d previously worked with who will be a life-long friend now. Plus, there’s always Spain – the backdrop of our favourite conference this year. Yep, I could live there one day.
Back to reflection though, an important aspect of my year has been attending other goal setting and personal development workshops and seminars, like Hayhouse’s I Can Do It, as well as Rebecca Campbell and Robyn Silverton’s wonderful Spirited Urban Retreat. I strongly recommend you take advantage of any type of workshop or conference you can get your hands on in 2016 because aside from any helpful, practical tools you can take away from the sessions at such events, it’s the positive energy you’re immersed in that really makes the difference. Spending dedicated time with like-minded people who want to implement positive change (despite wide and varied obstacles) does make a significant impact, and truly worked for me this year. My advice is don’t underestimate it – go with an open mind, ready heart and choose to let a day like this make a difference. I can’t wait to attend Gabrielle Bernstein‘s upcoming workshop in London!
While I’m reasonably good at identifying larger situations in career or life that I need to make changes on, I’m not so good at managing the smaller aspects that can get me down – that is, I consistently fret about not having enough time – for work, friends, phone calls home, blogging, upkeep of this site, social media, networking, travel, downtime… the list goes on. But, my reflection this morning has reminded me that I know that when I intend for there to be time, there is. Daily meditation and being consistent at taking twenty minutes a day to write, going to the gym with Cooper; and weekly yoga and creative outlets are my lifestyle aims for the coming year.
Suzy asks, ‘what is the moral of your story in 2015?’ I think one for me is that just when I think I’ve got it all in hand, something shows up to challenge my understanding and comfortable space. I realise now that life isn’t about getting to a particular point (financial, career, family or otherwise); it’s about the journey, lessons learned, adapting and thriving. I think in the end, it’s about an unapologetic pursuit of happiness and freedom to be yourself (that will obviously mean different things for different people).
One thing I know for sure is that this past year I’ve helped people, and I like it! It might only have been a handful of souls, and in the only ways I know (chatting, writing), but I’ve made a difference, just like others have done for me. One small step at a time – but this year I learned that sending that energy into the world is a far stronger force than pushing out fear (or upset, worry, obsession over all the bad things that are going on). I believe this. I liken it to the adorable film Monsters, Inc when they realised that rather than scaring kids and gathering energy from fear, they did far better by generating the vast reservoir of energy garnered from happiness, laughter and love.
I think if I can look back on the moments of a year or period in time and recognise how I was challenged, how I dealt with it, what I learned and what I could have done differently (or will do in the future), then that’s an achievement for me. That’s success, and living. What do you think?
Goal setting and personal development – in a word
My mate, Madonna Williams, shared a wonderful post this morning, encouraging her friends and yoga clients to consider the one word that they might use to describe the year gone by, and the one they will use for the year ahead.
I’ve chosen ‘allowance‘ for the past year because it represents what I kept coming back to during scary, difficult, upsetting and even exciting times brimming with opportunity. Letting go and allowing – a very big thing for me. Next year I’ll go with ‘abundance‘, because I want to attract more creative endeavours, travel, adventure and even a few more dollars into my world. And dogs, lots and lots of dogs.
What are your descriptive words, or your stories from the year gone by? Drop me a line in the comments.
And if you would like to take a look at Suzy Greaves’ questions, she’s kindly linked them here.
I’ve been practicing meditation for around six months now and openly admit to it changing my life. Not only am I able to better manage stress and outlook on negatives that come my way, but I’m better able to manifest and ponder upon the good things and what I want more of.
You may have noticed too, all of a sudden, meditation, and in particular, ‘mindfulness’, seems to be all around, and for good reason. Many busy and (potentially) stressed executives, business owners and entrepreneurs are (re)discovering meditation in order to achieve balance; and in finding balance they/we can better manage all our endeavours – personal and professional.
But, this post isn’t actually about meditation as such – you can find plenty on the topic all over the internet (and in particular The Huffington Post which is in strong favour of all of this right now). I’ve been utilising a popular APP, Insight Timer, throughout my practice recently. In its primary form it is a ‘timer’ for meditation practice – set the length of time you wish to meditate for and the timer will mark intervals and/or let you know when your time is up. Secondly however, it’s becoming a type of social media where like-minded users can connect. While it’s still quite young (and a little ‘buggy’) and improvements are on the cards no doubt, there are thousands and thousands of people ‘on’ Insight Timer now, and you can see who in the world you’re meditating with simultaneously. Pretty cool, yes? More and more ‘groups’ are being added too, so that either ‘virtual’ or ‘real’ meet-ups are plausible. I’ve just linked in with a UK & Ireland group that I’ll keep an eye on – who knows, I might even be able to link up when I’m over there later in the year.
The other nice thing about this interaction and the types of people using the APP, is the daily dose of inspiration or assistance you can gain from insightful types all over the world. I wanted to share some advice I found useful today – and it wasn’t even in response to any issues I had voiced. In fact, the response was a to a young man who has been through a trauma and is finding it difficult to get back into a positive state of mind. Several of the community jumped in with advice for him, and one person made mention of how often thoughts, or a negative experience, plays over and over in the mind. It’s almost like we’re trying to achieve a different outcome but instead, it’s just torture. Instead of resisting it though, she advised letting it play out, but to make a concious effort to conclude the thought process/pattern with an appreciative or positive thought about the incident – what outcomes are worth being grateful for; what lessons were learned? Evidently this helps with restoring ‘peace of mind’ while letting all sides of the brain have a say, so to speak.
I personally think the tactic is worth trialling; what do you think? If you have any insight, views or opinions on this, please let me know. And if you’re on Insight Timer too, drop me a line on Facebook – I reckon this social network is only in its infancy. Travel Live Learn on Facebook or tweet @sarahblinco
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