Five years ago, Alicia Roscoe walked away from her life as a lawyer in the city and returned to the the family home in Oxfordshire, Poundon House, to create a programme of yoga retreats with her sister Natalie. Between them, they are &Sister. Last September, Alicia shared with Yogamatters exactly what one could expect from one of their yoga retreats in ‘An escape from the corporate life’. We thought it would be good to catch up with Alicia again and see what life’s looking like for her right now.
So how has your life changed since you left behind your life as a London lawyer?
Life right now could not be more different! In 2012, I turned life on its head and have somehow landed back on my feet! Although now I will never regret qualifying as a lawyer, I did have a couple of years in the wilderness where I felt huge guilt for ‘wasting my education’ and not doing what I felt was expected of me. We all know that guilt is a horrible feeling that can imprison you from finding your true purpose. Inside, in my heart I knew I wanted to work closely with people and form a community, but my head always said I should ‘use my brain’ and go back to law. After three years of hard work finding clients and teaching yoga in Oxfordshire and the first gruelling and scary year of &Sister, amazing things are now happening; literally beyond my wildest dreams. My work includes being surrounded by like-minded and soulful beings on a daily basis, which has definitely rubbed off on me! Gratitude has replaced guilt. I have let go of all the expectations and I feel so blessed.
How has your yoga practice developed now that you have more time and space in your life?
I have been so lucky to practise under the watchful eye of so many beautiful teachers. Charlie Morgan is my mentor and inspires me every day. My physical practice has changed phenomenally I don’t know if I will ever be doing advanced postures, but I was the most inflexible person perhaps on this planet. I didn’t let that stop me practising and training as a teacher and now you wouldn’t guess that before, I couldn’t even touch my knees, let alone my toes. Remembering how hindered I used to feel in classes keeps me grounded as a teacher. The other thing that has radically changed is my meditation practice and daily rituals. I firmly believe that to be a true yogi, you need to take your practice off the mat: positivity; meditation; being there for students, teachers and friends; service; building a community; creating a safe place for others to come to … all of these are in my daily practice.
What have you loved about running yoga retreats in your family home, Poundon House?
I can honestly say, EVERYTHING! It is a joy to share this safe sacred place that has such a magnetic energy – and has been such an important part of my life and growth – with our collaborators and our guests. I love sharing the beauty of the house, the hidden corners of the garden and the wider open fields of countryside. I love digging deep into old cupboards and finding beautiful and unusual things to decorate the house with for one of our retreats.
Can you describe one particularly memorable moment on one of these retreats?
Autumn Light 2016 – my sister Johanna (or Yogi as I have always called her!) came to Charlie Morgan’s collaborative retreat with us. Yogi is a paediatrician and mother of three. She hadn’t had a weekend to herself for 8 years. At the closing ceremony, she started to cry tears of happiness and gratitude and I got up, crossed the circle and went to hug her. It was a powerful moment of deep connection and it was amazing to share it with our fellow guests, to be alive and vulnerable and just to be sisters. We don’t get to see each other as much as we would like, but my sisters are my best friends and my anchors. They are both the most giving and generous people I know. Yogi has spent 15 years in service to the NHS saving newborn babies’ lives. I can’t think of anyone who deserves that feeling of fulfilment and happiness more. Although saying that, each and every one of our guests is special and when I see the change in them, it makes my heart burst.
What makes your experiential retreats so unique?
We believe that anything that comes from the heart is magical and our retreats are so well planned with such love which guests often say that they feel from the moment they arrive or even in the build-up and communications. We strive so hard to make sure that an &Sister retreat has a long-lasting transformational effect. From the moment you enquire to many months, and now in some cases years, after the retreat, we want that retreat glow to burn bright. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, once you’ve retreated with us, you’re forever part of the &Sister-hood.
From the feedback you’ve received, what have people found most helpful and enjoyable about the Poundon House retreats?
The warm welcome, sitting by the roaring fire with a cup of steaming chai when they arrive, all of the personal touches, the heaven-sent goody bags. Our teachers are always humble and accessible; they always make time for our guests and now offer one-to-one sessions over the retreat. The beauty of the surrounding nature and our therapists who are so invested in &Sister and our guests, they have such healing hands and open hearts and that makes such a big difference – we are becoming a big family.
How has ‘&Sister’, the company you set up with your sister, developed in the last year?
The last year, &Sister has begun to take off! We now have a following of beautiful brothers and sisters and often sell-out our retreats. And what we are seeing now that really inspires me and gladdens my heart is the amount of guests we have coming back for the second, third and fourth retreats with us. We are now collaborating with even more inspiring teachers, we are always introducing new concepts and soon, we will be doing events in London and abroad! I have to thank our soul-sister Charlie Morgan for so much support and inspiration in the last year. Not only has she believed in me, but she has believed in the brand and we have so much fun planning and hosting our retreats.
How’s it been working so closely with your own sister? It must have its highs and its lows!
Working with family can be tough, but for me, every day is made wonderful by the fact I get to plan and co-create with my big sister. We make an awesome team! Natalie is the kind of person who doesn’t even need yoga to make her a happy and caring soul, she was born that way! I am the bossy little sister and she copes very well with that!
Tell us a little about your upcoming retreats, Bootcamp and Bend Weekender and Autumn Light.
In October, we bring you Bootcamp and Bend Weekender – a very special fusion of fitness with Brit Williams (FitBrit Collective) and yoga classes with Sophie Dear (Sophie’s Fitness UK) – this is all about setting goals, working together in groups and then unwinding and letting go in the shala.
And then of course, in November, we have Autumn Light with the wonderful and unstoppable lady that is Charlie Morgan.
We do hope to see some of you Yogamatters yogis at one of these retreats!
Photo credits: Alistair Freeman and Martin Price