WHY THE KALIYOGA RETREAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Anyone that knows me will know that I am 95385935x more likely to go for extra fries than exercise. I don't exercise - my arteries and cellulite will attest to that - and I don't really eat healthily (blueberries on top of pancakes totally count as 1 of my 5 a day, right?) and I am a self confessed psychopath Stressy Sally so embarking on a retreat consisting of a lot of yoga, a lot of mediation, nothing but extremely healthy food, no alcohol and caffeine - NO YOU ALMOST HAD A HEART ATTACK AT THE THOUGHT OF NO COFFEE! - and lots of time to chill and "be at one with myself" was basically not something that I was ever going to say yes to was it?

Until, well, it just was.

You see, I started February going through a bit of a rough patch/quarter life crisis and to be honest, whilst yes it made me feel all of the goddamn feels that I did not want to feel, it also made me reassess everything. It made me make decisions I didn't really want to make, it made me put myself first, it made me push myself out of my comfort zone. It made me take control of my life rather than forever choosing Option c (which fyi, is avoiding the issue and dilly dallying your way through life).

It made me just say yes. Yes to things that were scary and yes to things that I might not even like or enjoy, but it made me say yes.

So fast forward a few weeks and there I was, on a plane alongside 8 other absolutely babe'in bloggers - Hayley, Megs, Jess, Anna, Jess, Scarlett, Jamie and Andrea - heading off to the nothing short of f**king incredible Kaliyoga retreat in Spain, Orgiva

And the rest is history*.

*I when I say history, I actually mean a life changing 4 days.


Kaliyoga is set in the heart of Orgiva, Spain which is around an hour and a half's drive from Malaga airport. There are so many reasons why the retreat is one of the most magical places I've stayed but the location and backdrop is most definitely up there in my top 3. Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains, beautiful blossom (they obvs knew I was coming #doitforthegram) the retreat is genuinely drop dead gorgeous. Like, give Ryan Gosling a run for his money, gorgeous.

Founded by Rosie and Jonji Miles, two of the most inspirational people and wonderful souls I have ever met, the 4 day retreat we embarked on consisted of the following;

  • Daily Vinyasa Yoga and meditation classes
  • A hike in the breathtakingly beautiful mountains
  • Macrobiotic Ayurvedic Food (the vast majority being gluten, wheat, sugar, dairy and alcohol free - I have coeliac disease and there was only 1 or 2 things I couldn't have on the whole trip)
  • A raw chocolate/fermentation workshop
  • One holistic therapy (You can choose from Reflexology, Thai or a deep tissue massage).
Honestly, without sounding like a tree hugging hippie - not that there's anything wrong with that because my god you are all so cool - but the trip really was life changing and I feel like because everything was so incredible, I need to break it down into a list of my top 5 reasons why I loved it and why I honestly couldn't recommend booking in immediately, enough.

1. Daily Yoga and Meditation Classes - True story, a few years ago I tried hypnotherapy for severe insomnia and the hypnotist - who was world renowned fyi said I was one of the hardest people to "put under" because I have such an active mind. LOL. (You know that lol is the kinda laugh where you laugh because if you don't you'll just cry).

Anyway, I struggle deeply to switch off. In massages I'm thinking about what I fancy for lunch or that email that I forgot to send. In quiet moments I'm concocting hilarious messages to send to Ally. You get the gist. So when I knew I'd be partaking in 1.5/2hr yoga and meditation sessions, I was genuinely worried. Worried that I wouldn't switch off and then Jesus christ 2hours is a long time to be overthinking your entire existence. Worried that everyone else would be connecting while I'm like lol but tonight's episode of Grey's Anatomy is where Derek and Meredith write the frickin post it note.

I didn't need to worry. Our instructor Lelly, was absolutely incredible. She is the first instructor that I felt like I've ever really connected with, like she wasn't judging me and like she was just here to help. We were all doing it together, with no one better than anyone else (I mean, I put myself at the back because this wasn't actually the case but I didn't feel like my moves were sacrilege to Downward dogs even though they definitely were). All I can say is that every time, those hours just flew by, every session I could feel myself challenging myself further and genuinely wanting to get better. Our morning yoga left me feeling so ready for the day and our evening yoga made me almost want to skip dinner and go straight to chill and sleep... it really was just incredible.

And. AND. I did meditation and was so relaxed that I fell asleep at some points. UP YOURS OVERACTIVE MIND, I WON!



2. The Retreat itself - We all know that a picture speaks a thousand words but in some cases no photos and no words can quite do justice to something so beautiful and this is the case with the Kaliyoga retreat. One of the most peaceful, zen, truly stunning landscapes I've ever set eyes on, my favourite thing was just taking a few minutes to wander off by myself and stare at it. A bit like builders when a blonde walks past but without the creepiness.

3. The Food - During the trip we had the absolute pleasure of spending lots of time with Nutritionist and Superfood expert Becs who not only had the clearest most insanely amazing skin I've ever seen, but she also gave us an incredibly insightful nutrition workshop which I actually enjoyed so much (I know, enjoys something foodie that doesn't involve pizza or burgers, who the hell knew?). The food on the trip was probably one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises for me. We went Alcohol/Sugar/Meat free and I hand on heart absolutely loved everything we ate. The chefs at Kaliyoga are not only the most creative beings alive but so much thought goes into each dish that there's honestly so much flavour that you struggle to believe it's so healthy. I came away from the trip A) not missing meat at all which for the girl who's middle name might as well be Nandos, was a massive shock. B) Desperate to recreate everything we ate and C) full of energy and finally feeling light and clean and not like a sluggish potato (forever the sexiest human on earth).

FYI - Kaliyoga have their own cookbook and if there is one book/thing you buy this month, make it this. I promise you won't regret it.


4. The Therapies - I spoke more about the Sound therapy we had with Kim in my Youtube video but in short, this part of the trip was 100% the most eye opening for me. It's quite difficult to put into words how I felt during the session but if you imagine that every person in the room was crying at one point (in a positive way), you felt like Kim reached right into your soul and knew everything about you just with a single look, and then in one sentence she managed to sum up entirely how I'd been feeling for the last few weeks/potentially over many years. 

She was absolutely wonderful. The therapy was life changing. And honestly? I'd go back just for this alone.

I also had the most amazing reflexology session with the wonderful Anna and I'm going to be completely honest.. I was last to put my name down so I missed out on the deep tissue massage and was a bit gutted that I had because omg massage me always. But, Anna was a total genius and reflexology is now something that I am the biggest advocate for and have also incorporated into my life. I fell asleep at one point (this has never happened in a massage) and felt completely refreshed afterwards. 

BRB whilst I work out how to smuggle Kim and Anna back to the UK with me.


5. Discovering myself away from the internet - I think when you live your life on/for the internet, sometimes your actual life and your internet life blend into one a bit too much. I for one, am the world's worst at finding a work/life balance and it's something that's really affected my physical and mental health in the past year or so. Taking myself away to the retreat - which would usually be more of a digital detox but obviously us bloggers were getting content so we could tell you all about it - and having much more of a digital detox than usual really made me reassess the way I've been living and the way I feel about myself. I'm a perfectionist and ever since taking this blog full time, I've never had a day off and never taken time out to appreciate everything I've achieved - still haven't got the McDonalds black card yet but I'm working on it - I learnt that whilst it's fine to consistently be the class clown and the joker of the group, it's important to not hide behind it, to take that mask and guard down at times and let yourself be vulnerable because actually, I would rather take a risk and wear my heart on my sleeve and risk getting hurt than never truly opening myself up to feel all of the amazing things I could be feeling.

I learnt that my life going forward will prioritise me, my family, my travels, my best friends... people that truly deserve my time and love. I work to live now and not live to work and this has honestly changed the game for me.

So thank you Kaliyoga for not only giving me the most amount LOL's I've had in ages - pretty sure couples yoga with my main gal Hayley will be burned in everyone's brain forever - for not only making me realise that I do enjoy healthy food and I don't need coffee all day long but also that I am actually OK at yoga and when I put my mind to it, I can meditate and switch off. Thank you for giving me an experience that will stick with me forever, I already can't wait to return.

And PS sorry for completely butchering Downward Dogs more than they've ever been butchered before. God loves a trier though right?


I'd love to know if you guys have ever been to a Yoga retreat before? Have you heard of Kaliyoga, is it something you'd consider booking? And if you do, I'm coming with you in your suitcase yeah?

xx


Costs: £995 (Sharing a twin Mulberry room/for single occupancy teepee glamping), £1,250 (Room with shared bathroom), £1,300 (Single occupancy En-suite room).

ULTIMATE CHILL TIME AT THE MERCURE BRANDS HATCH

Most of you reading this will know that what you see on Instagram is about 0.23923% of a blogger’s actual life. You’ll know that whilst it’s absolutely not a lie in any way, shape or form… social media is a way of showing off your highlight reel, probs whilst sat in pyjamas with baked bean stains all down them, greasy hair (no you’re sexy) and no makeup on. And that’s cool, it’s what our job is and it’s fun and it’s art and that’s just how it works.

One thing that my social media would say about me is that I chill out a lot when, if I'm being totally realistic, I genuinely can’t remember the last time I felt completely, totally chilled out without any stresses, my to-do list longer than Kanye’s list of positives about himself constantly crossing my mind and generally feeling like my brain has an outrageous amount of tabs open. So a few weeks ago mid snow storm - the awkward moment the beast from the east takes your nickname - I took myself off to Brands Hatch with MumNextDoor to stay overnight at the Mercure, escape London for a bit, eat all the food and do all the chill.
Firstly, for any racing driving fans that might want to go to see some racing at Brand’s hatch, you won’t find a better location than this. It literally looks over the track so, you know, if you fancied keeping warm you could just watch it from your room (yes I’m aware that that is sacrilege, apologies). So yeah, we arrived, dived on the bed - because if you don’t turn into a 5 year old and face plant the freshly made bed are you even in a hotel? - made a cuppa and chilled for a while before dinner.

Now, I’m gonna be completely honest with you. Mercure hotels are known for being comfortable and practical and a place that does the job. So when it came to the food, I kinda just expected it to be standard hotel restaurant food. Lol BRB whilst I eat humble pie and day dream about my pulled pork burger because sweet baby f**king jesus it was incredible. Not just good hotel food, but really, really good food. And not the kinda of good food that comes in teeny tiny portion sizes… hearty, tasty af, dreamy food. I went for the tomato soup (it was called something more snazzy than this but I obviously can't remember and my god, if it was socially acceptable to propose to a bowl of soup then I’d be down on one knee because it was so good! Add the double - yes I did size up because I wasn’t joking when I said I am the beast from the east - pulled pork burger which was just so god damn good and we had ourselves one pretty bloody great meal.
Then I went back to my room, got my heels and my Victoria’s secret add 30 cup sizes bra on and went out on the razz*.

Lol, JK, went back to the room, made a cuppa and fell asleep watching The Voice.

*Razz. One day my inner 90 year old will stop insisting on making an appearance in posts.

If anyone has been around this corner of the internet for a while, you’ll know that alongside generally making a tit of myself, my other forte is nailing a breakfast buffet. So obvs that’s what I did the next morning. Every Mercure that I’ve stayed in have always had amazing staff but the guys at Brand’s Hatch really did go above and beyond. I was made aware of everything that was gluten free and offered gluten free toast - obviously said yes because, me - and it’s just a really nice atmosphere to sit and chill ant 9384394 rounds of breakfast.
Super frickin annoyingly because of the snow I had to rush off before getting totally snowed in so I had to miss my massage but I did manage to have a quick swim and check out the facilities before leaving. I’ve actually had a massage at a different Mercure before with the babe’in Decleor products and it was one of the most relaxing I’ve ever had, and I even managed to switch off and not think about my schedule for the next few days/lunch/any random thought.

I left Brand's hatch feeling something I hadn't felt in a really long time... refreshed. The staff were incredible, the food was great, the room was just everything that you really need to be... it was just a good time and place to get away and chill and close at least a few of those tabs open in my brain which honestly looks like a child's paint splattered painting.

I'd love to know what you lot get up to when you need a bit of a break? Where's your favourite place to run off to and chill? And finally, if you have any tips for decluttering a jam packed brain then send em a sister's way and I'll do my best to actually implement them rather than just looking at them, knowing they're a good idea ;)

xx

This post was sponsored by Mercure.

TWO PRODUCTS THAT IMPROVE MY DAILY CONFIDENCE

If any of you lot follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my weekends are mostly dedicated to pancakes, pretty baths, pamper sessions, Netflix, more carbs than are socially acceptable and the occasional shopping trip. Basically what I'm saying is, I like to leave my bed less on a weekend than Kanye likes to be in a room full of people who don't want to talk about him. But last weekend I got on my gladrags - lol at consistently saying phrases that make me sound 120 years old - and headed down to the Glamour Beauty Festival with my faves, Philips (who were the main sponsor for the festival FYI), to check out what's new, chat to some beauty experts about how to get the best out of some of my products, mingle with fellow beauty lovers and basically just have a really bloody lovely saturday.

I also spent most of my time fangirling over the Philips Lumea - which you guys already know I adore - and the new Sonicare DiamondClean smart to anyone that would listen.

Because I'm super cool. Obviously... 
So after wading through the queues and finally getting into the festival, I headed straight through to the Philips section - not at all because they were offering a free prosecco for anyone sharing content tagging Philips ;) - because I wanted to check out the new launches and chat to the incredible experts on hand there. After swooning - yes I said swoon, you don't need to judge me because I'm judging myself - over the beautiful pink Lumea Prestige I hunted down the gorgeous Chico Shigeta to talk all things facial massage (she's an expert and also the cutest lady alive) and the Philips VisaPure (which I am BUZZING to try) as well as the lovely Megan, celeb dentist and teeth whitening expert to basically be like, how can I drink 350539853 cups of coffee per day and still have white teeth?

Finishing the day off with a flower wall selfie (obvs) and another glass of prosecco (would've been rude not to right?) and then I went home to have the biggest pamper of all time with all my new pieces.

So shall we have a little in depth look of said game changing products then? Yeah? Perfect, let's do it...
So as I mentioned, the Philips Lumea Prestige has been a product that I've used and loved for a long time now. In short, it's an at-home IPL (Intense Pulse light) which is designed to provide a tailored hair removal solution for all parts of the body meaning us ladies (and guys) can experience the feeling of continuously hair free skin (I.E THE BLOODY DREAM) for up to 8 weeks. It's been clinically proven to remove hair growth up to a whopping 92% when used every 2 weeks within an 8 week period and works by applying gentle pulses of light and heat to the hair root/follicle which gradually reduces the amount of hair that your body grows.

There are so many reasons why I bloody love this piece of genius (alongside 1.5million other women, now there's a stat for you), not only because it helps me not be such a humongous Hairy Mary (no you're sexy) but also because it's just so easy to use which means it really easily fits into your day to day life, and it has a SmartSkin sensor which basically works by assessing your skin tone and determining which setting will work best for you. Once you've got your setting, you're ready to go. The back of the product also has a white light too to let you know when it's ready to treat so you really can't go wrong.

Let's be honest, if I can figure it out, anyone can.

As I said back in May, within 2/3 sessions I already noticed that a lot of my hair hadn't grown back at all and after using it for another 8 sessions nearly all of my hair was totally non existent. Nearly a year on, I still love it just as much as I did nearly a year ago (where has the time flown?). For numerous reasons, travel, lol being so single and therefore slightly lazy with looking after myself... there were points where I couldn't use it so much and did notice some regrowth but as soon as I got back on to it, it has worked like a total dream every time. 

It's funny isn't it, there's a bit of a stigma around hair and yet for me, being hair free is one of the few things that instantly makes me feel 10x more confident and ready for the day/night/whatever I'm up to. So yeah, in case you couldn't tell, I'm still more than just a little bit obsessed with this ;)
Ok, so I am pretty excited to sink my teeth into telling you about this next product.

It's a toothbrush. Sink your teeth. Get it? Get it?

Lol, won't be giving up my day job any time soon...

But yeah, after trialling the new Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart toothbrush I can officially say that I am obsessed with a toothbrush (if that's wrong, then you know I don't even want to be right). Described as a complete healthy mouth system bringing you the latest in Philips Sonicare innovation and a new range of high performance brush heads, this, honestly gal and guy pals, is the Ryan Gosling of toothbrushes.

So, now might be a good time to take a seat because I've got a fact for ya. The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart removes up to 10x more plaque than a normal toothbrush, with up to 100% better stain removal within 3 days, and up to 7x better gum health in just two weeks.

I know. I know. 

The Smart sensor technology in the brush provides personalised coaching and guidance and just helps you feel like you're actually making the most of the brush by focusing on the areas that really need it and therefore giving you confidence in your smile (nothing is more attractive to me than a beautiful smile). I have to say, every single time I use it, I genuinely feel more and more confident in how my teeth look and feel. Apart from not being a total hairy mary, the other one thing that gives me a boost is having a bright smile because let's face it, your teeth/mouth is pretty much the first thing people see when they speak to you, so I honestly cannot even tell you what a difference this has made.

Now bring on all those Bumble dates.

Lol, just kidding.

*insert upside down emoji here*

But it really is incredible. It actually makes me look forward to brushing my teeth which yes probably means I need to get out more but it's just the truth. 

And I think that's probably my cue to wrap this up. In case you couldn't tell, I absolutely adore both products and credit them hugely for giving me more confidence in my appearance and how I feel in myself so I can't wait to hear your thoughts if you've tried them/try them.

What's the one thing that always gives you a confidence boost? How are you prepping for the summer months? As always, I love hearing your thoughts!

xx


This post was sponsored by Philips

HOW TO HAVE THE ULTIMATE GIRLS NIGHT IN

Anyone that knows me will know that 9.9/10 I will take a cosy night in - complete with a takeaway/netflix or Harry Potter marathon/even more completely unnecessary snacks etc. - over a night out any day of the week.

The 0.1 is dedicated to my inner wild child which sometimes likes to pop out and drink too much gin, very occasionally slut drop - subsequently falling over and landing in the foetal position on the floor - and make an even bigger prat of myself than I usually do but luckily she stays tucked away most of the time.

But anyway, I like a good night in, and I think I do them pretty well too. I can nail the food part (obviously, goes without saying), I can usually pick a Netflix classic that everyone will want to watch/I have carefully curated a friendship group that all love Harry Potter so let's be honest, that's what's going on isn't it? But sometimes you want a bit more than just a standard night in. Maybe it's a friend's birthday. Maybe it's a celebration. Maybe you're feeling all yolo/"COME ON QUEENS LET'S SLAY THE WORLD AND BE ALL SASSY INDEPENDENT WOMAN"... and that's where this post is going to help you make your night the "night in" equivalent to Beyonce.

Who run the world, girls, and all that...
1. Choose your location 
So Ally and I fancied a night in and we fancied feeling a bit swish - swish, LOL, nope I have no idea who I am anymore either - so of course we went back to one of my all time favourite hotels in London, The Ampersand. Set in the heart of South Kensington, The Ampersand is a 5 star boutique hotel (and restored Victorian building fyi, check the sass on that) super closeby to the V&A, Natural history museum and many more. The location is not only perfect for your Beyonce themed girls night in but also especially amazing for any London first timers or anyone looking for a real taste of London.

Now, apart from the actual location of The Ampersand, here are some reasons why I want to move in and never leave;
  • THE BATH THAT DREAMS WERE MADE OF, JUST LOOK AT IT I DON'T EVEN NEED TO SAY ANY MORE DO I, NO I DON'T!
  • The bed. The bed is huge, the bed is beautiful, the bed feels like you are sleeping in clouds that have been spritzed with some kind of magic goodness. Basically I want/need the bed in my life every night.
  • The bathroom is not only monochrome and more stylish than Olivia Palermo but it has heated floors and it's basically heaven on earth.
  • The restaurants serve a dreamy dinner and the BEST gluten free afternoon tea. I actually previously reviewed a stay here and the food before so I'll pop that link here.
  • The staff are wonderful and so friendly that I want them all to be my friends. Does that make me sad? Possibly. Do I care? Definitely not.
And that's just a few reasons. Honestly, treat yourself to a night here and you'll see why I cannot stop fangirling.


2. Choose your people
The cool kids say your vibe attracts your tribe and I couldn't bloody agree any more. One of my favourite things about age is you care a little bit less about the things that don't matter. Over the years people have joined my little squad and others have dropped away and I can honestly say that anyone in my life right now is there because I 100% want them to be there. Obviously you all know about Ally (if you don't, where on earth have you been?), she is basically the cooler, funnier version of me and no girls night goes ahead without her <3

3. Snacks
I may make diabolical life decisions but one thing I do OK at is the snack run. On our girls night in, after ordering room service (pizza and chips fyi) we whacked out our little box of cupcakes - alongside some prosecco because if you don't go basic are you even a blogger - and devoured them all whilst watching Friends/Harry Potter/Netflix*.

*When I say watching, I mean having it on in the background while we talk over the whole entire thing.

4. Entertainment
Now, if you and your girls are like Ally and I then you won't even feel like you need entertainment because let's be honest, you are the entertainment (anyone else have those friendships where you genuinely consider making yourself a comedian double act but realistically you're the only ones that find each other funny?) but... if you're having a day off - because, you know, can't be the life and soul of the party all the time, then you need your entertainment ready. 

Something to watch;
  • Grey's Anatomy - my one true love, queen bae bee, my everything. If you haven't already seen it, start it now and join the queue for Derek Shepherd/Mark Sloane/Jackson Avery.
  • Suits - Another of my all time favourites and 100% most definitely absolutely not because Harvey Specter is my dream man. Nope, not at all because of that.
  • First Dates - my current favourite thing on TV because it manages to equally make my dating life feel less tragic and give me hope that good guys exist.
  • Harry potter. I don't need to say any more do I?
Something to read;
  • My good friend and absolute blimmin star Elle Croft has released her first ever novel The Good Wife and whilst I barely even have time to empty my bladder right now, I am one chapter in and I already absolutely LOVE it. Order a copy here and thank me later.
  • Erm, this blog. Obviously. (*insert eye roll/LOL JK TOTALLY TAKING THE PISS emoji here*)
  • Sophie Milner's blog. Soph is a friend of mine and absolutely KILLING the game on instagram but for me, her blog has always been something I've loved devouring. Her recent post about playing the Cool girl in relationships/whilst dating was nothing short of brilliant and summed up exactly how I currently feel.
5.Pimp it up
If you follow me on Instagram then you'll know that I'm all about being as extra as it gets and every little extra helps so obviously I took 399593439 (nearly dead) roses so I could rip off every petal and have the most indulgent bath in existence. It made for a great gram but a f**king awful clean up job so you know, those extra details are down to you.

Lol. No you're all of a sudden slightly embarrassed about your levels of doing it for the gram.
And I think that's where I'm gonna wrap this post up. I hope you enjoyed it, I hope you got some inspo for a girls night in, and I hope if you ever need a place to stay or fancy treating yourselves that you think of The Ampersand because it really is a beaut!

Where's your favourite place to stay in London? What's your favourite thing to do on a girl's night in?

xx

Huge thanks to The Ampersand for letting us feel like the Kardashians for a day/night. We'll be back soon!

© the Elle next door

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