Sun salutations on the beach (iStock)

    Europe’s best yoga retreats

    9 October 2018

    I tell my friends I am going on a yoga holiday.

    ‘Ooo India? Thailand? Where?’

    ‘The Languedoc, in France,’ I reply, to stunned faces.

    Naturally, they equate this region with gastronomy and gluttony, rather than yoga mats and quinoa bowls. It is, after all, one of France’s most prolific wine regions and the home of Roquefort cheese. Yet I refuse to believe that yoga cannot be at home amid smelly cheese and a great glass of red.

    Yoga shouldn’t have to equal detox. Chateau St Pierre de Serjac is proof of that. It’s a lovingly restored 19th century chateau in the Languedoc that opened its doors in 2016 – and has a great yoga programme.

    As well as being a hotel, whose outbuildings have been transformed into self-catering villas, it is also a fully-functioning winery, surrounded by vast hectares of vineyard. We stay at the beginning of the harvest and, as the sun sets on our first evening, we hear the low hum of activity among the vines as the grapes begin their journey into my glass.

    Chateau St Pierre de Serjac

    Ever the loyalist, I drink the truest incarnation of ‘house’ wine; the St Pierre de Serjac home brand, for the entirety of my stay. It did not disappoint, neither did the food, relaxed but perfected Mediterranean dishes that don’t scrimp on the portion size either.

    The gluttony box firmly ticked, it was time to try the yoga. Classes occur three mornings a week at the chateau and are held, to my great delight, outside. The location is absolutely stunning. The approach to the chateau is down a long, tree-lined avenue. The view from our bedroom was of the hotel’s outdoor pool – a rectangular infinity pool, surrounded  by lush green fields. There is not another house in sight.

    The sense that you are in the middle of nowhere is perfect for yoga. Our morning class is small, only two others join us, and the teacher is brilliant – poised and effective. She takes time which each of us before winding down the session with relaxed and focused breathing exercises.

    Afterwards we relax in the spa. Much like the rest of the chateau, it blends seamlessly into its location. The heated indoor pool is housed in a solarium, with floor to ceiling windows that flood it with light and provide an unfettered view of the surrounding vineyards. The micro-gym and treatment rooms offer the same view, and the spa has its own garden, with lounge chairs nestled in an oasis of Mediterranean herbs and flowers.

    It may not be an ashram in Goa, but I felt my own sort of zen. The zen of a woman who knows she will be fed cheese and wine soon after.

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    The best of the rest…

    Monchique Resort, Portugal

    This five star hotel’s USP is its remote location in the Algarve, surrounded by lush mountains and woodlands (see above). The spa and wellness programme are a major draw, meaning that as well as making the most of fabulous food and gorgeous rooms in a stunning setting, you can do yoga in the woods and then head for a hike in the mountains.

    Danena, Italy

    Set in a 19th century farmhouse in south-eastern Sicily called La Masseria, this yoga retreat is a stunning oasis of great home cooking (you can even get classes) and expertly-tailored yoga. The setting is breath-taking, and close to sandy beaches and historic towns, and there is a freshwater pool to luxuriate in after a morning’s yoga in the restored pitch roof barn.

    Centro Santillan, Spain

    In the shadow of the mountains, and with breath-taking sea views (make sure you catch that sunset), Centro Santillan consistently tops lists of the finest yoga destinations in the world. In the Andalusian countryside, 20km from Malaga and yet surprisingly peaceful, this authentic converted farmhouse boasts beautiful gardens, complete with ornate fountains, a stellar yoga programme, great Mediterranean food and 20 simple but stylish bedrooms.

    Silver Island, Greece

    Just you and nine other guests on a tiny Greek island? This luxury eco retreat comprises of one villa and one converted farmhouse, both traditionally whitewashed with blue shutters on a private island of lush green hills, olive groves and unrivalled views of the Med. Oh, and the yoga is pretty great too.