Monday, October 30, 2017

Azure Body Positive Yoga and Wellness Retreat - A Week Well Spent



If you follow my Instagram there is no way you would have missed this as I spent more than a week spamming everyone with holiday photos! But recently I went away to Turkey to an incredible body positive yoga retreat. And it was absolutely amazing!

I was initially contacted by Jayne, the owner of the retreat, who asked me if I wanted to help her set up a body positive yoga retreat. I jumped at the chance! How amazing to have a safe space for body positive plus size women to go away on holiday and reconnect with their bodies. So we spent the next few months planning what this inaugaral event might look like. We got some bookings, which was super exciting, and before I knew it, it was time for George (from Fuller Figure Fuller Bust) and I to head to Turkey!

AzureWellness Retreat is a little oasis of peace and calm. Newly refurbished, the rooms are all clean, bright and cool. Our hosts were Michelle and Ali, who honestly couldn't have been more welcoming or hospitable. Nothing was too much hassle, and I honestly felt so well looked after while I was there! I actually asked Michelle if she wanted to come home with me, and run my life for me, lol.

Activity centred around the common area, which is a lovely covered patio with big wooden table and chairs and gorgeous turkish lamps hanging from a large piece of drift wood overhead. This was were we ate our meals and our happy little tribe spent lots of time talking nonsense, exchanging stories and sharing our experiences as women, as plus size women and as body positive sisters. This sisterhood that developed over the course of the week really was the most precious aspect of the whole trip. I think there was a freedom in our shared experiences. And in being in a safe space where you could honestly say that everyone around you believed that all bodies were good bodies. It was so wonderful to see the blooming of confidence throughout the group over the course of the week. That experience was absolutely golden for me.

The other focal point at Azure is the pool. I can never get enough of swimming and splashing about, so having the whole pool to ourselves every day was heaven. The pool area has pockets of shade, comfortable sun loungers and loads of waterproof cushions, so we spent our days in and out of the pool and strutting about in our swimwear making outrageous jokes, pushing each other in the water, and generally behaving like kids - heaven!








The food was incredible! I was a little daunted by a purely vegetarian menu for a week - I do like vegetarian food but wondered how inventive it could possible be for a week. Turns out very, Lovely Michelle is an absolute brilliant cook, and we were all hassling her for recipes after every meal. Suffice to say, we ate well and my body felt incredibly well nourished and fuelled. I never felt hungry, and when we had cravings for junk food there was a little shop just down the road. 

I have to be honest, I was a bit nervous about the yoga. I have done yoga on and off (very non commitally) over the years, but most of the classes I have attended I did feel a bit conspicuously larger than everyone else. And when I couldn't manage something my immediate assumption was that it was because of my size. 



Yoga is twice a day, morning and evening, from Monday to Saturday with Sundays off. However, like everything else at Azure it is optional, so somedays I didn't do both classes (I may have had a brutal hangover on one of them) and that's totally fine. Over the week we had two teachers, both with different approaches to yoga but both were really good at adapting to people's abilities and strengths. What fascinated me was how different bodies can do such different things. I can quite easily sit cross legged for an hour (something many people struggled with) but ask me to touch my toes and you're gonna be there all day. I managed an L shaped handstand against a wall on my very first try (something I am still flabbergasted by, and which made me feel like an absolute badass), something which our slender teacherdivulged it had taken her a year to master. Yet other things which looking at seemed simple, really stretched me. But I found that quite encouraging. It was a reminder that just because my body is fat, doesn't mean it is wrong. Just like any other body it has strengths and weaknesses, and yoga really highlights both.

Over the week I could feel myself strengthening and improving, and I could really see the improvement in others too. I think what I liked the most about the yoga was how it fostered a connection with my body which I really haven't had in a while. I spent a lot of time in my head - I am an overthinker, dominated by the warring of emotion and intellect most of the time. It was great to have some time to focus on my body, focus on the physical and the present. Since I've come home I am still trying to do some regular yoga (I have some YouTube videos I use), and I would very much like to find a local yoga class where I feel as comfortable.  

The morning after our arrival, George and I were booked in for a session at a local hamam. A hamam is a Turkish bath where you can expect to be steamed, scrubbed and rubbed! Honestly it was the most heavenly of experiences - we stripped down to our swimwear (a little daunting for me at first, but it helped I was there with George and the women looking after us seemed not at all perturbed - it's important to remember that they see all sorts of bodies everyday. This is their job!) and spent some time in the sauna opening up our pores and getting a good sweat on.

Then we were taken to a room with a heated stone platform - there were just the two of us in their with the female attendants, who then took exfoliating mits and scrubbed our entire bodies. You could feel the exfoliation but it was not in anyway uncomfortable. Then we were piled high with soppy suds (George said I resembled a large lemon merinque - yum!) and washed and given a brief massage. After which we were rinsed off, feeling cleaner than I maybe have ever felt, and wrapped up in little towels, given a glass of water and left to rest for a little bit. Shortly afterwards our same assistants came to fetch us for our massage (this was an additional service that George and I had paid extra for). It was amazing. After all that scrubbing and cleaning, to have an hour long full body massage meant every little drop of city stress left my body and I felt like I was floating on a cloud to be honest! It was so good, that at the end of the trip I went back again to have another session. Honestly I would go every day if I could. 

Our stay included a boat trip. I wasn't too sure what to expect (I think we'd assumed it would be a small fishing boat, with just us ladies on it for a day) but our vessel was in fact a rather large tourist boat, decked out with somewhat Disney-esque pirate decorations, and a deck filled with cushions perfect for sunbathing. Having grown up on boats since I was very little (my dad could never get enough of the sea) I adore every chance to hit the open water. It was a day filled with swimming and sunning, and I really impressed myself by being one of the first to jump off the top deck of the boat and into the sea - terrifying and exhilirating.





Other activities included a belly dancing class - the group was so supportive that pretty much everyone joined in, and our teacher was honestly the most upbeat, gorgeous ray of sunshine ever, so she had as grinning, gyrating and generally making tits of ourselves in no time. Michelle had also arranged an aromatherapy lesson for us, where we made our own personalised essential oil blend which we all found really enjoyable.

We decided on a few of our own little adventures too - all the time is really your own and you can get involved in as few or as many of the planned activities as you like. We all got along really well, and as we were a relatively small group we hung out together most of the time. One day we ventured out to the local market. We explored the food market with it's aromatic spices and fresh produce. The stall holders were helpful, and keen to let us try their wares (no complaints here!). We then wandered into the textile market. It was filled with a lot of 100% knock offs etc, but we'd been drawn by the promise of curios and pretty local pottery. Alas, the welcome we recevied was rather disturbing - shouts of "big bobs" echoed after us, and George was called Jordan while I was nicknamed Ginger Spice. It was all a bit much. And while it wasn't all of the sellers by any means, it was enough to make us quite uncomfortable and so we were keen to get out of there.


A successful market trip

A few days later we headed to the picturesque marina of Gumusluc. This quaint little row of restaurants and shops, all centred around the water was an absolute haven. An instagrammers dream, it being the end of the summer season meant that getting there early we had the place pretty much to ourselves initially. It meant we had our choice of restaurants, and tables sitting at the edge of the gently lapping Med. We shopped in relative peace, and with none of the inappropriate comments that had been hurled at us in the market in town. Honestly, next time I go back I may make a couple of trips into Gumusluc, it was so very pretty.





A morning spent in Gumusluc... 

When we first envisioned the retreat, I had thought there would be more formal talks about body positivity, mine and George's journeys with our bodies etc. However because we were quite a small group these conversations took place naturally over the week. Things came about organically and so it wasn't necessary to schedule in anything. However, when we do this again - and we are going to - if there is a bigger group that might be necessary.

As I said in the beginning, the best part of the trip was how it left me feeling about my body, and how I saw the confidence and positivity blossom in others. These incredibly gorgeous and brilliant women were just realising their own beauty and strength in front of my eyes and it was the most incredible experience. And exactly what I hoped a trip like this might achieve. We spent a lot of time taking pictures - mainly ones where we were out of our comfort zones, trying to see our bodies in positive ways. Please check out these absolute goddesses below (who have all given permission for me to share their pictures).

Clemmie living her best life...




Kerry looking like she's in a music video... 



Rachael looking radiant...



What I loved about this holiday, is that it was a warm and welcoming group of women. It was perfect for holiday makers on their own. And it was a supportive and uplifting environment, which is exactly what I hoped it would be. And so, as it was a success, we will be running them again! You can read George's more succinct review here. And you can check out more about Azure here, but our body positive retreats will be running in May and September next year. I would contact Azure sharpish for more details! George and I hope to see you there my darlings... 
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3 comments

  1. It looks amazing and like you spent the entire time just chilled and relaxed. It seems sheer perfection.

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  2. Well this looks bloody fantastic! So glad you had a great time with the girls. I want to do something similar with Pilates. Isha :) x

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  3. This looks like such a life changing week, and the photos are just pure joy and happiness! I hope you both get to go back and lead the groups again! x

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