MORE energy, greater flexibility, a clearer mind and a toned body – there are so many reasons so many of us are switching to yoga instead of pounding the pavements or powerlifting at the gym.
We are lucky enough to be living in an area that boasts retreat centres that regularly top the best-in-the-world lists of respected UK newspapers like The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Times.
The centres featured below are all set in drop dead gorgeous locations, with state-of-the-art yoga halls and retreats led by internationally renowned yoga teachers. Add fresh organic veggies and the great Spanish climate and getting up at 6am for a Sunrise Salutation in your PJs will seem like heaven. Namaste!
Molino del Rey
Hand built and lovingly crafted by owners Anthony and Lidiya, this centre is one of the pioneers in these parts, running since 1994. Just 50 minutes inland from Malaga in the stunning Sierra de las Nieves, it hosts a wide range of retreats, including spa and massage treatments, hiking and hillwalking. I visited 18 years ago and was impressed by its beautiful location and one-of-a-kind cave pool zone.
Anthony assures me that every year since my visit they have continued to build and perfect the property, laughing that there is almost nothing left to improve during the months it is closed (November-April).
Testament to their success, some guests have been repeat-visiting for 20 years, and their retreat calendar is booked out a year in advance.
A former boutique hotel commandeering 30,000sq metres of countryside 25 km from Malaga.This beautiful property was transformed into a retreat centre in 2015 through the vision of renowned teacher Simon Low. Co-founder of the London Tri Yoga centres, he oversaw the construction of the enormous yoga hall, including its unique feature wall studded with hooks for straps and belts to assist with postures . Low leads a number of retreats himself but the centre also attracts some of the very best teachers – like Leela Miller, creator of the teacher training programme at Tri Yoga. Once the private teacher to Trudie Styler and Madonna, she is also credited with sparking Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifelong devotion to yoga.
Leela cites Santillan’s studio as probably the best she has ever worked in. “It’s a playground for yoga teachers if you know how to use that stuff.”
The retreat she runs with Bridget Woods Kramer offers a programme as broad as it is deep. Classes cover meditation, dynamic yoga, yoga Nidra ( guided meditation)and technique workshops. With 60 years of friendship and teaching experience between them, they bring an ‘interesting mix’.
Retreats focus on Shadow Yoga ( a Tai Chi and yoga fusion) and other forms of yoga, together with mobility work – precise exercises that are rooted in scientific discovery and physiotherapy. ‘
“Since traditional yoga makes you more flexible than strong, it is important to include strengthening work to protect the body from injury, says Leela. “Yoga is a spiritual practice – the physical supports the meditation.”.
Leela and Bridget are running their next retreat from May 30 to June 6. Olive Press readers will get an exclusive 10% discount if booked by 1 March. email@example.com
This renovated olive farm in the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema is the result of Vidya Heisel’s long search for the best European yoga retreat centre. Unable to find it, she created it herself. An English-born international yoga teacher, she taught extensively at different yoga retreat centres globally for many years. Many students come from the UK to complete her teacher training courses and Vidya claims her state of the art yoga hall is’ the biggest and most beautiful’ in Europe.
There are a broad range of retreats combining yoga with horse riding, wine, Spanish language learning, permaculture, adventure and teacher training. Even if you’re not into yoga you are welcome to stay at the centre’s beautiful cortijo hotel with saltwater pool, sauna and organic menu to experience the beauty of the surroundings.
Described by The Telegraph as ‘Asia meets Spain’ and one of their top-rated wellbeing holidays of 2012 and 2016, Shanti Som sits in the Sierra de las Nieves mountains near Monda, tucked away from roads under a canopy of trees. Inspired by Balinese architecture and Feng Shui interior design, this stylish health spa offers twice daily yoga classes in either their indoor studio or outdoor yoga pavilion, along with a wide range of health and beauty treatments and healing therapies. They also have personal trainers available for private training sessions and pilates lessons.
In 2002 yogis Jonathan and Rosie Miles left London in search of a beautiful location for a retreat centre. Their friend Kali predicted that it would be in the Alpujarras, and so it came to pass; Kaliyoga was founded. It has been a success story from the beginning and they have recently opened a second centre in Puglia, Italy.
Testimonials on their website are full of praise and guests repeat year after year. Barack Obama’s staff wrote long and glowing testimonials following their visit in 2019.
Unlike many retreat centres, classes at Kali Yoga are taught by their own in-house teachers.
Their blog is well designed and an interesting read, so whether or not you manage to visit, it is still worth a look.
Unlike most retreats, this centre in Albir, Costa Blanca is open all year round and offers shorter three-day courses as well as the usual week-long stays. Founded in 2013 by John and Lisa Brant, La Crisalida offer a wide range of yoga, health and wellbeing retreats led by an experienced and professional team.
Lisa, a former epidemiologist, is now a yoga teacher, nutritionist and NLP coach, while John left his job as an actuary to become an NLP, hypnosis and life coach. Together they promote alternative health through their retreat programmes. Their website is professional, detailed and informative.
Yoga and wellbeing coach Natalie Farrell leads retreats and classes for women in Sotogrande Her aim is to create a safe space where they can unlock and free their voices. She also aims to provide support for women on the brink of change and help them plan their future. Following the retreat she stays in touch, believing after care to be an important part of the process. Natalie is particularly passionate about sustainable living, and works with organic food suppliers for the catering on her retreats.
Teaching styles are tailored to the students’ capabilities and she creates ‘a discipline of listening rather than looking’ in her class, so that they learn to create movements from within, rather than simply imitating a shape. This way, they can ‘develop a connection to who they really are’ and ‘celebrate their individuality’ rather than competing and copying.
Natalie is now taking bookings for her September 24.28 retreat in Sotogrande. Her online yoga clothes shop and blog can be found at yummyyogagirl.com or contact Natalie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lucia Yoga offers three different styles – hatha, ashtanga and vinyasa yoga – in three locations so you can choose between mountain, city and beach: a nature reserve in the hills of Grazalema, Granada or Puerta Santa Maria in Cadiz.
Retreats start from three days and are led by bilingual yogi and psychologist Patricia Villegas, whose vision is for us to reconnect to our basic sanity and health. Some retreats combine beautiful hill walking and hiking in the Grazalema mountains and Ronda area.
Prices can vary on these breaks depending on the length of stay or type of retreat. Food, drinks, classes, talks and relaxation sessions are usually included and, in some cases, airport transfers too. It’s worth checking out websites for details and any special offers.
Other useful websites