Yearning for a relaxed yoga retreat? Gillian Tsoi spends the perfect Indian summer in Goa
It doesn't take long after I arrive at Purple Valley Yoga Centre in Goa to realise that I've come across something special. After a sleepless 18-hour journey from Ireland, I'm jetlagged and dishevelled. It's 9pm and there are just a handful of residents (looking tanned and radiant and impossibly relaxed) sitting around the candlelit dining area, chatting quietly. The rest of the guests have already retired for the evening in anticipation of the 5.50am start the next morning.
I've booked myself into a two-week ashtanga yoga retreat with the hope of rejuvenating my body and mind - and if the scene I'm greeted with is anything to go by, I've come to the right place.
Purple Valley is a hub for ashtanga (the most physically challenging variety of yoga), but second only to the expert tuition is the resort's delicious food (above).
Included in the retreat are three meals a day: a variety of Western and Indian vegetarian dishes using the freshest local produce. Breakfast might include porridge, breads, juicy mango, watermelon and pineapple, for example, while lunch and dinner were a feast of mouthwatering meals (and colours) - pomegranate and feta salad, aromatic lentil dahl, pumpkin soup and vegetable korma were all on the menu during my stay.
The desserts - think vegan ice-cream, delicious nut and raisin energy balls, and raw chocolate - were all health-conscious but scrumptious.
When not getting sweaty in ashtanga class, guests were free to relax by the pool or in the common area, cool down with drinks from the juice bar - located among the banana trees of the lush Purple Valley gardens - or visit the on-site ayurvedic hut, where blissful massages, beauty treatments and consultations with an Ayurvedic doctor are available for a fraction of the cost here in Ireland. Ayurveda is the ancient Indian complementary medicine system that emphasises the link between body, mind and spirit.
A short cab ride will take you to the local Vagator Saturday night market (right), where you'll find jewellery, spices, incense, teas and local crafts at amazing prices. Practise your haggling skills before visiting! And be prepared to work hard at this blissful ashtanga oasis.
World-class yoga teachers travel to Purple Valley to facilitate workshops. During my stay, New Zealand yogi John Scott was in residence. "You may have come here for a holiday but in this shala [house], there is no holiday," he told us. He wasn't lying: yoga sessions took place six days a week, kicking off before dawn and lasting 1-3 hours. Three evenings a week, we got together for spiritual and technical workshops too.
Purple Valley is a calm space and the resort aims for complete silence after 10pm. Phones are banned at mealtimes and Wi-Fi, when available, is slow. However, 'switching off' really enhances the chilled-out yogic experience.
Purple Valley is open from late October to April. Accommodation is pleasant - clean, but basic - and single and shared rooms are available. There's also the option of attending the yoga courses on a non-residential basis or paying as you go for drop-in classes.
Prices start at approximately €695 for a week's retreat on a non-residential basis. For more information and prices, see yogagoa.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or +91 (0) 832 226 8363.