“Laughter, discipline and a sense of humour – that’s what you need in life”, was the recommendation heeded by our yoga teacher as we settled onto our sun-drenched mats for the start of our Yoga Escapes retreat in Mykonos otherwise known as the glamour island of Greece.
This week in Mykonos delivers on several of life’s core requirements, but who wants discipline when you’re treating yourself to 5* indulgence? It’s a holiday after all and that’s what drives the ethos of a Yoga Escapes retreat. No waking up at dawn, no enforced diet, no obligations whatsoever: skip a yoga class if you’re not in the mood, spend time with the group or just slip away on your own. It’s your week.
Mykonos is known as the star of the Aegean sea, a mecca for affluent holiday-makers seeking luxurious comfort in stylish white-washed dwellings with views of beautiful sandy bays and turquoise waters.
As part of the yoga retreat, you stay in the 5* Myconian Imperial hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels Of The World, is where rustic charm is combined with elegant, sleek design. Perched above Elia beach, a quiet stretch of white sand, it has serious wow factor. Trendy, chic and very modern, the hotel is airy and spacious with a number of outdoor seating areas for guests to soak up the sea views. Rooms are fashioned in classy simplicity, offering a non-fussy sleeping space that is bright and comfortable. Company director, Laura, goes so far as to handpick and inspect the rooms herself prior to her guests’ arrival to ensure everything is “just so”. Yes, that’s the level of personal touch to expect here!
When choosing a yoga retreat, my best advice is to follow your teacher. It was when I heard that the wonderful Lizaan Jacobs would be leading the twice-daily classes that I hotfooted it to request the week off work. The rest of the group were quickly entranced by her extraordinary energy and exceptional teaching style. Every morning we eagerly met at 8:30am for a vigorous rocket-style class; a dynamic and sweaty practice peppered with opportunities to launch into upside-down balances. Fun, fast and at times formidable, the flow lasted over 90 mins and was followed by a banquet breakfast, a real gastronomic temptress offering an endless buffet of wondrous treats. The day was then free to spend as we wished. Most retreaters re-grouped at 5pm for a slow and soulful Yin session where we worked deep into the fascia, finding a more meditative state. Lizaan also treated us to a number of inversion workshops, which were not part of the schedule but generously offered in her free time to anyone eager for technique pointers.
Every evening, join the rest of the group for dinner, but, as with all elements of the retreat, it is purely optional. Some nights you can keep it local, eating at the beach restaurant or a nearby village taverna, and other nights, take a free hotel shuttle into Mykonos Town, and wander through the wind-beaten narrow maze of cobbled streets to find little gems handpicked by Laura.
The days are extremely laid back…the most taxing thing to think about was where to lie in the sun. The hotel’s pool area will make it hard to peel yourself off the lounger, even if it was to walk the 3-minute steep decline to the hotel’s private section on Elia beach where more cushioned sun beds awaited. For an even deeper relaxation experience, you can enjoy a complimentary session in the thalasso-therapy and there is also a spa for extra pampering. If you’re into a more energetic break then there is a small gym as well as lots of extraordinarily steep paths for walking/running surrounding the hotel – the views at the top are worth the effort.
The age range of the retreats ranges from early 30s to late 60s, many of whom were holidaying solo. The fact that over half the group were repeaters is testament to the fact that Yoga Escapes organise a very well thought out holiday experience. Retreats run from March through to October in a number of decadent locations, and I gather the Sicilian one in particular is pretty sensational. After a yoga retreat like this, you’ll be tempted to add “spoiling oneself” to the list of life’s necessities!