My name is Rosie and I am the co-founder of Kaliyoga Retreat.
12 years ago I quit my tepid London life and eloped to Spain with fellow yoga teacher Jonathon (‘Jonji’) where we created what we hoped would become the best-loved yoga retreat centre in Europe.
So without further ado I’d like to share with you some of the background to Kaliyoga’s humble beginnings, in the hope that it may inspire you to pursue your dreams until they are realized, even if the road ahead may be mined with obstacles.
Kaliyoga really began the day Jonji and I met on a yoga teacher training course in Ibiza - on the quiet, non-partying north of the island. With nothing else to consume but yoga, dahl and Japanese tea made of tree bark, we consumed each other. Daily snogging sessions on the roof led to the confession of a shared dream - to create a holistic retreat where people can stop, practice yoga, remember who they really are, and leave with a clear vision of what life’s all about. In those heady days we seriously thought of naming our yoga centre ‘Love Groove Junction’ ( that’s what eight hours of yoga a day does to you!).
Armed with passion, our teaching certificates and an expired credit card, we rented a farmhouse in Andalucia - freezing in winter, scorching in summer and lorded over by armies of insects all hell-bent on removing every single seed of grass we planted, chewing through every wooden beam and colonising every tipi we erected.
There was no swimming pool and, having only "Olé!" in our Spanish repertoire, neither of us dared ask our landlord for help. We ended up miming "please can we borrow your JCB" to a local builder who insisted in being paid in beer - inevitably he soon became unfit to operate his machinery, so we ended up digging the rest of the hole ourselves.
Many weeks of back-breaking toil followed, chiefly devoted to cleaning mouldy floor tiles with linseed oil. When the landlord saw me doing this, he laughed and then bellowed: "Mujer!!!!!" (woman) "Why are you English so stupid? You should be using Agua Fuerte!" (hydrochloric acid). "But José” I wailed, “Surely acid will burn people’s feet?". "No pasa nada” (don’t worry) he retorted, “que podria darles algunas huevos!” (it might give them some balls!)
No yogaphile he.
During our morning yoga practice, performed in full sunlight on the red earthy site of our soon-to-be yoga shala, an 87 year old Andaluz neighbour would plough his olive terraces by mule, softly murmuring to her in tender-isms that he never shared with his poor wife. He would make a point of stopping every now and again to give us his version of our yoga poses. "Are you planning to charge money for that?!” he cackled. “I can do that! Tell them to pay me!” and he’d launch into a gnarled version of the tree pose whilst making the most hideous gurgling sound, a gutteral approximation of the mantra ‘Om’.
As the weeks progressed the property looked less and less like a Stephen King film-set and more and more like a retreat. Now it was time to focus on the interiors. Jonji flew off for 2 weeks on a buying trip whilst I was left to hold the fort and keep the ants at bay. Every cent of our meagre savings was reserved for furnishings, so in his absence I subsisted on a diet of weavily brown rice, wild rocket and pomegranate seeds. By his return I had developed parasites and three imaginary friends.
We finally opened in June 2002. Our first ever yoga guests were a serene potter from Malaga and his draftsman partner. Both were subjected to 4 hour dynamic yoga classes of almost religious intensity, followed by rich five course banquets and a nightly stand up comedy routine. We really fell over ourselves to impress them. On their departure the potter took me aside: “Be careful my dear - you will burn out if you keep this up.”
And he was right.
Our second guests were a professional couple from Istanbul who had seen our flyer in a fashionable cafe in Westbourne Grove. They booked our retreat for the express purpose of wanting to be spoilt, but even they were daunted by my relentless fawning. “I can’t go on Jonji”, I sobbed one night after supper. “I’m a wreck.”
A long walk with a wonderful local wise-woman set me right: “It is good enough. Less is more. All is well” I shrieked as I hurled rock after rock into a mountain ravine until my shoulders ached.
From then on the yoga classes were cut down to 2 hours, meals relaxed into three courses and the stand up comedy routine softened to peaceful banter round the Moroccan tea table. Our guests were relieved and so were we.
In love, inseparable and pregnant, we sailed on to the end of our first season, opening each week to small groups of international visitors. Every centimo we earned was spent on grass seed, building materials and ridiculously expensive Italian cheeses from Carrefour. At that time we didn’t realise that there are many other vegetarian protein alternatives to Gorgonzola!
After seven intense years of running successful Kaliyoga retreats in Spain - as well as a wedding and two children - we moved back to the UK where we continue to direct Kaliyoga from behind the scenes with regular visits to Spain and to France, our new venture.
Guests often ask how Kaliyoga came to fruition and I have to pinch myself to remember that the tranquil, verdant Eden of today was once an abandoned Spanish farmhouse surrounded by a jungle of dry weeds.
Twelve years on and we still advocate abundance, focus and passion in all that we do: yoga, cuisine, loving kindness of our staff, amazing holistic therapies and the retreat’s natural beauty. But unlike those early days of elaborate cheese boards and exhaustion, our fabulous Kaliyoga crew makes everything seem sooooooooo effortless.