Family bonding at full stretch

More barefoot escape than boot camp, mother-daughter yoga retreats offer a rare chance to hang out and have fun together, writes Angie Kelly.

IT'S 6am and our large group of mums and daughters is heading up Kingscliff Beach on an early-morning jog. My gazelle-like 16-year-old bounces away energetically with the other young 'uns, despite the hour, while I do my best sleepy joggle, which is something slightly embarrassing, between a run and a walk.

Though early and a little on the wild and windy side, the huge, endless-seeming beach is busy. There are lots of locals walking - some with dogs, some with young children - early-morning swimmers and the first of the Nippers are arriving at the surf club.

Then there's our group: 20 sets of mums and girls who, after finishing the run, are now flipping out towels in a semicircle around yoga teacher Kris McIntyre, who will gently guide us through the next hour of bending, stretching and breathing.

Out here on the sand, it's peaceful listening to the waves - just being, not talking - watching and wondering about my fellow downward dogsters and why they are here.

Moving on from me-time and multigenerational holidays, the parent-child break is the latest trend to emerge in wellness retreats throughout the country. The idea seems to be gaining traction, organisers say, because busy families are struggling to spend quality time together at home.

McIntyre, best known as the host of Yoga TV, which screened on Channel Ten, says that after she noticed many mother-daughter combos were taking up her regular yoga retreat weekends, she and Sydney nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge formalised a program to suit them.

"It was just putting a name to a trend that was already happening," McIntyre says.

In our group, made up of women aged between 13 and 62, some mums have brought daughters and vice versa.

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The previous day had been an immensely enjoyable line-up of more yoga classes, inspiring and practical healthy food talks, meditation and the feel-good highlight, a zumba dance-fitness class, which produced many a red-faced laugh.

Spa treatments for all mean a break from the group activities and a chance to spend precious time out together, barefoot, ponytailed and wrapped in fluffy robes. Which is a precious change of pace indeed for me and mine, a working mum and a busy 16-year-old on the brink of her final year at school.

We are staying at the Peppers Salt Resort & Spa on the Tweed Coast in far northern NSW, a sprawling development 15 minutes' drive south from the Gold Coast. The complex has one-, two- and three-bedroom accommodation options, cafes, boutiques, shops for basics and an ice-cream parlour. The patrolled beach is walking distance across a small park but the cavernous, top-notch Golden Door Spa is one of the main drawcards for visitors here.

A good deal of free time in the three-day program also provides the opportunity to enjoy the resort facilities, take the pushbikes for a spin, go to the beach, use the spa or just chill by the pool.

Filling a gap between ultra-luxe wellbeing retreats and strict bunk-bed-style boot camps, this program has 4½-star digs to enjoy and no rules.

To underline the nutrition theory presented in the program, resort chefs have prepared a one-off menu, which is at times a little light on but delicious and healthy nonetheless. Dishes such as organic vegetable tagine, steamed line-caught ocean trout, five-spice tofu and vegetable pad Thai have been designed to kick-start some simple food changes we can take home.

Though the retreat is far from hardcore, meals are alcohol-free.

However, there are no wine police blocking the bar in case anyone is in the mood for a tipple.

"One of the reasons I love running these weekends is because I can see such a profound change from when guests arrive on Friday night, usually ... frazzled, to when they leave after lunch on Sunday - usually clearer, calmer, happier and willing to go back to their normal lives and make a couple of little changes that will keep them feeling good," McIntyre says.

"The parent-child retreat trend makes sense, as we seem to be leading increasingly hectic, busy lives and we don't seem to have enough time or energy left for the people closest to us. The whole notion of a retreat is to take time out from normal life and refocus on what is important to you."

The writer was a guest of Peppers.

Where to take time out together

Peppers Salt Resort & Spa, Kingscliff, NSW The next mother and daughter yoga retreat will be on May 18 to 20 with belly dancing, zumba, health talks, meditation and core strength fitness on the agenda.

Priced from $557 a person twin share, the all-inclusive deal includes two nights' accommodation, breakfast daily, five yoga classes, a yoga mat and DVD, zumba class, and a spa treatment.

Solar Springs Health Retreat, Bundanoon, NSW A two-night package for mothers and daughters starts from $1230 during the week, with a $60 add-on if staying on a weekend. Includes all meals, facilities and supervised classes, as well as a facial, massage and pedicure for both people.

(02) 4883 6027, solarsprings.com.au.

Golden Door Health Retreat — Elysia, Hunter Valley Teenagers from 16 are accepted on the normal weekly program, where activities such as tai chi and yoga and seminars on stress management and goal setting can be tailored to support exam stress. Priced from $2720 a person, twin share in a two-bedroom villa and includes all meals, activities and workshops and fitness classes.

Golden Door Health Retreat, Queensland After the success of its first Summer Health Camp for Teenagers in December, a similar five-day program is being planned this year. Set in the Gold Coast hinterland, the life skills camp for teens and parents combines outdoor activities such as kayaking with fitness sessions, goal-setting seminars and spa treatments. Price is from $1855 for teens and $1950 for parents and includes accommodation, all meals, activities, health and well-being seminars, some spa treatments and transfers from Brisbane airport.

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