Soul Seed Travel blogger Kat Webster heads to Portugal to join the Algarve Yoga 7 day Yoga and Wellness Holiday.
Tucked away in a tiny hamlet of Quinta Das Pedras near Salema beach, surrounded by the rolling hills of southern Portugal is a beautiful and pristine Portuguese villa, where the sounds of leaves rustling in the morning breeze, the purr of a friendly cat and the song of a bird fill the medicinal air. The high-beamed rooms, mahogany oak floors and French windows provide the perfect indoor living and yoga space, overlooking a shaded terrace, petite pool and meditation rock garden.
There is an outside yoga deck for balmy days and an abundance of space, allowing for privacy. The house comfortably sleeps 12 bed people and the 4 rooms are divided into 2 double rooms and 2 shared rooms. The shared rooms sleep up to 4 yogis and can be mixed gender.
If, like myself you prefer a little solitude a variety of single rooms are available offsite within walking distance from base.
I’d been instructed to prepare for my visit by quitting tea and coffee – the five hours daily yoga schedule would be challenging enough without the additional burden of caffeine withdrawal; I ignored the caution, wolfing down two emergency coffees at Bilbao bus terminal and a tub of Pringles and white wine at Lisbon, the migraines that followed were pretty horrendous but absolutely worth the cold turkey. The sun was out when we arrived, so we sat on the terrace chatting to Diana and her stellar sidekick and vegan chef as we shared a communal supper of veggie delights. Throughout the retreat roasted goats cheesed dressed with plump walnuts, creamy chai tea, quinoa porridge, homemade yoghurt, raw peppers, carrots with avocado, dexterous dhal dishes and tangy, perfectly cooked rice, chickpea curries, homemade gluten-free breads and muffins nourished us on a deep, cellular and emotional level.
It became obvious during our weekend that Diana and her team are passionate about health, but they’re not dogmatic or pushy, which may explain why her retreats attract such an eclectic crowd. As well as health-conscious, stressed-out career women, guests included students, retired ladies and mothers – all of whom relished this opportunity to rejuvenate and allow deep healing to happen.
Diana has designed a colourful calendar, hosting a variety of retreats from April through to December which include yoga and surf holidays, detox retreats, juice fasts and the one I frequented: a yoga delight retreat combining a soft detox with 5 hours of daily practice including 6.30am meditation and pranayama followed by a longingly awaited natural power shake served at 8am supervened by slow, soft and stimulating asana endearingly delivered by Diana.
I became very conscious of the fact, as Diana warmly encouraged her students to push and stretch less, tranquillise on rigid ideas of alignment and take plenty of breathers, that my peers surprisingly felt their preconditioned ideas of what a disciplined yoga practice really entailed slip away; after all yoga should leave you energised and never tired or sore, something us westernisers find hard to grasp and accept.
Over the past four years, between hosting and visiting, I’ve enjoyed more than 20 wellness retreats, experiencing my fair share of inspiring teachers, spirited students, piquant meals and snug shared rooms.
I’ve always bowed out of retreat energised and embodied, but not, until now, have I left imbued with such clarity; but then I’ve never encountered a teacher who so peacefully encourages her students to forget all the beautiful yoga poses we admire in books and blazoned across social media, a teacher who sincerely admits that the style of yoga she teaches; vijñāna yoga, is not popular with the masses (don’t worry I hadn’t heard of this style either), a teacher who wholeheartedly aspires to teach from yogic traditions and shuns any attempt to westernise and corporately package her offerings; a teacher I feel blessed to have experienced, Diana Jost of Algarve Yoga. Mornings concluded with a hearty brunch and plenty of time for our digestive fires to work their nutrition-drawing magic before evening practice at 5 – 7 pm, rounding off the day with a culling of cosmopolitan dinners, each day representing the cuisine of different countries; Italy, India, Mexico and more. Polite and easy chit-chat drifted us into moonlight and deep sleep around 10pm.
I loved this retreat, there was no fancy schedule, no extra curricula activities, no soundtrack, no forced group bonding sessions just absolute freedom and cherished space to allow for self reflection and introspection – this was holistic healing at its best. Diana gracefully shined a guiding light in the direction of consciousness, cultivating within us a deeper understanding of lasting health; something that is found in the earth, in the breath within the breath and always deep within the heart.