Spa Junkie at... Yeotown, Devon

Our reporter swaps Devon cream teas for wood sorrel, Russian twists and tree poses

Day 2 of the rural retreat ran the detox gamut from hiking to Qigong, and now the caffeine withdrawal really begins to kick in…

Day 3, 7.30am

First thing this morning we have a yoga session with Molly in the studio. We work through some dynamic vinyasa sequences incorporating complex positions, such as a three-legged dog with a hip rotation, and some side planks. We are taken through the sequences at a pace that’s quick enough to induce a sweat. It feels tough because my shoulders have started to ache from yesterday’s workout and my hamstrings are a little tight, despite the intensive massage.


Today I opt for porridge. It tastes strongly of the lecithin granules, but by the end of the bowl I’ve started to develop an appetite for it. I am beginning to feel quite headachey as a result of the no-caffeine (and no-alcohol) policy. Even with just a two- or three-cups-a-day habit, the withdrawal headaches can be quite tough.


We meet Ross in the yoga studio for a dynamic core workout session involving CrossFit-style training. After a five-minute stretch, we weave 5kg sand bag weights in and out of our legs, moving up to our torsos and finally circling our necks. After 10 repetitions of each, we change direction – it’s more of a warm-up exercise to get the blood pumping than a sweat-inducing workout.

Next we perform lateral sit-ups: we stretch out our arms, still holding the weights, and lift our torsos up while keeping our legs raised. I can feel my core muscles working. We perform three 30-second repetitions, pausing for 30 seconds after each. By now I’m really starting to heat up. After four 30-second reps of the killer Russian twists (back lifted 45° off the floor, core kept tense while we move a 5kg weight from side to side), I am a sweat fest.

We move on to a sequence consisting of 20 ankle taps (we hold a sit-up position and tense the core, while tapping first left then right ankle), 10 get-ups (using one hand we push ourselves off the ground into a standing position, before reaching up and stretching our arms overhead and then lying back down), followed by five front raises (where we lie in a cobra position on our fronts, hands on ears, and raise and hold the core). We do three rounds of these before Ross introduces another element, a plank, which he adds in after each minute – no matter what stage we’re at in the workout. It’s intense, and by the end I am pouring with sweat.

To finish we take the ankles of our partner as they lie on the mat, lifting their legs and swinging them from side to side and in random directions. My core is engaged, but the side movements are trickiest; I have to fight hard to stop my back rolling off the mat.

By the end I am feeling super energised.


I sit down for a cup of herbal tea before our next task. I see a lady sporting numerous festival wristbands carrying a keyboard into the courtyard, which can only mean one thing: singing.

We meet Katie, who is fresh from Oceanfest, a music festival on Croyde beach. Together we sing along to James Taylor and Emeli Sandé songs, experimenting with harmonies, which leave me feeling uplifted (once the embarrassment has subsided). Katie says she had a couple of women on the last trip who were moved to tears as a result of the detox… The three of us remain stony-faced.

She packs up and returns to Oceanfest. I contemplate jumping in her car and going down for a burger, but, thankfully, food is on its way.



Lunch is a delicious tomato, chilli and carrot soup with a plate of salad, beetroot and chickpeas. Thank god for the sesame crackers, which bulk out the meal. We sit with Simon, chatting about what’s new in fitness, and the increasing popularity of spin studios such as Boom and SoulCycle (the latter is coming to London in 2014). One member of our group can’t seem to get enough and is contemplating flying out to New York just for a weekend to get her fix.


We meet Davy again for our next adventure, driving for 30 minutes to the picturesque village of Lynmouth to climb the coastal path. The first part of the walk is almost unbearably hilly; we pass a Victorian water-powered lift carrying people up and down the cliffs. As we climb past craggy rocks, Davy weaves some legends into the walk’s narrative – like that of the “white lady” (a silhouette of a nun holding a bible that has been seen on the rocks).

The hills grow steeper and steeper; the blustery breeze whips our hair about as we climb ever higher. My handful of seeds and two measly apricots are burning a hole in my pocket. We maintain a brisk speed of about 6km per hour and cover about 9km in total – a challenging hike that tires us all out.

I can’t draw my eyes away from the tearooms serving hot scones, fudge and ice creams, but make do with wood sorrel. We make our way back home in the van, exhausted. There’s time for a quick shower and a Yeotini (this time apple, celery and lime) before another session of yoga.


Simon joins in for the yoga class with Jules, which we limp our way through. We all desperately want to curl up in bed with a book by this point, but Simon assures us that Jules will take it slow (despite the fact that she’s fresh from a three-year stint in India teaching dynamic Ashtanga).

We start with some basic stretches and sun salutations – but Jules can’t help throwing in some more physically demanding dynamic postures, such as balancing in a tree pose with one foot tucked up in a half lotus position. I feel like we’ve been tricked. By the end I am ready to drop.


We make our way through to the kitchen for the best meal yet: pea dip with seed crackers followed by fish skewers with wild rice and stir-fried vegetables. I wish I could take Julia home with me.


I read by the open fire in the living area for an hour, before making my way to a massage session, which takes place in The Sanctuary (where we had our meditation session with Mercedes). The treatment bed is positioned in the middle of the barn, surrounded by the glow of the crackling fire behind. The space has a holistic atmosphere and a rustic charm yet feels luxurious at the same time – Simon and Mercedes have managed to strike the perfect balance.

My therapist today is Ti, a trained sports masseuse in her final year of physiotherapy at Plymouth. She works deep into my leg muscles, releasing tension with expert finesse. She also uses a leg strengthening and lengthening technique called PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) to optimise motor performance and rehabilitation. It involves holding my leg and asking me to push forward for roughly three seconds before releasing it, pulling it back a bit and repeating. The effect is deeply satisfying and by the end I am utterly relaxed.

I am handed a final Yeotini of berry tea and crushed strawberries. The sugar almost sends me into a frenzy. I savour every mouthful before I crawl into bed


On the final day of the “Yeotox”, Spa Junkie braces herself for England’s highest cliffs. Check back on Saturday July 27.

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