Walking as therapy

Every so often I realise my lifestyle requires a bit of a tweak. I need a fresh injection of motivation to exercise smart and eat well. So I turn to the Body Retreat. Their workouts require minimal kit so, when you get home you don’t have to join a fancy gym – you can get your exercise quota in the garden or on the living room floor. And, while the food is delicious, these are the kind of meals you can easily knock up in your own kitchen.

What surprised me this time was the deep emotional aspect of the retreat I went to in France. Most days there’s a gentle hike and each day I walked alongside someone different. We talked deeply. This wasn’t idle chit-chat, it was searingly honest sharing. It wasn’t planned: nobody said, ‘Okay, split up in pairs and spill your guts to the other person’.
‘It’s like magic,’ I said to Juls, co-founder of the Body Retreat. ‘How does it work?’
‘It’s an informal kind of walking therapy,’ she replied. She explained that walking therapy is a non-confrontational form of psychotherapy. Instead of sitting opposite the therapist you walk alongside one another. ‘You don’t have to look someone in the eye,’ explains Juls. ‘That’s important, particularly if someone has issues around challenging and authority. You ask the question into the air. They then answer to the air – it makes it easier.’

Obviously this wasn’t formal walking therapy, but it still packed a potent punch. Juls said that, although people often come on their retreats primarily to fix their bodies, they frequently find it’s a safe place to unburden themselves emotionally. ‘It’s comforting to hear other people’s stories,’ she says. ‘Realising you’re not the only one with problems helps to give perspective. We don’t often meet people in a non-judgmental way.’

It was perfect timing for me. My son has just gone off to university and I’m just about to move into my own house, living alone for the first time in 25 years. It’s a time of big changes and it was wonderful to share my concerns, my insecurities, my excitement and my anxiety with women who really listened. They didn’t try to fix me, or offer big solutions but their quiet empathy helped enormously.

Some women took the extra opportunity of a one-to-one session with Juls who offers hypnotherapy, NLP and a generally kind, open ear.

It struck me that this kind of primarily physical retreat could be perfect for anyone who is nervous about taking the deep dive into the heavy-duty psychological retreats on offer. The pressure is off. Even just taking time out and putting yourself slightly out of your comfort zone could be a good start.

‘There’s always a lot of laughter, stories shared,’ says Juls. ‘The body heals with rest, but the mind and spirit heal with laughter and joy. It really doesn’t have to be hard and arduous.’

This originally appeared in Natural Health magazine

Image © 2013 for the Body Retreat.  This wasn’t taken in France, btw!

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