Once upon a time, not so long ago, in the land of cork trees, storks, olives and oranges, otherwise known to us all as Portugal, Gret Batchelar, a yogic fairy godmother issued an enchanting invitation to yogis from far and wide to join with her to Begin Again.She was taking her Soulstice Yoga Studio on Tour and magic-ing up a yoga retreat, run by she and her Conscious Working fairies. Seduced by this intriguing proposition to a January re-set, quite a random yaggle of yogis( as I am unaware of the collective noun for a group of yoga enthusiasts a little improvisation and artistic licence is required here) travelled from overseas from the US, the UK, Ireland and from other parts of Portugal.I was very lucky to be one of them.

We are all too familiar with the January clarion call of ‘New Year, New You’.As I get older I have abandoned the concept of giving up anything as a New year’s Resolution.Too often such efforts are foiled as a few weeks pass and we revert to normality with the added guilt of failed effort.This is not what needs to be added to an already challenging month. I much prefer the concept of a New Year ReVolution, taking on a new life-enhancing practice or skill as a way to embrace and launch the year ahead.This time it was the opportunity for self-renewal in the form of a retreat

Many months ago, I had booked this yoga retreat as a self-treatto look forward to once all the busy-ness of Christmas had subsided.Once January was well under way, so often the most challenging month of the year,I felt it would be a much-needed opportunity to take a little time out for myself to replenish and rebuild my reserves for the year ahead. Arriving tired and weary after a Christmas Week house move (not to be recommended), my seventeenth house move in sixteen years (ditto) , I was the perfect candidate for a retreat.I had heard the expression that sometimes the best way forward is to retreat.I had little idea of how much I was in need of this retreat until I did just that.A time to pause, to reflect and to step on the magic carpet yoga mat for the adventure that lay ahead. Begin again was the invitation- empowering us to nurture and nourish our spirits. It did all that and more.


What followed was a journey into the soul.While this may sound a little on the Woo Woo scale it was very grounded and real. It was a sensory and spiritual smorgasbord peppered with mental as well as physical stretching.In between the soul power yoga sessions, from Vinyasa Flow to Nidra, with many a downward- facing dog along the way, freed from the constraints of everyday routine, we tasteda delicious sprinkling of creative, soul-full surprises that replenished our spirits.

One of my favourite Gret expressions (and there are many)is her mantra of ‘You do You’.With all responsibilities left to one side, we were invited to think and care only for ourselves for this time.There was no pressure to do anything in particular, just an encouragement to be curious and to bring an open mind.She was aided by Maria, another gifted yoga teacher who know just how to assist us into even deeper stretches in our poses, as well as several guests who joined at various times throughout our stay.Maria’s genius extends also to astrology and sheshared her super powers in this domaine too.


Gret’s yoga sessions were exceptional.She is a gifted and wondrous teacher.She is also very fun.Her guidance and support expertly nudged us farther from our comfort zones than many of us have ventured before.There was laughter, hugs, the occasional tear and an abundance of connection, joy and gratitude.We talked, made new friends, we ate and drank of full of soul food that we were enticed to taste.There were some who plunged into the refreshing pool after our practice while others soaked up precious January Vitamin D sunrays in the warmth of the courtyard.There was powerful breath work and talks of innovative healing techniques.We meditated, we journaled.We explored on and off the mat.There was a foray into Forest Bathing and conversations with trees, fire ceremonies and much more. On our final night, under the clear starlit sky,we were serenaded by an ethereal Kirtan singer chanting Sanskrit mantras by the fire side, an empyreal finale to our soul journey.

In this precious time to prioritise one’s self for a few days I’ve realised how necessary it is to punctuate our lives with a pause.Time to reflect and take care of yourself, before moving on replenished to the next paragraph of busy life.On our journey we slow down. I know now that Snail Pose is an actual yoga position.We stretched both metaphorically and literally and we journeyed inwards, to our souls.

I left with new and fortified friendships, my spirits buoyed, my inner metaphorical well brimming.My soul replenished and rested.I am already looking forward to January 2025 and the opportunity to begin again, again.