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Travel guides, city guides, hotel reviews, travel tips across England, Europe, India, Sri Lanka, South East Asia

Flying Solo At A Yoga Retreat…

Until last month I’d never been on a Yoga Retreat before. I’d worked at one – Soul & Surf, Kerala in southern India – but I hadn’t been a guest fully immersing myself in the zen.

Nor had I ever been to Ibiza. – So when my first & favourite Yoga Teacher, Steffy White, announced her 2017 summer retreat, I jumped on in.

I say ‘jumped on in’, but was probably a little more hesitant that that.

Not because I was unsure about Steffy’s yoga (I go to 2 or 3 classes with her most weeks so I know how much I love the Yang and Yin she offers). And I need zero persuasion to be get to the beach. The hesitation was the idea of going on holiday on my own…

Steffy was totally encouraging when I asked her about going at it alone and sharing a room with strangers-who-inevitably-turned-friends; reassuring that lots of people fly solo on a retreat – and that I’d be spending a week with like-minded souls, all there for a similar reason.

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So with that I booked my first ever solo holiday.

It was a totally liberating moment, knowing that I’d worked hard enough over the year to be able to treat myself to a trip that was all my own. A chance to spend hours practicing what I love doing most, delving deeper into my practice, relaxing and re-energising – and all with a teacher that I admire and really resonate with…

And of course knowing that I’d be heading off to Ibiza was pretty amazing as well!

Down to the details…

The Retreat was through Steffy’s company White Light Yoga

The theme, Journeying Through The Chakras...

Sharing Steff’s fascination with the subtle energy system of the body and the way in which we can use yoga (yin and yang) breathing and meditation to unblock and rebalance ourselves – the theme of her Ibiza retreat more than resonated with what I am (and my teaching) is about.

I recently furthered my teacher training with a 20-hour course in Mandala Flow & The Elements with The Yoga People. (I will be going on to take the full 100-hour Mandala & Shamanism Course in Goa next March). But thanks to my 20-hour introduction to Jamie and Dulce’s Mandala training, I have some understanding, and come to feel the benefit, of creating yoga and meditation practices and classes centered around the connection between each Element and its corresponding Chakra.

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My key learning from the training, and what I most looked forward to (and subsequently, absolutely loved about Steffy’s retreat) was delving into Chakra and Elemental focused yoga practice and understanding how this offers up an intention to bring healing to our first four energy centres (the lower four Chakras / the lower parts of the physical body), of which each is connected to an element (Earth, Water, Fire, Air).

I knew we would be working deeply (both physically and spiritually), to connect the breath with a still mind and the subtle energies of the body, via creatively sequenced, inspiring dynamic and soothing practices. – With a teacher I couldn’t trust and love to learn from more.

So, what was included?…

Where we stayed

We were so lucky with our villa. Steffy found the most perfect home at the stunning Casa Lakshmi Luz. Casa Lakshmi Luz is a true oasis, a heavenly space that holds the group energy, amidst the peace and tranquility of the beautiful Ibizan countryside.

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The interior is bright, spacious, welcoming and tranquil. A home from home where you can fully relax, unwind and breathe into your retreat.

Step outside onto the pool terraces and chill-out gardens and outdoor yoga deck, with Moroccan influences, there are many spaces to rest your head, siesta, relax and dream – choose from sun or shade, comfy sun lounger or colourful hammock.

Casa Lakshmi Luz is located ten minutes from the golden sands and turquoise waters of Cala Nova and only a 15 minute drive from (now) one of my most favourite beaches in the world, Benirras.

The yoga

We woke up around 7am each morning an honoured a silent hour (Vipasana) – it’s amazing. Spending the first hour of your day with yourself, in silence. Perhaps meditating, perhaps writing your journal by the pool; perhaps making yourself a giant Quinoa Milk Latte and sitting in the hazy early morning sun smiling – rather than sleepily and mindlessly chatting – to your fellow retreaters.

It’s beautiful. Peaceful smiles and morning nods of the head to acknowledge each other, while you’re with yourself and a slow morning mind as you pick up your mat, bolsters and blocks to make your way over to the stunning Shala for 2 hours of insanely amazing dynamic flow.

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I’ve tried at home to keep the Vipasana up with Jamie – just 10-15 minutes of silent acknowledgement in the mornings to meditate, set intentions for the day – and enjoy coffee in bed in peace – sometimes we manage…

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Every morning with the exception of a rest-day mid week, we practiced a two-hour dynamic, creative Vinyasa and Mandala Flow; focused on a particular chakra (moving from root to crown) connected to its corresponding element.

The classes were amazing, inspiring and pushed you (in a kind way) to try the things the mind will often tell you you can’t do – but when in the breath and an open space – the body might just take you.

We played with inversions, closed with Yin and enjoyed a long, sweaty savasana before an amazing breakfast buffet feast of plant based goodness was served.

In the evening we luxuriated into long-hold Yin practices, working with the same chakra. It was intense, soothing and hazy – quieting the mind and surrounding to a deep restorative pose for minutes at a time is the perfect balance to the morning’s yang – leaving you feeling pretty stoned.

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Steffy’s practices are creative, soulful, well prepared, fun, functional and spiritual.

The food

The food was off the chain! Staying with us was Sarah of Bondi Kitchen – who when she isn’t feeding grateful retreaters her homemade Lifechanging Loaf (a vegan, gluten free loaf using seeds), clean, raw peanut butter cups, baked granola, falafel and watermelon gazpacho; is the on-set chef for the likes of Wonder Woman – giving her that paleo power, or cooking at home for Will Smith.

We were utterly spoiled with nourishing, vegan, seasonal, plant-based, locally sourced, heavenly brunches, lunches, snacks and dinners.

The Bondi Kitchen is launching in Wholefoods soon with resealable protein balls – def worth checking out!

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Typical Schedule

  • 7.30am: Teas, coffees and juices
  • 8-10am: Dynamic Elemental flow
  • 10am: Breakfast
  • Free time: beach/nap/sunbathe/pool/journal/explore/book in for massages and therapies/ do whatever your heart desires!
  • On some of the afternoons there were optional inversion workshops, a workshop on creating your own self-practice at home, Reiki massages and a Gong bath.
  • 6-7.30pm Yin yoga
  • 7.30pm: Dinner

During the days we either chilled by the pool, visited the old town or headed to beaches to sunbath (we hired a couple of cars between us to get around). On the last night we watched the sun set with cocktails at Experimental Beach Club.

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I honestly had the best time. In the middle of the week I took myself off to Benirras beach and spent a solid 10 hours moving from sand to sea. (I had aggravated an old injury in my back so wasn’t allowed to yoga for a day).

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I think it was the first day of the entire year that I didn’t have something to do or somewhere to be and while floating around in the sea a whole lot of everything was dropped. It was my favourite day of the year. Utter bliss.

The week was amazing. I’d recommend booking onto one of Steffy’s retreats, either with friends, your lover, yourself – dropping any expectation and being open to everything you delve into on the way.

2018 Retreats will be listed here soon

 

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For the first time ever I have succeeded in keeping January a dry month! #DRYJANUARY SUCCESS! And having felt so good for it I haven’t even poured an Espresso Martini down my throat this morning and convinced myself it was breakfast (as I’d initially been counting down the days to do).

*the fact that I was lucky enough to spend January in India, where alcohol is either out of date, tastes like paint stripper or not available was enormously helpful…

Nonetheless I’m really feeling inspired to keep on the healthy path of sobriety, meaning that instead of ending the grape depression (I’m here all week) by reaching for the nearest class of wine, I’ll be heading to Shoreditch’s Truman Brewery for the third annual Fare Healthy Festival – the UKs first and foremost food, fitness and wellbeing festival.

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Perfectly timed to keep those new year good intentions going, the two-day event will once again inspire, educate, entertain and motivate attendees to eat, move, think, and, as a result, #feelbetter.

Open from 9.30am until 5.30pm, the festival is unique in combining food, fitness and wellbeing, with pop-up restaurants and bars, exercise classes, expert panel talks, cookery demonstrations, a bookstore, alongside a market place featuring over 100 brands.

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Fare Healthy has something for everyone with a series of varied exercise classes including Ballet Barre with Naturally Sassy, the renowned SBC experience with Russell Bateman, and yoga classes from two of my favourite teachers; Michael Wong from Boys of Yoga, and the lovely lady I’m lucky enough to have as amy mindful mentor, Annie Clarke of Mind Body Bowl (pre-order her new book here)

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FARE HEALTHY ROOT TO FRUIT BANQUET

For those more interested in the foodie side of the festival, Fare Healthy is also teaming up with four renowned British chefs to launch the festival’s first ever supper club, ‘A Root To Fruit Banquet’, on Saturday 4th February. The Root to Fruit chefs are pledging to create a meal that use zero-packaging to create a zero waste dining experience.

Chefs cooking on the night will be:

● Tom Hunt, eco chef, food waste activist and chef patron of Poco restaurant
● Gill Meller, head chef of River Cottage and author of new book Gather
● Justin Horne, chef and founder of Tiny Leaf, London’s first zero waste restaurant
● Tess Ward, chef, food writer and author of The Naked Diet cookbook
● Peardrop London, catering company & lunch delivery service set up by chef Rose Lloyd Owen, founder of Fare Healthy

The four course menu will be entirely organic, vegetarian, agro-ecological, 100% British and most importantly, will use ingredients in their entirety, from their roots to their stalks, demonstrating how much of our food is thrown away. Cocktails will be available at the Sipsmith and Jax Coco Bar and Pure ionic water will also be available

Root to Fruit Eating means to eat mindfully, reconnecting with our foods origin and nature in order to value our food, the planet and the farmers who produce our ingredients.

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Fare Healthy was created in autumn 2014, a collaboration between self-taught chef Rose Lloyd Owen and a small selection of chefs, bloggers, and fitness instructors. Since it’s inception and launch event in January 2015, Fare Healthy has amassed a loyal following of fans, and tickets for previous events have sold out in less than an hour.

Tickets are on sale now, priced at £25 per person for the festival and at £50 per person for the banquet. The Root to Fruit banquet begins at 7.30pm.

Attracting some of the country’s most sought after yoga instructors, S O U L  C I R C U S Festival, in its first year, is the perfect countryside escape to let your body dance and your soul run free, whether you’re brand new to yoga or an experienced practitioner.

Having just about got a night’s sleep in after putting on our own festival (Varkala Festival) two weekends ago; attending Soul Circus last weekend – a Yoga and Wellbeing festival in the heart of the Cotswolds, with an emphasis on feeling great and ‘putting yourself back together’ – was just what the guru ordered….and a dream weekend for any yogini.

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Offering everything from restorative Y I N classes, uplifting Rocket sessions, G O N G baths, dynamic V I N Y A S A flow practice and soulful Jivamutki; through to Aerial, Acro and D I S C O flow; from sunrise to sunset, Soul Circus privided an extensive program offering something for everyone.

Dreamt up by Broga U.K’s Matt Miller, the yoga-loving California-born former American football and his Co Founders Roman and Ella of Ella and Fleur Hot Yoga, truly succeeded in offering a weekend of tranquillity; giving his guests the chance to re-calibrate with twenty yoga classes taught each day across Friday to Sunday, in three difference ‘experience tipis’ in this lakeside outdoor venue.

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It wasn’t all about the yoga though…

True to their name, Soul Circus fed the soul with a collection of different sounds and experiences including Meditation Classes, bubbling Hot Tubs to ease the muscles, a Gin Bar, a Rude Health breakfast bar, Supper Clubs, Chocolate Masterclasses, as well as having some of Gloucestershire’s finest local and sustainable vendors pitch up to offer interactive dining experience, including plenty by The Core Cheltenham.

And once the yoga was done there was plenty of time to relax with the best in local ales, ciders, wines and special Soul Circus cocktails – a favourite new discovery of mine being Asparagasm, serving beautiful raw cakes, insanely delicious unique Vegan Cheeses, creamy Nut Mylks and their own range of vegan organic beer and wines.

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Whether you swear by a plant-based, vegetarian, gluten|dairy free or cold pressed diet – or are simply a good old fashioned lover of meat – Soul Circus catered for it!.. A refreshing take on the old idea that you have to sup on green juices and avoid meat if you practice yoga, making for a well-balanced wellness festival serving delicuously shameless Chicken Tandoori Wraps and glasses of Prosecco.

As well as food vendors within the festival sites, Soul Circus also host two lunchtime interacting workshops run by Chef Jay Halford on how to live and cook healthy.

And on the Friday night and Saturday night, festival goers had the option of bookings one of two amazing dinning experiences.

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There was also a VIP Tipi hosted by Canadian apparel brand, Kit & Ace, satisfying the senses on a number of different levels including, a Kit and Ace pop up shop, VIP Supper clubs, a Rude Health Breakfast Bar, Evening Cocktail Bar and Outdoor Beanbags for lounging and watching music performances – the best seats in the house…

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Having spent the day, Namaste-ing in the hay, perfecting downward dogs and cultivating Zen; revellers returned to their accommodation with luxury loos and shower facilities.

In the dedicated glamping village, guests found fully furnished bell tents with matting and bedding set up with either two single beds, one double or three single beds.

Thanks so much and N A M A S T E to Soul Circus for having us…

The country may be divided but the love was felt last weekend as some of the biggest names in the jazz world headlined Jazz FM’s Love Supreme Festival (from 1 to 3 July); making the idyllic location of Glynde Place in East Sussex home to the U.K’s only three day, greenfield jazz festival.

Keeping Jazz alive for its fourth season; this weekend saw Love Supreme Festival showcase its winning mix of soul, funk and jazz crossover with Main Stage artists including Grace Jones, Burt Bacharach, Lianne La Havas, Kelis, Average White Band and Morcheeba – alongside a solid jazz programme in the Big Top and Arena stages featuring French acid jazz band, St Germain, beat-driven piano trio GoGo Penguin and DJ /Acid Jazz and Talkin Loud Record Label owner, Giles Peterson.

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Love Supreme Festival also played host to the Verve Jazz Lounge, which as well as celebrating 60 years of the iconic American jazz label with a range of talks, panel discussions, film screenings and exclusive performances.

Easing into the Saturday evening sunset was the soft, soulful sounds of songstress Skye Edwards (aka Skye of Skye & Ross – of Morcheeba). With a warm and graceful stage-presence, Skye’s set included classics such as Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, sent minds wondering to far flung places with Down by the Sea; previewed tracks from their album due to be released this September, and a surprise cover of Bowie’s Let’s Dance!

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Later on, while the 15,000-strong crowd huddled from Saturday night’s rain in their parkers and wellies; sealing the show and storming the stage nothing but in body paint and the opening cry of  “I’m going to have to drink some whisky, it’s f***ing cold.” was superstar Grace Jones; sending love supremers into a frenzy with renditions of Strange, Private Life, Pull Up To The Bumper and Love is a Drug.

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Also mesmerising the crowd was Ludovic Navarre with the full St. Germain band, Getting Everyone Together as they headlined the Big Top on the Saturday; followed by Giles Peterson closing the night at 2am.

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Guests with weekend tickets then had the option of camping – or glamping in the Supremium site within in the quieter grounds of the manor house – ensuring a luxurious night’s sleep ahead of Sunday’s round two.

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With more than enough food options at Love Supreme’s Food Village, choosing where to enjoy a hearty or healthy breakfast to fuel the funk is almost as complex a decision as navigating your way through the music program to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!

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After dodging the bullet of suggested Scotch Eggs for breakfast, a quick walk around the corner led to Wide Awake Cafe – one of the best loved vegetarian/vegan café’s catering for the hungry people of the festival world.

With Monmouth Coffee on the menu, freshly squeezed orange juice and Buddha Bowls rammed full of falafel, roast vegetables and hummus, all to be enjoyed under the sun on wide set picnic benches; Wide Awake Cafe was the first stop of the day before an incredible performance from Average White Band.

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With sunshine on their side, the Scottish blue-eyed soulers still had it with Cut The Cake, Let’s Go Round Again and Pick Up The Pieces; a seamless way to transition over to the Big Top for Go Go Penguin.

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Toning down her raucousness to suit the crowd, we caught Kelis on the Main Stage playing a more sultry jazz-tinted set in Sunday evening’s baking sunset. Slowed down soulful renditions of Milkshake and Trick Me had the crowds swaying before closing with the loving lyrics of Acapella and slinking off stage.

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Having also played host to Van Morrison, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind & Fire, De La Soul and Candi Station over the last four years, Love Supreme is one to watch – and get down to – every summer.

Early bird tickets for 2017 are available here

Huge thanks for having us <3

 

Inspired by Manhattan’s trend, Bottomless Brunches have become the norm in London, as though brunch without free-flowing fizz is nothing more than a sorry-looking, late breakfast.

London is drowning in restaurants offering bottomless Bloody Mary’s alongside samey-small brunch plates; but when a creative collective of bartenders and chefs came together to open Stoke Newington’s Victory Mansion, an East London tavern bringing its own take on eclectic casual dining and groundbreaking cocktail concoctions – the Bottomless Brunch result was a beautifully balanced offering of outstanding food and an innovative drinks, playing homage to British eccentricity and it’s local London roots.

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A stone’s throw from Church Street, on the lively Stoke Newington High Street, Victory Mansion is brightly lit, stylish, sociable and homely.

The walls are covered with vintage drink adverts, black & white photography and shelves displaying retro spirit bottles. The furniture is a homely dark oak finish blended with evergreen leather chairs, set against a feature wall of palm-print wallpaper.

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Everything is comfortably recognisable yet beguiling enough to intrigue..

Example: a truly top notch, too-easily drinkable cocktail on the Bottomless Brunch menu is affectionately named the Barbara Windsor; a name known and loved turned into a Gin, Earl Grey, Fresh Lemon and Fizz blend – far more lovingly concocted than any old prosecco served during most Bottomless Brunches.

And while the girls go for breakfast bubbles, the boys (*anymore more hardcore than me) can opt for a Bloody Dafoe, its namesake taken from William Dafoe, less known for living in London’s N15 and better known for playing The General in Platoon – the recipe, a unique Bloody Mary blend featuring a homemade Guinness & Marmite syrup.

Love or hate it, that’s an unbeatable Hair of the Dog!

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Bottomless Brunch cocktails also include the JJ Lister, inventor of the microscope and another east London boy celebrated with Aperol, fresh orange and pink grapefruit sherbet; and the Victory Coffee, an Espresso Martini like no other (I’m a credible judge), featuring rocket fuel strong Clockwork Coffee, Dutch coffee liqueur with rum and Hazelnut liqueur.

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When it comes to the food Sam Wilksinson’s menu is the best of the brunch!

Bringing his personal flair to signature breakfast dishes, poach egg on toast is elevated to Burnt Miso Prawn Toast with Chilli & Avocado, and classic kippers on toast transforms into Smoked Kippers with Beetroot, Pistachio & Orange Oil, crumbled over Sourdough Toast.

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Vegetarians are more than catered for with a plant-based plate of Spicy Spring Onion and Pumpkin Fritters, cooked to perfection, and served with Spinach, Poached Egg and Smashed Avocado – all of my favourite foods on one hearty, healthy plate.

There’s also the option of Smashed Avocado and Crispy Quinoa, and a Mushroom & Sage Pattie with Manchego & Honey Mustard on Sour Dough Toast – More of my favourite things on a plate – so I ordered both!

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Victory Mansion is a tasteful but low key perfect place for a lazy weekend catch up with friends over top quality food and back to back beautifully executed cocktails.

The music selection is on point, entering to the doors to The Doors, followed by the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop and Nina Simone. What starts off as a late n lazy Bottomless Brunch will very easily slip into your Saturday night.

Highly Recommended!

8 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N167PL

info@victorymansion.co.uk