When one of your good mates announces that she’s going to run a weekend Pilates retreat, you’d be daft not to sign up. I actually met Nic after attending her class 6 years ago, and have found Pilates invaluable to my post-kids prolapsed disc and generally weary body.
Life can feel like a constant juggle at the moment, with one kid in nursery and one in school and a growing business, it feels like I’m adding at least three things to the to-do list for every one ticked off. Where a wild weekend of drinking and dancing is sometimes the ticket, I’m not so great at the aftermath now. The idea of ending a weekend feeling refreshed, my body stretched and worked and replenished with good foods had massive appeal. The fact that Nic is the most organised person I know meant that not only would she do a great job, but that everything would be thought of. She didn’t disappoint.
Tilton House is beautiful, with it’s Aga and giant kitchen table and surrounded by the Surrey Downs, and - perhaps most importantly - peaceful.
The Pilates took place in a beautiful high-ceilinged room with fairy lights and a roaring fire. The food was delicious and vegan, which I wasn’t expecting but it added to the feeling that I was taking care of myself. There was opportunity to bring a bottle, and at some point on the second night a fellow guest produced some mini eggs after dinner, and Nic has mentioned adding a cheeseboard next time for those that missed their daily fromage! The weekend wasn’t about denying ourselves after all, but nurturing ourselves.
My favourite thing was handing over any scheduling to someone else. We arrived to find a timetable that included five Pilates sessions (from stretching to High Intensity), all mealtimes and *drum roll* free time.
Yup, time to walk, nap, chat, read. You could also pre-book a massage, which I’d highly recommend because…well, in for a penny and all that. Where weekends used to be about pleasing yourself, ours seem to often be a timetable of swimming, kid’s parties, last minute dashes to pick up a present for said kid’s party, and an overdue trip to Homebase for the part to fix a tap/light/plug in the house that has been broken for months. And sometimes it feels like I’m the only person in the house that manages that timetable and I want someone else to takeover so I can just stop thinking.
Something I wasn’t expecting from the trip was feeling a connection with the other guests. We were a group of twelve strangers, all mothers, all sharing similar experiences of juggling life and work and the pressure that puts on us and relationships, feeling overwhelmed, knowing looking after ourselves is important but experiencing the guilt… The thing is, taking time for yourself can feel indulgent. I’m pretty sure my mum, midwife and mother of six, never had a weekend away to herself like this. But then comparing yourself is exactly why you can often feel overwhelmed. There is also a reason why the wellbeing and mindfulness industries have boomed in recent years – we’re all feeling the pressure. The world and the way we live has changed pretty significantly in the last thirty years.
On the Sunday afternoon, we had a session on Mindfulness with Flora. The timing was perfect – by this point everyone had relaxed in to their knitwear, herbal teas in hand.
Flora lead us through an exercise that started with thinking about something that was on your mind, and culminated with going to the bottom of a lake and meeting your rational self, and asking them for the answer to the thing you started out with. I’m a crier anyway so it doesn’t take a lot, but with a weekend of peace and time to reflect, I found this really emotional. I know the answer to most of the things I worry about. Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? Are my kids ok? Am I neglecting loved ones? Move faster, do more, don’t drop any of the balls… It felt like a release to hear my rational self say ‘You’re doing ok. Just be a bit kinder to yourself’.
The key bit here is looking after YOU. You can’t pour from an empty cup, as the saying goes. A weekend of Pilates, fresh air and good company is a pretty awesome way to replenish yourself.
Words by Steph Douglas from Don't Buy Her Flowers
The next Pilates + Mindfulness retreat at Tilton House is in June! For more details and how to book click here.