So, if you follow me on Instagram you know I have recently spent 4 nights in beautiful Portugal on the Body and Sound Retreat. I was lucky enough to meet Lizzie and Tom (the wonderful orchestrators of the retreat) through the London Viva! Vegan Festival where she told me about the vegan retreat she was planning. I had coincidentally been looking into retreats as I’d be desperate to go on one for ages, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
So, I spoke to my lovely friend and housemate Ali and booked us on onto the retreat that same day, so 2 months later we were on a plane to Lisbon, Portugal! With not really any idea of what to expect, what Ali and myself found when we arrived was more that we could have dreamed!
Firstly we arrived at 1pm on Friday, we were picked up from the train station and taken to the beautiful, huge guesthouse we were to spend our next 4 nights in. We were greeted by a delicious lunch of salad, homemade hummus and bread from the lovely chef Nick, which after 6 hours of travelling was just what we needed. It was so relaxing to know that all the food served was completely vegan and not having to question what we could and couldn’t eat.
Being the end of October we didn’t have high expectations of the weather, however the entire weekend we experienced glorious temperatures of 20-30 degrees!
What’s lovely about the retreat is there is a rough schedule of activities so you won’t ever be bored, however there is absolutely no pressure to engage in all the activates if you feel like you just want to sit one out and go and read or have a little siesta.
Being shown around the house was amazing; it’s just so beautiful, and our room was full of thoughtful little gifts.
The activity on Friday afternoon was a ‘body workshop’ where Lizzie (a professional soft tissue therapist) had us working in pairs and reconnecting with our bodies by teaching us massage techniques on one another. If you were to come with a partner this would be a particularly nice experience as you learn about the other persons body and how to take care of it with massage therapy. I found it particularly useful to talk to Lizzie about the injury in my foot from running and learnt some great techniques on how to help it.
The day was ended with a delicious communal dinner of a spaghetti bolognese (made with soy mince), garlic bread and an incredible dessert of a homemade coconut based chocolate mouse. After traveling from 5am, Ali and myself were exhausted so had a nice early night and sank into a deep sleep in a bed so comfortable I felt like never leaving it!
I’m a morning person and as I was up early whilst it was still cool I decided to go for a short run, discovering a great little dirt track taking me into the woods. I love running in new areas, especially rural, peaceful places as where I run at home (being near the city), it is always so busy and full of people. Running on my own out in the middle of nowhere is like my form of meditation.
After my run we could help ourselves to breakfast (muesli, toast and fruit) and delicious local coffee and then began the day with a morning ‘stretch session’. The session was guided by Lizzie and was a mix of Yoga and Pilates. After running it was just what I needed and Lizzie is amazing at talking you through deep stretches and tailoring things just for you.
After our stretch session and a freshly squeezed juice (orange, carrot, ginger and apple) we all went to a local river where we could swim, relax and soak up the sun. That evening was a delicious meal of homemade bean burgers, veggies and mashed potato.
Over the next few days we visited the most beautiful lakes in peaceful towns and were able to go swimming (I loved this as fresh water swimming is my absolute favourite) and explored the local areas. It was so peaceful and not touristy at all, it was so great to have people who know the area taking you to the best places.
There was also a breathing and meditation session with Tom, ending in a walk in the woods. We enjoyed more delicious meals together, my favourite most amazing lentil curry with brown rice followed by homemade vegan ice cream. There is also a nice swimming pool we could all relax by and soak up the sun, and also participated in poi and hoola-hoop workshops which were so fun.
There was another stretch/yoga class and then another body work session plus individual massages. Lizzie’s knowledge of the body was one of my favourite things about the retreat, she’s incredible and helped me understand why I have some issues with my lower back and gave me ways to help it.
This was my first ever retreat and all I keep thinking is that I picked a good one to go on! It was so communal and relaxed and we met and got to know some really interesting people. The setting in Portugal is so beautiful, surrounded by lovely landscape, I would highly recommend this retreat for people wanting a relaxed, down to earth experience. Thanks so much Lizzie and Tom for having us and giving us a wonderful time.
I started writing this for the sole purpose of sharing with people the benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle.
Hi everyone, I've been preparing the Kitchen and dining area for The Body & Sound Retreat... and also have some very tasty recipes in store for you...
But first I'd like to share a few details about my background. I love having dinner parties and catering for guests in my home, I'm particularly passionate about food travel & entertainment, and have traveled extensively in over 25 countries, (7 years in the middle east, and over 3 years in the far east) and I gained experience in almost every job available in 5 star hotels, & restaurants during many of my travels during the 80's.
However that was before I got involved in the music industry, which is where I've worked for most of my life, and during part of the 90's I was lucky enough to afford the luxury of staying at some of the worlds finest hotels, and dine at many amazing restaurants...which opened my eyes to luxury from the other side of the table for the first time, and inspired me to cook more interesting food at home, which eventually led to creating a few of my own recipes.
This summer my cooking skills were really put to the test.. we organized our first 3 day music festival in Portugal, and I put together a pop up restaurant, where I cooked vegan food for over 200 people each day. I'm extremely happy to report that we sold out everyday.
I really look forward to cooking for you and will try to offer elegance style & a touch of class to your dining experience with us.
Nik - aka - Sci Mantra
Vegan Chef, The Body & Sound Retreat
For me, hula-hoop is an enchanted object, which inevitably brings people together, while setting a very definite boundary between the outside world and me. It's something of an invisible shield, which attracts the eyes of the audience, but keeps its driving force safely protected.
EVERYONE can hoop. If you can tap your foot in time with music, you can hoop. A common mistake is for people to pick up a kiddie 50-gram hoop, squeeze it over their waist and proclaim - "SEE? I told you I couldn’t do it!” That's not the kind of hooping I am talking about. I am talking about a plastic ring, with a 40" diameter and almost a kilo of weight - the most suitable hoop for beginners. Something slightly less bulky for those, who can keep it on their waist and plenty of kiddie ones to taste the difference.
I won’t bore you with self-evident benefits, which derive from hooping, but I will mention two, which in my opinion don't get half as much attention as they deserve.
1. Hooping is good for your brain. Hula hooping, as well as poi and other variations of flow arts, are not far from juggling. In fact, you can use hoops to juggle, and juggling, as science has proven, positively affects your brain and promotes the formation of new pathways within it (read more here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2009-10-12-juggling-enhances-connections-brain).
2. Hooping benefits the sex drive. Unfortunately, Oxford hasn't done a study on this particular subject, but take my word for it - many others have confirmed the same.
What will we do?
We will hoop on our waist and learn to move around while doing so. We will attempt to chest hoop and learn tricks to help that process. We will discover the "off-body concept" and the variety of movement it offers.
Finally, and this has been my dream since I've started hooping, we will host a Hoopstacle Challenge - a friendly team competition in getting through an obstacle course with a hula-hoop!
My hooping background
I met my first hula-hoop, the night I met my future husband, which is the only reason why I know that I've been hooping since October 2009. It was a big and heavy hoop, which despite my best efforts, I could not keep up. My bruised ego went home and found my son's 50g kiddie hoop, which, naturally only made matters worse. Then someone's casual remark about learning from YouTube led me to discover the hula-underground. I quickly acquired my first 40 inches of plastic hoop goodness and continued to cover myself in bruises, this time a lot more palpable. To say that I became obsessed would not be an understatement. I hooped for two hours, almost every day for over a year. If I went outside, the hoop went with me, so much, that in our little East London homestead, I became known as the "hula-girl".
I went on hooping retreats and diligently learned new tricks, to finally face the BIG question - do I want to be a performer? It sounded like great fun, so I went on to stomp on stages at Freekuency festival and Indigo at the O2, as well as a few other small gigs. Except I didn't like it. I hated the "big deal" that went along with being on stage as well as the idea of having a set routine and not being able to go with the flow. So, I bowed out, and since then have kept hooping as my preferred method of exercise.
If any part of my hooping journey sounds interesting to you, I'll be happy to share more of my experience and suggest some useful resources to get you going.
I look forward to hooping together in October.