Yoga Retreats & Holidays

Michelle Bartolo, Gozo Retreats

I’m a self-confessed lover of the seasons, but not in equal measure.  I have nothing against winter and I’m lucky enough not to be affected by a lack of morning and evening light.

That all said, the air of optimism and increase in energy around me at this time of year is infectious.

Spring has definitely sprung!   I’m loving being able to go for early morning walks, watch the sunrise over the estuary where I live and, on beautiful clear evenings, enjoy sunsets that we would normally expect on some exotic summer holiday!

Topsham, Goat Walk, sunsetTopsham, Goat Walk, flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing beats a walk in nature to dust off any vestiges of winter blues and I highly recommend going for a paddle if you live near water for instant grounding.  I promise you, not only your feet, but your whole body will thank you for it as you invite any stagnant prana/chi to leave achy joints and muscles, not to mention the shift in your mental state, helping us to view the world through a more positive lens.

All this talk of prana (our vital life force) and nature has me thinking ahead to yoga retreats and summer meditations on the beach.

A dear yoga teacher friend has invited me to co-host a gorgeous wild eco retreat in Southern France with her this summer and I’m already looking at various retreat centres in my favourite part of Spain, Andalucía, to take students for 2018 retreats (more on this in a later post). 

You don’t have to be an experienced yogi to enjoy your first yoga holiday.  My husband often tells friends of his first ever foreign yoga adventure in which he thought he was just accompanying me to keep me happy. His intention was in fact to drink nice coffee and read lots of books while I indulged my passion.  However, he was gently persuaded by our gorgeous yoga teacher, Michelle Bartolo of MichelleBartoloYoga.com, to give it a go.  To cut a long story short, by day three, 5 one and half hour sessions later, he was totally hooked.  He said he felt inches taller (this is a guy who is already 6’ 4”) and that he hadn’t slept so well in years!

The benefits of yoga have been widely written about, but if you’ve never been on a yoga holiday or retreat, I urge you to take the plunge – the effects will be exponential and equal to at least 6 months of going to a regular weekly class. 

Go with a friend or partner or if you decide to go on your own, you won’t be the only one.  I have tried all three ways and enjoyed each experience for different reasons.

A few things to look out for when choosing the right place for you:

  • A yoga holiday tends to be just that; you have yoga in the mornings and evenings and are often left to please yourself during the day with the option of organised outings or workshops.
  • A yoga retreat quite often means more participation in the preparation of food, clearing up etc. 
  • Check out the style of yoga by looking at the biographies of the host teachers involved.  If you’re used to a gentle hatha flow type of class, then you may not find that a week of dynamic Ashtanga meets your needs. 
  • There are themed holidays too, such as combining yoga with a sport you’re passionate about, specialist cookery classes or mindfulness and meditation workshops. 

There’s a huge amount of variety and of course wonderful destinations to choose from.  It’s definitely worth investing in the research before taking the plunge.  Finally, I would also check out the accommodation:  Are you happy to share with a stranger of the same sex (the cheaper option of course) or do you definitely want your own space?

There’s something for everyone out there and, in my experience, the teachers are very keen to ensure you have the best experience possible so don’t be shy about contacting them and asking for clarification.  If it’s luxury you’re after, then a campsite in the forest ain’t going to cut it after all!

With love and wellbeing wishes,

Chrissie Tarbitt - Integrated Wellbeing

Yoga & Relaxation in Gozo

Michelle Bartolo, Gozo Retreats, Hamlet 1

Those of you considering a yoga retreat or yoga holiday abroad should definitely add the week-long “Inside/Out” retreats with Michelle Bartolo to your short-list.

Set on the beautiful, unspoiled island of Gozo just off the north coast of Malta, the week-long retreats include morning and evening yoga and plenty of free time during the day to chill out and recharge your batteries.

An ideal week to escape the daily grind and relax your mind!

Guests arrive on Saturdays and gather for a vegetarian welcome dinner in the evening. Having flown from the UK to Malta, we took pre-arranged taxi transfers and a short ferry ride over to Gozo to reach the tastefully restored island farmhouse that would be our home for the week. After meeting the ever-smiling Michelle and the four other retreat guests, we were able to take a swim in the private pool before watching the sun go down across the valley from the farmhouse terrace.

Michelle Bartolo, Gozo Retreats, Hamlet 1Michelle Bartolo, Gozo Retreats, Hamlet 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each day began at 8am with an invigorating 90-minute yoga class, either on the private terrace or in the large sitting room (depending on the weather), followed by a nutritious breakfast and a healthy side-order of laughter as we chatted and shared experiences with each other.

With intentionally small groups and the relaxed, convivial atmosphere that Michelle encourages, breakfasts sometimes extended well past mid-morning!

Guests make their own arrangements for lunch and dinner. Sometimes we ate out, enjoying an evening stroll to nearby villages or going further afield on hired bikes that Michelle can arrange; other meals were taken at the farmhouse where there’s a fully equipped kitchen in which to prepare food purchased at the local store just a short walk away. Some guests hire a car, but taxis are a good alternative for heading into town.

Each evening at 5, Michelle taught a 60-minute restorative yoga class followed by 30 minutes of wonderful guided meditation.

With years of experience teaching across many countries, Michelle’s yoga is a blend of various styles with significant elements of vinyasa flow and kundalini. On our retreat, there were a couple of relative beginners and others who had been practicing yoga for some years. The teaching was intuitive and ensured that everyone enjoyed the class. A great deal of thought had obviously gone into planning the week’s sequences, as the level increased a little each day, allowing us to experience noticeable progress as our bodies responded to two daily classes and our minds quietened, away from the daily grind.

Michelle Bartolo, Gozo Retreats 2Michelle Bartolo, Gozo Retreats

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the daily free time, massages and other treatments were arranged for those who wanted them, and Michelle took some of us on a couple of guided walks round this delightful island. Towards the end of the week, she was even able to arrange a fabulous half-day aboard a local boat so that we could snorkel and feed the fish in the crystal-clear Mediterranean.

The Gozo Inside/Out retreats run monthly from April to November.

Check out details, pricing and availability at michellebartoloyoga.com

And you can watch Michelle teach a short yoga sequence at the fabulous cliff-top setting where she takes a sunset class in this video.

I, for one, can’t wait to go back!

 

With love and wellbeing wishes,

 

Chrissie Tarbitt - Integrated Wellbeing