Oxon Heath

OM’s Lesley White enjoys a blissful weekend retreat with yoga teacher, mentor and trainer Sammy Rainbow Furnival at Oxon Hoath, a Grade II-listed Châteauesque-style former manor house with 73 acres of grounds at West Peckham, Kent

Oxon Heath: Yoga Retreat in Kent


Returning from any holiday, one hopes to feel relaxed and refreshed, ready to return to everyday life — but the benefits of the break may be short-lived. Returning from a yoga retreat — and, in particular, the Oxon Hoath Yoga Retreat presented by Sammy Rainbow Furnival — will provide you with an everlasting experience and memory.

Taking time to listen and to be guided by Sammy through the yoga exercises and workshops brings you to a calming existence that will move you forward with your goals and ambitions, and self-healing. She prioritises teaching more than just yoga postures and always tries to share philosophy relevant to today’s world. While being instructive, the yoga and the workshops are presented without pressure and with a lot of humour.

“I like to do most things with a smile — and yoga is no different,” she says. There’s definitely a hint in her name that confirms her outlook on life.

Her enthusiasm for teaching yoga and wellness is wholesome and spiritually nourishing. She has the skill to connect to everyone. You sense she is interested in you — you matter.

One student, Avery from London, commented: “Sammy holds space in a great way so we can all have the experiences that we want and which are all different and, although the venue is not far from London, it feels like a real separation [from the outside world]. I wanted to hit pause and this location is such a luxury.”

It certainly is. Standing in 73 acres in the Kent countryside, a few miles outside of Tonbridge, and less than an hour from London, Oxon Hoath Country Estate is a perfect place to make yourself a priority and invest in your wellbeing.

There is exclusive access to the property and grounds all weekend, providing a safe environment in which to relax. The actual building is an historic manor, and for a while, home of Catherine Howard, third wife of Henry VIII. It has grand accommodation offering a range of twin, double, single and family rooms, in case you come in a group, and most have views over the expansive gardens. Downstairs there is an inviting Jacobean library filled from ceiling to floor with leather- and cloth-bound books. A marble fireplace with log fire welcomes those who want to chill out in the evening on the cosy settees among the company of others and possibly with a drink from the Honesty Bar.

Supporting the physical and spiritual sides of the weekend is the nutritious food. The menu is vegetarian, the servings are plentiful, and special dietary requirements catered for. Many of the fresh ingredients are harvested from the Walled Garden in the grounds of the manor where organic fruit and vegetables are grown. The dishes are often Ottolenghi-inspired with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours and are presented with rustic elegance. An example of an evening meal is aubergines stuffed with bean chilli jambalaya, garlic and avocado mayonnaise, followed by an Oxon Hoath Mess (accredited to Chef Paul). Breakfast is a simple selection of cereals, boiled eggs, fruit, bread and jams and plentiful coffee, tea, orange juice, all providing a wholesome start to the day. In fact, there is unlimited tea and coffee facilities available outside the dining room day and night.

During the daytimes, the retreat is full of content but nothing on the schedule is mandatory. Over the three days you are treated to four yoga classes and two workshops concentrating on mindfulness, self-enquiry and connection. The classes are a combination of pranayama (focusing on the breath) and yin (to increase flexibility, balance and foster calm), while the workshops are exercise- and task-focused. They are suitable from the novice to the experienced yoga practitioner.

Sammy’s opening ceremony on the Friday evening sets the scene for the whole weekend, creating an atmosphere that is both calming and welcoming. She prepares the meditation room with small candles burning in little glass bowls set in a circle, flower petals scattered between them, with the beautiful aroma of incense filling the air. A yoga block balancing a flower is also set out for each participant. The content of the retreat has “evolved over time into a clear structure”, she says. “Day one is about getting people comfortable and creating that safe space where you can disconnect from your everyday life. Day two has three sessions (pranayama and meditation; an energising yoga class; and a session of yin yoga) plus a Reconnecting to Self workshop. Day three has two yoga sessions and a Reconnecting to Life workshop.”

Praise for this teacher’s professional and quality of practice was expressed during the retreat. Emily, a yoga teacher, also from London, noted: “She is one of the only teachers that touches all the things I need. Her authenticity is amazing. I love the practices and how she interweaves philosophy into everyday life. I’ve also enjoyed being around multi-generational people for the weekend, something I was missing in my life.”

All the workshops include meditation, therapeutic techniques, spiritual practices, writing exercises and group work, with reference to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the ancient discipline’s most famous texts. There is some independent soul searching, but there are also exercises conducted with a partner which are definitely fun and lead to laughter and giggles around the room. On the last workshop (Reconnecting to Life), Sammy provides small bars of chocolate, and invites participants to take just a single bite! To relish the taste, the texture, the smell, to play with the sensations occurring in your mouth. A slowing down exercise to sharpen the senses. Finally, and before the closing meditation, you can walk in the beautiful grounds at your slowest pace to observe the smallest things around you. Go barefoot if you like.

You are encouraged to take time out for yourself if you wish, but there is also plenty of time and space to relax and socialise with your retreat buddies. Nothing is mandatory, says Sammy. “Ultimately, the Oxon Hoath Yoga Retreat is a space designed to help people shift closer towards living a healthier, happier and more empowering life.”

For further information on forthcoming retreats in the UK and abroad visit:

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.