Rewilding our senses using nature, yoga, meditation and breathwork. This sounded exceptionally wholesome and entirely contrasting with the summer thus far which had been packed with travel, city breaks, heat waves and deadlines.
So, we arrived at Ockenden Manor ready to be guided through a three day retreat with Helena Skoog, a glowing beacon of wellness who grew up in Sweden but now lives off grid in rural Sussex.
There was something reassuring about arriving for a retreat, where you check in at an extremely luxurious spa and are safe in the knowledge that you’ll be enjoying three course dinners each evening. Yes there were smoothies before the yoga class and vegetarian salads after forest bathing, but this was not a retreat about deprivation and detoxing.
In fact the retreats are all scheduled (as the name suggests) around the Full Moon – a time that is recognised as key to being receptive and embracing rising emotions and energy. The polestar meditation on our final evening (during which the full moon rose up in all its glory) involved our close knit group lying decadently under blankets on the rooftop terrace feeling utterly indulged and revitalised.
This is a retreat that offers a little of everything and something for everyone. There are early morning yoga sessions (held outside if it’s warm and dry) as well as isopod floatation sessions and incredible Aroma massage treatments. The unlimited access to the award winning spa allows you to get in a workout, swim indoors or outdoors, or simply unwind in the sauna and steam room.
A highlight on Day 2 was the 3 hour outing to the ancient woodland nearby to experience Forest Bathing. Inspired by the Japanese art of Shinrin-yoku, this practice (led by Helena) allowed us to slow down, become aware of the tiniest of details, and appreciate both the intricacies and grandness of everything natural.
The hotel itself is a delight. It is made up of two utterly contrasting parts; an Elizabethan manor house set in manicured grounds, and a stark modern spa where rooms have air conditioning and sliding glass doors. We stayed in the Junior Spa suites yet experienced breakfast, lunch and dinner in the atmospheric dining room over in the main hotel.
The food was exceptional, and much appreciated after early morning yoga sessions and hours in the outdoors. The ingredients are locally sourced and the menus changed each evening with seasonal ingredients such as courgette flowers making a welcome appearance. There were no frowns or dismay at the occasional glass of wine, just as there was no judgement on those who weren’t drinking.
We were encouraged at the beginning of the retreat to reconnect, rebalance and enjoy ourselves – and the mission was most certainly accomplished.
If you’re keen to experience the Full Moon and Fabulous Retreat, the dates below have been released for 22/23 – so book early as spaces are limited
Friday 9th September to Sunday 11th September 2022
Saturday 8th October to Monday 10th October 2022
Thursday 4th May to Saturday 6th May 2023
Sunday 2nd July to Tuesday 4th July 2023
Tuesday 29th August to Thursday 31st August 2023
Thursday 28th September to Saturday 30th September 2023