We ferried over to Vis for our yoga retreat on a rainy spring afternoon, and it was dark by the time we settled into our new rooms at a beautiful, historic villa on a peaceful hillside surrounded by vineyards, nature, and wildlife. My room had original thick stone walls, a comfortable queen bed, large windows that opened onto the courtyard gardens, and a heater with a remote control so I was always toasty at night! It was the perfect setting for a rejuvenating yoga retreat.
Yoga and meditation sessions
Our days at the villa started with meditation at 7.15 am, which was an early but very doable hour, even on vacation. The meditation instructor was a student of the Vipassana tradition and offered gentle, inspiring guidance that was especially helpful for beginners and those with an inconsistent home practice (like me). Meditation sessions were offered twice a day and were divided into three 15-minute blocks of seated Vipassana meditation, a guided meditation, and a writing, drawing, or walking meditation. I really liked this variety, especially since I'm not used to doing seated meditation for 45 minutes at a time!
Sightseeing around the island – Image: Catharine S.
After meditation, tea and fresh fruit were provided to energize us for the morning yoga practice. The yoga instructor at our retreat had a few years of experience teaching Vinyasa flow yoga and had recently become trained in Acro Yoga and Thai massage, all of which she invited us to experience during this one-week yoga retreat in Croatia.
Art therapy in Croatia – Image: Catharine S.
She offered an invigorating Vinyasa flow practice every morning, which was the perfect way to get my body back to a stretchier and stronger place after many months of desk work back home! In the late afternoons, she offered a slower, restorative yoga practice to allow us to go more deeply into the poses, ground ourselves, and wind down from the day before dinner.
When the weather was dry and warm (we hit a patch of spring rains during my week), we rolled our mats out in the sunshine beside the pool which was glorious. She also offered "Play Yoga" sessions every afternoon for those of us who wanted to explore acro-yoga and she led a Thai massage tutorial one day that was fabulous, yum!
Delicious vegetarian meals
Fresh meals all abound! – Image: Catharine S.
We were treated to three freshly prepared vegetarian meals a day in a cozy room looking out onto the green vineyards of the villa. The meals were prepared by our hosts and were simple, colorful and delicious. As promised, they were made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, such as chard and zucchini from the local markets, and there was plenty of variety – outside of the ample breakfast spread, we never had the same meal twice.
More importantly, I have several food allergies that were well-respected and accommodated during the week. I'm gluten-free, dairy-free, and allergic to sesame, coconut and mushrooms – the hosts provided alternative grains and types of milk, and even prepared a batch of tahini-free hummus in my honor!
Free time surrounded by like-minded people
When we weren't eating wonderful meals or hovering in plank on our yoga mats, we had the option of relaxing in our rooms or outside in one of the many comfy seating areas at the villa (or in the hammock!), hiking about the grounds enjoying wildflowers and panoramic views of the surrounding green hills and valleys dotted with red-roofed cottages, or accompanying the group on a daily excursion to one of the island's charming port towns, magnificent hilltop overlooks, or secluded local beaches. We even talked our hosts into shuttling us all to the local pub one evening to hang out with the locals and share a pint with a crew of British cricket players!
One of the best parts of the retreat was our awareness that all of the meals, classes and activities were always optional, not mandatory. I chose this yoga retreat experience as an opportunity to heal and rebalance myself after leaving a long-term relationship and quitting a very demanding job, so it was important to me to be flexible and go with the flow of my energy. It seemed my fellow attendees were on the same page and it was fine with everyone if we chose to walk in the vineyards, read a book, or take a much-needed nap, instead of attending yoga or watching the evening movie.
Taking a picture in the beautiful bedroom – Image: Catharine S.
All in all, I give Croatia two thumbs up! I saw magical sights, made new friends from five different countries and felt very well-rested, nourished, and grounded afterward. I left Vis with happier hamstrings, a stronger core, renewed awareness of each breath passing in and out of my body, and a brighter light in my heart.