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BYR Interview with Feel Great Breaks

by Nikki and Jess

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Feel Great Breaks celebrates its 4th birthday this year. Run by two wonderful women - Jessica Howell and Nicola Bates, Feel Great Breaks have created incredible memories for those who have attended their retreats. In this special edition, the team at BookYogaRetreats interviewed Jessica and Nicola, finding out the essence of their company, their source of inspirations and more.

Image by Feel Great Breaks 1. Happy Birthday to Feel Great Breaks from everyone at Book Yoga Retreats! So Nikki and Jess, what inspired you both to create Feel Great Breaks? How is it different from all the retreats there are out there?

Nikki: Thanks so much. It's been just the most incredible journey and the time has flown. Well I'd been teaching yoga in this area of Spain since 2005 and one summers day about six years ago I met a young woman called Jess at the beach. Unbeknownst to us both at the time we'd actually spoken on the phone that day. Jess had called me to ask about my yoga classes and then as fate would have it, we met that very same day dancing on the beach. Destiny obviously! It was meant to be. 

Feel Great Breaks are different because no other retreat company has Jess and me for a start! We're both committed to delivering exceptional customer service. Both of us have spent a lot of time in the customer service industry and we will bend over backwards to ensure our guests enjoy themselves and leave us feeling great! We offer full board accommodation in a lovely four star hotel. It's pretty posh but small and homely. Plus there's lots of little touches and unexpected extras that help make each weekend and each guest feel special.

We want to grow and develop too so we continually look at what we do to ensure our yoga weekends are always great fun, inventive, thought-provoking and stimulating. Traveling can be stressful especially if you're traveling alone so as guests arrive we want our welcome and our hotel to feel like a home from home. A sanctuary. A place to feel relaxed, happy and looked after.

Each morning we go room to room delivering gifts and a detox drink. We personally make lots of our stuff from our hand sewn eye bags to soya candles, body scrubs and bath salts, raw treats and snack bars. Each weekend is a labour of love from start to finish.

We are so lucky to love doing what we do, so it shows! We're really grateful to all the lovely people who have helped us along the way like all the staff at Book Yoga Retreats who have been so kind and supportive.

Jess: I was inspired to create FGB from my love of yoga, a solid friendship with Nikki and a desire to create a yoga retreat with a difference.

FGB is a dream made into reality, and every second dedicated to organizing and running our breaks is done so with so much love, attention and gratitude,  and from our guests feedback, they know that everything we do comes from the heart, and I think this differentiates us from other retreats.

Image by Feel Great Breaks

2. From its founding 4 years ago, what do you think has been the greatest challenge and also the sweetest experience for each of you?

Nikki: Finding the best location was a challenge. There's lots of amazing venues in this area but some weren't close enough to the beach, or didn't have a suitable yoga space outdoors and indoors, or they closed in winter. The hotel we settled on has everything we wanted and we're treated like family by the staff too which is so lovely. It's also sweet to work with Jess. I couldn't have asked for a better business partner. It's all sweet. It's all great. It's the best job in the world.

Jess:  For me, the greatest challenge is making sure everything runs smoothly, every time!  There is a lot of behind the scenes organization and co-ordination, that goes on from the moment we have initial contact with our guests, to their safe arrival and their enjoyment during their stay.

The sweetest experience is seeing the group come together during their time on a break. They really do arrive as strangers and leave as friends and that’s such a wonderful thing

Image by Feel Great Breaks

 3. Tell us the story of how yoga chose you. When did you start teaching yoga, and why?

Nikki: I'd dabbled a little in yoga in the UK over the years but nothing serious. I was a gym bunny back then spending hours and hours on the step machine or stationery bike going nowhere! I met my husband Matt at the gym so it was good for something! Then after coming to Spain I spotted an ad in a local mag for yoga classes. The exact same mag where Jess found me funnily enough. So I started going to class twice a week with my then teacher Lorraine, and I loved it. Lorraine was a good teacher, very bossy too, but she inspired me to delve deeper into the science of yoga. It changed my life. I started teaching in 2005 and it is the best thing I've ever done.

Jess: It all began with a small ad in a local newspaper catching my eye and a chance meeting with Nikki, dancing at a beach bar….

Although I had dabbled in yoga before moving to Spain 7 years ago, it wasn’t until I arrived here that I found a teacher who inspired me and I fell in love with yoga! Then, following a bout of ill health and a relationship break up, I gravitated more towards yoga, as I could see and feel the benefits it was having in my life. I completed my teacher training in glorious Tuscanny and have never looked back.


 4. What is your favorite yoga style, or the one you do the most and why?

Nikki: I love all yoga styles but particularly like a flowing vinyasa style of yoga. Dancing around with your breath moving from simpler to more challenging moves. It's meditative. I've grown to also appreciate yin yoga too which balances my yang nature. Getting deep into your body's tough and tense areas. I love arm balance postures too and downward facing dog is one of my favorites. It's an amazing position. Oh and I love wild thing! I love seated meditation too. You learn so much about yourself. Your habits and conditioning. In my home practice I'm working on hand stands. They're coming along well. Sometimes I'm up there in complete control just hovering. It's great. I'm 50 next year - OMG - and I'm stronger than ever! 

Jess: That’s quite a difficult thing for me to decide as I also love all the types of yoga I have practiced. I very much enjoy hatha yoga as that’s really where I started, but I also love the discipline of ashtanga, the exhilaration of acro partner yoga, and the joy I get from teaching kids yoga.


 5. Could you share with us your moment of epiphany, that one moment that led to the creation of Feel Great Breaks?

Nikki: Well Jess and I had become good friends and then one day she called me and said she had a proposition for me and how would I like to work with her. Boom that was it. I'd worked for other yoga holidays so thought okay why not do it myself. So we got together and started to build our dream. We met for months and months deciding on our website style, our name, who to work with and where to do it. It was the beginning of a wonderful journey and it's so lovely to be able to look back and see how far we've come and how we've grown. It's just so special.

Jess:  I was working at a large health clinic, and saw and learnt a lot, some good, some bad!  From my experience there I started putting together a plan for my own health and wellbeing retreat, what I would do differently and the values Id like to promote. Nikki and I had been fantasizing about running a retreat for ages, talking about the what ifs, how tos, and imagine ifs, and then we put our dreams into action! I went to night-school to put together a business plan, and FGB became a reality shortly after that.


 6. What do you think makes or breaks a yoga holiday for you?

Nikki: What makes it for me is to see guests leaving us with a hug, a smile and a few tears, but saying they'll return. We've had so many guests come back more than once and more than twice too. That's just so special. It's just the nicest feeling ever. Plus quite a few guests have taken yoga teacher training after coming on a feel great break and are now teaching yoga.

In our first year we had to cancel a couple of weekends because we simply didn't have enough people. That was hard but it was our first year and to be expected I guess. The word is out now and sometimes we have to close bookings as we've too many people. We like to keep our group sizes small so we can really get to know people and give everyone the attention they deserve. 

Jess:  The perfect combination of downtime for self-reflection, and group get togethers to share laughter and conversation


7. The location in Spain is like a dream come to life. But we are quite curious to know, why did you choose Denia, Spain as the location for your retreats? Is there something special to you?

Nikki: We used to walk our dogs along the beach here so loved this part of the coast. I live close by too and I teach yoga classes here when I'm not working on the retreats. It's such a gorgeous place. It's got great beaches, great transport links, amazing weather, great sunrises and our hotel is just divine. It's four star, right by the beach, has great yoga spaces, gorgeous gardens, a pool, jacuzzi, gym, sauna and lovely staff. What more could we want! There's a promenade right outside too which connects the hotel to the town. You can walk or cycle along it. In summer we snorkel right by the hotel or pick up a kayak. We arrange our itineraries around the seasons making the best of the weather. 

Jess: I think Denia chose us!! Nikki and I are both from Manchester in the UK, but we met here.  Our paths were destined to cross in Denia! It's a lovely place. 


 8. If you got one chance to go back in time and do things differently what would you change?

Nikki: Nothing. Nothing at all. It's been perfect. It is perfect. 

Jess: I can honestly say, there is nothing I'd change either. We started small but with big ideas, and going into our 4th year we have achieved all of the objectives we set ourselves as a yoga retreat. We both absolutely love what we do, and I wouldn’t change a thing!


 9. What are your goals for the future of Feel Great Breaks?

Nikki: To keep on keeping on. To be the best we can be. To continue growing and offering a yoga holiday, home from home. To welcome amazing people from all over the world and to treat them with love and care. 

Jess:  For me, Id like to expand to a new venue, perhaps outside of Spain. So watch this space, as we do have something exciting on the horizon which we hope to launch in 2015.


10. What are the most important values in life to you, that you instil in Feel Great's mission and values?

Nikki: To practice what you preach. To be positive, kind and supportive. To encourage everyone to break free of all the mind limiting stuff and to fall in love with life. Life is an amazing gift and we have to live it fully with maximum fun and lots of laughter.

Jess:  Live, laugh, love is our tagline, and I think that sums up how we try to live and what we try to promote to our guests.

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