The other week Phil and I were lucky enough to be invited to The Billabong Retreat, which is a yoga and meditation retreat about a 1-h drive outside from Sydney. A little getaway is exactly what I craved before heading off to my beloved-but sometimes crazy family over the Christmas holidays, so this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
Billabong offers different retreat programs, like a yoga, wellness or meditation program. We opted for the latter, and even though the program runs for a couple of days, you can join it for just 1 or 2 days if you like. I’ve built up a meditation practice ever since moving to Sydney, but this trip really allowed me to tap back into it and also to discover new techniques that I had never tried before.
Let me show you what our 24h stay at the Billabong Retreat looked like:
Check-in was at 2pm. We arrived, had a quick lunch that they prepared especially for us (normally meal time is set) and then headed straight to our first yoga class. The yoga room is big, has a beautiful bamboo floor and you look straight out into the wilderness where you can hear the birds chirping. Pure bliss. The class itself was very gentle and allowed us to settle into the slow pace of the retreat.
Afternoon free time
The schedule allows for a fair bit of free time and wandering, exploring and unbusy-ness. As the resort has a beautiful outside lounge area with comfy couches, pillows and blankets, we spent most of our free time cuddled up on the couch with a book and some yummy tea (their tea collection is divine). The weather was surprisingly cold for December in Sydney, so we even had the fireplace on which made the whole experience more special. For hotter days, the retreat also has a pool that is filled with magnesium water and supposedly does wonders for achy muscles.
Our first proper meal at the retreat! Billabong has alternating chefs who come and cook up a storm for the guests for a couple of days in a row, and on our first day we had the pleasure of being cooked for by Simon. This dinner called for almond-stuffed zucchini, sweet corn with a nutritional yeast flavoring, asparagus with a tahini dressing, homemade sauerkraut and a fresh colorful salad. And don’t worry, there’s always dessert! We had a mango/pineapple loaf, a berry cream sauce as well as the most divine tahini and caramel cream to go with it.
Dinner at 6pm is followed by an evening meditation at 7:30pm. Whilst there are a varied meditation workshops throughout the retreat, this class focused more on the actual practice and we meditated for 40 minutes in total. The longest I have ever done is 30 minutes, so this was a great experience for me. One of the techniques that we used was counting down very slowly from 50, and this simple technique really helped me to settle in and get focused on my breathing.
By the time we were done meditation, it was already dark outside and we pretty much went straight to bed. We made ourselves one last tea and then walked down the wooden stairs to our small tree house room. We stayed up for a little while longer, cuddling, talking and listening to the animals outside and were asleep no later than 9:30pm.
We woke up at 6:30 to the sounds of nature and the sun peaking through the curtains. Even though I have an established healthy morning routine when I’m home, one thing that was a true blessing was to not check my phone thing first thing in the morning! Instead, we headed straight to our first yoga class of the day, which was a beautiful energizing morning flow to get us ready for the day.
Morning meditation workshop
Compared to last night’s meditation class, the aim of this workshop was to introduce us to some different methods of meditation. One method that particularly resonated with me was the “Thought-labeling meditation” in which you sit in meditation and whenever a thought pops up, you write it down on paper and then come back to your breath. Afterwards you analyze your thoughts and see what you can learn from it. Did you think about the past? Or worry about the future? And how many of your thoughts were actually useful? I found this technique really intriguing and I think it’s something I’ll take up into my personal practice.
Private yoga class:
he workshop was followed by a 1-hour private yoga class (which you need to book separately). As it was both Phil and I, we focused first on his weak points (shoulders and upper back) and then mine (hips and groin). We also played around with side crow and forearm stands, which was a lot of fun.
To round up our trip, we both treated ourselves to a nice 1-hour massage. I prefer harder massages, so I had to ask the masseuse to go a bit stronger, but that certainly didn’t take away from the experience. I had a 20h flight coming up the next day, so I knew my body would thank me for a little pre-flight pampering.
Seeing our 24 hours written down on paper, I’m realizing we actually managed to squeeze in a fair bit into our stay. It wasn’t one bit stressful though, and I came back rejuvenated, reenergized and with a new-found commitment to my meditation practice.
It’s such a beautiful and convenient escape even just for a day (I think two days would have been perfect though!), and the staff really makes sure that you have the most amazing experience possible. If you’re going with a friend, any of the accomodation options are great, but if you're going with a partner and are looking for big bed, then you’re only option is the Treehouse Ensuite with the double bed or the Deluxe Cabins.