Detoxing & Yoga in Italy
The idea of going on a retreat has instantly spiritual connotations but in reality you don’t need to be soul searching to book in for a week off.
I first went to a detox retreat five years ago to Portugal and loved the experience. Solo travel presents challenges that I didn’t want to deal with at the time. The retreat provided a place in the sun, airport transfers, sports and activities I could engage with as well as company with like-minded people, when I felt like getting involved. In short it was a cosseted way to get some R&R and sunshine.
Freelance life requires consistent growth and the ability to adapt to and navigate change and for the past few years I’ve made a point of getting away to a retreat for a week and consistently noticed the benefit. It seems ironic but taking a week off work leads to my most productive weeks upon returning. I feel charged up, have had time to reflect on whats working, what isn’t and how to face the upcoming year and make the changes required to stay relevant in an every changing landscape.
In choosing where to go I always stick to Europe and under the 4 hour travel time window as nothing un-dos the good of a blissful week than 10 hours of travel time.
Over the years I have done juice weeks and whilst I have felt wonderful at the end, the thought of it can be a bit daunting.
KaliYoga was set up in 2002 by two yoga teachers from London first in southern Spain in the Alpujarra region and then in Puglia, southern Italy.
After some research I decided to go to their Italian destination and booked in.
The weekly retreats in Puglia start on Sunday and end the following Saturday. The retreat and accommodation are located in a 17th century property on 9 acres of cultivated, private land.
Facilities include a spacious octagonal yoga studio, outdoor swimming pool, kitchen & dining terrace, private patios, lavender garden and vineyard. There are plenty of cosy nooks set up to read a book or just take some time to yourself enjoying the surroundings.
Accommodation is in the Masseria, which is a stunning white farmhouse, and a cluster of iconic Trullo apartments. The Trullo, unique to Puglia, is a circular stone cottage with a pointy roof.
My room was spacious and overlooking a field of lavender but the bathroom was across the hall. There was also a shared kitchen with a fridge to store anything you might require - I take a probiotic daily so this was handy - as well as a kettle to make tea.
What I loved most was the presence of animals. There were two Maremma Sheepdogs which you could take out for walks or play with, a currently pregnant donkey and an abundance of extremely friendly cats.
The routine serves as a structure to lightly or strictly adhere to depending on what you feel you need. There is a no talking rule in the morning which is actually lovely and saves the need for bleary eyed attempts at small talk. Hot water, honey, lemon and ginger is provided in the kitchen to start the day with before a 30 minute guided meditation at 8.30.
Yoga begins at 9 am and every morning there is a workshop for an hour focusing on an area of the body ie - hips, abs, feet, followed by an hour of flow Yoga.
I have two years of regular yoga practice under my belt but I found the classes challenging. The heat and also being in ‘retreat mode’ added to a feeling of being a bit exhausted for the first morning. Nothing is expected though and the teacher Lauren provided alternate options for different levels and adjusted us where required. Occasionally I just lay in Child’s pose. For those not familiar with yoga this is simply lying your head on the mat and requires little effort!
After yoga at 11 am the biggest meal of the day is served and an abundant gluten-free vegetarian and vegan spread is laid out in the kitchen to help yourself to.
The food here was nothing short of spectacular and even if someone had no interest in going vegetarian I feel they would be surprised how satisfying it was. Everyday there were delicious salads with great use of vegan proteins - which I often find lacking- a gluten free bread, the olive focaccia was a particular favourite, avocados, potatoes, rice, hummus as well as eggs and cheese, all freshly prepared using local organic ingredients.
Thereafter the day opened up to free time to read, enjoy the pool or just sleep, as I found myself unexpectedly doing, or else you can book in for treatments. They offer a range of massages including hot stone, Lomi Lomi and reflexology but in the interest of taking things a little deeper I opted for a Biodynamic Breathwork session. Treatments cost €60 for 1 hour and the therapists are local but for the sessions I had they all spoke good English.
Biodynamic Breathwork is based on the belief that most of us have experienced emotional or physical trauma on some level, which can restrict our breathing and our capacity to feel or in some cases our capacity to stop feeling. The result is body armouring and muscular tension which can continue for our whole lives until we make a decision to change this pattern.
I dressed in loose clothing for the session and was instructed to breath deeply in a rhythmic pattern and before I knew why tears were falling down my face in abundance, and a dizzy tingling was vibrating though my legs. I was instructed to tense up my arms and legs as tight as I could and then release them, to push as forcefully as possible against the (incredibly strong) arms of the therapist Allesandra and then release. After about thirty minutes of this I felt physically and emotionally exhausted but also lighter. The latter part of the session was spent lying down whilst she did reiki on me. That night and for the remainder of the week I had very clear dreams. I was reminded of things I had forgotten had hurt me at the time but had obviously held onto somewhere deep in my body.
I definitely believe the treatment helped me bring some deep emotions to the surface. Being in a country atmosphere with space to walk and time to think helped process any upset that came to the surface after. Bring a notebook or diary to jot things down as they come to you.
Afternoon tea was served at 2.30. This was usually a vegan cake or energy balls. On the day of my birthday they very kindly made me a raw vegan brownie with a chocolate ganache - it was sublime!
During the afternoon again there was free time to enjoy the pool, take one of the dogs for a walk, go for a cycle or take part in a workshop in cooking or dance and a sound bath which cost an additional €20.
Restorative yoga took place at 5.30. This was extremely relaxed and most people nodded off during it. KaliYoga was testament to realising how tired we all are. Day-to-day I buzz about trying to get through my to-do lists yet here by the end of the day in the restorative classes lifting an arm at times seemed like a challenge. Looking around the room it appeared we were all in the same boat. The body has an amazing capacity to keep going and adjust to the challenges life brings but I believe incessantly moving forward without repose will eventually lead to burnout.
Aperitivo was served at 7.30 on the terrace overlooking the sunset before buffet dinner at 7.30.
I found I was in bed most nights sleeping soundly by 9.30. Every night I had weird and intense dreams. Emotionally I felt a little up and down throughout the week but overall by the end of the week I felt recharged.
If the idea of being in one place for a week terrifies you don’t worry. There is the option to go into the local market on Wednesday morning and on Friday to go to the beach and into the local town for a meal, a glass or wine, whatever you fancy. KaliYoga is definitely not a spartan puritanical place and I never felt hungry or in fact bored. I hadn’t explored Italy much and really got a sense of the abundant feeling of nourishment their food has and also how loving they are.
There are countless articles written on the health benefits of the mediterranean diet and at the heart of it is an appreciation for agriculture, healthy fats and community. This week was testament to that. I felt nourished on many levels, both from the conversations, the atmosphere, the food created with such love and the Italian countryside setting.
I’m back home with a renewed sense of energy and also curiosity to explore more of Italy.
Getting there -
The retreat runs Sunday to Saturday. Ryanair provides direct flights to Bari Airport which the retreat can arrange a transfer to and from.
The flights operate on a Friday or a Monday so ideally stretch out your trip and enjoy Puglia town for a night either side. There are direct flights from London also.
On my week there was an Irish couple who had come via Rome and were going onto Sicily. If you have time and resources this is a stunning place to explore, energised after a week of yoga and sleeping.