As the beginning of my 31st year, or my 30th birthday edged ever closer, I began to spend more and more of my days weighing up whether celebrating it was actually necessary. I’ve never been a huge fan of birthdays – something I actually addressed toward the back end of last year as part of my CBT – and this year, with no other half to share it with, a circle of friends who were dotted around the country and no distinct idea of the direction my life was really going – there didn’t seem much to celebrate.
So a month and a half before I was set to turn 30 and thanks to the generosity of my incredible mum and brother, I began to plan an escape which at the time I knew was a last ditch attempt at some self-love – and this came in the form of a 10 day yoga retreat and raw vegan fast.
I know what you’re thinking…
Where was the party? The drinks? The celebrations?
I thought that myself for a moment and then considered the vulnerable headspace I was in.
- Work was piling up.
- I was stressed.
- I was still digesting my own part in a relationship breakdown and;
- I’d been making very little effort to relax.
In light of this there was only so much the bottom of a gin bottle, a crowded dance floor and an empty bed could offer me in terms of comfort.
As the day of departure drew closer my anxieties about travelling alone, once again, grew – it’s weird to think that the same time last year I’d contemplated missing my flight at the airport just to run back home to familiarity – but I knew I needed this.
The fear of the unknown is a strange thing for me. It’s both attractive and repugnant. It’s a motivator and a detractor, and yet this combination of feelings had me back here again, and I’d chased it out of choice.
I mean it’s good to step out of your comfort zone every once in a while, right?
17 hours of air travel, one night of Songkran celebrations in Koh Samui and a dodgy ferry ride later and I’d arrived at the bay which would go on to steal my heart, and help me make sense of my desires.
It sounds like I’m romanticising it, but I really don’t need to.
I get shudders just thinking of the first time I set my eyes on it’s idyllic scene. Blue waves which rocked the boat serenely.
I mean waves are often angry right? Not these!
As the boat pulled into the island my eyes fell upon the white sands which gave way to an enchanting jungle, and a jungle that was adorned by rustic bungalows to each side, and one of them I’d be calling home for the next 10 days!
Until this point, I’d had very little idea of what to expect from the Sanctuary other than pictures on a website, a few email exchanges and a testimonial from a close friend. And at that point I cried with a combination of both relief and joy.
My bungalow sat neatly in my own corner of the jungle, a bathroom nestled neatly on one of the rocks on a higher mound, halfway between the beach and the yoga shala which rested at the top of what seemed like, at least at the beginning of my trip, a mountain taller than Everest.
I had a roomie I called Dickie, a baby gecko who visited my bathroom each evening and left around 6.15am each morning (I know this because I rose around this time for sunrise each day)
My first day would see me make preparations for my raw fast, begin my journey of mindfulness with daily yoga classes and meditation and start to really take in the beauty around me – with the odd spa treatment to cushion the blow.
I have to say that getting to know my body and its functions wasn’t high on my list of things to do for my 30th, nor on holiday – in fact I’d travelled more to get to know my mind – but the Sanctuary allowed me to do all of these things free of judgement and free of distraction.
The various yoga teachers each played their parts in helping me to thoroughly exhale the decades of negative emotions I had let build up within my body and my mind, and inhale the positive thoughts that would go on to help me move further into my asanas, strengthen my practice and most importantly bring home.
I encountered an eclectic mix of people at the Sanctuary, many of whom, like me had a trigger for their visit. Some came for the yoga, some for the parties, others for the food – and the latter of which was just incredible!
When I’d consciously made my decision to book my trip to the Sanctuary in February, a glass of red wine in one hand, and a chocolate truffle in the other, the idea of doing a raw vegan fast seemed an attractive one. Having opted to make the switch to a plant-based diet in January 2017 I’d seen and felt the benefits, and I was keen to understand if there were any further ones to be gained from going a step further by consuming only fresh, natural, raw ingredients.
Taking a look at what to expect, among daily yoga classes, spa treatments and steam rooms, the idea of having all my food looked after, prepared and ready to eat seemed an attractive one – and I didn’t by any stretch of the imagination expect it to be hard.
…and this is where you’re expecting me to tell you it was. It wasn’t!
In fact, the toughest thing for me was finding the room to fit every part of the plan in.
As part of the seven day fast my day would begin at 7am with a bentonite clay and psyllium husk “shake” aimed at bulking up, absorbing and drawing out toxins in the lead up to my final cleansing day
Then at 9.30am, after my morning yoga session I’d head over to the Sanctuary restaurant for a fruit bowl or fruit smoothie – I’m really not a fruit person, but starting my morning off with these, kind of hit home that I was missing a real treat not eating fresh fruit.
12pm I then headed over to the Wellness Centre, where Mr Moon or a member of his wonderful team would have a shot of wheatgrass – which I actually saw them blending from fresh – and a combination of nutritional herb supplements which included: Moringa, Chlorella, Barley grass, Alfalfa, Kelp, Bilva, Fennel, Coriander, Amala, Liquorice and Bamboo Rochana, for me to take – I’m not going to lie though, this was probably my least favourite part of the day mainly due to the taste that was left in my mouth until lunchtime – but I was in for a real treat then, so it became palatable for the hour.
An hour later and lunch time brought with it the opportunity to choose one of the many salad and cleansing plates on the Sanctuary menu. These varied from raw Pad Thais and maki rolls to dehydrated burgers and falafel. If I thought going vegan opened up a whole new world of ingredients, going raw went even deeper.
Following a spot of reading or writing on the beach I’d head back over to the Wellness Centre for my spirulina coconut juice, a natural algae mixed with fresh coconut water for extra protein and antioxidants – not going to say it wasn’t delicious – because it was!
An hour or so later I’d drink my lymph juice designed to cleanse the vascular system, this was made up of a combination of carrots, oranges, turmeric and ginger and was a ridiculously refreshing break from the heat.
An optional apple plate was always offered, but I never ate it – not because of my dislike for apples but because I was often far too full to even contemplate any more food.
I’d sit down to dinner at the Sanctuary restaurant around 8pm, write some notes in my notebook and listen to the waves crashing along the nearby shore until one of the delicious soups I ordered arrived at my table. Not being a fan of soup, I was pleasantly surprised not only by the variety I could choose from but also by the taste and texture. My favourite had to be the Thai soup – creamy coconut with plenty of warmth from the blend of Thai spices.
Let’s talk about colonics
During my frequent visits to the Wellness Centre in the afternoon I was often lucky enough to participate in some interesting discussions with the wellness consultant, an island resident Paula, regarding diet and benefits. The most interesting ones were ones which focused on the colon.
I guess I was kind of lucky in a way that one of the books I was reading during my visit seemed to work so harmoniously with the transition I was making during my time at the Sanctuary which helped me to understand a lot about the types of food, supplements, vitamins and minerals I was ingesting – I’d recommend it: How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger.
On my penultimate days of the 7 day fast, there were some discussions around the option of a colonic. A word I’d tried my best to avoid during my visits to the Wellness Centre but more out of fear than anything else, but as the days went by and as my fear turned into intrigue I found myself realising that it was actually something both my body and my mind wanted to do.
On the day of my first colonic (yes I had more than one) I was taken into a private bathroom by Paula, where I was shown the tools which were at my disposal to administer my very own coffee- based colonic.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, because I was petrified.
- What if I do it wrong?
- What if I accidentally let too much fluid in?
- How will I know when to stop?
- What if it won’t stop?
- How will I know it’s working?
Yep, I thought of it all.
Once Paula left, I chuckled to myself, inhaled and exhaled and got to it, leaving the bathroom one hour later a little lighter and with a gentle spring in my step.
Two days later I did it again.
What struck me as even more phenomenal than my u-turn to cleanse my body further, was the fact that other people, who had interacted with me when I first reached the Sanctuary, noticed the difference in my energy levels, my happiness scale and my escalation in mood.
I felt so positive about the experience I had endured during that time that I extended my stay further which enabled me to get to know the people I had bypassed on this journey in a little more depth, experience the cooked vegan meals at both the Sanctuary and the neighbouring Bamboo restaurant, overlooking the beautiful bay of Haad Yuan, as well as take stock of the lessons my mind, body and spirit had learnt during the first two weeks of my 30th year!