Yoga Sutra Shala's retreats border on getaway perfection. Firstly and most importantly, the yoga is taken very seriously. A two and a half hour Ashtanga session in the morning is complimented by two hours of Hatha Yoga and meditation in the evening. The teachers, Namit (Indian via Leicester) and Maru (Mexican), have only recently begun running retreats together and their beginners' mind manifests itself in boundless enthusiasm and a fresh, open approach.
Namit practicing yoga at Yoga Sutra Shala
Six months of their year is spent in India deepening their personal practice at the Shala of Shri K Pattabhi Jois, Mysore and with knowledgeable yogis and masters at Rishikesh and beyond, the other six months passing on the fruits of that industry at this Andalusian haven: it means their teaching is always up to date and full of playful and compassionate energy.
Fresh, hand-picked ingredients
A diet of organic vegan delicacies prepared by a passionately ethical local cook aids the physical and spiritual cleansing process. If you're not used to vegan food, fear not – at Yoga Sutra Shala veganism does not preclude chocolate cake! Added to which the menu is so well balanced and varied you'll hardly even notice. Namit and Maru are both very well informed about health and dietary matters. Namit has degrees in Pharmacy and Clinical Pharmacy and a mind-boggling capacity for retaining up to the minute factual information. Almost any question you can think to ask in the field of wellbeing will be answered with immediate and thoughtful lucidity.
Sculpture at the retreat center
The retreat center itself is like no other retreat centre I've been to. Rather, it's a beautifully appointed private villa and swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees and citrus groves, and so high up in the hills you can almost reach out and touch the azure blue sky. The rooms are spacious – mine was large enough to hold three people very comfortably but I was in the only one in it and I had my own bathroom and power shower. Yet whilst everything you could possibly want is available, neither the villa nor the experience ever slide into the sort of sycophantic luxury that would detract from the all important feeling of retreat.
Small groups mean the evening classes can be tailored towards personal needs and requests. A lot of individual support and encouragement are given, adjustments and personally tailored advice. At the beginning of the week, Namit assured me I'd be doing side crow by the time I went home. I didn't believe it for a moment and was staggered when he turned out to be exactly right.
Namit performing a yoga pose
Namit and Maru are incredibly warm and modest people and these qualities seep into everything they do, nourishing the already glorious Andalusian atmosphere. After six days at Yoga Sutra Shala, I headed home to London feeling re-energized, inspired and thoroughly at peace. I felt not just that I'd met five nice people but that I'd gained five wonderful friends.
If you do decide to give it a go, we'll probably meet there, because I shall be going back again and again.
Have you ever gone on a retreat so perfect that you just want to repeat the experience? Take another trip, maybe you can explore a European yoga holiday this time!