A Rotorua retreat aligns mind, body and spirit, writes Sarah Atkinson
There's a certain effervescent energy when you get a group of women in a room together.
It's bubbling and overflowing with positive vibes, and there is a risk that they won't be able to shut up. I noticed this instantly as our group greeted each other at 9am on a crisp Saturday in May. Almost buzzing, we giggled our way through the awkward small talk and went straight into the deep. We shared our reasons for leaving our normal lives behind for the weekend and journeying to Rotorua — bubbling with its own life and energy.
Our weekend retreat at the Polynesian Spa promised to include relaxation, meditation, soaks in the mineral hot pools, yoga, a walk around the blue lake and a heavenly spa treatment. A newbie to retreats, I had no expectations and was just looking forward to having some time to myself. I was not alone in this sentiment. A quick journey around the room unearthed all manner of reasons for being here; becoming calmer, quietening the mind, making the most of our relationships, dealing with stress, spending time with a friend or, my personal favourite; staying alone in a hotel room.
Our weekend started with a rejuvenating walk around the Blue Lake — rejuvenating mostly due to the torrential rain, the brisk pace and the energetic chatter among the group. We were encouraged to walk quietly through the beautiful native bush and listen to the delightful song of the local tui.
Instead, I paired off with a local property valuer and discussed the booming Rotorua real estate scene and the trials and tribulations of bringing up a 6-year-old daughter surrounded by the pressures of social media.
The rejuvenating shower subsided about midway through the walk just as we came into view of the Blue Lake. By the walk's end, I was convinced that my first investment property would be in Rotorua and had come to a personal realisation that children might be a "take 'em or leave 'em" kind of decision.
I have the fondest childhood memories of biscuit-ing and banana boat-ing on this lake once a year during school holiday camps. Looking at the lake as an adult brought all those memories back and made me feel all warm and gooey inside. For me, Rotorua is the place where once a year I grew up that little bit more. I'd learn a new skill like rock climbing or archery, I'd make new friends, and I'd become a bit more grown up. Some 20 years later, was that what I was doing right now?
Hosting the retreat was Makaia Carr, who is both inspiring and down to earth. She taught us how to use our new Shakti mats, a gift in our retreat goodie bags. If you want to feel alive in the world, stand on a Shakti mat. I double dare you. The mat is the 21st-century answer to lying down on a bed of nails, and it has garnered a massive following on social media. No bigger than a pillow, the mat is made up of a thin piece of foam with one side completely covered in 4000 to 8000 tiny spikes which you then lie or stand on. The shock was very intense, but after 10 minutes of lying on my mat, I felt myself begin to melt into it. I can see the benefits of using the mat regularly, especially if you have back pain or tension. Carr has three at home and uses them regularly.
Day two began at 8am with 90 minutes of yoga with a 180-degree view of uninterrupted Rotorua lakefront. The milky water, rising steam and flocks of birds made for a picturesque vantage point during my warrior one pose. Our teacher Hollie Beaumont hails from England's Lake District and now calls Rotorua home. She holds regular classes and workshops at her studio, The Stand, located at Rotorua's Race Course featuring stunning wooden floors, a mono-pitched roof and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the raceway.
Our weekend wrapped up with a meditation session with Helena Keenan, Polynesian Spa's Retreat manager. She has been practising meditation since 2002, and has one of the most transcendent voices I've ever heard. I've never meditated before, but after just a couple of days of being guided by Keenan, I could quickly fall into a blissful stillness that I've never been able to channel before, then come out the other side incredibly energised. The level of energy I felt after meditating was quite addictive, and almost the same as the feeling you get when you're with a group of women who won't shut the hell up — it puts a smile on your face and lets you know that everything is going to be all right.
Get mindful with these mediation apps
The Mindfulness App packed with features, including a five-day, guided meditation practice, meditation reminders, personalised meditation offers, and timers for keeping you on track.
Headspace ideal for people just starting out, with 10 newbie-focused 10-minute meditation exercises. It's designed to help you quickly understand what the practice is all about. There's also a personalised progress page, a reward system and even a buddy system for you and your friends to help each other stay on track.
Insight Timer features more than 4500 free guided meditations from more than 1000 meditation practitioners as well as 750 meditation music tracks. Lets you customise your intervals and background sounds so that your meditation session is right for your needs.
IF YOU GO
See polynesianspa.co.nz/mindful-moments-retreat for more details.