The Rise of Eco-Retreats

Melissa Albarran
May 21, 2021 11:52:39 AM

As the weather improves and lockdown lifts, many of us are looking to book our first yoga retreat of the season. Yoga retreats offer the perfect opportunity to focus on your personal practice, take some time for yourself, and connect with like-minded yogis. 

More recently, retreats with an ethical and social conscience have grown in popularity, a response to our increasing awareness for the welfare of the planet. 

We spoke to Nova Milesko, founder of New Forest Retreats, about the importance of giving back when holding a yoga retreat.  

MA: Tell me a bit more about the retreats that you run

NM: All my retreats are as eco-friendly, ethical and socially aware as possible. We do this by supporting farmers and crafts by using their local produce; donating to Treedom to offset travel to and from the events; using ethical eco-products throughout the retreats; supporting food banks and charities to support vulnerable people, and committing to sustainable energy options. 

All of the venues have been chosen for their contribution to the local community and environment, giving us a real sense of meaning to these retreats, by giving back whilst you get back to yourself. For example, by staying at our Lush Gardens Retreats we are able to support a Trust in assisting young adults with learning difficulties to learn life skills and live independently.

MA: Why was it important to you to support different charities through your yoga retreats? 

NM: It is part of our duty as yogis to create connections to our community and support them in any way we can.

MA: How do you choose the charities you work with? 

NM: They have happened organically, through working with CAMHS, I found out about a trust that assists young adults with learning difficulties to learn life skills and live independently. The farm was a great fit with my dream of showing how eco living can be done. On the other hand, the Beaulieu retreats help to educate children about the countryside. As a kid from inner-city London, I feel this is incredibly important for future generations. 

MA: What is the most rewarding thing about running these yoga retreats? 

NM: Getting humans to fall in love with nature and each other, remembering that we are all different and that is one of the most beautiful things about us.

MA: Do you think teachers running yoga retreats have an obligation to give something back to the community?

NM: I would hope that this is something anyone would feel naturally, but I am not a pious preacher. It has to come from a genuine place of caring. So much is done to *look* green, which can often do more harm than good. Like investing in planting trees - this has to be done in a way that does not harm the ecosystems and local communities. We need to think about our actions and try to mitigate our impact.

MA: How did you manage the lockdowns and Covid-19? 

NM: I didn't is the short answer. My business was completely stalled, but so were many others. I had to home-school my kids so that kept me busy, and I began teaching the CAMHS units online which was interesting. I also started learning about Regenerative activism, which involves actions that renew and revitalise our resources, in the midst of our social and ecological struggles.   

MA: What have you learnt from your years running yoga retreats? 

NM: That I have to be inspired to inspire. I am currently training in NLP and CBT because I know that, after the year we have just had, our upcoming retreats are going to even more intense than ever. I think it is important for me to be able to offer support and ideas that will help people to come out of the retreats feeling empowered

MA: You are aiming to be zero-waste in retreats this year. How will you achieve this? 

NM: I am working towards it! I’m using bulks supplies and making sure that anything that can be is packaging-free. I will continue to find ways to make the world a better place one retreat at a time.

MA: How can people live in a more eco-friendly way every day, not just during a retreat? 

NM: Start anywhere, but start. You are doing great by even trying, there is so much pressure on us all, we need to take calm and measured responses that we can keep up, not try to do everything and then give up because it was too hard. Be kind to yourself.

You can sign up for Nova’s retreats on her website: https://novamilesko.com/retreats/

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