After two weeks on the island of Sardegna (Italian spelling) on our “Bella Italia Yoga Retreat” it felt like a quiet secret with the best of Italy at our verandas. A special blend of landscapes, delicious flavours and history set it apart from the rest of the country. Each of us found what we needed in our yoga practice, our excursions and our moments of peace tucked away everywhere on the beautiful Hotel Ollustu, where we enjoyed Michelin-star meals, stunning views, exceptional staff and a place to call home with this family run resort during our stay.
Each morning as we woke up we yearned to stretch with the sunrise. Our yoga centred on the theme of health span (vs. life span) – the years in which we live without disease or disruption of life.
As we rolled our mats out we see the beauty of Italian vegetation – olive trees and giant rosemary bushes in abundance, massive cacti and flowering bushes native only to the island of Sardegna. Overlooking the horizon in an open cabana with blowing and bellowing linen drapes made us keenly aware of the constant soft warm breeze imitating our breathe. Each day we unraveled our bodies and our minds with themes of flexibility, strength, stability, resiliency, agility and self-compassion.
Having been here before I knew that words would be inadequate to explain how the island of Tavolara – our daily view – literally “lit up” from both the reflection of the sun rising and with the introduction of the moon appearing at dusk. It is impossible to articulate the magnificence and the intense realization that light and dark exist to make brilliant what is in us all.
Seeing this island up close – on our private boat ride, leave you in awe with the magnitude of the limestone rock and the depth of crystal-clear deep blue, jade and translucent water. Our swim breaks were in the natural pools of Molara on our way to Tavolara. A stunning dip in the protected sea areas.
On the island of Tavolara (population about 20), you can find only a single select restaurant – La Corona – that catered to us serving some of the best seafood I’ve ever relished!
Cala Brandinchi Beach
The meters and meters of shallow water in every colour of blue imaginable was the perfect back drop to the relaxing day on this beautiful beach. Understandable why this is called “little Tahiti”.
Countless other wonderful beaches invite you to unwind and take the sea air in your rest.
That I was able to share one of 5 places in the world where people live to over 100 years of age, in a healthy way, fills my heart. Far more than yoga, this retreat is named “Bella Italia Retreat” and we were able experience the 9 characteristics of the Blue Zones -where Centurions live:
Move Naturally: Moving without Thinking About It
Yoga. What a perfect way to start every morning. Many took to a run or a walk to the private beach or town of San Paulo before our practice. With a different daily theme, we moved considering far beyond the physical – our minds shifted from our bodies to our hearts and spirits.
Purpose: Know Your Why
During our last shavasana, we visualized those things that we chose to leave behind (stress, disappointment, judgement…) and those things we packed to take home with us (memories, friendships, a respect for movement…). Becoming aware is the first step to knowing our purpose.
Down Shift: Finding moments to decompress
Our itinerary provided plenty of gaps to wonder, rest, read and let go of tension. The grounds of Hotel Ollastu provided the perfect backdrop for our senses to soften.
80% Rule: Stop eating when you’re 80% full
In honesty, this was fairly impossible. The food was glorious, wholesome, organic and fresh beyond belief. Stunning Michelin-star served meals were always smaller portions – with choices for even the pickiest of eaters were available in plenty of courses.
Plant Slant: Eating more plant-based meals
And did we ever! The abundance of vegetables served in an array of preparations made eating vegetarian a delight. Vegetarian meals were stupendous and available to whomever chose. And also, while meat was available, this Mediterranean oasis featured fish and seafood in abundance.
Wine at 5: A glass a day with friends or food
Known as our “happy hour” – the wines we tested together did not disappoint. Along with song and native cheeses like pecorino and mirto sausage, we understood how Centurions are wise to the antioxidants found in wine consumed in the company of friends new and old.
Right Tribe: Surrounding yourself with a healthy social circle
This adventure started daily with the thread of yoga which initiated new habits for some and an understanding that a healthy lifestyle was not only a health benefit but keeps our youth alive and well.
Loved Ones First: Centenarians put family first
Chatter with the groups often included “I so wish my partner/sibling/children could be here.” Sharing with those we love was a future must for most.
Belong: Finding a faith-based community
Waking up to a symphony of song birds and inspirational views induces its own awareness of something bigger than us. All this could not possibly have been man made and the spectacles in front of you convince even non-believers that a greater source had their magical paint brush touching the world.
And as I sat on the balcony and reflected with the brilliant sunrise, calling my attention, I reconciled my own light. Having 40 people join me in experiencing Sardinia in a way that I could never describe – and only experience – actually happened is a dream come true. It reminds me that it is an absolute obligation to let one’s own light shine. Not ever intending to dim the light of others but to provide a way for others to shine even brighter.
Until we meet again, Sardegna. Fall, 2020. To see for yourself – have a walk through this little video…