An old renovated farmhouse..
Vegetarian food without noticing it’s actually vegetarian..
A full fledged spa…
Massages (the really good kind) at your fingertips…
Small yoga classes with 2 teachers with lots of personal attention..
A fireplace in the living room reaching up to a normal size ceiling..
An immense- attention to detail; that’s just a glimpse of what Yoga Love XXL Weekend is all about!
Yoga Love XXL weekend takes place in Vielsalm, a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg, part of the the Ardennes mountain range. The village, like Salmchâteau, takes its name from the River Salm.
Mess des Officiers, a characteristic building complex, which covers 6,200 square metres (66,000 square feet), is entirely secluded. From the 1930’s until 1990 it has been used as the officers’ mess of the famous “chasseurs ardennais”. Recently this building complex had been thoroughly renovated.
With 10 yoga classes from Thursday evening till Monday morning you go through so many different layers, both physically and mentally, which is not easy to describe with just words. Let me try and give you a proper impression using daily themes.
Day 1: “Slow down & relax”
When arriving at Mess des Officiers, we first introduced ourselves to the other participants and the staff. Our yoga teachers, Vin and Denise, are a father-daughter duo, responsible in developing the concept for this special retreat. They worked together with Jeroen, responsible for the accommodation, Kim, who was in charge of pretty much everything else (from lighting fire to helping in the kitchen to connecting people) and Fidan (Fidalicious.com) who ran the kitchen. Fidan explained that her goal was to cook healthy, vegetarian, nutritious and biological food when she presented us with the first small snacks, which really set the tone for the quality food we would be offered the rest of the weekend.
We were guided to our rooms where a great ‘goody bag’ was already waiting for us! We were shown around the rest of the house, the beautiful backyard complete with tennis court, tree house and trampoline. But it was the spa that drew all the attention!
At this point, your mind tells you that it would be polite stay at the dinner table and socialize a bit more, but that’s just you on auto-pilot. And of course I wasn’t the only one who was actually longing for the warm Jacuzzi. Most of us decided to jump right in, which was really the first step to get out of our daily routines, allowing us to slow down and relax.
“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.” ― John Lennon
About an hour after the delicious and light first dinner we had our first Yin yoga class. The yoga space was located on the top floor of the shed that was still being renovated. It was starting to get dark outside and the room was lit with candles. The candles behind the teachers were even decorated with the letters W E L C O M E. Now that’s what I call a literal warm welcome!
Day 2: “Don’t plan, just feel”
We started the second day with soy yoghurt, fresh fruit, chia seeds and goji berries. After the morning Easy Flow class I started to evaluate all the options in terms of plans for the rest of the day. The sun was shining, the weather forecast for the comings days wasn’t that great, so I figured I should go out for a walk and see some more of the town and the nearby lake. At that moment it struck me. I was actually tired and just felt like lying down and reading a book! Why was I forcing myself to walk?
Day 3: “Let go & surrender”
The Saturday program consisted of an Easy Flow class in the morning, an Acro Yoga workshop in the afternoon and a Yin class after dinner. As we all know, 3 yoga classes a day is pretty challenging. After the first two days, your muscles obviously feel a bit sore. However, for me personally, this day was centered on opening up the heart area and realizing how tightened up I was before the retreat (although I usually do about 3 yoga classes per week). Intensifying my practice really allowed me to go deeper into all different layers, breaking physical boundaries as well as mental boundaries. The professionalism of the teachers definitely helped me to achieve this. Both Vin and Denise regularly came by for personal corrections. Especially with sore muscles, taking in these corrections already requires you to let go and surrender; keeping your mind positive and in the present, believing you can do it, pushing a bit further each time. And it turned out the weather wasn’t that bad at all; in the afternoon I actually felt like going for a walk!
Day 4: “Beyond sore muscles”
When I woke up in the morning I expected to feel sore all over. However, during the first class that morning it felt like I was actually able to achieve much more than the previous days! I really got into the flow and was even able to handle the Vinyasa Power workshop in the afternoon, which was definitely tough! In the evening a very special surprise was awaiting us. We were asked to get our mats and props and bring them to the living room, as the Yin class that night would take place in the living room next to the fireplace. A very cozy setting, especially with our surprise guest Luc who brought us beautiful spiritual music during our class; an absolutely amazing private concert for 11 people! Fidan came in with delicious after-yoga-snacks to make the experience complete.
Day 5: “Mind over matter”
The last day; I was almost getting used to the luxurious environment. One class to go.. Mind over matter is really the only term I could use for it. Don’t give in, keep your mind positive and the body will work for you!
When we opened our eyes after the relaxation at the end of the class a delicious smoothie was placed next to our mats. Time to start packing and head back home.
Can’t thank everyone enough for all the effort that went into this retreat, for all of your great energy, for the fun, the relaxation, the inspiring talks, it’s has been an absolute pleasure and I can’t wait for the next edition in October!
After the weekend I suddenly realized why I like yoga retreats so much; beyond the obvious reasons (deeper into yoga, relaxation etc.) that is. A retreat really allows you to switch off your thinking. There’s a program in place which is usually optional, giving you the chance to simply feel what you want to do, minute to minute, instead of planning your days rationally. For me, that’s something I really need from time to time.
In addition, what made this weekend so special was the added value of the yoga classes on both the arrival day and the departure day, the optional (great!) massages (by Vin and Denise), the outstanding meals, the spa and the location. I really feel like I’ve been on a holiday for a week. Being back home I expected that I needed some time to recover from the intensive yoga classes. The contrary was true, my muscles weren’t sore at all anymore and I decided to go with a yoga class at my usual yoga school the next day.