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A Day By The Billabong

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Billabong Retreat for a few days for a little reset. Just one hour from the city, Billabong is an incredibly convenient escape for a day or two or even one week. Fortunately, I was there for the meditation program, which really allowed me to tap back into my practice, as I have let it slide recently (I go in and out of phases, yoga is my constant :)).

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I thought it would be a good idea to share what a typical day was like, as I have to say, my expectations were exceeded. It was better than the impression I received from the website – it was pure and blissful and very authentic. The staff there have a genuine enthusiasm not only for health and reconnecting with yourself but for ensuring you have the best experience possible. So let me share with you a day by the Billabong…

Morning:

Optional yoga was at 7am so I would wake up around 6:15am to the sounds of nature outside my balcony and natural light streaming through (the best way to wake up, don’t you think?). We had relaxing music available in the rooms so I would put that on, make a lemon and ginger tea and slowly get ready. No reception made checking my phone impossible, another small luxury.

Class would run from 7-8:00am in the morning, and was a more invigorating flow than the evening, but still available to all-levels and very relaxing. The studio is spacious, light-filled and gorgeous! All mats and yoga equipment were there and set up for you. Basia was a beautiful teacher and I loved the way she intertwined philosophy into our practice.

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Breakfast was straight after at 8am, and was always gluten-free and vegetarian. I of course got the vegan option, which wasn’t hard to do – basically no eggs and avoid the yoghurt. Think coconut milk chia puddings with lemon curd and berries, buckwheat pancakes, almond milk oatmeal with berry coulis and granola and/or roast vegetables.

Breakfast by the billabong with @nastasiamarj Vegan pancakes & lemon mousse chia puddings @billabongretreat @straightup_pr

Next, there was a meditation class at 9am for one hour. We were taught different methods of meditation throughout the few days, and got to try 2-3 each class.

After this, it was time to hit the pool – which was actually a magnesium pool!! Magnesium is great for achy muscles and joints, skin conditions and a general feeling of relaxation. It was very warm when I was there so reading by the pool and taking a few dips was just what I needed.

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Another day I decided to explore, and so I went on a 1.5-2 hour walk around the area. I saw some amazing properties, endless green fields, gorgeous trees and wildlife. Beautiful birds and farm animals and even a goanna up a tree which was the size of me!

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Afternoon:

Lunch time was 12:30pm and was again, another incredibly tasty delight. Many of the guests were not vegetarian and kept gushing about how yummy the food was. I feel like it definitely motivated them to eat healthier and try more meatless meals. This made me so happy! A bunch of different salads such as an avocado Greek salad, beetroot quinoa salad, roast pumpkin with black sesame were paired with dairy-free sauces like tahini, pesto or vegan aioli and often there was a frittata to accompany. I was made a special eggless frittata or loaf to replace, which was absolutely divine! I left very satisfied! There was also live music (guitar and vocals) on one of the days too.

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You can book spa and beauty treatments at Billabong, so I had a 60 minute massage, which was heavenly. I felt a little floaty after!

Afterward, it was back to my book or a wander around the Billabong. There is a gorgeous reading and sitting lounge area if you don’t want to read by the pool.

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They provide afternoon tea too, which was either a raw brownie or some bliss balls!!

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I grabbed one and would then head back to my room to run a bath in the outdoor tub on my balcony (I had the deluxe cabin). It was very private and overlooked the billabong. I stayed in here for over an hour reading with a tea. Bliss!

It's about to go down! Epsom salts, tea, book, outdoor tub with a treetop view..... Tranquil sound effects (ie birds) & more of the view on my Insta-story!! @billabongretreat

Evening:

There was an afternoon yoga class from 3:30-5pm…. A very gentle practice that really wound you down and prepared you for a quiet evening. People would then go shower or continue reading, or even colour-in a mandala (a form of meditation we were taught) before dinnertime at 6pm.

Dinner was either similar to lunch – a plethora of colourful salads and vegetables with a baked loaf – or it was a delicious vegetable curry and dahl dish. And don’t worry, they do provide desert! I had an incredible apple crumble one night and avocado mousse the other 🙂

All the colours of the rainbow - gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan .... @billabongretreat you get me ☺️ ps you gotta check out at my Insta story I saw a gigantic goanna today!!!!!!!

After this, there was a final meditation class for the day, before we would head back to our rooms and get ready for bed. I brought my dry brush with me, and some natural beauty products to have a little spa session of my own. Then, I would curl up in bed, read and fall asleep (very easily) to the frogs. You can imagine after a day like that, that sleep was very peaceful! It was so nice to get to sleep a little earlier than usual – no TV, internet, and social distractions – and I made a commitment to myself to carry this through when I came home!

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Thank you Billabong Retreat for a most restful, tasty, and rejuvenating experience! I will definitely be back. I highly recommend this spot for a quick getaway if you live in Sydney, or an extended stay if you are from afar. As I said, it is extremely authentic and has been curated with health, education and self-love in mind. There were people from all walks of life there and they all left talking about when they would be booking back in. A good sign!

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Everyday hero’s – 9 Staples for Good Health!

I’ve written about my favourite superfoods here. But what about the everyday hero’s that are commonplace in supermarkets and in our kitchens? While some of us love to try a variety of exotic plant-based foods from different cultures and traditions, we don’t always have to be all fancy and complicated when it comes to good health. These 9 wondrous food staples are easy, accessible and crucial to a healthy diet. If you’re not eating ’em, now is the time to start! Keep on reading for why, and how I like to include them in my day.

1. Walnuts

A brain healthy food, they even look like the brain! They contain neuro-protective compounds such as omega-3 fats, vitamin E, folate, melatonin and antioxidants. They are also contain heart healthy amino acids and fats that significantly assist cardiovascular function. Don’t be scared of fats! A small handful of nuts a day, has been proven to assist weight control as they are incredibly satiating.

Include: crushed over salads, fruit salads, as a snack, smoothie or porridge topping, in your homemade granola, breads, muffins or muesli slices! Try my creamy walnut Caesar dressing here.

2. Almonds

As above, if you are looking for a satisfying snack, a handful of almonds is a much better choice than a complex carbohydrate rich snack such as wholegrain toast. Naturally rich in monounsaturated fats, magnesium, vitamin E, selenium, calcium, protein and fibre, almonds are not only filling but also good for skin and bone health, as well as a prebiotic foods – meaning they promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestines. We want this!

Include: same as above, however I personally love a few almonds in 1 stuffed date for a sweet treat, or ground down to almond butter. Try making almond milk! Almonds are also delicious in stir fries or cauliflower rice and my pizza pops.

3. Pumpkin seeds / Pepita’s

Are a great vegan source of one of my favourite minerals, zinc. Unfortunately, it is a nutrient that a lot of people lack. Zinc is critical for cell growth, glowing skin, immunity, metabolism, blood sugar and reproductive health. Pepita’s are high in protein and omega-3 and they make great additions to snacks, smoothies or salads. Boasting healthy amounts of magnesium and potassium they are also great for our bones.

Include: same as walnuts, however I also like to include 1 tbsp blended into my smoothie, or lightly roasted in lime such as here.

4. Broccoli

An excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins E, C, K as well as dietary minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium and of course, our beloved fibre. Broccoli has a good variety of nutrients and phytochemicals that may work synergistically to help prevent cancer. Many of the benefits of broccoli are reduced if the vegetable is boiled so opt to lightly steam it or better still, chop it up finely raw in a salad.

Include: raw in salads, stir-fried, broccoli rice (same as cauliflower rice), or pureed for broccoli pancakes.

5. Blueberries

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacity of blueberries is among the highest of fruits and vegetables, containing anthocyanins, reservatrol and pterostilbene.Blueberry consumption has been linked to improved brain function with research indicating their capacity to reverse age-related declines in neural and behavioural functions such as dementia. Studies have shown that the consumption of anthocyanins improve vision through protecting the retina from damage. Bluebs also contain high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K and managanese.

Include: frozen or fresh in a smoothie, in porridge or bircher muesli, as a snack, or in homemade muffins or pancakes!

6. Avocado

Avocados are a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and monounsaturated (healthy) fats. They are actually a fruit, but are very low sugar. Their fibre and healthy fat content has been shown to increase satiety and satisfaction from a meal, keeping you fuller for longer and supporting weight management. Clinical studies also show avocados role in lowering cholesterol, assisting cardiovascular health. The healthy fat present in avocado also facilitates carotenoid absorption (antioxidant compounds associated with cellular protection and growth). Avocados are a superfood because they not only offer so much nutrition but can make a meal taste amazing, from sweet to savoury! Personally, I have at least half most days!

Include: in any salad to add satiety, in smoothies, in chocolate mousse, in salad dressings and cake frostings.

7. Lemons

High in vitamin C and enzymes, lemon is a liver-loving, alkalising, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that boosts immunity, assists skin repair, balances your bodies pH (it may taste acidic and contain organic acid but it is in fact alkaline once digested) and stimulates digestion. This is is why adopting a daily habit of morning lemon water is so good for you – it wakes up your metabolism, re-hydrates you and boosts liver function to assist with the removal of toxins from the system. Lemon juice also contains citric acid. Evidence suggests that the presence of organic acids like citric increases the availability of calcium from vegetable foods. So squeeze it over your veggies to obtain the most calcium! Adding lemon juice to cut foods like apples or avocados can also prevent browning.

include: Daily lemon warm (not boiling hot) water! Salad dressings, or squeezed on top of smashed avocado on toast.

8. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is actually a bark, traditionally used as a stomachic and carminative for gastrointestinal issues. It has also been used to treat toothaches and bad breath! It has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective and antimicrobial benefits and has been shown to have an effect on managing conditions such as diabetes due to its blood sugar stabilising properties.

Include: always in a smoothie! Or an almond milk chai tea, turmeric latte, chia pudding, cauliflower rice and stir-fries, or muffins.

9. Garlic

Another prebiotic food! Garlic has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties and is known to assist detoxification and support cell health. Traditionally garlic has been used as a warming and blood cleansing herb to prevent and treat colds and flus, menstrual pain and expel worms and other parasites. Heat is thought to inhibit its antimicrobial properties however allowing crushed/chopped garlic to stand for 10 minutes before cooking may prevent this from occurring.

Include: in most warm meals – stir-fries, cauliflower rice, soups, marinades, dips, sauces, and salad dressings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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