What My Seven-Day Yoga Retreat In Greece Taught Me

After a year of ups and downs, writer Mahi Solomou takes a week off to reconnect with herself and nature at one of Greece’s most popular yoga destinations

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Following a year of challenges, new beginnings, bewilderment, turmoil and even occasional numbness, I decided I deserved a week-long yoga retreat in Greece on the island of Crete.  Relaxation, peace of mind and the need to reconnect with myself again is what I really needed, so off I went.

Hosted by Yoga Rocks, a yoga holiday retreat in Crete, my week-long sejour featured two hours of Ashtanga Yoga with renowned American yoga instructor David Williams. Williams was one of the first non-Indians to be certified to teach the Ashtanga Yoga asanas.

Here was a typical day on my retreat:

6:45am: I aimed to get up at sunrise each morning, starting with 15 minutes of stretching, meditation and conscious breathing on my balcony. With bright blue skies and the sounds of waves splashing against Triopetra (three majestic rocks), I felt my body being cleansed of toxic thoughts.

8:00am: Home-made breakfast using locally sourced ingredients. Sipping on tea, and appreciating nature around me, my personal mantra became, “Don’t worry about a thing. The universe will take care of everything.”

9:00am: Reading on a hammock. Bliss. “My Invented Country” by Isabel Allende, a nostalgic quest of her own past instigated my own voyage into my soul. I felt in tune with myself, alive.

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10:00am: Two hours of Ashtanga Yoga with David Williams and 20 dedicated yogis from Europe and the US. We practiced in a breezy room overlooking the sea.  We started with a 20-minute pranayama, then spinal alignment and asanas, and a 5-minute savasana to finish.

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‘Yoga is the alchemy of converting stress to vitality.’ – David Williams

12:00pm: Vegetarian lunch al fresco was a feast of the senses. Fresh ingredients sprinkled with love. No wonder everyone wore a permanent smile. Dishes ranged from mouth-watering salads dotted with roasted nuts to quinoa with grilled peppers, tomato and leek soup and mung beans topped with a pumpkin-seed puree.

The dearest camaraderies are formed over great food, and this was no exception. Being with like minded-individuals in a place overflowing with positive energy was like a soothing balm to my heart. I felt at home in this serene oasis. I smiled. I laughed. I sobbed, and exhaled.

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3:00pm: I swam and snorkeled endlessly in the cool, clear Cretan waters. And I walked along the unspoiled beachfront, feeling rejuvenated and like a child again.

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6:00pm: Dinner under the stars. Enough said.

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After a week of this routine, I realized many things that I hope I will keep with me always. Here they are:

  • Connect with nature. Immerse yourself in its beauty and simply live the moment.
  • Go into silence. Switch off from technology. Open all your senses and breathe in the silence.
  • Surround yourself with likeminded people who share your passion.
  • Loosen up. Do not always take life so seriously.
  • Eat mindfully. Savor the experience of healthy food.
  • Breathe-Align-Exhale.
  • Practice Yoga: ‘Yoga is what happens between the thoughts. And it’s meant to make you feel wonderful!’ – David Williams
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