In March this year I had the pleasure of co-hosting the Embody Your Voice Retreat with the lovely Judith Quin.
I’m a yoga instructor, and Judith is a vocal confidence coach and sound vibration healer. Judith has been running three-day sound healing retreats and wanted to expand this to 7 days, allowing a full day to work on each of the 7 main chakras, delving deeper into each one. Part of this vision was also to add the physical practice of yoga, to support attendees in connecting with their bodies and tuning into the relevant chakra each morning in preparation for the day, and a bit of winding down and space for processing before bed with some yoga nidra each evening. And that’s where I came into the picture!
What makes this retreat so different? Participants use their own voice to create vibrations within their own body. No bowls or instruments are used or required during this process. Why does this matter? You need to actively participate and you can’t zone out. Are you familiar with that expression – that you need to go where you feel the resistance? Well the resistance is so clear and obvious when using your own voice. Yawning, wanting to drift off to sleep, feeling angry or frustrated and wanting to stop and be quiet instead, we all felt like this at different times, and continuing to sound or chant felt impossible or annoying!!! But you’ve got to push on through it, because that’s where the resistance is, and that’s exactly where you need to go to allow real change to occur.
Why sound healing? What have sound vibrations got to do with our emotional and physical health? Well, every part of us is vibrating at different frequencies. The cells, the molecules, all vibrating together look like physical form to the human eye, but it’s all just stuff vibrating. If your vibrations get messed up, this can manifest as sickness, anxiety, chronic pain, lack of direction, feeling disempowered, feeling stuck. And let’s be honest, being a human on this planet, there’s ample opportunity to mess up our vibrations or to be exposed to energy that will mess them up for us. Messy vibes = messy life, so let’s raise those vibes like our lives depend on it… because the quality of our lives sure does depend on it!
I knew Judith’s technique was powerful, but I still didn’t really know what I was getting myself into before the retreat, where I joined in the sound healing each day. All I can say is… WOW!
Every individual will experience their own ‘stuff’, so each day and each retreat is different. But here’s a few highlights from my own experience. Maybe some of this will resonate with you too:
Day 1 = Root Chakra:
The day began with a Yoga session to connect with our bodies and wake up the root chakra. This was followed by breakfast, and then the first session of subconscious drawing and sounding work.
This day was very powerful for me. I struggle to maintain a connection with the earth as I feel so overwhelmed with what humans are doing to her. But that disconnection from the feminine, the earth, the grounding energy, can be detrimental to physical, emotional and mental wellbeing in the long term.
I felt overwhelmed with emotion before we even began the work. Focussing on teaching the morning yoga lesson kept me going, but later, during the subconscious drawing session it became very clear to me that my root chakra was all over the place. I’ve been hiding myself away in my peaceful little apartment, avoiding the news by getting rid of my TV, blocking out as much as possible because I genuinely feel a lot of pain when I see what’s happening to this beautiful planet and the creatures (animal and human alike) on it. I’ve often joked that I’d like my alien cousins to just come and beam me up so I can be done with this planet. Serious-joking, as we call it in my family!
But I was here to heal, and for that to happen the hiding had to stop. It was time to come back down to earth, back into my earthly body, release all that pain, and reconnect my root chakra to Mother Earth.
I probably cried the whole way through the sounding session. I didn’t even realise I had stopped sounding/chanting until Judith gently nudged me to keep sounding through the emotions. I’m definitely an introvert, and when the going gets tough I tend to retreat into silence. So it was an effort to continue breathing deeply and creating those sounds with my voice and my lungs. Needless to say I was tired after this session, and I had lots to write about in my journal.
I realised that Mother Earth needs me more than ever, and avoiding her and hiding away is not going to help her in any way. To feel more grounded it’s really important for me to spend time in the sea, walk barefoot in the sand or the grass, plant flowers and herbs on my patio and to do my bit to nurture the plants and provide pollen for the bees. And maybe if I continue to encourage others to use keep-cups and to avoid single-use items on my trips, maybe I CAN make a difference. And maybe I need to get more involved in campaigning for change, maybe this will lift that feeling of hopelessness I feel every time I walk into a supermarket and see every single vegetable wrapped in plastic.
It was an emotional day. We all ate well and I slept soundly that night (no pun intended!!).
Day 4 = Heart Chakra:
Well… what can I say about this one??!! We take so much to heart, so much comes from the heart and is stored in the heart.
On day four we had a powerful yoga session to open the heart chakra, followed by sounding/chanting meditation to get right in there and shake up the energy.
My personal experience today was a strong sense of not being good enough, not doing things correctly. I found myself chanting the sound for the heart chakra and criticising myself for not hitting the right note/tone (there is no right or wrong tone during this process). I forced it, I criticised, I said you’re doing it wrong, and then I felt that I needed permission to share my experience afterwards, when I am usually very comfortable being open.
Yep, there was a lot of negative self-talk in my heart. And that needed to be processed and released.
I’m not surprised there was a block in this chakra, because it’s the centre of our identity and vulnerability. Having been hurt in the past I closed my heart off completely for a few years, I don’t expect it to be easy to open it up again, but you have to start somewhere. Today was powerful for me and made me really aware of this feeling of doing it wrong that impacts my life choices and how I relate to other humans.
Right there and then I made a commitment to more self-love and self-acceptance going forward.
Day 5 = Throat Chakra:
The throat chakra is all about communication and expression. Another important one for me as I often hold back for fear of offending or being misunderstood. But we need to be able to speak our truth fully and lovingly. If you don’t ask for what you need, how will you get it??
We worked on the throat chakra in our yoga session and later during the sounding session and self-expression session we released and voiced stuff that came up yesterday with the heart chakra, learning to speak with passion from our place of truth.
The weather gods were on our side and I finally convinced everyone to go to the beach for a dip!! It was ‘fresh’!!
And that brings me nicely to the other fun stuff involved in the retreat!
Nature walks, sounding by the sea, road trip to the old Abbey and the cosiest little gastro-pub, full-moon rituals that coincided with the spring equinox, cacao ceremony, and did I mention all the delicious food?
I don’t think I’ve eaten so well for 7 consecutive days in a long time!
I did mention subconscious drawing above – it’s not something I’ve ever really done before, but I loved it! Art wasn’t my best subject in school so I thought I’m just not that good at it, but let me show you just a tiny snippet of the creativity that was unleashed.
You can see on day one my Root Chakra drawing was a little bland, meek, and represented some of the things I feel about this planet. On the final day of the retreat we were encouraged to go back to one of the drawings and recreate it now that we had worked through the seven chakras. I chose the root chakra because I felt such a huge shift there. I think you can agree that the difference is huge.
Feeling more balanced and grounded I wanted to cover the entire page in vibrant red and orange. I had to pare the pencils many many times as I was drawing so fervently. I recreated the Root and Sacral drawing (the red and orange) in the form of a painting, which now hangs in my living room.
But the story doesn’t end there! During the retreat I gained so much clarity and confidence that several things have changed in my life. I committed to a new clinic space, a commitment I’d be avoiding forever! (As well as yoga instructor I’m also a massage therapist and Manual Lymph Drainage therapist). Because it’s scary and what if I fail? Well, no more fear – I know in my heart that it’s the right move and so far the clients and new opportunities have been flowing effortlessly towards me.
Difficult conversations that I was avoiding seemed to just sort themselves out as soon as I clearly expressed how I was feeling. Expressed to myself that is, I didn’t even have to utter the words to those involved (not that I’m condoning avoidance by the way!).
In other situations I’ve been practicing asking for what I need, and low and behold… people want to deliver! Who knew? All you have to do is express your needs and people actually understand rather than argue about it, which is what I often fear. The more I practice, the easier it gets.
I’ve been painting and upcycling like nobody’s business, and indeed creating the time required for these creative projects (a bit of self-care there!), and I even created space in my life and in my heart for a new relationship after almost 4 years of being alone or ‘single as a pringle’ as someone else put it!
And anytime I get a little freaked out by all of this, or start to feel like I don’t deserve it, I now have some new tools to use to calm myself and get back to that place of gratitude, acceptance and abundance.
We will be running the retreat again this September, so get in touch with all your questions and to see if this retreat is right for you.