A Conscious Living Retreat By A Clean Living Novice
What comes to mind when you think of the words ‘clean living’? Bare feet, hessian clothing and an abundance of quinoa at every meal? Those were the images that instantly conjured up in my mind upon hearing those words – until very recently.
I recently escaped to the Conscious Living Retreat, set at the gorgeous West Lexham Manor in the Norfolk countryside, for a wellness getaway organised by Lucy Mills, founder of Your Ideal Fit and a globally recognised Pilates instructor, who emphasises the importance of mindfulness when striving towards your fitness goals.
Together with Chemistry of Wellness, VivoBareFoot, Yatay Yoga and Plant Academy, the event offers a world of clean, conscious and natural living – a world I had never been inspired to set foot in before.
Brand-new to the whole clean-living lifestyle too? Here’s what I discovered:
It’s okay to be out of your comfort zone
I have never taken a Pilates class in my life, so I had reservations about attending the retreat, with images of sitting at the back of the class in a pool of sweat while the other attendees stretched like gazelles, before sharing tips on how to get the perfect crunch in their homemade kale crisps. There were kale crisps (delicious), but my preconceptions about the Pilates classes were totally unfounded.
Taking a morning and evening class each day, Lucy expertly walked us through each position using relative examples that were easy to visualise, so you could get the correct form and movement. We worked the movements step by step, starting with simple movements and working our way towards the more demanding holds and, somehow, you’d get there without realising – the sign of a good teacher! Lucy was constantly reassuring and helpful, and I never once felt silly, awkward or inadequate. Lucy’s previous clients include celebrities, royalty, exercise newbies and people who are rehabilitating from injuries, and it is easy to see why they seek her out.
Plant-based food can actually be pretty great
While in recent years, I have become more mindful about eating healthily, I often don’t feel full after a meal without meat or fish. All meals at the retreat were gluten- and meat-free – something I initially resented – with some ingredients foraged by Danny Seeley from the local area. I was very pleasantly surprised; the Plant Academy’s Lauren Lovett smashed my expectations with her delicious menu.
Lauren initially began cooking as a way to address her mental health and its relationship with food, and has since founded Plant Academy in East London, where you can learn to cook scrumptious plant-based dished that not only taste great, but are great for your body and mind, too.
Dishes at the retreat included coffee roasted wild beets with Chimichurri and zucchini fillets with candied pecans. Breakfast was a unique spin on smoked salmon and cream cheese: confit carrot lox on cultured buckwheat pancakes, while desserts were equally as tempting – lemon posset with hot berries and toasted coconut ginger biscotti, anyone?
After this retreat, I most definitely want to incorporate some more plant-based dishes in my repertoire.
There’s so much to ‘conscious living’ that we don’t even consider
Listening to the panel at the retreat, I realised how many aspects of my life I do automatically, with little regard for the impact on my body or the environment around me.
On the second day of the retreat, we took part in a natural beauty workshop, run by Sjaniel who has been a make-up artist for over 20 years. She showcased various natural make-up brands, and as someone who has used the same foundation for the last 10 years, I learned a lot in regards to the environmental impact of certain ingredients, as well as its effect of my skin and hair.
Being mixed race, it was pretty obvious that there is a lot of progression still to be made in the natural beauty movement, especially in regards to creating make-up to suit a range of skin tones – something Sjaniel herself recognises. However, the products I tried left my skin feeling soft and light, which was great.
Sometimes you just need to switch off
West Lexham Manor sits in 21 acres of sprawling grounds, with barn houses, treehouses and a manmade lake. While I slept in a luxe barn room, boasting underfloor heating and exposed wooden beams, you can actually stay in a treehouse, where in some, trees literally grow through the room. Definitely the room for nostalgic types.
The owners want the manor to be a place of subtle education for living in an eco-friendly way. They have used a plethora of upcycled materials to build a lot of the fixtures and fittings – for example, the glampers’ toilet block was built using the old floor of the Norwich Theatre Royal – and the hotel is run on around 90% renewable energy; the sustainability message is all-encompassing through the food, atmosphere and physical attributes of the abode.
I thoroughly recommend the Conscious Living Retreat, whether you’re a novice like me, or well into your wellness – I was inspired and enlightened on this way of life, with many of my misconceptions changed within the short 24 hours.
Need a getaway? The retreat takes place between Friday 4th and Monday 7th October 2019, with a series of workshops, classes and country walks – find out more here.