I had just finished studying for 5 years to become a dietitian and I was not quite ready to go back to living with my parents so when the opportunity came up to volunteer at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat for 2 weeks, I jumped at the chance.
I had no idea what volunteering at a retreat entailed but it sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I arrived at the Gold Coast Airport super excited to meet other like-minded people, eat amazing food and be immersed in a slower way of life.
Gwinganna is a health and wellness bubble that is tucked away in the Hinterlands of the Gold Coast. You would never know that it is only 15 minutes away from the nearest town. Gwinganna is the perfect place to meet inspirational people, admire the amazing scenery and eat delicious food.
A typical day at Gwinganna includes Qigong with the sunrise, a walk in nature, breakfast – I always had multiple bowls of the insanely delicious chocolate brown rice porridge; then yin (restorative) or yang (energetic) activities to suit your body. Next is morning tea and a wellness seminar that covers a different health and wellness topic on any given day. After lunch things start to wind down and the rest of the day is called “dreamtime” where the guests get treatments at the spa or just chill out reading, journaling etc. Sounds like bliss right?!
As volunteers, we helped to make this schedule run as smoothly as possible by doing various tasks such as waking the guests up for Qigong, setting up the yoga mats, rolling a fair few Tahini Balls in the kitchen and helping in the organic vege garden. In between these shifts, there was always plenty of time to swim in the infinity pool, have a sauna or an essential oil steam or to go on your own bush walk. One of my favourite things was being able to ‘work’ while getting to experience the range of activities that I would otherwise have never dreamt of doing at home!
5 things that I learnt from Gwinganna:
- Listen to your body – if you’re like me, you love to plan everything. Gwinganna forces guests to decide which activity they are doing on the day so that they tune into their body’s needs in that moment. Some mornings you will want to get your heart rate up whereas other mornings you will just want to lie in savasana.
- Do something for you everyday – whether it be 10 minutes or 4 hours. You choose how much time you can manage but schedule it into your day if you have to. It’s not selfish, you can’t give what you don’t have. Having so many activities/ practices to choose from at Gwinganna meant that I had to choose which ones suited me best.
- Less is more – the fast-paced modern day way of life is not sustainable for good health. It took 2 weeks at one of the top health and wellness retreats in the world for me to realise that. It is so normal to always want more of everything that we forget about what’s really important.
- Be present – this was the crux of my experience at Gwinganna. Since there’s no washing to hang out, no kids to think about and no dinner to plan and prepare every night, the only thing left to do at Gwinganna is to be present and to enjoy every moment. It makes such a difference not thinking about the future and the past constantly.
- Make deep belly breathing a non-negotiable – few people actually breathe the way we were designed to. Deep belly breathing has a profound effect on our whole body – our digestion, immune function, restful sleep and mood. Since stress makes you stop burning fat, many a person at Gwinganna has seen their pants get looser and looser by simply breathing diaphragmatically.
Thank you Gwinganna, you were absolute bliss.
Photo credit: Daisy Moore