The two go together. The retreat next May in Andalusia, just a ten minute stroll to the beach, offers yoga, creative writing, and dance/ movement workshops. Special deal, an early bird discount if you book by the end of December, a discount of 10%. There is a further discount of 10% if you bring a friend! Details here:

  • Sunday, May 6, 2018 3:00 PM


    Casa Erica Holiday Resort

    Calle Rusia 1 Niza Beach / Torre del Jaral 29700 Vélez-Málaga, Andalucia

  • 30 minutes from Malaga airport, transfers included.

    Price starts at: EUR745.00 /per person



    Yoga & Creativity Retreat 

    Andalucia, Spain / 6th – 12th of May 2018

    Stella Shakerchi and Chris Leuenberger invite you to join them in their yoga and creativity retreat held at Yoga Spirit Circle, a naturally designed holiday villa and yoga resort nestled in the Andalusian hills overlooking the Costa del Sol. 

    Enjoy relaxing yet focused daily yoga sessions that will fit your yoga needs. 

    Surrender to the flow of your innate creative potential and try somatic dance and /or creative writing. 

    While on your leisure time you can go for extensive strolls on the beach (only a 10 minute walk away), hang out by the pool and maybe after dinner join mantra chanting to calm your mind. 

    You will go home inspired and recharged!


    Stella Shakerchi teaches creative writing and yoga in Oxford. 

    Chris Leuenberger is a Swiss dancer/choreographer working internationally. Both are 500hr RYT yoga teachers.

    Group Size 

    The maximum number of participants in the group is 12.

    Check out a video of our last retreat here:


    Yoga Spirit Circle is located on the grounds of a beautiful Spanish finca – Casa Erica. Located about 30km east from Málaga city, surrounded by 

    nature and with the beach at your footsteps, it is the ideal spot to unwind and reconnect. The mild climate in spring and autumn with light sea breezes make you want to spend most of your time outdoors. 

    Wake up with the sun, practice yoga under the sky and make new friends.  The yoga classes and workshops take place up on the hill overlooking the sea, on pool level and on the roof top terrace.    


    During this retreat you will have two daily yoga classes with Chris and Stella. Experience Vinyasa, kundalini, restorative yoga, and celestial communication (mantras with extended mudras) in the evening.

    To make full use of the life-affirming benefits of a regular yoga practice and to help unleash your creativity, we offer a choice of workshops in creative writing or somatic dance on three afternoons. 

    Typical Day Schedule 

    You will start your day with a 90 minute Vinyasa class in the morning sun.

    After your class and relaxation session you can enjoy your breakfast from the buffet on the terrace with sea view. There is sufficient time to rest, have a chat or jump into the pool until lunch.

    If you can’t get enough of the yoga, we will give the option of taking a 60 minute Kundalini yoga class right before lunch. 

    In the late afternoon you will have a choice of creative writing or somatic dance workshops (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). 

    On Tuesday and Thursday we will offer a 90 minutes restorative evening yoga class with meditation or yoga nidra. 

    After dinner you’re invited to join us for 20 minutes of mantras with music and mudras. 


    In this retreat healthy yogic food with vegetarian and dietary options will be served.   

    We start the day with tea, coffee & fruit. Choose between soy and oat milk. After the morning yoga class a delicious brunch is waiting for you. Freshly baked bread, different porridges, vegan spreads, fruit, veggies and fresh orange juice as much as you want. 

    In the lunch break we offer freshly made smoothies and light snacks, such as Chia Pudding and Açai-Nicecream. 

    In the evening we try our best to impress you with fresh veggies, hearty 

    dishes and colourful creations influenced by the world’s cuisines.

    The following meals are included: brunch, light lunch, dinner, drinks

    Should you have special dietary requirements, kindly send an inquiry to Chris:


    You will be staying at Casa Erica – a beautifully renovated, peaceful and idyllic finca / holiday villa. 

    Surrounded by mountains and the sea, Casa Erica offers inviting rooftop terraces, Spanish archways and staircases and spacious outdoor common areas for living, dining and relaxing. 

    There are 11 bright and comfortable apartments and studios, all of which have a bathroom with a shower and a kitchenette.  

    Accommodation Options and Cost: 

    Shared Studio (4x) EURO 745                                  

    Shared Apartment (6x) EURO 795                                        

    Single Room in Shared Apartment (1x) EURO 825                                      

    Single Studio (1x) EURO 825

    Single Use Apartment (2x) EURO 865

    Single Use Honeymoon Studio (1x) EURO 895

    What’s included:

    • 2 daily yoga classes (Vinyasa, kundalini and restorative yoga)

    • 6 nights accommodation in single or double rooms

      • Daily yogic breakfast, lunch, and dinner

    • choice of creative writing or somatic dance workshop on 3 afternoons 

    • mantra singing and celestial communication sessions after dinner 

    • teas, coffees, and water

    • Use of all facilities

      • Airport Transfers 

    • Wi-Fi     

    What’s not included:

    • Airfares

    • Alcohol

    • Excursions

    • Massages 

    Things to do  

    There are many options for you to spend your free time on your retreat:

    You can use the spacious and beautiful areas of Casa Erica to relax, read, take a dip in the pool, sunbathe and luxuriate.  You might want to discover the surrounding nature or walk down the hill to go for a swim at the beach.  You can catch a bus to Torre del Mar for some sight seeing – or how about a city trip to one of the beautiful Andalusian cities close by such as Málaga, Nerja or Granada? Maybe you feel like treating yourself to a massage.                                Massages and treatments are offered at favourable retreat prices.

    Arrival & Departure  

    Arrival is on Sunday afternoon, May 6th. 

    Departure is on Saturday, May 12th by noon-time. 

    Getting there

    Arrival by airplane:

    The nearest airport is Malaga. We offer a free Pick-up and Drop-off Service three times a day for flights arriving and departing from Malaga Airport between 8 am and 9:30 pm.

    For arrivals and departures before 8 am and after 9:30 pm we can organise a personal transfer at an additional cost.   

    Arrival by airplane and bus/train/car:

    It is also possible to fly to Seville or to Jerez de la Frontera and rent a car or take a bus to Malaga or Torre del Mar. 

    Another option is to fly to Madrid. From Madrid you can catch a train (Renfe) which brings you to Malaga in 2,5 – 3 hours. 

    Renting a car:

    Car sharing makes the cheap rental cars even cheaper. At Malaga airport you can rent a car starting from 80 € per week. 

    We will send an email before the trip and put all interested participants in contact. 

    Payment and cancellation policy

    To confirm your space please transfer a 50% deposit. 

    The balance is due 2 weeks before the start of the retreat (April 23 2018). Bank details will be provided on registration.

    Cancellation policy as follows:

    More than 60 days before the holiday a refund will be given less a 50 Euro admin charge.

    Less than 60 days before the holiday a refund (less a 50 € administration charge) will only be given if the space can be filled.

Today I had a quick chat live on BBC Radio Oxford and Berkshire with Bill Buckley; it was a lot of fun. Bill was asking me about the benefits of yoga and how yoga entered my life, the training process, and how practicing in the Parks makes a difference.

He talked about the way he used to practice in London (not keeping his drishti!) and we talked about some of the different types of yoga I teach at The Yoga Beat and the retreats we teach in spring and autumn.

This evening we are practicing vinyasa again in the University Parks 6-7pm and remember kundalini Wednesdays 6-7pm also in the Parks near Keble Gate.

Rejuvenating Retreat in Italy 23-30 September

With Chris Leuenberger & Stella Shakerchi



23-30 September at Locanda della Quercia Calante, Umbria

A week of yoga and cleansing in the in the Umbrian hills. Relax, consolidate and strengthen at Locanda with tranquil gardens and magical sunsets.

2 yoga classes each day, after dinner mantras, swimming, free to roam the woodland walks, one to one sessions, massages and spa available, beautiful accommodation and three fresh healthy meals every day at Locanda della Quercia Calante, near Orvieto.


Treat yourself to 7 days of yoga and relaxation on this natural retreat in the hills of verdant Umbria, Central Italy. Fill up on inner strength and peace of mind in the beautiful grounds of a renovated old farm surrounded by a green park with spring water pools and century-old oaks. Whether you are a beginner or a well-practiced yogi, our retreat will be a safe environment in which you can explore, grow your practice, cleanse and achieve long lasting health benefits. Locanda has beautiful gardens where you can relax and natural pools. All meals and comforts are provided, and any extra yoga tuition all included.

– 2 yoga classes a day (Vinyasa, Kundalini) 

– pranayama, meditation, chakras & mantras

– free use of all facilities including natural spa with energizing properties

– 3 healthy vegetarian meals per day (local cuisine, natural ingredients)

– lovely accommodation in quadruple, triple, double or single room

Chris Leuenberger ( is a dancer and Stella Shakerchi is a KYTA certified Level 1 kundalini yoga teacher. Both are 500hr Vinyasa RYT Yoga Alliance certified. 

4 SHARE: EUR 675

3 SHARE: EUR 745



You may wish to share a room with a friend or partner, or we can place you with other yogis who are attending.

To book your place on the retreat, contact Stella: or text on (+44) 740 212 6826. We ask a 50% deposit to secure the place, the balance payable 60 days  before the start of the retreat.


for more information email or text (+44) 740 212 6826


It is an intriguing subject, fascia – some of which is what you may know as connective tissue – runs throughout the body and is a substance released by the cells that support tensional movement and strengthens areas of movement. There are always new discoveries being made on this mysterious subject. This video is great for revealing how involved fascia is in the anatomy of body and mind.

Nutrition and the yogic lifestyle

This evening I attended a book launch at the headquarters of the wonderful Modern Baker. The Modern Baker A New Way to Bake has some great recipes such as sourdough chocolate cake and maple sugar and blueberry scones. You can find out about the health benefits of sourdough on the Modern Baker blog written by Melissa Sharp who also collaborated with Leo and Lindsay to write the Cookbook. Sourdough can be helpful for celiacs. But also consider that you may be intolerant to wheat, sugar or dairy without even realising it. Sometimes we think we are running on normal when we have nothing better to compare it with. Twenty, thirty or forty years on habitual diet may be hiding your potential energy levels, possibly much higher, much more consistent, and everything much easier.

It was not until I stopped having dairy products that I realised I was naturally much more clear headed, energetic and positive than I had been for forty years of my life. Now at 47 from what I see on YouTube real videos of the ways animals are treated in dairy farms I understand there are many good reasons to decline dairy products, and I am glad my body told me “no” before I saw the horrid truth. 

Apart from my distaste for dairy and refined sugar, I share something else with Melissa: we were both diagnosed with cancer in the same year. I didn’t know Melissa then. I only knew I wanted to survive, and from the books and research I read I knew that green leafy vegetables, broccoli and garlic were the best way to go in terms of a daily bolster against cancer cells thriving. Surgery, chemo, and yoga training later, teaching and living in Summertown I was excited to see that a new healthy bakers was due to open. I used to work at a bakers, getting up at dawn and baking early, I ate a lot of wheat working there and did not feel too well on it, so I wanted to know what the Modern Baker would have to offer. I watched keenly and on the morning of opening I took in a bunch of flowers, met Melissa, and immediately it was evident that the Modern Baker would be a valued element in the neighbourhood. 

It wasn’t just Melissa’s gorgeous dogs Bo Bo and Silla that kept me returning to the Modern Baker – nicknamed Posh Baker by some, Mobo by others – It was the healthy products, satisfying and nutritious. I learnt to make some of my favourites and now I am delighted to be able to try out the new recipes in the book. I have been teaching regular yoga classes, retreats and workshops for six years now, and I am sure the tasty sourdough loaves, cakes and salads have helped me stay well.


In the yogic approach to nutrition, food is defined in three main types: Sun foods, Ground foods and Earth foods. Ayurvedic tradition talks about the need for balance between Vata, Pitta and Kapha to have a healthy system and different types of food reflect these qualities. Sattvic, Rajastic and Tamasic.

Food is categorised as nutritious which gives energy and strength; and sustaining which heals the body and maintains health. Raw foods are required for the fibre and enzymes that help us absorb vitamins and some foods require cooking as then minerals are released and become easier for us to absorb – tomatoes for example.

There are six main flavours: sweet; sour; salty; pungent; bitter and astringent. Each have their own qualities: sweet foods can nourish but can cause mucus and obesity (refined sugar inhibits the chemical in our bodies that signals to us that we are full, and it causes inflammation forming dangerous free radicals in the body); sour foods stimulate appetite; salty foods aid digestion.

Alkaline diet is important for the body which is naturally 75% alkaline. Alkaline foods build nerves, organs, glands and keep them toned. Calm us. Leafy vegetables, fruit, pulses, legumes and lemons are alkaline. Acid foods give bursts of energy, but can cause chronic illness and ageing. Meat, eggs, butter and sweets are acidic, as well as coffee and alcohol.

Trinity roots: garlic can be used to heal gastric, septic, typhus, cholera, bacterial infections and cancer. Stimulates semen production. Onion for earache, colds, fever, laryngitis, cancer, purify blood, balance blood sugar. Ginger digestion, menstrual cramps, nausea, nourishes nerves and helps them carry more energy. Keeps spine and cerebrospinal fluid healthy.

Yogi Bhajan reminds us of the importance of preparing food with love and gratitude, eating in a pleasant environment and eating consciously. To eat when hungry only and not snack, stop before full and rest the digestion once a week. 

Sugar, salt, nicotine,white flour, alcohol and caffeine are not recommended.

Good foods for women are: Ginger, sesame oil, mangoes, aubergine, almond oil, turmeric. For men are: figs, banyan tree milk, nutmeg, saffron, pistachios, pears, plums, ghee, garlic and onions.

That was a quick low-down about how yogis use food. If you would like to know more you can always email me.

A wise Greek* once said “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” I couldn’t agree more.

*Hippocrates, of course!

Hippocrates also said “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.”

I recently met a friend who twisted his back a few weeks ago. He’s still stiff, and hunched over because he’s walking with a zimmer. He asked me about stretching exercises to straighten his back, and also about relieving sciatica, which he’d been told he might develop. As it happens, conversation then turned to somebody we know who has arthritis. The 17th Century writer and historian Anthony à Wood observed in his diary one January that:
Beginning of this month colds became very frequent, many sick and keep up, colds without coughing or running at the nose, only a languidness, and faintness, certainly Oxford’s no good air.
And indeed, Oxford lies in a river valley, has suburbs and roads whose names derive from “marsh” and “ferry”, has a region in the University Parks named Mesopotamia — “between the rivers” — and is cursed with perpetual damp. It must be one of the worst places for arthritis in the UK.
So how can yoga help? One of my specialities is aerial yoga, a class I teach on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings in the Beat Studio in Summertown. Look at my photos, and in the Aerial Yoga section, you will see people suspended on aerial yoga hammocks. It might look like an activity from the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Society warm-up book; but in fact, it is excellent for making the spine more flexible with supported stretches. It encourages space between the vertebrae with suspended inversions. It increases upper body and core strength with weight bearing exercises, and lifts mood and strengthens the immune system with stimulation of the upper glands – pineal, pituitary, and hypothalamus.
You might give it a go and feel the benefits!

You might know someone who raises the vibration of everyone with whom they come into contact (see the picture of Viktoria above). I have met such people and aspire to be like them. One way to move closer to that state is Sadhana. It is a daily spiritual practice. It doesn’t have to be yoga or exercise, it might be that you would paint, write, play music, walk, watch the trees or play with an animal for example. Something where you connect with your Truth.

Sadhana can be done alone or in a group. As a daily personal practice it disciplines the mind and body to let the infinite express itself in the soul. Morning sadhana will cleanse the subconscious. It builds up the inner resources to tap into when needed, it brings us closer to the Infinite. 

Teachers need a regular sadhana for radiance and impact. Also occasionally doing a long term 40-day, 90 or 120 day sadhana will develop specific areas both physically and mentally. Sadhana allows a teacher to go much deeper into practice than when they are demonstrating. 

For strong projection as a teacher, Sadhana gives a light that overcomes inner shadow and a steady level of consciousness which students respond to.

Sadhana alone is a deep personal experience, but group sadhana magnifies the experience. Yogi Bhajan recommends we imagine a million other people chanting alongside us if we practice alone. Group sadhana develops group consciousness. All the auras merge, and if one person tunes into the Infinite all the others present are lifted too. Everyone tunes in more easily to each other during the day.


Sadhana, aradhana and prabupati are discipline, attitude and mastery.

Once sadhana becomes an attitude it starts to connect self with Universal Self. So resistance to the constricts of sadhana have gone and it becomes a natural enjoyable activity, so there is more energy for subconscious clearing to speed up.

Prabupati then is the state of neutrality where subconscious has been cleared and there is no block to the link with Source. We can act in the highest consciousness moment by moment with freedom and creativity.


Santillan Retreat 7th – 14th May Prices / Booking / FAQ


Prices include all yoga, full catering, accommodation and use of all facilities

Shared Room EURO 975

Single Room EURO 1,220

Junior Suite EURO 1,325

Grand Suite EURO 1,535

(Or GBP equivalent)

Cancellation policy 

The deposit will be refunded only for cancellation made until 30 days before the
date of arrival. The balance is due 10 days prior to the date of arrival.


Santillan is about 36 km from Malaga international airport. We will be happy to arrange a taxi transfer your you free of charge; please let us know if you require one.


Check-in after 3.30pm. They will need to register your name and passport number, take a swipe of your credit card and give you two room entry swipe cards. No charges will be added to your credit card without your signed approval. 


On your departure, please check out of your room by 12.00 noon, and settle all Honesty Bar and extra payments.


All rooms have an ensuite bathroom, with a bath tub and shower, work desk and a balcony or patio with sea or garden/mountain views.

Catering and special diets

Santillan offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals are usually served buffet style.

 The cooks at Santillán enjoy sharing their popular Spanish and Italian influenced healthy cuisine, yet are also able to cater for gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free. They keep free-range chickens, so fresh eggs are available daily.

 Please inform us of any dietary requirements, within reason, well in advance so that we can let Santillan know of your needs.


Still water, caffeinated and non-caffeinated coffee and teas are available 24 hours and are free of charge. There are complimentary soft drinks, wine and beer at dinner on the arrival day and last day of the retreat.

Internet and telephones

There is wifi Internet in all common areas and in most rooms, and dedicated areas for the best cell-phone signal strength and privacy.

Things to bring

Yoga mat and yoga mat towel – Santillan has a state-of-the-art equipped yoga studio, but you may want to bring your own mat towel.

• Beach towel – towels for showers and pool are provided, but you might want your beach towel.

• Swimming things – there is a salt-water pool large enough for comfortable laps and leisure swimming.

• Sunblock

• Walking shoes – or strong sandals are recommended if you want to take advantage of the walks around Molino de Santillan.

• Water bottle – to fill from the water fountains.

Extra Payments

Extras you may need to pay for include any excursions, massage sessions, bar bills, laundry charges and purchases from the boutique.

 There is a self-service ‘Honesty Book’ for soft drinks, beer and wine. Log your purchase in the book and settle at the end of your stay.

To confirm we kindly ask you to pay a deposit of 50% please email for bank details.
 Payments are in EUR (or GBP equivalent) by bank transfer. 

Travel insurance

It is a condition of booking that you take out full travel insurance to cover cancellation, travel costs and other eventualities.

Book now:


A mantra is the creative expression of the mind through sound. ‘Man’ means mind and ‘trang’ means wave.

‘Naam’ means what we vibrate we become. Our identity is formed of our frequency. And ‘Naad’ is the essence, or the centre of all sound. The Naad is the vibrational harmony through which the infinite is experienced, and Naad Yoga is the science of the Naad, how sound vibrations affect the body, mind and spirit through moving the mouth, stimulating the pressure points in the roof of the mouth with the tongue, which affects the chemicals in the brain. There are 84 pressure points in the mouth and they stimulate the pituitary which is connected by blood vessels to the hypothalamus where the chemicals are released that regulate basic functions of hunger, thirst, sleep, temperature, moods and sexuality.

‘Shabd’ means sound current that dissolves ego (ego that creates duality which obscures truth)

‘Shabd Guru’ is the quantum technology of sound that alters our consciousness through the power of Naad, i.e. sound as teacher. The intrinsic wisdom of the sound current.

A Bij mantra is a seed mantra, a seed planted in the unconscious, and within that seed all knowledge of the fully grown tree is contained. Here are some bij mantras:

‘Sat Naam’, Truth is my identity, this balances the five tattvas, it also awakens your soul and gives you your destiny.

‘Aum’, is the sound at the sixth chakra, for intuition and awareness

‘Ham’ is the bij mantra of the fifth chakra at the throat for truth and communication

An Astang mantra has eight parts. The rhythm of the kundalini responds well to the Astang, because kundalini is based on 8 chakra system and the astanga mantra stimulates each of the energy centres as they cover the spectrum of the qualities of the consciousness:

‘God and me, me and god are one’, aligns self with Source

‘Ek Ong Kaar Sat Naam Siri Wahe Guru’, The Creator and all creation are one. This is our true identity. The ecstasy of this wisdom is great beyond words. The first mantra Yogi Bhajan taught us, it is a direct line between you and creation. Awakens kundalini energy and suspends the mind in bliss.

‘Ra, Ma, Da, Sa, Sa, Say, So, Hung’, combines earth (Ra, Ma, Da) and ether (Sa, Say, So, Hung) Sa is the linking word. It works through shushmuna to stimulate the kundalini flow through the eight chakras for healing.


Santillan Yoga and Wellness Centre is a world-class yoga centre in Andalucia, initiated by Simon Low of The Yoga Academy

Santillan Centre                 Santillan Centre

This is a retreat for all levels, beginners are welcome, experienced yogis will be able to take advantage of the well-appointed studio with yoga wall,  props and restorative equipment. Chris and I are happy to offer some extra instruction with these.

Santillan has a salt water pool, two studios and yoga wall, paddle tennis, spa and overlooks the sea. 

Temperatures in May are perfect. It is near Seville, Alhambra, Granada and Málaga.

Up to 3 yoga classes each day taught by Chris Leuenberger and Stella Shakerchi, both 500hr RYT Yoga Alliance.

View of the Mediterranean from Santillan

Please join us on this yoga intensive retreat, relaxed and focused, this will be an incredible journey. Stroll to the sea by day, maybe join in with the mantras after dinner and feel amazing as spring turns to summer in the wonderful Andalusian hills.


See Yoga Retreat in Spain, 7th – 14th May for booking and travel info