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, Emilyoga.com
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 Emilyoga.com Yoga/Detox Retreat
Ayurvedic Drink at Emilyoga.com 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.




What to Pack for a Yoga Retreat

Things to Pack for a Yoga Retreat? Here are some essentials you’ll need to bring.

I decided to treat myself to a yoga meditation vacation near Tours, France and it’s time to start thinking about what to pack for a yoga retreat. I still have a bit of time before the retreat, but really want to be prepared for my solo getaway.

During this retreat held at Chateau de Montgoger Yoga in St. Epain, I’ll spend 7 glorious days practicing yoga, meditation, and eating delicious vegetarian foods. I’m traveling by train and will need to travel as light as possible. I don’t want to over pack, yet I don’t want to under pack. Oh my, such dilemmas for an event that should be calming.

What to Pack for a Yoga Retreat
Packing as light as possible for a yoga retreat isn’t so easy.

What to Expect

Wish I could tell you, but I have no idea. This is my first yoga retreat. In fact, my first retreat ever outside of Girl Scout camp. I re-started my practice after many years but feel it’s the right time to treat myself with more love.

The daily schedule for the retreat includes silent walks in the forest, yoga, meditation, and the practice of breathing techniques. I’m using it as a guide to decide what to pack for a yoga retreat. If I don’t get it right, I’ll update the post after the retreat.

Yoga Gear

  • Yoga mat You’ll need to bring your mat, but some yoga retreats such as Chateau de Montgoger Yoga, supply the mats, blocks, belts, and other accessories.
  • Yoga hand towel Great for when I want to wipe away the sweat and dry my hands. Also keeps me from slipping on the mat during extreme practices.
  • Yoga mat towel (My optional tip) Highly recommended if you don’t have time to clean and dry your mat between practices or if you’ll be borrowing a yoga mat.
  • BPA-free water bottle

Yoga Clothing

I don’t have a lot of yoga clothes. I still use some of my general exercise clothes that work fine for now. I wish I had more pretty yoga clothes, but the prices are pretty outrageous. Therefore, I will pack for a yoga retreat by bringing the following:

  • 3 pairs of yoga pants. One mid-calf, one wide leg, and one wide cuff that can double as dressy pants.
  • 2 sports bras If one is soiled I can quickly wash and dry it and have the second as a spare.
  • 2 tank tops Take at least one top that isn’t super sporty, so it can be worn alone or with a shirt.
  • 2 leggings Who doesn’t love leggings? They’re perfect for relaxing and meditating.
  • 1 pair of walking pants Even if it’s hot, during a forest walks one way to protect yourself from mosquitoes is to simply cover your legs. They can be washed and dried in a jiffy.
  • 1 long sleeve shirt Also for the silent walks in the forest, a camping shirt with roll-up sleeves is very versatile.
  • 2 pairs undies per day Sounds crazy, but hand washing undies and finding a line to dry them in a shared room/bathroom ain’t my thing.
  • 3 pairs socks Shoes aren’t normally allowed in yoga centers, so I prefer to cover my toes. Also, I’ll need them for the sport shoes.
  • Comfortable walking shoes An absolute must for any trip. Invest in a good lightweight pair of sport shoes. Your feet will love you for it.
  • Flip-flops Well, I’m not a flip-slops, I mean flip-flop fan, but since we’re sharing a bathroom, I might just make an exception just this once.
  • 1 light sweatshirt or pullover For walks in the forest, during meditation practice, or evenings under the moon light.
  • 1 dress Throwing in a 100% cotton dress that I’ll probably wear after the day’s session around dinner.
  • Headbands Keeps my Afro-Caribbean hair out of my face and allows me to change my look. Uh oh! another diva statement.
  • Sarong A sarong is so multi-functional and can double as a dress, skirt, shawl, meditation blanket, and much more.
  • Salwar kameez (Another optional tip) I picked up a few the beautiful Salwar kameez (3-piece tunic, pant, and shawl) outfits while visiting India. Not only are they lovely, but practical too. The loose fitting pants are cool, the tunic top can be worn with leggings, and the scarf makes a great wrap. All pieces worn together are perfect for dress-up evening.
  • Travel wallet The bare essentials such as cash, credit card, insurance card, ID. Leave all the other stuff at home.
  • Light/Foldable Rain Jacket

Tech Gear, Never Leave Home Without It

I should shut off during this retreat, but let’s be realistic, there are some essentials one must pack for a yoga retreat ad they include the tech gear we have difficulty living without. I will indeed stay in touch with my husband, family, and friends, so will pack the following techie travel essentials yet keep them out of the practice area:

Cosmetics/Toiletries

When you pack for a a yoga retreat trip, any trip, keep it light. The essential cosmetics and toiletries are scale breakers and weigh one down when traveling.

  • Shampoo One that doubles for hair and body.
  • Hair Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Facial wipes They double as a cleanser, toner, and light moisturizer.
  • Makeup I’m a bit of a diva, but do need to protect my skin from the sun’s harmful rays. I like the Kiehl’s BB cream tinted moisturizer (SPF 50 PA +++ UV protection). It has everything I need.
  • Mosquito bracelet I just purchased a bio-type bracelet that contains no DEET (That stuff is deadly 🙁 ). The bracelet sachet fits on my wrist or ankle and is filled with an enhanced citronella gel. Never tried it before, but hoping it will repel the mosquitoes, gnats, and other creep-crawly insects.
  • Medications and first aid travel kit I use homeopathic remedies and have a small, lightweight kit with the essential remedies. If you need to take medications, especially traveling to Europe, bring the original bottle in case you need a refill.

Anything Else I Need to Pack for a Yoga Retreat?

Yes, most importantly, an open mind.

Namaste 🙂