Sunday, 11 August 2013

From Illness to Bliss – An interview with Nicole Stone Founder of Mind Body Sol Retreats CB

"From Illness to Bliss"   Interview with Nicole Stone published in Natural Health Magazine.

Tell us a little bit about yourself… Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in the UK, just outside of London but for the past 10 years, I’ve lived in Spain on the Alicante coast. It’s a very beautiful area with long, sandy beaches set against coast hugging mountains that tumble down to the sea.   The scenery here is always breath-taking & changing with the seasons. For the first time in my life, I live with a sea view & now, I don’t think I could live without it.   When I lived in the UK, I was juggling a full time event management & marketing role, teaching yoga in the evenings, raising a young family & fitting in as much ‘friend & family’ time as my busy schedule would allow.  I’m ashamed to say that when I lived in the UK, my daughter (who was under 2) spent up to 10 hours a day at a childminder whilst myself & my husband worked.

Where do you currently teach and what is a typical day like for you?

I became quite ill in the UK whilst trying to maintain the ‘dream lifestyle’ & so we moved to Spain to take a break from the stress of urban living & to spend more time with our daughter.   I always felt at my happiest when I was on my yoga mat & so, shortly after moving here, I begun teaching yoga to the Spanish & local ex-pat population.  Six months after arriving, some friends from the UK asked if they could come & visit for a few days, do some yoga & have us show them around the area – which we did.   From their visit, a seed of a business idea grew & later that year, we launched our business offering Yoga Breaks in Spain for stressed out individuals just like we used to be!   So now, a typical day includes some yoga (naturally!), a little marketing of our yoga holidays and being around for my daughter when she comes home from school.    Definitely a better lifestyle & of ‘being’ than my old life in the UK.

How many years have you been teaching? Who were you mostly influenced by?
I’ve been teaching yoga for 16 years & practicing for 18 &, like most yoga teachers, I feel as if there’s still so much more to learn & master so I can’t see myself giving up just yet!   I’ve been very fortunate to have studied & trained with some inspiring teachers along the way including Shiva Rea, Claire Missingham and Liz Lark and have learnt so much from so many other teachers including Tara Stiles and a great guy called Eion Finn who’s teaching style & words of wisdom touch me.

But to be honest, the people who inspire me the most are the people I teach on a daily basis and on our yoga holidays.   Seeing & hearing how yoga helps transform their bodies and the way they think and, being there to witness the moment when their body opens up and lets them achieve a tricky pose, this really inspires me.   Yoga to me is a great secret that I want to share with as many people as possible.

 You have some retreats coming up, tell us a little about them.
Yes, our 2013 season is well under way now.   We run yoga retreats from March to early December when the weather in Spain is at its absolute best.   We deliberately choose not to run retreats each and every week so we can be fresh, focused & passionate about delivering the best well-being holiday possible.  We really understand how valuable the holiday is to their health and so we want to be at our best. Therefore this year, we have 15 retreat dates planned.

Spring & Autumn our yoga retreats are held at a peaceful, 4-star country house hotel with great views an outdoor yoga space, a great chef and 20 lovely bedrooms.  Summer time (May to end Sept), we move nearer to the beach & run the holidays at a gorgeous little boutique hotel near the sea.  Last year we introduced a new yoga inspired health retreat too where we have a team of 14 health & wellness qualified professionals working on a programme that focuses on naturally reversing & delaying the signs of ageing.
In addition to twice daily yoga classes, our holidays include a range of energizing & relaxing activities guests can do if they choose to do if they fancy.  Really, the idea is to offer a holiday framework that allows guests to ‘pick & choose’ to create their ideal holiday experience.  We’ve been doing this for 9 years & it seems to work.   We were so proud last year to be included in the Top 10 Yoga Retreat in the World - proud, but its not gone to our heads – promise!

What is the most challenging part of organizing a retreat?
Well, after 9 years of organizing yoga holidays & prior to that, organizing major events across the World for the companies I worked for, I would say the most challenging thing is – don’t laugh! – coordinating our airport transfer service with our guest flight arrival & departure times.  We aim to minimize the time guests spend waiting at Alicante airport either on their arrival or departure.  Despite us giving guidelines as to when our transfers operate, its not always possible for guests to find flights to marry with our transfer times & this can be an organisational challenge.   However despite this, I still believe offering a transfer as a service is important as I know, when I go on yoga holidays myself, it’s a pleasure not having to worry about how I’m going to get from the airport to the yoga venue.

What inspires you to lead these retreats?
Wow!  there’s many things that inspire me to keep running retreats.  Okay two of them; I still want to share the secrets of yoga with as many people as possible & hopefully, inspire them to incorporate some yoga into their daily life back home. And to offer a place in the World where people can totally relax, switch off, just be, eat healthily and reconnect with their inner peace & balance.

What advice do you give your students looking to change themselves through Yoga?
Don’t give up – sometimes the breakthroughs come when you least expect them.  Stay with your yoga practice, do it for you and cherish it as you would a precious gift.  And of course, go out and experience as many teachers and yoga styles as possible – you’ll learn much from every one of them.  Finally, practice even when you don’t feel like rolling out your mat.  I’ve never ever regretted time spent on my mat … but I’ve often regretted NOT getting on my mat if you see what I mean!

To finish a little anecdote…
Well this is a little embarrassing - so apologies if I offend anyone – but I’m sharing this as none of you will know the people I’m talking about!   This happened shortly after I had qualified as a yoga teacher, so was the first time I’d ever encountered this situation.  I was at a professional development workshop with around 80 yoga teachers in a quiet, restorative class that was being held after a vegetarian curry lunch.   We were all listening intently to the teacher and concentrating on our practice when, someone at the back of the class, kept ‘letting wind’ (hopefully you know what I mean as, I’m sorry, I cant use the ‘usual’ words to describe this normal bodily function!!).  Anyhow, to begin, we all ignored it but, as it continued – and very loudly I have to say – some people struggled to contain their giggles until such a point when, the poor lady who’s body was repeat
edly ”letting wind”, openly apologized to everyone in the room blaming it on the chickpeas in the lunch.     At which point, the fabulous teacher came out with a line that I’ve never forgotten which was … “don’t worry, you celebrate your body in whatever way you like” well, the whole room just fell about laughing so much so, that the rest of the session was beset with giggles whilst others  begun “celebrating their bodies” as the chickpeas took hold of them too!       Sorry, toilet humor - not a good memory of me to leave you with is it!!      Id love to know how other yoga teachers have ‘managed’ this situation - please share!  Yoga Breaks in Spain


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this interview Nicole and Gary! My takeaway: "Stay with your yoga practice, do it for you and cherish it as you would a precious gift."
I hope I have the chance to share another blissful break with you soon. Namaste. said...

Hola Mireya - Thanks for your comment - I still wonder at the photographs you captured on your break with us. I am sure life is full of loving light - We look forward to your future visit - how is your practice? - saludos y Un Abrazo Gary and Nicole