words by Jen Grieves
What’s your idea of staying healthy? Eating right and sweating up a storm? That was my understanding, until I tentatively shunned pumping iron for a week in favour of a holistic, vegetarian lifestyle at Kaliyoga in Spain…
Being a fairly active lady who is used to clocking hours in the gym and pounding the pavement, I initially approached yoga with some caution. It looked wonderful, but would I be bored? Would I feel any tangible benefits? I imagine this is the trepidation of many thinking about giving the downward dog a chance, but I was feeling the effects of spending many hours a week hunched over my desk and knew that a week of turning off my work emails and escaping the rat race would do me no harm. But my week in the Andalusian mountains had more of an effect on me, my lifestyle and my outlook to my health than I could possibly have prepared for.
Enter Kaliyoga – aka paradise. As soon as I stepped off the plane and felt the Spanish heat on my skin I was greeted with a warm hug from my transfer host, Julie. Instantly my shoulders relaxed. Through the two hour drive to the small town of Orgiva, tucked away in the hills of Sierra Nevada we chatted away and I already felt myself yearning for the happy and simpler life that Julie led. As we pulled into the Kaliyoga resort I barely had time to appreciate the breath-taking surroundings before I was given another warm hug by the wonderful hostess Jane, who greeted me with a beaming smile and a light in her eyes that left me in no uncertain terms that I was in for a wonderful week.
Kaliyoga was set up 12 years ago by an English couple and has fast become one of the go-to resorts for the increasingly popular yoga holiday. Jane told me that the majority of their clients were single women in their 30s and 40s who were looking to reconnect with themselves after devoting time to children or work for decades. There were 14 of us staying in the resort from all corners of the world.
The small but bustling nearby town of Orgiva has a relatively large British expat community, and every one I met during my stay was full of joy at being alive, finding pleasure in things that we are generally too busy to appreciate – the sun rising and the abundance of the earth, for instance. It was refreshing, and infectious.
My accommodation for the week was a delightful teepee, and although single, twin and double rooms are also available I was more than delighted with my adorable and comfortable abode – the highlight being the shared outdoor shower complete with stunning view. Kaliyoga hosts no more than 15 people for each six day stay. I was signed up to the Dynamic Vinyasa Relax week, but Kaliyoga also offers juicing detoxes, hill walking retreats or raw superfood stays for those looking for that extra oomph.
Kaliyoga bills itself as ‘an antitode to exhaustion and stress’ and this ethos exudes from everything you encounter at the resort – from the people to the setting to of course, the twice daily practice. Led by English teacher Lely Aldworth (another wonderful influence of both tranquillity and positivity), they were set in an absolutely stunning yoga shala that looked out over the Spanish mountains – a slightly different start to the day than my normal dashing around bleary-eyed and getting squashed on the morning commute. The ever-calm Lely was patient with us as we developed our practice and allowed us the flexibility and freedom to work to a level that was comfortable for each individual, all the while passing on her exceptional knowledge of Ashtanga and Yin yoga in a way that steadily rejuvenated the connection with my body and mind. We moved through a sequence of postures during the two hour session, as well as practicing static poses and inversions, all of which I felt confident enough to practice at home by the end of the stay. In just six days I went from being tentative in my practice to fluid and empowered. Thanks to the emphasis on using the body, mind and breath connection as a seamless enabler of inner peace and calm, I managed to unlock a huge sense of inner-contentment that I wasn’t even aware I was lacking. I couldn’t have imagined ever experiencing something like this through my practice back at home, and was worlds away from shouts and screams of ‘Keep Going!’ that I was used to in my regular gym classes.
The yoga encouraged me to listen from within, and for the first time I became aware of what my body was trying to tell me; my senses were heightened and I left each session feeling like I was gliding through the air. It left me with a real need to look after and nourish my body from the inside out; to appreciate it and do everything I can to take care of it, rather than taking it for granted and filling it with toxic substances (this still sounds ridiculous to me as I write it, so if you’re raising your eyebrows as you read this with a glass of Malbec – don’t worry, I hear ya).
The food at Kaliyoga was plentiful and varied; far from being sparse plates of limp lettuce I had once envisaged vegetarian fare to be. An abundance of locally grown fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains were presented to us at each meal, with the three-course evening meal being a social highlight of each day.
In between classes we were free to soak up the sun and relax by the pool, but many of us took advantage of the diverse optional holistic treatments on offer. Curious to open my mind as much as possible while I had the chance, I shunned the more traditional treatments like aromatherapy and sports massage for a foot reading and reflexology treatment. This was an extremely transformative 90 minute therapy that shed light on slight but consistent imbalances I’d been experiencing for some time. We worked through letting go of issues that I had let cloud over me from years back, and I left feeling calmer and more at ease than I had for years.
I was absolutely dumbfounded by the change in myself when I left Kaliyoga. I’d arrived thinking I wasn’t particularly stressed, angry or unhappy; knowing I enjoyed a vibrant, busy and plentiful life, but the benefits of stepping back from this for a week and looking within have changed me immeasurably. I experienced so much more than a holiday – I was a complete convert to a calmer, more holistic approach to life and vowed to continue my learnings back in the UK. I’ve since added a trip to the health food store to my regular weekly shop and have yet to feel the need to eat meat!
At the very least Kaliyoga will offer you gorgeous surroundings, great company, wonderful food, fantastic yoga practice and a chance to give yourself some me time. At most it can absolutely change your entire approach to health and wellbeing for the better.
The Kaliyoga Dynamic Relax Week starts from £795pp including all meals except Wednesday evening, yoga and transfers to and from Malaga airport. Optional therapies cost between 50 and 80 euros per treatment.