My First Yoga Retreat Experience

Going on my first yoga retreat was a major turning point in my life.

Last summer I decided to take the plunge and sign-up for a serious and much-needed yoga retreat. My body and mind were mush and I desperately needed help. Months later, I’m still practicing yoga and feeling the effects of a lifestyle devoted to the mind, body, and soul. I took a long-time to post this because I wanted to make sure the retreat was beneficial it and indeed it was.

Le Château du Montgoger

There’s no other glorious place I can think of to practice yoga than in a historical French Chateau. The Loire Valles is home to more than 300 châteaux where nobility lived and vacationed. As I entered the sprawling grounds of Le Château du Montgoger, I put on my princess demeanor and opened up to be transformed.

Chateau du Montgoger, France
Chateau du Montgoger, France

Le Yoga

I recently returned to yoga after a long absence and prepped my body as best I could by practicing at home. Of course, there’s nothing like a good yoga teacher to provide the best adjustments as well feedback on your performance and our yoga teacher Emily did just that. I won’t kid you, it was tough practicing yoga fours hours a day, but you need to set your intention and do the best you can (or hang out in Child’s Pose). LOL

Yoga Room at Chateau de Montgoger
Yoga Room at Chateau de Montgoger

Aside from prepping the body for daily yoga practices, a good yoga retreat packing list helps since I didn’t have time or the means to travel into town to purchase forgotten items leaving time to relax and reflect.

Le Detox/Le Food

Frankly, I was terrified about the detox and the effects it would have on my body as well as the taste of the food. The word detox alone conjured up grotesque images and made me turn up my nose, but boy was I wrong.

Ayurvedic Detox Meal at Chateau de Montgoger,
Ayurvedic Detox Meal at Chateau de Montgoger

The team at Le Château du Montgoger poured so much love into the amazing, healthy, and delicious sattvic meals. Eliminating dairy, meat, fish, salt, and sugar was actually quite easy. Most of the fruits and vegetables were harvested from the organic garden in back of the chateau so they were as fresh as could be.

Ayurvedic Drink at Yoga/Detox Retreat
Ayurvedic Drink at Yoga/Detox Retreat

During our daily brunch and evening meals, one-by-one, the vegan dishes were presented accompanied with an explanation of the health benefits.  For those with allergies or dislikes, alternative dishes were made and during the week-long retreat I did not once go hungry. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and taste of the food and kept saying “Ce repas est delicieux!” (The food is delicious!).

Le Meditation

The health benefits of mediation are numerous. Whether you wish to help reduce stress, sleep better, feel happier, or be more at peace, a regular devoted practice is necessary. I started meditating more often at home, but am still thrown off by sounds. Whether it be a neighbor mowing lawns, a bus passing by, or a dog barking, I haven’t been able properly enjoy meditating.

Yoga Retreat Bliss
I’m still in yoga retreat bliss.

During the retreat not only were we guided on how to meditate, but given the tools in the comfort of a peaceful surrounding. Now that I’m over the first hurdle, I find it a little easier to meditate and be more present. Just like yoga, it’s a practice that keeps getting better with time.

Le Downtime

The chateau is located about one hour outside of Tours, France and entering the grounds you are immersed in a tranquil, serene setting. Even at a retreat you need a little downtime and after two yoga sessions daily, I was able to catch up on my much-needed sleep.

The daily meditation and walks through the forest certainly helped me to relax and so did the walks among the hectares of luscious green forests. There  were bikes available for rides into the nearby villages and hammocks to relax  under a large oak tree awaiting the next Yogi nor far from where Joan of Arc slept.

Grounds of Chateau de Montgoger, France where Joan of Arc slept
Grounds of Chateau de Montgoger, France where Joan of Arc slept.

The only sound was the occasional bark from the dog, a few pigeons, and the sound of lat summer leaves gently blowing in the breeze. To break up the routine, we also had some play dates at a nearby river and a visit to an organic cheese farm. It’s not sattvic but I couldn’t insult the cheese maker as she place a sample fromage in my hand.

Le Experience

Without getting into the details, before the retreat I was in a bad place and in much need of a sleep and TLC. So, how was my first yoga retreat experience? All I can is, “Ahh, pure bliss”. I can’t believe it’s already been seven months since the retreat and I’m still feeling fantastic.

I’ve returned home to a familiar place with a renewed spirit. And guess what? I decided to continue eliminating meat and fish from my cuisine but cheat a little and eat cheese every so often. I’m a cheese head from Wisconsin, so don’t comment. 🙂

The Healthy Benefits of Oil Pulling

My new morning ritual got a little fresher with oil pulling, another one of nature’s way to detox the body.

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling also known as “kavala” or “gundusha,” is an ancient Ayurvedic therapy dating back over 3,000 years and believed to promote oral health and detoxification. The healthy benefits of oil pulling using cold-pressed oils such as coconut oil, sesame, or even olive oil has been reported to “pull” away harmful toxins from the mouth, teeth, gums, and throat. Since oral health reportedly correlates to the health of your body, oil pulling is a safe and effective way to stay healthy.

Oil pulling is a traditional Ayurvedic method of dental care.
Oil pulling is a traditional Ayurvedic method of dental care.

Why I Practice Oil Pulling

The human mouth is home to bacteria, fungi, viruses and other toxins, so the healthy benefits of oil pulling will remove the chance of toxins spreading throughout my body.

Also, studies show good oral hygiene and oral health can improve one’s overall health. With oil pulling there is a reduced risk of disease, reductions in stress, fresher (kissable) breath, and whiter teeth.

After a few weeks of oil pulling, I’ve noticed an increased energy and clarity, another great reason to spend a bit of time swishing oil between my teeth a few minutes a day.

Which Oil is Better?

It’s a matter of taste and choice which oil you prefer. I began oil pulling using organic cold-pressed sesame oil at my first yoga retreat. The scent and taste are palatable and I had a bottle already at home to continue the practice. Others I know use extra virgin cold pressed coconut, sunflower or olive oil.

Sesame oil does have a high concentration of omega-6 oils. Therefore, coconut oil may be a better choice for you. Also, coconut oil has anti-fungal properties to kill off bad bacteria in the mouth. Keep in mind, you’ll need to let the thick coconut oil warm in the mouth for about 10 seconds before the consistency becomes runny. For some the texture of coconut oil is a turn off. Others find the taste of coconut oil more pleasing than sesame or olive oil. Personally, I’ll save the olive oil for cooking.

Depending on what you have in the cupboard (make sure it’s still fresh and not rancid), start with the oil of your choice and switch to another one until you find the best one for you.

How to Oil Pull

  1. In the morning, gently brush your tongue using a tongue scraper.
  2. On an empty stomach, take one tablespoon of organic cold-pressed oil (coconut, sesame, or olive) in the mouth but do not swallow it.
  3. Pull the oil slowly between your teeth sucking and pulling it around your mouth for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. The oil will become whiter after around 10 minutes indicating it has been pulled long enough.
  5. Spit the oil out of your mouth (in the toilet or sink) and thoroughly rinse your mouth out with water.
  6. Brush your teeth as normal.
  7. Clean the sink properly to remove the harmful toxins.

Oil pulling does not replace regular dental checkups, flossing, or brushing, so if you have questions consult your doctor or dentist to find out if the oil pulling is for you.