Here’s a revitalising wellness retreat that includes healthy vices

Bells at Killcare

We all know I’m a sucker for some ‘space between’ and that I believe wholeheartedly that stepping back from the daily race is a not a privilege but essential. How else can we expect to thrive, be inspired or, most importantly, be our freshest most dazzling selves?

Yes, stepping back from work for a few days to ‘top up’ is profoundly productive but I love being able to combine it with some of my same healthy habits and active rituals.

Cue: my recent stay Bells at Killcare for its two-night Empowering Yoga retreat. Bells at Killcare

Located just 75 minutes north of Sydney near Gosford, Bells has the mystery and romance of a cozy getaway in winter and a casual chic coastal breeze come summer. (That’s definitely my type of ‘space between’!)

Already famous for its idyllic setting and quiet surroundings, not to mention award-winning food by chef Steve Manfredi, Bells is now making a name for itself now in wellness getaways, given it hosts a variety of them throughout the year. I happened to get along to one of them recently, smack bang in the middle of the week. (Take THAT ‘five-day work calendar’!)

This particular retreat was hosted by Suzanne Fraser of East Coast Yoga and focused on Iyengar Yoga. We practiced three times daily: a morning energiser, a post-lunch digestion yoga and an afternoon restorative.

Bells at Killcare

In between shape-making, Bells hosted hiking in the surrounding stunning bushland or offered up free time to chill or have a treatment in their Day Spa. My recommendation here, although hard to choose, is the signature Kodo Massage, a rhythmic body massage inspired by traditional Australian Aboriginal techniques that work to bring the body back into balance.

Sure, sure the massage was bliss, the yoga was relaxing and the nature hang was just what the doctor ordered, but actually the highlight of my mini-stay was the dining experiences.

These days, I generally expect retreats and wellness programs to be continually ‘clean’ – limited to green smoothies and superfoods in abundance, and certainly offering zero caffeine.

But, refreshingly, not this time. Mornings we topped up on a delicious spread of fruit, chia seed birchers and eggs to boot. Then lunch and dinner were straight from Manfredi’s decadent menu paired with an extensive wine list. Who said you can’t mix yoga and wine? Not me.

Having experienced one for myself now, I highly recommend checking out some of the other wellness offerings Bells has coming up for the rest of this year. Make sure you enjoy a glass of vino by the open fire for me. Life’s for savouring. Sip it in.

Bells at Killcare

More about Bells of Killcare’s wellness retreats:

Kate attended a 2-night Empowering Yoga Retreat hosted by special guest instructor Suzanne Fraser (see interview below) at Bells of Killcare, which holds various innovative wellness retreats throughout the year, designed to inspire guests to live and breathe a healthier life, to nourish their bodies and clear their minds.

These are generally hosted by supportive professionals, such as yoga teachers, nutritionists, personal trainers or guest chefs. 

The next 2-night Empowering Yoga Retreat will be held from October 14. There will also be a 3-night Cleanse and Nourish Retreat starting September 27, hosted by nutritionist Michele Chevely Hedge. For bookings, call 02 4349 7000 or visit here.

Bells at Killcare

Sage advice from Iyengar yoga teacher Suzanne Fraser of East Coast Yoga, who led this retreat:

1. Firstly, how many years have you been practicing?

Suzanne: “I started practicing yoga when I was a teenager and now I am a grandmother! About 40 years of practice and 30 years of teaching yoga.”

2. What in your opinion are the biggest benefits to going on a retreat as opposed to a series of classes close to home?

“Classes at home keep you sane and on track which is essential. However, going on retreat creates space to instigate profound change, deepening your understanding of yoga asana and allowing the time to daydream, opening the doors to new possibility for yourself and your life.”

3. How does this retreat make the connection between yoga and nutrition? Bells at Killcare

“Bells has a huge kitchen garden and chef Stefano [Manfredi] sources only the best ingredients.  I love the delicious simplicity of seasonal Italian cuisine. It’s very close to the classic yogic diet of pulses, grains and dairy combined with seasonal fruits and vegetables. This cuisine is easy to digest and full of vitality, perfect for yoga especially if you choose the light vegetarian options. A little bit of a sweet treat is considered your reward. And coffee, well Manfredi coffee is so delicious and the barista so talented… it certainly gets us going.”

4. Any advice for people who say they’d love to do more yoga but can’t find the time?  

“Attending a short retreat like this one at Bells at Killcare is inspirational. You feel the benefits of a regular yoga practice and then time becomes more available when you realise a few Sun Salutations can improve your whole day and so on and so on. We at East Coast Yoga offer ‘Bespoke yoga retreats’ where a group of friends can commission a retreat adapted to their specific needs and time frame.”

5. If we were all to adopt just one new practice in our lives in the aim for more balance, what would you suggest it be? 

“‘Open your eyes wide and let the light in.’ It’s something Geetajii [the eldest daughter of Iyengar’s founder, who is described as the leading female yoga teacher in the world] often says in her classes and I do to. Recently a friend showed me a passage from The Bible, where Luke says the same thing. It excites me when a simple truth resonates in different spiritual traditions, I take notice.”

6. Why is it so important to take time out for ourselves?                     
“In this busy overly stimulated world in which we live, it’s vital to take time to be with yourself, to get to know yourself again.  Mindful pauses in your daily life, however short, are of great benefit but time out with likeminded people in a natural environment, practicing yoga, can renew a person’s spirit so they remember their true priorities in life.”