A few days before I flew off to the red city of Marrakech on the sui generis Pilates and Photography retreat, a few yoga students and musician friends popped over for dinner. In between OM bowls and wine they began teasing me over the delightful and certainly unique combo of activities I was raving about. “Why Pilates and Photography?” they playfully nagged at me. My writer friend suggested it was for alliteration purposes as both past times began with P whereas the Type A personality stated it was clearly a way to appeal to a wider audience. Whatever we may have procrastinated over the truth of the matter was revealed to me as I finally wound my way back to Morocco after a day of traversing across continents, only this time I wasn’t the backpacking yogi; I was a Pilates Princess who was about to discover a Privileged, Perfectly Packaged holiday clearly fit for a celebrity (we did in fact see one of those in our cooking class but that’s for another blog).
Perhaps it was the beaming personal driver who graciously relieved me of my bags at the airport, or maybe it was the meticulously organised emails and pre-retreat information that arrived in my inbox unloading any uncertainties from my mind from Mareile Paley, founder and owner of Pilates Retreat Asia, a luxury health and wellness platform offering worldwide retreats in astounding locations. It could also have conceivably been the serendipitous hosts Carrie and Grace that greeted me upon arrival at Peacock Pavilions; a handmade, artisanal boutique hotel on the outskirts of Marrakech, walkie talkies and clipboards in hand, or the knock out ethnic art and tribal interiors at the Pavilion curated by American designer and author Maryam Montague and her architect husband, Chris Redecke, founders and owners of this charming oasis.
And, that’s not to mention the World class Basi Pilates instructor, Tash Barnard (who I’m sure could give Candice Swanepoel’s trainer a run for his money), tailored made menu plan featuring farm-to-table Moroccan cuisine and all-encompassing excursion plan to the Souks, Spa, Essaouira, camels, cooking and photography workshops. It’s fair to say this galvanic retreat, in its supreme entirety was breathtakingly luxurious and incomparable. It also transpired that every single attendee possessed a passion for both Pilates and photography. I’d have to explain that to my curious friends back home.
First impressions left me ravenous; a spicy lentil soup was served to me with freshly made rosemary bread and Moroccan tea on the glossy tilled terrace overlooking the 800ft pool. I set down my temporary roots in one of the five individual guest rooms, all of which feature a wood fireplace, private terrace, walk-in shower and air conditioning. After a welcomed nap I mindfully tiptoed over the Indian meditation stepping stones and made my way to the Pilates tent to take our first class.
It’s fair to say, as a devoted yogi and practically Pilates virgin I relished in launching myself out of my comfort zone and learning new techniques for core control, alignment, using rubber bands to isolated muscles in my bottom I never knew existed from Tash. We practised every morning and most evenings, there were also private sessions given to every student. Tash’s generosity and energy are matchless and I sensed the collective appreciation of the group. I began to envisage a kaleidoscope of butterflies breaking free from the tyranny of their busy lives and flying high in the Moroccan sky.
A dinner party awaited us in the Arabian dining tent, where host Maryam elegantly charmed us with her insider knowledge of the city, her mystical Moroccan tales, expert travel tips and passion for community development. Maryam exudes a universal magnetism, bursting with strong and intelligent opinions, this star-like quality left us all mesmerised and wide-eared as she shared her exclusive decor tips about what it takes to set a chic bohemian table: colour and pattern, overhead lighting, roses from the garden nestled in ceramic tea glasses, vintage gold cutlery and an exquisite sari turned table cloth touches enveloped us in an air of balmy wonderland magic.
Food highlights from the week included a whole assortment of mouth-watering homemade pies: apples pies, tarts and lavender creams, slow-cooked chicken tagine and spicy pumpkin soup. Every evening seemed to up the fun ante as we enjoyed a movie night under the stars, dinner in a a modern Moroccan hangout in Essauria One Up, where the exquisite fish, rich meat dishes and boudoir-style decor provided the perfect dinning experience, danced around the night markets in the Souk and wound our way to Nomad, a young-ish and stylish food and drinks hangout in a white-washed roof terrace, closing with a Henna and Cocktail party on the final night.
Apace with the exhilarating schedule, the photography element of the retreat was effortlessly weaved into the week. Detailed and simplified workshops, tips and support were provided by Seza Bali a talented photographer from Istanbul. Seza inspired us to take full advantage of the soulful backdrop of Marrakech and shoot, shoot, shoot! Advice was given for shooting with both smart phones and professional cameras and everybody professedly enjoyed developing their innate creativity.
As departure time approached I packed my Moroccan spices, jasmine slippers and memories up into my case to be enjoyed for many a days once I returned home. It’s safe to say this retreat, this location and this teacher sunk deep in to my heart, revitalised my mind and reaffirmed my belief that if you focus on the powerful, euphoric, magical things in life the universe will keep just giving them to you.
Join Pilates Retreat Asia for their next retreat Pilates, Yoga and Walking in Greece.
Kat is on the Soul Seed Travel blogging team.
Following the completion of an intensive yoga teacher training in Morocco with Yoga Alliance UK I have continued to progress on my spiritual path, training and studying with the likes of renown teachers Shiva Rea, Simon Parks, Rod Stryker, Bodhiyoga.es (mindfulness yoga), Tara Lee and Uma Dinsmore-Tuli.
I am passionate about sharing the joy of yoga with all and run 2 successful yoga studios in Spain from where I also hosts monthly retreats, combining Buddhist principles, meditation and a flowing form of vinyasa yoga that creates energy, joy and health in every cell, pulse and beat of the mindbody – igniting your soul and enlivening your spirit www.lifeesbella.tumblr.com.