THE words “yoga retreat” might conjure up images of bearded men in white smocks chanting “Ommm”, hours of silent meditation in a forest and the constant aroma of incense.
So if I painted a picture of a beautiful Caribbean island, hours of sunbathing, relaxing massages and evenings of rum tasting, some might be surprised.
But all of this and more is on offer at the fantastic Fat Buddha Yoga Retreat, at the welcoming Galley Bay Resort and Spa in Antigua.
Gone are the days when yogis obsessed over who could hold a tree pose for the longest while drinking only herbal tea.
Of course, there is yoga — twice a day, morning and early evening — but a Caribbean beach sure beats a stuffy studio with the sounds of car horns beeping on the street outside.
From beachfront decking and a poolside paradise, to incredible hilltop locations with views across the Caribbean sea, yoga at this retreat is designed to be breath-taking.
Fat Buddha founder Jessica Skye chose Galley Bay for her retreat because of its mix of heavenly scenery and relaxing atmosphere.
And it works.
After a direct eight-hour flight from London, it’s just a 20-minute drive to the resort. And from the minute you step out of the taxi, it’s clear you’re going to be taken care of.
Handed some very punchy rum cocktails to welcome us, we jump aboard a golf cart and are whizzed to our luxury beach-hut rooms, with views over the sea.
After a bit of down time, we’re donning our Lycra and making the 30-second walk to the beach veranda to lay down our mats and start yoga-ing.
And after a long-haul flight there is nothing better.
Jessica, who has been teaching yoga for six years, gets us stretching and flowing through our first session and along with her amazing playlist (Jess is also a very successful DJ), we downward dog to the sounds of the ocean as the sun goes down.
I’ve been in Antigua for three hours, and already I’m more relaxed than I’ve been in years. I could get used to this.
After heading back to our rooms for a shower, we meet up a few hours later in one of the resort’s four restaurants for dinner. Again, it’s set on the beachfront, with the harmonic sound of waves in the background.
Dinner is far from basic — three courses, with a choice of wine, spirits and cocktails. I tuck into a salmon starter, a perfectly cooked surf-and-turf main course, and finish it off with hot chocolate and stem ginger lava cake.
Being in such a nicely-sized and planned-out resort, it’s only a two-minute walk back to my hotel room where I fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow.
The next morning I’m up at seven for the first sunrise yoga session of the week.
Jessica always checks in to see if there is anything specific anyone wants to do before putting us through an hour of energising yoga.
It wakes me up all right. And as soon as it’s over, one of the resort’s chefs, Patrick, appears from the beach with a bag of coconuts he has just harvested.
With a huge knife he chops off the top and hands one to each of us — a little breakfast aperitif, the Antiguan way.
We tuck into a menu of fresh fruit, eggs, bacon and a proper Caribbean optional extra — hot sauce.
The sun is out in all its glory by this point and the best thing about this retreat is there is no packed itinerary.
Other than the optional hour-long morning and evening yoga classes, your days are yours to do as much or as little as you like.
Hidden away just off the beach is the resort’s spa.
It has its own pool and a huge range of services available, from massage and facials to manicures and pedicures. Not wanting to miss out, I book in for a full body massage, which is included in my package.
I don my fluffy robe and am shown into a beautiful outdoor treatment room where — you’re probably sensing a theme here — I can hear the sound of the ocean.
I leave suitably relaxed for a day of doing sweet nothing on the beach. If you are more active, the resort has lots on offer. One afternoon I try my hand at paddle boarding and sea kayaking, while later in the week I give snorkelling a go.
As part of the Fat Buddha Yoga package, on day four you are invited to board a catamaran with the rest of your group for a day tour on the water.
Complete with your own crew — and a fully stocked bar — it’s a whole new way to experience the island.
We enjoy reggae music in the sun while taking in the crystal clear waters the area is famous for.
Because the schedule isn’t packed, I look forward to my daily double yoga sessions and on our final day, Jessica treats us to a morning hike.
It takes about 20 minutes and when we reach the top, the view is spectacular.
We watch the sun rise over the water as we lay down our mats and get ready to bend and stretch while trying not to be completely distracted by the scenery.
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By the end of the week my body feels amazing — stretched, toned and relaxed.
In true Fat Buddha Yoga fashion, we finish the week with a three-course meal and cocktails to toast our holiday.
None of us is in the mood for an early night, that’s just as well because Jessica has organised a pop-up silent cinema on the beach, complete with espresso martinis and chocolate popcorn.
There are no strict hippy diets here. It’s rum, indulgent food and relaxation. In fact, there’s no pressure to do much of anything.
So don’t worry if you’re not flexible, because this yoga holiday certainly is.
GETTING THERE/STAYING THERE:
Six nights’ all-inclusive at Galley Bay Antigua is from £2,599pp including flights from London on June 30, two Fat Buddha yoga sessions daily, a 60-minute massage, a catamaran snorkelling day and a Fat Buddha goody bag. See galleybayresort.com.