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What do you get when you combine good healthy food, 8 hours of yoga and a good friend? Hip and Healthy’s idea of the perfect retreat

words by Sadie MacLeod

Chaya Yoga Image Retreat

I am ashamed to say that despite spending five years of my life in travel journalism, two of which I have focused more specifically on wellbeing holidays and, of course, editing Hip and Healthy, I have never been on a yoga retreat. In fact, I’m pretty bad at yoga full stop, but even if I wasn’t, even if I was the don of downward dog, I still think I would have resisted them for as long as I have. Why? Because they have always intimidated me. It’s not just that I can’t actually touch my toes on the best of days, I am also reluctant to do things like bridge pose as I am scared my back is not strong enough. And, am I the only person that runs through a list of what I need to get at Waitrose throughout Shavasana? Also, just the word retreat conjures up images of hemp wearing hippies eating very little and talking to each other in a whisper.

But now, 10 weeks before my wedding day, and in serious need of a wellbeing overhaul, it felt like the right time to see if all of that was really true. Can there be a yoga retreat that  is cool and fun and relaxed and yet also inspiring, healthy and set in chic and cosy confines? Enter Chaya Yoga Retreats and the effortlessly cool co-founder Daisy. Having suffered from Adult Acne, none of which is evident today, Daisy searched for a holistic way to heal her skin. She found that combining good nutrition, meditation, alternative therapies and yoga were the way back to clear skin. She then met two wonderful yoga teachers, Lucy Hill and Annabel Jones, and the trio behind Chaya Yoga Retreats was formed.

But there was no way I was going to lose my retreat v plates on my own, so I enlisted my Bridesmaid, Sophie, as well. We caught a super fast train out of London to Ashford, Kent where I had to prize the grande flat white out of Sophie’s hand. At the station we were met by Daisy and four of the other retreat goers. I soon learnt that these fellow retreaters all worked in London and led normal busy lives just liked us.

The cottage – a newly converted barn is set amongst acres of countryside and farmland. It was heavenly, and we settled in immediately. Greeted with green juice and kale chips, we then did our first two-hour yoga session. Asthere were only eight of us it allowed the instructor, Jo, to really help us individually. Jo started by asking us to set an intention for our practice, and instantly the word “acceptance” sprung to mind. Like many women in their twenties, I struggle to be happy in my own skin. There is always something to improve upon and frankly I am a little exhausted of always trying to better myself.

The classes were for beginners, thank god, and all previous misconceptions of being made to hold a headstand on the first day evaporated. In fact each of the yoga sessions, we did two hours in the morning and two hours at night, were totally doable, even for a novice like me. And each session ended in a 15 minute Savasana – the challenge of not falling asleep became increasingly easier as the weekend went on.

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The food was off-the-charts delicious and entirely free from dairy, sugar, wheat and gluten. Sophie and I filled our boots full of the delicious dishes Daisy made each mealtime. Buckwheat noodles with Tamarind Sauce (a Hemsley & Hemsley special, who Daisy knows personally), chickpea curry with flax seed crackers, red cabbage and beetroot salad with seeds and the pièce de résistance – an avocado chocolate moose. One completely crazy guest didn’t want theirs so Sophie and I managed to carefully find some space in our stomachs for a bit more. The breakfasts too were an inspiring mix of homemade granola, coconut porridge, with bee pollen and sunflower seeds, and buckwheat toast with almond butter.

On the Saturday, Daisy had organised for us all to have a kinesiology session with a practioner called Simon who has been practicing sincehe left his job as a lawyer. Simon usually practices just outside of London and is passionate about holistic health. For those who have no idea what kinesiology entails, it is an east-meets-west practice that involves muscle testing to helps identify imbalances in the body. After not very long at all, Simon was able to tell that my tummy area was all out if whack (I consistently suffer from stomach aches) and just a few moments later he told me that I had had a parasite (I challenge anyone to move to Hong Kong and not get one). Although the parasite had since been “dispelled” it had left damage that was in need of repair. The following day, I woke to an email from Simon with details of what supplements I could take to help with the healing.

We ended the day with a session of Yoga Nidra, also known as Yogi Sleep. To describe it best it is an hour-long savasana where you are guided into a deep meditation and the trick is not to fall asleep. I spent the time thinking about my intention for the retreat, acceptance, and used this key word to help form all my other thoughts. As soon as I started to go off track I would just picture the word acceptance and try to think about things I was really grateful for.

Sunday consisted of another two-hour yoga session followed by a massage with Daisy herself, which can only be described as 60 minutes of total bliss. Before we parted ways Daisy dished up some delicious butternut squash homemade soup with lime and coconut served with flax seed crackers followed by some raw chocolate, which we could all take home.

What I learnt on this detox yoga retreat was not so much about detox, or indeed yoga but more about myself. And my dear friend Sophie. Together we came away having spent some real, quality time together. Daisy gave us the backdrop in which to understand better our feelings, fears, and futures. Chaya gave us the tools through massage and kinesiology to explore questions that we had, and confirm truths that we knew. And we gave ourselves the time to just be present in the moment, happy and accepting.

The next Chaya Detox retreats are running from 8th – 10th March or  from 22nd – 24th March. www.chayayogaretreats.com/retreats

For more information on kinesiology visit www.kintreatment.co.uk

A Couple of Daisy’s Recipes

Raw Choc Recipe – serves 12

Base

12 oz cacao butter

4 oz coconut butter

12 oz cacao powder

8 oz dark agave nectar

Optional additions:

8 drops peppermint / orange oil

Raisins, chopped almonds, desiccated coconut

Method
Melt cacao and coconut butter using a bain-marie, stir in cacao powder, agave nectar and any optional additions, add to moulds and refrigerate for at least 1 hr.  So simple!

Mung Bean Curry – serves 4

1 tsp coconut oil

1 red onion, chopped

1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp grated ginger

4 small red chillies, finely chopped

1 tbsp white miso paste

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp paprika

2 dried kaffir lime leaves

3 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 sweet potato, diced

400ml coconut milk

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp Himalayan crystal salt

150g mung beans, cooked

2 handfuls spinach

1 handful coriander, chopped

Method
Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies and white miso paste and sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onion softens. Add spices, lime leaves and tomatoes and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until tomatoes soften. Add sweet potato and cook for 3 minutes, then add the coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, crystal salt and mung beans. Simmer for 15-20mins until the sweet potato is tender. Stir through the spinach leaves immediately before serving and add the coriander to garnish.

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