Unwind with a Yoga retreat at Cowley Manor, Gloucestershire
It sounds like heaven and it is . . . a luxury wellness and yoga retreat surrounded by stunning Cotswolds countryside. LUCY PARFORD left the stresses and strains of everyday life behind to find out more
WITH the clocks due to go back next month, it’s going to be even harder to find the motivation to get outdoors and exercise with the darker nights and colder mornings.
Unless you replace a boring stretch of pavement with cars whizzing past or a dimly-lit gym for the breathtaking surroundings of Cowley Manor, near Cheltenham, that is.
The luxury country house hotel, which is surrounded by 55 acres of beautiful parklands, woods and meadows, is running a three-day wellness and yoga retreat from October 7-10 which features twice-daily yoga classes by the hotel’s lake and within its grounds.
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The theme of the retreat is Inspired by Nature, which aims to motivate people to make the most of the great outdoors to forget about the stresses and strains of everyday life.
The retreat is being run by Claire Finlay, who Vogue has described as “one of the stars of the London yoga scene” and has top models and high-profile businesspeople on her personal client list.
The all-inclusive retreat will start with a one-to-one health consultation with a nutritionist and then Claire will create a personalised itinerary for each guest, including exercise, treatments at C-Side Spa and a bespoke menu of seasonal food, juices and smoothies.
Her first Inspired by Nature yoga retreat was held at Vamizi Island in Mozambique.
“We wanted to try and replicate the same principals but based in the UK,” Claire said. “It’s all about getting back to nature, keeping everything as simple as possible and doing yoga in lots of different locations.
“At Cowley Manor there are lovely outdoor locations by the lakes and the pool. If the weather is against us, it will be brought into one of the garden rooms.”
“I liked the fact that Cowley Manor has got lots of heritage, some of the food is grown on site and its Green & Spring skincare brand contains water taken from the cascade in the lakes.
“It’s all about things being clean and pure and as nature intended.
“That’s what we’re trying to recreate, things in their simplest form, as they should be. Quite often now, things get very far removed from that.”
Claire, 43, used to work in advertising but has always been interested in fitness and practised yoga regularly in her spare time. She took a year’s sabbatical and spent time living in an ashram before returning to do a yoga teacher training course. After going back to her career for a few years, she decided to take the plunge and concentrate on teaching full-time.
Since then she has trained in other disciplines as well including pilates, power plate and TRX suspension training and has been running her health and fitness consultancy for the past five years.
“My bread and butter is mums, post-natal and pre-natal and I work with a lot of triathletes and professional cyclists too,” she says.
“Yoga is really important to me but I do mix it with other disciplines as well. A lot of my clients say how beneficial it is for cross-training.
“It’s not just sitting with crossed legs, the type of yoga I teach is vinyasa which means the synchronisation of the breath with movement, which could be quite passive or it could be going through a full sequence of postures.”
The retreat is suitable for everyone including mums, hard-working professionals, singletons and couples and for those who have plenty or yoga experience or complete beginners.
Claire has also been working with the chefs at Cowley Manor to create high-protein meals with seasonal fresh vegetables with the aim of cleansing, calming and re-energising the body.
There will also be pre-dinner talks on topics such as the art of foraging and ‘clean food’.
“It’s not going to be a purist retreat, if you want to have a glass of wine you can. It’s about renewing, resting and rejuvenation, it’s not a boot camp with yoga at six in the morning,” Claire says.
“It’s about two to three days where people want to go slow, maybe leaving their children behind. Everybody gets up early with children so you can lie in bed for an extra hour if you want so it feels like a proper treat.
“But at the same time you’re getting to do two yoga classes a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. “That in itself is going to be really powerful.
“You can also do some small group training sessions, all outdoors, running and using the trees to balance on.
“There will also be some special treatments at C-Side spa and freshly-prepared juices and smoothies to enjoy.”
“There are so many retreats, it’s such a competitive market to be in, so what I wanted to do was create something very bespoke.
“People can do as much or as little as they choose, it’s completely relaxed and about switching off and trying to recharge.
“They should go away feeling lighter, physically and mentally, and rejuvenated having tried something new.”
* The yoga retreat is from October 7-10 and is all-inclusive. Single occupancy costs £1,190 and double occupancy is £990 per person. Visit Cowley Manoror call 01242 870900.