Reclaim Your Self Digital Detox | Yoga retreats UK
The Quick Read: Reclaim Your Self digital detox retreats are relaxing, wifi-free weekends with yoga held at serene venues in the English countryside, one of many kinds of retreats the company offers. We went on a Jivamukti yoga and digital detox weekend with yoga teacher Emma Henry, held at a manor house in Bedfordshire and featuring a programme of yoga classes, meditations, digital detox talks and time to relax and enjoy the venue. The food is nurturing and easy on the digestive system and free from meat, gluten and sugar.
Budget ££ – £££
Who it’s best for: Reclaim Your Self digital detox retreats are ideal for anyone of any age who wants to switch off from social media, phones and computers and unwind for the weekend, whether that’s on your own as a solo traveller or with a companion.
Reclaim Your Self uses a few different yoga teachers who teach different styles on their weekends. Jivamukti is quite a strong and physical yoga practice, so it’s best for people who are relatively fit and active – if you’d rather something a little more gentle, choose a weekend with Lisa Sanfilippo, whose Anasura style is suited to a wider range of people.
What you can do: The digital detox retreats include an early morning meditation and mindfulness walk, four two-hour long Jivamukti yoga classes and some down time to enjoy your surroundings. All venues are chosen for their proximity to nature and there is always some time allowed to enjoy the venue’s grounds or local scenery.
There’s also three informal workshops led by the team. On our retreat there was a Q&A with the holistic retreat chef Hayley North, an interesting discussion with Jivamukti yoga teacher Emma Henry about yoga, and an exploration by Reclaim Your Self founder Jools about managing our online and digital life.
For this digital detox workshop, Jools brought along some articles which proved a good starting point for a discussion about our use of social media, our reliance on our smart phones and on our contracting attention spans. We didn’t come away with any concrete action plans, but to gave us plenty of food for thought.
As well as the workshop, the whole weekend is designed to help you stay away from your phone or iPad. The schedule keeps you occupied, all meals are eaten together, and people often stay up chatting with each other during the evening. By the end of the weekend, it might be a surprise to find you haven’t felt the need to check your phone or social media for the whole stay.
All yoga classes include pranayama (breathwork) and meditation and usually have a morning and afternoon class. The yoga style will depend on the teacher on your particular retreat but all classes are tailored to the group to ensure that the level suits everybody. Jivamukti classes on our retreat included some chanting, pranayama and a very physical yoga practice. Yoga philosophy was never very far away from Emma’s teaching, and all chants were not just translated but put in the wider context of yoga philosophy and lifestyle.
Where you stay: Reclaim Your Self uses different venues for its digital detox retreats in the UK, including a cosy Suffolk farmhouse, an eco-friendly country manor estate in Norfolk and – where we stayed – a luxury 17th Century manor house in Bedfordshire.
The Bedfordshire manor house is set in landscaped grounds which make an ideal background for being completely offline, with garden sculptures and a labyrinth to aid personal contemplation. Yoga is done in a dedicated yoga room in the grounds – in the converted stables, which also includes some studio flats and bedrooms.
Inside the house, furnishings, light fittings and artefacts reflected old country house style while some of the artworks and paintings indicated more modern tastes. The combination worked well, probably because this is actually someone’s home and all have been personally chosen by the owner. There are lots of different rooms with comfy armchairs and sofas to languish in.
Reclaim Your Self offers different bedroom types at all their venues, and there’s always the option of single or shared rooms. Our single bedroom had a double bed with views of the grounds, a huge original fireplace, and old wooden furniture and proper heavyweight curtains. We shared our bathroom with two other rooms, and this worked just fine.
How was it for us: I arrived frazzled, having been overworking and overdoing the caffeine and sugar in the weeks before. I’d been apprehensive about a digital detox, not just because I use social media a lot, but also because I rely on a number of apps and write to a cousin daily by email. It’s as much a way of processing my day as a form of communication.
Reclaim Your Self’s friendly founder Jools showed me to my room and gave me a brief intro to the weekend and the venue. She instructed me to turn my phone off on arrival, and, although I could have handed it in, I decided that I had enough self-discipline to keep it switched off until leaving (which I’m pleased to say I did).
Tthe rest of the group were friendly and interesting, but I spent most of the time outside of scheduled activities alone, relishing the silence. I read my book, wrote thoughts down in my notebook, and enjoyed being out in the sunshine, taking in the spring flowers, blossom and birdsong. I am usually the queen of multitasking, but I realised at the end of the weekend that I had spent nearly 48 hours focusing only on one task at a time. My mind was a lot clearer and calmer because of it.
The digital detox aspect was less challenging than I expected. I was surprised by this, but I really didn’t miss social media at all and was quite happy not contacting home or family for such a short time. The yoga, however, was a different story. I had never tried Jivamukti before and I am intimidated by most strong yoga styles, so this was way out of my yoga comfort zone. Thankfully Emma Henry offered modifications and I was pleasantly surprised to find the practice boosted my energy levels rather than depleting them.
The food was nourishing, imaginative and extremely delicious, making me feel as if my body was being nurtured on all levels. Together with the yoga, and a strict ‘no phones’ policy, my mind felt less cluttered and my batteries charged even after just a couple of days.
What we took home: I left with a massive sense of achievement for having got through four of the most challenging yoga classes of my life and a determination to cut down on multi-tasking and put more energy into focusing on one task at a time.
Would we go back: Yes. I was impressed with the venue, the team and the wonderful food. I’m also really interested to explore Jivamukti yoga again or over a longer period of time at a longer retreat.
People watch: The small retreat team were all extremely warm, approachable and happy to answer any queries and help people out with any additional needs. Tracey was a welcoming host, Jools gave me an impromptu head massage for my headache and chef Hayley made up a special hug-in-a-mug for someone suffering the effects of nicotine withdrawal. Emma’s hands-on teaching style ensured that all participants were able to learn and improve, whatever their experience level.
Food watch: Reclaim Your Self is passionate about serving healthy and creative meals and brings along one of their chefs as part of the retreat team. Hayley North was the chef on our retreat, and she had talked through the programme with yoga teacher Emma to ensure that all meals complemented the day’s yoga classes. A Jivamukti-based retreat will always be vegan, and on a detox retreat, don’t expect any caffeine or alcohol.
Meals use plenty of vegetables, are vegetarian, free from gluten and sugar and low on dairy. You can expect to start the day with a healthy smoothie (such as orange, and goji berry with camu camu and turmeric) and be served a thorough brunch after yoga. We had black rice coconut porridge with mango and passion fruit and gluten free paleo muffins. Other meals included a millet and amaranth mash with cauliflower and sweet potatoes, and a roast beetroot and cumin soup with cashew cream. Herbal infusions using fresh herbs are available throughout, with different infusions depending on the time of day.
What’s queenly: The fresh packed lunch we were sent away with at the end of the weekend ensured that our healthy eating continued even while travelling home. The raw chocolate brownie was particularly sumptuous.
What’s lowly: The yoga studio at the Bedfordshire manor house was a little too small to accommodate our group size, so the classes felt a little crowded. However, this might not be the case with other venues.
Insider tip: If you’re used to broadcasting your thoughts on social media much of the time, make sure you bring a pen and paper to offload your thoughts in the old fashioned way.
Price with a companion: From £325 per person in a shared room (4 beds) with shared bathroom – twin and double rooms are also available. This includes yoga classes and all meals.
Price going solo: From £575 per person in a room alone.
Value for money: With no hidden extras, and an emphasis on exclusive and comfortable venues, Reclaim Your Self offers good value for money, with payment plans on offer to help spread the cost.
Sister retreats: Reclaim Your Self offers a range of different healthy holidays and retreats in the UK, Europe and off-the-beaten track locations such as Mongolia and Zanzibar. Read more here.
Reviewed by Ruth Rosselson
© Queen of Retreats