Being in the moment with The Zest Life retreats on Anglesey
Carla Mckay reviews this yoga and wild swimming weekend on a stunning Anglesey estate and finds exceptional teaching, experienced guides and scrummy tea and cake
I went to Plas Cadnant with The Zest Life because I was keen to try the Yoga and Wild Swimming retreat – for me, the dream combo. I was not disappointed. I have been practising yoga for some 15 years. I only started (reluctantly) aged 50 triggered by a mid-life crisis accentuated by the fact that I couldn’t pull on my socks without groaning, and endless yoga lessons, experiences and retreats later, I can honestly say that whilst I have encountered some very good and some famous yoga teachers, I found Laura Bell’s teaching to be exceptional.
She is a natural teacher who came to yoga after breaking her back at 18 and being told she could no longer run – her passion. Since then she has studied ashtanga yoga in Mysore, India and with other well-known yogis. Her approach is very calm, very focused, very clear and very precise. If that sounds alarming, it’s not. Like all good teachers, she is also flexible and attuned to everyone’s needs, including beginners. Her classes are primarily vinyasa flow with lots of modifications. She manages to keep an eye out for everyone, makes adjustments, and – a nice touch this – rubs your neck from time to time with some heavenly oil. Plas Cadnant’s yoga shala is beautiful and spacious with underfloor heating – something that was very welcome first thing in the morning. On our last day the weather was clement so we had a yoga session outdoors on the lawn combined with a mindfulness walk.
The wild swimming was superb too, organised by Gabby and her team who run a company called Gone Swimming. There were three experienced and qualified guides who fitted us up with wetsuits and took us to the best possible spots depending on weather conditions. On the Saturday we walked to a lovely sheltered cove and swam in the sea. And on Sunday we braved an icy mountain lake in Snowdonia National Park. Each time we swam for about 40 minutes and then had a warming picnic on the shore.
Both the swimming and the yoga were everything I could have hoped for and to do them both in one weekend was heaven. Laura is a real professional and everything was beautifully organised – particularly important as we were embarking on potentially dangerous sports such as wild swimming or hiking in the mountains. Laura has gathered together experienced guides for each activity, so that we could completely relax and enjoy the sport to the full knowing we were in safe and expert hands.
Everyone I spoke to in the group thought the combination retreats were a brilliant idea. Yoga can be a solitary experience, but the sports activities give the group a chance to really bond and have fun. The whole thing worked like clockwork.
Plas Cadnant estate is in a sunning location, and though the house here was less grand than one might expect, it’s superbly comfortable and packed with character. I was rather panic-stricken to be told I was to share a room with an unknown party, but in fact it was fine – book well ahead if you want a room alone. The food was decent too. Who knew that quinoa, avocado and spiralised courgette salad could be so utterly satisfying? Not to mention the cookies made with raw carob. And, call me old fashioned, but after a very energetic day, what could be nicer than sitting down to a proper tea with cake at 5 o’clock? I’ll be back, for sure.