Getting energised and creative at La Crisalida wellness retreat in Spain

Ruth Rosselson reviews this affordable health and wellbeing retreat on the Costa Blanca and enjoys a friendly vibe and a pick-and-mix choice of healthy activities

I arrived at La Crisalida overworked, exhausted and feeling grotty from having lapsed into old stress-related eating patterns. I hadn’t really thought much about what to expect from the retreat, I just knew that I needed a break from every day life, and a chance to reset my body, physically and emotionally.

I checked in and was shown to my room – a brightly lit ground floor room by the pool – and started to settle in. I’d arrived during lunch, and a plate had thoughtfully been made up for me so I didn’t have to miss the meal. I’d been given a timetable for the week and attended a welcome talk after lunch with a couple of other guests who had arrived on the same day. We were given a talk about the retreat and encouraged to set some goals around what we wanted to get out of our stay.

I’d expected to be antisocial and too tired to do much, so was completely surprised to feel sociable and active right from the get-go. This was largely down to the way the retreat works. Rolling start dates meant that there were arrivals and departures daily, giving the retreat a lovely consistent upbeat energy, without the mid-week slump that you can often get on a week-long detox.

Right from that first afternoon, I threw myself into the timetabled activities – at least for the first four days. They were all pretty enjoyable and varied, from a lovely relaxing afternoon yin yoga session, to the high energy rebounding class, and a giggle-inducing kundalini session.

‘A highlight was the creativity workshop, when extroverted Krystyn let us experiment with paints and canvases’

I particularly loved a spine lengthening hatha class led by the nicely strict but warm Cristina. Another highlight was the creativity workshop with extroverted Krystyn, who led us in a discussion around acceptance and then let us experiment with paints and canvases. I let go of all thoughts of creating a perfect piece and enjoyed the process, as well as the end product, which I took home and put on the wall as a reminder of my week.

I found the retreat attracted a good mix of interesting people, most of whom had come on their own. Mealtimes were nearly all buzzing, with people chatting and laughing, with those on the juice cleanse often wisely sitting apart from those on solid food. The food was always good, varied, vegetarian, plant-based (vegan), sugar-free and really appetising. Although I’d hoped to drop a couple of pounds, it didn’t happen as I couldn’t resist loading my plate with pretty hefty portions, and enjoyed eating and mindfully savouring the nourishing and tasty meals. A number of other guests chose to juice for their stay and others did share that they lost weight.

In the latter half of my stay, I went on some solo walks, skipping a few classes in favour of more contemplative time. The beach isn’t far from the retreat, and I enjoyed a mellow afternoon just chilling out on the sand and watching the waves. The walk to the lighthouse was straightforward and not too challenging while still providing a good workout, and I did it three times during my stay – twice with a group and once alone, enjoying the solitude, red rocks and landscape and the views out to the sea. On my penultimate day, a small group of us took a walk to the old town of Altea. It was good to get a feel of the old town, away from the tourist centre, and do a bit of sightseeing and photography.

Being able to pick and choose my activities was great, as it meant that I could dictate the pace of my retreat and listen to what my mind and body needed each day. There was never any pressure to take part in anything, and there was enough variety in the activities for me not to find anything got stale or boring. In amongst the classes, walks, and chatting with fellow guests, I managed to fit in some much-needed pool and book time. Overall, I loved the atmosphere, energy, interesting healthy food and choice of activities. The flexibility of retreat lengths and dates means that I’m as likely to consider it for a long weekend as for a longer week away.

By the end of my stay, everyone remarked how happy and energised I looked – I certainly felt it. I left with a renewed sense of calm and vitality, greater hamstring flexibility from doing yoga twice daily, a canvas painting entitled ‘Acceptance’ and, according to my Fitbit, a drop in my average resting heart rate – physical proof of my more relaxed state.