We were happy to have a visit from Dr Malik and Archana from the UK’s Yoga Magazine. They fully joined in for one of Helen’s retreats, so great to have them in class. The Yoga Rocks vibe is best when felt from within, a bit like kirtan! Here is the article about us – there is loads in there so if you want to get a bit of a better idea of what we do, it is worth a read.
Yoga Rocks is a little piece of heaven, a playground for all on the edge of a delicious sea with endless possibilities. South Crete’s perfect climate allows for exciting exploration or beach life at the cooler ends of the season, the middle being warm and melty with swimming just a couple of minutes from the retreat by foot. It’s far from cliquey but naturally friendly and inclusive. Guests, from complete beginners out for some holiday yoga, through to dedicated practitioners and yoga teachers are all equally welcome. Yoga Rocks is a true but vibrant sanctuary far away from the busy-ness of everyday life. Rather than a prescriptive retreat where there’s a solid idea of what makes a great holiday for you – it’s a space where the options are open and your choices facilitated.
The yoga teachers, many of whom have been leading retreats with Yoga Rocks for over 10 years, are down to earth, experienced and dedicated to yoga as well as the retreat experience. One teacher has been running retreats since the late 70s! Genuine offerings from a variety of styles mean everyone is catered for here and there is an emphasis on the whole yoga experience. The asana, physical poses, range from ashtanga vinyasa to funky flow and more chilled hatha yoga. Most teachers incorporate an accessible introduction to the subtler practices of pranayama and meditation, those with experience can dive deep in. The afternoon classes are often more workshop style and can also include restorative classes, yin yoga and yoga nidra. The practices will include suggestions for softer or more radical options, as your body or mood takes you. You can have a spin through the website and see who appeals or shoot off an email with your needs and expectations for recommendations. This is a yoga place run by yoga practitioners so everyone is involved in their own practice and the communications reflect this.
The yoga space itself invites practice and peace. Spacious, uncluttered and practical, it overlooks the bay and its dragon rock formation on one side, while on the other side the endless sea view stretches long out to the horizon. A dreamy focus point for tree pose! Fully equipped with everything you need to get comfy from bolsters to blankets and even rope points on the wall for those Iyengary moments.
At Yoga Rocks they love food. Their internationally recognized retreat cuisine is mouth-watering with satisfying dishes and variety to suit everyone’s tastes. Whether you are into local greens and sun-drenched tomatoes, subtle Asian spreads or carefully crafted burgers and chips their huge ever-changing veggie buffets won’t disappoint! This is not a detox retreat – far from it – though as long as you are happy with lots of olive oil you can pile on the veggies and salads ramping up your vitamin intake and soothing your digestion.
It’s a foody place rather than faddy place, taking inspiration from the produce, the region as well as around the world. Classic veggie dishes that stand in their own right rather than a ‘alternative option.’ ‘Living food’ or food that’s alive as they like to say is well represented on the buffets. Enjoy spouts and regular fermented fare like sauerkraut or sample something more exotic and punchy like kimchi or natto. Great food needs great ingredients and Crete is blessed with abundant and tasty produce. From the regular Mediterranean fare, Crete’s high mountains and ‘tropical zones’ add variety and length to growing seasons and available produce. Fresh, local and seasonal produce provides the base for both simple and inventive delicacies. The vegetables are tastier on Crete, the olive oil unbeatable and the range impressive with even kiwis and bananas grown on the island.
Feeling alive is really encouraged at Yoga Rocks and the food aims to compliment that. Taste explosions and healthiness combining to makes meals a joy inviting vibrancy and energy to the body.
In the comfy breakfast lounge right by the sea you can help yourself to homemade goodies from granola to local sheep yoghurt to amazing own recipe sourdough bread. All things crunchy, sweet and juicy are available all day and into the night should you wish, as are a great selection of funky and traditional beverages. You can also squeeze yourself an incredible Cretan orange.
The nearest beach has a friendly beach bar and umbrellas for a relaxing easy experience. There is a quietly titillating social scene for those who need but within 8 minutes’ walk you can be completely by yourself and bathing in that nature feeling. Even in August the wild beaches nearby are almost empty with space to zone out totally. There are dunes to explore and stunning rock formations for the daring to climb and leap from. The backdrop of mountains that sport snow-capped peaks in winter creates that spinning feeling of space, in between are gorges and waterfalls though many guests hardly make it out of the near vicinity of the retreat. It is not necessary to go far, all you need is right there for you.
The sea is mostly calm and crystal clear, even experienced travellers and sea freaks are mesmerised. There is enticing swimming from all the beaches and other more secluded spots to lounge on the rocks like lizards. You can snorkel and though it is no barrier reef there are plentiful pretty coloured wrasse, occasional friendly octopuses or squirty cuttlefish and more recently the stunning yet rather naughty lionfish. The visibility and the fascinating underwater architecture tempt visitors and team alike back and back again to have another look.
Your hosts Helen and Phil work together with a friendly and dedicated team including Ian, the longest serving and very popular with the many returnees. Each brings their own magic to the smooth functioning of the retreat. Many know the area well, loving its nature, or are committed yogis, teachers or masseurs. They complement this understated and simple space so you feel totally at ease with no worries. The energy in the guest group also forms an easy going, inclusive vibe that is at the same time casual but intimate while space giving. Feel supported and cared for as you slip down several gears and take this time to do what you need to for yourself. Rest and sleep are strongly encouraged as often this is what is missing from daily life in the real world.
After a week (or two!) here the difference is clearly visible in retreaters as they leave. The eyes and jaws are softer, limbs longer and looser and a twinkle surrounds them. Though sad to go, most are better prepared for returning to life and most return. A week at Yoga Rocks can be a life changer.
It is just not like any other yoga retreat – Isabel
Thank you for such a welcoming atmosphere, great yoga teaching, the chats and the amazing food. So nice to meet everyone else too from different countries. It was just the break I needed in the relentless covid stuff in England, so nice to go into a pre-covid environment and remember what it’s like to think and feel other stuff! – Meg
Many thanks for looking after me so well last week. I had a wonderful time, yoga, weather, food, accommodation all fantastic. Lovely bunch on the retreat too – old and new friends. – Adrienne
The time and space felt so full of your kind and loving energy, and there were beautiful moments of exchange with the people in the group, and for sure the ‘blasts of the very best of craziness’ in between were infectious, and the very special practice was enjoyable! – Haljna
I came stiff and stressed and after only one week with you I left physically much more flexible and very relaxed. Thank you for your lovely teachings and your kind heart. – Eleni
I had a fantastic week at Yoga Rocks in June. I have been on a few yoga holidays and always travel alone so always have anxiety about how friendly and chilled it will be. There were many yogies who were there for their 2nd and 3rd time and within 10 mins of arriving I also felt very much at home and quickly relaxed into a wonderful nurturing environment. The location is fab, allowing me to a have a daily swim and a hike. The food was amazing and I was never bored as there were many different dishes created everyday. All the staff were friendly and after a week I felt sad to be leaving some pretty special people and an amazing spot on the planet and so hope to return. – Rosemary
We have some very different teachers, many of whom have been teaching for decades and truly live their yoga.
Danny Paradise has been teaching retreats since 1979 and counts Madonna and Sting amongst his students though he is very subtle and won’t really talk about it! His classes are legendary, starting with a deep pranayama sequence that over a week or sometimes two can totally change your breathing capacity. Then once you are relaxed he chats for a while about all things yogic followed by steady asana practice. Practising with him, you can feel his experience in the movements and the genuine acceptance of whatever your practice brings that day.
David Williams was arguably the first westerner to complete the whole ashtanga syllabus back in the 70s and since then he has done his best to maintain the most relaxed and safe ashtanga practice in the world. He loves being at Yoga Rocks and had a happy band of followers who are all happily share his pretty unique philosophy.
When they first stared running Yoga Rocks in 2010 Helen and Phil were determined to track down this gentle and dedicated hatha yoga teacher they had encountered on their travels. Googling Sky proved a little challenging but they found him and his 25 years of accessible organic asana, pranayama, chanting and Vedanta means his retreats have life changing potential.
Prana Flow, a yoga vibe arising through Shiva Rea, finds one of its most down to earth, practical and knowledgeable teachers in Coral Brown. Her concise classes leave you satisfied, glowing and raring to go to the beach, via the breakfast lounge! She is a secret yoga genius and her speciality in mental processes spans from the qualities represented by the yoga deities to chakras and their connection to modern psychology. She is a powerhouse and her regulars come back and back to spend time with her.
A retreat with Melanie Cooper cannot help but leave you a little wiser in the ways of yoga. She has written a book on ashtanga and teaches an array of trainings with yin, yoga nidra and anatomy being her current focus. At Yoga Rocks she goes back to her roots teaching early morning Mysore classes followed by a led ashtanga primary series assisted by her partner Emil. She encourages ashtanga newbies to dive in and try both, though there is no pressure and guests enjoy as little or a much as is needed. Anatomy is entertainingly weaved through the week, connecting the mornings with succulent afternoons of pranayama, juicy yin and nidra.
Yoga Rock’s first teacher was Maria Boox. Recently diving deep into the joys and subtleties of pranayama, she originally trained as an Iyengar teacher before being drawn into the practice of ashtanga vinyasa. Maria loves Rumi and talks poetically and precisely about yoga philosophy in her pranayama or restorative afternoons. In the morning her sincere Mysore self-practice classes are rewarding for beginners and advanced practitioners. The unworldly vibe, enhanced by the sound of ujjayi breath takes guests deep within inviting profound insights.
Gosta is a force of nature. Outspoken, kind, feisty and hilarious, he teaches yoga with a passion rarely experienced. One of the first to teach ‘power yoga’ in Amsterdam freshly returned from NY, he and his husband Patrick have spent years exploring, studying, teaching, chanting and inspiring their students. This is the whole yoga package ready to unpack and enjoy. He was made ‘Yogi of the year’ by the Netherland’s Yoga Magazine and rarely teaching retreats, a week with Gos is a challenging, transformative treat.
The constant trickle of movement in a class with Anastasis is what makes his classes really special. You don’t really get anywhere, you just keep moving and discovering all sorts of new places on the way. From up in Northern Greece and now living in Chania, Crete, he calls it ‘Zorba Yoga’. He expertly finds all those little stuck points in the body – the practice is strong but not at all extreme. This retreat can total change your practice and your body, opening your mind up to new and subtle practices/movements. His dedication to his yoga journey is a constant inspiration. From martial arts and dance to his Indian guru, from meditation to classical music his influences are many and it is a total joy to share them with him.
Helen loves teaching yoga asana. After years of balancing her practice, experimenting with pranayama, meditation, chanting, philosophy and questioning the importance of the physical component, she finds herself coming full circle rejoicing in transformational movement. Meditation is a important part of her retreat mornings; she feels this healing art is an essential tool to have available in times of crisis. Weaving everything together is part of the fun and asking the essential question: what are we even doing? Lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time to be a co-founder of Yoga Rocks she is super grateful for this amazing opportunity to practice what she loves in such a spectacular setting.