First responder families from Port Macquarie recently had an incredible experience on a Family Yoga Retreat Weekend in Forster. It was an excellent opportunity to explore the Five Ways to Wellbeing to learn how to build their mental fitness and boost their wellbeing. By spending time with their family, our participants were able to develop family bonds as they undertook some exciting activities and got to learn how to practice mindfulness. It was also a great way to connect and socialise with other like-minded people, spending time with those who understand what it means to be a first responder family.
The families arrived on Friday afternoon and were welcomed by the team from Forster Yoga Studio. To help the participants feel settled and start to meet the rest of the group, there was an ‘ice breaker’. Participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves and family members, by using sticky notes and sharing something complimentary and noticeable about one another. This encouraged the group to empower each other in a comfortable environment.
That afternoon at the studio, Shane introduced the families to essential oils. The class included stretching and breathing exercises incorporating essential oils, suitable for all ages.
This was followed by a picnic dinner in the yoga studio, which was a mixture of meals straight from the garden. It was extremely delicious and nutritious. Then the families checked in to the apartments. An 800m walk from studio to apartment gave new meaning to ‘sleep walking’!
“Thoroughly enjoyed it. Will look to do aspects of yoga for mental and physical well-being.”
On Saturday morning, the families had the luxury of breakfast being delivered to their individual apartments by All Things Yum, including fresh juices, yogurt, bagels and chia seed puddings – introducing families to new breakfast delights.
Bursting with energy from the delicious breakfast, the families met at the yoga studio for morning yoga with Mia and Anni.
Then the participants were broken into groups with the kids going on a boat trip on Wallis Lake, where they spent the day on the water. Boating, fishing and stand up paddle boarding were all part of the fun. The facilitators made sure that the adults received a visit from the captain so the kids could make some ripples whilst the adults were learning stand up paddle boarding.
The adults also split into groups for a SUP tour with Charne on Wallis Lake. One group got to see an experienced SUP gymnast perform a headstand on a board! The other group learnt about health and mental wellbeing empowerment through a talk with Lydia and Cass.
All food is good food! Lunch by the lake included homemade frittatas and salad. Many agreed they had earned the lunch with their blood, sweat and tears. Both groups experienced a post-lunch meditation class at the studio with Tracy, the meditation teacher. For some of our participants, meditation after lunch equalled a NAP!
After lunch, the groups switched, with a new group trying a SUP tour where they learnt many new skills with a lot of laughter. They managed to stay dry but unfortunately, some fell in the water just two meters from the shore!
The kids and adults were reunited for afternoon tea followed by joining a healing circle in the smaller studio with Cass.
“Thank you so much. This has been an amazing activity for my mental health and it will help me tremendously.”
Sunday morning saw another delicious breakfast for each family in their own apartment. Heading up to the studio, they started the day’s activities with a goal setting pow-wow with Jess, which included goal setting and vision board workshop. A group discussion after this activity brought forth ideas for a new wellbeing activity for Fortem that will be added to the calendar from June.
A delicious and nutritious morning tea was on offer before the restorative yoga and empowerment session to finish off the weekend. What a way to close a healthy, empowering and self-insightful weekend between our families.
“Thank you to Fortem and the team at the yoga studio. Very nourishing weekend.”
Some ideas for building mental fitness that our first responder families want to do after this activity include
- Relax, give myself priority.
- Learn to relax more & not stress about the smallest thing.
- Try new experiences. Connect more with people.
- Be aware of my mind and breathing.
- Use the new skills I have learned in my every day life.
- Work on my mental health as a part of my normal everyday routine. Not save it for a later date. Also, to love myself.
- Take some time to meditate.
“So here we are 4 weeks after the yoga retreat you organised through Fortem and I still feel like my life has been changed for the better. I wanted to wait to write this to see if the ‘honeymoon period’ wore off but it hasn’t. I am feeling like such a better person every day and people around me are noticing and commenting too.
I was honestly worried about how things may fall away when we came back home from the retreat. However, I still use the techniques that we were taught plus I am practising better nutrition and better meditation. Several times a day I still use the breathing techniques we were taught. In fact, I love that partners are welcome to attend too as we both will sit together now and use breathing to help us when we are bothered/stressed by something.
Like everyone, I have my story of struggle and have only recently felt like I have just started to come through the other side. Throughout the retreat, the experiences I had, the knowledge I absorbed and teachings I listened too, they were the boost I needed to know that I was getting better.
Another great thing about the weekend was being able to mix with members of other emergency services. This had a great benefit to me as there was another man there who admitted he was currently struggling big time with some issues. I found I was able to reach out to him and share parts of my life, and what I have learnt over the recent past that has got me back up and running in life.
I hope Fortem can continue with weekends like this as it has had a massive impact on my life.”
Find a wellbeing activity for first responder families from the Port Macquarie region on our Wellbeing Activity Calendar.