We live in a society where everything is shorter and faster. Full conversations have shrunk to text message-sized chunks and fitness classes that used to be an hour long are now being conducted in 30 or so minutes.
We still need to get away, though – whether it's for a simple rest or something more profound, like our sanity. As Albert Camus wrote in his essay The Minotaur or the Stop in Oran: "In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion; in order to serve men better, one has to hold them at a distance for a time." If Camus was lamenting the encroachment of society back in 1939 – "There are no more deserts. There are no more islands. Yet there is a need for them" – imagine what the French philosopher would think about the cacophony and clutter of modern daily life.
Yet most people can’t afford to spend the time or money to completely escape their existence for some relaxation or soul-searching. There are children to be tended to, bills to be paid, and deadlines to be met. For most, escaping to the jungles of Sri Lanka to sleep in huts or France to practise silence with monks is but a pipe dream.
Enter the one-day retreat, which is designed to appeal to our shocking lack of time. But can anything really be accomplished, relaxation-wise, in just one day?
The power of a one-day getaway
Mariam Al Sayegh, owner of The Studio, a ladies-only Pilates and yoga centre believes so. She is organising its first one-day retreat in Abu Dhabi this Saturday, at the Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas. On the menu are smoothies, yoga, beach, pool and spa access, a three-course lunch and a gentle meditation session at sunset.
Stepping away from a normal routine – even for a short time – can be a powerful reset many of us badly need, Al Sayegh says. “Especially for people who have hectic lives, they need to shut down either for an hour in a class or over a full day like this,” she says. “I definitely think it can have an impact on a person.”
While a day full of yoga, and healthy food and conversation will not lead to any dramatic changes in weight – physical or emotional – don’t underestimate the power of stepping away from the constant gravitational and energy pull of your tech tool of choice. “I feel like it’s stressing us out even more,” says Al Sayegh. “I feel like when you are on your phone, you have a million things going on. That’s why at The Studio, we encourage people to leave their phones outside during a class, so that they can just completely disconnect and get back in touch with themselves, which is something many of us just don’t do anymore.”
Dr Tara Wyne, clinical psychologist and clinical director at The LightHouse Arabia Centre for Wellbeing in Dubai, says with the right attitude, a short time can be all we need to create powerful change. “When any of us steps out of our normal routine, even for just a day, seeking to reflect or change with a curious mind or heart, when we are truly open and psychologically flexible, we can trigger wholehearted authentic change,” she explains. “I believe that if we invest in being in a new context, interacting with new people and ideas, and exchanging energy, it can inspire and activate us in a meaningful way.”
The feeling of happiness and achievement
On the other side of the fence, Suzie Terzian says she prefers a longer retreat because it takes some time to just settle down. The nutritionist is preparing to launch another edition of her four-week Total Body Reset nutrition and wellness programme at Bodytree Studio on January 24.
“If it’s a retreat where you are going to spend a weekend or a week, you’re just shedding stuff, your regular life for the first hour or half day,” Terzian explains.
Having said that, she believes there are immense benefits to be had even from a single fitness class or yoga session. “The feeling of happiness and achievement at the end of that class is so beautiful. It is a bonus for your health and wellness and mindset. So a full day of that, of whatever goes on at a retreat – why not, that’s awesome.”
Nusrat Nawaz and Tabassum Vohra, who have seven children between them, would agree. The two friends attended a one-day Holistic Wellness retreat last weekend at Silkor in Shakbout City, which was conducted by Laura-Helene Kopinski, a yoga teacher and life coach who founded the Abu Dhabi wellness hub Inner Seed in 2014. The event offered free Pilates, yoga and sound healing classes, and the chance to try out activities such as collaborative painting and meditation.
“When you go to these places, you’re bound to encounter someone, you’re bound to learn things, you’re bound to disconnect – you’re doing something for yourself,” says Kopinski. “You’re going there, meeting like-minded women so the energy itself is something that’s going to lift you up.” Nawaz, a mother of four from India, and Vohra, a mother of three from the United Kingdom, did the Pilates, yoga and dancing classes, and took in demonstrations on face yoga and vegan eating.
“It’s nice to have a regular reminder, because we tend to fall back into our old lifestyle,” says Vohra. “So to have this, maybe every month or so, [serves] as a reminder to be like: ‘Oh, you know what, I’m going off-track now, let’s bring myself back in.’”
For Nawaz, the day was also a welcome opportunity to recharge away from all the demands of a full house. “It’s a day for yourself, so you leave your family behind, you come, you enjoy yourself,” she says. “It’s OK, family is important, but your health is more important, to look after your family. So if you have something like this every few months, it would be good.”
As Kopinski points out, the benefits of stepping out of your routine and doing something new go far beyond relaxation. “Whatever it is, the fact that you’re there and doing something for yourself is going to make you forget a little of what was going on in your mind,” she concludes.
The Studio’s Wellness Day is on Saturday, costs Dh750 and runs from 9am to sunset. For more details, call 02 621 0000 or email email@example.com