Nestled in the rolling Andalucian hills just outside of Seville is a little drop of bliss called Suryalila.
About an hour’s drive from the city, it’s fairly accessible via various methods of transport. We chose to get a transfer organised by the retreat. Just before we turn off to take the bumpy dirt road that leads to the retreat, our transfer vehicle is ground to a halt by a massive flock of sheep, valiantly accompanied by their shepherd and dedicated sheep dog. This is the first sign that tells me “YES! You have chosen well, you will be happy and relaxed here.
It doesn’t really get more rural than Suryalila. A traditional Andalucía farmhouse, or cortijo, with multiple courtyards filled with orange, lime and lemon trees, it’s own organic veg garden and 360 degree views of rolling hills, all in various shades of green.
It is beautiful. Before I set off to Suryalila, I had a read through their website and discovered that the place had undergone a lot of transformation in 2014. One of the big developments was the building and completion of the Om Yoga Dome, a new facility that I was excited to see.
We’re welcomed by Harry, the Dutch co-founder and his daughter Leela, the most adventurously intelligent little five-year-old I’ve ever met – she already speaks three languages! Harry explains that Vidya, the other co-founder, director and Om Yoga Dome visionary, is currently away teaching so we won’t get to meet her on this occasion.
Most of our classes were taken in the Dome, an incredible East-facing yoga studio that is fully equipped to hold large numbers of students and has been decorated with the most amazing hand-painted mural that every so often includes an inspirational quote. Starting our classes at 7:30am, we would salute the sun as it rose and end our practice basking in the warmth of the new day. A truly wonderful way to begin each day!
On the ground floor of the main communal area there is a big dining hall where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served buffet-style and announced by the deep sonic echo of a large gong. The most amazing vegetarian food is prepared daily and served up in beautiful platters, garnished with fresh, edible flowers and all sorts of yummy nuts and seeds. All this is orchestrated by the lovely Gemma, Suryalila’s head chef, who is originally from my hometown of Brighton.
At the other end of the dining hall is a little lounge area, chiefly made up of three enormous wooden day beds, topped with lots of cushions for extra comfort. Apart from a library of enlightening and inspiring books, what makes this little area of Suryalila even more enticing is the little wood burner which the volunteers tend to regularly to make sure we’re all kept cosy and warm.
Upstairs in the main communal area is a mezzanine that leads to the Ganesha Yoga Shala. An extremely well equipped yoga studio with wooden floors and ceiling beams and the most beautiful views out over the surrounding hills. Quiet and contemplative, this space is free to use by anyone at any time outside of the scheduled classes. It is also where Harry and the volunteers hold their daily morning meetings and meditations. Every evening at 9:15pm there is a silent meditation that takes place there. It feels like the perfect end to a yogi’s perfect day… every day.
A salt water pool is available to all and even in mid-April, we’re all finding ourselves ready for a dip by mid-afternoon to cool off.
There are volunteers working in and around the grounds all day long, whether tending to the organic produce, keeping the common areas clean and tidy or looking after the chickens, peacocks and various other animals that roam. There are also eight riding horses kept on site!
The eight bed dorm room I shared with five other yoginis was incredibly comfortable and well equipped to accommodate those wanting to stay up late reading while others slept. I also found it adequately spacious to practice a few yoga moves in! There is also the option to stay in a bell tent, yurt or double bedroom.
Statues and paintings of Buddhas line the walls of every room and fresh flowers seem to appear daily on sideboards, windowsills and in bathrooms. Ganesha also made a few appearances in and around the grounds.
Once or twice a week, people from the neighbouring villages are invited to a free yoga class in the Dome. On the day I attended there were at least 25 people of all ages there. Suryalila really try to welcome the local community into the evolution of the place and they invite them to be involved with various events throughout the year. It’s a winning formula for such a place and is proving to be mutually beneficial with some locals working at the retreat centre as well.
Image Credit: Gemelle Debice.
After my stay at Suryalila I feel truly serene, calm in body and in mind and as if I have been granted all my wishes at once. It is hard to explain and there is so much more I could say about the place, but I think if you really want to experience its joy, you should pay them a visit someday. I can guarantee you will be welcomed with open arms and warm hearts and quietly given support by the many kind souls that are part of this beautiful endeavour.
If you’ve visited Suryalila, I’d love to hear from you! Why not share your experience below. For more info on retreats, accommodation and pricing, do check them out online!