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Summer Solstice Yoga Retreat in Andalusia June 2023

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

A yoga retreat is a precious gift; one you should give to yourself whenever you can, for it allows you to leave the hum drum of everyday mundane life behind for a while and recapture what truly lights you up and reminds you of the life living inside you.

Retreating requires courage. To take a step without feet as Rumi would say, into an unknown adventure which magnetically conjures spaciousness as your sigh merges and entwines with the Earth's breeze warmed by the energetic, life bestowing sun. Energy is ever present in multiple forms, but importantly there are frequent moments of standing still too, pauses that bring you fully into the moment. This was the over-arching theme of our retreat in honour of the time of the year when the Sun itself appears to stand still - the Summer Solstice.

The idyllic setting provided by this Andalusian cortijo uncovered itself unpretentiously at the end of a winding stony drive flanked by the ubiquitous olive trees that proliferate in this area. A heat haze caused the view of nature's interlaced landscape to oscillate as it fluttered to meet tired travelling eyes. A raw, burnished landscape, backlit in blue by the outline of mountains in the far distance held a boundary for hills to undulate and nest themselves beyond the expansive plains of olive groves smattering their modest green over the barren slopes of ochre crusted earth. An endless cerulean sky towered above us as guests emerged from the air conditioned coach and stepped inside the white walled flanks of El Cachete - our idyllic retreat venue and home for the week.

The folowing morning, a first witnessing of that rosy fingered dawn which the poets speak of. I imaged the Hindu Goddess Usas, fleeing her father, Prajapati the creator. Each quickening step lighter as she rose into the sky and perhaps deliberately, although possibly unwittingly, pulled behind her life's powerful creative force. Each opening of the day begins with the Sun. Surya's chariot is pulled by Aruna (the morning sun), and emerges from beyond the horizon like a glowing golden egg swelling in its shadowed nest. Reliable, dependable, regular, consistent, this golden orb of fire makes every morning memorable and more so it seemed in this paradise setting from which flowed a sense of pure, unrestrained renewal.

Embracing such closeness to nature is often lost in more temperate climes; in places where indoors has become a more familiar home than our ancestors markedly outdoor life. So escaping to the Mediterranean warmth provided a chance to blend more naturally into the embrace of outstretched arms that beckoned us to an unfamiliar but not alien landscape. Accompanied by new companions all primed and willing to share in the mutual surrender and fall headlong into a shining week of re-nourishing yoga connection through beautiful sadhanas, delicious food and plenty of relaxation.

"And not once has the Sun looked down on the Earth and said you owe me. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights up the world." Rumi

With rooms allocated, bags unpacked, connective threads of friendships began to form and a felt sense that these would be forged more deeply through all our shared yoga practices and the time we spent together. Slowed by the heat, a reminder of nature's powerful control and her wisdom and will to make us truly see.

The venue provided two exquisite yoga spaces: a bright studio with mesmerising views became the home for all our early evening (and some morning) practices and there was room enough for all 14 yogis to claim their own spot of 'real estate'. Our very first evening practice gently swept away the travel dust as we quietly flowed through a surya namaskar influenced sequence - opening and warming the body. Traditional salutes to the sun in honour of all life he kindles completed, we settled into a more lunar reflection with the dissolve of yin-spirational light dropping inwards. The joy of settling and becoming receptive to that softer light was enhanced by a heart and small intestine meridian focus for our yin yoga practice.

Worshipped by the ancients the Sun represents life, with its qualities of light and heat. Life feeds on life and keeping us fed and nourished throughout the week, our lovely chef Laura ensured we had a plethora of healthy, tasty meals with a selection of colourful and creative seasonal dishes and some truly delicious tantalisingly sweet juices and smoothies to keep hydration levels topped up.

The rural and remote location afforded the chance to watch the sun set from the west facing terrace where we gathered for shared meals and as the heat of the day dissolved, the softness of an orange sky created the perfect ambiance for connection through shared experience. There was plenty of laughter too and it was surprising how quickly our large group became one.

On the first morning in our new home, observing the very first of those mystical sunrises, it became impossible not to be made still, caught in the trance of simply being. Held by the gradual effortless emergence of radiant light, and the eventual appearance of that amorphous formless force which reliably returns to light up the world each day. Throughout our twice daily practices we shed light on the many myths which entwine the Sun and give to yoga a richness that goes beyond the body and extends into the imaginative realms. Stories flowed and included the tale of his wife Suranya (Samya in some versions) and the simulacrum she creates, Chaya and the son of the Sun who cursed his father to lose his light from time to time - in the confusion of the solar eclipses.

Later on in the week the outdoor deck, shielded by an overhead sail saw us take flight inspired by Garuda's story and despite the late night return following a trip to see the city of Granada, the fun we had with side crow and koundinyasana 2, left everyone feeling a sense of his effulgent courage and recognising in their own story just how much brilliance has already flowed.

Of course asana is only one one part of the story. Included in guests gift bags were along with a journal, aromatherapy blend and some handy vidrate sachets, was a mala bead necklace so we were able to share japa mantras throughout the retreat as well as learning some sanskrit chants dedicated to Surya. A number of his 107 names were explored: Ravi - the one who roars, Khaga - sky goer and Marichi - the shining one, lord of the Maruts, all of which enhancing our enlightening journey. In reverence to the inevitable friendships which unfold on retreat, Mitra drew much attention and the importance of kinship to support the soul throughout all our journeys around the sun but also a reminder to befriend the body and practice with compassion and kindness and treat our bodies as the companion they really are.

Leaping enthusiastically into the Hindu stories, Tuesday's practices were devoted to the lovable monkey god Hanuman and his unique story as told by Tulsidas in the Hanuman Chalisa. Hanuman is the devoted friend of Ram and Sita, and his unswerving loyalty to his friends is etched deeply in his heart. So a hanuman heart is really a heart of gold. In the kundalini practice the 'Heart of Gold' kriya enables us to purify the heart, and to realise the alchemical shifts that take place when we focus on the heart space and all that exists there. Kriyas, which arise from the kundalini school of yoga, strengthen the nervous system, focus the mind towards a specific goal and balance the subtle energies within. They can be powerfully transformative just like the sun.

The cortijo provided everyone with shady secluded places to rest and retreat from the sun along with comfortable indoor spaces to relax. The glistening vast pool was almost certainly its breathtaking gem. Quelling the heat with a cool immersion in welcoming waters made time stand still and all cares melt away. Laughter echoed frequently especially when the Inflatable unicorns and flamingo races brought some friendly competition to the week. When the afternoon sun became too intense for our meditation and journalling workshop we took to the shadows finding peace and tranquil shelter provided by the poolside slated arbours whilst the sunlight scattered artisan patterns on across the waters glassy surface.

An ice bath experience was a playful quest. Wim Hoff style breathing practice followed by a brave dip with some taking to the ice like penguins and others digging deep to remain calm for the few minutes of immersion - everyone embraced the challenge. It was utterly blissful to step out into the instant warmth of the day and although the ice melted quickly this felt like the way to begin cold exposure. Retreaters also took advantage of a relaxing massage and some galant warriors even ventured out in the early morning on 2 wheels for a spot of mountain biking action.

All too soon it seemed the week was was drawing to a close. Radiant faces, relaxed bodies and spacious minds hugged the moments we shared and each other as we universally carried the wonderful memories made in this co-created event and let the long time sun guide our way on.

Intense gratitude to David and Africa of Cortijo El Cachete in Andalusia for welcoming us so warmly and for their generous and regular assistance both before and during the week. To Laura for keeping us fed and watered throughout (and Dave her BF for supporting her), to Sophie for capturing a wonderful array of beautiful images and particularly to Edward and Pella for being the absolute best support crew and my heartfelt gratitude to all of the guests who joined me, every single one of them a unique, vibrant and exquisite shining star of gorgeousness.

Below are just a few of the comments received so far from these stars mentioned above. And yes next year's return is being planned.

Gallery images will be uploaded soon so you can see more of the venue and our life enhancing yoga retreat experience.

Retreat with me this Autumn for a wonderful weekend in a country house in Somerset - yoga, nourishing food and forest bathing bliss - rooms from just £300 (sharing a twin room) - click here to find out more.

"A yoga experience with Emma is the ultimate experience in teaching excellence. Joining her on the mat is a pleasure and a priviledge." Sue H

"This (my first) yoga retreat exceeded my expectations. Main highlights: beautiful setting amidst olive trees and mountains that made you forget the daily hassles in far far away land (UK!), connecting with likeminded people and nourishing your body with wholesome, thoughtful food offerings. Every day, a variety of different style yoga sessions were interlaced with the luxury of using time as you please, perhaps some self-reflection, connecting with other yogis, flamingo vs unicorn races in the pool, reading, just being in the moment and embracing the sun and much more. I love how Emma sets the scene for each class with Hindu storytelling. They provide food for thought and an insight into the origins of the yoga postures. With this new understanding, coupled with Emma’s wicked yet supportive sense of humour, I felt encouraged to attempt some of the more challenging postures. What I will remember most about this retreat will be the total relaxation, laughter, (during and outside of yoga sessions), feeling nourished (both, mind and body) and the amazing mix of all fellow retreaters I met." Susa W

“A great location for a retreat, good facilities with a fantastic swimming pool. A great eclectic mix of people who socialised well and made the time fly pass. Emma is a fantastic yoga teacher, I love her soothing voice and passing on of so much knowledge and history. I love her teaching method which makes an old fumbling guy feel at ease.” Paul C

“What an amazing yoga retreat, organised beautifully by Emma. A lovely setting, great food, and great yoga. A time to rest, reflect and rejuvenate with like-minded people.” Thank you, Emma xxx " Kathryn D

"I loved my retreat with Yoga Avenue, It was my first ever yoga retreat and Emma chose a fantastic location and a beautiful villa for our stay, it was such a treat to enjoy yoga twice a day with lots of different styles offered – something for everyone. Emma really took care of us and made us all feel welcomed, loved, and supported. The food was delicious and plentiful, it was fun trying different foods all of which were delicious.

The sunrises and sunsets at this accommodation are sensational and I really enjoying eating, chatting, and watching the sun go to sleep for the night after our evening yoga practice. The whim Hoff ice bath experience was a highlight for me, and I had a blast running around sightseeing in Granada on our day trip. Overall, it was a beautiful healing, relaxing week filled with incredible yoga from Emma, delicious food and a perfect setting. Just bliss!" Frances W

“The yoga treat was a wonderful experience full of lovely people, and with healthy, plentiful and tasty food. The additional activities were great and I thoroughly enjoyed the day out in Granada and the Wim Hoff Ice Bath. The estate and surrounding countryside was unspoilt and stunning, and the large swimming pool was a welcome surprise. I would definitely recommend this retreat to anyone who needs to unwind, relax and practice yoga in an authentic and inspirational way.” Lou F

"I feel so lucky for this to be my first ever yoga retreat (I’m hooked now!). Emma is such an exceptional yoga teacher, she is inclusive and offers modifications to poses that help you relax and truly go with your own flow and abilities.

What makes her classes more special is that she is an amazing storyteller and I love her use of beautiful Hindu mythology that weaves through the sessions. Somehow, they always resonate with me on some level and feel like fairy tales for grown-ups. What makes Emma even more special is her sense of humour and lightness but with perfectly prepared teaching. The retreat was a real blessing to be able to experience her exceptional teaching twice per day, and in addition in such a gorgeous venue with spectacular views. I also loved the variety of yoga styles offered as I’m not able to experience those outside of the retreat." Eva R

Photos courtesy of Sophie Wooding (instagram: sophiegabsphotography). Catering services provided by Laura Wooding of

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