11:11am Tuesday 18th October 2011
By Maxine Gordon
Raw food, yogic chanting and visualisation rituals – MAXINE GORDON takes a step into the unknown at a new well-being retreat in North Yorkshire.
THUMPING the yoga mat violently with my hands, gorilla-style, I thrust out the word: “hurrrrrrrrrrr”, rolling the final “r” up high in my mouth. All eyes are shut, so no one can feel self-conscious.
I try to forget The Press photographer in the room and throw energy into the move. After a few minutes of primate-like pounding, a feeling of elation begins to build.
Afterwards, stretched out on the mat, covered in a blanket, eyes still firmly closed, this elation passes into deep relaxation.
I’ve only been at The Retreat at Split Farthing Hall, near Thirsk, for about an hour, but already it is beginning to work its magic.
Situated in a luxury Georgian longhouse at Bagby, with unspoilt views across the Vale of York, this is a place to get away from it all.
Claire Maguire is the tour-de-force behind the Retreat, which offers residential courses and workshops incorporating yoga, meditation, life coaching and raw food.
The mother-of-two has been a devotee of raw food ever since she began eating it and started to feel and look better.
“I felt absolutely amazing,” says Claire. “Something happened in my body which I didn’t expect. It became slimmer, more sculpted and I felt sexy and alive.”
All the food during our day visit, from the mini chocolate “brownies” for elevenses, to the “pasta pesto” and “chocolate flan” for lunch, is uncooked.
The “pasta” turns out to be thin spirals of courgette, while the dessert features banana and avocado mixed with raw cocoa and set on a crunchy base of nuts. Later, Claire shares some of her secrets in a raw food workshop, rustling up the likes of tomato salsas, satay sauce and veggie stir-fries, all without turning on the hob.
A trained biochemist, Claire ditched a career in science to set up a record label, before retraining as a life coach. After treatment for breast cancer two years ago, she decided to follow her dream of setting up a women-only residential escape – and so The Retreat was born.
Based in the tastefully renovated 18th-century farmhouse of her father and stepmother Mike and Andrea Maguire (Claire, her daughters and partner live next door), The Retreat has four over-night rooms – three twins and one single, all en suite, as well as a spacious attic for yoga and other activities.
Meals are taken in the Orangery, overlooking the orchard and the Vale of York. Weekend residents can enjoy the 20-acre garden and, after dark, gather around the outdoor fire pit, where a bonfire is lit.
Many guests will come to The Retreat with a purpose – indeed the three weekend programmes are geared towards women looking to set some new goals in their lives.
Claire undertakes several exercises to help women think about how they can achieve those goals – looking at the shape of their lives today and how they would like them to be.
We undertook a few of those exercises – which were both fun and revealing.
In a visualisation workshop, Claire asked us to close our eyes and imagine an island where we would wish to live. We had to conjure what the island looked like, who lived there, what we might do. Then we had to draw it.
Sharing is a big part of the process, and we took it in turns to describe our island. One woman had lots of animals on her island – and later stated that she was torn between her job and working with animals.
Next we were given a sheet of words and asked to circle three that mirrored our core values. In conjunction with the island exercise, people could see from the words they had chosen whether their life was in harmony with their true wishes. “We’re about helping women become who they deserve to be,” says Claire.
Three residential courses are being run. Evoke Your Senses, promises “a transformative experience to fall in love with your body, your food and you, one step at a time”. Much of the focus here is looking at diet and the role of raw food, including demonstrations, as well as yoga and meditation.
In Adventure For The Soul, Claire seeks to help guests find their “inner voice”. She says: “It’s about how to bring it out and find fulfilment and happiness.”
Live, Love, Laugh, would be ideal, says Claire, for people in transition, perhaps after divorce, or whose children have left home, or those who have retired and are looking for a new direction and examines how to carve up “me time”, boost self confidence, including examining personal style, make-up and wardrobe.
Claire also runs day-only workshops on raw food and next year plans to introduce detox and boot camp events with the help of her partner, John Withinshaw, a personal trainer.
Although yoga, meditation and chanting feature in the programmes, Claire stresses The Retreat is not a spiritual getaway. “It is a bit unusual, but when women have been here for a weekend they don’t really think of it as something weird or strange. With the yoga, on the first day, they might laugh about it, but by the next day, they might get something more out of it.”
And if anything, they can leave knowing that gorilla-thrusting moves are a brilliant way to beat stress and bring on a sense of well-being.
• Find out more at splitfarthinghall.co.uk
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