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Do you want to make those stress filled days slip away, or do you simply fancy something a little different to nourish your body and soul?

Karuna Yoga School run Yoga and Walking holidays in beautiful places with wild spaces. One of the group shares her memories of relaxing yoga practices and the wild scenery of Western Crete.

Step towards yourself – Vininyoga in Crete

Fiona in a cafe in CreteIt's good to relive memories of Mediterranean sun and sea, of shimmering olive groves and hot dusty trails through the spectacular craggy Cretan countryside... Not to mention the warm healthy glow that comes with a couple of daily yoga practices, convivial company, and tasty vegetarian Greek meals washed down with local wine! All this and more, we enjoyed last September courtesy of Fiona Ashdown of the Southampton Karuna Yoga School, in partnership with Dave and Juliet, English émigrés who use their converted olive mill home in the pretty, unspoilt village of Potamida as a base for various kinds of activity holidays. They are qualified practitioners in kinesiology, aromatherapy and massage, so supplemental treats are in store at very little extra cost!

The main room of the Olive Mill, with its white vaulted high ceilings and terracotta tiles, provided a wonderful calm space for yoga practices. We were a very small group, with wildly varying levels of experience, needs, and abilities. Within the framework of the planned practices, Fiona was able to tap into her infinite repertoire of variations and modifications from the Viniyoga tradition, so that the asanas could be adapted to benefit each person.

The 'theme' for the week was Panca Prana, each of the five days' practices focussing on different aspects of energy and the bodily and psychological functions to which they correspond. We began with, apana, a practice that concentrated on the abdomen, forward bends and exhalation – thinking about 'letting go' of all the 'excess baggage' we may have brought along to create space for new experiences. The prana practice, much more brmhana, opened us up to receive new energies, by focussing on the chest area and the inhalation. Samana, focussing the solar plexus where prana and apana meet, introduced some twists to facilitate digestion/assimilation. Udana opened up the throat with some chanting and ujjayi breathing, to link the heart and emotions with the mind. The Vyana practice introduced some longer dynamic sequences, to bring awareness to the distribution of energies circulating throughout and around the body, with visualisation of inhaled breath coursing from base of skull to base of spine, and exhalation in the other direction. The 'main mantra' for the week, Agnirme, asks for health and longevity, and invokes different energies to link mind and spirit. By the end of the week, we'd just about cracked it and even those who'd not chanted before were humming it as we rolled up our mats!

Breakfast outside on the patio included home-grown fruits (such as figs which one could just reach up and pick from the tree!), yogurt, honey, and local bread... Evening meals were either at one of the restaurants overlooking the beach (tables outside on the 'prom – and with a full moon beaming down when we were there!) at the nearby town of Kastelli; or at the local Potamida tavema whose proprietor, beaming with bonhomie, toasted us with retsina and urged us to partake of the same throughout the meal (cooked primarily by his wife!). Our accommodation, opposite the taverna, was just 10 mins from the Mill, and local faces greeting us with 'Kalimera!' gradually became familiar as we walked to and fro.

Activities during the day were very much a matter of individual choice, but we all opted for the guided walks led by either Dave or Juliet. Having been settled in Crete for some years, they were delighted to share their excellent local knowledge about a range of topics: culture, history, topography, architectural sites, flora and fauna. As well as showing us walks with stunning scenery, hospitable lunchtime taverna stops, and providing a full translation service as we met local people along the way! It was fascinating to learn, for example, that the cobbled paths which we followed for part of our route were used for donkey transport until the 1960's, as there were very few tarmac roads until then. Some walks took us via coastal trails, inviting a dip from a sandy beach, and a dive to snorkel among rocks – total bliss, to float weightless and cool off after the exertions of the day!

On our 'day off' from yoga and organised walks, husband David and I took the bus to the major tourist centre of Hania. We were utterly fascinated and enchanted by this town, whose history goes back to Minoan times, and whose 'faded glory' architecture reflects its centuries of Venetian and Turkish occupation – although much was destroyed in WWII.

So... a relaxing yet energising holiday with lots of variety, good company, and an 'insider track' to high quality yoga tuition and local knowledge to maximise enjoyment of the culture and countryside.

Cheryl Blame

Karuna Yoga School

Fiona Ashdown and Paul Riddy of Karuna Yoga School run retreats and holidays in the UK and abroad. For details of yoga (and other) holidays in Crete contact Fiona or Paul of Karuna Yoga School for details of other events.

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Karuna Yoga School


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