I arrived late afternoon into Malaga, just in time to feel the final flush of Autumn sun before the heavens opened and an unseasonably heavy rain flooded down from the now cloudy sky.
Thankfully, I’d already made it to my home for the weekend, ‘La Rejana‘, a beautiful yoga retreat located in the hills of Southern Spain. Overlooking Torrox, Nerja and Frigliana, the retreat was the perfect getaway from what had been yet another busy summer in London.
By the time I arrived at the retreat, the rest of the guests (6 other women) had already completed their first yoga class and established friendships but as I walked into the casa, it was clear that I was going to be welcomed into the fold immediately. I was to be sharing a room with an American girl, also called Lauren. I quickly unpacked and freshened up as we chatted and got to know each other a little. Soon we were ready to join the others for what we soon discovered was to be the highlight of the weekend, the food. That night we enjoyed a delicious (and nutritious) meal cooked by Michael, the owner and chef at La Rejana.
Although it was unseasonably cool for this time of year in Spain, we dined outside on the terrace, swapping stories about our lives back at home and connecting over our mutual love of yoga.
We were a mixed group, ranging from me (the youngest at 28) through to the others in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s but we soon bonded over a glass of wine as we marvelled at each wonderful dish served up to us. After dinner, we sat around chatting before each person slowly drifted off to bed until it was just my room-mate Lauren and I left gossiping like school girls until around midnight when we finally drifted off.
When it rains in Spain…
Saturday morning came around and still the rain was beating down. We gathered in the studio at 8:30am, feeling chillier than we would have liked, ready for our first class of the day. Mirka, our yoga teacher and joint owner of the retreat, took us through a two hour class of Iyengar-style yoga.
Now I must admit, that first morning I struggled to settle my mind in the class as the slower style of yoga coupled with the drafty yoga studio contrasted quite drastically with the heated Vinyasa and Bikram classes I was used to practising back at home. As we lay in Savasana my mind kept drifting to the clock, wondering when the class would end so that I could warm up with a cup of tea and some breakfast.
But the point of the trip had been relaxation and, as someone who struggles to sit still or switch off for any length of time, this style of yoga was perhaps just what I needed.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of coffee, fresh orange, home-made muesli, natural yoghurt and locally made avocado honey, followed by gluten-free toast and grilled tomatoes. Yet the rain still continued on. Not to be disheartened, Lauren, Alice and I decided to join Michael on his trip down to nearby Nerja town. Michael went off to do some shopping for our evening meal whilst we dipped in and out of the shops, trying to stay dry in the never-ending downpour. After an hour or so, soaked to the skin, we decided that a sneaky drink was in order and headed to a local bar before racing back to the car to head back to the retreat for our evening class.
This time we focused on some more restorative poses, using props such as bolsters, chairs and blocks to support our bodies as we lay in each position for around 10 minutes, the ideal amount of time for us to fully relax and feel the benefits of each pose.
Towards the end of the class I was feeling quite sleepy and incredibly relaxed and as my mind drifted once more I couldn’t help thinking that I would no doubt sleep well that evening. But, as it was, the restorative postures only served to boost our energy and after another delicious 3-course meal on the patio, we were anything but ready for bed.
Now, I love my healthy food but as someone who is constantly running around at a boot camp class, rushing out to meet a friend for drinks, dashing round the shops for a last minute birthday present or even working through a hot power yoga class, I can certainly eat a lot. So, when I read that all of the meals would be provided by the retreat, I was a little concerned that we’d be dining on lettuce leaves and carrot sticks for the whole weekend. Gladly I was wrong! For me, the food was perhaps the highlight of the trip (apart from the fabulous company of course!). That night for example, we dined on avocado with melted goats cheese to start, mushroom risotto for the main and natural yoghurt with mango for dessert. By the end of the trip we were all begging Michael for his recipes and encouraging him to quickly get started on a cook book.
By Sunday morning the sun had finally decided to rear it’s head and I for one was feeling far too energised to relax. So, after a two hour yoga class and another delicious breakfast, I roped Jackie into joining me for a ‘stroll’ around the mountain. We headed off, chatting away as we ambled down the hill, further and further into the valley below, not paying much attention as to where or how far we were headed. After a while we came to a dead end in the road and it became clear that we’d either have to find another path or head straight back up the steep steep hill we’d so easily plodded down. Aware that lunch was soon being served, we decided on heading back up the hill, no mean feat in the midday sun, especially for Jackie who was recovering from quite a traumatic skiing injury. I felt awful as she struggled up, kicking myself for not thinking that she would perhaps find it more difficult, but she was determined to keep going and so we slowly made our way up.
After a light lunch, I was still bursting with energy and so when two of the other ladies, Janet and Joan, mentioned that they were heading into town for the afternoon I decided to join them. As the taxi sped along the winding roads of the hillside, I was beginning to regret my decision as I felt sicker and sicker with each turn. When we finally reached the beach I practically jumped out of the taxi but I quickly sat myself down outside a bar with a refreshing Corona and some pitta with tzatziki, and was soon feeling better. Janet had left us for a swim in the sea, so Joan and I chatted as we turned our heads to the beating sun, soaking up every last ray before it was sadly time to head back.
Our sadness at leaving the sunshine behind soon disappeared though as we swapped our beach clothes for yoga gear and headed into the studio. One of my favourite things about this particular studio was the HUGE skylight which took up most of the ceiling. As we lay in some of the more relaxing poses, I couldn’t help but turn my head up to the sky and feel instantly relaxed as I watched the clouds slowly drifting by.
That night dinner was even more tasty than usual. We sipped sparkling wine and toasted to what had been a lovely weekend in the hills of Southern Spain. Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits as we continued our ‘tradition’ of dining al fresco on the terrace. We sat laughing for hours as Joan regaled us with tales of her life back at home in Ireland, made all the more amusing by her enthusiastic expressions and soft Irish accent. After dinner, I opened up some more wine that I’d purchased as a treat for everyone earlier on my trip into town. We stayed up chatting and then tumbled into bed again around midnight, thankfully already packed up for an early departure the next morning.
I’d said my goodbyes the evening before and so I tiptoed out of bed in the morning, not wanting to wake Lauren from her slumper and enjoyed my final breakfast on the terrace. By the time I was done, everyone was slowly waking up and so I said a final goodbye, with a particularly warm embrace from our lovely hosts Mirka and Michael, before Michael kindly drove me to the bus station and I made my way on to the airport.
As usual my weekend away had given me much pause for thought as I contemplated the pros and cons of life in London. On the one hand; I had a wonderful group of friends, a new job which although not exactly thrilling gave me plenty of time for my hobbies and enough money for quite a few trips each year, but on the other I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and couldn’t help but wish I could set up home somewhere more chilled out (by the beach, naturally). But until I make up my mind, I’m sure there’ll be another trip or two on the horizon!