by Nadia Laws
What if you could bring back more than just a few souvenirs from your next holiday? With health and wellness retreats popping up around the world, including a few in our own backyard, it’s possible to ditch your routine and to-do list and focus on feeling your best physically, mentally and emotionally.
It was several years ago that Larry Williams first learnt about the Braveheart Men’s Retreat. Offering men of all ages and backgrounds a chance to connect with one another while also learning more about themselves, the holistic health retreat included specialised workshops, chi gong classes and guided meditation sessions at Paget Island over a three day period. According to Mr Williams, who attended the retreat when it ran in 2015 and 2016, the experience allowed him a chance to reflect and build lasting bonds with men – mostly from overseas – whom he wouldn’t have ordinarily met.
“I left those retreats thinking differently about myself and my life,” Mr Williams said. “Through those experiences, I gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for where I was at in my life. It was a chance to get away from a Thursday to Sunday and just reset. And the nuggets of wisdom I learned allowed me to take another step in my personal and spiritual journey of growth.”
Though the retreat will not be running this year, Mr Williams has taken it upon himself to keep up the momentum gained by joining in on weekly calls with a few of the men who took part in previous wellness weekends. He also meets with a handful of Bermuda-based men twice a month at Spirit House to talk about different subject matters, from fatherhood and work-life balance to health and fitness.
“Women tend to have a better support system than men because it’s encouraged and widely accepted that they’ll chat and communicate with each other, whereas men are raised to believe that expressing anything, especially anything on the emotional side, is not masculine,” Mr Williams said. “Male friendships often involve talking about sporting events, work, politics or women, that’s why retreats like this are so helpful and necessary as they give us a safe space to grow personally and professionally in our walk and support one another.”
Shonte’ Richardson, a local pole enthusiast, has twice attended a fitness and empowerment retreat in Bermuda, hosted by international organisation Black Girls Pole, a group which aims to inspire, empower and educate women of colour to embrace their bodies and challenge their mindsets through pole dancing. As the local adult dance community is still fairly small in Bermuda, Ms Richardson said the retreat gave her a chance to express herself, without judgement, while also connecting with other women with a similar passion. “The experience definitely helped me to become stronger, both physically and mentally,” she said. “It’s been challenging, particularly last year, as I had taken some time off from attending pole classes, so throwing myself in definitely took a toll on my body. However, mentally it taught me to be patient with myself, as growth takes time. It was reassuring to talk to other women at the retreat and to know that I wasn’t alone in some of my feelings and doubts. Even though it was hard, I learnt I could work to overcome any fitness challenge or life obstacle.”
In addition to dance classes, the women who attend the Black Girls Pole retreat are encouraged to spend time journaling and reflecting. They also get outside to enjoy the sights and sounds of Bermuda over the five-day break. “It gave me time out from my daily routine of going to work and running errands, to focus on my health and overall my life,” Ms Richardson explained. “Physically, I felt exhausted after it was all done, but overall I felt more confident in myself and happier that I was able to focus on me and build connections with other women from overseas.”
Marilyn Allers, owner of Aerial Therapy, said she was proud to host the retreat’s pole classes at her studio in Hamilton. In addition to building lasting connections and friendships, she’s seen first hand how the annual experience has helped women discover something new or different about themselves. “That looks and feels like something unique to everyone who participates, but one of the universal benefits of retreats like these is they bring people together and create community.”
Another retreat that is looking to offer a deep sense of well-being, while also providing a getaway from the everyday stressors and distractions of life, is Ocean Rock Wellness’ ‘The Real Solution Retreat’. Launching in 2021, the retreat plans to offer people much-needed downtime, as well as wholesome, nutritious meals and educational seminars.
“When someone isn’t distracted, they are in an optimal mind-frame to learn,” said physiotherapist Beth Hollis, who along with doctors Ayesha Peets Talbot and Sabrina Famous have worked to create the event. “This retreat is how we hope to reach, teach and inspire change. We believe that mindset is key and hope our retreat can create a like-minded positive group setting so that people can find their tribe.”
One of the biggest challenges with retreats is once they’re over, people go back to their normal routines and many fall back into old bad habits. Dr Peets Talbot hopes to overcome this by creating check-ins and support for participants after their retreat experience is done. “Change doesn’t happen overnight, you need community support and connection to fuel the accountability and camaraderie,” she added.
This article was original posted in the 2020 edition of the RGMags Health & Wellness magazine.