Friday, August 29, 2014

Kids leaving home & Yoga at Christmas in the Bajan Sun - by Vonetta

We've been having another super summer here at Vale de Moses. So many guests once again have made long trips from all over the world to spend a week or 2 with us in our home in these remote Portuguese mountains. Doesn't feel so remote here when we're surrounded by all these lovely people. You should see some of their sweet photos of their stays on our FB page and some kind words in reviews on our new Trip Advisor page.

We’ve had tremendous help from lots of great people too. Our Karma volunteers have relentlessly and cheerily washed dishes and tidied spaces. Katherine Smith has continually created culinary delights in our kitchen, wrote our first retreat menu cookbook and teaches her afternoon yin yoga classes. Fleur van Hille from Amsterdam is sadly leaving us today after running 4 inspirational vinyasas flow retreats in July and August. And Peter Packard, who Maria Mercati (my TCM teacher from Body Harmonics in the UK) sent us, has been brilliantly massaging our guests this summer and treated me too with regular with acupuncture and Thai, keeping my own body in good energetic shape for teaching and treating everyone that comes here.

Pete and I have decided to run our first Thai Massage Course with Yoga this October, 19th to 25th. We're really looking forward to it. If it goes well, we plan to run a few more courses next year too.

Big family changes are on the close horizon for us in the next few weeks. My Eloise got accepted into Art School in Lisbon, António Arroio. So she’ll be leaving home end of September to stay with a family there until we can find a place to rent together in Lisbon from January onwards. Gulp.

Joshua is also moving to Castelo Branco to finish off his last year at a new school, Nuno Alvares, studying Physics. He’s in England at the moment with Andy’s folks touring a few universities to consider. So both Eli and Josh are leaving home at the same time in under a month!! A little earlier than we had thought they would. Andy keeps telling me "breathe, Vonetta, breathe. Change is inevitable. It’s all gonna be OK."

I went shopping with Ellie and a friend of mine the other day and picked up a number of items of clothing I felt best represented my present incarnation as Von.  As I lifted up the choices for my friend’s inspection, I was thinking “yep, nice look”.  My friend raised her nose, smiled out of the corner of her mouth and noted “you can take the island girl to the city and through the desert and place her in the middle of the Portuguese forest, but you definitely can’t take the island out of the girl!”  I looked again at the clothes, one with a palm tree printed over bright magenta, others with orange, sunshine yellow or cobalt blue fabric.  I smiled back recognising the truth of her statement. I am an island girl and that is never going to change, no matter how far I have come since leaving Barbados at 17.  I left the shops that day knowing what I really wanted. To go home to that beautiful, feisty tiny rock in the middle of the cobalt Caribbean Sea, and teach some yoga surrounded by real palm trees.

Teaching and living in a temperate climate like this in Portugal is exciting.  As the seasons change, so too does my yoga practice.  More expansive in the summer months. More internalised in the cold winter months. Feeling the surge of energy as the Spring sap rises in the forest, and being refreshed by the Autumn rains as they douse the acute dryness of our long summer months. Yet there is nothing like practicing in a constant climate - the day and night temperatures are relatively stable in Barbados. Even the sea temperature varies little.  Air humidity is moist with a cooling drying sea breeze.  This constant temperature means that the body has the opportunity to remain in a pretty constant state of muscular relaxation. There are no sudden cold chills to shorten the back of the neck and lock the hips.  Flexibility is greatly improved by consistency, not only consistency of practice but also consistency of environment.

While recently away with Andy and the kids (and Sally & Jonathan my inlaws) on the Costa Vicentina in June, down on the South West gorgeousness of Portugal, I needed a vigorous practice of backbends, handstands and salutations before my body temperature was high enough to cope with the invigorating Atlantic sea.  It was fun to run around, get hot and then charge into the ocean, but I definitely felt the need for strength over flexibility.  While lying on the sand recovering from the shock and thrill of the cold water, I found my memory drawing me to a particular practice time I experienced last year when we ventured back to Barbados.  It was one of those practices you don’t forget easily. Instant ecstasy.

Everything feels more alive when we practice outside especially with the song of tropical birds in the ears and a turn to face the waves of the ocean or a monkey stealing a mango from its tree. A pre heated supple body, softened by an early morning swim in warm clear water retreating from the Caribbean sun to a shaded veranda for a long slow indulgence in the fine art of stretching and breathing.  I began the practice that morning with breath work and was immediately delighted by the ease of my breath. Warm salty water into the nose from the sea rather than from my usual neti pot meant my breathing was silky smooth and entirely relaxed.

In my sun salutations, I felt like a hot knife moving through room temperature butter as all 650 plus muscles in my body surrendered to the Bajan sun. There was no crunch in the spine as I slid from Chaturanga Dandasana to Updog.  I was able to assess the liquid nature of my spine as I folded into forward bends and the strength of fully relaxed muscles as I sprung into Full Wheel.  For the first time in several years I was able to effortlessly place both feet behind my head and sit, it was so good to experience easy open hips.  I emerged from Yoga Nidrasana thinking once again, “This yoga shit is the bomb”.  My mind was quieted and utterly present as the gentle swish of the lapping sea, placed me in a mellow mood.  I walked along the beach after practice towards the kids snorkling with Andy out on the reef and as my entire pelvis swayed effortlessly from left to right I lost the sensation of having bones or separate parts.  The supple nature of my spine made me feel somehow taller and thinner.  Liquefied is the word that most aptly describes the experience of practicing yoga in Barbados. My nervous system in tune with my mood worked with me and everything within flowed as one.

My practice on the beach in Barbados that day made me realise that I wanted to find a way for others to feel this comfortable while practicing yoga. For those who struggle with tight hamstrings, stiff hips and a rigid lower back, retreating to my little island might be just the thing for them to escape the pain and discomfort in their bodies that colder northern winters often bring. When we got back to Portugal we decided we’d run retreats there one day if we ever found the right place.

Bathsheba along the East Coast of the island has always been my favourite part of the island.  Our Sunday afternoon family outings there as a child always involved a drive and rest watching the waves of the Atlantic ocean crashing against the shore.  My mum and my dad both live in more populated and buzzing parts of the island. Bathsheba in contrast ushers in an energy of reverence as the small hills and dunes formed out of the flat chalk areas of the rest of the island and scenes of busy hotels and home districts fade to small wooden chattel houses and fecund tropical vegetation.  No matter the time of year we could always find a good breeze to lift the spirits and dry away the tropical humidity, easing us into serenity. Bathsheba gave me this as a child and 25 years later nothing has changed, serenity is still very much the spirit of the east coast.

Earlier this year my Dad called to say he had found us the perfect place to have Yoga Retreats and it was, of course, in Bathsheba.  A newly built retreat called Lush Life with a dozen or so luxury eco lodges, set in an 18 acre palm tree forest far from the often overcrowded parts of the island with their big hotels. We checked out their website and Youtube video and I immediately knew where we were going to be spending our winters from here on in, out of the European wet and cold and in with the new, hot Christmases of yoga and gentle rebalancing and maybe a little partying at night on the lively South Coast bars and clubs.

So we’re off to Barbados this December. Just for a couple of weeks this time. December 16-30. In these retreat weeks we will yoga chill, immerse ourselves in the tropical heat, moisture and natural Vitamin D boost of the sun, and explore a more supple, yielding, willing, adaptable body, possibly a little freer from our winter aches and pains.

My shopping friend was right, I am indeed still Vonnie from Barbados and I’m sooo looking forward to sharing my little island with those coming with us this Christmas.

When we return to Portugal in the New Year, it will be to a new phase of our lives, based more in Lisbon, until our 2015 yoga retreat season starts again at Vale de Moses.  We will have spent 7 years living here full time in this beautiful peaceful forested valley, and from January our adventure and our daughter are drawing us to the charming capital city of Lisbon.  Perhaps we’ll add to our annual retreat calendar, not just more Thai Massage courses and winter trips to Barbados, but also some short Spring and Autumn city breaks in Lisbon with yoga classes and treatments. I wonder....:)

Watch this space.

Peace and Love

Vonetta xxx

Friday, June 20, 2014

Our first recipe book and Barbados for Christmas

We are delighted to announce that our first e-cookbook is now available to buy! "Nourish: Healing Meals from Vale de Moses." 93 pages of our favourite mouth watering recipes written and compiled by Katherine Smith and beautifully designed by my old friend and Creative Director Toby Leetham.

Now, at last, you can make for yourself some of the breakfast porridges, complete main meals, satisfying soups, healthy snacks and drinks we serve on our retreat menu here at Vale de Moses.

To order, just email info@yogaatmoses.com and we'll send you a Paypal invoice for 15€ (you can bank transfer too). Once paid, we'll email you the e-book in pdf form. We hope to do a paperback/hardback print run in time for Christmas pressies too.

We also thought you might like to use this cookbook as a way to take a mini retreat at home. Invite a couple of friends over for the weekend, practice yoga together in the mornings, then cook one or two of your favourite meals. And if you know a good massage and acupuncture therapist, invite them too!

We're hoping to produce more recipe books over the years to come, so please let us know how you get on with preparing these recipes and also share with us some of your own. And if you do the mini retreat thing at home, send us your Retreat Selfies!

Other thing to mention is that our retreat in Barbados is finally going ahead this December. Vonetta's dad Tim, discovered an awesome place called Lush Life last year on the unspoilt and non touristy east coast of Barbados owned and run by a lovely local guy called Tom Hinds. He's created a magical spot in 22 acres of virgin forest with tropical flower gardens, gorgeous luxury eco cabins, a pool, practice spaces, and a restaurant run by the TV chef Peter Eddy.

We're really excited to be running a retreat at Tom's incredible place this year and hopefully helping him attract other yoga teachers to hire it out in 2015 and beyond. Dates are December 16-30, and you can join us anytime for just 3 nights or the whole 2 weeks over Christmas.

If you're interested in coming do let us know as soon as you can as spaces are limited. You can reserve your place online. There are 5 one bedroom cabins and 6 two bedroom ones. Prices are US$1225 / 900€ for a week’s retreat in a private bedroom or $2100 / 1550€ for a couple.  Or for just a few nights at $175 / 130€ per night.

Our Spring retreats in Portugal this year have been wonderful. We've so enjoyed meeting  people from around the world once again this year. Take a look at some of their photos in our Spring Retreat album on Facebook. Talented little yogini photographers they all are! Summer retreats filling up fast so don't miss out this year if you're considering coming out to see us again or for the first time. You'll be most welcome, whether you are new to yoga or have been practicing for years.

There's a wee bit more space this year too, with the addition of 3 new Soulpad belle tents nestled in the quiet valley behind the tipi and below the old moorish water mine. Each has 2 mahogany beds, carpets and drawers inside, with solar lights and wrought iron table and chairs outside. Perfect for friends or couples, or just if you would prefer a little more privacy than the guest cottage or monastic Adega.

We're off to the Costa Vicentina again on June 29 for a week's retreat by the beach. There are still a couple of rooms available if you'd like to join us. Stunning restored guest house called Cerca do Sul run by a friend of ours Sara Serrão, with an awesome salt water pool and terrific walks all along the coastline. Surf lessons too if you'd like. Let us know as soon as you can.

Finally, a huge, enormous, very special and heartfelt thanks to the wonderboy Dylan from South Australia. He came for his first trip to Europe to help us out for a couple of weeks back in April and just left this morning. Our world will not be the same without his face around and consistent, quiet and ready to do anything at any time attitude. God's wind in your sails Dylan. Enjoy the rest of your European adventure!
Peace and love from all of us in this valley in the Portuguese hills.

Andrew & Vonetta
Vale de Moses


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tired of Speaking Sweetly - a poem by Hafiz

Bom Dia!  A good friend of ours David Pott sent us this poem this morning by the 13th century mystic Sufi poet Hafiz, and I couldn't resist sharing it on the blog.


Tired of Speaking Sweetly

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, 
Break all our teacup talk of God. 
If you had the courage and 
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights, 
He would just drag you around the room 
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world 
By your hair, 
That bring you no joy. 

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly 
All your erroneous notions of truth 
That make you fight within yourself, dear one, 
And wants to rip to shreds 
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.


God wants to manhandle us,
And practice His dropkick. 
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself 
The Beloved sometimes wants 
To do us a great favor: 


Hold us upside down And shake all the nonsense out. 



He is in such a “playful drunken mood” 
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it 
But when we hear 
Most everyone I know 
Out of town. 

~ Hafiz ~
The Gift – versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky


We've been revelling in the retreats so far this year. So wonderful to have guests animating the landscape once again. It's such a joyous thing to watch people relax into their week, with themselves and with other people around them. If you've been here you'll know exactly what I mean.

After a few days of daily yoga practice, morning meditation walks through the forest, dips in the natural river pools, good food, clean spring water to drink and bathe in, and most importantly of all, some massage and acupuncture from Vonetta, the months of stress and tension that often lead people to come on retreat, begins to melt away.

You see it on the face first of all. I really should take before and after photos of everyone so you can see what that looks like. "Angel faces" is how our last week's group aptly described the phenomenon. When the tension that builds up in the small muscles of the face disappears, it's like seeing a brand new version of someone.

A special thanks also to our Karma Yogi volunteers this year. Lou from the UK, Maria from Germany and our dear friend and yoga teacher Sara from Oleiros were so helpful in getting us started for the year. Thanks for your patience in the chaos of set up. Much appreciated. :)

This month we have the delightful Petra & Sophia from Holland and Dylan from south Australia. All the volunteers have worked incredibly hard to enable the retreats to run smoothly and with a lot of fun too. You guys are stars. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the team. You've set the bar high for the teams that follow!

Our friend Tashi Dawa flew in for a fortnight of retreats in April and as always lifted our spirits with her loveliness. So sad to see her leave but we wish her all the best in her retreats in Italy and France this year with Kaliyoga.

That's all for now, just wanted to share Hafiz's poem with you today as I loved the idea of the divine playfully turning us upside down now and again.

Saude, Paz e Amor

Memphis


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Clean - by Vonetta

Spring, the season of renewal, is a beautiful season here in the hills.  The winter is over and all energy moves towards resurgence. Relieved to be getting some of my Vit D straight from the sunshine I start to feel like a new shoot, eager for growth but a little fragile. As the creeping energy of the Gallbladder starts to awaken to encourage me to grow and unfurl from the cosy slumber of winter, I am made aware of the places where I have settled for less, both within my body and mind.

I have learnt that the renewal of Spring energy encourages us to make decisions and stick to them, but my body, in need of some ignition, can easily find itself trying to catch up with soul aspirations, and in no time at all the rush of enthusiasm can easily become frustration followed by a distinct loss of stamina.  I have been known to cling white knuckled to comfy jumpers and the dreaminess of winter mist. Spring in balance says, “Come out.  Let’s play.” Out of step with the season, that spring like enthusiasm can easily become an exhausting reminder that I am not yet able to rest in the languid days of summer heat, there are still the year’s mountains to climb. 

In the city it was hard to fully appreciate the metaphors of natural medicine, born out of our relationship with nature. I didn’t fully grasp why in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Spring was also associated with the urgent and unsettled, at a time equally associated with good times, happiness and a return of the sun.  In the countryside it is easy to appreciate why this season of the Wood phase, is the time of judgement, decisiveness and courage.  As a vegetable gardener there is just so much to do.  Thousands of little babies need to be planted, watered, fed, kept free of strong weeds according to the principals of crop rotation.  It is easy to forget the seeds that have been sown, not yet jewelled with summer flowers and fruit.   The peas need to be sown before the summer heat comes, and staked and watered.  The tomatoes need to be planted correctly so that their adventitious roots may receive all the good food we will be giving them this year.  The potatoes planted before the Spring rainsa re now proudly above the soil, but as they come up one knows that there is no time for sitting around giving congratulations, those potatoes, still need feeding, earthing up (covering with soil) and mulching. 

Crops that I have only just sewn seemed to be going to seed and need to be sewn again.  And of course everything needs to be bedded down before the ravages of summer heat.  So it is in the emotional environment, many of us may have made New Year’s resolutions it is about now that we realise our ideas or not.  Relationships with colleagues may suffer, as the clock ticks and tocks, it easy to fall out of step with the love vibrations and be pushed forward by Liver energies of independence releasing  the autocrat commanding that this be done and that be done with perfection.  The mind can become contaminated by Liver Wind as the Gall Bladder’s energies are turned towards nourishing the heart and the Soul’s work through decisive action.  Flash card thoughts may blow in and out and it can be difficult to hold onto sequential orderly work. Bright sharp headaches, irritable eyes and ears throat disorders may become prevalent. Uncoordinated urgency is the disease of this time as we run from task to task trying to make it all happen. 

This season has a pushing forward energy and at this time of little rest, I do not necessarily want harsh detoxes or fasting, there is just too much to attend to. Instead I am looking for a gentle way to maintain any good work that has been accomplished and the commitment to take on any challenges that are coming my way.  I want energy, a lift to help me feel good, and no downs please. I want to shed the winter skin by doing the work of spring to prepare for the fruit of summer. Spring encourages work and the gentle awe of the land’s delicate bounty. When in balance I can see that beneath the urgent activity, there is a gentle heart pull to give space to the past times of childhood. Unstressed walks through the still soft forest floor are preferred to runs. Our work has to cease for a few moments to play homage to the tiny species daffodils, bluebells and buttercups that will only be around for a week or two. The channels of our bodies warm thanks to the ever increasing strength of the sun, and from my desk I can hear shrieks of delight as our guest dip their legs into spring water flowing from the thawing snows of the Serra de Estrela.

As the elements awaken so too does my desire to give.  I find myself energised to practice, teach and give treatments.  My limbs easily unfurl under the influence of Spring Gallbladder Qi and a sense of independence arises from my Liver.  I find myself leaping out of bed before my alarm to get on my matt and beat the sunshine so that I can bask in it’s warmth during morning Sun Salutations.  The creaky, disjointed aches of Winter are passing and my body begins to hum.  Hum for balancing postures and inversions and flowing sequences.  I long to stretch my limbs as far as possible but I am also still reminded that these early days call for containment and a sensitive approach to testing the strength of my tendons and ligaments, most vulnerable at this time of heat and cold, themselves dominated by the energetic potential of the Liver and Gallbladder the Yin and Yang organs of Spring.  Gentle side opening yoga postures are required before I am ready for heated heart opening back bends, such as Ustrasana.  My neck, still thawing from the emotional coldness of winter needs a little more time in Shoulderstands.  I adore  Kurmasana and Yoga Nidra and I am thrilled and encouraged by the return of just enough heat to make these postures possible, I find myself looking for more of, this.

Spring Qi when we are attuned may give us lightness; as these days are not yet weighed down by the heavy languidness of the Earth days yet to come.  This is the time to turn away quite effortlessly from heaviness of any sort.   My being cries out for the light, green and cleansing.   Salads of watercress and cucumber with dill or Mustard frills lettuce, hot and spicy with it’s little yellow flowers attached, generate water into the mouth.   I find myself instinctively reaching for all things green, Green Tara Mantras, a new Green Sporty jacket, my favourite Moss Green Hat , I think about buying new green tights but instead, wisely,  reach for a little Green Juice and some of Katherine Smith’s cleansing Kedgeree.

Juice like fine Spring days, stimulates our childlike delight in lightness. In Barbados, where I was born, we drink litres of fresh juice.  Fresh cherry juice electric pink and deep staining to the tongue.  Mango juice thick and fibrous enough to take the place of a solid lunch.  Grapefruit juice for cleansing and Pineapple for Magnesium.  The detoxing and nutritional benefits of juice have always been secondary to the delight of drinking juice.  Juice makes me feel good and light where other foods may leave me feeling heavy and sleepy.  Juice makes my mouth feel, innocent.  Innocent and clean and good for me without any guilt or frustration, the perfect medicine to stave off Spring colds and fevers.  As I write and sip my morning concoction I can almost feel the coolness of the juice keeping my blood pressure at normal levels, ensuring that my arteries and heart stay open.

When I started yoga, I wondered why it was that all the yoga practioners seemed to be drinking something green. It was a yoga practioner that introduced me to the health benefits of green juices. I am amused now that next to my litre of fruit juice lays a drunken one slug shot of wheatgrass juice, some teachings stick.  I now know that to be able to meet the demands of this season of growth, I need all that chlorophyll, besides that, drinking Green Liquid Sunshine makes me feel happy. One hit of these relatively tasteless organic wheatberries and I feel the return of the Superhero Gallbladder Child, my Liverish tendencies to initiate growth, are calmed and ordered. This season of Spring cleaning and Spring fever remind me to give my renewal Qi a boost.

At the moment I am drinking my wheatgrass in the powdered form. Soon I hope to have huge pots of this wonder food growing and maybe a handsome Matsone juicer to release the power of this plant. As I look at my completed shot glass I can not help but google search again the health benefits of this super food.  As I read again that this food will give me 70% of my greenfood needs and 92 of the 102 minerals my body needs, I am impressed.  This one ounce shot of wheatgrass juice claims to contain the equivalent nutritional content of 2 pounds of green vegetables. I mean, I couldn’t eat 2 pounds of green vegetables first thing in the morning, yet I can get the equivalent nutrition in a one ounce glug.  If I tried to grow enough vegetables  to be able to eat 2 pounds a day, I would need to give hours of back breaking work to the land, disturbing a great deal of the soil structure and probably hurting myself in the process. Yet, I can grow wheatgrass in large shallow pots, in less than one ounce of soil and just cut, use, water the plants and watch them come again.  20 minutes after taking a shot I can feel the energy uplift and I can rest assured that this hit will last throughout my day.  Guilt free, environmentally sound healing nutrition, for real?  Sign me up. 

If you are as impressed by wheatgrass as I am, then I would recommend you read Ann Wigmore’s, “The Wheatgrass Book”.  Wheatgrass is simple but powerful medicine, and it is always worth it doing a little research before we introduce any new food into the body.  However below is a summation of some of the generalised benefits of taking wheatgrass juice, as taken from my Natural Physician course with the School of Natural Medicine.

Wheatgrass as a complete protein containing the 19 amino acids, the building blocks of protein and roughly 30 enzymes. These friendly little health giving acids and enzymes will:
  1. Protect me against cancer
  2. Build up my blood protecting me against anaemia and will keep my easily dirtied Liver clean as a whistle
  3. Give power to seminal fluid (maybe this is not so important to me)
  4. Increase my energy levels
  5. Help me to keep my hearing and nerve function
  6. Calm my thyroid and my brain while leaving me alert and switched on
  7. Repair my DNA, and stop free radicals from damaging my cells.  Yes please one shot glass, keep me looking younger for longer.  That sounds good.
  8. Chelate heavy metals so that my nerves don’t fry, clean my colon so that doesn’t fry and protect my heart from inflammatory conditions, so that that doesn’t fry.
  9. Help to sooth cuts sores, eczema and sinusitis helpful, as the pollen count is high in the Spring
  10. Enhance and boost my immunity
  11. Improve my circulation
  12. Neutalise body odours.
  13. And put me to bed encouraging a deep and restful sleep at the end of the day.
This is one plant that ensures I can keep going and not give in.  A must if I want to stay balanced and keep that spring in my step. 

Vonetta

Monday, March 31, 2014

Take a Forest Bath!

Just back from our meditative walk before yoga class this morning. The mist is hanging delicately in all the meandering valleys and the welcome drizzle is gently watering all the newly planted herbs and veggies in the kitchen gardens. The smells of damp Eucalyptus and Pine trees together with the scent from the emerging spring flowers was divine today.

This week is a Soft Power retreat. And there's no better example here of the power water has to softly carve out the hardest of stone over the years, than these valleys. It's quite fitting that showers are forecast this week as we're focusing on the energy of water and its restorative ability to heal our bodies.

All this year I will be guiding our guests every morning on meditative walks through the surrounding forests. Depending on the retreat, we draw our attention to the various elements, their presence and effect on the landscape around us, and what might be happening in our own bodies as we move through it. It's a great way to start the day. I spent much of the autumn and winter walking the puppies after their breakfast. Now all but one have found new homes, it's gonna be lovely to walk guests instead! :)

 When Katherine found this old post the other day on Mother Earth News about Forest Bathing, I had to share it on the blog.

"The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku may literally mean "forest bathing," but it doesn't involve soaking in a tub among the trees. Rather it refers to spending time in the woods for its therapeutic (or bathing) effect. Most of us have felt tension slip away in the midst of trees and nature’s beauty. But science now confirms its healing influence on the body. When you spend a few hours on a woodland hike or camping by a lake you breathe in phytoncides, active substances released by plants to protect them against insects and from rotting, which appear to lower blood pressure and stress and boost your immune system." Photo Courtesy Fotolia/Inga Nielsen  

So there you have it. Scientific evidence, as if we needed it, that spending time with the trees is really good for us. The tree huggers were right all along. It's why we always encourage people to explore. Get out. Wander. Find a quiet secluded spot with an awesome view or find a rock by the streams and simply sit in the forest. Immerse your senses in the process. Smell it, feel, taste, touch, listen, and open up to the possibility that simply being in such an environment is healing in itself. When it really warms up in a few weeks time, it's nice to also be able to take a daily dip in the natural river pools and plunge pool to cool off. But until then, good to hear too that the non dip dry bathing concept is also just as therapeutic.

New Sweat Lodge

One of our guests who's been here a few times already, the lovely Georg, spent last week rebuilding a part of one of the terraces that had fallen in, then turned his attention to create this wee structure made from branches he found in the forest in front of the pizza oven by the Moses cottage. With 2 benches chainsawed from a pine trunk.

It's a Sweat Lodge. We bought new rugs yesterday to drape over the top and we're doing final heat checks on various stones from the river to see which won't explode in the fire. Seems to be the darker, harder more volcanic stone. Just need to check with the old guys in the village as they'll be sure to know, then we'll fire up the bread oven, heat the stones, bring them into the covered sweat lodge close the flaps, pour water on the hot rocks, and sweat.

When we get too hot, we'll explore the possibility of taking a plunge in this tank below fed by gravity from the river, with cold cold water, and returning back to the lodge again. We've talked forever about one day building a sweat lodge, and now, just like that, we might just have one. Thanks Georg! You're a star.


Nourish...

Last thing to mention today is that our new cook book "Nourish. Healing Meals from Vale de Moses" by Kat, is with the designers and the pdf should be ready for download in a few weeks. Keep an eye out for when it's released on FB or here on the blog. Then we'll be printing hard copies later in the year once we've taken a few more gorgeous food photos of all our retreat menus this season.

Happy Spring everyone. I hope you each get the chance to take a few hours out this week to visit any nearby forest or woodland to take a "forest bath".

On your own or with friends!   Enjoy. :)

Memphis x

"Ah listen, for silence is not lonely!
Imitate the magnificent trees
That speak no word of their rapture, but only
Breathe largely the luminous breeze."



From Corot by D.H. Lawrence, as featured on, and photo courtesy of, the Woodland Trust FB page.