Soooo… during my self-imposed exile from the bloggersphere , I decided to take myself off on ‘my very first yoga retreat’ and, whilst it didn’t quite provide the much needed R&R I’d been looking for, it’s certainly provided more than a little material for my return…

Having researched endless European yoga retreats (the net is awash with them :-0 ), I finally settled on one in the heart of Umbria; Italian truffle country. My decision was based upon the enticing photos and the ‘abundance’ of “food, energy and love” being peddled at this “luxury yoga retreat” as per their website and, the absence of any significant ‘negative’ reviews online.

Yoga-genericSo, did I pick wisely or, was my retreat more like The Overlook Hotel from The Shining?

First off, define ‘luxury’ – maybe it’s just me, but the following list, and in no particular order, are some of my concerns around the use of this word when used in association with this retreat…

The Swimming Pool – Having finally arrived at the retreat after a very long and winding journey (it’s incredibly remote), me and my fellow yogis, whom we’d picked up from the nearest town (and boy did they wish they’d stayed there instead!), we found nothing more than an oversized kids paddling pool (not the handsome swimming pool that had clearly been very skillfully photographed for the website) located in the dusty car park! Now if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I like to swim most days, so holiday pools are a BIG thing for me. This one was fed by freezing mountain water and, whilst this might sound romantic, it was so cold that it was virtually impossible to actually swim in it, unless of course you’re partial to hypothermia; and that’s if you make it up the hazardous (not hilarious) Laurel and Hardy ladder in order to even get in it!

The Accommodation – My shared room was very dark, with a flimsy sheet for a door to the bathroom and, a shower over the toilet setup that would have been better suited to a youth hostel or one of those compact Japanese ‘micro-living’ hotels. Whilst this prompted an immediate bout of constipation (as well as nervous laughter), me and my roomie were eventually able to see the funny side and make the appropriate arrangements when it came to ‘toilet time’. Less funny were the beds – incredibly uncomfortable Z beds with soft, unsupportive mattresses and, I had a bunch of old paintings and an empty printer box stashed under my bed. Roomie and I also shared our room with various countryside critters, worms and termites :-0  Oh and did I mention, not enough space to swing a cat, let alone unpack the belongings of two guests for a week! There were also no truly relaxing areas to chill out, other than a very small and dingy sitting room where you had to share the sofa with a very sweet but rather old, incontinent dog. Speaking of dogs – the local ones howled from their respective territories most nights too – grrrrreat; as if I don’t have enough trouble sleeping :-0

The Food -The vegetarian food was mostly good but carb heavy, low on greenery and protein and, did not make allowances for those with lactose or gluten intolerances (ok, so I’m a pain in the arse, but don’t ask guests to stipulate their preferences on your booking form then treat them like social pariahs when they arrive!) No fresh juices (which were used as a selling point on the website) were served either, until the last few days of my 2 week stay and this was only after I put in a request. I was clearly the guest from hell :-0 (this shocked face emoji is becoming a theme throughout this blog spot, non?)

The Yoga – I have to say, if it wasn’t for my fellow (equally disappointed) yogis and the wonderfully inspirational yoga practitioners (with no connection to the retreat whatsoever) I may, quite conceivably, have gone slightly bonkers :-0  The yoga space inside the old 10th Century monastery, complete with catacombs and very rustic, was also very dirty and dusty, as were the yoga mats. Meditation may have been beneficial but the only thing I could focus on, apart from whether or not the whole place was about to collapse, was the sound of the termites munching away at the wooden beams above me! However, the silver lining? – I got to practise 4 hours of all manner of yoga (Vinyasa Flow, Iyengar, Kundalini and Nidra to name but a few) per day, save for the odd morning when I really couldn’t be arsed 😉

The Excursions – A trip to a local restaurant one night, where dinner had been billed by management to be “one of the best restaurants in Italy” was little more than a poor relation to Papa John’s Pizza joint, only with a little boar stew served on the side 😉 On the plus side though, there was a visit to a nearby thermal spa and, I got to see the local towns of both Spoleto and the beautiful Assisi.

The Hosts – The couple (whilst perfectly pleasant to me) that ran the retreat seemed to have little interest in yoga themselves (they hire both yoga teachers and chefs onto the retreat throughout the season, some of whom seemingly manage to put a brave face on it, some of whom don’t and retreat from the retreat sharpish before their residency has expired :-0 (there’s another one!) They pitch themselves as ‘energy psychologists’ so there is an opportunity to attend one of their ‘workshops’ to help rid you of any ‘demons’ that you might be carrying. Look, this might work for some people and, I’m always open to new things but feel less inclined when the ‘therapy’ is being peddled like crack and the pusher has so much baggage herself that you couldn’t possibly offload any of your own shit on to her, for fear of her leaping off the nearest ravine!

Any tips for future yoga holibobs? – Don’t always believe what you see when it comes to fancy websites and, do a little more digging when it comes to reviews – I found some rather more realistic reviews on closer inspection but, only after I’d returned home from ‘The Overlook Hotel’ 🙁 If someone can recommend a retreat to you based on personal experience, I’d be inclined to take their advice as opposed to ‘going in blind’ like I did 🙂

In summary…

Whilst I can laugh about it all now, this place was totally overpriced and certainly NOT the “luxury retreat” it professed to be, or maybe I’m just being a princess… But, there are always positives to these experiences and my positives were that I got to hang out with some exceptionally good humoured and inspired humans and, I also rediscovered my yoga mojo, which can only be a good thing right? More on the benefits of yoga coming to a Zodleblog near you soon…