Seasonal Yoga Retreats Shizuka Ryokan


The Seasonal Yoga Retreats combine the ancient wisdom of seasonal living, yoga practice, delicious and healthy Japanese food, and shiatsu massage.

Join us at Shizuka Ryokan for two days of yoga, seasonal Japanese meals, accommodation and fun. With Renee Willner as your guide, immerse yourself in the ancient practice of yoga. Explore physical postures, breath work, meditation and deep relaxation.

We have chosen practices which suit beginners and experienced alike. Furthermore, shiatsu, a type of traditional Japanese bodywork, is on offer. Along with the carefully curated menu, our intention is that you experience a restorative retreat to help you embody the autumn season.

Shizuka Ryokan is Australia’s only traditional Japanese Ryokan Wellness Retreat. We are located in Hepburn, a place renowned for its healing waters. Simply being surrounded by the Japanese gardens and the quiet of a traditional ryokan is a grounding experience.

According to the five elements theory the seasons are governed by the five elements: fire, water, earth, wood and metal.

Summer is governed by fire which is associated with expansion.

This is the time of fulfilment; the trees are green and fruit is plentiful. In our yoga, we look at these aspects and try to replicate them by practising softer postures, and focusing on the voice and breath. There is more communicative paired and group work designed to elevate our mood; relaxation and meditation are also important.

Summer is a time for eating light foods that assist with cooling our bodies. These should be fresh and colourful and overcooking is to be avoided. Fresh salads, stewed or baked fruits, and moist, round grains which become fluffy—such as millet, tapioca, couscous, corn, polenta and pearly barley—are ideal.

We may be drawn to the bitter flavour of burnt food, to what’s been barbecued or tossed on a fire. Eating foods that have been cooked quickly helps to support the heart and small intestine. Hot, spicy foods that promote sweating and make us aware of the rising of our inner fire are also recommended. Look to hot climate cuisines for recipe inspiration.

Make fruit infused waters all summer long choosing from pomegranate, passionfruit, purple grapes, watermelon, cucumber and mint. Sip them, unrefridgerated, throughout the day to stay hydrated and topped up with essential nutrients.

Sprouted Mung beans are another summer food that you can add to salads to cool the body, relax the liver, and keep your skin protected during the sun season.

Late summer is ruled by the earth element. During the late summer, there is a strong sense of gathering energy to the centre, of settling and mulling over what has been learnt. This is a special time, between the summer and autumn, as it signifies where we stand – whether grounded, nourished and supported, or chaotic, anxious and disconnected.

If we care for ourselves and create health through our digestion and our actions, then we will feel grounded and balanced moving forward. During the late summer we continue with summer cooking styles but begin to incorporate quick oil sautéed dishes. We reduce the use of matchstick cutting and grated vegetables in our salads and use slightly larger, chunkier cutting such as longer, wider strips for root vegetables, whole leaf greens or bite sized cubes. Whole sweet corn from the garden nourishes our spleen and stomach to revitalise our energy.It is important to stay connected to the season now. We can avoid pre-empting autumn’s cooler weather by avoiding food that is too heavy in nature.

We may be tired during this transition season from our busy socialising and the effects of the hot summer. Paying close attention to weather changes, and matching our cooking strategies to them, can support the vitality of our immune system. This helps us to meet the cooler weather and prevent the colds and flu that herald the seasonal change.

Autumn is ruled by the metal element. Autumn is about feeling strong and is a time for shedding outgrown patterns and beliefs.

During autumn we turn to foods that support our lung health. Pungent vegetables such as wasabi, watercress, cabbage, turnip, horseradish, pepper, onions and garlic are wonderful at this time of year. As the weather grows cooler it is beneficial to eat more soups and stews made with seasonal vegetables. (You can often see Yuchan, the cook at Shizuka Ryokan, collecting pine mushrooms from the nearby pine groves at this time of year which she adds to her delicious Autumn Hot Pot.)

Autumn is the time to turn inwards, sleep a little longer, practice letting go, and create a time for meditation and relaxation.

Winter is governed by water. Becoming internally focused is important during winter; it’s a time for contemplation and resolve, preparation and coming to rest.

Warm foods that are baked or stewed for a long time are ideal. Dishes should be oilier, fattier and saltier than at other times. If you eat meat, this is most appropriate season to do so, especially fish. Nuts, buckwheat, lentils, and barley stews should be a feature. Mushrooms, cabbages, cauliflower and daikon support our bone structure, which is mediated by the kidneys. Soy-based products such as miso, gomasio, tamari and shoyu should be used because, along with the other recommended ingredients, they draw the body’s energies deep.

Keep up hydration by drinking warm water and herbal teas during the day.

Support collagen production by eating plenty of dark leafy greens and seeds and nuts each day to fill out and hydrate dry skin. Eating soups with sea vegetables will also plump out your skin and boost collagen.

Walnuts and sesame seeds build our Kidney energy and benefit hair and skin lustre. They also work to lessen dark circles under the eyes.

A large part of our yoga practise during this season will be based on giving expression to the flowing, dissolving energy associated with this element. This is a dormant time of the year when deep changes take place. Plants lose their foliage and sap flows deep, establishing roots and buds that will later flourish. We should feel encouraged to follow this pattern by internalising our energy and examining our depths.

Spring is ruled by the wood element and rising energy. Spring is about rejuvenation and growth.

During spring we turn to foods such as freshly-picked, organic vegetables, and bean sprouts, celery, sorrel, rocket, young beets, Dutch carrots, and asparagus. It is time to decongest the Liver from the heavier slow cooked comforting foods of winter. Cooking times are shorter, little salt and oil are used. Less of everything is the general principle as we need to shed from our Winter body.  Do this as a gradual strategy that mirrors the weather shifts. On warmer days choose lighter veggie based stir fries and when the chill sets in, return to the slow cooking styles. Give the Liver a break by progressively phasing out rich and processed foods in preparation for the approaching hot summer weather. Using the seasonal citrus fruits in your water and cooking will support the Liver to decongest and enliven your skin.

Wood governs the joints, so yoga postures at this time focus on twisting, on promoting loosening and flexibility.

  • Twin share $1,065 per person (bring a friend)
  • Private room $1,495

About the instructor

Renee’s long interest in how the mind, body and spirit interact found its perfect expression in yoga, which she has practised for over 20 years. As a teacher she takes a holistic and fun approach that allows individuals to find what they need in the practice, in a safe, supportive and fun environment. Following the birth of her daughter, Renee sought a holistic approach to exercise that could integrate all her passions- healing, nature, embodiment, spirituality, music, empowerment & authentic expression- so she fell in love with yoga!

A Yoga Australia member, her extensive training includes: 500hr Purna at Byron Yoga Centre, Scaravelli, Feldenkrais, Donna Farhi, Yoga as Therapy- Doug Keller, Yoga of Birth- Anahata Giri and Rainbow Kids Yoga.

Renee is an experienced massage therapist with specialised training in pregnancy massage and deep tissue therapy. Her holistic massage treatments incorporate a range of clinical and energy healing techniques including shiatsu. Her background in luxury spa management and training ensure an exceptional client experience every time.

To book your place for a Seasonal Yoga retreat please call (03) 5348 2030 or email us at [email protected]