Summer: Yoga With Cat Meffan
As summer truly beckons with its promise of warmth and renewal, we sit down with inspiring yogi Cat Meffan, to discuss her immersive retreats, and the undeniable synergy between yoga and the blissful summer season
Cat Meffan’s passion for yoga blossomed from her background in gymnastics and dance, where she discovered a deep connection to movement and agility. What started as a purely physical practice evolved into a profound exploration of the mind, body, and soul, led Cat to become a renowned online yoga teacher and retreat host. In this interview, Cat explains why summer holds great significance for her personally, how yoga lends itself so beautifully to the season, and how retreats have the ability to foster deep connections, friendships, and personal transformations.
Glorious: When did your passion for yoga begin and how did this lead to you becoming a yoga teacher?
Cat Meffan: Well, my passion for yoga actually stemmed from my love of gymnastics and dance. I was already into movement, but in a more fluid way. Gymnastics and dance are all about agility and connecting movements. After experiencing a lot of injuries, I felt like something was missing in my life from a physical standpoint. I wanted more than just going to the gym and doing a workout. That’s when I discovered yoga and found a connection to the breath, movements, and transitions in yoga sequences. Initially, I approached it as a purely physical practice, but later realised there was so much more to it. I heard people say that you shouldn’t start yoga if you’re only interested in the physical aspect, but I believe that as long as your mind is open, you can start wherever you need to start and discover the other aspects. So, I started with the physical practice and it sparked a new energy within me. I was amazed by the challenges and changes it brought to my life. Eventually, I decided to pursue my teacher training, initially just to learn more about yoga and deepen my own practice. But by the end of the training, I was completely blown away and felt compelled to share this transformational experience with others.
Glorious: Do you specialise in a particular type of yoga?
Cat Meffan: I don’t really specialise in one specific type of yoga. I teach an embodied flow, where I encourage people to use their intuition and become more aware of their individual needs. Rather than just following instructions, I want people to connect with what their bodies truly require. So, in my classes, I may teach rocket, power, Vinyasa, Yin, or Mandala styles of yoga, but always in a way that promotes embodiment and fluidity.
Glorious: What inspired you to start hosting retreats?
Cat Meffan: Initially, I was approached by a woman who hosted retreats, and she invited me to be a guest teacher. I saw it as a safe option and had a wonderful experience. After a few more retreats with her, I realised I had my own ideas on how to organise them, given my control freak nature. So, I decided to venture into hosting retreats myself. It also allowed me to combine work with my personal desire to explore new places. Being able to travel and make it part of my job was a great motivation.
Glorious: Yoga is a year-round practice, but why does it lend itself so well to summer?
Cat Meffan: There are many reasons why yoga is great for summer. Firstly, depending on the type of yoga you practice, it can be quite gentle. When you come to a practice that asks you to relax and surrender, you don’t want to be freezing cold with tense shoulders. Feeling warmth is important. Additionally, there’s something special about practicing yoga in nature. In the summer months, especially in the UK, being able to practice outside is wonderful. Personally, I love bringing together yoga and nature in my retreats. For example, in my last retreat, we embraced the elements and practiced by the water’s edge, feeling the breeze on our skin. It creates a beautiful connection and makes the practice perfect when the sun is shining.
Glorious: What does summer mean to you?
Cat Meffan: Summer holds great significance for me. Although I’m not born in the summer, I consider myself a “sunshine baby.” I thrive when I can teach and spend time outside, connecting with nature. I usually organise my retreats during the spring and summer in the UK. If I go abroad, I choose destinations that offer a summer-like experience. The anticipation of enjoying sunshine and 25-degree heat excites me. The weather impacts my work and brings me clarity, confidence, and joy in my teaching.
Glorious: When selecting a location, what factors do you take into consideration?
Cat Meffan: The choice of location depends on various factors. Sometimes, I base it on places I personally want to visit, which might seem selfish, but as a business owner, I have the freedom to make those decisions. For example, my husband and I organise retreats in Sri Lanka, combining surfing and yoga. We keep going back there because it feels like home, and we have connections with the locals, who play an important role in our retreats. In Portugal, a place I love, we don’t currently organise surf retreats, but we could in the future because it offers a little bit of everything. Overall, the selection process can be arbitrary, but finding the right house or venue is crucial, even if it’s challenging.
Glorious: Can you share any transformative personal stories from people who have attended your retreats?
Cat Meffan: Absolutely! We’ve had incredible transformative stories from participants. People have experienced profound changes during our retreats. For instance, individuals have returned home and made major career shifts, finally pursuing their lifelong dreams. Some have embraced motherhood, feeling grounded and connected to their womanhood after the retreat. Many of my retreats are predominantly attended by women, and they tap into their female power and strength. We’ve also witnessed deep connections and friendships forming among participants. It’s heart-warming to receive pictures of retreat attendees meeting up across the world, even long after the retreats have ended. On a deeper level, some participants have undergone darker and sadder transformations, but these experiences have allowed them to release and let go.
Glorious: Do you incorporate any other practices or activities at your retreats?
Cat Meffan: Absolutely! Initially, my retreats were primarily focused on yoga, but they have evolved to incorporate various practices and activities. Alongside yoga, we now include sound healing, breathwork, free movement, and ecstatic dance. The combination of these practices generates a tremendous amount of energy and emotion, leading to profound shifts and releases.
Glorious: A retreat must be a very satisfying experience, tell us about these emotions.
Cat Meffan: It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s like this… the best kind of exhaustion you could ever feel. It’s similar to being a mum, I imagine, although I’m not one myself. It’s like being filled with so much joy, like having an amazing child, but also feeling completely exhausted. It’s a duality of emotions, and I’m completely okay with it. During a retreat, I get to witness incredible things and show up as my truest self. It’s like being on cloud nine. Yes, I’m broken afterwards, but it doesn’t matter.
Glorious: For someone new to yoga or considering attending a retreat, what advice would you give them?
Cat Meffan: I would advise reaching out to the facilitator or the company before attending. Let them know that you’re new to yoga. Personally, I usually teach at an intermediate level, but I can adapt and modify for almost anyone. For example, one of the participants’ partners at a retreat was new to yoga and had only done one practice with me during lockdown. He managed to get through it by doing what he could, and I provided modifications. People often forget that a yoga retreat is about more than just yoga. It’s about connecting with others, enjoying the food, and embracing the whole experience. Reaching out beforehand helps ensure that you’ve found the right retreat for you. If someone is new to my teaching, we usually send them links to my YouTube videos or offer a discount code for our online platform, Soul Sanctuary. They can try a few practices and see if it feels comfortable for them. It’s important that they feel comfortable before attending because they may not be able to explore the movement to their full potential and find what feels good for them. In all the years I’ve been doing retreats, I’ve never had someone regret attending, even if they were complete beginners.
Glorious: You mentioned your online platform, Soul Sanctuary, what have you got lined up?
Cat Meffan: Our upcoming theme for the summer is Summer Spice. The month of July is all about bringing heat not only into the physical practice but also into our personal lives. We aim to cultivate self-belief, personal power, confidence, and nurture our solar plexus. The practices for this theme have already been filmed, and they are exceptional. We also have Carly Rowena, a dear friend of mine, who has filmed three workouts for us, which will be part of the summer spice theme. Every month, our subscribers get access to five practices plus a live class, and in July, they will receive three bonus practices from Carly. We also always put together a suggested calendar, allowing people to practice five times a week within our theme. It’s a great opportunity for those who want to explore the physical aspect of yoga while being open to learning more about breath, philosophy, meditation and so much more.
Glorious: How do you help women maintain their positive yoga energy once a retreat is over?
Cat Meffan: Initially, we create a WhatsApp group where participants can stay connected. On the last day of the retreat, I talk about integration and provide guidance on how to navigate conversations about the retreat with loved ones who may find it challenging to understand. I encourage them to stay connected through the WhatsApp group, share songs, listen to podcasts, or read books related to the retreat’s themes. However, moving forward, I plan to introduce a new approach. Starting from the next retreat, we will have a one-week post-retreat group Zoom call, allowing participants to reconnect and share their experiences if they wish. Attendance is optional, and it’s not a requirement. As a facilitator, I feel a responsibility to ensure that participants are okay, considering the depth we go into during the retreat. In the past, people have emailed me with their post-retreat experiences, and I always respond, providing support and holding space for them. I’m currently working on evolving this aspect of the retreats.
Glorious: Are there any exciting plans or upcoming retreats you can share with us?
Cat Meffan: Looking ahead, my focus is on evolving the retreat experience. Retreats are incredible, but it’s impossible to do them as a full-time job because they are so exhausting. I have a husband and a dog who also deserve my attention. This year, I have seven retreats planned, which is already a lot. Rather than increasing the number, I want to find a base for my UK retreats, possibly in Dorset, and establish a consistent location for future retreats in Portugal as well. I aim to enhance the integration aspect of the retreat experience, as there is more I can do as a facilitator. The retreats have reached a beautiful point, but I believe there’s room for growth in terms of integration. These changes won’t be drastic, but more about releasing control and embracing personal growth. I have an amazing retreat assistant who often joins me, and she has started teaching a class that participants love. It’s been a valuable experience for me to let go of control and allow others to contribute. It’s an ongoing journey of ego and control that we all need to work with.