Conde Nast Traveller
Who’d have thought it? A yoga sanctuary at Sandy Lane, albeit one with a pink-neon-lit pool.Lisa Johnson goes holistic in the warmth of the Caribbean. Photographs by Shannon Greer
The sea beneath the catamaran was a pale aqua colour. Francesca sat up front, humming to the gravelly vocals of Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton, while Lisa shimmied up the mast. We all went snorkelling and as I turned my gaze from a starfish on the seabed, a Hawksbill turtle swam past my nose. I followed it for a while, then I climbed out to watch the sunset. ‘Look out for the green flash!’ yelled skipper Eddie. We looked and did not see. But the sky was like molten lava, a swirling mass of red and gold. Then suddenly the stars were out and Eddie was massaging Francesca’s feet. I felt more like an extra in a music video than a yoga student on a retreat.
Yogoloji runs retreats in a number of enticing locations from Tanzania and Cyprus to the highlands of Scotland. Barbados was one of its original destinations and works on several levels: as well as providing 10 day of high quality yoga and holistic therapies, it delivers a proper dose of winter sunshine and a Barbados experience that is both rootsy and ruggedly beautiful.
I had worried that the choice of venue – the Sandy Lane Estate – might be too manicured and flash to provide the right mood. But Jamoon, our private villa, had none of the Palladian pomp of the famous hotel, The seven suite villa is certainly luxurious, with its pool lit up in pink neon and a staff of six, including a chef. But it also has the easy elegance of a private house, with oil paintings on the walls, Etruscan vases on antique cabinets and art books on coffee tables. Furnished by Francesca’s interior designer mother and recently refurbished, the villa doubles as a family bolthole – Francesca has been holidaying here for years. Now aged 32 she has an insider’s love of the island and is friends with many of the locals including a marine biologist, her brother, our surf instructor, adn Bongo Man, a foot masseur on the Sandy Lane beach who has applied fresh aloe to the feet of all four Rolling Stones, and has an album of snaps to prove it! For anyone who has dabbled in yoga and wants to know what it feels like to really get stuck in, a retreat is definitely the way forward, thought it’s hard work. Every day starts with two hours of vinyasa (dynamic) yoga, followed by an hour of holistic therapy and one or two hours of soft flowing ‘Yin’ yoga and/or meditating before supper. So it was just as well the yoga space was a balmy outdoor veranda that looked out onto gardens of palm, bamboo and ‘shak shak’ trees. Fans whirred and incense wafted as Lisa told us that ‘Om’ was the sound of the universe; green monkeys flashed past as we progressed from sun salutations to shoulder stand; tiny frogs hopped across our mat s as we meditated to the night chorus.
Our teacher has studied with Mark Whitwell and appears in his latest DVD. She is inspirational: sunny and graceful strong and supple, continually adapting the posture sequences and intensity of the practice to suit the ability of the group.
Read the whole Conde Nast Traveller article here.
Harpers and Queen
Not a spa, exactly but a deliciously tempting hybrid – the epitome of barefoot chic. The brainchild of Italian and Finnish twerntysomethings Francesca Quaradeghini and Liisa halme, Yogoloji gives a fillip to both body and soul through its wide range of programmes, treatments and yoga – all with leading practitioners in their fields. Mix, match or ignore activities as you see fit – Yogoloji is a moveable pamper-fest.To date, retreats have been held in Barbados ( a regular venue) with Ilheus in Brazil hosting the February retreat. Future retreats include programmes in Scotland, Tanzania and Italy. Highlights: A recent Barbados retreat featured tennis lessons with Charlie Cannon (Sienna Miller’s coach), kick boxing with Andrew Porteous, followed by one of his legendary holistic massages, and Bobbie Joy’s magical hot stone therapy. Bobbie, acupuncturist to the stars, even makes needles feel good. Twice-daily yoga sessions with Liisa are Yogoloji staple diet, along with a feast of healthy foods deliciously prepared by resident chefs, lax drinking regulations and oodles of personal attention. Lowlights: The ever-changing cast of expert therapists and coaches means your favourite guru might not feature on the next retreat. Insights: There are four 10 day retreats a year all set in beautiful locations (whether private villas or small castaway hotels)l each one is unique. With yoga, personal training and therapies as the basis of the holidays different retreats may feature meditation, ayurvedic detox, diving, skiing, martial arts or capoeira as special activities. Yogoloji has the convivial atmosphere of a house party, hosted by Francesac and Liisa. Informal, non-prescriptive and unthreatening to singles and spa virgins
Health and Fitness
“I was living in Paris eight years ago, when my flatmate suggested we try a yoga class. Some friends were practising Astanga so I started going with them and fell in love with it. I went to whatever courses I could find and had good teachers, which kept me motivated. I have been to ashrams in India since, which is fairly hardcore but it’s great to do total immersion. To hear speakers on the spiritual principles of yoga is amazing. The first changes I noticed with regular practice were mental and emotional. I started to calm down – my emotions weren’t ruling my life anymore. I noticed there was a massive reduction in my stress levels and the way I dealt with problems was different. Having done a lot of dance and gymnastics I was already quite fit but yoga gave me a feeling of calmness too – I’d never really learned relaxation before. And I had so much more energy. As a child I’d been asthmatic but yoga finally helped me to get to grips with my breathing – its helped me breathe properly and consciously. My body is now strong, mobile and healthy. I still do other sports when I go climbing, I find I’m fit enough to kepp up with out doing any triaing. Im more agile and my concentration is better. Part of yoga is understanding what your body needs and listening to it. But even when I am 96 years old I know I will still be discovering new things about yoga
Yoga in theory: relaxing
In practice: a stressful group activity with 100 sweaty stress balls who’ve shlepped across the capital after work to contort their bodies – in your face Yogoloji, a company that arranges bliss-inducing yoga retreats in Barbadso, Brazil and Tanzania has just set up a cozy nook on Ebury Street. Forget about hefty sessions of compulsory downward dogging at sparrows fart followed by rice cake and rank tea. The vibe is posh yet affordable, and all they do is one to one yoga. No stinky group classes: just what you and whatever your body needs. Which may be one of their unbelievably good massages. There are four kinds to choose from: worker bee rubber neck, soul and body (you know who you are). Do not operate heavy machinery or attend any demanding social functions after these: all you’ll want to do is curl up and go to sleep. Do so. You’ll need your energy to cross the city again tomorrow.
Yogoloji is the brainchild of massage therapist Francesca Quaradeghini and yoga teacher Liisa Halme. The two friends decided to combine their skills and set up a company organising luxury yoga retreats as well as offering customers various therapies. The busibes became so successful that they launched their Belgravia studio at 54 a Ebury St six months ago, where you’l also find a range of natural face and body products. Ms Quaradeghini specialises in Ayurvedic massage which stimulates vital areas of the body, as well as holistic and deep tissue therapies. Ms Halme teaches yoga postures, meditation, and breathing exercises. And several specialist therapists cater for clients’ specific needs either at the studio or on home visits. They include a Chi Gung /Tai Chi master, acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and a hydrotherapist. The company’s luxury retreats take place in Barbados, Tanzania and Scotland.”Yogoloji breaks are for people who want to look after themselves from the inside out in beautiful surroundings while enjoying the holiday they have been dreaming of.” Says Ms Quaradeghini
Where can I find a relaxing holiday that combines yoga with other fun activities? Yogoloji is a new luxury retreat company that offers exclusive yoga breaks with a twist from horse back riding under the moonlight to canoe expeditions through mangroves. Locations include Barbados, Pemba (one of the Zanzibar islands) and Brazil. Each guest also receives individual yoga plans and yoga classes are also available in London on your return.
The yoga specialist Yogoloji has a Scottish retreat at Alladale Lodge, on a 35,000 acre estate near Inverness, As well as therapies, massage and yoga classes, it offers clay pigeon shooting, fly fishing, mountain biking and hikes. Three or four nights including all food and activities. The nearest airport is Inverness and the operator will arrange transfers.
The Harpers Bazaar Spa Guide
A brief but rejuvenating retreat to this highland lodge in the Scottish Wilderness is perfect for those who are short of time. An intimate group gathers for twice daily yoga classes and therapies from highly trained pros. After pushing yourself to hatha limits, expect delicious (albeit macrobiotic) meal from your chef. When you’re not meditating there are holistic massage treatments on offer, tailored to the individual’s body type and current state of mind. Yogoloji also organises retreats for small groups at villas in other countries including Tanzania and Brazil.
You can do more than watch wildlife in Tanzania. In addition to yoga classes, Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge, on the slopes of Mount Meru, offers Ayurvedic therapies, massage and guided meditation. Those who want to venture into the wild can try horseback riding, safari’s or a trek up Mount Meru.