Life

“I went to a wellness and yoga retreat and this is how it actually affected my mental health”

After noticing her Instagram feed fill up with mindfulness techniques and yoga retreats, digital writer Megan Murray wanted to see if embracing the wellness trend would really help dissolve some of her London-life stress.

As the sound of soft chanting filled my ears from a nearby yoga tent and a sea-thrown breeze skimmed my skin, an ‘access consciousness’ therapist gently waved her fingers above my head to “facilitate the energy flow” of my body. Her aim? To help me reach an ultimate state of zen.

And it’s then that I wondered, Carrie Bradshaw-style, has it happened? After flying 12 hours across the world to experience the benefits of a wellness festival, am I really, truly relaxed? Am I a vision of zen-ness?

That was the aim of going to Mauritius for the inaugural international wellness festival, hosted on luxury Heritage Le Telfair’s private beach on the Southern part of this paradisiac island. Not a bad gig, eh?

The Mauritius Wellness Festival: the idyllic sandy shores of Hotel Le Telfair.

You see, I feel very fortunate that generally speaking my mental health is not something I worry about. I don’t often feel anxious or seriously stressed, but I do find that living in a city like London can leave me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

I’m one of those people who books plans months in advance, moans about how busy they are and promises to proritise self-care next week – but constantly I just feel like time is slipping away from me.

I love my job, but working to tight deadlines day in and day out takes it out of me. I think I probably echo the worries of a lot of millennial women working in capital cities around the world, struggling to unplug, with the threat of burnout looming over them all too often.

We’ve seen the need for wellness increase as interest rises around terms like ‘self-care’, new cafes and social spaces have become geared around taking care of ourselves mentally and physically, and boozy holiday packages are swapped for slow living breaks.

But while the wellness trend may be sweeping the UK quicker than you can say “how much is that crystal?”, it’s something that’s been growing organically in Mauritius for years – thus making it the perfect place to (really) leave London behind and see if I could actually unwind. 

The Mauritius Wellness Festival: the private beach where many of the classes take place.

Many Indian practises such as yoga, meditation and healing with sound have long been commonplace here, but it’s something that’s swelled even more in recent years as ancient traditions become more popular in modern culture. Mauritius, located in the Indian Ocean, and its people have held wellness and mindfulness up as an important focus of daily life for years, with smaller festivals and events having ran previously. But after some luxurious renovations to the Heritage Le Telfair’s sprawling resort, the hotel decided that last year was the time to start the first Mauritius Wellness Festival.

The resort is gorgeous. It’s huge, spanning a village of colonial style apartments which encircle pools and look out to the beach which is just steps away. A river snakes and bends through the centre, which creates a sense of being in the rainforest, and then there’s the private cove with the kind of blue water Brits dream about dipping a toe into. It’s the perfect setting to let go of city life and embrace nature.

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The festival runs for three days on this private section of the beach which is slightly separate from the main hotel’s two luxury-style pools, four restaurants and accommodation. This seclusion means that a mini-community is formed over the weekend, everyone brimming with the same energy.

If you’ve ever been to a traffic light party at university, where your openness for being approached is signalled by the colour you’re wearing, this is like that – everyone is metaphorically wearing bright green, keen to talk, connect, share ideas and have fun. Except without the sticky floor.

The idyllic setting is of course crucial to the enjoyment of the festival, but it’s the expertly planned schedule of events across the three days that takes the experience from merely a nice break to being transformative.

It’s completely up to you what types of activities you attend, but yoga is a huge focus of the weekend and something that I found helped my London stress drop away and concentrate on feeling centred. From sunrise practice to sessions focused mainly on guided meditation, I loved that the only thing you can hear is the waves and your own voice in your head.

We also took excursions to nearby hillsides and mountains. Climbing up I felt the rush of fresh air into my lungs (something that rarely happens in east London’s Dalston where I live) and marvelled at the miles of coast line stretching out in front of me, glittering in the sun with patches of green and blue becoming identifiable in the water the higher I got. Once we reached an appropriately grassy, flattened spot, we sat and observed our breathing for the next hour. That’s something I could never imagine making the time to do back at home, and even if I did, the view would hardly be as inspirational.

Mauritus Wellness Festival: breathing exercises with a view.

By the time it came to leave I don’t mind admitting I felt one of the happiest I ever have in my life. I haven’t done much solo travel before and I think attending the festival alone is a huge factor in the peacefulness that I felt by the time it was over. Having that time and space to myself was crucial in understanding how I’d really been feeling recently. Sitting with myself with no distractions in a place that helped me feel closer to nature was an instrumental part of recentering. 

The festival is ran by an international group of experts, all of whom I found inspiring and passionate about helping each one of us get to a new place within ourselves. When coupled with the wholesome, freshly cooked food that’s served all day on the beach (as much as you like) and the hotel spa housed in a leafy, outdoor haven, where you can enjoy chakra cleansing alongside good ol’ fashioned massages and facials, it’s an investment in yourself I don’t think you’ll forget.

I returned to London feeling lighter, less stressed and more peaceful. But also, armed with the knowledge that time on my own is good for me, that Mauritius is one of the most beautiful places on earth and that experiences are everything.

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This year the Mauritius Wellness Festival is taking place 22-24 May. The festival costs £227 for the three day pass and this includes breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, all practice sessions, workshops and entertainment. Guests can stay onsite at the 5-star Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort for £168 per person/ night including daily festival ticket. Direct flights from London Heathrow to Mauritius in Economy Class start from just £632 per person for the return trip including all taxes and charges but look out for special fares the airline offers from time to time. Spoil yourself with Business class return fares from £2683 per person.

Wellness Festival Mauritius is also offering Stylist readers an exclusive 10% discount on a Wellness Festival ticket, plus a 10% discount on a stay at Heritage Le Telfair, the host venue of the festival. You will also receive a wellness gift pack on arrival. Use promo code mw2020a when purchasing a ticket online.

 See more information.

Images: Mauritius Wellness Festival

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