Discover Yin and Yang on a New Zealand yoga retreat
Catia Leite is Sweaty Betty’s own support office yoga instructor, and a hugely inspiring life force who helps all of #TeamSB to find their Om during a weekly Wednesday lunchtime yoga class. Also an instructor for London’s esteemed Power Yoga Company, Catia is known for her challenging ashtanga yoga sequences and rejuvenating Yin & Yang restorative sessions. She also shares Sweaty Betty’s passion for adventure, which she is taking to a new level this December with a Wild Yin & Yang Yoga Retreat in the North Island of New Zealand.
A fusion of daily yoga practice and adrenaline-packed adventures of a lifetime, Catia will encourage retreat makers to test their limits and take the calm and clarity of their yoga practice off the mat. From sky diving to caving to white water rafting, there is an itinerary packed with opportunities to confront your fears. Here Catia talks to Sweaty Betty about finding balance in life and how her upcoming retreat is designed to promote the yoga principles she holds closest to her heart.
Catia finds calm and stillness in the day with the Wild Thing pose; She wears the Niyama Yoga Vest and Shiva Yoga Leggigngs (coming soon)
Across London, your yoga classes are known for getting hearts pumping and sweat flowing. Do you believe adrenaline has a role to play in yoga practice? If so, what?
I believe endorphins have a place on the mat, but not adrenaline. Many students refer to yoga as a physical practice, but really it’s an internal practice. I always welcome endorphins, which are released with physical exertion and give you an incredible post-practice high. But the body only starts to create adrenaline when you fight your way into a practice, creating fear and negative thoughts – these feelings are a sign you’re treating your practice too much like a destination rather than the journey it is. Instead, we should focus on self-awareness and accepting where we are.
Do you get the greatest thrill from slowing down or speeding up?
Both! I love a fluid strong practice, where I can truly surrender and detach from needless mind chatter. Where my focus is purely on the flow of the breath, without judgment or expectation. But I also love a good Yin Yoga session, where it challenges me to be still (something I’m not always great at) and explore deeper into my body and mind.
How often do you practice yoga, and do you complement your practice with any other exercise?
I practice yoga every day, ideally for two hours. I do a lot of self practice and Ashtanga Mysore, either in the studio or at home. I like to practise in my own space and will spend more time on individual poses to take my practice in a specific direction for a few weeks’ at a time. I don't really do much outside my yoga world. On weekends I go rock climbing with my kids; we absolutely love it. When I'm away on retreats or on holiday, I will always try to get on a surf board. I'm still not very good after many years and attempts, but I’ll keep trying until I finally get it.
What do the words Yin and Yang mean to you?
Positive & negative. Good & bad. Calm & excitement. Balance.
What adventure sport do you feel most drawn to? And most afraid of?
Skydiving has been a dream since I was a child. I’m really looking forward to that part of the retreat in Taupo! The activity I’ll find most scary is probably abseiling in Waitomo caves. The 36m descent should be OK, but the tight spaces could be interesting as I get a little claustrophobic. This is where I will put my adventurous soul to the test and see how far I can go.
What role does the mind play in pursuits of fitness and wellbeing?
When we take responsibility for our own wellbeing, we can improve our state of mind and body on a daily basis. Certain factors influence our state of wellness, including nutrition, physical activity, stress-coping methods, good relationships and career success. Wellbeing is the search for enhanced quality of life, personal growth, and realised potential through positive lifestyle behaviours and attitudes.
What inspired you to create your exhilarating yoga retreat program in New Zealand?
The country’s beautiful landscapes and the vast opportunities to try extreme sports. Life begins on the other side of fear. My idea for this road trip is to take yoga off the mat into the wild and experience some of the most extreme sports along the way. A unique and exclusive road trip in the beautiful North Island of New Zealand, it's an experience of a lifetime that I will share with a small group of 10 people. All of us will encounter some of our biggest fears and fulfil some life ambitions while simultaneously enriching mind, body and soul through the power of breath, yoga and meditation. We will be on this journey together, setting boundaries and also stepping out of our comfort zone. Learning the benefits of having a balance of both the calming and the thrilling aspects of life – the Yin and the Yang – and how they work together harmoniously.
Do you feel a special connection to New Zealand the home of your retreat?
My sister Lissandra is my biggest connection. She been living out there for the last 7 and half years and I haven't had the chance to visit her before, so this trip will be very special. It also means I get to work with her on this project, as she will be the producer and photographer behind various media campaigns helping to promote the benefits of Yin and Yang. By capturing key moments in the retreat, we also give ourselves and our guests the chance to relive the experience and take their revelations home with them.
How does a sense of community relate to your everyday yoga practice? And to this tight-knit retreat?
When you immerse yourself in yoga, and in a community of like-minded people, you feel inspired and you want to inspire. You want share what you know and learn from others too. In this retreat, my aim is to bring people together in a way that allows them to be themselves and celebrate wherever they are in their journey. This trip is going to be an intense personal journey, for some more than others. From regular yoga and meditation practice, the extreme sports, cooking together, putting up tents, sharing moments of fear and healing, and creating a sense of fun and freedom – community will be at the heart of it.
What to wear for Wild Yin Yoga (Clockwise from top left): Practice Yoga Tee, Brahma Bamboo Padded Yoga Bra, Indaba 7/8 Yoga Leggings, Parivrtta Yoga Gilet
Find out more about Catia’s Wild Yin & Yang Yoga Retreat, taking place across 12 days and 8 destinations from 8-20 December.