Sarah Garbett reviews this popular detox retreat in Somerset, UK and finds a highly informative, relaxing, effective and entertaining programme led by facilitators she instantly liked and trusted
I don’t really have time to write this review. Because since my first week-long juice fasting retreat last week with Vital Detox in Somerset I seemed to have found a new gear to drive in. And with so many ideas and so much energy buzzing around, there’s not enough hours in the day. Oh, and a heap of positivity, so everything IS possible. And the flattest tummy I’ve had in yonks – very happy about that one.
I have fasted before – but three days drinking water followed by three days on banana smoothies amusing myself with birds and books on a balcony doesn’t come close to a properly done, highly informative and, may I say, entertaining programme, led by facilitators you instantly like, trust and are motivated by from the get go.
The backdrop for Vital Detox Retreats is a collection of cosy stone cottages on rural land less than half an hour’s walk from the base of Glastonbury Tor. Looking out onto mighty oaks, fields of sheep and cattle and the Tor itself, plus that all important horizon. Crucial, I feel, during any kind of retreat. People arrived on Friday afternoon – there were around 20 of us, mostly women in their 40s and 50s, professionals, people with health issues, first timers and some seasoned fasters. One fellow had bought his dog along.
‘The result of my Journey Process with Anna was an overall lightness, a softer emotional centre, and the closure of an issue that I had been going over in my mind for years.’
Once assembled, we got straight into our liquid diet by dining on a simple and tasty soup, over which we made intros and listened to the welcome briefing in the large, light but ever-so-cosy Group Room. From there on in days passed in a haze of Glastonbury-appropriate green, purple and orange juices and soups. I was naturally concerned about the withdrawal grumps or inconsolable boredom and a gnawing hunger deep in my being, but this didn’t happen. The moment of receiving a juice or soup and its accompanying supplements (bentonite clay, digestive enzymes, spirulina, psyllium husk and intestinal support if needed) was quite an event itself. Most folks were excited to consume something, people shared how they were feeling, conversations started and you could easily find yourself wondering how time slipped away.
Then there were group or private wellbeing sessions. Banter with the retreat leaders, who had quite a sense of humour. The daily nutritional talk with Master Herbalist Fiona, plus other talks with life coaches Annie and Barbara, and workshops with addiction and relationship expert Fran. Fantastic treatments with Andrew, a daily gentle yoga class with Ruth, inspirational movies on the projector on some evenings, swimming in the pool and country lanes calling me out for a stomp. And, self administered colonics to get on with! Despite myself, I quickly grew to enjoy these and am genuinely looking forward to doing them again.
Despite all the activity, this retreat did allow me to slow down. Challenging for the modern human, used to squeezing in exercise or social time around life’s core commitments. Having space to do less really allowed my brain a chance to empty out. Less choices, less pressure, no effort required to figure out the day ahead. And the team offered us ongoing daily support in addition to the group talks and personal sessions – from a warm smile when you walked into the kitchen, to the answer to your weird health question.
The mental ease was helped by two, one to one sessions I had with both Annie and Anna, the creator of Vital Detox. Annie gave me space to download on all the stuff going on in my life. She then analysed my astrological birth chart and we aligned what was happening to me with that. Affirming stuff. A day later came The Journey Process with Anna. Tissue box placed strategically between us, we spent over an hour together working on past emotional wounds that often creep into my present. A cleanse for the soul if you will. You know how hurt or angst can grip you right under your chest or in your belly? This is exactly the area where I felt the shift of emotional baggage during this session, and too where a physical shift happened during my week. The result was an overall lightness, a softer emotional centre and the closure of an issue that I had been going over in my mind for years. Windy ascents to the top of the Tor, bathing in a blue super moon and watching one of the country’s largest mumurations (a pre-roost gathering of birds creating twisting and turning shapes in the air) at nearby Ham Wall further lifted my spirit.
Breaking the fast was exciting. Food had seemed so far away and now it was so close! Eating our first meal felt very special, sitting at the table, with linen and cutlery and plates of colourful raw food choices. We repeated a mantra, of which I can remember ‘I love, respect and nourish myself’ to honour the moment. Sure, I was happy to chew again, to swallow, to feel food in my belly, but now I was encouraged to eat slowly, consciously tasting and appreciating every mouthful – the ideal way to reconnect with food and continue to take food into the body. As the retreat wound down, the educational pieces we’d picked up during the group talks were tied up, we had some fun (don’t want to give that bit away!) and we were generally prepared for life ‘on the other side’. I took home tangible, digestible, nutritional information and real tools – such as the ‘Truth Process’, which helps manage the ‘monkey mind’ – to help me take care of my body and mind once home.