Growing up with yoga, the laidback lifestyle of retreat living came naturally to Saffron Fitton. That’s how she found herself at The Chillhouse Bali, first as a yoga teacher and then as general manager.
Hailing from the east coast of Australia, Saffron made her second home a permanent stop. Starting out in design and fashion production, her longtime passion for yoga became a full-time job three years ago when she joined The Chillhouse team.
Taking a break from her busy schedule, Saffron chats to CompareRetreats.com about social media wellness culture, and what sets The Chillhouse apart.
What drew you to yoga? My mum is a yoga teacher so I grew up with it. I used to dance and do a lot of ballet, so my mum would always make me do yoga to help strengthen and give balance. I injured myself, and when I couldn’t do ballet anymore, I turned more to yoga.
What kind of people stay at The Chillhouse? The Chillhouse is actually one of the oldest retreats in Canggu – it’s been here for 12 years. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the area. Canggu is such a famous surf spot, so it used to be mostly surfers, but as Canggu has changed it’s become a bit of a yoga crowd.
The owners are from Austria, and Alex is a biker: he started the Bali Bike Park, so now we also get a biking crowd. It’s a very diverse group of travellers, largely professionals from Europe, who are all looking to relax.
What is the philosophy of The Chillhouse? Alex and Sabina wanted to create a super beautiful place to relax, and the healthy part of the retreat weaves into it really naturally without dictating what you can and cannot do. There are vegetarian options, there are vegan options, there are gluten-free options, but we also serve meat. We’re not telling anyone they have to live a certain way. We try not to put people in boxes: the retreat is not just one type of person we are here for.
How do the activities on offer complement each other? I think that they all go hand in hand. It’s nice at the end of the day to do a Yin class if you’ve been biking or to give your legs a rest and go for a surf. Someone who comes for a week or ten days usually tries a little bit of everything.
We keep in mind the activities that people are doing. Our yoga teachers are all very experienced, so they can tailor the classes. If someone has still shoulders because they’ve been surfing, or in sore calves after biking, they make sure they get the attention that they need.
How do you reboot after a hectic week? I think it’s different in Bali compared to the west, in that it’s not about working really hard during the week and then relaxing on the weekends; it’s about that elusive work-life balance. We’re very lucky here: we have beautiful sunsets every night, we have delicious meals each evening, you’re not doing the same thing every day, which is the opposite of the western lifestyle I experienced. I think you go to bed feeling refreshed.
What do you hope guests take away? Well, first of all, we always hope they’ll come back. We try to make the retreat a home away from home, and so we pay attention to details. For example, all of the sinks are hand painted, little things like that. The aim is to create an experience that’s not just people passing through, the way you would have in a hotel.
Describe your perfect retreat experience in five words. Fun. Relaxing. Inspiring. Informative. Diversity.
What sets The Chillhouse apart from other retreats? We have everything in one place, so you don’t have to travel around a lot for the things you want: all of our yoga, massage, meditation and healing sessions are on-site. We’re close to the beach, and our surf and bike sessions include transport. Also diversity: the activities and people are all so different.
What is your fitness motto? Everything in balance. I’m not the kind of person who thinks you have to stick to a regime. Do what feels good, and listen to your body. You only live once, and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of believing you have to act a certain way to be successful, but I think actually, living true to your heart is the best thing you can do.
The wellness world, and particularly yoga, has been exploding on social media in the last few years. What is your take on it? Social media focuses on the way things should look, whereas the most important thing for me, especially in a yoga class, is actually the feeling. The idea of a yoga practice is to make the mind still. That message gets lost on social media. It’s beautiful to look at handstands and sunsets, but it loses meaning: it’s not gymnastics, it’s a mind body and soul practice.
On the other hand, it brings a whole new audience to yoga, which is great. I think anything that gets people interested or motivated or inspired is good. The good is also the bad, and it can be beneficial as long as people look past the pictures.
What advice would you give to someone approaching yoga for the first time? Leave your ego at the door: your practice is about coming in and finding a way to feel good, to practice your breathing, to learn to listen to your body, to practice your strengths and improve on the things that you need to work on. And be patient with yourself while you get there. No two people are the same. You might see someone doing something impressive like wrapping their legs around their head, but it doesn’t mean anything. You can achieve the same effect and do a lot less.
What plans do you have for The Chillhouse in the future? We’ll be opening our on-site retreat restaurant to the public soon, so we can share our food philosophy with more people: ‘internationally inspired, locally sourced’. We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint, so most of our produce is from here in Bali. We’re making some changes to the menu like taking out corn and oats. However, the main goal is to make people more socially and environmentally aware.
The Chillhouse offers customisable surf, yoga and biking retreat experiences perfect for solo travellers and families alike. Book your trip today and get an exclusive 10% off your accommodation with CompareRetreats.com unique discount code: CRCHILLHOUSE.