Spa Junkie at… Cotton House, Mustique

Our jet-set reporter limbers up for some surfing-cum-sun-salutations

Mustique may have a reputation as the playground of the rich, royals and a rock’n’roll elite, but that doesn’t mean it’s all sunbathing and parties. I’m staying at one of the Grenadine island’s two hotels, Cotton House (the other is The Firefly), where they have “Keep Fit and Have Fun” weeks, run by yoga and fitness guru Charity, who has studied with some of the world’s best, from Seane Corn to Shiva Rea. She is renowned for her range of movement classes, from breakdance and hip-hop to African/Caribbean dance and kickboxing. Her pièce de résistance, however, is paddle-board yoga, which she teaches on Mustique for seven months of the year, and around the world for the remaining five months .

I've heard of stand-up paddle boarding – the Hawaiian heritage sport that combines surfing with kayaking, and which has experienced something of a renaissance of late – but paddle-board yoga is quite unknown to me. It certainly sounds intriguing, though, and remaining balanced on an unstable surface must be a real workout for the legs and core.

Friday, 10am

I am met by the sprite-like Charity – all sun-kissed complexion and natural curls. With a beaming smile she informs me that first of all we will do a yoga session on terra firma, on the deck of my beach-facing cabana, to get an understanding of my yoga ability.

Two mats lie in the dappled shade and we begin with some sun salutations to open up the body, then work through a vinyasa flow sequence that lasts 60 minutes. Charity’s teaching technique is attentive and clear; I warm to her instantly. After the session, we start talking about tomorrow’s paddle-board class. She assures me that because the poses are being performed on a moving surface, I can expect an intense full-body workout. “You'll be engaging muscles you never knew you had.” I spend the rest of my day lazing on a teak lounger by Cotton House’s boot-shaped pool, and take a leisurely stroll to Macaroni ­beach – past the amusing mating tortoise statue. The evening is a tropical haze of bright lights and daiquiris with friends at Basil’s Bar – under the watchful eye of Basil Charles himself – or the King of Mustique, as he is also known...

Saturday, 9am


I saunter down to the beach to meet Charity. We swim the 1.5km or so from Cotton House to Basil’s Bar. During 10 minutes of gentle breaststroke, we natter about our travel adventures. She tells me how her love of movement developed in France, where she loved seeing the urban free-runners dancing on the skylines. We stop talking to do 10 minutes of backstroke, followed by 10 minutes of front crawl. Refreshed and revitalised, I return to the veranda of Cotton House for a tropical fruit salad and freshly pressed carrot and ginger juice.

11am Back on the beach, I stare down at my 2m-long yellow companion. Two-thirds of the board are covered with a ridged black material, for added grip, and there is also a paddle lying next to it.

We begin with a gentle warm-up and stretch on the sturdy surface of the beach, working through the salutations, cobra, downward dog, lunge and forward fold, inhaling and exhaling deeply. Then it’s time to move into the water...

Charity explains: “With paddle-board yoga the tricky part is that the poses have to be done while aligned correctly on the board, so that there is an even weight distribution. Think of the difference between doing exercises on a mat versus on a stability ball.” Charity and I look at each other and laugh in acknowledgment of the certainty that I will have to get used to falling off. Fast.

“We'll start with some basic sun salutations,” she says, “but I want you standing on your head by the end of the class.” Standing on my head, on a surfboard, in the middle of the ocean… I have only once done a headstand successfully on dry land.

Board under one arm, paddle in the other hand, I jog down to the water’s edge. I kneel on my board and launch myself into the water, paddling from side to side to get my heart pumping.


Check back on Tuesday February 12, when Spa Junkie channels her inner Kate Bosworth.