Breathe easy at Gwinganna

Out and About

Imagine a place where you can leave the world behind, unplug from the chaos of life and concentrate on making yourself feel good.

Yoga at Ginganna Lifestyle Retreat.

I’m not afraid to admit the past couple of years have been tough. Juggling work with raising teenagers under the cloud of COVID-19 had taken its toll and by the end of 2021, I was exhausted – mentally, physically and spiritually.

I’m sure many of you can relate. So, I didn’t hesitate when given the opportunity to “tap out” for a couple of days in the Tallebudgera hinterland at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.

In local Yugambeh language, Gwinganna means “lookout”, an apt name given the mountaintop setting of the retreat. It feels a million miles away, despite being only an hour’s drive from Brisbane.

I’ve always been sceptical about the virtues of “health retreats” but approached the experience with an open mind. After checking in and being shown to our accommodation, it was time for orientation. Armed with a cup of chai tea, I listened carefully as our program leader, Kay, explained the elements of the Summer Joy Midweek Retreat.

Each morning would kick off at 6am with 30 minutes of qi gong (pronounced chee-gong), a tai chi-style practice.

Then it would be time for Yin and Yang activities – Yin being gentle, Yang more challenging – before breakfast at 8.30am.

Lunch was at 12.30pm and dinner at 6.30pm.

Between meals, you could choose to do as much or as little as you liked – while the award-winning spa was a signature attraction, there were scenic bushwalks, swimming pools, a gymnasium, sauna and guided activities galore.

Relaxing at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat Public Relations Manager Tracy Willis said the program’s structure was just one component of a unique regime carefully designed to enable guests to reconnect with themselves.

“It’s a combination of the natural environment here at Gwinganna, how the day is structured – early to rise, early to bed – good sleep and perfect nutrition,” Tracy said.

“So many people that come here spend their days in artificial light with artificial air in front of a screen.”

Guilty as charged.

To be honest, the technology sabbath and serenity of the place was a little disconcerting at first. Not to mention the 5.30am starts.

But as I stood on the lawn at sunrise, overlooking the incredible Gold Coast skyline in the distance, I saw the merits of the early alarm. And in that moment, I learned to breathe again.

Psychotherapist and Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat Program Manager Linda Franke said despite breathing being key to survival, people did not pay enough attention to it due to the fast pace of modern culture.

The pool at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.

Despite a 20-plus-year career in the wellness sector, Linda admitted she too had to relearn the simple art of breathing by setting an hourly alarm on her phone to remind herself to stop and focus on it.

“When did we forget how to breathe? If you watch a baby, the belly rises and falls – they haven’t had a yoga lesson,” she said.

“As adults, we have to learn it again.”

Focusing on breathing, how we feel rather than think, eating nutritious food and connecting with nature are the foundations of Gwinganna’s programs.

Over just two days I felt a distinct shift in how I felt physically and mentally.

My perception of lifestyle retreats being a luxury afforded only to those with time and money to spare was also destroyed.

Most of the people on the Summer Joy Midweek Retreat were young mothers, with a couple of men and a handful of 40-somethings like me.

Certainly not people with the luxury of time and money.

Dinner at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.

These people, I learned, understood the value of investing in themselves.

Over dinner (meals are enjoyed in groups), I was told by a woman that she had gained more from that day’s 30-minute “gratitude” practice than she had from years of therapy.

“We often hear that,” Tracy said. “It’s the immersion experience – there are no distractions so it’s easier to disconnect.

“Two days in Gwinganna feels like a week anywhere else – the concentration of the elements is powerful.”

Powerful indeed. I honestly didn’t believe change could happen in a relatively short time. I was wrong.

“With consciousness and intent, I believe you can make a difference in a weekend; I believe you can make a difference in a heartbeat,” Linda said.

“The people here want to do this work and make a difference to other people’s lives.”

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The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.