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August 2019 / Travel / by Liz Skone James

Escape to Come Back to Yourself

Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and sample a spot of healthy hedonism on a very special yoga retreat in rural Portugal. Who says indulgence has to be naughty?

The early morning mist evaporates off the surface of the infinity pool in front of the shala as the sun rises above the hill in the distance. The only sound is the ringing of cattle bells in adjacent fields. It is about as far from my London life as is possible to imagine. I have agonised over whether I deserve this particular indulgence – wondering if my family will cope without me for four days, and if the money would have been better spent on a trip for all of us. Right here, right now, I can say that I categorically do deserve it, and I have never felt such overwhelming gratitude.

Yoga Retreat

I’m in Alentejo, rural Portugal, for a four-night yoga and fitness retreat organised and hosted by the wonderful Shani van den Borst, of Fit Birds and Cami Vidal, of La Masion Wellness. Our base for the long weekend is Margem, a tiny white-washed Portuguese village surrounded by wheat fields, cork oak forests and wildflower meadows. It is so peaceful that it feels almost untouched by the 21st century. Our group has taken over the whole of Herdade da Maxuqueira, a 500-year-old working farm, now offering very chic agritourism breaks.

Escape to Come Back to Yourself

The days begin with guided meditation, looking out over that vista, after which we are led through an hour’s fast and dynamic Vinyasa yoga flow. We cool off afterwards with freshly prepared smoothies and juices before tackling a HIIT session in the shade under the nearby orange trees. And we are rewarded with an exquisite breakfast spread – all deliciously healthy, save for the pastéis de nata, which come fresh from the oven every morning, and are impossible to resist (when in Portugal, and all that… and of course, what are those burpees for, if not to sanction a little indulgence from time to time?).

Nature Retreat

The day is ours to spend as we wish: running through the fields, borrowing bikes and taking leisurely rides through the neighbouring villages, exploring local vineyards, or simply relaxing by the pool, journaling on the terrace outside the room or chatting to new friends.

Health retreat

We come together in the evening for a yin yoga session – a glorious hour of assisted deep stretching as the sun sets. Later, we toast our good fortune with low alcohol cocktails, mixed by Cami, using the very best natural ingredients, before tucking into a beautiful feast sat under the extraordinary starlit sky. It is an experience that everybody should enjoy and I urge you to go. You deserve it.

The next retreat runs from 26-30 September and costs £685 pp in a twin shared room with en suite, or £855 pp in a private double room with en suite, including all meals. Flights and transfers not included (fitbirdsinlondon.com/retreat).