Enjoy a wellness staycation at home with this year’s best virtual retreats

The art of chocolate making with Paul A Young
Samantha Simmonds,-Digital Writer

From writing and cookery to yoga and mindfulness, these online retreats will nourish your body and mind

You might not be rolling out your yoga mat for sun salutations in an exotic beach locale, but with some of the world’s top retreats and courses going online, there are plenty of ways to bring the retreat experience – and the benefits – home. You could take a week, fortnight or weekend out or opt for a pick and mix program of daily exercises that you can work around your existing commitments. Use the time to learn something new, hone your existing skills or simply enjoy some 'you' time.

‘Limitless benefits exist when you have the freedom to take the retreat experience into your daily life and into your own home,’ explains Kundalini yoga teacher, reiki master, shamanic healing practitioner and sound healing therapist Trish Whelan, creator of The 40-Day Journey To Joy At Home Retreat Program. ‘You can really begin to heal yourself in your own environment when you look at your lifestyle, cupboards and fridge, and take time to consider how you are really feeling.’

Ready to hit refresh?

Cook up a storm

Breadmaking and wine appreciation may have become national pastimes of late, but if you’re looking to refine your skills, it’s well worth taking a little time out to learn from the masters. Learning with experts offers four-part video courses with expert tutors including award-winning baker Richard Bertinet and wine expert Amelia Singer. Expanding your culinary horizons? You could learn the art of chocolate-making from chocolatier Paul A. Young, hone your stocks and sauces with two-Michelin star chef Michel Roux Jr., or explore vegan and plant-based cooking from pioneering chef and restaurateur Kirk Haworth. If photography is more your thing, why not hone your technique with the help of award-winning photographer Michael Freeman?

A four-part course costs £29 and includes lifetime access to course materials and an online classroom where you can take part in group chats with other students. The expert option costs £109 and includes feedback on your assignments as well as personal tuition from the expert leading the course.

Beat writer’s block

Vowed that this will be the year you finally pen that novel? Then grab a pad, because the Summer Festival of Writing runs ‘live in your living room’ until 5 September 2020 and includes 25 live online workshops, mini-courses on topics like plotting, editing, commercial fiction and self-publishing, webinar workshops and Q&As with top authors, publishers and literary agents. Tickets cost £50 and include access to event replays until 30 September.

Suffering from writer’s block? Writers' HQ is currently offering free online courses designed to help you bust procrastination, write without fear and develop solid writing habits using a series of bitesize daily exercises. Urban Writers’ Retreat is also hosting a series of free weekly mini and full-day retreats on its private Facebook group. Which means you’ve well and truly run out of excuses.

Chrissy Sundt

Find your silver lining

Best known for its signature wellness retreats in Menorca and the Bahamas, Silver Lining Retreats now offers 3 and 5-day at-home retreat programs through SLR@Home. Each day, you’ll have four ‘bitesize’ classes and workshops to work through. You can stream them in any order, at any time, even after your 3 or 5 days are up, so it’s easy to work around work or family commitments.

‘We developed SLR@Home to give our clients some tools to stay fit and well, helping them to combat the very real stress of coping with the global pandemic and adjusting to our new normal,’ explains Chrissy Sundt, SLR’s founder and director.

A typical day starts with 20 minutes of energising Qi Gong and might end with a soothing 40 minute sound meditation or stretch session. Morning and afternoon activities include dynamic yoga flows, barre and Pilates-inspired fitness classes and centring breathing workshops.

‘Qi Gong is like pressing the “refresh” button,’ explains Tallulah Rendall, SLR’s resident Qi Gong specialist and sound practitioner. ‘It supports the reorganisation of the nervous system, clears our energy and grounds us, to set us up for the day ahead. The simple movements encourage you to become more present – and as the mind quietens, so the heart begins to settle.’

‘At the end of the day, a well-crafted sound meditation can help you enter into a really deep place of relaxation. The limitless and transformative qualities of sound guide us into the stillness, allowing our hearts to settle as we let go of tension. It can have really powerful effects for people who struggle with insomnia or disturbed sleep.’

A 3-day retreat costs £75, while a 5-day retreat costs £100. A portion of the fee goes to the WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, so you can do good while feeling good.

Journey to joy

Created by Soul Adventures’ Trish Whelan, The Essential Guide For Soul Adventures 40-Day Journey to Joy Home Retreat Program is based around 40 Kundalini yoga classes and meditations, each with a different focus and theme. ‘I see Kundalini yoga as one of the most powerful tools we have for real transformation,’ explains Trish. ‘It is a powerful, ancient practice that connects you to your true essence.’

Each day, you’ll scan a QR code to access that day’s content – filmed by Trish in inspirational natural locations on the beautiful island of Ibiza. ‘It’s a commitment of one hour a day to change your life, and it really will change your life,’ she promises.

The 40-day course costs 80 euros (approx. £73) and includes lifetime access to all content.

Get personal

Perfect for those who miss the more personal aspect of the retreat experience or feel in need of tailored guidance and feedback on a specific issue, leading Thai wellness destination Chiva-Som is now offering a wide range of online services via video call, from personalised naturopathic and nutritional consultations to one-to-one fitness, yoga, meditation and breathwork classes. Prices range from 3,500 THB (approx. £85) for a 45-minute class to 5,250 THB (approx. £128) for a 50-minute consultation.

Closer to home, Harley Street’s renowned Bodhimaya clinic is offering intensive, supported 7 and 14-day home retreat programs. Designed to optimise physical and emotional wellbeing and support you as you work toward your personal health goals, each program includes daily meditations, one-to-one consultations with an award-winning team of experts and a personalised nutrition program with meal delivery option. You can even add functional biomarker testing. Prices start from £795.

Images: Learning with experts & SLR Retreats

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