“Me and mum are goin’ to Beefa,” said my two-year-old daughter, turning confidently to the two raucous men sitting behind us on our Easy Jet flight. One was busy slurring through his fourth vodka and coke order. The other, who had just taken his top off, whooped and said: “Wicked! Girls on tour!”
In a way, he was right. We were ‘girls on tour’… just not in the conventional sense. For the first time ever, we were leaving my husband and older son behind for a little one-on-one time together – a girls’ week in Ibiza, for a two-year-old and a 32-year-old. But this holiday was unusual in another sense, too. We were heading to a yoga retreat… just not as we know.
Holy Mama yoga retreats are get-aways designed specifically for mothers and their young children. The mums do yoga in the morning, while the children go off to play with Montessori-qualified carers. At lunch, the kids are returned to their Zen-like mothers, and everyone meets up again for a three-course supper (all vegetarian and organic, of course). By the end of the week, everyone flies home with rejuvenated spirits, glowing skin and toned bodies. But can it really be that easy?
Spending time with my daughter is my favourite things to do, but I’d describe the experience as less “renewing” more “rollercoster”. So I wasn’t certain that sharing a house and a week with a group of other people’s equally boisterous offspring would prove a path to enlightenment.
Still, our flight landed and we waved goodbye as our newly acquired friends swayed off into the night. The Holy Mama retreat is spread across three residential houses, all within a few minutes walk of one another in the rural north of the island, far away from the nightclubs and noise of San Antonio and a 20 minute taxi ride from the airport.
Frida and I were sharing a room in Can Juan – a traditional and simple, white washed finca with four bedrooms. We woke the next morning to a shared kitchen stocked with herbals teas, organic breakfast foods and milks of many kinds (cow, almond, rice, spelt…) Breakfast dispatched in a significantly healthier manner than usual, we walked past red fields, green palms and shocking bougainvillea to meet the other guests at the “welcoming circle”.
Here, I was met with my first surprise. Holy Mama retreats are not cheap, but ours at least attracted a surprisingly broad church (or should that be temple?) Babies and young children of all ages are welcome, and while most retreats are for mothers only, certain weeks welcome fathers, too. (They run water sport activities for them; though men are welcome at the yoga sessions, it tends only to be the more “evolved ones”, as founder Claudia Spahr puts it, who take the offer up).
Neither were the women all swishy-haired Scandinavian yummy mummies. The retreat attracts a lot of single mothers with new babies, Claudia explained, and as the week wore on, I began to see exactly why.
Holy Mama is the perfect holiday for those seeking reassurance that you can still pursue interests other than pureeing post-baby. Particularly so if you are still in the early stages of parenthood, and nervous about travelling alone. This was an adventure with gentle support. The grounds and the pools are safely fenced off, there are high chairs and stair gates supplied. Plus, with four women sharing each house, there is always someone to hold your baby when you need a wee.
It was also an adventure with serious perks. Each morning at nine, as fresh juices were delivered to the mums, the Montessori and Steiner trained child minders would arrive to gather up the kids and take them off for a morning of painting, play and crafts outdoors – all included in the cost.
As a working mother of two, it had been so long since I’d experienced a state of calm so early in the morning, that I couldn’t tell whether I was experiencing spiritual nirvana or just profound gratitude. The wonderfully-named yoga instructor Suzanne Faith arrived soon after and we settled onto our yoga mats, arranged under the branches in the adjacent orange orchard.
Suzanne tailors her teaching specifically to motherhood – stretching out, loosening and “firing up” the muscles most affected by pregnancy, labour and the lugging around of small people. She is also one of those unnervingly spiritual people whose eyes appear to look deep into your stressed suburban soul.
Two hours of yoga and a little Hindu philosophy later, and we were ready for lunch. Food is almost as important a part of the Holy Mama pampering as yoga. Essentially, it’s vegetables, paired with more vegetables and some gluten free stuff. Yet each day, at lunch and supper, chef Maili Dinim cast some kind of culinary sorcery that rendered them inexplicably, mouth-wateringly delicious.
Then, just as we were approaching a state of Zen, the children came trotting back and everyone went their separate ways – to splash in one of the pools (each house has one) or to one of the nearby beaches like sandy Aguas Blancas or baby-friendly bay Benirras (about a 20 Euro taxi journey away).
That’s unless you had arranged additional, one-on-one nannying (for an extra-cost), in which case you might have booked a massage, or have indulged in that greatest luxury of all: reading a book without interruption.
Unless we chose to eat separately, supper was served communally again at six, by which time Maili had conjured yet more vegetables into a three-course feast. The children joined the adults at the table, raced around the garden’s playground or took part in a special kids’ yoga class.
All this strenuous relaxing left me exhausted, and most evenings I retreated to the house after supper to read, snooze and have a sneaky glass of wine (the retreat is not dogmatic on the subject of booze because “you’re in Spain, and you’re a mum,” as the infinitely wise Claudia put it).
On two of the seven nights, however, babysitters were laid on so that the mothers could deep-breathe through a candle-lit meditation session with Suzanne, then giggle and wiggle through a “medicine dance” class. (I know – you don’t have the foggiest, but if I explain then the Brit in you will squirm with embarrassment, so just take it from me: once you get over your stiff upper lip, it is, surprisingly, brilliant.)
Claudia also offers each guest either a one-on-one life coaching or nutrition session with her during their stay, and everyone can choose between a complementary facial or pedicure at the neighbouring Atzaro spa, a 10-minute walk away through the fields.
Atzaro is a whitewashed wonderland complete with Balinese temple treatment rooms and a tempting bar, where my fellow housemates and I ended up on my final evening, sipping cocktails and passing round babies. Sure, our week may not have been what our neighbours on the flight had in mind, but it was exactly what this group of frazzled girls on tour needed.
Seven day HolyMoma yoga retreats in Ibiza start at 1499 euros (£1300) for one adult and child. That includes daily yoga classes, all meals and snacks, childcare every morning, a pedicure or facial and a life coaching or nutrition session. It excludes flights and transfers. Second children can be accommodated for 250 euros (holy-mama.com).