This Christmas I decided to do something different. The sort of different that, if you knew me, would inspire not only raised eyebrows, but concern for the state of my mental health. I decided to go on a yoga retreat in the south of Spain which is about as close to my comfort zone as a reality TV star is to becoming President of the United Sates. Oh wait. It had been a difficult year for a multitude of reasons and the thought of spending Christmas as normal, in the UK, felt like the ominous fifth act of a Shakespeare play. So being a proactive millennial I typed ‘escape Christmas’ into Google and Suryalila: a yoga retreat nestled in the heart of the Spanish Andalusian hills specially catered for those looking to escape Christmas appeared. Once more unto the breach?
Despite my reservations, on arrival I was immediately overcome by the breathtaking natural beauty of the property which sits in a large river valley overlooking agricultural land and the majestic mountain range of the Sierra de Grazelaema. In contrast to feeling like a sardine on my London commutes, I found the sense of vastness and expansiveness very uplifting.
The retreat had its own schedule, crucially everything was optional if you just wanted to while away the time on a hammock. I came for the full experience, but despite my Indian heritage, a yogi I am not. I arrived as a novice and was somewhat worried the twice daily classes would be too taxing. The resident instructor, Lidiya, however, was an excellent teacher and catered her classes to all skill levels. We practiced a rigorous mixture of Vinyasa Flow, Yoga Nidra, Yin Yoga, Acro Yoga and Pranayama breathing exercises. I attended all but one class and relished every moment. The fabulous Om Dome classroom, a purpose built structure which offers a spectacular panoramic view of the countryside, may have helped! Alongside the yoga there were group activities such as horse riding, a flamenco dancing class, trips to nearby villages and a shamelessly silly ecstatic dance on Christmas day. Regarding the latter, what happens in Suryalila, stays in Suryalila.
If none of the above has whetted your appetite then the description of the food will certainly change your mind. As a devout carnivore, I would happily turn veggie for the food we enjoyed over the 5 days. The tofu turkey with chestnut stuffing, mushroom dauphinoise and braised red cabbage on Christmas day was exquisite. The majority of the produce is locally sourced and often picked from their back garden.
Without a shadow of a doubt the best aspect of Suryalila is the people it attracts. Don’t get me wrong, travelling alone and being thrust into a group of 35 strangers was daunting, but everyone I met including the warm and welcoming team of people that run the show was delightful. We were told on arrival that there was no need to lock our doors as this was a ‘safe space’. This set the tone for the retreat as we didn’t feel the need – pardon the pun – to keep things locked up and I hope I’ve made some life-long friends in the process.
I’ve come back to Blighty with a clearer head, a new international support network of friends and most importantly a more positive attitude. In short, I recommend Suryalila to one and all because if a meat-eating, inflexible city-boy can do it, so can you.