On October 9th, I packed my bags and left my London life behind for a week teaching yoga on the beautiful island of Vis in Croatia.
The journey didn’t come without its challenges but overall it was a week of sunshine (mostly), new friends, meditation, Vinyasa yoga, Yin yoga and of course, some poolside posing.
Here’s what we got up to with the wonderful team at Croatia-retreat.com...
The group arrived late in the evening so amidst a power outage, a heavy shower of rain and a warm welcome from the retreat hosts Mario and Milda, I took the time to calm a mix of nerves and excitement by reading a book by one of my favourite inspirational yogis, Rachel Brathen.
Day one of classes, we started off with a high energy Vinyasa class followed by a delicious and healthy breakfast. The sun was still hiding so after we’d eaten, Mario took us into the town of Vis to learn a little about the history as we got snap-happy with all the beautiful rustic buildings.
We wrapped up the day with a meditation in the cosy studio, each praying for some sunshine so that we could venture outside for class the next day.
Still a little chilly in the morning, I led the class through another powerful Vinyasa sequence, building the pitta (fire) energy with a good few rounds of sun salutations to warm our bodies up from the inside out.
Thankfully the sun gods had heard our prayers the night before and by the time we’d wrapped up breakfast, the golden rays were out in force. We wasted no time at all donning our swimwear as we huddled into the minivan and on to Stiniva beach where we took a short hike down the steep mountainside to reach the pebbly beach where we were delighted with this stunning view…
Post-swim, we played around with some Acro moves and attracted the attention of some other travelers who were soon joining in the fun.
With the sun still shining brightly that evening, we decided to make the most of it and took our Yin yoga practice outside to the poolside, warming up first with some chanting along to Deva Premal and Mitel’s ‘Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu‘. For many of the guests, it was their first time chanting but it seemed to go down well as requests were made the next day for more of the same.
Despite the seemingly easy trek down the mountain the day before, some of us were feeling surprisingly achy the next morning so we used the first class of the day to focus on opening up the hips to relieve any tightness before we headed off on another adventure with our hosts, this time to the picturesque town of Komiza.
As with most things in life, where there is light, there is darkness to be found too. After three days of bliss and harmony, the muggy humid weather seemed to have had a little too heated effect on one of the guests culminating in a fiery outburst “It’s too hot, no?” during our morning Vinyasa class, catching the class mid-flow and bringing us all to a grinding halt. Another student started shouting out advice and I knew I needed to take control of the situation quickly before it ruined the experience for the rest of the class. Thankfully we were able to continue, bringing the energy back up and ending on a high note but the shock was still with me and I had to take a moment to myself to let go and take in a valuable lesson from the morning.
No matter how others act, we can only be in control of our own reactions. Rather than fighting fire with fire, I took the choice to come at the situation with love and it paid off, as the rest of the day only brought us back into harmony, culminating in a beautiful relaxing Yin Yoga class, opening up the seven chakras (energy centres along the spine) in our evening class, paying particular attention to the heart chakra 😉
The rain came down again on the Thursday and thankfully the humidity went down with it. We took a slower pace in our morning Vinyasa class, choosing instead to hold the poses for longer to build heat in a different way. Post-class we enjoyed another delicious, healthy meal and that let our creative juices flow with an afternoon of art therapy with the lovely Milda.
I’d bought an adult colouring book earlier in the year and was loving the relaxing quality of becoming absorbed in creating beautiful images on the page, but post-class I could feel that my body wanted to get moving so I donned my new trainers and took off for a speedy walk towards the beach. As soon as I stepped out of the villa, the ideas came flooding in and I scrapped my original evening plans for class, instead opting to take the group on a Mindful walk around the garden, followed by an energy-boosting dance outside the studio, before eventually winding down with a relaxing Yin practice, focusing on digestion as we were all still getting used to our new healthier diet.
Our final day with the group and thankfully the sun came out to make it one of our best days yet. We practiced Vinyasa outside by the pool, turning our faces to the sun as we twisted our bodies in crescent lunge twist and prayer twist. We guzzled up breakfast, then switched yoga gear for swimsuits as we played by the pool, sunbathing, reading and taking photos of some of our favourite yoga poses.
But it’s not all yoga, yoga, yoga despite what the title might suggest. We were on holiday after all and so for our final lunch together we convinced Milda and Mario to drop the aprons and join us for a lunch of freshly caught fish, Mediterranean vegetables and of course a glass or two of bubbly Prosecco at a restaurant in town.
Another evening Yin class and it was with great sadness that we waved goodbye to the guests who were departing early Saturday morning.
Milda and Mario are currently working on plans for the 2016 yoga retreats but keep your eye on Croatia-retreat.com for updates. Hopefully I’ll be joining them again on the wonderful island of Vis.