Get in touch with your inner being at peaceful yoga retreat
IN the darkness, my thoughts are fluffy white clouds drifting past my mind's screen. I let them pass as I return my gaze inwards.
Hours before my head was a traffic jam, yet at this moment, all I am aware of is the flow of air through my nostrils.
I think I am starting to feel euphoric, but then realise I am thinking too much and my blissful state fades.
I am lying in a restored church under candlelight at the base of Mt Tibrogargan in the Glasshouse Mountains, surrounded by a small group of like-minded folk who have chosen to give back to themselves and enjoy a weekend of nurturing our bodies, minds and spirits through yoga.
Our guide and teacher is Natasha Patten, of Tash Yoga, and her soothing voice is helping us to let go and reconnect with our inner beauty, calm and strength.
It is Friday evening and this is our "welcome" session at the Glasshouse Mountains Ecolodge. Our meditation is followed by a solid hour of yoga.
Easy at first, then as Tash gauges our various abilities, she offers more challenging poses and sequences to those who wish to explore them.
Tash has been formally trained in classical and ashtanga yoga. However, she describes her style as a unique expression of all the different styles and teachers she's studied and been inspired by, with a particular passion for prana flow yoga.
"I've developed a style that powerfully combines breath and movement together with certain life coaching techniques that empower you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself," she says.
The physical practice of yoga becomes a big part of our weekend, but I soon learn that happiness is not achieved on a yoga mat alone. Tash enjoys challenging people physically, mentally and emotionally.
One memorable session involves reconnecting with our senses. We "meditate" on taste, smell, sound, touch and sight and what we discover is how powerful our senses are.
People are too busy these days trying to do so many things at once that we simply forget to appreciate them.
The most confronting exercise involves staring deep in to each other's eyes at close range for minutes at a time.
Many of us spend so much time using and communicating through technology that we don't genuinely connect with those around us anymore.
Each participant has no choice but to trust in their partner and open themselves up to scrutiny. For me this is a chance to glimpse each other's inner beauty.
Tash often reinforces the importance of finding what feels right for us and variety and contrast are offered in the form of two sessions presented by Lindy Storee Smith, from Bloomin Lotus Yoga in Currimundi. Lindy offers another flavour of yoga and meditation for us to sample.
Eating well as part of a complete approach to health and happiness is taken to a new level with Leanne Johnston, from Sustainably Nourishing. Our personal chef, or "nourisher" delights us with an amazing menu of whole, organic vegetarian food.
If all this bliss is too much for us we have the option of a Zen Thai Shiatsu massage, courtesy of the fourth wonderful woman making up the team over the weekend: Emily Jamieson.
Every aspect of our retreat is aimed at finding peace and happiness, not just over the course of the weekend but also in our everyday lives.
"Yoga is not just about fitness, it's about overall wellness - feeling good on the inside and out. It's not about looking hot in cute, tight yoga pants but being miserable on the inside," Tash explains.
Tash teaches us to find what makes us happy and then align with this happiness in the present moment. The end result is that we become better people.
"Yoga is a fabulous tool for gaining self-knowledge and therefore having a deep understanding of and connection to your authentic self," Tash says.
"From that self-understanding, we learn through disciplined practice to cultivate the qualities like love, joy, non-judgment, kindness, compassion, respect, forgiveness, that support us in our personal journey and make us a better person."
Natasha is planning her next retreat for March 2013.
What's Included in a Revive Retreat with Natasha Patten
Two nights accommodation in an award-winning eco-tourist lodge
Dinner Friday and Saturday night, breakfast Saturday and Sunday, lunch Saturday plus teas and snacks
Two teachers, four yoga classes, two workshops, guided meditation and yoga nidra practice.
Zen Thai Shiatsu massage is an optional extra
Cost is $420-$495 depending on rooms