Sometimes yoga teachers can be an incy bit intimidating. Many have an aura of perfection which comes from thousands of hours spent on the mat, meditating by candlelight, a vegan diet and a billion litres of dandelion tea. OK, I'm exaggerating. But you know what I mean. For the average punter, the whole yoga thing can be daunting.
Which is why it's such a relief when Lola Berry, an ex DJ cum self confessed hippie chick shows up. She's someone you can just as easily imagine downing cocktails at a nightclub, as you can teaching yoga. "Seriously my favourite foods used to be lamingtons and caramel bears," she tells the 70 or so yogis who have gathered for Vibe Marysville's inaugural Wellbeing Weekend. I watch shoulders instantly relax as Berry wearing a colourful Mr Zimi dress, outlines what she's all about.
The Wellbeing Weekend is pitched at those who've been doing yoga for a while, those that have just started their practice and those that have never even done a downward dog. The two-night event combines three yoga sessions (Vinyasa and Yin) with a nutritional talk along with great food and beautiful surroundings. Coincidentally, it's also Vibe Marysville's first birthday so it's not only a kick start to 2016 for participants, but a great thing for the town devastated in the 2009 bushfires.
The weekend kicks off with welcome smoothies of pineapple, avocado, mint and coconut on the terrace of Vibe's Radius restaurant. It's a balmy night and everyone looks happy to be here. "There will be lots of yoga, Mother Nature, and taking you outside your daily routine in a positive inspiring environment – which is the perfect combo for wellness and giving back to yourself," Berry says, adding "And the time will fly so be sure and put yourself first".
We reassemble at the very civil hour of 8am the next morning for our first vinyasa session with Berry. The best thing, given her DJ background, is the brilliant accompanying soundtrack which is played to her class. I find the music makes the class fly by and I tend not to notice how uncomfortable it is holding particular poses for a lengthy time. In her Yin class that night, which my daughter Ella attends with me, I actually fall asleep – a first for me.
The maiden weekend is a new initiative from the hotel's Vibe Fit program designed to help guests feel fit, healthy and revitalised. Along with the yoga classes, Berry conducts a nutritional talk under the trees in the hotel grounds. A bespoke wholefoods dinner incorporating produce from the local area is also held in Radius Restaurant for participants. The menu is designed by executive chef Leigh Colville and draws inspiration from Lola's The Happy Cookbook and forthcoming Little Book of Smoothies and Juices. Every dish tastes incredible; sweet potato gnocchi with pesto and pine nuts, slow-cooked lamb shoulder with smoked eggplant and a crunchy salad of ancient grains.
After our first class on Saturday everyone disperses and enjoys the gorgeous weather which Marysville has turned on for us. The locals are happy to see so many people in town and we are welcomed wherever we go. We visit Gallipoli Park, which underwent a $1.8 million redevelopment after the fires, and my seven-year-old daughter and I race each other on the flying fox. Particularly moving is a beautiful statue of a little girl holding a dove. It's part of the New Life Sculpture designed and produced by local artist Bruno Torfs, as a permanent symbol of new life.
Later we take a walk to Steavenson Falls, Victoria's tallest. There are stacks of people out enjoying the weather, and lots of yogis posing for photos in all sorts of impressive postures; part of a fun Instagram competition run by Vibe for the weekend.
After three days of exercise, wholesome food and fresh air (it really does feel so clean and pure in the foothills of Victoria's Alpine region) we head home through the mighty Black Spur, winding our way through one of Victoria's most scenic drives to the Yarra Valley. The mountain ash forest towers above us. "Open the sun roof," Ella yells from the back seat. Fresh, cool air floods the car and we leave feeling uplifted and renewed, not unlike this beautiful corner of Australia.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of TFE Hotels.
Vibe Hotel Marysville is located about 90 minutes north-east of Melbourne. The hotel sits on the main strip at the heart of the town.
The Vibe Marysville has 101 smart, contemporary rooms in greens, blues and browns complete with desk, comfy couch and framed photography portraying the beauty of the nearby bush, both pre and post Black Saturday. There is also an on-site bar, restaurant, day spa, swimming pool, gym and tennis courts. Rooms start from $159 per night for two people.
GETTING FIT THERE
As part of a refreshed Vibe Hotels and Vibe Fit offering, TFE Hotels plans several Wellbeing Weekends annually featuring special guests and experts. Sign up to the TFE Hotels E-Club to hear about Vibe Fit special events, see tfehotels.com. All Vibe Hotels offer Vibe Fit which includes an in-house yoga channel, healthy menu options, a guide to local walking tracks, and gyms and pools at some properties. From the Vibe Marysville there are numerous cycling and walking trails within easy reach.