Reclaiming My Self in Cambodia: An Interview With Becka Whelan

From the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh streets to the serenity of Kep’s Vine Retreat, who knew that a trip to Cambodia would help Vinyasa-flow yoga teacher Becka Whelan to deepen her practice and understand her body better through a different style of yoga?

What inspired you to book a yoga adventure holiday with Reclaim Your Self? 

I completed my yoga teacher training in December and was looking for a yoga retreat to deepen my own personal practise. I’ve always wanted to go to Cambodia since studying South East Asian history so the yoga adventure holiday was the perfect choice for me. Plus, I moved house in February and simply needed a break from grey skies in London.

What did you expect of a yoga adventure holiday in Cambodia?

Adventure of course! And yoga that challenged me. I also hoped to meet like-minded people who are equally as passionate about yoga and healthy living as I am. I must say, that the trip ended up exceeding my expectations by far. I absolutely loved The Vine Retreat, and Jools made everyone feel at home straight away. Our yoga sessions with Lisa were always inspiring, interesting and playful and we all bonded as a group very quickly. I haven’t laughed as much since!

You were new to Lisa’s Anusara yoga style, weren’t you? How did you find the sessions, coming from a Vinyasa discipline?

The yoga sessions were the perfect balance of strength-building and restorative work. Lisa’s evening yoga sessions were especially beautiful. They offered the perfect way to wind down after our hot days in the Cambodian sun. As a result of an intensive six days of her classes, my practise gained a lot more depth. I feel like I understand my body more. I’m really glad I decided to take this trip even though I am more used to Vinyasa-style yoga.

What was your first impression of the accommodation and food?

The Vine Retreat was beautiful! The location offers the perfect setting for a break from hectic city life. The bedrooms were comfy, there was a private swimming pool surrounded with plush sun loungers and the surrounding gardens were full of tropical flowers. There was even a lotus in the pond, which ended up being our focus during yoga classes. I love staying in eco-friendly, community-run places when I travel so The Vine Retreat was the perfect place for me.

As for the food it was wonderful. I am primarily vegetarian although I do have fish every now and again so the menu was ideal. I really liked the fact that even though we were eating very healthy, fresh and sometimes-raw dishes, the Khmer culture came across in each and every meal that we ate. I came away inspired to go on a raw food cooking course! The homemade granola and fresh fruits for breakfast were especially memorable… a great way to start the day.

How did the environment in Cambodia affect your practice?

Immersing myself in the peaceful Cambodian countryside allowed me the time and space to connect with myself in ways I don’t always have the opportunity to do in London. When I returned to London I could really throw myself into the Yoga Social Enterprise which I launched late last year. I was looking for an energy kick and the yoga retreat definitely gave me that. Additionally, the setting was just so idyllic… It was wonderful to practise on the top deck of the villa. We could practice whilst watching the sun set and listening to exotic wildlife all around us. There was even a friendly gecko who liked to croak, ‘Hello,’ very loudly during every savasana. The environment really welcomed us!

How did you spend your free time during the trip?

Whilst in the villa, I wrote a lot in my travel journal, took refreshing night swims and sunbathed. I also sampled the amazing fruit and cacao smoothies created by the talented Emma.

The excursions on offer were a great way to explore the surrounding areas… My best memories include hiking up the nearby hills in time for sunset, hitching a ride on a tuk-tuk and rather choppy boat to the sun-soaked Rabbit Island, and then there was the never-to-be-forgotten Bokor Mountain day (my personal favourite). We set off expecting a day of trekking through the jungle but it seems the Chinese have recently bought the mountain in order to build an ‘International City’. It was very interesting day which we spent alternating between shock and laughter.  We ended the day floating down the tranquil river through Kampot whilst watching yet another spectacular sunset. In spite of the day not going exactly as planned, we still had a fantastic time!

Since returning home, how do you reclaim yourself on a day to day basis?

I have really embraced my own personal practise since the retreatI have a lot of energy, so in between teaching yoga classes I make sure I keep myself moving in some wayI like to spend time outside and connect with nature at some point each day and living in Hampstead gives me that opportunity. Taking a long run on the Heath followed by my home yoga practise gives me the energy I need to start my day. To relax and wind down I cook healthy food to nourish my body and love to read. I usually like to end the day with a salt bath.

What did you take away from your yoga adventure holiday?

So much! I made new friends with my lovely fellow retreaters. As usual when travelling l I took lots of photos!  I now have a bunch of new yoga poses to practice in my spare time and introduce to my own students. I also drank many a fresh coconuts, watched lots of gorgeous sunsets and enjoyed swimming in the clear, warm waters off Rabbit Island. I will never forget my yoga adventure holiday with Reclaim Your Self!

More information on Becka’s yoga classes and Yoga Social Enterprise can be found at http://www.zivayoga.com/. For more information on Reclaim Your Self’s Cambodia Adventure Holiday please visit http://reclaimyourself.co.uk/

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