When I was invited by Thoroughly Modern Milly to review a week‐long yoga and food retreat to celebrate the launch of Kimberly Parsons new cookery book, The Yoga Kitchen, I couldn’t believe my luck and was so excited to get away to the rolling hills of Catalonia and bask in the Spanish sunshine.
Going away alone on a retreat gave me the chance to step away from busy London life, work and most importantly some bad food habits I’d picked up in recent months. Presented with a week of plant‐based food without alcohol, meat, refined sugar and gluten, I decide to throw out caffeine too and reset my body properly. Coupled with twice‐daily one‐and‐half hour yoga sessions, and thirty‐minute morning meditations beginning at 7.30am (with no‐speaking until 10am!) I was nervous my lack of practice and focus would hinder my enjoyment of the week. Nevertheless, I’m not one to turn down a challenge, and saw the retreat as a chance to truly refresh my mind, body and soul.
I was joined on the retreat by a group of brilliantly inspiring women: fashion, fitness and food bloggers, models, food entrepreneurs, a cardiovascular researcher and a freelance social media expert. These ladies had serious kudos and we quickly bonded over our love of Kimberley’s delicious three‐course dinners and enormous brunches.
Kimberley’s meals presented healthy food on a level I’d not experienced before and my worries about meals consisting of two lettuce leaves and a handful of pomegranate seeds were quickly banished. Our post‐yoga mornings were filled with fiery ginger shots, fruity and nutty smoothies, kaleola (kale granola = life‐changing) and veggie eggs benedict, and at night our appetites were satiated with baked miso satay aubergines, white bean risottos and lentil dahls – during each meal I felt inspired by Kimberly’s creative, flavoursome and filling food!
Kimberly’s cookery skills are insane and the whole group was eager to learn the secrets to perfecting her delicious recipes. During cookery demonstrations I was introduced to new ingredients such as maca and lacuma powder, as well as flavour combinations and cooking methods I’d not come across before. Radish kimchi with kale and Brussel sprouts is Kim’s unique take on a Korean classic, and her raw caramel slices with bee pollen crispies tasted so naughty, despite being relatively healthy! I ended up buying The Yoga Kitchen book so I can continue to recreate these recipes at home.
When we weren’t eating we were stretching out our bodies with enthusiastic yoga teacher Kathryn Fielding. Although I’ve always enjoyed yoga, I’ve sometimes found classes too spiritual and relaxing for my liking. When I found Bikram yoga four years ago, it gave me the challenge and intense workout I was looking for, however after a while the same twenty‐eight posture sequence really did get a bit boring. I was really happy to therefore spend a week with Kathryn whose powerful, energetic style of yoga pushed all of us to the max.
The dynamic morning flow‐yoga classes were the perfect way to start the day. Set around an infinity pool with views of Spanish countryside, our practice was accompanied by birdsong and Kathryn’s brilliantly‐curated playlist. Kathryn’s many, many Chaturanga’s forced me to use the upper body strength I’ve long neglected, and I noticed a huge difference in my practice throughout the week, ending with the strength and confidence to push myself up into Reverse Table Pose (otherwise known as ‘The Crab’ which is something I don’t think I’ve achieved since primary school).
Evening yoga sessions took a more relaxed tone. I’d never done Yin or Restorative yoga before, which we practiced in a cool, candlelit room inside the beautiful farmhouse which we were staying in. Although the ambience was relaxed, the yoga was by no means easy. Deep joint‐opening poses were held for five minutes each and really forced us to push our minds as well as our bodies. There were tears throughout the week ‐ apparently opening up your hips can bring up some pretty intense emotions, which certainly was the case for me.
Both the yoga and food were structured around strengthening each of our seven chakras which are the different energy centres in our bodies. Beginning on day one, we focused on our root chakra which is located in the base of our spine ‐ Kathryn’s class that day really drew our attention to this part of our body, while Kimberley’s food was taken from the ‘Grounded’ chapter of The Yoga Kitchen. On the final morning, we focused on the crown chakra which is located at the very top of our head and enables us to feel connected more spiritually, while we ate from the ‘Pure’ chapter of Kimberley’s book. I ended the week feeling like I had drawn my attention to the whole of my body, and really enjoyed the complementary approach to exercise and diet.
The week wasn’t just yoga and food ‐ there was plenty of time for sunbathing, swimming and exploring. Highlights included trekking to a huge, deserted lake for a spot of open‐water swimming; an afternoon of go‐karting got my adrenaline pumping; and a short trip across the border to Andorra featured tobogganing down a mountain. It was so refreshing to spend a whole week being active outdoors in the fresh air, stepping away from my daily desk‐bound state in smoggy London.
Since my return three weeks ago, I’ve kept up daily yoga practice and exercise, downloaded a mindfulness app to dip in‐and‐out of when I need a quiet moment, and have been more thoughtful about what I’ve been putting into my body. I’ve always taken a fairly healthy first‐principles approach to eating, however often skipping breakfast and relying to much on caffeine and sugary snacks to get me through busy days. Now I’m only drinking one cup of coffee a day, trying a dairy‐free diet (to improve some of my skin problems), have replaced refined sugars with natural sugars, and I’m spending time in the morning to prepare delicious, healthy breakfasts.
My yoga retreat experience has honestly enabled me to completely reset my relationship with my food habits, given me a healthier approach to my work‐life balance, and improved my attitude towards both exercise and early mornings. In the past, I have often found it hard to keep going with good habits, however this is the first time I’ve had a lifestyle‐change when I feel like it won’t fail.
I can’t recommend my experience enough, and upcoming retreats not to be missed include escaping to a Swedish island with Kimberly and yoga teachers Kristi Johnson (23‐30 July) and Marcus Veda (31 July‐7 August). Trust me, you won’t regret going!
Order The Yoga Kitchen on Amazon or The Book Depository.
@fieldingbalance / @kathryn_fielding
Written by Holly Hunter: @holly___h