Spa Junkie at... Yoo Retreat, the Cotswolds

Cranial holds and nerve-point therapy, Amazonian-style, round out the stress-busting treatments at this lakeside sanctuary

From Nordic walking to Tibetan-style massage, the previous day’s adventures have readied Spa Junkie for more exotic international treatments

Day three, 5.50am

Crikey, I’m awake before the rooster’s wake-up call. Can one detox in dreams? I had the most active, colourful, mad dreams. I’m also surprised to notice that my stomach is flat this morning, even after eating what felt like a lot of food yesterday. I watch as a slash of red sky lights up part of the lake. I’ve already done my 20 minutes of meditating and journaling when they deliver a 6.30am cup of fresh lemon and ginger.


An hour-and-a-half’s Nordic walk takes us around another lake and is followed by porridge with berries for breakfast, plus more dried juniper berries. My antioxidant levels must be soaring.


Time for my Rainforest Renew Face Treatment. Like all Ila treatments, a facial is never just a facial. Using warm herbal compresses, lymphatic drainage, an Amazonian mud mask and Amazonian plant extracts, it feels like another intense healing session. Carly, who like Luisa, is highly intuitive, does some amazing cranial holds that release tension and give the illusion of making more space in my head. Nerve-point therapy around the eye area, forehead and jaw also loosen long-held tension. I leave relieved that more stress is being drained from my system.


Lunch is lentil soup and a delicious array of salads, followed by more time to do nothing and relax.


In the afternoon’s yoga session,while we do the Kalari Marma sequence, we also practise an advanced pranayama breathing exercise called Samana, said to bring deeper balance and purification of the nadis (energetic channels). I’m now sold on this type of yoga. My body feels loose and energised. Ninety minutes goes by in a flash and afterwards I feel an inner bubbling of happiness, as if some new energy source has been ignited.



Over supper of organic vegetables in a Moroccan tagine, brown rice and green leafy salads, we discuss our experiences. All of us seem to be letting go in some form or other, whether that means a good sob or opening our minds to a light-bulb moment.


After a focused meditation, I find I am beginning to warm to the idea of chanting. At first I feel self-conscious, as I have the worst voice and am tone deaf, but as the rest of the group are merrily singing along with Denise, I give it a go. It becomes like a singing meditation, as the repetitive sounds are mentally calming. I feel still, at peace.

Then it’s time for a tuberose and vetiver bath immersion. My senses feel so much more alive.

The bottom line:

This retreat has been beautifully thought out and luxuriously executed. (Although, amusingly, over the four days, I never once quite got my bearings and followed the group around like a lost schoolgirl. But that in itself was relaxing as, for once, I was not trying to take control.)

I found that I relaxed more quickly and in a far more profound way than I usually do on an average spa trip. I had moments of wanting to switch my phone on but resisted, and actually relished a feeling of disconnection from the world. I felt guilty, yet empowered.The only problem was that for a few days afterwards, I found myself feeling hypersensitive to situations I would normally waltz through. I was almost nervous switching on my mobile phone, as I was dreading the assault from the outside world.

The Lakes by Yoo is very convenient – only 90 minutes from London – yet it feels like being in a calm wilderness. It’s also great for an exacting clientele – after a muddy walk, for example, trainers are cleaned and left neatly outside your room.

This is a retreat to escape family, social or work pressures. The combination of rest, yoga, chanting, walking, eating well and rest releases emotional toxins and, I felt, truly helped to restore my vitality. I not only felt re-energised but recalibrated. Most importantly, I found it a place to reconnect my body and mind in a way that is hard to do in my frantic life.


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