HEAVENLY TEACHERS Looking for space to bond with their new babies, friends Rachel Marsh and Tilly Wood try a Mamaheaven yoga retreat.
Mamaheaven is the brainchild of friends Hetty Los, Tania Smith and Paula Gallardo. Paula went to a yoga retreat in Spain when her daughter was four and found that it really ‘put me back on track’. Finding that many women would benefit from the experience much sooner after giving birth, but that they wouldn’t want to leave their children when they’re young, her idea was to create a retreat where mothers would feel comfortable bringing young children.
Rachel and Tilly would certainly agree that Mamaheaven is baby friendly. There’s a well-staffed crèche on hand, which gives mums the chance to spend time away from their babies, often for the first time, and many of the classes offered are aimed at mothers and babies. Babies in attendance varied from as young as six weeks up to 18 months.
The yoga and massage classes, run by yoga expert Erika Tourell, are the main focus of the weekends, but the retreats also give mothers the chance to spend time alone with their babies in a supportive atmosphere and reflect on what motherhood means to them. There’s the opportunity to take part in classes, discussions and workshops, and everyone is also offered either a massage or a session with a McTimoney practitioner, a form of chiropractic treatment.
Our mums also fell in love with Penrhos Court, the comfortable 12th-century farmhouse on the Welsh borders where all the retreats have so far taken place. Renowned for its largely homegrown and seasonal organic food, it goes without saying that food at Mamaheaven retreats is divine. And among the regular retreat talks is one from Penrhos’ owner and chef, Daphne Lambert, on nutrition and organic cooking.
Other weekend workshops include sessions on herbal medicine, eco-parenting and ‘sing and sign’ classes, designed to help babies communicate before they begin to talk.
Tilly, initially worried about spending time alone with women she hadn’t met before, was amazed at how comfortable and relaxed she felt early on in the weekend: ‘We talked about all our different lives – but have sworn to keep our stories just between us!’
‘The women who organised the weekend are all fantastically inspiring,’ enthuses Tilly. ‘They’re mostly mothers themselves, each with their own interesting experiences and skills to share. They really make the weekend special. Just talking and sharing your experiences really helps so much. I picked up all kinds of advice and felt that I had time to get to know my baby and enjoy her away from all the usual distractions of home life.’ Rachel agrees: ‘It was a relief to discover like-minded mothers who had similar methods and beliefs. It was reassuring to be reminded that your own intuition is your most valuable asset as a new mother. When you are constantly bombarded with advice on parenting it can get very confusing. Most importantly, it was lovely to be among women who allowed you to be yourself without passing judgement.’
Both Tilly and Rachel found plenty to take away from the weekend and they are both planning to continue using the massage and yoga techniques they learned at Mamaheaven. Rachel already uses massage on her babies but gleaned some useful tips from the demonstrations.
‘I learned how I could manage to squeeze just a little bit of yoga into my everyday routine and how enjoyable it could be for us both.’
‘Mummy-and-baby yoga was really fun and made me realise that I could even do yoga with Lola,’ agrees Tilly. ‘She seemed to enjoy it and the dancing around afterwards helped with her hiccups. And the baby massage was so divine. Seeing nine little naked babies having their tummies rubbed with luxurious organic baby massage oil is a pleasure that everyone should experience.’
Now in its second year, Mamaheaven offers the opportunity to mothers to go on specially tailored yoga retreats with their young babies, in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.
What's On Offer
Each Mamaheaven retreat can accommodate 10-12 mothers with their babies. The two-night retreats (from Friday to Sunday) are priced £475 per person (baby goes free!), which includes accommodation, meals, classes and massage. Four Mamaheaven retreats are planned for 2006; the weekends of 3-5 February, 7-9 April, 11-13 August and 6-8 October.