Spring Yoga Retreat

Bookings are now open for the following Seasonal Yoga Retreats:

Winter: September Sunday 16 & Monday 17 , check-out Tuesday 18 July
Spring: October 8 Sunday & 9 Monday, check-out Tuesday 10 October

Summer: November Sunday 19 & Monday 20, check-out Tuesday 21 November
Late-Summer: February 2024


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

Spring is a time for emerging from our winter cocoons. One of the most potent ways to activate spring energy is to wake before sunrise. Aim to be outdoors at this time in the morning…walking, jogging, practising yoga or perhaps an invigorating swim. The morning light sets off a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that help you feel good.

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

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.

Sample retreat programme

Day 1

2-3pm   Arrive

3pm       Tea tasting

3:30pm  Welcome circle

3:45pm  Session 1: Arriving in the body

5pm       Free time

6pm       Dinner – Ramen

7:30pm Session 2: Yin yoga & meditation

9pm       Sacred silence until breakfast

Day 2

7:30am Session 3: Rise and Shine Yoga

9:15        Traditional Japanese Breakfast

10am      Free / Treatment time

11:30am Session 4: Breath exploration and philosophy

1:15pm    Lunch – Teishoku style

2pm        Free / Treatment time

6pm        Dinner – Omakase banquet

8pm        Session 5:Restorative yoga nidra

9pm        Sacred silence until breakfast

Day 3

7:30am   Session 6: Rise and shine yoga

9:15am   Traditional Japanese Breakfast

10am      Check-out / free / treatment time

11:30am Session 7: Kinhin Zen walking meditation

1pm         Lunch – Bento picnic in the Mineral Springs Reserve

2pm        Closing Circle Satsang




“I loved participating in the retreat! I loved the yoga sessions and walking session and the tea ceremony at the start. Renee was very patient and kind and taught us a lot. And I loved the beautiful food and drinks! Thank you so much for this beautiful retreat. I hope to see you again soon.

              – Aurelie – winter retreat



Choice of:

  • Twin share $997 (bring a friend); or
  • Private room $1,398


  • all meals (2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners & refreshments)
  • Seven yoga sessions (example schedule above)
  • One massage; your choice of Shiatsu or Relaxation (subsequent treatments available at extra cost; see spa menu)
  • All yoga props provided

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]

Nabe of seasonal vegetables

Autumn Hot Pot

As the weather cools it is time to enjoy nabe, or hot pot, lovingly prepared with seasonal vegetables. Hot pot is a selection of meat and vegetables simmered together in a flavourful broth. Japan is famous for Shabu Shabu, pork and vegetable hot pot, and Mizutaki Nabe, chicken hot pot. But vegetarian variations made with mushrooms and tofu are equally restorative. You can be creative, varying the ingredients according to season and mood. 



1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking sake

1 tablespoon mirin

1.5 cups water


Hakusai cabbage (also known as Napa or Chinese cabbage) finely sliced

Choice of: Shiitake / Enoki / Shimeji mushrooms

Carrot finely sliced

Choice of : Tofu/ Fish / Chicken / Pork slices

Spring onion chopped into 1 cm pieces

Ginger minced, to taste

Garlic minced, to taste



Combine soy sauce, sake, mirin and water in a donabe (traditional clay cooking pot) or a heavy bottomed saucepan.

Bring to a boil.

Add cabbage, mushrooms, carrot or thinly sliced meat, spring onion, ginger and garlic.

Simmer until vegetables are just tender and meat is cooked through. If using tofu reduce heat to avoid boiling.

Variation: You can also add miso paste, kimchi, udon noodile, rice, or chilli.

Remove from heat.

Pour into serving bowls and serve.



Mitsuba Osuimono

Mitsuba—Cryptotaenia japonica—is a perennial herb used in traditional Japanese cooking. It is also known as Japanese Parsley or Japanese Honeywort. The leaves have a mild parsley flavour.

At Shizuka Ryokan, we use mitsuba in a very tradtional Japanese soup known as suimono—which translates as ‘things to sip’. Suimono is a clear broth. It is a deceptively simple soup, but in the hands of the chefs at Shizuka it is a masterful celebration of seasonal colours and the umami flavour.

Serves 2

4 stalks mitsuba
yuzu zest

For dashi:
2 cups water
5g kombu (dried seaweed)
5g bonito flakes

For seasoning:
1 tbsp sake
2 tsp mirin
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sea salt

Tie the mitsuba stalks into a knot.

Gently clean the dashi kombu with a damp cloth. In a medium pot, add the water and kombu. heat slowly on medium heat.

Just before the water boils add the bonito flakes and turn off the heat.

Strain dashi  and transfer to medium saucepan. Add the sake, mirin, soy sauce and sea salt.

Place in serving bowls. Sprinkle with mitsuba and yuzu zest just before serving.

Serving suggestion: Add tofu, mushrooms, carrots or seafood to the broth.

Macrobiotic salad of pomegranate, radish and carrot prepared by Lars Skalman

Macrobiotics: Japanese traditions

At Shizuka Ryokan, we host many retreats and workshops throughout the year. One that we are very excited about is the 2019 Seasonal Summer Yoga Retreat. Over three days in November, Cate Peterson and Lars Skalman will be at Shizuka Ryokan teaching Japanese yoga and macrobiotic cooking. (The beautiful photograph accompanying this post is from a collection of macrobiotic recipes by Lars Skalman.)

Many people are familiar with yoga (learn more about Japanese yoga here), but they may not know what macrobiotics is. Here is a brief introduction.

George Oshawa, is seen as the father of macrobiotics. Ohsawa recovered from tuberculosis in 1911 using a seasonal wholefoods diet recommended to him by Dr Ishizuka. Dr Ishizuka had a theory that good health was the result of the correct balance of potassium, sodium, acid and alkaline in the diet.

The macrobiotic diet was popularised by Oshawa in the 1930s. Ohsawa trained students, including Michio and Aveline Kushi, who spread the ideas of macrobiotics throughout the West.

In the late 1970s, there was an explosion of interest in traditional medicine around the world (perhaps helped along by the handsome Bruce Lee). Westerners studied traditional eastern philosophies and practices such as shiatsu, martial arts, nine-ki astrology, reiki, meditation, the I Ching, Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, ta’i chi and macrobiotics.

Macrobiotics is based on the idea that each of us is responsible for our own health. A macrobiotic diet is a pescatarian (or sometimes vegetarian or vegan) diet. It is based upon Zen Buddhist concepts about food. The macrobiotic diet attempts to balance the yin and yang elements of food and cookware.

The macrobiotic diet aims to reduce animal products, eat locally grown foods which are in season, and eat in moderation. Macrobiotics favours locally grown wholegrain cereals, pulses, vegetables, seaweeds, fermented soy products and fruit. For example, soba noodles (buckwheat flour), umeboshi plum and bancha tea are recommended.

Members of the nightshade family such as tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes and eggplant are used sparingly as they are considered to be extremely yin. Cooking utensils should be made from wood or glass, non-stick coating and plastics are avoided.

If you are keen to learn more about macrobiotics, and to see it is a modern-day context, why not come along to the Summer Seasonal Yoga Retreat. You’ll learn from the experts how to prepare seasonal macrobiotic dishes such as beetroot and arame pickles, salt and pepper tofu with black bean sauce, sweet rice pudding and vegetable pakoras. YUM!

About Us – Seasonal Yoga Treats

Scallops with soy sauce and yuzu made with a traditonal Japanese recipe

Seared scallops with soy and yuzu

Another traditional Japanese recipe from the Shizuka Ryokan kitchen.

Serves 2

scallop shells, for serving
1 tsp brown sugar
3 tsp organic soy sauce
2 tsp mirin
2 tsp drinking sake
2 tsp yuzu juice
10 scallops
10g fine quality butter (Danish)

wakame seaweed for garnish

Pour boiling water on wakame and set aside.

In a small jug, mix together brown sugar, soy sauce, mirin, sake and yuzu juice. Set aside.

Heat frypan until hot. Add butter.

Sear scallops for approximately 1 minute on first side, turn scallop, fry for 30 seconds. Pour sauce from jug into pan. After 30 seconds, remove scallops from pan and set aside.

Stir sauce until it thickens.

To serve: Place scallop shell on a plate of pebbles. Put one scallop in each scallop shell on a bed of wakame. Spoon 1 tsp of sauce over each scallop.

Vegan variation: Replace butter with Nutelex and scallops with the stems of king oyster mushrooms. Example in the recipe photograph at the rear.

Matcha shortbread on Japanese plate.

Green tea shortbread

People have been known to fall in love with Shizuka Ryokan when they taste the matcha shortbread that we serve upon arrival.

250g butter (room temperature)
¼ cup caster sugar
⅓ cup cornflour
⅓ cup icing sugar
Rind from one grated lemon
1-2 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder
2⅓ cups of gluten-free plain flour

Heat oven (fan forced) to 160°C
Cream butter and sugar. 
Add vanilla essence, lemon rind, cornflour, icing sugar and matcha.
Beat until well combined and creamed. 
Fold in flour and mix well. 
Roll out on floured surface until required thickness. 
Use cookie cutter to cut biscuit shapes. 
Place on baking paper on tray. 
Keep rolling and cutting until finished.
Cook in oven for approximately 30 minutes.  Cool on tray

Japanese diet. Vegetables From The Sea: to help you look and feel better.

The health benefits of a Japanese diet

The Traditional Japanese breakfast served at Shizuka Ryokan exemplifies Japanese cuisine. Grilled salmon, hijiki seaweed, miso, pickled daikon radish, umeboshi plum and furikake seasoning are regular features around here. Not only are these foods delicious, they are beneficial to health. Read more