Many of us began the year with ambitious resolutions to improve our health and fitness. However, fast forward a few months and with that New Year enthusiasm feeling like a distant memory, it’s all too easy for those healthy intentions to fall by the wayside. Which is where a wellness-themed minibreak comes in. Taking a few days out to nurture yourself can be a great way to recharge your batteries, refocus your goals and set yourself on a healthy path for the rest of the year.
I recently checked into the Billabong Retreat for my own holistic wellness reboot. Situated just 45 minutes from Sydney and surrounded by unspoilt bushland, this tranquil eco-retreat set on the banks of a pristine billabong feels a world away from the frenetic pace of the city.
A stay at Billabong Retreat is all about nourishing your mind and body and creating healthy new habits. A daily schedule of optional activities and communal tables at meal times means it’s easy to make new like-minded friends if you attend the retreat solo like I did. For those new to the world of health retreats, they are kind of like a stylish, grown-up school camp for stressed-out professionals. Just imagine swapping typical school camp activities for yoga classes, guided meditation sessions and mindfulness seminars and substituting stodgy cafeteria food with an array of delicious vegetarian spa cuisine featuring fresh organic produce and you’ll get the idea.
Billabong advocates abstaining from digital devices as much as possible during your stay. The idea being that disconnecting from your phones and laptops encourages you to reconnect with nature and yourself. There is a beautiful day spa if you want to indulge in some extra pampering and the retreat also caters to all minibreak budgets, with accommodation options ranging from shared dormitory style arrangements right through to luxe cabins with amazing views of the bush and billabong below.
I was lucky enough to stay in one of these clifftop cabins. While I could wax lyrical about the space and stylish interiors of my cabin, the accommodation highlight for me was undoubtedly the claw foot bathtub on my balcony. Although there was a luxuriously appointed bathroom (complete with bathtub) inside my cabin, I found myself gravitating towards the balcony bath every day. As someone who gets inspired by nature but who also loves to experience a little luxury while on holidays, it was my idea of heaven. Unwinding in the bath after a yoga class, feeling fully immersed in the sights and sounds of the bush, was one of the most uniquely tranquil experiences of my life. Although I must admit that I did keep my bikini on while getting in and out of the tub, just on the small chance someone walked by down below and saw more than they bargained for!
Continuing with the water theme, swimming in the retreat’s namesake billabong was also an incredible experience. Having only ever swum in a pool or the ocean before, the muddy sensation underfoot did feel a little disconcerting as I took my first tentative steps into the billabong’s murky depths. However, as soon as I swam a few strokes and ventured out into the middle of the water it was utterly magical. For me, floating on your back in a billabong looking up at the sky while surrounded by waterlilies and towering gum trees beats a dip in a resort-style pool any day. However, the retreat does have one of those too in case billabong swimming isn’t your style.
I was also impressed by the way the meditation and yoga classes successfully catered to all levels, from total newbies to those with an existing yoga and meditation practice like myself. I also signed up for an additional private session with one of the yoga teachers. This one-on-one time was a great way to refine my yoga technique. The teacher also tailored a yoga sequence just for me, which I’ve since incorporated into my regular yoga practice as well.
Another stand out activity for me was a mindfulness eating exercise. After a talk about mindfulness, we were all given a small bowl filled with trail mix and guided through a meditation-like approach to eating that created a heightened awareness of the taste and texture of each nut and piece of dried fruit. I was honestly amazed by how complex the flavours a handful of trail mix could become, simply by slowing down and savouring each bite. While it wouldn’t be realistic to eat quite so slowly every day (your dinner would probably be cold before you’d finished your plate!) I’ve definitely tried to be more present during mealtimes and really relish the experience of eating since the retreat. In fact, after my stay at Billabong I feel reinvigorated and reinspired to prioritise my health and bring more wellness rituals into my daily life. Oh and I’ve also added my own outdoor bath to my dream home wish list!
For more information on Billabong Retreat visit www.billabongretreat.com.au
The Carousel would like to thank Sarah Ranawake for writing this story. Sarah was a guest of the Billabong Retreat.