Slow Living: 6 days in Portugal to reconnect, to appreciate, to trust
by Hanna Pumfrey, Flor + Cesta
*****Cat is offering a 15% discount for all Flor + Cesta readers who sign up before the 15 December. To find out more or book your place email email@example.com.*****
All too often life can become overly hectic or emotionally out of kilter. We forget what is truly important and become preoccupied with the small things, we give into the stress of the material world we live in. This is where I was in the last few weeks. Writing about living a sustainable lifestyle, in every aspect, but working 55 hour weeks. Feeling the strain of the fast life and quickly forgetting what it is I need to maintain my balance and make life sustainable, for me.
It's a downward spiral. So, I decided to take a leap, to trust and to reconnect. I booked a last-minute flight to Faro and signed up to a Cat Loves Yoga retreat on the edge of the Algarve.
I arrived at Aterra Eco-camping, our accommodation for the retreat, on Tuesday afternoon after an early morning flight, and a hair-raising taxi ride through the winding roads of the Portuguese countryside. Portuguese drivers are cray than Italian, it’s official, but boy was the journey worth it! We (my new roomie and I) were shown to our tipi (yes a tipi) by one half of Aterra’s owners, Francisco. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on this one!
After dumping our bags, we set about exploring the campsite grounds, ahead of our first class of the day. Aterra is an eco-glamping site on the Southwest coast of Alentejo, Portugal. The site offers everything from romantic Rajasthani tents to stunning yurts and auspicious tipi’s, situated a peaceful valley, surrounded by Woodland and a fresh water lake with its own beach. Not to mention the gorgeous veggie garden and fruit trees where Aterra’s fabulous chef Danny sources most of his ingredients from. Run on solar power, as long you’re not adverse to compost toilets, Aterra is must visit place for the discerning eco-tourist!
What struck me, almost instaneously, about Aterra was how peaceful it was. It immediately calmed my soul. That first afternoon, as I laid by the lake waiting for the evening class to start, all I could hear was the wind rustling in the leaves of the surrounding trees. This is, for me, one of the most beautiful and relaxing sounds in the world.
At 5.30pm on the dot (you can the girl out of London… ) I was waiting in the Shala (Shala means ‘home’ in Sanskrit), eager to know what the next few days held. I’m always nervous about going to new yoga teachers as everyone’s style is so different and sometimes you’re just not keen on it, so I was interested to see how the week would go.
I needn’t have worried, as soon as I met Cat I knew it was going to be an amazing experience. Warm and funny, with a hint of sarcasm, Cat is my kind of gal.
Cat opened the week with a ceremony designed to open our hearts and help us let go of what no longer serves us. To allow us to become closer to nature, closer to our roots and true essence, by unlocking and opening the body and mind to the intuitive healing it needs; to find our most authentic self.
Each day of the retreat related to an element in the Mayan calendar. We practiced twice daily, a dynamic and energising mandala practice (similar to Rocket yoga) each morning, followed by calming Yin each evening. Each day focused on one of the 4 elements, fire, water, earth and air, synchronising us with the rhythms of the universe. In-between classes, we explored the wild beaches of the surrounding coast line. Using the soft sand to practice our inversions, swimming in the super chilly waters of the Atlantic and eating Danny’s wonderful food.
For the full 6 days, I laughed, I played, I slept, I ate. Boy did we eat! Aterra’s chef every summer is Danny, a Spanish social worker who lives in London who cooked up the most delicious vegan food I’ve come across. His picnics were to die for! I felt refreshed, relaxed, more peaceful than I had in weeks. Connected with what a sustainable life means to me and reminded of the importance of living a conscious and mindful existence.
Thank you, Catarina, for a beautiful few days of practice, for reminding me to stay rooted, to appreciate and to trust in what is to come. Thank you for your amazing teaching and for helping me master my headstand! I can’t tell you how much satisfaction that gave me!
The slow life and its benefits are there for the taking, for all of us, sometimes we just have to trust. Catarina’s next retreat will take place at Vida Pura, in the Algarve, in a beautiful shala facing the mountains. I couldn’t recommend it more! I’ll be taking time out to be there again. You can find out more about Cat’s next retreat here.
Cat is offering a 15% discount for all Flor + Cesta readers who sign up before the 15 December. To find out more or book your place email firstname.lastname@example.org.