Try this: Samsara Retreat & Yoga
Looking for a way to recharge your boots this January? Well let us help you out and introduce you to Samsara - a magical and peaceful retreat, located deep in the Kentish countryside, built with your relaxation at the forefront of their minds.
As the cliché goes, I was bloated and pooped post the Christmas blow-out and ready for some well-needed me-time, so it didn’t take too much persuading to lure me to Samsara, a countryside sanctuary in the heart of Kent for its ‘Renew You’ retreat.
For those not in the know Samsara is the home of couple; Lori, a talented gardener and Dipu, (who studied Yoga in a Gurukula system and developed a strong foundation deeply rooted in a Vedic tradition – basically he’s super qualified), and they opened their doors last Summer.
The focus of the Renew You retreat is on beating those January blues and taking time out to refresh, refocus and re-energize yourself with the sessions running from Wednesday to Friday every week throughout the whole of January.
Samsara, which is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘the wandering journey, from birth to death, to re-birth’ is located just outside the quaint village of East Peckham, and only 2.5 miles from Hadlow so benefits from feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere yet with good local facilities within easy distance.
Not only is the setting idyllic – think single-track country lanes, village cricket, a 10th Century village church and 16th Century pub and micro-brewery, but there is also lots of space (stylishly done) to unwind and nourish your mind, body and soul which is sometimes just the tonic in life. Even if it doesn’t have gin in it…
This is a down-to-earth, rustic retreat – with the focus on being welcoming and nurturing, rather than luxurious and glossy. The spiritual feel and simplicity of the setting is part of its charm.
The only taxing part was what day to choose to take part in. Since the Christmas blow-out involved a constant hand digging around in the Celebrations tin, I chose the Nutrition day on the Wednesday but was equally curious about experiencing Forest Bathing (more of that later) on the Thursday or a high energy bootcamp style class on the Friday.
The day started with a cup of herbal tea (of course) and chat with fellow retreat-goers, Lori and Chloe Myers, who was heading up the nutrition side of things that day. Chloe turned to whole food nutrition to heal her body following a 20-year battle with severe acne and she now runs Salad in a Jar events to help people find simple ways to stay healthy and have fun in the process. Yes. Please.
Next was our first Ashtanga yoga session with Dipu and you can practice yoga outdoors at Samsara on a purpose-built deck or its own indoor yoga studio, set in a traditional oast house, which is where we were based on this chilly January morning which was equally heavenly.
I’m not a yoga expert nor known for my ability to touch my toes but enjoyed Dipu’s class as he had a playful yet encouraging manner, and it culminated in a meditative moment on the floor with lavender bags and cosy rugs which always gets my vote during exercise.
Back at the house (which is a charming 15th century cottage by the way that has been lovingly restored by Lori and Dipu) it was time to chat nutrition with Chloe and learn some essential health-hacks to help you kill off some bad habits, learning some startling facts (did you know that the average supermarket apple is 18 months old – yikes) and the benefits of eating a plate of fresh food with a rainbow of colours.
Chloe is a busy working mum of two boys so totally gets the challenge of trying to crack the busy life/healthy eating balance and much of what we learnt is not rocket science but oh so great when someone can break down the facts and benefits down for you with one incredibly handy tip which I shall be aiming to take forward with the new 2020 me.
Pre-retreat, we had all been advised to bring food item (tinned pulses and beans for me) and five glass jars. Chloe and Lori then laid out bowls of fresh vegetables, salad, pulses, seeds, nuts and quinoa so we could fill these jars with our lunch for the next five days. How simple to re-create this exercise on smaller scale each Sunday so you are set up for the week? Consider me converted. Even the husband too enjoyed it especially when topped up some halloumi, mackerel or slices of chicken or avocado to spice it up.
Once our appetite had been whipped into shape, it was time for Dipu to serve a medley of Indian curries, inspired by his mother’s cooking in Kerala, including a lentil dish (brave choice with another yoga session on the horizon), a spicy cabbage dish and Dipu’s signature pineapple curry mingled with goat curd, all served with rice and eaten together round their big dining table.
With this restorative and delicious meal under our belts, it was time for the final yoga session of the day which was Vinyasa focused and involved more couples work to help stretch those limbs into shape.
Many people had signed up for a day retreat which finishes at 2.30pm meaning that that they could scurry off to make school-runs while I smugly waved them off and retreated to my own private Shepherd’s Hut in the garden overlooking the fields with a roaring fire and good book to keep me company. This is where I remained for the next five hours going inside, to the main house, only to enjoy an indulgent afternoon bath in the roll-top bath there. Bliss.
In the evening, you join Lori and Dipu for supper (more nourishing and nurturing Indian food) and you can choose to be social, linger on and take part in another yoga class – but my hut was calling.
At this stage, the hut is more rustic than glam as there is no power there but there is talk of solar panels being put in place this year and quite frankly, how better to switch off than without electricity to charge up the phone and check everyone has been liking your smug Insta posts?
Plus, they give you a reading light and a pile of logs to feed you fire, so you have the essential creature comforts. Even with a gale winging its way around me, I was gloriously snug especially thanks to the mountain of rugs provided and Hungarian goose down duvet weighted on top of me.
Breakfast was a delicious smoothie full of vegetable and fruit goodness with porridge, seeds and maple syrup. But on retreat weekends, you can also enjoy Indian-spiced omelettes post your first yoga session of the day and everything can be adapated to choose the best food options for you.
Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) is the Thursday’s activity during the Renew You retreats and is a traditional Japanese awareness meditation, proven to be a profound antidote to anxiety, depression, fear and tension and is becoming more of a feature within Wellness retreats.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a mossy rock, you’ll know there’s been dozens of studies proving that getting outdoors, Forest or Nature Bathing, whatever you want to call it, has real, measurable benefits to both our physical and mental health.
And the Boot camp on the Friday is where you can burn off those excess Christmas calories, and take part in a Grounded Meditation to help you relax and unwind ready for the weekend.
Beyond the Renew You retreats, there are plenty of other reasons to return to Samsara. I relished the solo experience as a refreshing change but equally it would be a fantastic location to go with a group of girls – especially if you were able to fill the house and Lori and Dipu would bend over backwards (and in Dipu’s case, quite literally) to create a bespoke weekend for you. The Shepherd’s Hut would have been even more snug with a special someone holed up in there with you….
The Gong Bath weekends are always very popular and more focused on helping clients’ achieve their goals with everyone stating their intention on what they want to achieve during the weekend at the beginning and many workshops are held throughout the weekend to help them accomplish this. A shaman often attends these weekends as well to offer Shamanic healing and Dipu can also provide Ayurvedic treatments.
Many people visit Samsara for weekly yoga classes, and I hear that the Parent and Children yoga classes on Sunday mornings are a fantastic way to connect with your kids and enjoy some exercise at the same time.
There is talk of a Samsara festival during the Summer with yoga sessions, live music performances and food trucks dotted around its garden so watch this space….
I would say exceptionally reasonable considering the calibre and authenticity of the teaching and setting of the place – you benefit from the fact that they are still finding their feet and improvements are being made to Samsara all the time.
Day Guest for Renew You retreat (9.30 – 2.30) – £45 each (including lunch)
If you take part in a three-day Renew You Retreat (Weds, Thursday and Friday) – £100 (saving £35)
If you choose to stay, it is £100 per person for the night in the Cottage or Shepherd’s Hut (including Supper, an additional Yoga class and breakfast).
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those of you who want to get back to basics and invest in some ‘me-time’ plus expand your horizon when it comes to trying new experiences such as Forest Bathing. It’s not too heavy on the purse so good for those who struggle to justify indulging in some well-deserved time-out. It’s a genuine and authentic experience with Dipu at the helm so no fad yoga trends here.
Not for: Samsara is still evolving and if you are looking for the swish yoga retreat, this is maybe not for you. This is a down-to-earth retreat and the focus is on simple pleasures – with a spiritual side if you wish to explore that part – or you can just enjoy its peaceful surroundings with two very welcoming and talented hosts.
Samsara Retreat and Yoga, Clements Cottage, West Peckham, Kent, ME18 5JP, 07989 596902, samsararetreatyoga.co.uk