There are few experiences quite like doing yoga, in a jungle studio, overlooking the Atlantic…
I’ve done yoga for years and in that time I’ve had my fair share of teachers but my friend Holly is by far my favourite. (Hi, Holly! :)) She’s the kind of instructor you smile just being in the same room with and you find yourself pushing further and accomplishing more because you know she’s cheering you on.
When she announced that she and another brilliant instructor (the lovely Erin) were organising a yoga retreat at a resort in Mexico I didn’t ask questions – I begged them to take my money!
After months of anticipation the time finally arrived and I flew from London to Chicago and then on to Puerto Vallarta, passing over rolling hills and lush landscape on my way in.
Stepping off the plane the heat hit me like a welcome wave and after a quick cab ride to the marina I was on a boat, speeding towards the horizon and leaving civilization behind.
At first glance I couldn’t see the resort but as we drew closer the thatched roofs became clearer and paradise was revealed – Xinalani.
With no dock, disembarking is a bit of a dance. The boat pulls in slowly and the porter on board carefully (quickly) passes bags off to the waiting staff who run it safely away from the shoreline. With waves breaking it’s all a bit unstable so we backed out and pulled in a couple of times, unloading in shifts.
Once the bags were off it was the passengers’ turn. I hopped up to the nose of the boat, and when the instruction came I hopped over the side into the waiting arms of a lovely gent who helped me on to the beach.
Once we were all on dry land the porters started the process in reverse, helping departing guests onto the boat with their luggage. It was a well-oiled machine!
The porter insisted on carrying my bag and I followed along, huffing and puffing as I got my first taste of THE STAIRS (more on them later) and trying to act like I wasn’t on the edge of collapsing considering I was only carrying myself and my companion was carrying himself along with everything I own!
Home sweet home was Room 23.
With only three walls it was like no hotel room I’ve ever stayed in before or since.
Can you spot my jungle friend below?
Once I’d unpacked and shed almost all of my layers (the heat!) I decided to make my way back to the beach.
I knew the other girls wouldn’t be arriving until later in the day so I had plenty of time for exploring.
Built into the hillside of a peninsula off Puerto Vallarta, Xinalani is a maze of steps and walkways winding through the trees.
Following the steps all the way back down to the beach (and trying not to think about the fact that I would have to climb allllll the way back up them) I explored my new home away from home.
You can just see the peak of my room’s roof through the trees in this one. Can you spot it at the far left of the row?
Having wandered to the edge of my temporary world I settled down to get some sun* onto my pasty legs and watch the waves.
*Note to self: the Mexican sun is HOT and you should reapply sunscreen twice as often as you think or else you will end up with a lovely sunburn at the end of day one which means you have to spend the rest of the week seeking out shade.
Feeling the urge to venture further into the jungle I made my way back up the steps and climbed to the very top of the hill – the jungle studio – where most of our twice daily classes would be taking place.
Terrible (terrible!) attempt at a photo without a tripod or plan.
Jungle native – though what he is I have no idea!
I was eventually joined by the other girls from the retreat who had all arrived whilst I’d been lazing and exploring. We were a weird and wonderful mix that included a police officer, a book editor, a holistic nutritionist, and a zookeeper!
After a quick orientation with Holly and Erin we all trooped down for dinner with a fabulous view.
The next morning I was up before the sun, peering out from my cocoon to get my first glimpse of the beautiful sunrises this area sees.
Throwing on my gear I climbed to the jungle studio for our first class.
For the duration of the retreat we did two classes a day – one first thing in the morning before breakfast and one in the late afternoon before dinner. With a mix of flow, restorative and straightforward yoga practices it was a real variety that provided lots of opportunity for us to test ourselves and have a whole lot of fun!
Erin led the morning practice.
After a quick shower I headed down to meet up with everyone again for breakfast.
The on-site chef made everything fresh daily and the variety of healthy treats on offer was a real delight.
The days were ours to spend as we pleased and so people drifted in different directions but for the most part we all found ourselves drawn to the beach time and time again.
The relaxation was broken only by the sound of the conch shell heralding lunch.
Our afternoon session was a restorative practice led by Holly which meant lots of props and fewer postures held longer.
After a quick shower I made my way down to meet everyone for dinner. Already thoroughly bonded after only a day, we chatted and laughed as the sun went down.
An amazing start to my time in Paradise!
Make sure you come back next Thursday for more pictures and stories from my adventure in Mexico.