What to do in Ibiza (when you’re not partying)
DESTINATION: SOULSHINE RETREATS, IBIZA
HOW TO BOOK
WHEN: Retreats run from April to June, and September to October. There are also winter skiing and yoga retreats in the French Alps (January to April).
Opulent nightclubs, famous DJs and scantily-clad revellers partying until dawn – these are the usual images of Ibiza. But the third largest of the Balearic islands, which boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, has a lot more to offer, especially in terms of wellbeing.
In recent years, many yoga, meditation and fitness retreats have popped up on the White Isle, making it a popular destination for those seeking rest and rejuvenation.
One of them is the Soulshine retreat, near the former fishing port of San Miguel on Ibiza’s northern coast. This unique hideaway offers a complete mind and body overhaul – a place to go if you’ve lost your va-va-voom. I decided to try out Soulshine for myself, and booked in for a six-day retreat.
BREATHE AND UNWIND
The first thing that struck me as I arrived at the stunning Can Shui villa was the serene atmosphere. I was welcomed by retreat manager Rich, a tanned yogi with a sandy blonde top knot. He enveloped me in a warm, welcoming hug and walked me to my room. The accommodation varies from super luxurious suites to more basic but pleasantly comfortable bedrooms.
Rich gave me a schedule and told me there was beginners’ yoga the next morning, but it was optional – I could lie in and join the other guests for breakfast at 9.45am if I preferred. I appreciated the relaxed attitude – at other retreats I’ve been to, guests had to stick to a strict schedule (at one, the yoga teacher threw ice cold water over us if we weren’t up and ready for class by 7am!).
Soulshine is different. With two yoga and meditation sessions a day, holistic treatments, afternoon workshops and evening TED talks, guests can ‘dip in and out’ of whichever parts of the programme they feel would benefit them the most.
For those who aren’t sure, a one-on-one consultation with retreat founder Soulla Demetriou will guide you. Over a delicious breakfast of wheat-free bread with cherry tomatoes and avocado, Soulla told me this enabled the team to design a bespoke programme for each guest. For example, if one is suffering from insomnia, she’d suggest the sleepy yoga sessions and a deep tissue massage. If self-esteem is an issue, they would be encouraged to practise affirmations and even write love letters to themselves.
There’s a wide range of therapies on offer, from osteopathy and craniosacral therapy to life-coaching and oracle readings. The food and drink is also designed to heal. All meals are wheat, gluten and meat-free, and guests are encouraged to drink herbal teas and fruit-infused water. The idea is to treat the whole person, not just one aspect – an integrated approach to health that appealed to me.
During our session, I told Soulla I was mentally and physically exhausted from trying to juggle new motherhood with work. She told me what I needed most was nurturing, and booked me in for the retreat’s signature massage – a blend of shiatsu, deep-tissue and aromatherapy massage. She also advised me to attend the evening yoga nidra classes, a type of yoga where you enter a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, which is brilliant for calming the mind.
I was also prescribed acupuncture for abdominal pain and digestive issues, and a session with Pilates expert Tasha to help rebuild my pregnancy-weakened core.
The acupuncture began with a brief chat about the stressors in my life, which acupuncturist Ross explained was vital as ‘the mind and body are always connected’. Then came the needle-sticking part. The tingling in my feet, legs, abdomen, wrists and forehead were surprisingly pleasant, and I relaxed as the needles got to work. Ross told me to drink lots of water that evening and said I’d probably sleep better. He wasn’t wrong – I slumbered for seven hours straight.
On the third day, I met Tasha for a core strengthening class. She taught me how to use my breath to engage my abdominals and do a series of slow and controlled movements that would help knit the muscles back together. I left feeling empowered.
LEARN AND GROW
Between therapies, I also attended some of the many workshops on offer, including a vegan cooking class, where I helped to whip up a tasty lunch. But it was the one on the ancient healing system of ayurveda that I found the most insightful. Those who practise it believe we are made up of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. These combine in the human body to form three energies called doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – which determine our health and personality types.
Ayurvedic practitioners say we are all a mixture of the three doshas, but one is usually dominant. By balancing them out with the right nutrition and activities, we can achieve optimum wellbeing. For example, pitta types tend to be fiery in nature, so should limit spicy foods and exercise in cooler weather to reduce stress and anger. Vata types are prone to dry skin and anxiety, so activities like yoga and oily foods such as salmon are ideal for them. It was fascinating stuff.
There was also plenty of time to relax by the palm tree-lined pool or in the candle-lit Zen Den, and to meditate, read or watch the sun set over the mountains from the balcony.
By the time I boarded my flight home, I felt refreshed, rejuvenated and very nourished.
DISCOVER THE BEST OF IBIZA
There’s plenty to see and do just a stone’s throw from the villa:
1. Walk 30 minutes down a rocky pathway and you’ll find the natural harbour of Es Portitxol below. With a teardrop-shaped beach and translucent blue waters scattered with fishing boats, this stunning bay is one of northern Ibiza’s best-kept secrets.
2. For a busier beach experience, Puerto de San Miguel is a 10-minute taxi ride away. Nestled in a cove and surrounded by lush pine-covered cliffs, this popular family beach is still deliciously tranquil, but it’s also lined with shops, supermarkets, bars and restaurants, including Port Balansat, one of the best fish restaurants on the island. A short walk up the road leads to the dripstone caves of Cuevas Can Marçà.
3. If you’re feeling energetic, you can go horseriding or try sailing, waterskiing,
wakeboarding, jet skiing, paddle boarding and scuba diving!
4. Ibiza is renowned for its hippy-style outdoor markets. The nearest to Can Shui is San Juan, which showcases locally-made foods, drinks, eco-friendly toiletries, trinkets and clothing. I took a stroll around the market, sampling the organic food and dancing to the live chill-out music. The market, like Soulshine itself, is as laid back as a drunken sloth.
Booking info: Soulshine Retreats
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