Alison Faith finds her sanctuary at the blissed out Yoga Rocks retreat on the island of Crete
My excitement is building as I start to recognise the last few wiggly, windy miles weaving backwards and forwards through the mountains leading down to Yoga Rocks, Triopetra, on the southernmost Greek island of Crete.
Of course, being a yoga teacher myself I’m not meant to admit to ‘anticipation’ (shhh…don’t tell anyone), but I can’t help myself. This is my third visit to the place I call ‘my sanctuary’ and once again it exceeds all my expectations.
Our hosts Helen and Phil have thought of everything to ensure that the moment you step foot on the island you are looked after. In the week prior to the retreat they link you with other guests arriving at a similar time. Sharing a taxi or a hire car provides a great introduction as you meander your way across Crete from the north coast to the south, and further and further away from civilisation towards Triopetra.
Triopetra means ‘three rocks’ in Greek, and the view of those same rocks from the retreat centre is simply stunning, particularly at sunset. Located on the island’s south coast, in an isolated and unspoilt part of Crete that would be virtually impossible to find by accident, (and could be quite tricky to find on purpose if it wasn’t for some brilliant directions) Triopetra is a well-kept secret, a refuge of relaxation and renewal.
Keeping it fresh
Each week, a different teacher shares their interpretation, practice and schedule. This week (September 2012), our teacher is David Lurey, a vibrant and charismatic yogi and musician originally from California now living in Majorca. On the retreat we practise Mauna (silence) in the early morning prior to a two-hour asana session. There is a second class later in the afternoon and mantra singing after dinner under the stars.
Early every morning, we potter, not fully awake, down to the covered outdoor yoga deck. Rolling out our mats facing the sea with the rising sun to our left and the swimming pool to our right the feeling of connection and interdependence with nature is immediate, and a sensation of deep gratitude begins to pervade. Lurey teaches a relatively energetic, mindful, vinyasa style in the mornings. Throughout this week his theme is the chakra system.
After an energising class we are all ready for breakfast which is a buffet-style. Some of the treats waiting for us include homemade muesli, yoghurt, bread and peanut butter, local honey, nuts and fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice and, of course, fresh coffee. Our hosts also produce a traditional Cretan fermented nutritious wheat soup concoction for the brave hearted souls among the group. Not me though. One sip gave me the strength to throw the rest away although but many others were up to the challenge.
After breakfast we are free until lunchtime. Sometimes we wander down to one of the beaches, sometimes we take a little excursion to one of the neighbouring villages, but more often (in my case) we sit by the pool reading, snoozing, talking and listening to the merry chatter and laughter coming from the kitchen.
Actually, listening is one of my favourite pastimes at Yoga Rocks. It may be a yoga cliché but the sound of peace, love and happiness is everywhere. The hosts work tirelessly to ensure every stay is perfect, yet there is never a cross word or raised voice. All you hear is the sound of harmony and contentment. It’s truly refreshing and seriously contagious.
Lunchtime is a scrumptious buffet of colourful and nutritious, fresh local produce. We gorge ourselves usually having second or third helpings, followed by fresh melon or sometimes cake or baklava and lashings of Cretan mountain tea.
A snooze in a hammock strung over the yoga deck is called for before the afternoon yoga class begins. This week we get to experience a range of alternative yoga styles. There is a session of Yin Yoga, a nourishing restorative practice, some serious Acro-Yoga fun on the beach and a guided Thai Massage class. Another culinary triumph awaits us for dinner followed by a relaxed evening of mantra singing under the stars.
Yoga Rocks has all the ingredients you would expect of a yoga retreat, a wonderful menu of teachers to choose from, a stunning location, amazing undeveloped beaches and delicious local vegetarian food.
But it also has so much more. Hosts Helen and Phil have created a magical space of love and joy, an inspirational environment for both newcomers to yoga and experienced practitioners alike. A safe haven to unwind, cleanse and recharge.
All too soon I find myself back in the taxi heading towards the mountains. It’s been another wonderful week and I feel refreshed and grounded, ready to face the world again. My eyes are filled with tears of joy and gratitude for the experience, and yes, also some sadness to be leaving. But I know I will return again next season.