I have a habit of cramming my life so full that a burn-out every couple of months becomes inevitable. One burn-out too many, however, and it was clear that what I needed was not bad television or self-pitying days in bed but some proactive action. So I booked myself into a yoga retreat. Unfortunately, for the next 4 weeks, I worried not only about all the deadlines I had to meet but also what on earth I was going to do on the side of a Spanish mountain, on my own, surrounded by people much more calm and spiritual than myself, if indeed there were people there at all.
My fears were allayed when I arrived at Casa Carrasco.
The journey to L’Ampolla, involving three different types of transport, had been uneventful considering most airlines have a habit of emptying my bag and the only Spanish I know is ‘donde?’ and ‘hola’ but climbing out of the car to find this haven of relaxation in the sunny mountains removed any stress I had.
The host, Sarah Good, is reassuringly friendly, calm and welcoming. Another wonderfully normal girl had arrived with me and she was staying for five weeks and was no doubt even more terrified. Everyone you see was completely devoted to relaxing. Spread-eagled on sun-loungers, curled up on the hammock or just reading in the Cassita, the western world doesn’t seem to exist. I had elected to camp for authenticity but forget any ideas of centremeter thick roll mats and slightly too natural bathrooms. I had a real mattress, the showers were hot and the toilets flushed. It was like Sarah had created the cliché and then removed the inevitable downsides.
The afternoons and evenings at Carrasco are free time and that prospect filled me with dread considering I struggle to entertain myself for an hour, let alone 4 days. It’s surprising, however, how time-consuming and exhausting doing nothing actually is. Afternoons were mostly spent flat on my back on the hammocks, bar the one day I decided getting lost in some olive groves instead of staying on the beach with the others was an excellent idea. It was mid-day, it was rocky terrain, I had quarter of a bottle of water. It was not a good idea. Evenings are more sociable, as everyone emerges from their heat-induced comas to eat and that was when the beauty of Carrasco really shone.
Young people in England, excuse the generalisation, have a tendency to skip past the big things and just focus on the superfluous but at Carrasco, you talk. You discuss souls, the drugs industry, Buddhism, passport forgery and it is relieving. You are simply yourself. A massive part of the yogic mind-set is being non-judgemental and that resonates around the entire retreat. Whilst no-one wanders around naked (yet), I stumbled to yoga wearing men’s trousers, a pyjama top and still cock-eyed from sleep nearly every day; no-one batted an eye-lid.
The yoga itself is excellent; Sarah has been practicing for 15 years and knows your limits better than you do. You may have managed to get your knees by your earlobes or just your hands behind your knees but you know you’ve pushed yourself without tearing seven ligaments or breaking your back.
In keeping with the yogic lifestyle of the retreat, I was lucky enough to be around for an Ayurvedic workshop by Cherry Good, Sarah’s mother. Ayurveda; an ancient Indian way of living and healing, was something that even the most sceptical were hard-pushed to slate. Undeniable evidence coupled with personalised assessments made a lasting impression and a good portion of time was spent post-workshop dissecting our doshas and their characteristics. It seemed natural for group clearly focused on improving their quality of life through yoga to adopt Ayurveda and adopt it we did. Since Carrasco, I have invested in numerous manuals and incorporate Ayurveda wherever I can, with unendingly positive consequences.
All in all, Casa Carrasco is not pretentious, it’s not grotty and it’s not alienating. Instead, it is a place to rejuvenate, a place where burn-outs become simply signs to pause and take rest. It is a much needed oasis in wonderfully frantic but sometimes overwhelming world.