Yoga and biking around Southern Italy, a good combination if ever I heard one right?!
I started my love affair with retreats a few years ago now. I went on my first retreat over 2 summers ago now, and I can honestly say that retreats are the best thing I have ever discovered. Each retreat for me has brought something different, there are no two same retreats. So yes they all come under the umbrella of a “retreat” but each retreat is a whole world and separate entity to itself.
I think my biggest and best life discoveries have been made on retreats. I have been in all different phases of my life on different retreats. From being in a very difficult place emotionally, physically, from running away from reality to post breakups I’ve been on a retreat in so many mindsets. I’ve also gone to retreats feeling in a good place mentally and in a happy positive place and each time I get just as much from them.
This is why I will always go on retreats, they are always wonderful. I think people often assume you have to be in a bad place to go on a retreat. Yes it’s a wonderful thing to go on a retreat when you need some time, or to think and reflect, or to just heal. But it’s also just as relevant to go if you just want to switch off, relax or chill out. Or maybe you want to focus on your fitness, or yoga or just fancy the idea of not having to cook a meal for a week (totally get that!).
So when KaliYoga approached me with a week in Italy doing yoga and bike riding around the Italian countryside I knew it was going to be pretty special. I’ve just had a few months focusing on my Pilates teaching exam and juggling a million things, so a break was exactly what I wanted and needed. I also have this love hate relationship with central London I’ve mentioned so many times. I live very centrally and it’s a bit intense. I’m a highly strung person by nature always going 100 miles an hour, and combining that with central London is a recipe for high stress levels, lack of sleep and general lack of mindfulness and “slowness” in my life. I’m not complaining and aware I’m very lucky. However that said every few months I feel a need to escape the city and reset myself. It’s like a little buzzer goes off in my brain which tells me I need to get away and take some time. Then I can come back re-energised in a healthier mindset.
Now I’ve rambled on about all sorts and I’m sure what you are really interested in is the retreat itself, what was it like. The vibe, the yoga, the food (always a priority). So I’ll get to it.
The retreat itself is a yoga and cycling week – KaliYoga do a variety of retreats but this for me was a great mix. Yoga for my mind, cycling because I get to explore Italy more and I love being active. It was also a vegetarian cuisine and no coffee (painful but necessary). Based in Puglia in southern Italy, this was an area of Italy I’d never actually visited. I would describe it as a lot greener and more rolling countryside than a lot of the other areas of Italy.
The retreat location was stunning, an open selection of buildings with traditional architecture of the area and a beautiful yoga Shala, outdoor pool, fields and greenery. It was open with plenty of areas to sit and relax privacy and relaxing is not an issue at this retreat. I loved the layout and all the little hidden areas to sit and watch the world go by. Our rooms were beautiful, open airy and spacious with stone walls and floors and stunning decor. Traditional yet modern and bright and airy. There were also shared little huts which had trullo roofs a traditional local feature. I personally felt like they looked like something out of Lord of the rings – they reminded me of hobbit houses!
So one of the main elements of the retreat was the yoga. Run by Tashi, who was hands down one of the best yoga teachers I’ve ever come across. And trust me I’ve been to my fair share of yoga classes. Each morning started with an optional meditation (not going to lie I couldn’t wake up for these). Followed by a 2 hour yoga session with Tashi, then the evening there was another hour and a half session. So a lot of damn yoga! Now what I loved about Tashi was how the yoga made sense to me, I understood why we were doing each move and the building blocks we were putting in place. Each day I felt a shift and a change in my practise. I felt my body adapt and learn, I felt stronger and more flexible day by day. Honestly each day the improvement I saw was insane. We started slow and the building blocks were put into place, then each day we added elements and the practise evolved and grew. I’ve always loved yoga but never felt like I could ever do “self practise”. I will do yoga if I am in a class or a retreat but that’s it. However I feel like Tashi gave us the tools and routine/moves to realistically fit it in our lives. I feel confident enough to roll my mat out in the morning and just move, move because it feels good and my body thanks me for it. I’ve never seen yoga in that way before but I feel like my perception changed so much this week. Not only did I adore Tashi and her teaching but it was also so relaxed and there was a sense of humour and fun about they way she taught. It wasn’t super serious or strict, it was relatable, understandable, you can tell there was a joy in Tashi’s teaching. So thank you Tashi for being a wonderful human and shedding a new perspective on yoga for me.
So next up is the cycling – as it was a yoga and cycling week right. So two of the days there were 5 hour bike rides. Which I LOVED. These days were so much fun, you got to explore Puglia and see so much more this way. The first day was intense, lots of hills and my legs and butt got a hella workout. The second ride was less intense, down to the beach where we had lunch by the sea. Then through a beautiful nature park. The tour guide was amazing and his joy and love of Italy was infectious. And we stopped for Gelato which was obviously a highlight. And there was vegan dairy free dark chocolate which blew my mind. So yes everything about these bike rides were perfect. And you got a great tan whilst doing it – winning.
Right the moment you’ve been waiting for – the food!!! I feel like the chef on this week deserves a stand up round of applause. She was insane!! The food was veggie and mainly vegan, she often picked the ingredients that day and was very into seasonal cooking and flavours. The food was defiantly fine dining in style and presentation and I was so damn impressed. Breakfasts were buffet style like porridge, fruit and yoghurt and granola, bircher muesli, avocado and homemade seed bread. Then lunches were big salads and veggie lasagne, stuffed peppers, tarts etc. Then dinner was always a three course extravaganza, each course beautiful, balanced and delicious. Special shout out to the desserts which were 10/10 especially the raw Nutella cup which was mindblowing. The portions weren’t huge but I didn’t feel hugely hungry and I have a hella appetite. But there was also a fruit bowl and always snacks in the fridge like energy balls etc if you got hungry.
On the Wednesday they let us have a day to ourselves exploring the local town. And let us loose for dinner on a local restaurant. We were in Italy so we all got pasta and wine….OBVIOUSLY. And it was bloomin delightful. It was so nice to be able to explore the local area which doesn’t often happen often on retreats. So a nice mixture of culture in out week which was warmly welcomed.
So what did a regular schedule look like for a yoga day (minus the 5 hour bike ride!) as many people who have asked me about retreats want to know what a standard retreat day looks like. Also its good to remember that all of the retreat activities were optional, you can do as much or as little as you want.
- 8am optional meditation
- 30 2 hour yoga session
- 30 breakfast
- Freetime and treatments
- 2 ish lunchtime
- Freetime and treatments
- 30 Yoga
- 30 dinner
Then in terms of days they alternated between yoga, treatment focused day, bike riding day, optional exploring the local area day (they arrange taxis for you to the towns) bike riding then yoga chill day. So it was a good mix – and went so quick. Literally felt like I blinked and it was over.
So another special element of Kali Yoga which I have to mention was the wide variety of treatments they offered on the retreat. There was everything from variety of massages – hot stone, auervedic massage, healing hands massage treatment and many many more. The treatments really made the retreat the variety was amazing, I have never seen such a wide variety offered on a retreat before. I got the healing hands massage, it was so different from any other treatment I had ever got. I was expecting a nice little standard style massage. But she really focused in on areas she felt ‘blockages’. I didn’t give her any background on me and my body or anything. And it was strange she seemed to just gravitate towards areas where I have had/am having issues. Then after she sat down and talked me through what she felt from doing the massage. And not going to lie it was freakily accurate, and everyone else said the same. She just seemed to get everyone’s issues, just through giving us a massage – strange right! But from what I gathered from everyone on the retreat is that every treatment they did the loved. Retreats give us the chance to actually do things for ourselves, like it’s the perfect place to be selfish. How often in our day to day life do we spend a few hours just on us and our bodies? I know I don’t, there’s always some to do list to tick off and some urgent email to reply too. Retreat life takes us out of our crazy bubbles and allows us to take some time for ourselves. Something I know I don’t do enough of.
KaliYoga gave me everything I needed from a retreat, the most beautiful location, insane food and one of the best yoga teachers I think I have ever had. I came on the retreat needing a break and some time out to reenergise myself. So this week for me was exactly that, reset, reenergise and relax. And that’s exactly what it did. I am writing this on the plane back to London, and I feel decidedly calmer and more grounded then when I left London. That’s what a week of Italian sunshine yoga and no coffee will do to you.
So thank you KaliYoga for having me….they have also kindly offered any readers a 10% discount on the retreat. You just have to quote my name when emailing them :)
For more information about the retreats, the dates and Kali Yoga in general visit their website HERE