About a month ago, I got a call from my agent about a yoga retreat. I was struck by an immediate dilema, because whilst I’m massively into health and fitness, I am not nor never have been at all flexible whatsoever. I am also fiercely competitive and hate doing things I’m not good at. Which pretty much writes-off yoga. But then Emma dropped in the location: Spain. Say no more, fam.
So we arrived in the hills of Denia, an hour or so north of Alicante. On the flight I’d set about managing expectations (I’m bad at yoga), and promised to try my best (so long as there was no ohm-ing. Which, of course, there was).
The Casa Ananda yoga retreat is run by Josh and Maria, who met in the Himalayas before living in ashrams in France, London and Madrid. Maria is Spanish and Josh is from Essex, but is also – very handily – fluent in Spanish. As we settled into our rooms (we each had a massive double room plus en suite with balcony access and sweeping views), Josh explained some house rules. Actually no, not rules. Guidelines. Our stay at Casa Ananda was very much 360 – we followed the five principles of sattvic, which means healthy and peaceful living – asanas (exercise), pranayama (breathing), savasana (relaxation), diet (we followed a vegan, caffeine-free diet), and meditation. But the retreat is flexible to include as much or as little as you want and everything is totally optional. Even the 7am starts. Which turned out to be surprisingly rewarding.
The retreats aim to emerse guests in traditional Sivananda teachings, so everything about your stay is guided by creating a balance of peace within mind, body and spirit.
Each morning, we were woken up by a gentle bell being rung, to signal preparations for meditation. If I’m honest, meditation was the part that I found hardest. My lifestyle in London is fairly chaotic, and sitting alone with my own thoughts for even a minute just doesn’t happen. Which, to be honest, serves me perfectly. I won’t go into details here, but five years ago my life was turned upside-down by a sudden and extreme trauma. My immediate response was to numb the pain by any possible means, which lead to an absolute dependence on distraction.
By the time I got to Casa Ananda it had been five years since I’d sat, taken a bath, or even fallen asleep in silence. I just couldn’t stand to acknowledge and feel what I knew to be true. I won’t say that Casa Ananda cured this, but by the final meditation session I no longer felt compelled to open my eyes, fidget, or distract everyone else. I felt a weird peacefulness and had lost the anxious energy that I’d felt at the beginning of the week.
I want to take a moment also to talk about the food. As a slightly fussy, gluten-free, occasionally-dairy-free type I sometimes struggle when I’m abroad to find foods I like. Despite the structure of two main meals plus one snack at Casa Ananda, I never really felt hungry. Becoming much more present during mealtimes and being fully aware of what I was eating actually improved my feelings of satiety after comparatively light meals. On the second day Maria baked the most amazing gluten-free cake using almond meal. It was next level.
Casa Anada is available on a room-only basis, or as we did, including yoga, activities and food. To book, visit their website.