Portugal Vinyasa flow yoga retreat

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2017: 23 Jul, 30 Jul, 6 Aug, 10 Sep, 17 Sep, 24 Sep
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Responsible tourism: Portugal Vinyasa flow yoga retreat

Environment

We came from London with a mindset of “light footsteps” to produce the minimum environmental impact possible. However quite quickly we grew to realise that what we actually wanted to do was have the maximum possible impact on the environment through our life here. By managing the forest responsibly, clearing the bush vegetation on the forest floor to enable the larger trees to thrive and at the same time protect the forest and village from the ravages of fire. By producing tractor loads of our own compost to enrich the soil. By nurturing and encouraging a much larger array of biodiversity in the plants and wildlife. We have planted a thousand shrubs and plants with the sole purpose of encouraging more bees, insects and birds to be able to make their homes in this part of the forest. Along with hundreds of deciduous woodland trees that will alter the micro climate of the valley as they grow tall, wide canopied and strong over the next few decades.

Gardening and Farming: We are learning, through experience and through the wisdom of our elderly neighbours, most of whom have lived off the produce of these valleys all their lives, how to live more in balance with the resources of the forest. To this end for the last four years we have managed to grow a substantial quantity of organic produce to feed ourselves, family and guests. We have planted over 750 Forest trees on the land with species that we hope overtime will increase the biodiversity of this largely mono-cultural forest and encourage the development of a deciduous woodland floor. We have also planted over 100 Orchard trees to encourage Permaculture based gardens and useful shrubs with more berries to stimulate a growth in woodland bird population.

We live on the edge of wilderness and our privileged to share our forest home with a number of other wilder inhabitants whose families have lived here for generations: wild boar, stoats, foxes, badgers, rabbits and partridges all make regular appearances. The lberian lynx and a mature stag spotted just the once.

Buildings: Our homes were all renovated according to the traditional Portuguese methods of building with clay, stone, wood and lime and are excellent examples of this environmentally appropriate approach to the hand built shelter. We have added a few creature comforts of modern living too.

Water and Energy: The water to all the houses comes from our bore hole and is pure rock filtered spring water straight from the mountain. It's fresh and full of vitality. We are increasingly using the traditional water sources gravity fed from the river and the Moorish water mines to irrigate orchards and crops. All grey water from the houses is also used to irrigate trees and ornamental plants, so we ask our guests to choose carefully the products they bring with them. Ironically, Environmentally friendly branded products are not always the best for irrigation as many have high salt content, good for the oceans but harmful for plants in the gardens.

Water is heated using Thermo Dynamic panels that work efficiently all year in rain, wind and sun. Central heating in the houses during winter is from a number of wood burning stoves using firewood from our own pine, eucalyptus, willow and olive trees: trees are the best solar energy converters around. Research has shown that forests thrive where they are managed sustainably like this.

Electricity is currently from the national grid, although Portugal is one of the pioneers of alternative energy in Europe – wind, wave and solar. We are surrounded by wind turbines on the ridges of all the foothills for miles. One day we hope to be completely off grid by harnessing solar and also water energy from the 2 rivers that run through this valley.

Waste: Our local council of Oleiros provides excellent recycling facilities in the village of Amieira, which makes it easy for us to recycle the plastic, glass and tin packaging we use. All degradable waste is composted on site. Cardboard and some of our kitchen waste feeds the worms in our worm café, who work hard eating all year to create the best liquid fertiliser for our kitchen garden crops and once a year provides a tray of perfect compost to start out the Spring seeding.

The rest of the kitchen waste is composted along with the contribution of our guests in the delightful dry toilets here. Our indoor dry toilets, made from the chestnut panels of old wine vats and marble, use sawdust and chippings cut from the heathers and shrubs in the forest. When added with all kitchen food and garden waste in our compost structures, stored for a year, it turns into tractor loads of nutrient rich compost for the orchards and newly planted woodland trees. It takes a little more human effort on our part, but we suspect our trees are much happier as a result. The land here is stony and much of its soil’s nutrients are therefore washed away in the winter rains. For those trees and plants to thrive It is essential we regularly add back nutrients so along with our own compost we buy lorry loads of goat, chicken and rabbit manure from our neighbours each year.

Transport: It is not easy to arrive here using low carbon transport. We are a remote retreat space in the geographic centre of Portugal. Our local town is supported well by coaches from Lisbon and Porto, although the nearest train station is an hour's drive away in Castelo Branco with an infrequent and slow local bus service to Oleiros.

Community

The best people to ask about our community involvement would be our lovely Portuguese neighbours. They'll tell you what they think about us. We're proud to be considered their friends, but in reality it often feels like we're their students. They have been our best teachers since we arrived, always with open houses and gardens ready to show us how it's done, teach us their language and tell of their history. In return we help them with their olive, wine and crop harvests. It's a great honour to now be able to buy their produce too for our yoga retreat menus. Our own olive oil is delicious, but their's has a few more tasty decades worth of experience.

Eventhough it is possible for us to source cheaper building materials, plants and food from further away, we have always chosen to support our local town economy too wherever possible.

We buy local. It has always been important to us that our local economy benefits directly from our family life and retreat business in Portugal. All the building materials and manpower used in the 4 year restoration work on the 4 small stone houses were sourced locally. We employed, and still do, our neighbours to help us build in the old traditional Portuguese ways with natural materials of clay, stone, straw and wood, and to clear and manage the forest around us. We buy the majority of food for our yoga retreats from the local shops in our nearest town of Oleiros and also as mentioned directly from our neighbour’s own produce – their tasty olive oil, potatoes, onions, salads, beans and corn. We grow our own herbs, salads, fresh beans and tomatoes.

We seek to distribute the revenue made from our retreats directly to our community. During the yoga season we rent the working farm next door from our neighbours to house a small staff team of volunteers that help manage our retreats. This provides a much needed annual income for our neighbours. We employ local drivers to bring our guests the 15km from the nearest town of Oleiros.

Wider afield, we have begun working in partnership with other Portuguese owned rural tourism projects. In 2013 we are hosting our first Yoga and Surf retreat at one of these projects – a beautiful set of bed and breakfast cottages by the beach on the renowned Costa Vincentina. We hope to provide more retreats at other projects in Portugal in the years to come.

There isn't a day that goes by where we don't give thanks for what the Portuguese families built with their hands in this valley a hundred years ago. The stone work in the terraces and river walls run for miles and miles in every direction. The daughters of the men who built the original farmhouses that we renovated are still alive and living in our village up the hill. We feel very connected.

Wider afield, the kids have helped us all integrate quickly at the beginning by being such fantastic contributors to their local school in Oleiros. It's a small town of less than 5000 people spread over 465 sq km (population density 1 person per 4 square kms), and it hasn't taken us long to feel really part of it.

You will be warmly welcomed in any café or restaurant in our town. It's a region of Portugal famous for its hospitality.

Reviews of Portugal Vinyasa flow yoga retreat

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 07 Aug 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Going down to the river and behaving like a hippopotamus.....by this I mean wallowing in the mud. It was not only fun but made the skin feel good too.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Don't worry about what stage you are at in your yoga practice. The teachers are highly skilled and can guide you regardless of your level. I was a beginner and therefore enjoyed the afternoon sessions that focused more on pair yoga.
Also buy some of their honey if you can......it is simply divine.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, most certainly. Highly environmentally friendly (dry toilets using sawdust, solar panels etc) and most food was locally grown/sourced.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It was excellent .There was only one thing I didn't like and that was the "silent" mode from the moment of wakening. I didn't however mind the silence on the walks as that seemed like a natural flowing process into the morning yoga sessions.

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