Winter Woodlands Yoga Retreat - Our Memories
We're super grateful to have had the opportunity to host a weekend yoga retreat at the luxurious Kula, Muriwai homestead and yoga shala. Especially given the last 18 months of out-of-the-blue Lockdowns where no events can be held at all, we managed to go ahead and host a wonderful group of people for the weekend.
This was one of the very first full weekend retreats at Kula, Muriwai using the homestead and we couldn't have wished for a better location, or group to share this space with as we explored breath, movement and mindfulness together.
It's good to know that at all our yoga retreats, all activities, meals and interactions are 100% optional. Often times people may want to practice their first yoga class on an empty stomach, or if someone feels they need more rest for the morning they may skip out on a morning practice - all choices are welcomed with Kanuka Yoga if you're leading with kindness and truth toward yourself.
Continue reading below to hear about our memories from Winter Woodlands 2021...
It was a drizzly Friday afternoon as guests trickled into the stunning Kula, Muriwai venue for Winter Woodlands. After everyone made themselves at home in their room for the weekend we started to gather in the main dining area as we grazed over a beautiful welcome platter, created by our amazing chef for the weekend, Debs Sa (all meals 100% vegan and gluten free).
Everyone received a mini-tour of the property which showcased the multiple living areas, spa pool, indoor sauna, yoga shala, kitchen facilities and more about the land / outdoor areas (even though we spent the majority of our time inside for the weekend).
Our first meal together was a gluten free lasagne with mushrooms, eggplant, cashew bechamel, spinach and basil. A light and delicious meal, followed by something sweet; a passionfruit vegan cheesecake.
Restore + Yoga Nidra, with Acoustic Guitar
With enough time to mingle and get to know each other a little more, we let the food digest and settle before moving into our restorative yoga + yoga nidra practice for the night.
Before starting the class, we held a short opening circle and allowed time for people to pop a totem into the middle of the circle. Some item, token, picture of memory that is special to each individual. A wonderful way to learn more about each person and provide space for people to share if they wanted to.
Raquel then led the group through a relaxing series of postures with Stu accompanying the class on his acoustic guitar with gentle acoustic melodies. Toward the end of the session, Tanija took to lead with yoga nidra; guided relaxation.
A very grounding way to start the weekend; delicious food, plenty of time to chat and become more comfortable in a new space and an inclusive yoga practice for everyone to feel confident heading into the next couple of days.
Our guests made their way into the main dining area, with the fire place warming the room and a light, self-serve breakfast available for people to have a bite to eat if they wanted to. A selection of fruits, granola, coconut yoghurt and coffee/tea.
Surfer Flow with Stu
The first couple of sessions for Saturday morning included a guided meditation focused on presence and awareness. Having the ability to notice thoughts and to bring yourself back to the present moment is not an easy task at the best of times. The 'monkey mind' is very efficient at pulling us away into thoughts, so this meditation session was aimed at noticing thoughts, acknowledging the monkey mind with a gentle smile and coming back to the breath. A powerful meditation technique, and it can be a great one to begin with if meditation is a new practice.
Following our morning meditation, Stu led the group through a 'Surfer Flow' - inspired by the coastal surrounds of Muriwai, the ocean views visible from the yoga shala and the passion of surfing.
Keeping it fun and playful with surfing lingo / actions like duck dives, paddling into waves, getting barrelled and hanging 10. No previous surfing experience required!
We even had a guest appearance for the surfer flow; Kula's very own, Rocko!
A tasty brunch was waiting for us in the main living area; a chickpea crepe with homemade beetroot hummus, baby carrots, green salad and sprouts. We chatted more at our tables, getting our fill of deep and meaningful conversations.
The agenda for the afternoon was a good one:
Some of the group had pre-scheduled massages by the fireplace with our two on-site masseuses, some of the group went off to the beach for a visit, whilst the hosts and rest of the group made our way down the long stair set of the Te Henga walk. Stunning vistas and group photos overlooking the West Coast.
We had plenty of time afterwards to enjoy a spa, sauna, and another platter before heading to the Yoga Shala for our evening activities..... starting with:
Cacao Journey with Mamamuti
Irma Schutte (/Mamamuti) joined us for a unique, guided cacao and sound journey as we celebrated the sacred plant based medicine, cacao. She shared a short history of the plant, stories of her past and why cacao is such an important part of her life today. This smoothly transitioned into a sound healing meditation, with Irma creating soothing vibrations from her 7 crystal singing bowls.
To give you a better idea about cacao and what was shared, here is some information sourced/paraphrased from the Mamamuti website:
"Cacao is a plant that was first discovered and cultivated by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans in South America. Today, it is the foundational ingredient of what we call chocolate.
The cacao bean was an important element to the indigenous South American cultures and it was even used as a currency in trade, given to warriors as a post battle reward and served at royal feasts.
Unfortunately, as time went past and as colonists discovered the important value of cacao, is was commodified, turned into an industry and ultimately exposed in an unethical way. A lot of the wisdom, culture and spiritual practice connected to the plant was lost along the way too."
Thankfully, we have beautiful humans like Irma spreading the ancient wisdom of this powerful and sacred plant medicine, as well as providing an ethical way to source cacao, directly from the farmers in South America to your doorstep. No corporate middle-men exploiting the farmers, the trade and beans themselves.
Yoga Beats with Raquel
Following the delicious cup of cacao, short sound journey and heart opening meditation, we lifted the energy a touch with Raquel's Yoga Beats class; a mix between a gentle yoga flow and a guided, ecstatic dance.
Everyone had their own mat space and for the most part, Yoga Beats is essentially a hatha and vinyasa inspired yoga flow, but instead of focusing on engagement and alignment within the postures, Raquel invited the group to move, bounce, sway and groove to the funky tunes. Plenty of giggles and smiles when cues like 'DiscoCat' were used to describe a posture and movement.
The day thus far having a beautiful flow of energy levels and we all left Yoga Beats on a high as we made our way into the stunning main living room for our second dinner together.
The Saturday night menu was unique, and delicious; Japanese style bowls with homemade tahini tofu, slaw, spring onions, green beans, edamame beans, rice noodles and Japanese dressing. A gluten free chocolate cake with cookie crumbs followed - what a treat!
Candlelit Yin, with Live Acoustic
After our downtime and post-dinner chats, Tanija lead the group through a Candlelit Yin session, accompanied with Stu on acoustic guitar once again. Long, deep hold postures using all the props available like bolsters, blocks, and blankets. All with the soft lighting of candles and dimmers above.
A perfect way to wind down a full day of yoga inspired activities at Kula, Muriwa.
We started our final day together in a similar fashion to the previous day; a light and tasty self-serve breakfast, followed by a morning meditation and Yin/Yang practice with Tanija.
Today's meditation practice was focused around loving awareness and hearth coherence. Providing time and space to fill the heart space with love and gratitude for the present moment.
Brunch included tartlets with chaat masala veges and green salad with herbs. Once again the chef and sous chef went above and beyond with food options that were colourful, delicious and light. The perfect amount to provide energy for the afternoon without overdoing it.
Tasty snack platters were out each day in the free-time zones just incase anyone felt like nibbling on fruits and veges with yummy dips.
With the weekend soon coming to an end, we asked the group whether they would like more free time, or if it felt better sticking to the scheduled timings to allow everyone to get back to their families before Sunday dinner. As much as everyone could have stayed and enjoyed more free-time, sauna and spa, the consensus was to continue on with our final activity for the weekend.
Partner Yoga + Thai-Inspired Massage
Stu and Raquel led everyone through a very light-hearted and fun partner yoga flow, consisting of shapes back-to-back twists, gentle folds, elevators up and down, rooftops and diamonds. The finale was a partner tree pose; finding balance and a smile with your buddy.
Last but not least, some gentle thai-inspired massage to leave everyone feeling grounded and relaxed. Thai Massage is a common way to end Acro Yoga practices which is something Stu and Raquel have been sharing for over 5 years together. We let the group know that although we are not trained massage therapists, we do love sharing this practice and feel it can be shared in a safe way.
It was then time to circle up and close down the weekend together. Raquel provided a couple minutes of breath cues to ground ourselves into the circle and come back to centre, then we were each given an opportunity to share a few words about our experiences over the weekend.
Smiles, laughter, tears, hugs and genuine gratitude for the group, the weekend, the venue, and our mascot cat for the weekend (Rocko) were all shared and appreciated together.
Thanks for reading our Winter Woodlands Retreat memories.
We look forward to practicing with you in the future.