'I tried breathwork, yoga and a sound bath on a wellbeing retreat at Down Hall'

wellness retreat at down hall i essex
I went on a wellbeing retreat at Down HallDown Hall

Surrounded by 110 acres of woodland deep in the heart of Essex, Down Hall's the perfect spot to recharge your batteries – particularly if you join one of their blissful wellness retreats. From breathwork and yoga to an energising sound bath and foodie heaven, the itinerary's been designed by Down Hall’s wonderful holistic therapist Camilla to totally refresh your mind.

So what’s the retreat like?

The retreat kicks off with a few hours unwinding in the Eden Spa (okay, if I have to…). As part of the package, you have the choice of a 30-minute treatment, either a scalp, neck and shoulder massage; back, neck and shoulder massage or a personalised facial. My dry skin was in dire need of the latter, and I was impressed that the entire treatment was adapted to my skin type.

Feeling fresh-faced, I drifted into the wet spa – a glorious circular room with a bubbling hydrotherapy pool front and centre. You’ll find yourself looking up at the grand water feature and skylight, which floods sunshine into the space. Dip in and out of the sauna and steam room, before cooling off on a lounger on the outdoor terrace.

down hall spa
Down Hall Spa Down Hall

Inhale, and slowly exhale…

Feeling all zen after the spa, I couldn’t wait for our breathwork class. I’ve dabbled in the practice – which calms my spinning mind and brings me back into the present moment – but every experience feels different. As we entered the dimly lit room, yoga mats interspersed with candles, Camilla gently eased us into a relaxed state.

breathwork class at down hall
Recharging after breath work Gracie Helps

She explained that the next hour would involve harnessing the power of something ever so simple: our breath. We then dropped into alternate nostril breathing and finished the session with breath of fire – a technique associated with stress relief. Our group was a refreshing mix of people who were trying breathwork for the first time and those who were keen on the practice, but we all left feeling a bit lighter.

a bedroom at down hall
Gracie’s luxurious bedroom Down Hall

‘My intention is always to create a relaxing haven where everyone can slow down, connect with themselves, reset and energise,’ says Camilla.

Is it dinner time yet?

I practically floated from our breathwork class to dinner, which began with a nourishing soup, followed a hearty mushroom wellington. Camilla helps design the menu for the retreat, and she does an excellent job.

At the dinner table, you’ll find yourself connecting with like-minded individuals from all walks of life, who share a passion for wellbeing. We tucked into a delicious dessert platter of lemon meringue pies and chocolate brownies (no need to pick – just have one of each), before heading upstairs for the sound bath.

a bedroom at down hall
Gracie’s luxurious bedroom Down Hall

If you’ve never heard of a sound bath before, let me enlighten you. Picture this: you’re lying down on a yoga mat, head resting on a pillow, cosied underneath a blanket. Behind a circle of crystals, Camilla plays the most wonderful instruments, drifting a wave of calm towards you.

down hall in essex
Down Hall in Essex Down Hall

And just like that, you sink into relaxation. During the hour-long session, some of us had visions, while others reported falling into a meditative state. It’s an experience like no other, and certainly one I’ll be trying again.

The perfect balance

After a long, restful sleep full of dreams in my luxurious bedroom thanks to the evening’s sound bath, it was time for a little movement. Camilla led an energising yoga practice that started with deep stretches to wake us up before we worked on our balance. It felt good connecting the body and mind after an evening of mindful practice.

yoga session at down hall
Energising yoga session Down Hall

We then filled up our bellies with a tasty breakfast, which had something for everyone – including all your cooked breakfast favourites (hash browns included) or a lighter yoghurt and toppings alternative. Feeling full in more than one way, our whole group ventured outside for a woodland walk around Down Hall’s grounds.

Camilla made such an effort to have one-on-one conversations with everyone and offered us all a crystal from her collection to take home. I’ve never been a massive crystal person – but I felt weirdly peaceful when holding mine and have been meditating with it ever since.

How can I make it happen?

If you’re tempted by the breathwork weekend retreat (£195 per person, double or twin room available), book for the upcoming weekends of 26-27 April or 31 May to 1 June. Alternatively, treat yourself to a relaxing Sunday day retreat for £165 per person.

Situated a 45-minute drive from Central London, you can zip up on the train – the local station is Sawbridgeworth. For more information, visit Downhall Wellness Retreat, or BOOK NOW

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