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By Chere Di Boscio
As anyone who’s rushed to join a yoga class in a sweaty urban gym after work knows, it’s pretty hard to let yourself truly relax. We have thousands of thoughts contaminating our minds and affecting our bodies, and sometimes yoga class feels more like a chore than a gift to ourselves. Which is why a retreat is always a good idea.
The KaliYoga chain, already popular in France and Spain, has recently opened a branch in Puglia, Italy. Here, you can not only practice mindful yoga in the most relaxing of settings, you can also explore one of Italy’s most beautiful and rustic regions.
The retreat is set in the countryside amongst a cluster of trulli, the traditional Pugliese buildings built from nothing but stone. Guests either have a bedroom in the main building, or can opt to have their own trullo–a conically roofed, charmingly comfortable 500 year old structure that comes complete with a kitchenette, shower and living area.
Mine was a spacious, cozy chamber, complete with a private garden where a fig tree thrived. Purring cats visited me in private garden, throwing themselves at my feet under the Italian sun. It was hard to leave this setting every morning to attend the 8 am morning yoga session, so I didn’t–which was fine. Although there are two yoga sessions per day, guests are welcome to come and go as they please.
When I did attend in the afternoons, our teacher, Luce, was always gently instructive and accommodating, guiding the class through a series of breathing and dynamically focused classes. It must have been difficult for her to tailor the sessions to the varied needs of my group–which ranged from absolute beginners to those who had begun yoga teacher training–but she somehow managed to please everyone by offering options in how far they wished to take postures.
Besides yoga sessions, there’s plenty to do at KaliYoga Puglia: biking or jogging on the country roads; lounging by the pool or Jacuzzi; participating in one of the guided walking or biking tours, or visiting one of the charming towns nearby. Most guests opted to visit ‘the White City’–Locorotondo–on our free day, and it was picture-book perfect, with winding medieval streets adorned with Baroque architecture and artisans selling everything from homemade cheese and fresh pressed olive oil to handcrafted lace.
Food at the retreat was varied and delicious. Each morning began with a smorgasbord of muesli moistened with homemade yogurts and fresh fruit, all washed down with pressed juices. Hearty and healthy salads were served for lunch, and dinner was a more formal, three course affair.
Cheese, fish, bread and even wine were on the menu, and coffee is provided in each room–this is a yoga retreat, not a health farm, so don’t expect to come here and lose weight. That being said, you will probably feel you’ve detoxed somewhat after all the healthy eating, and those who decided to go a bit crazy with the booze and meat in town on our free day invariably expressed their regrets the next day.
By the end of the week, limbs had been stretched and toned, friendships had been made, diets had been changed and vows had been made to carry over the healthy habits and sweet serenity we’d all accumulated during our stay.
I know the minute I stop feeling this glow, I’ll be booking my second trip.
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Images: KaliYoga Italy. Last 2 images: Emily Shaw