EAST BY WEST RETREAT IN PORTUGAL

 
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I’ve just touched the ground after hosting my first East by West retreat in Portugal, and wow! What a time we had. We hosted 25 guests for a proper retreat within, touching on the magic that is us, connecting with our essence, taking things easy with a bit of R&R and allowing ourselves to process all the physical and mental energy that we accumulate so we can get back to what’s important. It, like Ayurveda, was all about honouring our nature and BEING.

We hosted the retreat at Longevity Cegonha Country Club in the Algarve. The hotel was located just next to a beautiful national park, which we looked over from the pool and restaurant area.

 
 

We woke up between 6am and 6.30am each morning, just before sunrise at 7am, honouring the natural energies of the day and working with the circadian rhythm that supports us. Guests were instructed on how to Tongue Tingle and oil pull upon waking. We started each day with a cup of Golden Milk followed by an hour-long yoga asana, pranayama and meditation practice hosted by the Portuguese Yoga Confederation. Then it was time for breakfast — over the duration of the retreat we enjoyed dishes including my Apple Buckwheat Skillet Cake, Milk Rice (Page 82 in East by West), Buckwheat Banana Bread, and even Kitchari! Kitchari might not have felt like a natural choice when it was first mentioned but by the end of their bowl, the guests were hooked.

 
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Following breakfast, we hosted activities including an introduction to Ayurveda workshop, a mindful hike, a movement masterclass, a self-massage workshop and an Ayurvedic cooking demonstration. We then adjourned for lunch, which was, on every day of the retreat, Kitchari! Variations included: Spring Green Quinoa Kitchari, Ginger Broccoli and Baby Corn Kitchari and Thai Cabbage Kitchari with Nutty Drizzle (recipe coming soon). Before we tucked into our bowls, we got our Agni (digestive fire) going with a ginger, lime and salt appetiser and, as is traditional in Ayurveda, started our meals with a sweet. In true East by West style, we either had a Rose and Cardamom Ladoo or Coconut, Mint and Lime Ladoo (Page 84 in East by West.) When we were preparing these in the kitchen, our chef Nicole got these right the first time: originally hailing from Mozambique, she recognised them as barfi. Our meal was accompanied by a lassi, but this wasn’t the high-sugar, thick milkshake-style lassi we’re familiar with in the West but a drink made from a little bit of yoghurt and liquid spiced differently each day.

 
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For the afternoon, guests took the time to relax — many taking the opportunity to nap, which isn’t encouraged in Ayurveda unless you are retreating specifically. For many, it was something they hadn’t had the opportunity to do in years and many were amazed that they were able to fall asleep so quickly.

We then gathered early evening, at 6.30pm, for an early, light, warming dinner of…. Kitchari! We served soup one evening to mix things up, but the other nights we enjoyed variations including Spiced Rosemary, Carrot and Beetroot Kitchari (Recipe coming soon), Quinoa and Sweet Potato Kitchari and Plain Kitchari. We served my Sunset Soup and our kitchen team prepared a Portuguese-style soup one evening too. Before heading off to bed we took part in a group mediation, either hosted by Bea, our Ayurvedic practitioner who also had one-to-one Dosha appointments with each guest during the retreat or, on two evening, we also hosted sound baths to gently lull guests to relax even further before heading off to bed at 9.30pm, once again honouring the circadian rhythm.

 
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It was the most wonderful five days and I want to thank each and every one of our guests who came along and made it so special. We had the best group imaginable! Also, a huge thanks to Sofia, Nicole and Melanie and all the team at Longevity Cegonha Country Club for hosting us. Finally, a massive thank you to Stella and her team at Wellbeing Escapes, who helped us to organise and host the entire trip.

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Jasmine Hemsley