Sunday, November 20, 2016

The passion behind our yoga retreats

We're delighted to present 3 new videos shot earlier this summer by the talented Lisbon film director, Tiago Pedro de Carvalho. We asked Tiago to capture the passion of our team, to take a look behind the scenes and explain a little better why we love practicing and teaching yoga here, why we prepare such delicious and nutritious food, and why we include massage and acupuncture treatments on every retreat.

You can also find these videos on our Facebook page. Help us spread the word about Vale de Moses by sharing with those you think might really enjoy retreating with us. View our calendar of retreats and reserve your place online via our Vale de Moses retreat website.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sleeping Without Props, by Dr Nerina

This blog post is republished with kind permission from our friend and teacher Dr Nerina. She teaches workshops on a retreat with us once a year. Her Slumber and Restore retreat this May is already fully booked but we thought her insight and advice in this article, based on decades of experience, was an absolute must share.
‘To sleep is an act of faith’  Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
Firstly, I must apologise for the radio silence.  It has been more than six months since my last offering but I assure you, this has been for good reason.   Settling in to my new home and life and finishing Book 2 were no minor feats but throughout, I’ve mostly slept like a baby (one that sleeps well, that is).  Yes – I’m sleeping better than I’ve ever slept.  I used to need to sleep with a fan on at night – nothing to do with noisy neighbours or ferreting foxes but simply to erect a defence against my own noisy thoughts.  However, after decades of waging war against my own insomnia, studying the delicate workings of the melatonin-secreting pineal gland, and helping others to sleep, maybe…just maybe…I’ve cracked it.  No fan at night, no favourite pillow propped up just so, no sleep monitoring devices, no scented oils sprinkled on the pillow to calm mind and deepen breath.  No props.  Just…simple….deep, velvety sleep. Apparently we’re meant to spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping.  It’s an innate ability that’s encoded in our DNA.  So why is it so difficult at times?

To answer this let me draw your attention to another innate need – the need to feel safe.  Every living organism has this need.  And I’ve long known that sleep and safety are inextricably connected.  We sleep when we feel safe.  Whatever safety means to you – inbox emptied, food in the fridge, money in the bank, children happy at school, fulfilment at work, relationships harmonious, and so on – whatever makes up the messy, challenging, glorious tapestry of your life.  If we can let go of all of this, even the messiest of unfinished business…then we can sleep.  Because, after all, to sleep is an act of faith, a deep abiding trust that whatever is going on in life, you can let it go, put it on hold for some hours so that you can sleep deeply and restoratively, waking with the energy and resilience to face whatever lies ahead.

Sleep problems are not created when you put your head on the pillow at night.  Every choice you make during the day - every thought, every behaviour, every conversation (especially with yourself), whether you laugh or cry, the number of times you find yourself at the coffee machine, the number of times you swipe, how you live and love – all of this settles in your nervous system and affects your ability to sleep effortlessly.  The key to deepest restoration lies not in superficial sleep hygiene methods (although they might help a little) but in examining the choices we’re making in life.  Are we making choices that are building inner safety and trust?  Or are we making choices that fuel fear, quicken the breath, and foster distrust?

So much of life is uncertain.  So much can change at the drop of a hat.  And as life continues to go ever faster, one of our greatest resources lies in going deeper within, finding that place of inner stillness and safety from which we can move outwards to action, not always knowing where we will end up but always trusting.

And in so doing, maybe we can sleep deeply and effortlessly…and without props.

I promise you won’t have to wait so long for my next installment.  In my next blog, I will share practical steps to creating inner safety and trust thus helping you to create the pure sleep that you truly deserve.

Until then…

Yours in amazing health and energy,


Order a copy of Dr Nerina's new book "Fast Asleep, Wide Awake" on Amazon.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Where we live. In the foothills of this beauty.

A couple of beautiful videos below I saw this week, of our local Serra da Estrela mountain range, just 50 kms north east of us as the crow flies. We're in the foothills of the tallest mountain in continental Portugal, 2kms above sea level at its highest point (on top of a 7m stone obelisk as it's officially only 1993m high without that stone!).

The big river Zêzere where we take our guests every week for a wild swim and mud bath, actually originates up in these mountains. We've been as a family up there a few times over the last 8 years. Always so very majestic, with breathtaking views and crystal clean air.

Hikes for miles in all directions too. Well worth a visit before or after a retreat with us.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

10 reasons to retreat to Vale de Moses

By Katherine Smith, republished with permission from her own blog.

The mountain air rouses me from sleep, tickling the tip of my nose, as I breath deep. It’s not quite dawn and in the darkness the expectant moon shines through my window before it disappears behind the swaying tree line.

I rise in the stillness, to the sound of silence. I shower swiftly and pick my way across the olive terraces to the yoga retreat below.  A quick coffee, a reflective moment and I am ready for the day, which always began with practice then teaching.

Stretching, sweating, laughing and sometimes even swearing before giving in to Savasana is how I remember mornings at Vale de Moses. It is the place I called home for two years before moving to Amsterdam and where I’ll be leading yoga retreats this May, August and October.

Vale de Moses is a small old valley farm nestled in the remote and picturesque foothills of the Serra de Estrela mountain range, Central Portugal. Here you can retreat for a week on the edge of wilderness, in the beautifully restored home of the Winter family, who will enchant you.

From mud-baths and forest walks to healing hands and floating yoga spaces there are almost too many reasons to retreat to Vale de Moses. It is full of magic and might just be the very escape your soul has been searching for.

Here are 10 reasons to go on yoga retreat at Vale de Moses:

1. Healing hands

With one treatment included in every yoga retreat no-one misses out on benefiting from an incredible massage and/or acupuncture session with Vonetta or Peter.

2. The floating yoga shala

The yoga shala is perched above the vegetable patch and fragrant herb garden, providing stunning panoramic views of the surrounding forest and mountains, which burst into full bloom in May.  Yoga classes are offered every morning and afternoon in this serene spot.

3. Hidden spaces & secluded spots

If you get tired relaxing by the natural plunge pools, lounging on the sun-terraces or feasting in the sunken courtyard there are plenty of secret spots to discover where you can enjoy time alone, in close proximity to nature, beneath the Portuguese sun.

4. High vibes, mountain climbing and hikes

If yoga isn’t enough and you still have energy to burn, you can take off on the multitude of hiking trails through the mountains, visit local villages for a cheeky coffee or go climbing with an experienced guide.

5. Morning walks in the woods

Let Andy lead you through the forest on one of his infamous morning walks that never fail to inspire. It is the perfect way to wake up your body for the yoga class that will follow.

6. Furry friends

The dogs at Moses are very much part of the yoga family and love cuddles.

7. The food

Vale de Moses believes in abundance and feeding guests well. You will be served nourishing, homely meals rich in pulses, grains and fresh vegetables that are intended to be gentle on the digestion.

8. The wilderness

Magic happens when you immerse yourself in nature. Research has shown that spending time outdoors can have a positive impact on your health and happiness. Here you can bath in the natural pools, the forest, the mud or just the sun.

9. Getting here won’t break the bank

Flights to Lisbon or Porto are usually inexpensive, from within the rest of Europe, if you time it booking them right. According to Skyscanner 7 weeks ahead of your trip is the best time to book affordable flights. (Direct coaches to Oleiros on Sunday afternoon where there'll pick everyone up by car. Lisbon 1.30pm Porto 4.30pm. Rede Expressos site.)

10. Lisbon

It is hard not to fall in love with Lisbon. Its sunny colours, corner cafes and arty ambience provide the perfect stop off on route to Vale de Moses. There are plenty of beautiful Airbnb properties at reasonable prices, not to mention an incredible range of hostels offering rooms for as little at €15 per night. Be sure not to miss the Pasteis de Natas in Belem!

And if you’re still not convinced. Watch this video.

Join me at Vale De Moses for Wild & Whole, 1-7th May, 7-13 August, 2-8 October or Get on your mat with Kat, 8-14th May, 14-20 August, 9-15 October.

Online Reservations showing live availability for each of my retreats. Prices start from €740 for couples or friends sharing a private room, 790€ for a place in the old stone cottages, or 890€ for a private bedroom, Soulpad or Tipi as single occupancy.

Kat x

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday Moses!

At 18 months the day we left London
It's hard to describe how much you have changed our life Moses. We've always loved you. Even the very thought of you before we first met. Remembering back to 2004 when Vonnie and I, Joshua and Eloise began talking about getting a family dog to live with us in New Cross in south east London, we loved the idea of how you might change our lifestyle. How you would necessarily force us to live more outdoors, explore more of London's parks twice a day and take longer journeys out of the city where you, and we, could run a little freer.

Asleep with Eli
The previous summer, Josh had been bitten by a big brutish dog while we were all on a yoga retreat in Italy and as a small boy was understandably a little scared thereafter of dogs. That had to change. So Von began doing her research into the best family dogs and the best breeders. Later the following year in 2005 we went to meet Lillah and her family in Sutton Coldfield in the UK Midlands. And to meet the 14 six week old puppies of the single litter Lillah let your mumma have. Josh picked up a few of your brothers and sisters before finding you. You lay on your back in his hands for just the right amount of time before wriggling to right yourself. Apparently a good sign you would be compliant but not too docile - still with a little joi de vie. You were the one.

In France 2007
We returned to London and left you to spend a few more weeks with your mamma. Now we had to find your name. Took us a few weeks of playing around with a few.  Had to be grand.  Had to somehow capture how we felt your introduction to our life would lead us all on an adventure. Late one night, lying in bed laughing about historic adventures in human history, I said "Moses". Vonnie looked at me, smiled that big broad soft ear to ear grin of hers,and repeated "Moses. He's called Moses."

Lake Dijon
Over the years since, I've often remembered that night of choosing your name. We had at the time absolutely no idea how provident that choice would be. It just felt right. We joked with our friends you were called Moses because you would lead us to the promised land. And that, my friend, you surely did.

After just 18 months of exploring London's parks and surrounding countryside, holidays where you would be welcome and free, we finally began to realise that morning and evening walks and weekend wooded escapades were so much fun that maybe we'd like to spend all of our time with you like that. So we decided to quit our jobs, take the kids out of school, rent our house, buy a motorhome and take you on a much bigger expedition round Europe.

Marking territory top of Portugal
And we'd call it the Poop in Europe Tour aiming to let you poop in as many countries as we could manage in a year. That link is the first blog we ever wrote, and it still gives me goose bumps to think of how nervous and excited we felt at the top of the cliff before we jumped.

Italy Sheep Trough
Abruzzo with Margot Portrait
6 months of travelling, eating, learning, cycling, walking, swimming in Europe's lakes, rivers and seas (and Italian sheep troughs!), you led us to an old farm and the possibility of a new life in the mountains of Portugal. Through all the chaos of the beginning months, the uncertainty of not knowing whether we could restore these old ruins and what on earth we would do when we finished, the trepidation of starting to invite people to spend a week with us on retreat, the hundreds of people who have come to see us since, you Moses, have been our dependable, faithful constant.

The original yoga deck and Safira
Wife Safira and daughter Moksha

Serra de Estrela
It's been a remarkable 10 year adventure. And we owe it all to you buddy. Just in case you ever get to read this blog, your official pedigree registered name is "Osrealin The Show Must Go On" and you were born on Sep 15 2005.  May you live long and healthy into your aging years and continue to bring joy and solace to all who know and love you.

We love you Moses.

Walks by rivers

On the beach in Barcelona
Company while restoring houses
First touch of Portugal

Outdoor Shower with Vonnie

First snow for 30 years
Ready for shampoo and set in Lisbon

Friday, June 19, 2015

The State of Deliciousness, my retreat review by Chloe Skinner

Lying on my yoga mat this morning I was 'invited into stillness' by Von - my favourite yoga teacher, and now, after my third visit to Vale de Moses, my friend. I lay there in the beautiful yoga shala overlooking mountainous forests, gleefully anticipating the joy of the astanga practice that was to come - a yoga practice guided by Von's playful, sincere and genuine love of sharing the joy of yoga with others. 'Stillness' isn't something that I find easy to 'achieve', but here at Vale de Moses, even in the invigorating movement of a vinyasa flow, a meditative morning walk with Andy, or a solitary hike up a hill, I can - albeit apprehensively and reluctantly at times - find stillness.

Stillness in the surrounding mountains; stillness in the stars on a clear night; stillness in the people around me; stillness in myself. Stillness can be intimidating, particularly following or during life's storms - the times I have found myself journeying back to Vale de Moses - but the warmth and love of those that live and work here, coupled with the ease of finding solitude, is such a nurturing environment in which to seek stillness.

As someone more naturally inclined toward movement however, the ability to balance this stillness I need so much with the delight of  physically flowing - as well as the inevitability of a concurrent emotional flowing - is one of the many dynamics which draws me to Vale de Moses. After a morning walk with a sparkly-eyed and warm-souled Andy - predominantly silent but with a vignette of wisdom sprinkled in - a yoga class in which all different bodies are lovingly celebrated, 'held', supported and encouraged by Von, and a body and soul nourishing breakfast with good food and good people, I spent some time alone yesterday down at one of the natural pools - basking in the cool, fresh water, the fire of the sun, the rich smell of the earth and the silkiness of the light wind.

In the nurturing stillness, I found the rarity of the time to 'look' - simply 'look' - and found movement, adventure and busyness. Watching the small fish under the surface, the insects resting on the water's surface, the sway of the surrounding trees, I thought about how lucky I am to find myself in a place where I am reminded of the ease of loving this life, this world, these people, this self - even amidst the inevitabilities of pain and hardship which came before, and will come after, this moment, this week, this retreat.

All of this and it was only midday! The afternoon followed with mouth-tingling nourishment, brain-stimulating conversation, heart-warming laughter, body-quenching yoga practice and, all in all, soul-quenching life! Lovely life!

This morning, after hearing ourselves moving, stretching, and breathing into our bodies alongside one another - bodies that have recently been deeply massaged by the expert hands of Pete or Von - two of the other guests remarked upon how good an idea it was to come to Vale de Moses. I couldn't agree more - it is an excellent idea... indeed, it is my favourite! It is true, however, that one of my 'favourite' volunteers here said yesterday that 'every 'thing' is your favourite'. But that is just how I feel at Vale de Von said to me,

'it is just about moving from one state of deliciousness to another'. 

And it is. It is delicious here.  Come.

Chloe Skinner

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The beauty of May in the Forest

Spring here in central Portugal is, by far, our favourite season. Warm and sunny already well into the mid 30 degree heat, cool in the evenings and mornings, with the heavy rain showers back in April, as always, precipitating such a splendid show of flowers, roses and colour everywhere. We love it. It's divine. 

We just uploaded to our Facebook page some of our favourite guests' photos of their retreats here since March.  A few on the blog today but do take a browse if you can. There are some stunners.  

To help us capture the lushness of the landscape at this time of year, tomorrow a film crew arrive with a drone! They came last week to do some light testing and flight path work, and it was so bizarre to have a noisy little machine flying around the place.  Like a wee invasion from the civilized technological world far far away.  But we think it's the best way to film the valley and buildings here so it's happening tomorrow and Friday. Gulp!
On a personal note, although it's been wonderful to have so many more lovely people retreat with us again this year, Vonetta and I are missing our children terribly during the week days. Eloise is in Lisbon at art school and Josh finishing off his schooling in Castelo Branco. They’re both healthy and happy but we wish we could all still be together.  Summer is here soon and they’ll be home for a while. ;)

As if I hadn't already realized that they’re both all grown up and flying the nest in search of their own independent adventures, the arrival of tattoos kind of visualized it for me. You won't believe how many times I've said I'm getting a Tat but always chickened out.  Not our two though!  They beat me to it.  Maybe encouraged a little by the fact that where Eloise stays in Campo Pequeno, a new tattoo bar opened up last month beneath the flat! 

I’ll leave you with links to two videos of our new Tipi going up a couple of weeks ago. (Videos will appear here soon when I work out how to embed from FB!) Big thanks to our dear friends Ian and Merle from Hummingbird Tipis and Scorp for carrying it over in 3 suitcases on an airplane and putting it up for us. It's resplendent. 

Tipi poles go up 
Tipi is built

Paz e amor,