About Time: You Tried a Yoga & Biodanza Aquatica RetreatBy Lallie Fraser
The Sierra Nevada is a rare part of Spain where things look like they might not have changed all that much over the centuries. Rolling hills and olive groves appear as far as the eye can see, the tinkling of goat bells ring at supper time and the ancient sight of a shepherd herding his flock before the sun goes down comes into view – the rustic landscape and daily workings of the community are age old here.
It is little wonder that this corner of the world is famed for its potent and positive energy and it was destined to become the site where husband and wife team, Yair and Ziza Sagy, would settle to create Armonia Alpujarra Healing Retreat Centre. Every element of Armonia Alpujarra has been considered thoughtfully and with love – from the heart shaped mosaics in the walkways, the hammocks carefully placed in the best spots to lie and watch the world go by, the choice of two fabulous yurts as an accommodation option, the delicious and colourful homemade banquet of vegetarian food that is placed on the table three times a day to the prettiest compost loos you ever did see – every part of this place been designed with harmony, wellbeing and joy in mind.
Each step you take around the retreat brings new delights – fat almonds pods hang heavily on branches alongside elephantine lemons, ornamental pomegranates, huge bumblebees drunk on pollen caressing wide open holly hocks and rows upon rows of olive trees.
Each day at Armonia Alpujarra begins with a morning Yoga and Qi Yong class. Pre-empting the first biodanza aquatic class (more of which later), the first yoga class of the retreat took place in the swimming pool, which had been carefully monitored to be 34C, warm as a bath to stay in for an extended period. Yair encouraged us to feel the support that the water gave us, how it held us in space. After a while, when the stresses of city and work life dissipated into the water, Yair reminded us that the way the water supports us is the same as the life force that surrounds us when we are walking on dry land.
Out of the multitudinous profound and important things Yair and Ziza imparted on the group over the weekend, this thought stays with me deeply. In a world which is so disconnected with nature, it felt so important to be reminded that we ARE nature and it can heal and support us if we can just get out of our heads a little bit and let it in and flow with us. The land yoga sessions were often joined by one of the two resident cats, Manchita, who would show off her exemplary cat pose.
In the afternoon, the Biodanza Aquatica commenced. Biodanza Aquatica was created as a system of self-development in 1960’s by the Chilean anthropologist and psychologist Rolando Toro Araneda . Although cynical and incredibly self-conscious as the first session began, soon Ziza created an incredibly safe environment to be able to let go in the water without feeling like I was being laughed at! Different music played as we were instructed through several exercises that encouraged trust and connection and to be at one with the water.
The second and final session of the weekend was the most powerful, having some idea of what to expect to be able to (quite literally) go with the flow. I found tears running down my face and feelings of absolute joy in moments of the session when I allowed my ego to really do one and thrive, like when dancing with eyes closed encircled by a group of strangers as I splashed and dunked myself in the water as they watched on as a protectorate force letting me do whatever I felt the impulsion to do in that moment. Or, in the final exercise when the group (of about 15 people) held hands and whizzed round and round in an ecstatic state as the last song played.
Yes, it sounds mad and I was sceptical but at the end of each session, I didn’t want to get out of the pool, and I have left Armonia Alpujarra with an even more profound respect for water and its healing benefits than I ever have before. As a Cancerian (water sign), I have a lot of love for it any way!
In between Yoga and Biodanza Aquatica, there is time to just sit and enjoy the peaceful space and surroundings, read or snooze in a hammock or book in a treatment with Yair or Ziza, both highly qualified therapists who have travelled the world to learn and hone their talents and skills. These include Foot Reading, Mind & Body Acupuncture and Chakra Balancing, Holistic Facial Massage and Tibetan Bowl Massage. Due to their respective magical healing hands and constant glowing results from clients, Yair and Ziza are in high demand across Europe and are often called to clients for one-to-ones or retreats in England, Greece and Belgium too.
One of the most extraordinary treatments I had was the Arvigo Abdominal Massage, an ancient Mayan technique, which helps unblock and dispel gut or ovarian issues. Not only does Ziza give a highly effective and relaxing massage, she teaches you how to apply this massage to yourself as a five-minute self-care daily exercise which yields the most effective results when done consistently. As someone recently diagnosed with PCOS, I am keen to give all natural and alternative therapies a go and look forward to seeing how I get on with the Arvigo massage in the coming weeks and months.
Three days at one of Yair and Ziza’s retreats is like being jolted with a shot of pure energy and I hope I can keep reminding myself of the life force supporting me when reality settles back in. If not, even thinking about sitting in the sun-drenched Sierra Nevada hearing the goat bells across the hills is a good start.
Yoga & Biodanza Aquatica retreats start from 280€ for a 3 night retreat staying in a yurt. Every retreat includes delicious and specially prepared vegetarian food (three meals per day), morning Yoga & Qi Gong, soul enriching activities and evening meditation. This year at Armonia Alpujarra, there will also be Family Yoga, Yoga & Horse Riding and Yoga & Art Retreats. For the full schedule and more information, visit http://healing-retreats-spain.com/
Fly from the UK to either Malaga (90 minutes away) or Granada (50 minutes away airports).