Villa Benvenuti Exterior

Villa Benvenuti

Sometimes in life a series of events sets off a chain reaction that results in an outcome that is beyond your expectations. This is exactly how I ended up spending 7 days at a yoga retreat in a centuries old Tuscan villa just outside of Lucca back in June. I got to spend the week with four incredibly beautiful and talented women who shared their laughter, life lessons and hearts with me. I got to spend the week  in an amazing villa, surrounded by vineyards and luscious green gardens. I got to fall asleep daily in a hammock under the trees, or on a sun lounge by the pool. I got spoilt with delicious Tuscan food, vegetarian of course, and a cheeky glass of wine with dinner, made from the grapes grown on the property. The retreat was at the delightful Villa Benvenuti, which is also available for private hire, and consisted of all food, accommodation and twice daily yoga & pilates.

Villa Benvenuti Yoga Room

Our yoga teacher for the retreat was Lauren from 19r Yoga and Pilates, originally from New York and currently residing Florence. Lauren started us off each morning with an invigorating Ashtanga sequence in the dedicated yoga space on the top floor of the villa. Afterwards we would head downstairs for breakfast of home made muesli and toast with local jam and honey.

Villa Benvenuti Breakfast

During the day we had free time for bush walking, a swim in the pool, a massage with the delightful Isabelle, or of course a sleep in the hammock.

Villa Benvenuti Chair Massage

Enjoying a chair massage from Isabelle the onsite masseuse

Villa Benvenuti Pool

In the afternoon we would head back up to the yoga room for about half an hour of ab-focused pilates, after which we would pick up our mats and head outside to the grass for some inversion practice and yin yoga.

Headstand on the grass

Towards the end of the week we did a cooking class with the retreat chef Maria-Angela. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned how good the food is yet but it was ah-maze-ing, there was not one meal that I didn’t go back for a second helping. I think we were all trying to think of ways that we could bring her back to Australia with us. In our cooking class Maria-Angela taught us to make Gnocchi with pesto, over a cheeky glass of prosecco of course.

Maria-Angela making gnocchi

Maria-Angela demonstrating how to make gnocchi

The town of Lucca was only 15 minutes away from the villa, so we spent a bit of time exploring the ancient walled city and eating some of the best Gelati we found on the entire trip to Italy.

The week was truly amazing and if you are ever looking for an unforgettable yoga retreat experience in Europe I can’t recommend Villa Benvenuti enough.

L xx

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Savasana or Corpse Pose probably has to be one of my favourite poses. My fiancé likes to refer to it as ‘the lie down bit at the end’, and it certainly is a great chance for relaxation at the end of class, but it is also so much more than that. After a yoga practice Savasana allows us to connect in with our parasympathetic system and make sure our body benefits from all the work we have just done.

The parasympathetic system is often referred to as the ‘rest and digest’ function; it works in opposition to the sympathetic system, or our ‘fight or flight’ response. The fight or flight response uses your body’s energy sources to prepare for a stressful situation, whereas the rest and digest  system helps restore the body’s energy. As suggested by referring to the parasympathetic system as ‘rest and digest’, it also increases blood flow to the gut and aides digestion. Savasana is particularly important if we’ve done a strong yoga practice and raised our heart rate; it brings the body back into a balanced state.

For me, Savasana is like an old friend, I know it is always waiting for me at the end of my practice and while we may not always get on, it’s always there for me when I need it. On some days I can’t wait to get through my practice so that I can flop into Savasana and on other days lying in Savasana feels like an eternity and no matter how hard I try I can’t surrender to its calm. Either way there is always a comfort in knowing that the pose is there when I need it.

My relationship with Savasana wasn’t always comfortable, particularly as a beginner when there were times when Savasana almost felt like torture. If this is you, try to stick with it, the calm will come and I can’t stress how important this pose is. Constantly hanging out in fight or flight mode stresses and exhausts our body, Savasana is a chance to reboot and replenish the body, not to mention it’s nice to have a little lie down at the end of class.

L xx

Intuition and trust.

It’s been a recurring theme in my life lately, more specifically I’ve been working on listening to my intuition and trying to trust my instincts.

It hasn’t been easy.

I constantly second guess myself and question my motives…

Thankfully I’ve had some help in the form of Samantha from Dakini Grace. I don’t think I can neatly put a label on what she provides, nor would I want to, but terms like mentor, life coach, guide and teacher all come to mind. Sam helped me to realise that when you trust your intuition the path will always be free and easy, when you go against your gut the road will be rocky and fraught with obstacles.

Image from here

In my last 1:1 with Sam she took me through a guided visualisation and asked me to have a conversation with my future self. This is what future Larah had to say to present-day Larah:

Don’t be afraid.

You already know the answer.

There are no mistakes or failures only lessons learned.

Trust yourself.

Those are some wise words from my future self, words I should listen to.

I’m afraid to fail, this fear is so firmly entrenched in my being that I stop myself from trying. My reasoning is that if I never try I can never fail… But I can also never succeed.

Recently I can feel something shifting, I’m starting to look forward to those failures, and more importantly, the lessons I will learn from them.

L xx

Is it possible to be smitten with an entire country? I think I might be a just a little bit smitten with Italy. The food, the wine, the scenery, the cities, the countryside, every little bit of it is amazing. We only spent a very brief two weeks in Italy, where we had a couple of days in Rome, a couple of days in the Cinque Terre and 7 days on a yoga retreat in a villa just outside of Lucca in Tuscany. It was really only a taste tester of what Italy has to offer and I can’t wait to get back there.

Here are a few of my favourite pics from the trip:

The famous Trevi Fountain

Gelato! Chocolate and lemon. Yum!

Riomaggiore, where we stayed in Cinque Terre

Our own private Tuscan villa.

If you want to see more you can check out my photos on Flickr.

The yoga retreat was absolutely amazing and deserves its own dedicated blog post, so stay tuned for that.

L xx

Things have been a bit quiet on The Pollen Path for the past few weeks – sorry ’bout that! I just got back from a trip to Europe where I flitted around Italy and Holland, and spent a week on the most amazing yoga retreat in a villa in Tuscany. So stay tuned for some travel photos, reviews and witty anecdotes :-P

L xx

Bear with me for this post, it follows on from my last post on letting go of expectations and I’m hoping it proves cathartic for me. Recently I upset a friend, I told her the truth about a situation and her reaction was not what I expected, it didn’t fit my framework of how an adult and a friend should react in that particular instance. To be completely honest, her reaction really disappointed me. If you read my last post you’ll be seeing a recurring theme here… I had an expectation, the reality was different and I ended up disappointed.

To say that this interaction has been playing on my mind would be an understatement and it got me thinking what exactly was it about my friend’s reaction that upset me. It wasn’t necessarily the reaction itself, it was more my history with this friend.

Yoga constantly teaches us to be in the present, however in every interaction we have with friends, family and partners we build up an arsenal of past arguments and annoyances. This is something I struggle with quite a bit, I’m still not sure why I’m holding on to this arsenal but encounters like this are a perfect chance for self-enquiry. We are not our past, sure it got us to where we are but we live there. We are not our future, all we are is our present. I know I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, and I’m sure I will be a different person again in another 10 years but I can’t interact like the person I was then or the person I will be in the future, all I can do is be present-day Larah.

I'm definitely not the same person as baby Larah :)

I’m definitely not the same person as little Larah :)

The lesson for me from this encounter with my friend is to try and remain present, drop the baggage of past interactions and remember that her reaction is not personal and is likely formed from a whole gamut of things happening in her life.

L xx

Expectation

We all have expectations of how we think things are going to turn. You may have had a really good coffee at that cafe once, so you expect it to be really good the next time you go back and are disappointed when it’s not.

This topic of expectation has been coming up a lot in my yoga teacher training and while I didn’t think that much about it before, I can clearly see the link between attachment to an outcome and the suffering it causes when the outcome is not quite what we expected.

Some expectations are so deeply rooted that the mind actually clings on to them. When you have an expectation that you have been holding onto for a while, you keep holding onto it because on some level it is serving a purpose, it might be protecting you or providing a diversion from your current reality. It is these long-standing expectations that cause the most suffering when they don’t materialise.

I, of course, have been holding on to a few expectations that fall into the above category and my teacher asked me to investigate why I was holding on to those expectations, how were they serving me. It was something that I had to sit with for a while, but when I realised that the reason I was holding on to certain expectations wasn’t actually serving me, I was able to start to move forward. That is not to say that I was able to let go of the expectation immediately but it did allow a new pattern to occur. When the expectation popped up in my head I simply reminded myself that it was no longer serving me, and to stay in the moment and trust that the universe will provide me with everything I need for my health and happiness. I’m still working on the part about completely trusting the universe but I’ll save that for a different blog post ;-)

L xx
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