PORTUGAL, SPAIN AND UK
BEST FOR: WANNABE GODDESSES WITH BIG (OR BROKEN) HEARTS WHO YEARN TO LIVE 100% JUICY, FULL, FREE AND PASSIONATE LIVES
NOT FOR: PRIM AESTHETES OR ANAL YOGINIS – THESE RETREATS OVERFLOW WITH BELLY LAUGHS, CHEEKINESS, CHOCOLATE AND WINE ALONGSIDE THE SPIRITUALLY SERIOUS STUFF
Feel like you’re living life at around 30 percent? That you’re pottering along in the slow lane in a nice safe Peugeot 105 when your heart wistfully yearns to be speeding down the freeway in a Mustang, your hair mussed up by the wild wind, belting out love songs at the top of your voice? A Blush Love retreat won’t automatically pack you off to California in a muscle car, but life won’t ever feel quite so tame again.
Blush Love is the wanton love-child of Gail Schock and Kate Taylor. Schock (aka G-Love) is a kundalini yoga teacher, life/spiritual coach and cosmic pixie with mauve hair, sparkly eyes, a soft Scottish burr and an overabundance of playful, imaginative, intuitive energy. Five minutes in her company and you’ll believe in unicorns and mermaids and rainbow fairy dust before, having lulled you into a false sense of security, she’ll thwack you in the gut with profound insights and the yogic equivalent of burpees. Taylor meanwhile dubs herself an ‘empowerment and creativity coach’; she’s an NLP practitioner and a Qoya teacher (more on that later) who calls her work/play ‘Practical Magic’. With razor-sharp white blonde hair, big tattoos, snog me lipstick, glitter nail-polish and full-on goddess curves, she’s seven shades of sexy meets a skyscraper of smarts.
This intoxicating pair swiftly realised that their specialties didn’t just complement each other, they created ferocious alchemical fireworks. They also both share a passionate vision to help people squeeze every last atom out of the toothpaste tube of life; to realise their full potential in a deep yet light-hearted, joyful way. ‘Basically we wanted to run a magic school,’ they say, and break into broad megawatt beams. Warm, passionate, kind and funny, they’re not only the kind of women you want as your new best friends: they also pack a hefty spiritual punch.
Everything about these retreats is imbued with joy, grace, generosity and imagination. Venues are chosen mainly for their surroundings – nature plays big on these retreats and you’ll be sent out to commune and converse with her on a regular basis. For the women-only Portugal retreats, home base is a slightly hippy-dippy affair, with a vague smell of hemp in the bedrooms and the odd gap year WWOOFer lounging on the beanbags – but the surrounding wooded hills are sublime and the ‘temple’ where most of the magic happens is the perfect workshop space, particularly when lit with a million tea-lights. In the UK, weekend (also women-only) retreats are held at 42 Acres in Somerset with its seriously lush accommodation and bucolic surroundings. Co-ed retreats are hosted in Northern Spain, where you’re seduced by the heady scent of the surrounding orange groves.
The day starts quietly enough with meditation. Gail leads a different type each morning, so you can figure out which sizzles your chakras. After an abundant breakfast has digested, Kate leads Qoya – a delicious hybrid of dance, yoga and therapy that aims to plug you back into your true essence and heritage: wild, wise and free. ‘Honour your body in a way that feels good,’ says Kate, reassuringly. ‘There are no beginners, intermediate, and advanced options here – if it feels right, you’re doing it right.’ Expect tears (expert tip – leave the mascara at home) but also surprising insights and a wild sense of freedom.
Gail’s Kundalini yoga seems simple (for some classes you don’t even get to standing) yet it’s deceptively strong – ninja yoga that sneaks up unawares and goes thermonuclear on your thighs, arms, buttocks, and bits you didn’t even know you owned. Yet it’s also the yoga of deep love, laughter and total acceptance – you’re never once made to feel ungainly or lacking in gymnastic grace.
In between there is time both to share and to seek deep within. Each day flags up a theme – Release, Awakening, Gratitude, Dreams – bringing with it soul-tweaking, psyche-tingling exercises and heart-rendingly beautiful rituals that inspire and nourish.
There are no hair shirts here, and any hint of deprivation is taboo. If you want just to curl up in bed or wander off for a love-in with the trees, that’s totally cool. If you fancy a glass of wine with supper, or a square or two of chocolate after a meal, or during a meal, or well, any time really, it’s there – not to guzzle thoughtlessly but to savour, to enjoy mindfully, listening to what your body really desires. The food is as generous as everything else – vegetarian, organic, seasonal, sensational.
There are surprises, little gifts, magic at every turn and you find yourself falling headlong in love with life, with the world and people around you and, yes, even with yourself. ‘It’s about Radical Self-Love, the Art of Extreme Self-Care,’ says Kate, the capital letters chiming clear as bells as she speaks. Gail nods, glitter sparkling in her mad fairy hair. ‘How would you like to feel more often?’ she challenges. ‘Have you got the Pause button on your life? Are you in someone else’s life? Throw off other people’s baggage and shame: savour your own path! Just think… what would it feel like to experience 100 percent bliss?’
What would it feel like to experience 100 percent bliss? Almost unbearably good actually. But, hey, get thee to a Blush Love Retreat and find out for yourself.
PRICE: From £333 for weekend breaks in the UK and from around £888 for week-long retreats in Spain and Portugal in a shared room, all inclusive (apart from flights, additional therapies and transfers).
NEAREST AIRPORT: Faro for Portugal; Alicante for Spain
TRANSFER TIME: Around 90 minutes
First-Hand Visit Write-Up By: Jane Alexander