This past week I was in Byron Bay, for one of Tim Brown’s rounding retreats. If you follow along on instagram you might have seen that I was in Manly in March for a similar retreat and it was that experience that made me really realise the importance of this kind of self-care.
I decided, upon receiving the exciting news that I was pregnant, that I was going to do everything I could for myself and my wellbeing during my pregnancy. It has occurred to me that you hear plenty about ‘birth plans’ but never ever about a ‘pregnancy plan’… it seems the attitude is basically – just get through it.
Everywhere I look around I’m seeing mamma’s-to-be literally rushing through their pregnancy, and hurriedly awaiting bubs arrival. The fascinating thing that I’ve been reflecting on is that as far as I’m concerned baby has already arrived, and this 9 months is crucially important in helping shape the wellbeing of bub and I, both prior to its birth day and throughout the first months and years of its life.
I had actually hoped to get back to India for panchakarma one more time before pregnancy became a reality but it would seem the March retreat worked some magic (a month later I fell pregnant), and so I decided that although Panchakarma treatments are considered safe during pregnancy, I’d skip the international travel and instead do an equally nourishing rounding retreat in sunny Byron.
SO what is Rounding?
Very briefly, Ayurveda (which translates to mean ‘the science of life’) is an ancient body of knowledge based around natural and holistic wellness, and recognises that mind, body and soul must be nurtured in equal parts. It recognises that each of us are unique in our constitution and explains how food can be used as medicine to correct the imbalances caused by modern day life. Yoga (in its truest form) and Vedic meditation are pillars of the Ayurvedic healing model. Rounding, is a combination of both yoga and meditation, whereby a specific series of Asanas (poses) are performed in sequence as a means to relax and open up the body for meditation, this is followed by a breathing technique which again is designed to open the channels in the body for a deeper meditation, these practices are followed by meditation, and completed with shivasana (resting technique). This sequence when performed together is called a “Round” and is designed to purify mind and body. A rounding retreat, is where multiple rounds are practiced sequentially and designed to bring the mind, body and soul, to a place of deep deep rest and relaxation so that deep deep stress release and healing can occur.
Sounds great in theory right?
Well, there was members of the rounding group wearing their Garmin’s for the weekend, and it revealed some fascinating stats that offer proof of the fact that during these retreats we are doing actual, physically impactful work. To elaborate, we’re talking heart rates lowering to the realms of 43 beats per minute (fyi a normal adult’s resting heart rate is in the range of 60-100 beats per minute). Basically, this shows that during the retreat de-excitation is real, allowing our bodies to come out of fight-flight and work at levels of efficiency not experienced in day-to-day life.
*There’s more to come on this as these individuals have offered to share their full stats from the whole weekend, which will be nothing less than FASCINATING.
What we know to be true is that when you bring the body into deep states of rest it intuitively does what it needs to do in order to begin repairing.
The fact is, we don’t have to concentrate efforts on making our fingernails grow. Nor our hair. We don’t have to manage the processes that occur to digest our food. We don’t have to think about our cells renewing, or a child growing inside us. Fact is, we don’t have to think about any of the TRILLIONS of things that are going on in our bodies every second of the day. Our bodies are INSANELY intelligent vehicles. The problem is that we’re putting stress, tension and fatigue into our systems at a rate far quicker that our vehicles are able to process. This is a result of our modern day lives, technology, stimulation, coffee, alcohol, processed foods, irregular sleep patterns, stress, stress, stress and more stress.
We realise we’re stressed and so we do ALL OF THE THINGS. But, what our bodies often need, is for us to get out of our own god damn way and let it do its job.
Over the space of the weekend there was plenty of evidence of stress release and detoxification happening left, right and centre as the whole group headed deeply toward de-excitation; there was headaches, there was purging of toxins by means of vomiting (and the equal opposite), sweating, and tears flowing. It was SO interesting to witness and experience.
Far from what we visualise when we think about ‘retreats’ (myself included until recently) these retreats are not made up of a bunch of spaced-out hipsters with all the time in the world, they are full of high grade intellectual individuals who share knowledge and understanding around the power of this work in shaping their ability to function highly in their professional and personal worlds. I’ll admit we all exit the retreat much more spaced out than when we arrived, but there again it’s proof of (in Tim’s words) ‘the epicentre of de-excitation’ that we create when we’re rounding in a room together all weekend.
What is said of rounding retreats is that it’s not about the time we put in on retreat (which while relaxing, is a lot of work – like, I’m talking 8 hours a day on the matt), it’s about the weeks and months afterward and the lifelong benefits of giving the body a window for healing. For me, this retreat was particularly important for creating the best possible environment for my baby to grow, and the best possible opportunity for me to de-stress and defrag my nervous system for my own mental and physical health and wellbeing… after all I’m under no false assumptions that this motherhood gig is going to be easy.
This retreat was expansive, as was Manly in March, and such a nourishing experience.We had the most delicious chef prepared vegan meals, and walked the beach morning and night (watching shooting stars and marvelling at mother nature while watching the most amazing sunrises – why don’t we do this stuff more often!?). It really brings you back to nature and the realisation that we are a microcosm of the macrocosm, there is intelligence in nature, and we are part of it. What I find when I focus time inward is that I experience increasing levels of synchronicity, connection with nature, clarity, and creativity. I feel energised, not just in the physical sense but mentally and spiritually.
What I know for sure is that post-retreat we’re all bringing the best version of ourselves back into the world, which serves ourselves but ultimately also serves everyone around us.
If you have any questions, pop them in the comments! I’d love to get the conversation going around the idea of pregnancy wellbeing plans and this kind of front-end self-care.