Gina Hardy yoga holidays review
Nurturing ‘girl next door’ yoga holidays in Greece & the UK
The Quick Read: Gina Hardy is a charming, open, caring and grounded yoga teacher who teaches a blend of Hatha, Yin and Restorative yoga for ‘everyday people’ with flair and knowledge. At home in Surrey, she teaches the over-60s, while on retreats in the Isle of Wight and Greece, the students tend to be younger, though still in their forties and fifties. Keen on everybody having the best time possible, her retreats include two one and a half hour sessions of yoga a day – in the morning and early evening – but also plenty of downtime and opportunities to socialise, plus a day off for guests to do what they like. Gina also has her own Youtube channel Gina Hardy Yoga with over 70 tutorial videos and short classes.
Gina Hardy’s yoga: Gina started practising Iyengar yoga in 1994 for four years and then spent the next 13 years immersed in other styles of Yoga including Desikachar with Gill Lloyd, Ashtanga, Bikram, Scarivelli and Hatha. There followed a period of life in the corporate world as an aviation construction project manager, before she came back to yoga and trained as a Hatha teacher with the Unity School of Yoga in Brighton, qualifying in 2008.
Gina’s style is very much ‘girl next door’ – there is nothing pretentious or ‘woo-woo’ about her. Although she has spent over 20 years doing personal growth and is interested in the spiritual side of yoga, her passion and skill lie in transmitting her love for the asana practice to her students and helping them to understand their bodies.
Gina is particularly committed to working with elderly people and is good at working with bodies which are arthritic or have high blood pressure and other problems. She also has an interest in Yin Yoga, and on retreat blends traditional Yin and Restorative postures with what she calls ‘Hatha with a Yin focus’. As she says – ‘I am now in a Yin phase of life’.
Gina’s style in class is relaxed but structured. There is an emphasis on slowing down, staying with the body (less mind, more body), relaxation and deep breathing. She incorporates meditation (some guided) and pranayama. Her knowledge of anatomy and physiology is impressive, and she is very good at describing exactly how best to get into an asana and making full use of props. Having done a two-year crystal healing course, she also uses chakra crystals during relaxation and creates a zen atmosphere in her shalas with incense, low music and gem stones.
Gina Hardy’s yoga holidays: Gina has been running retreats since 2011 – she uses venues in the Isle of Wight, Spain and India, but plans to run most of her retreats at retreat centres in Greece – most especially the beautiful Urania Villas on Lefkas. Keen on everybody having the best time possible, her retreats include two one and a half hour sessions of yoga a day – in the morning and early evening – but also plenty of downtime and opportunities to socialise, plus a day off for guests can do what they like.
At all her retreats, she is committed to finding chefs who cook healthy food, preferably vegetarian, and no alcohol, and is keen on rituals and ceremonies. Among those she initiated on our retreat were a World Sisterhood Day ceremony and a daily Intention ritual where we placed stones representing our intention that day on an Intention cairn.
How was it for us: I attended Gina’s first retreat at the Urania Villas on Lefkas in Greece, where she struck a good balance between retreat and holiday and where she organised a boat and swimming trip on our day off.
Gina’s yoga style is just what the doctor ordered: the emphasis on Yin is deeply calming and beneficial and she blends Yin and Restorative asanas with more traditional Hatha poses, some of which are more challenging, in a structured flow sequence, always looking out for those who need adaptations and adjustments. She puts a lot of thought into her lesson plans but is totally prepared to go off piste if the need arises and many of the yoga classes were two hours long. I was impressed by her knowledge of physiology and anatomy and the detailed way in which she described precisely how to get into the pose (her Iyengar background perhaps).
Meditation and Pranayama is part of her practice and we had one or two guided meditations including Yoga Nidra in the evenings. On two mornings we sat on our clifftop in awed silence watching the astonishing sunrise over the sea with small misty islands in the background.
Her theme for the week was Yoga in Presence by which she meant listening to the body, not the mind, and staying in the present moment. The magic of Yoga completely informs her own life and her enthusiasm and gratitude for it is infectious. I came away from the retreat greatly more rested, more flexible, and, for once, felt I had actually listened to my body more than usual and learned a lot about my practice as a result.
Fellow Yogis: Everyday people, of all ages and types – on our retreat it was mostly women (one man) ranging in age from late twenties to mid sixties. At least seven of them had been on previous Gina retreats and ranged in ability from near beginners to high intermediate. These people were not dedicated, serious yogis but all of them embraced yoga in their lives and welcomed the chance to do three hours a day with such an accessible teacher. It might not suit younger, fitter students so well who enjoy a high energy Ashtanga or Bikram practice, and uber-serious retreat yogis may find the atmosphere too casual.
What’s queenly: Gina has time for everybody and is a very nurturing teacher, even to the extent of tucking you into blankets for relaxation (and insisting on doing all the putting out of mats and props in the morning and clearing them all away herself so her guests can be as chilled as possible). She has a great Earth Mother vibe about her which everyone responds to.
What’s lowly: If you like practising your yoga in near silence or zoning out, you might not appreciate Gina’s ‘stream of consciousness’ talking throughout, disarming though I found it. Also, purists may not approve of the low background yoga music.
Insider tip: Gina is trained in Crystal Healing, Reiki, and Ayurvedic Head Massage which are on offer to retreat guests. Her partner, Joel Young, who accompanies her on retreat, is also an experienced personal growth therapist and will give consultations and tarot card readings (with a difference).
Value for money: On our retreat in Greece, it was excellent given the luxurious accommodation. It cost £1397 sharing and £1797 for a single room, with early bird discounts also available.
Reviewed by Carla McKay
© Queen of Retreats