Getting longer and stronger on an Azulfit yoga and Pilates holiday on Fuerteventura

Ruth Rosselson reviews this friendly, fitness-focused escape in the Canary Islands and finds the light-hearted, relaxing retreat is just what she needs

Fuerteventura is an excellent destination for sun and warmth in the depth of the European winter. As well as having the bad weather January blues, I also had builders in my house, so by the time I arrived at Villa Azul, I was pretty low and in need of a physical and emotional recharge.

I arrived after all the other guests, and joined them for a hearty evening meal. Frauke, one of the two managers, then gave me a brief induction and I retreated to bed, hungry for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep much, too wired from the stress I’d left back home, and by the time I arrived at the first yoga class the next morning at 8:30am, I was bleary eyed and exhausted.

Federico, the Italian yoga teacher, soon woke me up. His 90 minute hatha class was challenging and energising, and would probably have been quite a shock for someone who had not done yoga before. I am used to teachers who demonstrate every pose, but Federico preferred us to find the poses ourselves. He instructed us into the asanas step by step, with frequent reminders to keep our eyes closed and to do the pose “from the inside out”. Although it was strange and difficult initially, his style advanced my practice and helped me feel my way into the asanas instead of think my way into them. His relaxations at the end of every class were wonderful, and his sessions were a highlight of my stay.

The first Pilates class that afternoon was also a bit of a shock to the system – specifically for the abdominal muscles. Our teacher Jo Dombernowsky teaches Stott Pilates, which was quite different from the Pilates classes I’d been to before, mainly for its focus on core strengthening – I worked my abs harder that week than they had worked in a long long time. We started with an introduction to the main principles and exercises of Pilates, and progressed throughout the week to a seriously challenging and gym-like Pilates circuits class, using a variety of equipment.

Most of the other group had come on their own, and we bonded quickly and easily. People visibly relaxed and chilled out over the week, and progressed with both the Pilates and yoga. As well as Federico’s class there as ashtanga class (which I skipped) and a morning session with Frauke, an experienced Kundalini teacher. Her class was one of the most bizarre and fun yoga classes I’ve experienced, for it included a four minute segment with us sat on the floor with our arms in the air like a space invader, shaking our heads, arms and whole bodies to some high energy music, with Frauke goading us to move faster and harder. Her style is not for everyone, but I really loved her warm heart and energy so gave myself fully to the experience.

‘With the Stott Pilates teacher I worked my abs harder than they had worked in a long long time’

The week’s schedule gave us plenty of time to fit in treatments and other activities when we weren’t doing yoga and Pilates; free transfers to the main beach resort of Corallejo were included on two days. I particularly loved the volcano walk with Wendi, which included a grounding meditation and rewarded us with beautiful views. My inclusive massage with Alejandra was also amazing. Her strength and gentleness really got out my shoulder and back knots and I returned for a reflexology treatment with her the day before leaving.

We all really liked the meals at Villa Azul – even the hardened meat eaters unused to a lighter diet. Brunches are included, plus five suppers – unusually for a healthy holiday, you do your own thing for lunch, and eat out on two of the nights. Brunch was healthy and plentiful, and usually included a variety of cereals, fruit salad, yoghurt and home-made bread, as well as something additional, such as a frittata or muffin. It was served a little late for me, at 10am, and I was glad of the snacks I’d brought with to munch on before class, but other guests were really pleased with the schedule, liking a bit of a leisurely start to the day.

For lunches I often had a simple sandwich at the Villa from ingredients bought at the grocery. One day, a fellow guest and I hired bikes and had a gorgeous cycle to the seaside village of El Cortillo, where we had a tasty lunch of fresh fish and grilled vegetables at a restaurant overlooking the sea. The five evening meals included at the Villa each featured a variety of dishes, and were vegan, low GI, fresh and extremely delicious – many of us bought the chef Jo’s cookbook to recreate meals at home. The two evenings the group ate out at local restaurants were fun nights, but my least favourite meals of the week.

Although there was plenty to do on Fuerteventura, the villa was also comfortable to hang out in, both inside and out, and I spent many lovely hours just chilling out, or reading. The communal living area was bright and airy, and the garden had decent loungers for sunbathing as well as a plunge pool. Ornaments such as Buddhas and yogic frogs dotted around added a welcome, funky touch.

Frauke led two meditation sessions during the week – a welcoming meditation, all about letting go, and a full moon healing meditation, just before we left. It was a fitting end to a friendly, relaxing week, and I returned home more flexible and physically stronger, and sleeping a whole lot better than when I arrived. It was just what I needed.