In 2015 Maya graduated as a Byron Yoga Centre Level 1 yoga teacher – an experience that, she believes, has forever changed her life – then last month Maya came back to Byron Yoga Retreat Centre, but this time not as a student, as a retreat guest.

Maya, busy Gold Coast mum and author of ‘KIS and Lose Weight’, is a naturopathic nutritionist, iridologist, fitness professional and yoga teacher.

She was first introduced to yoga postures about fourteen years ago, when she started teaching Body Balance at gyms. Over the last three years, however, she found that pure yoga practice became her rescuer from adrenal fatigue and the effects of continuous stress on her body. She now teaches yoga and shares her knowledge, experience and passion with others.

How was it for you being back at Byron Yoga Retreat Centre as a retreat guest rather than a teacher trainee?

“It was fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found that unlike being a student, there was no pressure of assessments so I could completely relax. The variety of classes we had was great and I also loved the meditation. As life in the ‘real world’ can get quite intense, I discovered that internal calmness (I first experienced during the teacher training) once again.”

What made you choose to book a retreat a year after graduating as a teacher trainer with Byron Yoga Centre?

“I enjoyed my teacher training so much last year. I felt that I got so much out of it and learnt so much not only about asana but also about myself as well as yoga philosophy, which I find fascinating. I really enjoyed the Byron Yoga Retreat Centre environment, its’ magical tranquility, the staff, and not to mention, the incredibly delicious food. By the time I finished my training last year, I had promised myself to come back as a retreat guest 12 months later, so I can enjoy all of what Byron Yoga Retreat Centre has to offer, minus the assessments and the late night studies as a yoga student!”

What would you recommend to other graduates as the key reason for going on retreat?

“As a yoga teacher you do make the realisation that there is a great big difference between teaching yoga to others and practicing yoga yourself. In fact, in order to become the best yoga teacher you can possibly be, you need to practice yoga in your own time. The retreat is the same. Giving yourself time to nurture your body and soul can make you feel not only more balanced and calm, but also, I feel become a better, more authentic yoga teacher.”

What do you think was the most important element that made your retreat special?

“I have to say it was the Byron Yoga Retreat Centre tranquil surroundings and welcoming environment. And that includes the lovely people who work there too. There is something very magical about this place. It felt to me like coming home.”

Did you face any challenges, and how did you overcome / work through these?

“The challenge for me was initially to slow down or quieten my mind. But I found that through practicing yoga a few times a day during the retreat (most of it was quite gentle) meditating and enjoying an acupuncture treatment as well as Shiatsu, eventually my mind got used to observe more rather than analyse or judge.”

Were there any unexpected benefits you experienced?

“I love the wholesome, delicious sattvic food. The unexpected benefit was how wonderfully ‘happy’ my tummy felt every day. The mostly cooked, nourishing, vegetarian food really agreed with me. As a nutritionist I do make the connection between stress and digestion too, and I could also feel the benefit of a having a more balanced nervous system on my own digestion and body.”

What lessons / changes did you take away and incorporate into your lifestyle?

“The retreat reinforced my belief that in order to practice yoga well we don’t need to be hard on ourselves or judgmental in any way. Bringing a little bit of the magic of yoga into our lives each day, not necessarily in the form of asana practice but also meditation, reading and educating ourselves about yoga and yoga philosophy, observing the way we live and how reactive we can become in our daily lives (and working on changing the way we do react), can go a long way towards helping us achieve a warm open and compassionate heart, and a more balanced life.”

Is there anything you’d like to add for future trainees or retreat guests, recommendations on preparing for a training or retreat or for making the most of it?

“As a nutritionist I couldn’t help but make a few observations while I was a trainee and also a retreat guest It seems that the ones that used to consume a bit of sugar, alcohol and large amounts of caffeine regularly were the ones who struggled the most during their stay as they were trying to ‘fight their addictions’ My suggestion is, to make subtle dietary changes before you participate in any teacher training or a retreat, getting your body used to receiving nourishment from more wholesome, nourishing, unprocessed ‘clean’ foods rather than refined carbohydrates, simple sugars and of course, any junk foods. Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake will help reduce the possibility of dealing with symptoms like headaches or migraines, which can, unfortunately, ruin your experience. I have to admit, however, I do enjoy a good cup of coffee every day, and I was so relieved to find that the coffee at Byron Yoga Retreat Centre is a lot more than fabulous, I loved it!”

Photo: SHARON RICHARDS (Instagram shasrichards)