Inspiration Space retreats review | healing holidays, UK
Powerful Transformational Breath & yoga retreats
The Quick Read: These 2 night, 3 day retreats work deeply but quickly to give you more energy, less baggage and a much clearer mind using daily sessions of Transformational Breathing, yoga, meditation, woodland walks, energising juices and healthy food. Your base is the Wasing Estate near Aldermaston in Berkshire, a glorious 4,000 acres of Nania-esque ancient woodland, countryside and winding rivers just an hour from London. The retreats are run by Transformational Breath® coaches Aimee Hartley and Rebecca Dennis and Advanced Yoga Teacher Jess Horn a few times a year, with top up workshops in London in between. For many, they’re life changing.
Who it’s best for: Anyone of any age alone or with a companion who wants to truly, deeply relax. The retreat offers you the chance to get rid of deep-seated angst and kick start an at-home self-practice that will be useful throughout your life.
What you can do: Over the course of the three days there are four yoga classes, three group sessions in Transformational Breath® and plenty of down time for reading, walking or having massage. Advanced Yoga Teacher Jess Horn originally practiced Ashtanga yoga, but has also trained in Iyengar, Restorative and Yin and now teaches a blend of gently flowing, breath led and alignment based classes. She skilfully picks and mixes mindful meditation, yoga nidra, hatha, yin and restorative yoga techniques to relax you and ease you into the breathing sessions, which are the focus of the retreat. On our retreat she was assisted by her kind and positive sister Ruby, also a qualified yoga teacher.
Designed by American therapist Dr Judith Kravitz, Transformational Breath® is a cutting edge therapy combining conscious breathing, gentle body mapping (similar to acupressure), movement (usually tapping your feet and hands against the floor) and toning (making vocal sound) to help you access the full potential of your breathing system (especially important when you consider that most of us only use 25% of our full respiratory capacity) and feel a whole lot better from the inside out.
The breathing sessions are not necessarily a comfortable experience. You might be propped up on pillows, have a bottle top in your mouth to help you keep it open, sweat, shiver, cry out, weep, pant or just feel bewildered for a while. Be assured that people soon get the hang of it, and any qualms you might have about breathing strangely with your mouth open or making loud noises next to someone you might have never met before are expertly quelled by coaches Aimee and Rebecca, who lead each session with compassion, wisdom and care.
Between times, go for walks, take a bath and relax in your room or chat to your fellow retreatants. We’d recommend booking a massage in advance with visiting Brighton-based massage therapist Gillian Steer, who offers Body Memory work, Therapeutic Massage and Emotional Freedom Technique. On our visit, her brilliant hands and empathy helped to make the retreat a success.
Where you stay: Set in several thousand acres of countryside, woodland, rivers and and lakes, the lovely Wasing Estate has been in the Mount Family since 1759. They host weddings and shooting parties here at weekends – but these retreats run midweek, so you can be assured of peace. Transformational Breathing, Yoga and Meditation sessions take place in the expansive, light-flooded Garden Room, while treatments take place in a small and comfortable bedroom.
Your bedroom is either at Home Farm, a delightful six bedroom country house with open fires and reading rooms at the top of the Estate’s sweeping drive, or in private, rather elegant ensuite rooms within restored 18th Century outhouses such as the Coach House or – where we stayed – the Blacksmith’s Smithy, a rather say, huge rustic-chic suite filled with antique artworks and family heirlooms, a lovely large stone fireplace and a huge ensuite bathroom.
How was it for us: I was inspired to go on this retreat after having a supremely effective private session of Transformational Breathing with Rebecca Dennis at a Shh retreat in Dorset, which you can read about here. Though a little cautious of doing breathing sessions in a group, I soon lost all inhibitions and was breathing deeply and noisily away with the rest of my 15-strong group after a few minutes. Over the three sessions, I had some very powerful, releasing experiences that had me in tears and deeply exhausted afterwards. A few days on, I felt happier and freer than I’d felt in weeks, and I am now doing the breathing practice at home.
The yoga was a very important part for me – Jess was calming and kind, and helped us to prepare for the breathing sessions as well as relax after them, her fragrant burner oozing Neals Yard essential oils all the while. I loved that all three women, Jess, Rebecca and Aimee, were so approachable and friendly all the way through the retreat, and was reassured that they obviously care deeply and passionately about their work.
Between sessions, I enjoyed ambling round the beautiful walled gardens and having a very long hot bath in my room (Wasing do their own rather lovely blend of rosemary and green tea toiletries). A highlight for me also was the therapeutic massage with Gillian Steer – a very talented therapist who kneaded the facia of my very tight back and neck and told me that though my surface muscles were ‘beautifully hydrated and in good condition’ (gee thanks), I needed ‘a two hour a day massage every day for a week’ to root out deep seated emotion long held in the body (that would be an absolute pleasure, I told her, if only she lived next door to me at home). She gave me a dose of the Bush Flower Essence Black Eye Susan to see me on my way.
As with any retreat worth bothering with, it was the little touches here that made the difference, most especially the inspirational quotes and messages handwritten on little pieces of card and giant blackboards and dotted about the public areas, so we could ponder life as we sipped our tea (My favourite: ‘Stars can’t shine without darkness’).
What we took home: A vial of a rather delicious tasting herbal remedy called Love Drops by Herbalosophy, and the start of a transformative breathing practice in my daily life. I now do a few minutes Transformational Breathing before my yoga practice each morning, and for once, this feels like something that I won’t give up on after a week.
Would we go back: Yes of course – I also wish that Rebeccca or Aimee lived next door to me, so that I might have private sessions with them every week.
People watch: The Inspiration Space co-founders are three inspirational women who were highly approachable throughout the retreat. Rebecca Dennis trained as a Transformational Breath® Facilitator with Judith Kavitz in Italy, Mexico and the UK; Aimee Hartley is a qualified Transformational Breath® Facilitator who has studied with Dr Judith Kravitz in the USA and Italy. She’s also a qualified Professional Yoga Teacher. Jess Horn is a British Wheel and Yoga Alliance Yoga Teacher who has been taught by some of the finest teachers from around the globe including Sean Corne, Shiva Rea, Tias Little, Adhil Palkilava and Claire Missingham.
Food watch: On arrival you’ll find Seed and Bean chocolate bars and Gusto energy drinks in your room. Prepared by a health chef from Minno Kitchen bought in for the retreats, meals are simple but nourishing, gluten free and vegetarian dishes that encourage the cleansing process, such as salads, soups, dahls, roasted vegetables, bowls of quinoa and chick peas and so on, and snacks such as fruit, hand blended smoothies and hand made raw oat bars are available whenever you want. At bedtime, the turmeric tea is delicious. Various herbal teas are available on tap throughout the day.
What’s queenly: You’ll get to listen to a fantastic playlist while you breathe – songs take in a whole range of musical beauties from Nomad by Nomad and Breathe by telepopmusic to Black Sands by Bonobo.
What’s lowly: The retreats only run 2 or 3 times a year and fill up quickly – so be sure to book way ahead.
Insider tip: Take layers and a torch, as your bedrooms are set in outhouses and you will need to walk outside to get to the Stables, where you eat, and to the Garden Room, where you do the yoga and breathing sessions.
Price with a companion: From £495 per person in a shared room all inclusive except treatments.
Price going solo: From £650 per person in a single luxury room and £795 per person in a private suite all inclusive except treatments.
Value for Money: Considering how effective these retreats are, and in such a gorgeous place, we think they represent excellent value for money.
Sister retreats: Inspiration Space runs day retreats in London, and you can catch the team privately throughout the year. Rebecca Dennis offers workshops and one to ones in London and Wasing, Aimee Hartley offers workshops and one to ones and small private group sessions in London and Jess Horn teaches yoga classes and privately in Hertfordshire and North London.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
© Queen of Retreats