When the stresses and strains of London life becomes too much, a yoga retreat is just the antidote. Expect rest, relaxation & lots of laughs…
Class: Iyengar, Vinyasa, Yin, Nidra and Klub Yoga
Hotel: Bella Nappa Hotel
Location: Ayia Napa, Cyprus
Blowout or budget: £850 for 5 nights including flights, accommodation, yoga, brunch and dinner
Five nights in sunny Cyprus with London yoga teacher Kelly Brooks. Guests enjoy four hours of yoga per day plus extras such a vision and goal meditation, cooking masterclasses and optional trips.
Having signed up for Antigone’s yoga holiday, the group first met for a pre-retreat meal in London’s Pizza East. It was great to get to know my fellow yogis before embarking on the trip a few weeks later.
One of the most amazing things about the retreat was that Nonni planned everything so I didn’t have to think, panic or stress about a thing. We flew out of London Heathrow and, of course, started with a delicious brunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food. Avo on toast was the order of the day!
Arriving in Cyprus, we were whisked away in private transfers and within the hour, we were sipping fresh fruit juices on the terrace overlooking the sea in glorious sunshine. My hotel room was a fabulous suite complete with huge double bed and it’s own hot tub on the balcony.
Each day we rose at 7am for 2 hours of yoga, followed by free time or day trips, returning at 5pm for our second round of yoga as the sun set over the shala. The morning practice would be more dynamic and challenging, focussing on certain poses such as crow, headstands, handstands and my all-time nemesis: chaturanga. Evening classes were slower and gentler, with a focus on relaxation, stretching and mediation.
Kelly caters for beginners and intermediate yogis and she was very attentive to those in the class suffering from injuries. Her Iyengar approach meant we used props such as blocks, bolster cushions and straps to achieve the correct alignment.
Kelly also talked us through Pranayama breathing techniques and Yoga Nidra, a form of deep yogic sleep. She also introduces the concept of chakras and bhandas, and during shavasana would massage essential oils into our forehead and temples for ultimate relaxation.
One evening, we walked to a tranquil beach for our sunset practice and Yoga Nidra. Back in the chaos of London, I sometimes visualise myself back on the beach, hearing the waves as they lap the shore.
The food at Bella Napa Hotel deserves a special mention: each yoga class was followed by an epic feast. At brunch we delved into platters of fresh fruit, eggs, cheeses, chia seeds, cereals, granola and breads, accompanied by coffee, tea and fresh fruit juices.
The dinner menu was mainly vegetarian, but there was plenty of delicious fresh fish and seafood including octopus, king prawns and squid. There was certainly no danger of going hungry as plate after plate of succulent salads, beans, pasta and potato dishes emerged from the kitchen in a never-ending flow of foodie heaven. And because we are believers of balance here at Brunch n Grind, we made sure to take advantage of a hearty glass of local wine each evening, too.
The retreat was peppered with special touches and surprises, too. We all received goody bags containing thoughtful snacks for the retreat as well as a calming colouring book, notebook and pencils, to help us take notes and set goals. We learnt how to cook Cypriot Baklava, as well as how to make fresh almond milk and our own protein balls.
We also had the opportunity to go on a private boat tour. Gliding through turquoise waters we spent the day sunbathing and swimming, while the captain showed of his fishing skills catching a live octopus for our entertainment before throwing it back into the sea in a cloud of ink. Other days were spent sun-worshipping at the beach, drifting on the inflatable unicorn at the pool, or enjoying relaxing beauty treatments at the hotel.
On the final night of the retreat, Kelly held a Klub Yoga session which was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in a yoga class. We dressed up in our brightest, boldest lycra and applied copious amounts of glitter, bindis and neon rave paint. Set to house music, it was freeing to dance around with no inhibitions, trying out partner poses and celebrating the time we’d spent together.
As well as having a great holiday, with plenty of relaxation and quality sleep, the retreat was a truly transformative experience. I realised that I hadn’t laughed that much or felt so care-free in a long time. I found that my flexibility and strength improved dramatically from regular practice, so since returning to London, I have introduced some basic yoga poses and stretches to my daily routine.
In just five days, I learnt a lot about my mind, my body and about connecting to my breath. I’ve made a bunch of new friends and it has inspired me to set goals for the future instead of drifting aimlessly, or worrying about things that are out of my control. The whole experience has been so rewarding and although you can’t put a price on personal happiness and fulfilment, it was great value for money too!
Follow Antigone on Instagram @Antigone_Yoga and stay tuned for details about her next retreat.