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Awed by the setting and stretched by Axis Yoga at Canal Om in Chile

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OM Chile yoga retreat

Nicki Grihault and her king were wowed by Canal Om in Los Vilos near Santiago in Chile.

 ‘Pausing at a painted red bench, with stupendous sea views, I decided to finally start that novel’

Nicki Grihault and her king start a trip through Chile with an energising yoga weekend at Canal Om

Canal OM Chile yoga retreat

Nicki exploring Canal Om yoga retreat

My boyfriend Nick and I had planned a yoga weekend as a healthy start to our trip to Chile, so jet-lagged and weary, we duly arrive at Canal Om on a Friday afternoon in October, in the middle of Chile’s Spring. Stepping through a small door in a large wooden gate, we enter a secret garden. Succulent plants, cacti and brightly-coloured desert flowers line a snaking path that leads to our sumptuous suite – one of two hanging over a sheer cliff, where surf pounds on the rocks below. We’re immediately wowed by Canal Om.

Forgetting our lethargy, we pull on windproof jackets and skip about the rocky peninsula like excited children. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the lighthouse at the peak, painted with cat-like eyes like an Indian temple and encircled by a building with floor to ceiling glass wrapped around it. Later, we find out, this is the house of Canal Om’s founder and creator, Gustavo Ponce.

Zig-zagging down tempting marble, stone and wooden pathways, we descend the cliff face – with stunning views at every turn. Pausing at a painted red bench, with stupendous sea views, I decided to finally start that novel. Sun loungers beckon around a round freshwater infinity pool, and we marvel at clear sea water pools of different shapes and sizes, along the rocky seafront, with a Buddha looking on.

Canal OM Chile yoga retreat

Getting ready to practice Axis yoga

We congregate at the yoga studio overlooking a Japanese Garden around a limpid lake for the first class – palm trees shift in the rising evening wind and the reddening sun sets over the sea. Most of the 20 people on the weekend workshop – an eclectic mix of couples and single professional Chileans – are students of the teacher, Polly Scheinwald, at yogashala in Santiago. Polly trained with Chilean yoga guru Gustavo Ponce so we eagerly anticipate our first taste of Axis Yoga, the method he developed. A blend of Iyengar, Prana and Shakti yoga – it focuses on breath with movement, to align the chakras.

Obviously well liked and respected by her students, Polly is gentle and kind, talking us through the postures in elegant, soothing Spanish. The class moves slowly, interspersed with yoga philosophy, with help for us in English if we got the wrong postures. (English-speaking guests typically come in Summer, when they are catered for with daily classes in English).

Canal OM Chile yoga retreat

Evenings were atmospheric

After evening yoga, we follow the lights down the cliff to the atmospheric Café del Mar where we sat with our new classmates at candlelit communal wooden tables with our feet in the sand. A blazing fire and the sound of wind and waves through the canvas walls (flapped open in Summer), was conducive to conversation. The yoga world is a small, and interesting, one in Chile, and we found ourselves among the educated, free-thinking Santiago middle classes. Most people spoke some English, and we talked about everything from the Chinchorro mummies with a forensic archaeologist to green tourism and Chilean politics. We gaze at the stars on the way back to our suite, and find that although Canal Om is a little chilly at night in the spring, it is still romantic.

Very quickly, the days take on a rythmn: yoga classes in the morning soon give way to a healthy lunch, afternoons are spent sunbathing or lying in the hammocks in the shade – in between dips in the thalassotherapy pools and enclosed jacuzzi. I also wander the beautiful gardens, pausing on a free bench to read or write. One afternoon, I have a massage, as recommended, in a teeny treatment room overhanging the cliff. The yoga classes get progressively harder, and the five classes over the weekend see even a beginner like Nick, doing a headstand.

Canal OM Chile yoga retreat

Food was delicious & strengthening

There are a few gripes – though food is a real highlight, the unsmiling local kitchen staff at breakfast and lunch were reluctant to immediately replace buffet items and appeared to run out of dishes at times, creating a rush on the food. And we weren’t alone in wishing that Gustavo’s clifftop house was the setting for the yoga studio, which is tucked away from the stunning sea view.

The truly spectacular setting, and our stunning suite, are the most unique and memorable aspects of Canal Om, but after just two days of yoga, sleep, strengthening food and bathing in sea water, we feel energized and ready to hit the Chilean road.

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Canal OM Chile yoga retreat

‘We marvel at clear sea water pools of different shapes and sizes along the rocky seafront’

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