Yoga retreats are everywhere these days, from pristine white beaches on the Maldives to rustic barns in the Costwolds, it seems like we can now spend a week or so indulging in vinyasa flow wherever we fancy, or however our budget dictates.
I was after a week of yoga, yes, but I was also after a week of fun, travel and adventure and I happened to stumble across the perfect option. Voga.
If you don’t already know, Voga is a blend of flowing yoga and ‘vogueing’ fresh from the New York dance scene in the eighties. The result is a powerful energetic hour of practice which leaves you both stretched and energised. Spearheading the Voga movement over here in the UK is Juliet Murrell, having transformed her life through the practice of more traditional yoga – she longed to create something a little different and challenge our perception of traditional yoga practice. Along with her team, Juliet has developed three sequences of powerful moves which have been carefully coordinated with classic eighties beats.
With the demand for Voga growing, Juliet now has retreats in Ibiza, Imdia and in the UK, one caught my eye in particular, and that was her first in Goa.
Landing in Goa mid-afternoon, we hopped in a taxi and headed to our first stop, this was the highly recommended Yab Yum resort on Ashwem Beach. Dropped off at a concealed wooden gate shrouded by Palms, we were led down a winding path through the trees, lit by large paper lanterns and adorned with disco balls.
Accommodation at Yab Yum is made up of two options, either a dinky little colonial style cottage, or a ‘pod’ which resembled a large upside down coconut shell. I chose the latter, and I recommend you do too. Inside the shell lies a huge double bed, a pristine bathroom and your own garden with dining area and hammock (attempt at your own risk!). Take advantage of being seconds from the beach and watch the famous Goan sunsets with a glass of wine and sea bass curry in hand. One word of warning, remember to look up, the coconut pickers show no mercy when throwing coconuts from the top of the trees.
Gently awoken by the sound of clinking china, I arose to see that a feast of a breakfast had been laid out for me outside. A bowl of muesli and fresh tropical fruits was the the boost I needed for my next stop. Voga.
House of Voga has joined forces with Chaya Yoga Retreats, a chic independent retreat company who organise some of the most relaxed and varied wellness experiences across the world. Chaya is run by Lucy Hill, a wonderful business woman and yogi who has made a beautiful set of villas called Kaju Varo Chaya’s home for the season and this is where we would be based for the next seven days. Each ‘voguette’ had their own luxurious villa complete with a mezzanine double bedroom and jungle shower (that’s right kids, washing outside with the wildlife..). Every morning we cleansed with Indian teas, followed by a deep, flowing session of classic vinyasa flow, often observed by the resident family of monkeys. We spent the second half of the session happily smelling delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. Brunch was served as soon as shavasana is over, and was feast of healthy British and Indian classics. Think glorious almond milk Bircher muesli, nuts, seeds and the freshest papaya I have ever tasted. For those craving something a little more substantial, the chef could whip you up a killer omelette in minutes. Some days we would be surprised with more traditional Indian delicacies such as idli, the dainty pillowy soft buns made from rice flour accompanied by a light vegetable curry – similar to Sri Lankan hoppers.
Days were then ours do what we so pleased with, we could use the hours to just relax and soak up the intense rays, or Lucy always had ideas up her sleeve. One day we went to the small town of Mapusa to see a ‘true’ Indian market full of spices, bangles and locals as well as a trip to the more tourist-y (but equally as wonderful) night market at Anjuna. The coolness of the evening made for a more pleasurable shopping experience, and gave us the perfect opportunity to pick up a whole array of trinkets and gifts to take home, from fur jackets to paintings the night market had it all.
After a relaxed day of sunbathing or an exhausting one of exploring we would get. Into our most outrageous yoga gear and prepare for an hour and a half of energising Voga. For each sundown session music was provided by talented young DJ Neyha Tolani, who worked closely with Juliet to create a soundtrack with some totally fabulous 80’s tunes (with a couple of 90’s in there for good measure!). Most of the sessions took
place by the pool, with twinkling fairy lights all around us. However one night we decided to venture to Ashwem beach, to be as close to the beautiful sunset as possible. It was experiences like this which made me realise just why retreats like this are so transformational – experiencing the strong Indian sun disappearing beneath the seemingly infinite horizon whilst the warm sea water tickles your toes, was an experience like no other – and truly magical.
Dinners were an integral part of the retreat, they provided a time to reflect on our day, connect with each other and discuss thoughts and feelings which can arise from yoga practice. The women on the retreat were from all walks of life, all ages but all completely open to travel, wellbeing and importantly, each other. Just like with brunch, dinner was all vegetarian and would alternate between Indian classics and more familiar (but in no way less impressive) recipes inspired by chefs such as Anna Jones, Hemsley + Hemsley and Tess Ward.
I truly recommend you keep your eye on Chaya’s upcoming retreats, with options such as Spain, Ibiza and Oxfordshire still to come in 2016 there is a place and time for everyone.
Book onto the next Chaya Retreat (next stop Ibiza July 2nd)
Keep up to date with upcoming House of Voga classes and future retreats
Stay at the glorious Yab Yum resort via Tripzuki