For several years now I’ve been attempting yoga. I still can’t do a headstand (or even touch my toes) but I really enjoy the taking part (can you tell I never won at sports day?!)
So, when I heard about Samsara Retreat & Yoga, which is set against the glorious backdrop of the West Peckham countryside, and the brilliant yoga they do there, I was keen to visit and experience it for myself.
And, as luck should have it, an opportunity presented itself when I was simultaneously invited to join one of their Feelgood Friday events at the same time that my summer holiday to Portugal was cancelled. So, not only was I available to come along, my fellow yogi-loving friend who I was supposed to be in Portugal with, was also free. We decided to make a staycation of it, and book a couple of nights at Samsara to really make the most of all they have on offer.
We decided to stay from Thursday to Saturday to enjoy a couple of nights’ escape around Friday’s event, and I’m really pleased we did – it meant there was no rushing about and we could really enjoy Samsara and its surroundings.
But anyway, on to the stay and the day…
Staying at Samsara
Lori and Dipu who own and run Samsara greeted us like long-lost family members when we arrived and made us feel instantly at home. By the time we’d dropped off our bags and checked out the (very Instagram worthy) bathroom in their main house, the wine we’d brought was chilling in the fridge. Now, that’s my kind of hospitality.
For our stay, we booked the Luna Lodge, a gorgeous shepherd’s hut overlooking rolling fields and views of the Kent countryside. I don’t think there could have been a more perfect setting for our escape to Samsara – every morning we were greeted with a stunning sunrise, and after dark we could gaze at the stars.
The Lodge is cosy, so if you’re looking to stay with a tall friend I’d suggest booking a stay in the main house’s boutique rooms, or opt for the Belle tent. But, the Luna Lodge does have a shower, camping toilet and those views. PLUS right on the decking there were tonnes of ripe blackberries on bushes, so we took our self-catering very literally and helped ourselves to many, many of our five a day.
Also, before you assume that staying at a retreat means all lentils and no fun, I can confirm that’s not the case. For the most part, we were just glamping in a gorgeous garden – we brought several bottles of wine with us, and we left having consumed them all, along with a significant amount of crisps, hummus, sausages and burgers (you can borrow a BBQ at Samsara so we did that on our second night – I mean, how else do you end a day of yoga and meditation?!) But, we were also served amazing breakfasts by Lori and Dipu including their specialty Indian scrambled eggs, and a shot of vibrant beetroot juice before our yoga class.
On the first night of our stay we ventured out to the local pub The Swan on the Green which is just a stone’s throw from Samsara, and we were really impressed with the quality of food and drink on offer. If you get the chance to visit, try the Asian street food menu – we ordered one of everything and ate the lot. And then had to raid Lori & Dipu’s herbal tea selection when we got back because we were too full to sleep.
The glorious August heatwave definitely helped with the overall ambiance of Samsara and the beautiful setting, but it’s not hard to fall in love with the place. Lori and Dipu’s hospitality and warmth was next-level. And, oh my god, I’m still dreaming about those Indian scrambled eggs now.
In every sense of the word it’s a retreat, but you really can make the experience suit you and your lifestyle. If you’re just looking to get away and want a lovely setting and lovely hosts, then this is the place for you, or equally, if you want a more spiritual affair, that’s also an option. Or, you can do what we did and mix the two, throwing in a bit of zen and a bit of Sauvignon.
Feelgood Fridays at Samsara
I’ve rambled on about the stay for long enough, but what about the day we were actually visiting for?
Samsara’s Feelgood Friday events are described as ‘the perfect way to reconnect and re-energise, so you can make the most of your weekend’ and include a one hour yoga session with Dipu, a nutrition talk and salad jar workshop with Chloe Myers and after lunch, a guided meditation session with David Cronin. The event costs £49 and you do have to bring your own salad jars and are assigned a couple of ingredients to bring to add to the salad table, but everything else is included.
Hands down(ward dog) Dipu’s class was one of the best yoga classes I’ve ever done. Despite the fact it was boiling even at 9.30am so our sun salutations were sweaty ones, he somehow still managed to make the whole experience calming and relaxing. After only doing yoga via Youtube since lockdown, I could definitely feel the difference going to an actual class made, especially in my hips afterwards! You can tell Dipu is really passionate and knowledgeable about yoga, and I loved how he brought the class to life with light-hearted jokes when we were scrunching our faces up during the tougher positions (and because we had sweat in our eyes.)
The Nutrition talk and salad jar making
This session was split into two parts – firstly Chloe introduced herself and explained that years of acne led her on her nutrition path, and to setting up her business TheBePlan. Then, she talked about nutrition, ingredients and making healthy lifestyle changes, before showing us how to create a salad in a jar.
Before you say ‘why do you need to learn how to put salad in a jar?’, I was skeptical at first too, but it turns out there’s a method – and it does work. In short, you put your dressing at the bottom of the jar, lots of lovely bits in the middle, your leaves, nuts and seeds on top and seal it. Then, when you come to eat it, you tip it out in one go, so your dressing is on top and all the leaves are underneath. I’m a total salad jar convert.
Chloe is also involved with Juice Plus and talked to the group about the benefits of the supplements and this was the only part of the session that didn’t resonate as much with me as it felt a little sales pitch-y. That said, there was no pressure to sign up.
Don’t worry, if you join Feelgood Friday at Samsara you don’t have to eat your salad jar for lunch – Dipu creates a feast of different vegetable curries and they are to die for. I ate a lot. It’s probably just as well yoga was first thing in the morning! And then Lori brought out strawberries and watermelon and I ate a lot of them too. These guys are seriously good at hosting, and their food is seriously tasty. I think I’d pay the £49 just to go and eat those curries again!
I didn’t really know what to expect from this session, as I’ve never got on with attempting self-guided meditation at home (too many cats barging in and climbing on me for starters), but David, who leads these sessions at Samsara probably isn’t what you’d “expect” either. He’s a personal trainer and admitted himself that at first he was skeptical about meditation, but he found it so beneficial he now guides others.
I did enjoy the session – I can’t say I managed to switch my mind off completely but the experience was very relaxing, and I did very nearly fall asleep sitting up – a bit like when you’re a kid in the car, except this time with worse back pains to remind me I’m no longer seven.
Once the meditation was over, we were released into the wild (the gardens) where everyone chatted and relaxed for a while, and then me and my friend headed back to our hut haven to enjoy the sunshine and the views (and some wine to undo all of the good work.)
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You probably deserve a relaxing break. So maybe check out Samsara. Definitely book onto their Feelgood Friday event if you can, it’s a lovely, relaxing and restorative day. But, if you want to stretch out your Samsara experience I’d whole-heartedly encourage you to stay for a couple of nights and make the most of your escape to the countryside. Namaste!