Diary of a yoga retreat

I have just returned from a beautiful yoga retreat up a mountain in France with Alaric Newcombe. I took with me a Muji passport-sized art journal, a mini watercolour set, a water brush, and a couple of black pens. I didn’t have a lot of time to art journal during the retreat so each day I would create a quick watercolour background and leave it to dry. Then I would return to it later and add a drawing of something that struck me from the day. Some days I made two or three pages using this method.

Note: the paper in these Muji passport notebooks is quite thin so I prepped all the pages with gesso before leaving home. This meant that the watercolour didn’t leak through to the other side of the page. It also meant that the paint took longer to dry and made quite different effects than if I was painting straight onto unprimed paper.

This story begins with a journey…

I often worry before a yoga retreat that I won’t be able to join in fully or “keep up”. This next page captures the joy of getting stuck in there and doing my best. Feeling like I can do it!

@antarkeerti and I shared a cosy room tucked away beneath the beautiful wooden dojo. I think I was in a bit of a hurry to dry the paint on this next one, so I blotted the page with a tissue. I like the effect it created!

Our group was so warm and friendly. Each night after dinner we’d be chatting away as the sky grew darker and the stars came out. Many nights we saw the moon rising over the treetops. It was magical:

One of the things I loved the most about this retreat was waking early and being in silence until the end of our morning pranayama session. It is a rare thing to be in silence together with a group of people. Noticing the sounds of the birds chirping and the rush of the river flowing nearby:

The yoga practitioners on this retreat were pretty amazing. While I was able to join in with many of the postures we were practicing, there were also moments when I simply had to stand by and be amazed!

It was pretty hot when the sun was out. But there were several afternoons when it rained. One afternoon, it poured with rain while we were practicing in the dojo. The studio is open on two sides, and the sound and smell of the rain permeated our practice. It was a beautiful experience:

My back is not as bendy in real life as it is in this next picture. But this picture definitely captures what it feels like!

Being up a mountain on a retreat can be a great moment to reflect on the things that are going on in everyday life. I always like to travel with a mini set of cards just in case!

I used to be really self-conscious about showing my legs. (Memories of awful school uniform sports gear!) But when it’s really hot outside, there’s nothing better than having bare legs. Hurrah for yoga shorts!

There are beautiful plum trees along the little hill outside the dojo. They were full of sweet ripe plums that we ate every day. One afternoon, I sat here having a heart to heart with a good friend:

They say the soul moves at the speed of a camel and that we begin the journey well before our physical bodies actually make the move towards home. On the second to last morning I found my thoughts were already beginning to travel!

Before we learned that our flight was actually cancelled, we had several hours waiting in the airport. Time for a few handstands and downward facing dogs outside Starbucks! During this time at the airport, I discovered Socca, the exquisite Niçoise pancake made from chickpea flour. One of the most delicious foods I’ve ever tasted! I have since discovered a recipe for it here. I can’t wait to try it out!

I must admit: one of the things I dreamt about during the week was having a good soak in a hot bath when I got home. Note: I don’t actually have a cat but I felt there needed to be one in this picture!

All in all, the yoga retreat was a thoroughly wonderful experience. While I have several great photos from last week’s retreat, I feel that these art journaling pages capture the journey best of all.

You can see the pages from last year’s yoga retreat here. It’s interesting to note that I used almost exactly the same materials and yet the result is quite different!

Thanks so much for coming along on this journey with me.

Divyam xxx

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