I have booked this yoga retreat through Bookyogaretreats website thinking that it was something professionally organized or that the yoga teachers were hired by the website. I have selected the one suggested by Mara Konstantinidi, which was planned for 3 Greek Islands: Santorini, Sikinos, Folegandros. The description of the venues and yoga practice from Mara’s add were enticing, for instance she said that the yoga practice will be adjusted to the energy of each island as well as level of the participants. However that has not been the case at all and I will explain here what really happened.
Poor yoga classes
* Classes were practically identical to one another: always starting with 30-40 minutes of long shavasana, which was literally a cut and paste of Sivananda yoga, i.e. repetitive description of body parts that we should relax during shavasana (in broken English), pranayama and meditation but without proper guidance. I had to open my eyes after few minutes since Mara had stopped suddenly talking to realize that she was doing meditation posture (for 5 minutes) with no guidance.
* After that, second part of yoga class was really confusing. It contained various contemporary dance and pilates stretches, and very few yoga Asanas. There was no flow, no proper explanation of the positions or options given considering different levels of physical strength and flexibility of the participants, no deeper explanations of the positions as well as any other touch of spirituality that I have frequently experienced in other yoga classes, also no use of Sanskrit names of the Asanas or proper English terms. The description were so poor (perhaps due Mara's lack of language skills and interest to prepare for classes in advance) that we often had to stop and just try to imitate the positions Mara was showing. Some more advanced movements such as head stands were suggested without a proper warm up, in general there has been very few corrections offered.
* For example, she was doing the full cobra posture with no warning or explanation whatsoever about this quite dangerous position for the lower back. Never the baby cobra was suggested or strongly for non-experienced people, even with my yoga experience I had decided to only do the baby cobra because no proper body warm up.
We’ve tried as a group to give Mara feedback in the middle of the retreat requesting to provide more detailed explanations and descriptions of the postures as well as including the various options for each position and perhaps more Asanas. However, she hasn't acknowledged it neither verbally during the discussion nor with her actions in the following classes. She actually directly went to the mode of "defending herself" and justifying that "she knows her teaching”(!).
For me the best evidence of the lack of satisfaction with her classes was the fact that the participation level dropped down significantly throughout the retreat. I myself lost interests in the middle of the retreat, and just because of my injury caused by her lack of skills and security awareness.
Lack of security and proper yoga environment
Another important point I want to make is: the lack of proper yoga sites in order to practice yoga in a secure environment. Except for Santorini where it was a yoga center, the rest of the Islands did not have a proper environment with wood floor and roof (at least), and it ended up being very dangerous for the body. I have severely injured myself in the lower back on the 2nd Island in Sikinos because she have improvised the class on a boat jetty or pier with concrete floor that was not even and with holes. It was too hard and difficult for the body and joints, moreover with no roof the sun was beating and burning hot, which ended up being a hot yoga class (I did not pay for that). For all these security reasons, my lower back blocked and I was not able to walk or put weight on my leg for 24h and had to take pain killers for the rest of the trip. I skipped the rest of the yoga classes because I could not do half of the postures, was only able to lie down. At Folegandros, hotel and location were nice but the yoga class were still outside/outdoor on a rock floor (at least more even than the other one).
Organization and logistics
Leonidas is Mara’s husband who was the “head” of the logistical organization of the retreat and responsible in terms of transport, accommodation, transfers, food, etc. Throughout the travel, I had more and more the impression that Mara and her husband took advantage of the group, like if they had organized this trip only for themselves and not to the benefit of the group in order to have a paid vacation. There has been so many extra costs for transport, no group discount or very limited, for which I ended up spending over 150 euros for all the extra charges that Leonidas was constantly collecting from us. There were multiple occasions when the group got lost on a guided trip as well as not taking into consideration any food allergies of the participants, which they requested to know in advance in a health form (same as Mara not taking into consideration health conditions and level of yoga experience in her classes). Have they even read the forms? The last night I have tried to discuss about that with Leonidas since they had never considered my food allergies to dairy and gluten, there were cheese and gluten at every meal and was not able to find alternative options in the menu or included meals. Believe it or not, he shown absolutely no openness and willingness to hear and accept my complaints, he instead became on the defensive mode and a bit aggressive by rejecting my feedback and stating that they had served proper food (no concerns at all about my allergies). I even had to buy my own gluten-free bread during the trip, which I may not have mind if they had told me in advance.
Another point, I don’t know if that’s normal or common practice but we all had to pay first half of travel by bank transfer, and the second half in cash while on place. I was really not comfortable to bring that much money in cash with me and I never received any receipt of the payment. Does that mean that it has been paid "off the records"? They even collected the additional 4 euros of bank transfer fees that the bank charged them!! Like Really? How is that not taking advantage of us!
There hasn't been any spiritual exchange during the free time throughout the retreat neither any interest to engage the group as a whole, quite the contrary. Both Mara and her husband were clearly more comfortable speaking in Greek with their Greek friends (4-5 of them in the group), or having a cigarette and alcohol! Yes that’s right, they were smoking like a chimney!! And I was quite shocked and even told her. There was also alcohol served at every meal and the excursions that was organized were cool but quite intense sometimes because of the heat, thus not always matching with yoga principles to my point of view in terms of being “balanced”.
The main concerns for Mara and Leonidas was to take multiple pictures of the yoga classes with Mara in action to post it on Instagram, instead of concentrating on the class and correcting the participants. They are very self-centred and Mara only concerned was to advertise herself through pretty pictures and constant posts on social media taking advantage of group pictures.
I feel unsatisfied and frustrated in respect of the yoga experience because of the disconnection with the yoga spirit and principles, which implicates being grounded, balanced and humbled. Instead I have faced 2 persons (Mara and husband) with such egos that took over simple humility and self-awareness.
For all these reasons, I really feel like I have paid for an overpriced holiday in terms of no value added when it comes to yoga and spiritual experience. Luckily the locations as well as the good vibes and energy that came out from the contact with the other participants have still made the trip quite enjoyable. It’s certainly now a lesson learned for me, in future when booking similar trips I will really make sure that there is a solid content and experience behind the shiny marketing cover.
I do hope that Bookyogaretreats will be more vigilant with the type of yoga teachers they endorsed in their yoga retreats offers.
Mara is a nice and friendly person but, I guess, due to the language, she has not been able to establish many contact with us (not Greek people). It disturbed me a lot that she spent most of her time updating her social medias instead of establishing some conversation with us.
The level of the lessons was very low, it was not challenging at all, Mara proposed always the same asanas therefore all lessons were the same, repetitive and boring. The lessons were not matching the group's level as we were all experienced yoginis (except of one who was doing yoga for the first time). It would have been great to have something more demanding, active, interesting but even after telling her this, she did not modify anything.
Mara and her husband have organized several extra things to do. However their organization is lacking of professionality.
The one evening at winery was too poor for what we have paid, food was a disaster, no choice at all. The practice of yoga that evening was equal to 0..... it seemed we were there only to be taken in pictures (cause the location was Amazing).
I enjoyed a lot the stay at Folegrandros Island. The hotel had a great location, it was clean, spacious room, great & healthy breakfast. The hotel in Sikinos was nice too, but poor Breakfast and no place to practice yoga within the hotel. In fact, we did it outside on a rough platform under the sun, which was not bearable for me. I had to skip the first hour, then the sun went down.
Santorini's typical cave hotel was quite dirty, uncomfortable beds, small bathroom but the food was amazing. The room for yoga was big and with a nice view but dusty on the floor.
It is a pity considering the price paid for this retreat.
I attended the Island Hopping- Yoga Retreat of Mara Konstantinidi in Sept. 2016 and have to say that the only really nice things about the whole retreat have been the locations the mostly additionally paid activities and the wonderful people I got to know during the week.
Mara's uninspired style of teaching seems to be a spontaneous combination of contemporary dance-, warm up- and stretching moves with long non-guided "meditation" sequences, two Pranayama exercises (which were exactly the same in every lesson), 2-3 (!) Shavasanas and a very small amount of further asanas.There was not such a thing like what I'd rather call a Yoga lesson: a chain of diverse asanas eventually combined with meditation, pranayama, spiritual ideas/ impulses beneath the roof of a specific topic for the current lesson.
During the classes with the exception of 'Shavasana' and 'Triconasana' no posture was called with its proper name (neither in English nor in Sanskrit). Instead we had to cope with lengthy explanations of movements/ postures in deficient English so that we were only able to follow the lesson by watching and imitating the teacher.The only breathing advices we got during the whole week were "breath normally"/ "breath slowly"/ "calm down your breath" whereas we haven't been encouraged to breath Ujai once!
Furthermore did the classes lack corrections, different options for different bodys and explanations of asanas and their meaning. Another problem was that there were no props like blocks available, which made the long sitting sequences unbearable for many of the participants.
Outside the classes no exchange of experiences (neither with yoga or with life in general) was initiated and no feedback concerning the yoga lessons or the organization was requested. The only important thing for Mara and her husband seemed to be the posing for as many nice instagram and Facebook pictures as possible to promote their business. (I thought yoga was about learning to put the ego aside?)
The health form we had to fill in was also not recognized. One participant e.g. suffered of gluten and lactose intolerance which in the end was not considered in the organization at all. So basically the participant paid for not suitable food and had to be driven to a village to buy gluten free bread additionally.
I cannot recommend this extremely overpriced vacation or Mara as a yoga teacher!
Folegandros Island is an unspoilt treasure of a Greek island. It holds on to its traditional feel with stunning quiet beaches, turquoise blue, crystal clear sea, a picture postcard main town - Chora, very friendly laid-back vibe - in short utterly charming! The perfect place for a yoga holiday.Mara welcomed me with the warmest of smiles and a big hug. From day one she was the perfect host, ensuring all her guests were well cared for and enjoying themselves.She is an excellent yoga teacher - including a mixture of breathing, relaxation and posture work, which she explains and demonstrates clearly, and is attentive to each persons' individual experience and needs. I was still suffering some after-effects from an injury and Mara spent time every day working on the problematic area, helping it along and succeeding in making a difference to it by the end of the week. There was a good balance between yoga classes and free time in order to enjoy and explore this beautiful island.Pasithea Hotel has stunning views across Agali Beach. Katerina and all the staff there ensured we had everything we required, were flexible with different requests and Katerina's mother cooked us some truly delicious meals! Nothing was too much trouble for them and I would definitely recommend their hotel for a holiday.Agali Beach means a 'hug' but a yoga holiday with Mara definitely feels like a warm hug!
I was looking for yoga in Greece and a very benevolent universe led me to Maras retreat in Folegandros. I couldnt have been luckier. From the first moment, Maras welcoming and joyous nature was radiating towards me and created this feeling of, 'Yes, this is the place to be, I arrived!'The location right by the sea makes the morning and evening yoga a very beautiful, sensuous experience of sounds, light and movement. Mara is a most talented yoga teacher with a great ability to meet everyone exactly where he/she is and take him/her a bit further in a very natural and relaxed way. At the same time, her natural presence creates a beautiful group feeling of shared joy and having a good time together. Depending on what you need, there is space to be with yourself or to enjoy company, exploring the island or hanging out on the beach. Pasithea is a lovely little family hotel right by the sea and after a short time it actually feels like being amongst friends and you dont ever want to leave.It is not only Maras outstanding qualities as a yoga teacher and the beautiful surroundings that made this week to special to me; it is her very personal nature of embracing life with every cell of her being, her love of people and a deep inner joy that spread all around her. Sharing this time with her was not only a treat for my body; I am enriched with a very special person and a dear friend.Thank you Mara, looking forward to coming back!
Having done absolutely no yoga in my life and practically no exercise in the previous 10 years, I was convinced by a friend to attend the Folegandros yoga course in September 2013.It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.The course took place in a lovely setting right next to the sea when not on the beach itself. I therefore had the enormous privilege of doing my first breathing exercises with the sound of waves as a constant in the background.Most other course attendants had done yoga for many years, but thanks to Maras experience and the atmosphere she created this was never an issue - the only thing I could do was improve! Mara graciously helped and corrected me where possible as well as encouraging me greatly.By the end of the week I felt as if I were 17 again - the healthy vegetarian food and swimming between lessons may have also contributed , but I left the course with a straighter back, an altogether different posture and a definite sense of what yoga could do for me , a mother of two children who used to be sporty and had altogether lost touch with her body.I highly recommend this course to anyone who is looking for anything from a healthy, relaxing holiday to an absolute kick start to their body and mind. Both the place and the course also lends itself to introspection should this be what is required - there is a chance to socialize should you want to and a chance to get some space should you need to.I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mara for a week which proved to be a turning point for me.
Ada Spitzer Israel
As I arrived in Pasithea the day before the retreat started it was already dark. A young women with a big smile and a warm hug waited for me at the entrance. That was Mara. I immediately knew that this is the teacher I wanted to have.Mara is a most serious, energetic and talented teacher. She knows very well her profession and pays attention not only to the needs of the group as a whole but also to each individual's needs. She created a most pleasant and friendly atmosphere around her which helped each of us to integrate and be part of the group.Her classes were challenging and relaxing at the same time. She also initiated extra- curricular activities like half a day tour around the island by ship with swimming in different bays and a yoga session on the beach.I also liked the small pension we stayed in which has a wonderful view over the clear blue bay and nice beach. It is clean, offers fresh and good vegetarian meals and the owners are kind and helpful. I highly recommend Mara Konstantinidi's Yoga retreat and score it 10 out of 10.
Pam United States
I attended the Folegandros retreat with Mara in September 2013. It was excellent and I would definitely go again. If you are looking for a yoga retreat in a beautiful water front location with not a lot of tourists then this retreat is for you. Not only is the setting perfect and the food fresh and delicious, but also the teacher, Mara, is an excellent yoga teacher who really cares about her students. She knows when to challenge us and when to enjoy relaxation poses. There was a perfect balance between classes twice a day and also having fun and enjoying yoga 'off the mat'. Mara has a way to balance all of this and was a joy to be around.I LOVE LOVE LOVE Mara as a yoga teacher and friend and Folegandros as a beautiful, peaceful, friendly Greek island. I highly suggest this retreat to anyone.
Share Mara Konstantinidi's page and retreats with your network
Don't miss our special promotions, exclusive offers, new destinations and inspirational stories!
We respect your privacy. We will not publish or share your email address in any way.