Feeling safe and nurtured on a luxury Soulshine Retreat on Ibiza
Ruth Rosselson reviews this delightful luxury yoga retreat on Ibiza run by Soulla Demetriou and feels nurtured and regrounded after a terrorist attack in her home city
“I am here, I am grounded, I am safe” recites Rachel, our morning yoga teacher at Soulshine retreats in Ibiza. It’s to be our mantra for our first full day, corresponding with the base chakra, with an asana practice to match, helping ground and centre us. I repeat the mantra silently, and my eyes fill with tears as I realise how ungrounded and unsafe I have felt for the past four days since my hometown of Manchester was bombed in a terrorist attack.
I’d arrived the previous afternoon at the beautiful Can Shui villa, in a small settlement on a hill in the north of Ibiza with stunning views out to sea. Retreat manager Rich, and founder Soulla, welcomed us with hugs and kisses, and it didn’t take long for me and the fellow retreaters to settle in. Their welcome talk set the scene for the week; “Let us look after you. Let us love you. You deserve it”. They promised to make us tea, bring us water, and look after us, and I welled up a little as I know that being looked after is something I struggle with. “Changes happen when we allow ourselves to be fully nurtured and taken care of”, they explained.
On the first evening, we’re shown one of three thought-provoking Ted talks in the villa’s “Zen den”. This one, by Brené Brown, is on vulnerability and really hits a nerve. I journal afterwards, so that I don’t forget the key points. For the next five days, I allow myself to go with the flow with an intention to be as present as possible and not dwell too much on past events.
I eat stunningly presented and tasty food, relax by the pool or on my terrace, and attend talks and workshops. The food is plentiful, all vegetarian and free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar with minimal grains or pulses. There’s an emphasis on fresh vegetables, presented and cooked with imagination and love. A grilled watermelon starter goes down particularly well, and the deserts never fail to impress. It all feels deliciously healthy and yet decadent at the same time.
My room is spacious, with a four poster bed, arty black and white photographs on the wall and a huge bathroom area with walk in shower. Lovely though it is, I prefer to spend my free time lounging on the sofa on my private terrace, reading and catching up on some well deserved rest, or on the sun loungers by the pool.
My fellow guests (there are twelve of us in total) are easy going. We’re mostly solo travellers, and professionals in our twenties, thirties and forties. There are only two men, but they seem to cope with these dynamics, and we all get on well, chatting and laughing round the table at meals.
It would be easy to spend the entire week just chilling out at the villa, but I decide with two of my fellow guests to venture out one free afternoon to the secluded local beach, hiking along an easy trail to the stony beach and taking a well deserved dip in the beautifully cool sea. We also get a full free day out, and taxis are arranged so that we can mooch round the local hippy market, ending up on one of Ibiza’s famous beaches, which seems hectic and overwhelming compared to the stillness of the villa.
I particularly enjoy the pre-breakfast yoga classes on the wooden yoga deck; a perfect shady spot, with views down to the sea, and birds tweeting around us. Rachel leads a lovely flowing practice which builds up from slow stretches and deep breathing, to a stronger segment that gently pushes us further as the week progresses. We continue to work through a different chakra each day.
On the first afternoon, I have a one-to-one with Soulla to help me choose which therapies could be beneficial for me. With so many to choose from, it’s hard to know what to plump for, as I also didn’t want to over-schedule my week. I choose a massage for my persistent back and neck tension, reflexology for relaxation (which delivered in spades) and a nutritional consultation with Anna King, the resident nutritionist, who gave me a whole bunch of new things to try for my arthritis and fibromyalgia. Louise Cameron, the masseur, is also a physiotherapist, and she helps me with a persistent knee injury.
Our morning practices are complimented by gentle restorative evening sessions, which focus on using the breath to help ground, soothe and relax. Soulla and Rich lead us through delicious yin or restorative classes to release emotion and tension and create a feeling of inner safety that I desperately needed to reconnect with. My practices at home are usually quite ‘yang’ and I had thought I would get bored or restless holding postures for so long, yet the classes zip by amazingly quickly. The yoga nidras tagged onto two of the classes are the icing on the cake. Gradually, as the week progressed, I am able to physically and emotionally let go.
On the final day, I have a yoga session with Soulla, who runs me through a bespoke practice to help awaken my fire in the morning. I’ve never had a solo yoga lesson before, and I find it both helpful and reassuring, and I’m excited to try the routine out on my return.
The emphasis on being nurtured and looked after here, alongside self-care and self-compassion, is exactly what I needed to help dissolve my body’s stress and fear response triggered by the previous week’s events. By the time we get into the taxi to the airport on the final day, the fragile and shaken Ruth is already a distant memory and I feel back to my old self again. Nourished and lighter, I’m ready to head home and face the world once more.